Personal Reflections on Politics and Priorities


The Statue of Freedom atop the U.S. Capitol building.

Let us speak of love and life and the beauty of this Universe.

What? Oh. Right. Sorry.

Look, to the one it seems really simple; to the other, we all have people in our lives who will, when they don’t like the obvious implication of an obvious fact, chuff and puff and stutter: “Wh-wha-what? What are you talking about? What does that even mean?” The thing about this behavior is that except for the fact of contention, these people in our lives know damn well what we’re talking about, and if there is any confusion about what it means, they’re certainly tipping their hand by going from zero to attack in zero-point-two-one-seven-three seconds. You know that common tease, “Struck a nerve, there”?

Sometimes it seems tragic: Perceived competitive pressures can seem so permeating in and of the perspectives subscribing to or advocating its processes and outcomes as to inhibit normal, healthy social function. More accessibly: Capitalism escalates mental health risk factors. Or, more generally: People who believe in or advocate the dog eat dog rat race can fall into it so deeply that their social faculties degrade into dysfunction.

And sometimes we think, “Huh? But you knew what this meant yesterday. And you even believed it last week!”

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On the Complexity of Making Things Complicated


Hillary Clinton

Sometimes the key to politics is to make things complicated not so much by making them actually complicated, but by complicating things with additional layers and steps. Political discourse is something like the living, realtime inspiration for internet chatter; after two or three quick rounds it’s hard to tell what anyone is referring to, anymore.

But at the same time, it is not as if the rhetorical devices of American politics are especially complex. Consider, for instance, Paul Krugman:

This policy unity has been helped by the fact that Obama has had a moderate degree of success in achieving these goals. If he had had an easy time, the party might be divided between those wanting more radical action and those not in a hurry; if he had failed utterly, the party might be divided (as it was for much of the past three decades) between a liberal faction and a Republican-lite faction. As it is, however, Obama has managed to achieve a lot of what Democrats have sought for generations, but only with great difficulty against scorched-earth opposition. This means that the conflict between “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” — exemplified these days by Elizabeth Warren — and the more pro-big-business wing is relatively muted: the liberal wing knows that Obama has gotten most of what could be gotten, and the actual policies haven’t been the kind that would scare off the less liberal wing.

One would think this easy piece of political perspective would not be so rare in our discourse, but for some reason—perhaps a tendency toward equivocation for the sake of narrative simplification—it sometimes seems useful to take a moment and think about how it comes about.

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A Hopeful Prophecy


Animal Nuz #194 (detail)

Round and round in circles; when do we get to breathe clean, fresh air? The carousel is vicious; each pass brings greater distress.

I don’t know, is that too dramatic?

The problem, of course, is simply that life is unpredictable. Heh. Simply. Unpredictable.

Yet, for all the things that are genuinely predictable, something about politics is problematic. Setting aside the cyclical examinations of what went wrong, both in the internal and public polling, the nature of politics seems to openly and proudly defy the punditry.

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There Must Be An Answer, Let It Be, Let It Be


Do It!And then there are the things we probably didn’t need to think about, but it’s America, so setting the obvious point aside, yes, there are scarier things in the world, and risk is choice, you know?

And, no, there is nothing about The Beatles that actually goes here. I just needed a title, and Macca mewling over Mother Mary happened to be the first thing to mind that didn’t involve the proverbial bleach and eyeballs.

Advice and Extortion


RandPaulEyes

He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

United States Constitution, II.2

Sometimes it feels like fantasy: “These are dark times, there is no denying . . . .”

Never mind.

It would be wrong to call JeeYeon Park’s CNBC report—

Equities briefly pared their gains after Senator Rand Paul threatened to put Janet Yellen’s Fed chair nomination on hold this week, according to sources close to Paul.

Paul is insisting on a vote on his Fed transparency bill, and has informed Senate leadership of his intentions, according to the source.

Meanwhile, a Senate Democratic aide told CNBC that the ability of Paul to single-handedly block the nomination “should not be overstated” as Paul would need 40 other senators to join him to cut off a motion to end debate and bring the nomination to the floor. Although hearings have not yet been scheduled, the aide said the leadership at this point is confident the nomination will succeed.

—little noticed, as the markets noticed and reacted, causing other people to notice—

Sen. Rand Paul is getting a lot of attention this morning for his threat to hold up the nomination of Janet L. Yellen to head the Federal Reserve, but he may have very little leverage to stop her confirmation.

The Kentucky Republican is seeking a vote on his Federal Reserve transparency legislation as part of considering the Yellen nomination. The announcement came in a YouTube video posted Thursday by the Campaign for Liberty, a nonprofit affiliated with Paul’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

Legislation to require an audit of the Federal Reserve has had bipartisan support in the past when pushed by both Pauls, but it has faced no shortage of opposition and roadblocks.

“Sen. Rand Paul will be demanding a vote on audit the Fed in the Senate when they consider the new Fed nominee,” John Tate, the chairman of Campaign for Liberty, said in the video.

However, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could decide to ignore Paul’s request by moving to limit debate on Yellen’s nomination by filing cloture. If Reid gets 60 votes, there’s no need to make a deal with Paul or anyone else. Yellen appears to already have enough support to overcome a filibuster, unless Republicans and some sympathetic Democrats decide to back his quest for a vote on the audit bill.

“Right now, the Senate is preparing to debate and confirm the new Obama nominee to chair the Federal Reserve,” Paul said. “I say vote no on a new Fed chairman without a vote on my audit the Fed bill. This will be the fight of our lives.”

—and now we have an issue.

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GOP: The Somethin’ Shall Somethin’ Ag’in


Believe it or not, a conservative associate of mine sent me this article, actually thinking … er … um … right. I have no idea what he was thinking.

On Thursday afternoon, as the government shutdown entered its third day, a Republican member of the House sat down with a group of reporters in an office building not far from the Capitol. He spoke on the condition that he be referred to only as a House lawmaker, but without betraying the agreement it’s fair to say his was a perspective well worth listening to. The congressman walked the group through a set of issues involved in the shutdown—the continuing resolution, House-Senate relations, the coming debt limit talks, and more—but what was perhaps most striking was his frank talk about how the GOP leadership got itself into its current predicament. What became clear after an hour of discussion was that the House Republican leadership’s position at the moment is the result of happenstance, blundering, and a continuing inability to understand the priorities of both GOP and Democratic colleagues.

The congressman began with an anecdote from the Civil War. “I would liken this a little bit to Gettysburg, where a Confederate unit went looking for shoes and stumbled into Union cavalry, and all of a sudden found itself embroiled in battle on a battlefield it didn’t intend to be on, and everybody just kept feeding troops into it,” the congressman said. “That’s basically what’s happening now in a political sense. This isn’t exactly the fight I think Republicans wanted to have, certainly that the leadership wanted to have, but it’s the fight that’s here.”

When the September 30 deadline for funding the government was still weeks away, the lawmaker explained, he never thought Republicans and Democrats would fail to reach agreement on a continuing resolution. “To be honest with you, I did not think we’d be in a government shutdown situation,” he said. “I’m surprised that we’re here.” The congressman frankly admitted that he never saw the intensity of the party base’s opposition to Obamacare that came to the fore in the August recess. “I think that probably the Cruz phenomenon had a lot to do with that,” he said, referring to the campaign by Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz to raise support for an effort to defund Obamacare. “I think it disrupted everybody’s plans, both in the administration and certainly the House Republican leadership.”

As the congressman told the story, as August progressed—and Cruz, along with a few Senate colleagues, the Heritage Foundation, and others, ran a high-profile campaign to stir public opinion against Obamacare—the House GOP leadership was mostly unaware of what was going on. “They got surprised a little bit by the Obamacare thing,” the lawmaker said. “This was something that blew up in August. Nobody really saw it coming—probably should have a little bit, I’m not being critical of anybody in that regard, on either side of this—but it just happened.”

(York)

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The Drowning Game


“Yes, we’re only half-way through the calendar year—or, roughly one-fourth of the way through the current Congress—but federal lawmakers are already behind the last Congress’ pace, and it was the worst in modern times.”

Steve Benen

Conservative Wet DreamWhat we’re essentially dealing with is a means of rendering government weak enough to drown it in a bathtub; simply make it so incompetent that it cannot lift its head out of the water. After all, that would require House approval, and the Republican majority certainly isn’t in an approving mood.