Tuesday, November 05, 2013

From Terrorism to Sabotage: the New GOP

After Republican congressional leaders showed themselves to be the most dangerous and most expensive terrorists in the world shutting down the government and threatening economic apocalypse, Republican officeholders everywhere are proving themselves to be saboteurs.

They are actively sabotaging the Affordable Care Act, and so far pretty successfully.  After all, when Rs in Congress prevent funding for the federal website, little wonder that it's screwed up.  Notes Kevin Drum:

No federal program that I can remember faced quite the implacable hostility during its implementation that Obamacare has faced. This excuses neither the Obama administration's poor decisions nor its timidity in the face of Republican attacks, but it certainly puts them in the proper perspective.

They aren't the only ones--our old friends the insurance companies that largely caused an expensive dysfunctional system with no conscience even when it comes to killing people--they are doing their best as well.  As are certain elements in the media.  And while I might myself be more upset by apparent problems in the individual coverage market if I were still in it, this article notes that the very small group affected is likely more educated and affluent, while the Act is already helping the overwhelming number of low income families. 

Still, the main saboteurs are Rs in Congress who've done more than hold empty votes defunding the Act--they've made implementing the Act and publicizing the system devilishly more difficult, and in the states that started this all by placing an unexpectedly heavy burden on the federal exchange.

And that, with historical context, is the topic of Bill Moyers' commentary above.

Election Night

No big surprises but some intriguing outcomes, especially in New York City which got its first Democratic mayor since the mid 90s and the first progressive in awhile.  At first glance the lesser of two assholes gets to be governor of Virginia, but the WPost looks at the numbers and sees something significant: the Obama coalition didn't stay home as they did in 2010.  Granted that the R candidate was so extreme he was extra motivating, but if the Rs keep going towards crazy Tea Party Land, it bodes well for 2014.

Oh. Canada?

Back in the 90s when the Clinton impeachment circus was underway I formulated my thesis that I called "America Inside-Out."  The premise was that while some behaviors normally associated with public acts were being driven into the silent regions within people, emotions that were normally internal were being made public in a big way.  The behavior of  Republicans in the impeachment frenzy was proving at least the second half of that thesis every day.

It might be simpler now to suggest that what we in the "general public" repress from our behavior gets expressed by public figures.  It used to be Hollywood stars and their affairs and vice.  Now it's political leaders (and sports stars.)  There is still that additional level of paradox when public officials (our representatives and those in charge of governing us) act out of their raging unconscious, almost as a matter of course.

In the U.S. this has led to what is now normal: one major party and chunk of the media operating entirely on fact-free emotions, making assertions that are easily and repeatedly proven not to be true.  It's irrationality raised to the throne, where I suppose it's been before.

Now comes Canada, the model of rationality in contrast to our chaos.  I haven't traveled there in some years, but I retain the feeling of awestruck joy experiencing the clean efficiency and calmness of the Toronto subway and Air Canada.  Even the funky Vancouver buses (and drivers) were humane and they went everywhere, cheaply. Calmly friendly, Canada was the place where people knew what they were doing, and they kept thinking about how to do it better.

So it comes as a very rude shock to see the current Mayor of Toronto, an admitted public drunk and as of today admitted crack smoker, though he allowed that he doesn't really remember it due to his drunken stupors.

This might seem to be a very public inside coming out, with the force of so much repressed feeling.  But I don't think it's sudden.  I don't follow Canadian politics closely but thanks in part to an old friend and one of this site's most faithful readers, I have some sense of what's been going on.  At least part of it might be described as the U.S. political contagion finally moving north.  Rabid right irrationality has infected Canada, east to west, or at least it seems so to me.  In Toronto specifically, it's dominant in the suburbs that have only recently been included within the Toronto electorate.

That doesn't entirely explain the Mayor of Toronto.  Because what is still inexplicable is not so much the man as how Canadians of Toronto could possibly have elected him.

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"You said that we owe literature almost everything we are and what we have been.  If books disappear, history will disappear, and human beings will also disappear.  I am sure you are right.  Books are not only the arbitrary sum of our dreams, and our memory.  They also give us the model of self-transcendence.  Some people think of reading only as a kind of escape: an escape from the "real" everyday world to an imaginary world, the world of books.  Books are much more.  They are a way of being fully human."

Susan Sontag
"A Letter to Borges"

photo from Truffaut's film version of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451

Sunday, November 03, 2013

No Joy in Blitzburgh

There is no joy in Blitzburgh tonight.  For going on 40 years, the pride of the Steelers was their defense.  Through quarterbacks thickheaded (Bubby Brister) and thinskinned (Neil O'Donnell) and other offensive woes, the Steelers defense may have occasionally wobbled but basically stayed strong.

Then came this season and piles of points given up, climaxed today when the New England Patriots scored 31 points in 17.5 minutes (the fourth quarter) and broke all time records for most points scored (55) and most yards gained against the Steelers in their history.  And that history before the 1970s was not pretty.

This Steelers team didn't win a preseason game and lost the first four of the season.  But then put together two wins, including one against the Super Bowl champ, their most recent blood rival, the Baltimore Ravens.

Then came the loss to Oakland (another old rival, but a shadow of its great teams.)  But it was only today's loss that has the Pittsburgh sports scribes declaring that the season is over, and it's time to remember baseball and pay attention to hockey.  Or this:

"This score was tied, 24-24, with 7:10 remaining in the third quarter, the Steelers having overcome deficits of 14-0 and 24-10, but what happened after that, for the consumption of a national-television audience no less, was little else but the Steelers quitting on their mission, quitting on themselves, quitting on their coaches, quitting on their organization, quitting, inescapably, on their city."

Pretty harsh, and maybe too much.  There's something cyclical going on, for the Steelers and their conference, which is turning out to be the worst in the NFL.  The only reason that one team in it won today was because two teams in it were playing each other.

None of this will be a big surprise to my billions of readers.  I said the Ravens' Super Bowl win was a fluke, and they would stink this year.  They stink this year.  And I said that the Steelers would have a tough time winning a single game, because other teams have figured out how to beat them.  But I don't necessarily agree their season is totally lost, basically because nobody else in their conference is any good either. Still it's obvious that personnel changes are in the offing, and for whatever reasons, the Steelers haven't lucked out in their draft choices or young free agents.

So the Steelers could become the new old Pirates for awhile.  Rebuilding, if that's even possible in today's NFL.