Though I saw the GOPer earthquake/meltdown coming, I was still amazed by a story Friday, written by a veteran political reporter (Karen Tumulty) and published in the Washington Post:
Less than a year after a sweeping electoral triumph, Republicans are on the verge of ceasing to function as a national political party.
That's something that was unthinkable, even during Watergate. "Ceasing to function" is of course the scary part in terms of shared governance. "as a national political party" is an interesting characterization, for there is a strong argument that the Republican party electorally is becoming regional. We aren't Red States and Blue States, the freshman Senator from Illinois famously said in 2004, we are the United States. But are we? If not entire states all the time, we do have Red and Blue congressional districts that are divided by more than party label. And some of those Red Staters aren't interested in the interests of the United States, or the world.
But responding to the latest congressional GOPer crisis--the sudden end to the heir apparent's ascension to Speaker, and the resulting chaos that leaves no credible candidate for the job but Paul Ryan, who so far is refusing to run for it--Tumulty describes the tumult in her second graph/sentence:
The most powerful and crippling force at work in the once-hierarchical GOP is anger, directed as much at its own leaders as anywhere else.
Jonathan Chiat analyzes how this plays out rationally, if not reasonably:
"What actually separates the insurgents from the Establishment is not ideology but tactics. The insurgents refuse to accept the constitutional limits of their power, and believe that more frenzied assertions of their core beliefs, combined with a periodic willingness to shut down the government and threaten a currency default, can prevail over President Obama through force of will. The insurgents mistakenly interpret disagreements over means as disagreements over ends; when Republican leaders express reluctance to shut down the government over Obamacare or Planned Parenthood, the insurgents take this as actual support for those programs."
Ryan's refusal may well be sincere--it's worse than a thankless job, and a former vice-presidential candidate doesn't need the prestige. But if it's tactical, in order to let support build until he's crowned by acclamation, he risks what is starting to happen: rabid righters rebelling against Ryan basically because people they don't like support him, and he's unlikely to do crazy stuff like defaulting on the debt or shutting down the federal government. So it seems he's going to have to declare in or out pretty soon. Update: Maybe too late. By late Saturday, Reuters has a story that their opposition is growing.
But even that may not be enough. The New York Times Saturday suggests that rabid right insurgents want to take away much of the Speaker's power, which the story opines Ryan is unlikely to like. If such demands are made, a Saturday Washington Post story also asserts, Ryan won't take the job.
Why would he? He's the most powerful chair of the House's most powerful committee. And if insurgents get their way and distribute much of the Speaker's power to others, including committee chairs, he'll become more powerful by staying put. Only big pressure to save the party might sway him. But aren't the GOPers billionaires more rabid than right?
Of course, if the rabids prevent the US from honoring its debts on the debt ceiling vote in November, such "power" will be dismally irrelevant.
Land of Guns
President Obama had to hurry to comfort mourners and survivors of the gun massacre in Oregon but couldn't get it all done before there were two more campus shootings.
But it turns out these were fairly ordinary days in America. Data published in the Guardian shows that in 1,004 recent days, there were 994 mass shootings, almost one a day on average, when "mass shooting" is defined as four or more victims. Check out the chart.
Nick Kristof in the New York Times sifts more stats: more Americans killed by guns in America than died in all wars since (and including) the American Revolution. And this one:
In America, more preschoolers are shot dead each year (82 in 2013) than police officers are in the line of duty (27 in 2013), according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI.
Kristof suggests ways of breaking the impasse and doing something about gun violence, for example by treating this as a public health issue. He notes however that Republicans in Congress have forbidden the Centers for Disease Control to study gun violence.
Meanwhile President Obama is considering using executive action to redefine what constitutes a gun dealer to include large-volume dealers at gun shows, so buyers would have to pass background checks. This idea has been around since 2013, and seems to be the same as what Hillary Clinton proposed through aides the other day.
There's also been quite a bit of noise about arming more people to defend themselves against crazy shooters, along with louder condemnation of any kind of gun control (using false history and a phony Hitler quote to suggest the Nazis triumphed because they enacted gun control. They didn't enact gun control, and they encountered armed resistance.) The latest poster child for giving more people more guns was a woman shopper who whipped out her concealed pistol to shoot at shoplifters.
El Nino Update
National Weather Service updated their El Nino forecasts, with even the official pronouncements bringing good news for northern California: an 80% likelihood of normal precip this winter (after several years of way below normal), and a 40% chance of above normal.
But a NASA climate expert at the Jet Propulsion lab said this was typically conservative--that the El Nino is so strong that northern California will get lots of rain, including a restored snowpack in the Sierras, maybe twice normal.
The problem with all these forecasts is that they are based on comparing this year's data with previous El Ninos and their effects. Two problems actually: first, the number of El Ninos with data attached is pretty small. Second, this isn't 1950 or even 1996 in terms of the other phenomena affecting weather that seem caused or exaggerated by global heating and its effects in the atmosphere and especially in the oceans.
So if it starts raining and raining a lot in November, it's encouraging. But we won't know about how this El Nino interacted with the Blob etc. until looking back at this winter. However, maybe it's wishful thinking, but the feeling here is yeah--it's gonna rain and rain.
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