Sunday, November 03, 2013

Now, Where Was I?

I hope everyone's enjoyed our little rest after all the debt limit excitement. Almost seems now like it never happened, right? In that time since Your Ob'dt Hmbl Svt has been trying to access the ACA website, as I calculate a savings of over $3,000 per annum for myself (not to mention a vastly improved coverage menu) should I ever get the damn thing to turn over for me. So far squatum, but I will strive in earnest starting tomorrow, and promise to check back here with the results.

In the meantime, I hope all of you read the Booman Tribune (link at right) on at least a semi-daily basis. I sure do, and here call attention to a knowledgeable and articulate rundown (far more than I'll ever be capable of) of two recent developments which I, however, have been predicting here for a while now: the peeling away of business interests from the GOP, and the transmigration of purple state Republicans to the Democratic Party.

Fun stuff, if you ask me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dumb And Numb-er

I would like to think that the fallout from our current disorder might have certain clarifying properties, at least as far as the public, the interested part of it anyway, regards the actors and actions in DC.

To wit: I may be imagining things here, but it seems to me that the reporting of the last few weeks has been a grade or two sharper than previously, and driven by reporters and bloggers attached more to online organs than to the traditional news mongers and TV divisions. There was smart, behind the GOP scenes stuff from Robert Costa at NRO respectfully picked up and commented on by folks I read more dependably--your Drums, Sargeants, and Longmans for example--which greatly aided in grasping the sturdy outlines and transient vapors of the derangement.

Traditional reporters, print and TV, bound by unforgiving corporate governance to the notion of Balance, at last proved completely inadequate to the task of, you know, actually explaining what was happening before our eyes. Instead of the broad old-line assessments of the action, Olympian and dim, guided by official pronouncement and "sources", given at the end of day, it was the far-more granular dispatches, sent out hourly, of smart and engaged policy wonk reporters all over the Hill by which a sense of things emerged, which in turn informed the reports of newspaper and TV.

Dare I say that high-information technologies have finally transformed the reporting of news? Stay tuned.

One way we might judge a possible change is how the current players are now considered by the MSM. Specifically, I have never understood the apparently common DC judgement of Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor as deeply intelligent men. Even Ted Cruz came to Washington with an Ivy League reputation for tremendous smarts. There's a particular imbecility writ on all three of their mugs, a vacant and arrogant exasperation that comes through photos as a particular disengagement in eye and mouth, message being: I am completely uninterested in what you have to say. Now, granted, these photos are taken generally when those three guys are meeting members of the press, but the hallmark of a first-rate mind is an eagerness to engage in a bright combat of ideas (I mean, Bill Buckley for crying out loud); all three of these wiseguys look like their first wish is to hire goons to beat up people who cross them.

No, if these clowns get through this somehow with their MSM reputations as the smart guys in the room intact then we'll know that the official narrative still lags badly behind events.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Elsewhere On The Internet

from TED Talks Are Lying to You, by Thomas Frank:

What was really sick-making, though, was Florida’s easy assumption that creativity was a thing our society valued. Our correspondent had been hearing this all his life, since his childhood in the creativity-worshipping 1970s. He had even believed it once, in the way other generations had believed in the beneficence of government or the blessings of Providence. And yet his creative friends, when considered as a group, were obviously on their way down, not up. The institutions that made their lives possible — chiefly newspapers, magazines, universities and record labels — were then entering a period of disastrous decline. The creative world as he knew it was not flowering, but dying.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Midnight In The Garden Of Goobers And Weasels cont.

Booman thinks the default was never a real option for John Boehner (so chill), and Jonathan Bernstein doubts the GOP is imploding, so let me say I think the chances of the first this morning are one in four, and that Mr. Bernstein may not be seeing the monkeys for the monkey house. On the one hand, yes, I am fairly certain that something called the Republican Party will be fielding slates of candidates in future local and national elections, I just don't see it winning any significant offices outside the old Confederacy for years, maybe decades, to come.

Why? Because right now it is mainly staffed floor to ceiling with selfish, tone deaf, incompetent, numbskulls who have been lavishly and utterly wrong about the nature of our problems, the nation's status in the world, and the outcomes desired by a majority of the electorate for now well over a decade; and that those among them who have some semblance of order and decorum are utterly reviled, and hamstrung, by the more active agitators. This is why I put the chances at default at 1-4, and will go 50-50 Monday noon if nothing changes before then, because they are running out of time and you cannot count on anyone of those now in nominal authority not to screw things up, or rather guarantee that no screw-ups will happen.

"There is always some sonofabitch," John F. Kennedy once said, "who doesn't get the word."

Has anyone yet considered publicly that once the hostage is effectively shot, there are no more hostages to take? Successful kidnapping gangs operate under lawless conditions where there is a nearly limitless supply of victims to be rendered according to however the demands were or were not met. That is how it's rolled in Sicily, land of my forefathers, for centuries. The GOP was much better off shaking down lobbyists and trade associations, where the pool was large, and the chance to deliver on threats and deals was unencumbered. Right now success for them would be to make good their threat (because respect) though it neither achieves what they want, nor strengthens their position for the next round, because there can't be one. (And, yes, I see no reason not to take the president at his thoroughly-enunciated word regarding the debt default.) So success is, of course, failure, and failure is failure too. Only a sturdy culture of long-term incompetence, and an association of indelible idiots, could have come up with this fairly breathtaking equation.

Friday, October 11, 2013

All Systems Goo cont.

Permit me to resurrect this blast from the past, 9/30/06 as a matter of fact, wherein I enunciated for the second or third time what I saw then as the impending implosion of the GOP.

It's errors are mainly on the side of dispatch, that, granting conditions, things have not moved with the speed I'd hoped. I was not expecting the TP backlash election in 2010, or rather did not expect it to be co-opted so smoothly by the GOP establishment. Also naive of me was to imagine the party would have the decency to just go away and not precipitate a constitutional crisis, so I think we've all learned something here.

Though the timing and details hasn't been what I'd expected, the cause, and the dead cert inevitability of it all still hunts: the shattering effect of new, broad-based technology on top-down hierarchies utterly dependent on a guiding central authority. This effect works out in myriad ways, from new sources of funding outside traditional big-donor circuits; to the rabble-rousing potential of social media; to the broad dissemination of dumbass statements, intended or otherwise, by cement-headed politicians thinking they are speaking to a select and closed audience of like-minded individuals; to closed circuit information loops; to the overwhelming idea that feelings, and passion, and self-expression are now more important than studied plans and far-sighted policy.

I'll add that for all the creepy and closeted hypocrisy of many of its major actors over the decades: the pious adulterers, the sobersided drunkards, the gay upstanding family men, the GOP managed quite well in fealty to the paternalistic ideal of the hard, wise dad, one best appreciated on TV. I need not tell you that that mirage died a few years before Ronny went grinning off to the beyond. Bill Clinton really was the New Republican, and it felt good to be the big dog. While despising him for it, the GOP was jealous of Clinton. Under the regime of that squalid little man whatever felt right was right. and usually what looked right felt right.

Which is all to say that whatever decorum the GOP once held as dependable stewards of community standards went completely ga-ga after 2000. Democrats, long accustomed to dissension and self-expression in the ranks, were able to accommodate the fractious power of new digital/media technologies pretty well. The GOP, with ruling-party discipline lost and members spouting off whatever came into their heads, because that's how rugged individuals rolled (right?) were now united only by hatred--of the president, of population trends, of defining social needs they can't control and won't understand. But hatred, as we've seen, is not uniting so much as self-immolating, the merry blaze of rank selfishness and stupidity now illuminating the Republic.

UPDATE: Though explanations for this will differ (see John B. Judis, The Last Days of the GOP), everybody sees it happening now.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Objective Corrective

Saturday afternoon last an enormous electrical storm hovered over northwest Chicago, two or three bolts in the alley behind casa Divide effectively wiped out both my modem and carbon monoxide detector. These were not direct hits, mind you, only close enough to the center of things so as the electromagnetic pulse knocked out the two under-shielded devices in my employ. I relate this just to say that we all live in the midst of vast invisible powers we rarely acknowledge and little understand; draw what conclusions you will.

The above is prologue to my assertion that we shall shortly go over the debt limit falls, through a bewitching mix of accident and incomprehension. My time away from the humming intertubes has helped incubate a few strange ideas about what is, beyond the push and pull of what some still think of as politics as usual, really going on, which I will try to outline cogently here. Wish me luck.

The precipitating condition is one I've beaten to near death here for years, being the implosion of the Republican party. I'll take that point now as being fairly clear and nearly uncontroversial, though it is amazing how many central observers to our constitutional crisis, refuse to accept this fact.

In all my self-satisfied crowing over the demise of the GOP I never stopped to think of the practical outcome of one of the pillars of our two-party system crumbling to angry chunks, which is--as happened when the Whig party split in North/South halves and vanished about 155 years ago--a guaranteed Constitutional crisis.

And here I hope people realize that Speaker Boehner, clearly over his head and lost to reason, is not struggling to save his speakership, but any semblance of cohesion in the dead GOP. One way or another this will be over soon and they will have to fight over what to call the swollen Southern White Guy Party.

But, beyond labels, what we are seeing is the natural outcome of several forces so far outside common consideration of current events. I submit that what we are living through is the much needed corrective to a deformed system of government which President Obama stoutly refused to undertake upon first taking office five years ago. At the time the nation dearly needed some kind of truth and reconciliation hearing regarding how the country was led into two pointless and costly wars. Likewise the financial system escaped any broad period of obvious discipline, in favor of a few rule changes, some interesting fines, and a broad ticket to walk away with a promise to be good (outcomes which bankers have had the temerity to complain about). Neither of these options was taken all that seriously by the so-called serious people in DC.

The main problem with our ruling class, at last how it's defined (and protected) itself for the last 30 years, is how no one suffers any ill consequences for being wrong. Plenty of our public actors--politicians and pundits, bankers and editors--have been lavishly, wildly, vividly wrong in judgement and act for the last, gee, twelve years, and precious few have paid any price for it. Many in fact have seen their pay scales upgraded. I need not tell you how poorly this reflects upon the so-called vitality of our democratic free-market system.

One might sympathize with the president for trying to move on from all of this at the dawn of his administration. The system treated him damn well over the years and, though I am sure he would have been amenable to sterner measures if certain factors were different, no way in hell was he going to lead the charge for real change, the audacity he campaigned on was very much missing in his governance. His touching desire to find a decent common ground (especially in his giving in to the 2011 debt threat) and just move on ignored distinct abscesses in the body politic which, unexamined and left to fester, have brought us to this point.

I will close this extended rant by observing that this fight is in fact one between two large priorities which have never appeared in conflict before but which have been at odds since the apotheosis of global finance capitalism; namely should the main priority of government be the sanctity of its institutions and the welfare of its citizens, or the satisfaction of its bondholders? I submit that, by threatening default, GOP dead-enders are in fact claiming that bondholders should be privileged over broad social needs and that, by defending the separation of powers, the president is insisting that there is indeed something more important than what investors require. This is an astonishing schism, one we have never had to resolve before.