Well, another storm is hitting here in Banjoville. The weather people are saying we should get a total of 6 to 12 inches of snow when it is all said and done.
Down south things are a lot worse…if you have not seen the big headlines over at Huffington Post or Drudge, take a look at this:
HISTORIC ICE STORM UNFOLDS IN SOUTH...
GEORGIA WARNED: 'CATASTROPHIC'...
SEEN FROM SPACE...
Hundreds of flights cancelled...
Panicked Shoppers Fight Over Food...
Nor'easter Could Be 'Biggest Of Season'...
'Snow Rage' Afflicts Storm-Weary Locals...
Conditions were expected to worsen overnight, with up to an inch of ice predicted in parts of Georgia and central South Carolina.
Two to 6 inches of snow fell in north Georgia on Tuesday, with another 5 to 9 inches expected by Thursday morning, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Darbe.
But Darbe said ice was the bigger worry, with a quarter to three-quarters of an inch expected in the area that includes metropolitan Atlanta.
Officials were quick to make plans for dealing with the weather after being criticized for inadequate preparation before a storm two weeks ago. That storm paralyzed Atlanta area roads and forced more than 11,000 students in Alabama to spend the night at their schools.
Oh you bet your ass they were ready this time…
Ending three years of brinkmanship in which the threat of a devastating default on the nation’s debt was used to wring conservative concessions from President Obama, the House on Tuesday voted to raise the government’s borrowing limit until March 2015, without any conditions.
The vote — 221 to 201 — relied almost entirely on Democrats in the Republican-controlled House to carry the measure and represented the first debt ceiling increase since 2009 that was not attached to other legislation. Only 28 Republicans voted yes, and only two Democrats voted no.
I guess you could say hell froze over?
Simply by holding the vote, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio effectively ended a three-year Tea Party-inspired era of budget showdowns that had raised the threat of default and government shutdowns, rattled economic confidence and brought serious scrutiny from other nations questioning Washington’s ability to govern. In the process, though, Mr. Boehner also set off a series of reprisals from fellow Republican congressmen and outside groups that showcased the party’s deep internal divisions.
“He gave the president exactly what he wanted, which is exactly what the Republican Party said we did not want,” said a Republican representative, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who last year unsuccessfully tried to rally enough support to derail Mr. Boehner’s re-election as speaker. “It’s going to really demoralize the base.”
The NYT article goes on to say it was a victory for the President and the Dems…but considering the shit we have dealt with the last few years, and those poor people who will be dealing with lower food stamp funds, how can that be a victory?
Meanwhile in West Virginia, another spill is causing the citizens grief: ‘Significant’ slurry spill blackens Kanawha creek
More than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry poured into an eastern Kanawha County stream Tuesday in what officials were calling a “significant spill” from a Patriot Coal processing facility.
Emergency officials and environmental inspectors said roughly six miles of Fields Creek had been blackened and that a smaller amount of the slurry made it into the Kanawha River near Chesapeake.
“This has had significant, adverse environmental impact to Fields Creek and an unknown amount of impact to the Kanawha River,” said Secretary Randy Huffman of the state Department of Environmental Protection. “This is a big deal, this is a significant slurry spill.”
“When this much coal slurry goes into the stream, it wipes the stream out.”
That is disgusting. I don’t think the people of West Virginia will ever be able to drink the water again.
For a little laugh, here is my favorite actor of today…I know the reason for the video is not funny, it is disgusting, but of all the other “black actors doing commercials” it is good to see Sammy call the asshole out:
Local TV stations have a reputation for goofy unprofessionalism and quirky hiccups. This segment at KTLA in Los Angeles is something so much worse. Veteran entertainment reporter Sam Rubin begins his interview by asking about Jackson’s Super Bowl commercial, and things get real ugly real quick.
“What Super Bowl commercial?” responds a flabbergasted Jackson. ”See, you’re as crazy as the people on Twitter. I’m not Laurence Fishburne!” (Fishburne reprised his role as Morpheus in “The Matrix” for a Kia spot.) “We don’t all look alike!”
He then goes on to list other black actors in commercials, who he is not.
Just as uncomfortable as Rubin’s attempts to brush off the blunder by saying, “Really my big mistake … let’t talk about ‘Robocop,’” are the hoots and howls coming from Rubin’s peers who clearly don’t get how terribly offensive this “mistake” is. Rubin later apologized and claimed he was referring to a commercial for Jackson’s upcoming “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Regardless, the incident (and Jackson’s blunt response) is a reminder of Hollywood’s serious race problem that was starkly evident at the Golden Globes.
You can see the look on Jackson’s face at the end, it really does show how tired he is of all the shit.
I noticed yesterday y’all were talking in the comments about books you were reading, I just started to read this one about cuss words as discussed in this link here: Here’s the first recorded instance of the F-word in English
And it’s a monk expressing his displeasure at an abbot. In the margins of a guide to moral conduct. Because of course.
Technically, “fuck” appeared two times before this. In 1500, it was used in a satirical poem to describe some friars. In that case, nothing like “fuck” was actually written out. Instead, the word was hidden in a code. And in 1513, it appeared in a Scottish poem as “fukkit.”
But for English’s first use, we’ve got a dissatisfied 1528 monk. He’s written “O D fuckin abbot.” Melissa Mohr, author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, says this “fuck” could be either literal or metaphorical:
It is difficult to know whether the annotator intended “fucking” to mean “having sex,” as in “that guy is doing too much fucking for someone who is supposed to be celibate,” or whether he used it as an intensifier, to convey his extreme dismay; if the latter, it anticipates the first recorded use by more than three hundred years. Either is possible, really—John Burton, the abbot in question, was a man of questionable monastic morals.
So, either this monk was recording his abbot’s sex life or he was the first person to be so angry that only “fuck” could convey it’s scope.
Did you all see the big joint news out of New York and Italy? I’ve got a few articles on this mass arrest from both Italian and US sources:
‘Ndrangheta ‘snatching U.S. Cosa Nostra drug trade’ – GazzettaDelSud
Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta mafia, once a poor relation of the Sicilian Mafia, has grown in heft and reach thanks to its dominance of the European cocaine trade and is even muscling in on the drug operations of one of Cosa Nostra’s historic five families in New York, investigators said after a major Italian-FBI bust Tuesday. “This was an important operation because we proved that the power of the ‘Ndrangheta now far surpasses that of Cosa Nostra”, Reggio Calabria prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told ANSA from New York after 26 arrests in a probe into a new drug route from Guyana to Europe via the ‘Ndrangheta-infiltrated Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro.
According to the Gazzetta Del Sud, this ‘Ndrangheta Mafia even used Mexican cartels in a joint venture in their set-up to traffic cocaine.
As for the US side of the take down: Arrests in New York and Italy Thwart Mob Drug Scheme, Authorities Say – NYTimes.com
“They put a hundred grams, two hundred grams in each fish” and “it takes a day to defrost and then it takes a day to take out,” Franco Lupoi said, according to prosecutors who say the conversation was recorded by investigators.
On Tuesday, federal authorities announced the arrests of Mr. Lupoi, the owner of a Brooklyn bakery, and six other people in New York on charges that included narcotics trafficking and money laundering and that were the culmination of a two-year undercover F.B.I. investigation. In Italy, the police announced the arrests of 17 people in connection with the investigation.
What made the case remarkable were not the charges but the defendants’ links to the ’Ndrangheta, the organized crime group based in Calabria that is notorious for kidnappings and for its success importing cocaine into Europe.
More from the LA Times: Italian-U.S. Mafia drug trafficking ring busted, FBI and police say
The FBI and Italian police said they had broken up a global heroin and cocaine trafficking ring Tuesday after stumbling upon a fledgling alliance between a Calabrian Mafia group and associates of New York’s notorious
Twenty-four arrests were made in Italy and the United States after a two-year operation that relied on both wiretaps and an American undercover agent named by investigators as “Jimmy,” who is said to have infiltrated the Gambinos and fooled Italians into believing he was a heroin dealer. Seventeen of the arrests were made in Italy and seven in the United States.
Those arrested in the U.S. were arraigned before a federal magistrate in Brooklyn. The men, some of them suspected of being members of the Gambino and Bonanno “families,” were listed as using various street aliases such as “Lello,” “Freddy,” and “Charlie Pepsi.”
I am sure more information will be coming forward, but…
The coordinated sting halted the planned shipment of more than a ton of cocaine from Latin America to Italy in liquid form, smuggled with help from Mexican cartels in coconut and pineapple cans, law enforcement officials said. They put the street value at $1 billion.
One more link…on the additional discovery of ‘Ndrangheta connections with the Far East heroin trade: Gambino, Bonanno family members held in joint US-Italy anti-mafia raid – CNN.com
Raffaele Grassi, head of the Criminal Unit of the Italian State Police, told reporters that the operation demonstrated that the “‘Ndrangheta is one of the strongest organizations in the world in illegal drug trade.”
He cited its sophisticated network of contacts and its ability to adapt and find new markets, including “expanding beyond Italian borders.”
Grassi said that historically, the Gambino family had had ties with the Sicilian Mafia, Cosa Nostra. But their involvement in the illegal traffic of heroin, known as the “Pizza Connection,” was dismantled or severely curtailed in the 1980s, he said, and they are now trading mainly cocaine.
The latest operation, according to Grassi and FBI officials, shows that the mafia families of the “new continent” are still seeking and relying on “old country” connections — which is why investigators dubbed the operation “New Bridge.”
According to Grassi, the Italian-American mafia families “need this new bridge to connect and support the traffic of cocaine.”
While the existence of a connection between the Calabrian mafia and U.S. mafia families has been well known, Tuesday’s operation shows its great strength and reach, investigators said.
One of the more alarming discoveries to emerge from the operation was evidence that ‘Ndrangheta has also reached out to the Far East in the heroin trade, another investigator said.
While on the subject of the Mafia, 10 Real-Life Inspirations For Characters In The Godfather – Listverse
It’s one of the immutable laws of nature: You’re channel surfing, and there, between some cooking show and an infomercial, you come upon The Godfather. Even though you own the deluxe Blu-Ray DVD box set with three weeks’ worth of special features, you are glued to that station until the credits roll. And if it’s the first in a Godfather marathon, your day is shot. You’re not moving, except to warm up some frozen lasagna between Godfather 2 and Godfather 3.
The Godfather is a classic of American cinema, and Godfather Part 2 is considered by some an even better movie. This story of the patriarch of a New York crime family, and his son who takes over the “family business,” is largely based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, with director Francis Ford Coppola and Puzo producing new material for the films.
Puzo based many of the characters on the real underworld players he heard about growing up and working in New York City.
That thing about getting stuck watching the trilogy on TV, it is so true…it just happened to my mom and me last week, and it was on one of those channels with the commercials. (So you know how annoying that can be, and how “glued” we were to stick it out for the three full movies.)
In wrapping this post up, I will end with this tune…a perfect finale to a mob focused post. I know that I have used this song before, but what can I say…
If you gonna be a square
You ain’t a gonna go nowhere
Hey mambo! mambo italiano!
Hey mambo! mambo italiano!
Have a wonderful day, and if you are in the storm’s wake, please stay safe and warm.
And be sure to share with us, what is on your reading list today?
The Woman in Red: Protector of the Uteri, Defender of Vajayjay Rights and Fighter Against the #WarOnWomenPosted: January 22, 2014
I suppose you can guess from the title…it is time for another episode of the Woman in Red. Only this time it will be a little more than a few tweets, lets just say this will be a “full” treatment. Yeah…this time you get a real full blown story!
(As for the morning reads, well…I haven’t really been paying attention to the news lately. Think of this as an open thread and post links to news stories down below in the comments.)
Now…meet Peggy Allen ——->
She is smart as hell, and like you, she knows just what the GOP is up to.
That is a shitload of anti-woman legislation.
Peggy has decided to use her special superpowers for something more than volunteering as an escort at her local Planned Parenthood or spending time blogging and protesting against the GOP’s war on women.
<——— Peggy Allen is The Woman in Red, protector of the Uteri, defender of Vajayjay Rights and fighter against the war on women.
Just this week alone you can see some examples of the shit women have to deal with, and it isn’t just abortion issues…its poverty, birth control, health care and so many other things:
The list goes on and on…and if I kept on posting links to this shit I would never get to the strip.
And what do you know, today is the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade:
The Woman in Red comic is Public Domain, which is fortunate, because that means I can do whatever I want with her. It is lucky too that I found some images and copies of her comics online, otherwise this creative little anti-PLUB comic romp would never have gone further than those few tweets.
As an added bonus, just this morning I found this link to an article by Jessica Valenti: Back The Fuck Up: Protect Women’s Rights by Getting Out of the Way | The Nation
(Original photo: AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
Feminists are constantly on the defensive. Whether it’s fighting back against sexist media depictions of women, working to hold ground on reproductive rights or arguing that rape is an actual thing that really happens—feminism’s fights are largely reactionary. In the wake of the Supreme Court fight over buffer zones, it occurs to me that we need something a bit more proactive to protect women and their rights. So I’d like to suggest that we implement a national call—a feminist addendum in the social contract—for people to Back The Fuck Up.
Read Jessica’s piece…I think it goes perfectly with our supershero, The Woman in Red, and I think Jessica’s idea kicks ass!
So without any more waiting or whatever, here is….
It’s an open thread!
Uh, this post will be a quick one. I have another staph infection and the dermatologist cut deep this time, so I really do not feel good at all! (I will try and stop by later, but I may just be too dang tired or hurt to get online.)
First we will start with some links that will probably enrage you, like they did me. Sorry if these stories are repeats, I am writing this post blind…not having read up on the blog or the comments.
Hey, check this out…in my state of Georgia: Man’s Family Says They Called 911 For Paramedics, But Police Showed Up And Shot Him Instead
A 911 call for medical assistance ended in the fatal shooting of Georgia resident Jack Lamar Roberson Friday. Roberson was acting erratically after possibly overdosing on his diabetes medication, leading his fiancé to call for paramedics and an ambulance. Instead, Roberson’s family charges that police showed up and killed the 43-year-old in front of his mother, fiancé, and 8-year-old daughter.
Waycross Police said they were responding to reports of a man trying to commit suicide and that he had become combative. Police Chief Tony Tanner said Roberson lunged at officers with weapons and refused to drop them.
Roberson’s fiancé, Alicia Herron, disputes the police story, comparing the scene to a “silent movie.”
“He didn’t have nothing in his hands at any time or period at all before they came, any time while they were here, anything. They just came in and shot him,” Herron told First Coast News. “He didn’t say nothing, the police didn’t say nothing, anything, it was like a silent movie. You couldn’t hear anything, all you could hear were the gun shots go off and I seen them going into his body and he just fell down.”
Roberson’s mother, Diane, lamented, “I saw my son go down with his hands up in the air, Lord Jesus, he had nothing in his in hands, we don’t even own a decent kitchen knife and they shot my baby down.”
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution the GBI is investigating the man’s death..and the officers have been placed on standard administrative leave. Supposedly an overdose of diabetic medication can bring about the side effects that Roberson was exhibiting, from the TPM link above:
An autopsy was performed Monday, but results have not yet been released. If Roberson did indeed overdose on his diabetes medication, he may well have been experiencing the tell-tale symptoms of intense anxiety and a general sense of confusion.
Such a sad ending…where the hell do these cops get their training?
So, you may have heard about this other story out of Georgia…I read about it early yesterday morning on the North Georgia Access site...but it was only a quick blurb, Huffpo has more here:
An email shared among the members of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity at Georgia Tech was quickly condemned Monday after it began spreading online.
The email, with a subject line of “Luring your Rapebait,” was posted online by TotalFratMove Monday, and in turn picked up by several other websites. It was apparently an attempt by an active member of Phi Kappa Tau to explain how members of the house could get laid at parties:
Ok, if it is before midnight … A group of girls is standing around, grab a bro or pledge bro and go talk to them. First, introduce yourself and get their name, ask if they are having a good time, and then ask if they want anything to drink. If they say yes, walk them to the bar and tell them what we have to drink. If they say no and they look like they are in a sorority, ask them if they are in a sorority (DUH). If not, choose one of the following: where are you living, where are you from, have you been here before, how are classes going, or where all have you been tonight. Then proceed to have a conversation. IF THEY ARE HAMMERED AT ANY POINT BEFORE MIDNIGHT, JUST SKIP THE CHIT CHAT AND GO DANCE.
The email’s author is apparently really excited about the prospect of dancing, and a couple paragraphs later he explains dancing to him is essentially just having a lady grind against a brother’s crotch. Then he instructs how to “escalate”:
Try to twist her hips around to face you and dance front to front. FROM THERE THE OPTIONS ARE UNLIMITED! You can make-out with her (tongue on tongue), you can stick your hand up her shirt (not right away though), you can go for a butt grab (outside or inside the shirts), or use your imagination. ALWAYS START WITH THE MAKING OUT!!!! NO RAPING.
The writer lays out what he calls “the 7 E’s of HOOKING UP!” They include “Encounter,” “Engage,” “Escalate,” some words describing male arousal, and then “Expunge (send them out of your room and on their way out when you are finished. [sic].” He concludes, in all capital letters, “IF ANYTHING EVER FAILS, GO GET MORE ALCOHOL.”
(Read the whole email at TFM.)
Georgia Tech has known about these emails for a couple of weeks now, but they will not comment on the matter. You can read more at the link.
There is another Fraternity email “discovery” this time its Dartmouth: Dartmouth’s Most Wholesome Frat Bros Send The Classiest Emails
For about a year, the brothers of Dartmouth College’s Beta Alpha Omega—the straight-laced fraternity that famously hosted Rick Perry after a Republican debate in October 2011—have corresponded about house debauchery, fraternity rituals, and other key topics using Google Groups, apparently to avoid using Dartmouth’s own servers (and the eyes of college administrators).
We recently discovered that whoever set it up forgot to lock it down, enabling anyone to find a complete, updating archive of Beta’s internal conversations on Groups.google.com. We’ve dug up the choicest excerpts below.
(Update: The Google group is now locked. We’ve uploaded an archive of the emails mentioned here to DocumentCloud.)
I guess you can imagine where this is going?
Nothing here is particularly shocking. Within the fraternity system, this is how bros bond. But it’s a bit less funny when your house is under suspicion for supplying alcohol to a rapist.
We came across the list-serv while researching Beta’s involvement in a sexual assault that took place on Dartmouth’s campus. On Saturday the house threw a rager at its Hanover, New Hampshire mansion, where, according to a college-wide email, brothers served a male guest and Navy sailor who later that night allegedly raped a female student.
In an email sent to brothers on Sunday afternoon, the chapter’s president warns:
I hope you all saw this email from earlier this afternoon. If ANYONE has any information about this, or knows anyone who might, please let me know asap. This could very quickly get very bad for the house if we do not get on top of it.
The concern (albeit for the house’s reputation, rather than the victim’s safety) is understandable: The fraternity was kicked off campus in 1996 after a series of violent/homophobic/sexist incidents involving pledges and other fraternities, and is rumored to have installed hidden cameras throughout the house for the purpose of watching other brothers copulate with sorority sisters. (Perhaps the progenitor, in a much more extreme form, of the house’s taste for creepshots.)
You can read the rest of the disgusting “stuff” at the link…it makes me think about the story in the New York Times, where young college women are looking for this kind of hook-up. Remember that?
More twisted shit…from the politicians this time: The Latest Voter Suppression Fad: Two Tiers
Remember this phrase: two-tier voting. You may be hearing more about it.
Officials in Arizona and Kansas are making preparations for elections with two categories of voters. There will be those who provided proof of citizenship when they registered to vote, and will therefore be able to vote in all local, state, and federal elections. And then there will be those who did not provide proof of citizenship when they registered. Those people will only be able to vote in federal contests — if at all.
In both states, the preparations underway are reactions to the Supreme Court’s June ruling in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, the legal battle over Arizona’s 2004 voter identification law, known as Proposition 200. While the headlines in June painted the ruling as a blow to Proposition 200, officials in both Arizona and Kansas have chosen to focus on the leeway the Supreme Court left them. Kansas State Election Director Brad Bryant laid out the argument in an email he sent to county election officers at the end of July.
“As the Supreme Court made clear, its decision applies only to ‘federal registration forms’ and covers only federal elections,” Bryant wrote, according to a copy of the email provided to TPM. “States remain free to require proof of citizenship from voters who seek to also vote in state elections.”
Using that logic, both states have made moves toward two-tier systems.
More at the link…you can read about how this new system is going into effect in Kansas.
I guess you can see the rest will be in link dump format.
Then you have this nut, from Arizona: GOP Lawmaker: National Park ‘Thugs’ Carrying Out Work of ‘De Fuhrer’
Brenda Barton, a Republican state representative in Arizona, took to her Facebook page Monday evening (possibly because her own website is down) to decry the National Park “thugs” who were “carrying out the order of de Fuhrer”:
Barton was upset over the closure of the World War II Memorial and other national parks, shuttered last week due to the ongoing government shutdown. The Arizona lawmaker called upon local pair-having sheriffs to intervene and prevent the park rangers from arresting visitors.
Barton wasn’t finished, either, going on to call Obama “this man in the People’s House” and an “Imperial President”:
Arizona Democrats were quick to point out the irony of Barton’s objection to the closures, as it was her party that precipitated the shutdown.
Geez, what an idiot! Wait, check that…batshit right wing lunatic! But I mean what do you expect right? Arizona is The only state that stopped welfare payments.
Now a look at what judges can do: Can a Teen Get an Abortion if She Doesn’t Have Parents to Give Consent? That’s Up to the Judge | Care2 Causes
Or a government website? Problems with Healthcare.gov Likely More Than Just Traffic | Geekosystem
Speaking of which, I am sure you’ve seen this from a couple of nights ago: Stewart Grills Sebelius on Obamacare: ‘Level of Incompetence That’s Larger Than What It Should Be’ | Mediaite
I have to add a few cartoons to this post, they are too good to put off until Friday.
Seriously…it may be a joke, but it seems like the truth to me: Headline of the Day | BobCesca.com
Here’s something you won’t see every day or even every generation.
I have no idea how something so depressing can be so funny, but I’m laughing.
Here’s the context of the poll conducted by Public Policy Polling.
Voters say they have a higher opinion of hemorrhoids than Congress, by 53% to 31%.
Yup, I’m laughing too…
Finally, tonight is the South Park episode that tackles George Zimmerman. Go to that link to see the clip to the show, also check out a link to a script written by a fan a few months ago, it actually is pretty sweet.
From the clip it looks like Cartman is dressed like Brad Pitt from World War Z…guess we will just have to wait and see what Trey and Matt come up with later tonight.
Okay, what ever happens today…I hope you all talk about it in the comments. So, what are you reading and thinking about this morning…afternoon…or evening?
I’ve made plans to go to Seattle next month again to stay with my dad and hope that I can also spend time looking for the possibility of a job since my daughter is joining a small ob/gyn practice about an hour north of Seattle. It’s hard not to long for the safety of a blue state given what’s been going on recently and given the conversations that I have with people that safely dwell in the Faux News Reality of Welfare Queens, Pedophile Gays, Scary Black People in Hoodies, and Invading Mexicans. I’ve been in a long Facebook conversation trying to explain the Affordable Care Act details and why the exchanges are not “government-backed” insurance until I’m blue in the face. No amount of numbers convinces them that all the jobs are not becoming part time. I was just told I obviously don’t have common sense if I don’t see the Affordable Care Act as a giant give away to lazy poor people even though I’ve tried to explain that Medicaid still exists and it still is the plan for poor people. There just exists this ever deepening divide between the realities of Red and Blue States. Did Nixon’s Southern Strategy doom our Democracy?
In a merciful twist of fate, Juan Linz did not quite live to see his prophecy of the demise of American democracy borne out. Linz, the Spanish political scientist who died last week, argued that the presidential system, with its separate elections for legislature and chief executive, was inherently unstable. In a famous 1990 essay, Linz observed, “All such systems are based on dual democratic legitimacy: No democratic principle exists to resolve disputes between the executive and the legislature about which of the two actually represents the will of the people.” Presidential systems veered ultimately toward collapse everywhere they were tried, as legislators and executives vied for supremacy. There was only one notable exception: the United States of America.
Linz attributed our puzzling, anomalous stability to “the uniquely diffuse character of American political parties.” The Republicans had loads of moderates, and conservative whites in the South still clung to the Democratic Party. At the time he wrote that, the two parties were already sorting themselves into more ideologically pure versions, leaving us where we stand today: with one racially and economically polyglot party of center-left technocracy and one ethnically homogenous reactionary party. The latter is currently attempting to impose its program by threat upon the former. The events in Washington have given us a peek into the Linzian nightmare.
Traditionally, when American politics encountered the problem of divided government—when, say, Nixon and Eisenhower encountered Democratic Congresses, or Bill Clinton a Republican one—one of two things happened. Either both sides found enough incentives to work together despite their differences, or there was what we used to recognize as the only alternative: gridlock. Gridlock is what most of us expected after the last election produced a Democratic president and Republican House. Washington would drudge on; it would be hard to get anything done, but also hard to undo anything. Days after the election, John Boehner, no doubt anticipating things would carry on as always, said, “Obamacare is the law of the land.”
Instead, to the slowly unfolding horror of the Obama administration and even some segments of the Republican Party, the GOP decided that the alternative to finding common ground with the president did not have to be mere gridlock. It could force the president to enact its agenda.
It used to be that elections came with the usual majority rules ramifications. This current group of Tea Party insurrectionists evidently has changed that equation. The question now is what can we do about it?
And as the saying goes, elections have consequences. It’s how Democratic victories in the 1930s paved the way for Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, how Dem victories in the 1960s led to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, how Republican victories in the 1980s resulted in Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts, how Democratic majorities in 2006 and 2008 led to Obama’s health-care law, and how the GOP’s midterm wins in 2010 extracted spending-cut concessions from Obama the following year.
Yet what’s extraordinary about this current political fight is that Republicans are seeking another round of concessions — over the president’s signature domestic achievement — after losing the last election, which was viewed in part as a referendum on the health-care law.
“It’s as if Ted Cruz slept through the entire 2012 cycle,” a senior Democratic aide tells First Read. “It’s not like Obamacare, spending and debt weren’t major issues in 2012. They were central — and we won.”
Nevertheless, Cruz and House Republicans maintain that Obama and the Democrats must negotiate over the health-care law to re-open the federal government. And House Speaker John Boehnersays Democrats must negotiate to raise the debt ceiling. “The nation’s credit is at risk because of the administration’s refusal to sit down and have a conversation,” he told ABC News. “The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.”
I found that Boehner comment about the lack of votes to be really strange given that he seems to think that the Democrats in the House and their votes do not matter. What exactly is the conversation and why should the rest of the country have it when we thought we decided that about a year ago during the election? Why is Boehner willing to weaponize the debt ceiling again? (This is the same Jonathan Chait article I referenced above.)
The debt ceiling turns out to be unexploded ordnance lying around the American form of government. Only custom or moral compunction stops the opposition party from using it to nullify the president’s powers, or, for that matter, the president from using it to nullify Congress’s. (Obama could, theoretically, threaten to veto a debt ceiling hike unless Congress attaches it to the creation of single-payer health insurance.) To weaponize the debt ceiling, you must be willing to inflict harm on millions of innocent people. It is a shockingly powerful self-destruct button built into our very system of government, but only useful for the most ideologically hardened or borderline sociopathic. But it turns out to be the perfect tool for the contemporary GOP: a party large enough to control a chamber of Congress yet too small to win the presidency, and infused with a dangerous, millenarian combination of overheated Randian paranoia and fully justified fear of adverse demographic trends. The only thing that limits the debt ceiling’s potency at the moment is the widespread suspicion that Boehner is too old school, too lacking in the Leninist will to power that fires his newer co-partisans, to actually carry out his threat. (He has suggested as much to some colleagues in private.) Boehner himself is thus the one weak link in the House Republicans’ ability to carry out a kind of rolling coup against the Obama administration. Unfortunately, Boehner’s control of his chamber is tenuous enough that, like the ailing monarch of a crumbling regime, it’s impossible to strike an agreement with him in full security it will be carried out.
The standoff embroiling Washington represents far more than the specifics of the demands on the table, or even the prospect of economic calamity. It is an incipient constitutional crisis. Obama foolishly set the precedent in 2011 that he would let Congress jack him up for a debt-ceiling hike. He now has to crush the practice completely, lest it become ritualized. Obama not only must refuse to trade concessions for a debt-ceiling hike; he has to make it clear that he will endure default before he submits to ransom. To pay a ransom now, even a tiny one, would ensure an endless succession of debt-ceiling ransoms until, eventually, the two sides fail to agree on the correct size of the ransom and default follows.
This is a domestic Cuban Missile Crisis
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Sunday said changes to President Obama’s signature healthcare law should be tied to a debt ceiling increase.
The Texas Republican said any deal on raising the nation’s borrowing authority should include some “significant structural” plans to reduce government spending, avoid new taxes and “look for ways to mitigate the harm from ObamaCare.”
“The debt ceiling historically has been among the best leverage that Congress has to rein in the executive,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Of the 55 times Congress has raised the debt limit, Cruz argued that 28 of those times Congress has attached “very stringent requirements,” many designed to reduce spending, including the 2011 sequestration plan.
So, a debt-ceiling increase should “respond to real harms coming from ObamaCare,” Cruz said.
Cruz said Republicans have leverage because of “so many nasty partisan jabs from Democrats” proving that “we’re winning the argument —Obamacare isn’t working.”
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew reiterated on Sunday that the federal government will run out of borrowing authority on Oct. 17.
And the world thinks we’ve completely lost it. Here’s a taste of the German press as excerpted by Der Spiegel.
Munich’s national Süddeutsche Zeitung offers a slightly more depressing take, pointing blame at all sides. “What has already been apparent in America for a few years now is the self-destruction of one of the world’s oldest democracies. And the great tragedy here is that this work of destruction isn’t being wrought by enemies of democracy, greedy lobbyists or sinister major party donors. America’s democracy is bring broken by the very people who are supposed to be carry and preserve it: the voters, the parties and the politicians.”
The argument? The Republicans who have brought Washington to stillstand are repeatedly and democratically elected by voters and given a mandate to block. The parties themselves are fomenting an increasingly radicalized culture that deepens political, societal and geographic divisions in the country, argues the newspaper. And finally, there are few politicians in America who are willing or capable of thinking beyond their own electoral constituencies.
“At the moment, Washington is fighting over the budget and nobody knows if the county will still be solvent in three weeks,” the paper concludes. “What is clear, though, is that America is already politically bankrupt.”
America enjoys the “exorbitant privilege” of printing the world’s reserve currency. Its government debt is considered a safe haven, which is why Uncle Sam can borrow so much, so cheaply. America will not lose these advantages overnight. But anything that undermines its creditworthiness—as the farce in Washington surely does—risks causing untold damage in the future. It is not just that America would have to pay more to borrow. The repercussions of an American default would be both global and unpredictable.
It would threaten financial markets. Since American Treasuries are very liquid and safe, they are widely used as collateral. They are more than 30% of the collateral that financial institutions such as investment banks use to borrow in the $2 trillion “tri-party repo” market, a source of overnight funding. A default could trigger demands by lenders for more or different collateral; that might cause a financial heart attack like the one prompted by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. In short, even if Obamacare were as bad as tea-party types say it is (see Lexington), it would still be reckless to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip to repeal it, as some Republicans suggest.
What can be done? In the short term, House Republicans need to get their priorities straight. They should pass a clean budget resolution without trying to refight old battles over Obamacare. They should also vote to raise the debt ceiling (or better yet, abolish it). If Obamacare really does turn out to be a flop and Republicans win the presidency and the Senate in 2016, they can repeal it through the normal legislative process.
So how did it get to this point? “Its fear-driven behavior,” says Voss. “They get angrier because they feel they’ve been defeated. People notice losses twice as much as they notice wins. It’s a sports metaphor you hear all the time: ‘I hate losing more than I like winning’…I think there’s a very strong sense of loss on their part over what they refer to as Obamacare and resentment over that is carried forward.”
But hostage negotiators aren’t the type to give up hope. “Ultimately, everybody wants success. And there are a lot of definitions of success,” Voss says. “Bottom line, they want to be made to look like they were effective and got things done for their side. So it’s a matter of refocusing on what’s in everybody’s best interests.”
He’s looking to the Obama White House to help start the reset: “I would ask them to start saying, ‘I understand that the people on the other side of the table have the best interests of the American people at heart.’ Simply recognize that. Everybody wants to do what’s best for the American public. Those sorts of statements repeated on a regular basis, it’s the start of dialogue. It’s not concession; it’s the beginning of dialogue.”
But the prison siege mentality Voss describes is exacerbated by an absence of strong calming leadership in the congressional GOP. “Those guys are sitting on the sidelines,” Voss says. “There are quite a few Republican politicians that I have a tremendous amount of respect for that are exceedingly silent these days.” He mentions House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers: “I’ve never heard anything out of Mike’s mouth that wasn’t really thoughtful and nuanced.”
Another possible constructive calming voice on the conservative caucus could be former President George W. Bush. “I think there’s a possibility that he would be somebody that you would talk to behind the scenes, and potentially an intermediary himself. I think he absolutely has the ability to be a stabilizing influence.”
But how to do you deal with the hyper-partisan congressional bomb-throwers? “Well it’s like a game of tic-tac-toe with the tantrum throwers,” Voss says. “In tic-tac-toe, if you’re going second, the best you can possibly do is tie—if you play the game. There’s a first-mover advantage. The minute you stop playing that game the first mover advantage goes away. So you don’t play their game at all. That’s the way you respond.”
So, the craziness continues and escalates. If things come apart at the seams, I do not want to be stuck in Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?