Thursday, November 6, 2014

"I would advise everyone I love not to mix with it."

     The big Republican win Tuesday night didn't bother me much.
     I'm not sure why.
     Cynicism triumphant, perhaps. 
     Given what the Democratic majority in the Senate could accomplish—not much—the Republicans probably won't be able to inflict a lot of damage before they, in turn, are swept out, and it'll be fun to see them try.
     Of course, I'm not one of the 10 million Americans who got access to health insurance for the first time last year under Obamacare, and it'll be difficult to have it yanked away.
     Frankly, I can't quite imagine the Republicans are really going to do that, really kill a successful health care program out of their hatred of the man who created it. But maybe they will, though dismantling a system that is working pretty well, despite their best efforts. That isn't quite the path to the future, is it?
      Then again, none of what they're doing is the path to the future, and that's why I'm not too broken up about the current crop of right wing politicians who, playing our political musical chairs, found their ample butts squeezed into an elective office when the voters lifted the needle off the record.
     This all is cyclical, we should know by now, and the more the Republicans try to drag us back toward their cherished, imaginary past, the more we'll lurch into the future on the backswing, if we just wait a little. 
     The waiting is difficult, I know. But always remember: we're a nation that can't get rid of the penny. Change, even tiny, necessary, change, comes hard to us, to our shame.
     The bottom line, for me, is that while Republicans can ignore facts, facts do not in turn ignore Republicans. They live in our world too, though they don't seem to know it, to realize the realities underlying all this are true for both parties. Sure, they can build their coveted Keystone Pipeline now. But global warming is still real, and at some point we're going to have to pull back from fossil fuels. Maybe the damage won't be as bad as they predict; the world, after all, never did choke on overpopulation, did it? If Republicans have a way of ignoring looming disaster, Democrats have a way of overstating it. Nobody's perfect.
     The incoming Congress can seal the borders. But the country still grows more Latino day by day, and one fine day they're going to wake up, look blinking at one another, realize their numbers, and boom. Suddenly  immigration reform will happen, the way gay marriage suddenly happened, shifting from impossibility to done deal, seemingly overnight (to latecomers; for those fighting the good fight, it didn't happen so fast).
      Keep gay marriage in mind. Sure, Republicans might try to roll back the astounding progress we've made as a society, trying to keep their base of ignorant haters happy. But the change is already done. You can't unring a bell, as the lawyers say. The granite floor to the issue, the bedrock of fact—it can't be repeated enough—is that gay people make no worse spouses or parents than anybody else. Once we're standing solidly on that, it's going to be difficult—I think impossible—for the Republicans to shift the landscape so it's once again based on their little puddle of fear and religious bias. 
     I'm not so sure it won't be diverting to watch them try.
     The Democrats certainly have their share of blame. President Obama has been passive and aloof for months, if not years. I read a lot, yet have no idea what he stands for or what he intends to do, what he's willing to take a risk to achieve. Maybe he has no idea either. In the final analysis, when historians try to figure out what went wrong with him, you won't need too many masters degrees to realize he should have failed more, not less, should have engaged that golden mouth of his for a few causes he really, truly believed in, assuming they exist, no matter how well or how poorly they polled, and tried to ramp things up before the midterms, not put his ethics in a blind trust until after, cravenly trying to avert the disaster that came anyway. 
     Maybe if he had bothered to tell the American people what this election was about, before, they wouldn't have decided it was about him forgetting to be president. 
     I dislike politics, as a rule. It's like sports: the same thing happening over and over. The same overpaid egomaniacs spouting meaningless platitudes. I'm glad this election is over, and maybe we can have a few months respite before the next one begins, assuming it hasn't begun already, which it probably has.  These are not proud days for America, the country is lost in fog, sunk into inertia, screwing up at home and overseas. The Republican victory feels suited to the times. Here's the keys to the country, kids. Try not to smash it up too badly. Bring it back by 2016 when the Democrats will take it for a spin. 
     Then again, this is nothing new either.
     "Politics is such a torment that I would advise everyone I love not to mix with it," Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1800. Advice worth taking.


  1. Gay marriage will continue to move forward as will marijuana legalization, which is good. But the Republican victory will help put a stop to evil gun control and environmentalism, which is also good.

    1. Cite evidence of gun control over the past six years. A momentary murmur after each mass shooting. Yeah, must be tough...

  2. I agree it is a torment. I disagree about advising people to opt out. I'm one of the silly ones who still think it is our civic duty to opt in..more, not less..if we want better.

    1. Whence "torment." And where do I advise people to opt out? I just say it's nothing to get worked up about. That time passed. What does "opt in" mean, anyway? Bitching about stuff doesn't actually accomplish anything, a fact lost on many,

    2. I think Nancy interpreted your presentation of and agreement with the Jefferson quote as advising people to opt out -- which is where "torment" also came from. And I'd bet that by "opting in," she means voting, contacting elected officials, volunteering for/contributing to candidates, and so forth -- not "bitching about stuff."


  3. I hope you're right. But I don't think Obama has been so aloof and passive as he's been portrayed that way by the media, which have failed dismally to present the real issues to the people.

    1. So we're supposed to do his job. We present the real issues every day. The people snooze. Don't blame us.

    2. As a perennial optimist, I predict that Barack will go all out in his last 2 years and cast caution to the wind, enacting immigration reform, closing Guantanamo, withdrawing all troops from the Middle East, vetoing Keystone, etc. Now tell me I'm not a sap.


    3. You're a sap.
      Obama will do nothing, as he doesn't know how to be a leader or an executive.

  4. 1) I think we do know what Barack Obama is willing to take a risk to achieve: health care reform. He rejected Rahm's and others' advice that proceeding after the Dems' 2010 bloodbath was too risky (at the fervent urging of Nancy Pelosi - read Jonathan Cohn's New Republic piece (later turned into a book, but the former is online)). In fact it's the ONLY time I've seen him willing to risk sacrificing singificant political capital for a policy goal.

    2) It's not just Republicans that ignore facts. The Democrats/progressives who favored Kyoto ignored the magnitude of the exemptions for China and India. You can count on a single hand the number of immigration reform proponents who have presented (let alone responded to) the progressive argument and economic research against the special interest-driven Gang of Eight bill. More subtle but also damaging, Democrats often ignore research on education, pushing funding for things that research indicates are ineffective and opposing support for things that hold promise but opposed by teacher unions (see Karen Lewis comments in the Sun-Times about Chicago Heights "Freakonomics" merit pay study, for example).

  5. As a rough label I am a moderate conservative/libertarian. I have been pro-gay rights for the last forty years and was pro- same sex marriage as soon as it became an issue.

    Are some Republicans stupid and venal? For sure. Same for Democrats.

    But to view the situation honestly we have to look at the “best” -- not the “worst” -- of Republican and Democratic governance.

    Republicans need Democrats to serve as “gadflies” aka prophetic voices in the wilderness. Throughout the twentieth century Democrats have lead the charge on civil rights , the environment, and worker safety.

    But the “left” does not have a workable governing philosophy. The tendency is to champion a centrally controlled administrative welfare state.

    Every major political thinker of the last two or three centuries recognized the role of government to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Governmental charity should be offered to those who are indeed charity cases.

    It is also the role of government to enable all others to provide for themselves – not to provide for them.

    Great fault of Democrats is that they want to make decisions for us – through administrative regulations – rather than allow individuals, businessmen, non-governmental organizations (including churches), and local governments to think and act for themselves. Thus the philosophy is that government knows best and it will mandate how we should act. It treats us as children who need the benign and authoritative guidance of the state.

    ObamaCare is the quintessential example of this.

    Most Americans want those unable to provide for themselves (and that includes all of us in the case of catastrophic health problems) to receive basic health care.

    But Democrats sought to address this need by the monstrosity called ObamaCare. It is essentially – one size fits all. It was foisted on us by lies -- “If you like your policy you can keep it” -- and it will indeed be a job killer once the lawlessly postponed employer mandate kicks in.

    And the solution is not “single payer” since I fear it will be run as efficiently as the VA hospital system is run. Long waiting periods is the de facto method of rationing.

    I have little patience for griping. Things fail for a reason. All comprehensive schemes have major unintended consequences. Best to proceed piecemeal.

    That is why government must first show that it can control the borders before we grant amnesty to those already here.



    1. Well, Jerry, you've determined that it's safe to come out of hiding after your side's big win? ; ) (Just a friendly joke -- please don't take it poorly!)

      "Thus the philosophy is that government knows best and it will mandate how we should act." Of course this "great fault of Democrats" goes head-to-head against one of the many faults of Republicans ; ) -- that leaving all regulation to the "market" will be hunky-dory. If it were true that individuals and businessmen and a corporation which is really a person, thinking and acting for themselves, would always do the "right" thing, there'd never have been any need for regulations in the first place. The question is, what is appropriate regulation and what is over-regulation? As is often the case, it's not simple enough to determine in a blog post, IMHO...

      You can (and will!) gripe about Obamacare all you want. 10 million are insured who wouldn't otherwise be, along with some other beneficial changes. Yes, it is flawed. But if it is somehow repealed by the new Republican majority, best not to hold one's breath waiting to find out what better, "piecemeal" plan will be established in its place. There won't be one. To me, a flawed plan is better than none.

    2. Nice to see some familiar names on this blog (even you, JerryB :)

  6. I really don't get your harsh assessment of Obama. He's not very good at bluster, and if that's what you like he has been a big disappointment, but history will judge him on accomplishments, and in my view, kindly. The New York Times has been running an assessment of The Affordable Care Act which finds it to be meeting its objectives: significant reductions in the proportion of uninsured Americans (less in states run by obstructionist Republican governers) and the injection of real competition into the insurance industry which seems to be, as my very conservative economics professors at the University of Chicago would have had to predict, constraining the growth in health care costs. That, and the fact that he has largely put those honor guards at Dover Air Force base out of business will, in hindsight, be considered worthy accomplishments. Also, his economic policies, although too timid for Paul Krugman's taste, probably did avert a more serious and prolonged recession.

    And he has faced a more compex opposition than most presidents: opposition ranging from idiological disagreement to implacable hatred from congressional republicans; lukewarm support from Democrats who wish it had been Hillary; the unlovable and enigmatic Harry Reid as his main constitutional ally in the legislature. Practicing the art of the possible is never a particularly attractive endeavor, but it is the hand our Founding Fathers dealt to people who assume the highest office in the land, and Obama, when all is said and done, hasn't done all that badly at it.
    As for his current "unpopularity," his disapproval rating of 44 percent compares to Bush's sixth year rating of 38. A funny headline in the November 2008 Onion read "Black man gets worst job in America."

  7. Neil, I think you are my new favorite columnist.

  8. "...the world never did choke on overpopulation.." A classic example of missing the forest for the trees! The world is indeed choking on overpopulation as we write. The current population of around 7 billion people is the reason that man-made release of greenhouse gases has now exceeded the point of no return for global warming caused problems. The exponential increase in population has resulted in increasingly shortened durations for doubling of the population, which results in the exponential increase in global demand for the energy, water and food sources that are becoming increasingly more damaging to the global ecosystem. The world is currently in the midst of one of the greatest species extinction events ever, which can be directly linked to human activity on a global scale.

  9. "I ... have no idea what he stands for..." Well, that's a bit of an overstatement. Though what he stands for and what he's been able to accomplish are clearly two very different things. Anon-not-anon and Thomas Evans make some fine points. We haven't "bomb-bombed Iran" the way Sen. McCain seemed quite in favor of, and have largely been taking boots off the ground, rather than sending troops to the myriad hotspots that the more militaristic pundits always seem to counsel. Averting a possible depression -- does he get ANY credit for that? Though, I realize that we don't need to tell you about his actual accomplishments, Neil, as you're more aware of them than I am, and were just exaggerating in that paragraph.

    And Ms. or Mr. 11:09 Anonymous nails it with regard to overpopulation.

    The bottom line for me when it comes to Obama is that, while I am also disappointed in what he's been able to accomplish, I don't think its evident that anybody else would have done better in dealing with guys like McConnell, who was willing to blatantly state that his "single most important goal" was to defeat Obama in the last election. Talk about politics outweighing constructive action! And, surveying the scene, there's still not a politician I can think of that I'd trust more to deal with the myriad international crises than "no-drama" Obama. I suppose that this puts me in the "sap" category, as well.

  10. Greetings Jakash –my friend:

    I agree with the second paragraph of your post directed to me. In fact you literally – not figuratively --took the words out of my mouth. Only yesterday I posted the following:

    “”We do not need bigger government or smaller government. We need government to be the optimal size and with optimal policies. And what is optimal differs from realm to realm. Suggestions need to be informed. They require the intellectual heavy lifting of professionals such as lawyers, economists, engineers, scientists, and business men who know things and how to run things...For example we do not need Washington DC telling us how to educate our children. That is quintessentially a local matter. On the other hand – we do indeed need Washington to actively regulate drug, food, and airline safety.... Being a professional musician, philosopher, novelist, athlete or movie star really does not qualify one to make prescriptions as to how to optimally regulate the airline industry, the drug industry, or Wall Street.””

    I have looked long and hard at the debacle of 2007-2008. In a nutshell:

    Mortgage backed securities were garbage. This garbage was created with the help of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – semi-governmental organizations. This garbage was created with the approval of both Democrats and Republicans in order to increase home ownership among the poor. Wall Street – including the rating agencies knew this was garbage yet sold it as AAA rated stuff. They did this because they WERE GREEDY and because they were afraid to ‘step out’ and criticize this garbage that both the Democrats and the Republicans wanted.

    Too big to fail is bad. Those too big too fail will always seek to capture the regulatory agencies. That is Crony-Capitalism – even something Adam Smith ranted against.

    Perhaps breaking up those “too big to fail” is the way to go. The re- imposition of Glass-Steagall would be a good first step.

    Bailing out Wall Street was merely providing liquidity to a run on Wall Street – a shadow banking industry. That was a lesson learned from the Great Depression.

    Some serious economic thinkers believe government stimulus (beyond truly shovel ready projects) merely prevents re-equilibration of the economy and thus prolongs the recession. Of course Paul Krugman disagrees.

    Finally I agree with you and Evans wrt Mr. Steinberg. His style of personifying matters and demonizing both the Republicans and President Obama merely sheds a lot of heat and little light on the issues. Furthermore – it is a conversation stopper.


  11. Jerry, only you could write one enormously long, rambling comment after another and end it all with complaining about "a conversation stopper." Your conversation sure shows no signs of stopping.

    1. I worry about Jerry's long rambling comments as well, "Unknown". That, and wishing I knew who all the "Anonymous" "Anon-not-Anon", "Unknown"s et al are. It's not that difficult to post a name when commenting on this blog, is it?

    2. Hi, Sandy. Kudos to you for hanging in there with EZ's blog, given the new set-up. I lurk there occasionally, but deplore all the extra "clicks" required these days and have thus not regretted staying off the board. Well, except when so many blast EZ's Twitter-joke selections, which I usually find entertaining, more or less.

      I've tried to tell a couple folks here that they can just choose "Name/URL" under "Select profile" on this site and put whatever name they want, leaving URL blank, but evidently they're not inclined to do so...

      And, FWIW, Jerry's long, rambling comments don't "worry" me any more than mine do! ; )

    3. Always a pleasure reading your comments, Jakash. :)

  12. Returning briefly to the fray, I did find the comment that President Obama has been passive and aloof for months if not years quite objectionable. I guess that means he has not done a lot of yacking on subjects you are particularly into. But how do you know what the man thinks, feels or may or may not be actually doing out of the public eye? Having worked on the fringes of the public relations business I do know that for public figures sometimes the best results in controversial situations or in the midst of delicate negotiations are obtained by keeping your mouth shut.

    1. Amen to that brother. If only other politicians heeded that advice.

    2. That's an odd remark Thomas. The question is not what is within his heart, but how he is leading the country. You are suggesting that the president can best lead by doing and saying nothing. I'd say that's pretty close to what he is indeed doing, and that it is not working, obviously.

  13. SandyK & Jakash:

    I consider both of you as “good guys” from Zorn’s blog.

    I certainly know how to be as snotty and snarky as the next guy. But I consider it a waste of everyone’s time to merely snipe. That is why I go “long form” -- not only to tell you what I believe -- but why I do so.

    I am simply not interested in what people believe – what they can plaster across a T-shirt. Rather I am immensely interested as to why they believe what they believe.

    I am simply not interested in being a “short form” guy. If Mr. Steinberg believes I am somehow bad for business – then he simply has to ask me to leave.

    But I am curious. This is not one microphone that I am hogging. It is easy to skip my posts. So what is objectionable about being a “long-form guy?”



    1. Your comments interest me, Jerry. I think you're intelligent and worthy of any blog. It's the number of comments that worry me. I think EZ was very lenient in general with the snark and amount of back-and-forth name-calling and sarcasm on the CoS blog. Not many blogs would allow that (and I would never want to speak for Neil -- just my own opinion, which I own -- name and all).

  14. My computer has been down for some hours, so everybody may have moved on by now. And not to kick a dead horse or pour more water over the damn, but I did not suggest that the President can best lead by doing and saying nothing, only that we only know of the smattering of what he does and says that the press is able to capture...and spin.

    On a lighter note, we did all manage to survive the campaign without catching ebola. Another bullet dodged there.


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