Fredo: I was stepped over! Michael: It's the way Pop wanted it. Fredo: It ain't the way I wanted it!
I can handle things.
I'm smart, not like everyone says, like dumb.
I'm smart, and I want respect.
The Republican shutdown of United States government is fading into default on US debt. And the policy objective is fading into psychobabble.
They began with a demand that Obamacare be dismantled, along with the bold prediction that the President would do just that. To their amazed indignation, that did not happen.
As the beginning stages of the Affordable Care Act went into effect and enrollment started, it became apparent to Republican lawmakers that the dismantling of healthcare was ... well ... impractical. That plan was abandoned.
So the question became one of policy. What, exactly, do Republicans want?
The answer to that was easy for President Obama and for Democrats in government. It does not matter. There will be no negotiations about keeping government open or about keeping the government from defaulting on US debt. Period.
To Republicans themselves, the answer to that question became an amorphous puzzle, a jigsaw with no pieces, the Gordian knot of ancient myth that could not be untangled. What policy are Republicans after, now that it cannot be Obamacare?
Representative Marlin Stutzman tried to answer that, and has been the uncomfortable subject of mirth ever since.
We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.
- Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), Washington Examiner, October 3 2013
If there is any forgiveness in the human heart, it has to be forwarded to Democrats who could not resist such an overpowering temptation.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) offered an apology. "I want to apologize for anything I may have said that disrespected Marlin Stutzman." Then he asked if the American people could have their government back, please. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) joined in the fun, apologizing for not giving the Congressman enough respect. Chuck Shumer (D-NY) offered his apology as well.
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) apologized, then wondered if a group hug might console Representative Stutzman, end the shutdown, and put 800,000 workers back earning paychecks.
Marlin Stutzman later tried to backtrack, saying that he had misrepresented the Republican position. But no-one seems to be able to articulate what that position might be. "This is not just about Obamacare anymore," says Stutzman's colleague, Michael Grimm (R-NY).
The shutdown of the government no longer centers on policy issues. The issues are emotional. The question of what Republicans want has transformed into what is troubling them. How can Republicans be healed? What will mollify the rage?
Slate Magazine had some fun asking advice from parenting experts on how to handle tantrums. While post-tantrum tactics vary, one element was unanimous. Don't give in, don't try to mollify.
The anger of Republicans seems less about policy than it is about rejection. The issue of respect has been simmering ever since the election of President Obama in 2008. Then it got worse.
Conservatives were shocked when, contrary to their chosen media outlets, President Obama was elected again by a healthy margin. Even the House Republican majority was elected only by a minority of voters. Most voters did not want Republicans in control of the Presidency, the Senate, or the House.
How dare they!
The anger is no longer about policy. The rage is not even about any disrespectful treatment by Democrats. The eruption continues because Barack Obama is still in the White House. Republicans are furious at voters, enraged by America.
The shutdown is not a child throwing a tantrum. It is Fredo lashing out at the Corleone family for not choosing him.
I was stepped over!
It's the way Pop wanted it.
It ain't the way I wanted it!
Republicans were stepped over. That's the way the voters wanted it. But that ain't the way Republicans wanted it!
My Grandmother Was Lucky Not To Know Dana Perino (5:24) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
Gov Christie on Marriage, Popular Sovereignty, Majority Rule (3:37) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
How the Republican House Cabal Took Control (4:57) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
9:00 AM, October 6, 2013
St. Mark's United Methodist Church
314 Graham Rd
Florissant, MO 63031
|We worship a God who knows everything,|
|who knows every flaw and every triumph,|
|every pretense and every honest moment,|
|every wrong and every act of grace.|
|We worship a God who loves us,|
|who sees within us what nobody knows,|
|what we ourselves do not find,|
|something beautiful, valuable, worthwhile.|
|We worship a God who sends a son to tell us|
|that we are not our falsehoods or our truths,|
|that we are not the harm we do, not the good.|
|We are loved for what we truly are.|
|We worship a God who sends a son|
|to show us how to live,|
|to show us how to love,|
|to show that we are worth dying for.|
Found on Line:
Albina and Dasha
Slavic Grace Baptist Church
Ted Cruz meets with a group of Republican legislators. The group becomes a crowd. The crowd becomes a mob. The mob finds a rope. Tommy Christopher of Mediaite quotes a participant describing the party as a lynch mob with poor Ted as the center of deadly celebration.
Conservative Julian Sanchez, at Cato, wonders why some government websites are shut down, while some are open. Essential services does not seem an obvious pattern. But Julian is a thoughtful and creative analyst. He eventually discovers a plausible answer.
Max's Dad expresses a thought about his congressional representative's vote against funding government and the legislator's contemporaneous declaration that he will refuse to give up his own paycheck while the shutdown continues. The Republican feels he needs the money.
Rumproast rolls eyes over the Republican attempt at a photo op. The photo shows them sitting at a table waiting for President Obama to show up and negotiate away Healthcare for the uninsured. See how reasonable they are? They produce an iconic moment, captured on film and pixel: a bunch of wealthy white males in suits sitting around a conference table. What does that look like? A board meeting of some exclusionary country club, perhaps?
Kent Pittman, writing from Open Salon, takes a look at Climate Change from a different perspective. He suggests that a proposition of something being possible, and a proposition that something is impossible, are not opposite but equal statements. He tells us why.
- James Wigderson mourns the death of a beloved friend who was widely known for insightful reviews of very bad movies. James does introduce a real person to us. I had not heard of the fellow but, after reading James, I'm genuinely sorry the world has lost him.
In 1972, the fight between Democrats and Republicans was prolonged.
Democrats wanted a small increase in Social Security retirement benefits. This was so small it would do nothing more than cover increases in the cost of living. It seems unfair to count as an increase anything that does not go beyond inflation.
But Republicans fought against it. President Nixon joined in. He told Democrats that he would veto any increase in Social Security benefits.
Finally, a bit of horse trading ended in a compromise.
Nixon got funding for a pilot project that he hoped might replace temporary welfare programs with a negative income tax. A small guaranteed income would be provided to every family. The amount would slowly decrease as a family's income rose. Liberals were intrigued but skeptical. The support was in borderline starvation amounts.
But Democrats wanted seniors to be able to live as their costs rose.
Nixon, like many conservatives, hated Social Security. Privatization schemes, reductions, conversions, all still come at us as Republican proposals. The motivation remains. It is a core hostility to the program itself.
But Nixon swallowed his opposition to the tiny increase in exchange for funding his experiment in ending welfare. He reluctantly held back from vetoing and allowed the cost-of-living increase.
When seniors got their checks there was a note included. It pointed out the increase that had come as a result of President Nixon signing it into law. Congratulations. Look at what the President had provided.
Yup. President Nixon had just taken credit for the increase that he and the Republican Party had so bitterly fought against.
I thought of President Nixon's bold move to deceive those seniors whom Republicans had worked so hard to screw over as I watched again and again the video of Congressman Randy Neugebauer berating a Park Ranger.
It occurred to me that I was watching the flip side of a drama played out 40 years ago. Back then, President Nixon tried to take credit for what Republicans had scratched and clawed to prevent. This week it was a Congressman kicking at an underling to avoid taking credit for what Republicans had done at the urging of right wing extremists.
The Ranger was following orders she had received to obey the government shutdown that Republicans had ordered. Randy Neugebauer had voted with his fellow Republicans.
It was at the World War II Memorial on the Washington Mall. As cameras rolled, Congressman Randy Neugebauer was on the scene to beat up on the lone Park Ranger for telling veterans they could not go in.
There is something iconic about the entire scene. A Republican insists that government be allowed to open only when and if President Obama shuts down Obamacare. Then he publicly scolds a Park Ranger as if she personally had ordered the shutdown he voted for.
"How do you, how do you, look at them and say", he sputters, "How do you deny them access? I don't get that."
The Park Ranger, standing at attention, responds politely. "It's difficult."
But the Congressman is having none of it, polite or not. "Well," he says, "it should be difficult."
The Ranger maintains professional empathy for those she must turn away. "It is difficult. I'm sorry sir."
The Congressman is not finished. "The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves".
The Ranger responds evenly. "I'm not ashamed."
Representative Neugebauer insists on the indignant last word. "Well you should be." Then he turns his back on her. The conversation is ended.
Well, almost ended.
A man steps out of nowhere and defends the Ranger. "This woman is doing her job, just like me," he says. This is unexpected. The Congressman is taken aback. This was supposed to be an easy photo-op. "I'm a 30-year federal veteran," the man says. "I'm out of work."
The Congressman is ready, though. The response has been rehearsed by Republicans all day. He jabs his finger at the man. "Well, the reason you are is because Reid decided to shut down the government," he begins.
But the man immediately answers. "No, it's because the government won't do its job and pass a budget."
The largely unnoticed part of the video is the part I think says almost as much as a member of Congress berating and demeaning a federal employee whose response is to take the abuse.
The man gets as far as "No, it's because" before he's talking to the Congressman's back. The Congressman can be seen walking quickly away as the man calls after him what the Congressman does not want to hear. "...the government won't do its job and pass a budget."
Berating a low level employee for problems Republicans have caused, refusing to hear out a citizen who voices disagreement, turning his back and walking away.
It is the image many of us are forming of contemporary Republicanism.
Are the cameras running?
Let's find someone who can't fight back, someone to beat down for the evening news.
This has become less a party of principle than a party of posturing.
It is now composed of politicians less interested in adopting positions than in adopting poses.
Offering Obamacare in 150 languages is absurd. If someone can't speak enough English to fill in forms, what will they explain to a doctor?
- Dana Perino, Fox News Contributor, via Twitter, October 1, 2013
We lose so many details of those from whom we came. What I know of my grandmother comes from dim and faulty memory combined with distant family lore. She died before I was ten.
I know Marie came from the Ukraine as a young woman. I have a sense that it was around the time of World War I. It was called the Great War then, in a time before we knew we had to number them. She was fleeing a forced marriage.
She arrived in New York City without much knowledge of America's customs and laws. She spoke no English. She must have found others who spoke her language. She somehow got word that the man to whom she had been promised had come looking for her.
She avoided the authorities. She had no way of knowing whether they would hand her to the man who felt he owned her, the one to whom she had been promised. And people in her part of Europe carried a long tradition, one that came from generations of unfortunate experience. Survival dictated staying away from police.
I remember a story. I believe it is accurate, as far as I can take it. I'm not sure whether it came from my own momma. The words have faded from my mind. I have an image of a young Marie, lost in the largest city on earth, bewildered by the labyrinth of streets, not knowing the language, afraid to talk with police who could be seen at every few intersections. She somehow found her way back without help.
After she was told she was being pursued by the man she did not love, she migrated out of New York, following the waterways, the Hudson River, then the Barge Canal, finally finding refuge in a small community outside of Syracuse. She met and married a fellow Ukrainian. They raised a family.
I know nearly nothing of my grandfather. He served in the Polish army. That is consistent with my understanding of history. Poland expanded and contracted over time in a sort of historical oscillation. He died when my mother was five.
Every once in a while, I will think of my grandmother. She was little more than a shadow in my memory for decades. I remember her from my childhood, when she lived with my parents. I remember my mother translating for her. For some reason, she comes to my mind more often, now that I have come to an age I once thought of as near elderly.
Every once in a while some remark or incident brings me to her. I thought of my grandmother as I read of the eugenic theories of Republican Steve King. He tells audiences America's greatness comes from making life hard for immigrants, so only the strong make it to bear children. I suspect that, like her, many immigrants bring to our shores something Steve King will never know. It is not a stronger genetic disposition borne of a weeding out, but a brave tradition of adventure and an intolerance for oppression. My imagination tells me my grandmother would not care for Steve King.
The "English Only" folks who would limit benefits and rights, even restaurant service, to those who speak "American" remind me of Marie, who never could speak English. That is how Dana Perino brought her to my mind again.
We all know such anti-immigrant discussion does not really target my grandmother. It is an often darker, closer, Spanish speaking part of humanity that suffers the wrath of nativists. Were she alive now, she would be only collaterally injured by proposed policies aimed at others.
Dana Perino, who imagines that my grandmother could never have been treated by a doctor, was the Press Secretary to a President of the United States. Steve King, who believes America is strong because life was made harder for folks like young Marie, is a member of the United States House of Representatives.
Perhaps my reaction can be ascribed to simple ancestral pride. I don't sense a pride that is tied to ancestry or restricted to family. But I have to believe the brave young woman who left her home and homeland, her friends and her family, everything she had ever known and loved, on a mad dash for freedom, deserves more admiration than most of those who live in comfort and judge those in other parts of the world as their natural inferiors.
Years after my grandmother died, my mother mentioned an incident that stayed with me. My parents were talking quietly about the day's events, sharing their lives, while my mother's mother listened, interested but without comprehending.
My dad left, I suppose on some errand. Marie spoke to her daughter in Ukrainian. Wondering if they been talking about her, she asked if she should move out.
My mom called to my dad and told him what her mother had just asked. My parents embraced my grandmother together, while my momma whispered reassurance and love.
We are taught to hate the sin and love the sinner, to hate the bite and not the biter. Still, it is not easy for me to be around those who speak of language differences as a natural barrier meant to keep people out, one more way God makes sure America stays the same.
The Marie I barely met and never knew proves otherwise.
I hesitate at levity over the government shutdown...
but I did chuckle at this.
The debate in Alton, IL was the closest to where I now live in Missouri. And the number of listeners it drew was among the greatest of the seven debates in Illinois.
On one side, the speaker made the case that the ideals of the country are what make the nation exceptional. All are created equal. It is "the electric cord that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together."
It was an absolute principle going back to the beginning of the Republic. And it put basic rights beyond the reach of government, of popular sentiment, of democracy itself.
He spoke of the oppression of denial of basic rights. He hated the monstrous injustice of it. He hated the fact that it exposed to the world, to all humanity, the hypocrisy of proclaiming equality while denying rights. He hated the denial of basic rights "especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty—criticizing the Declaration of Independence."
His opponent defended the progress that had been made. He spoke of compromise going back for nearly ten years. But mostly, he spoke of democratic rule. If a majority wanted to confer rights on a despised minority they would have done it. In fact, some states already chose to follow that path. He defended the concept of "Popular Sovereignty."
"Each and every State of this Union is a sovereign power, with the right to do as it pleases upon this question," he said. "And why can we not adhere to the great principle of self-government, upon which our institutions were originally based?"
In the end, the defender of popular sovereignty, Senator Stephen Douglas, got fewer votes than his opponent, Abraham Lincoln. But voters did not actually cast ballots for Senator in 1858, at least not in Illinois. A minority of voters managed to elect a majority of the state legislature that year. And those legislators selected Stephen Douglas for another term.
Occasionally, something will remind me of my grade school studies about the Lincoln Douglas debates of 1858.
I thought of popular sovereignty as presented by an incumbent politician, Stephen Douglas, as I listened to a more modern version. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey says he does not like the idea of marriage equality. But he adds: "But what I will tell you is that I understand that good people of good will have a difference of opinion on this. And so my view on it is, put it on the ballot. Let the people decide."
Adhering "to the great principle of self-government" has an appeal right up until you consider whether questions involving basic rights should ever be up for a popular vote.
I thought about Abraham Lincoln's argument a year or so ago as I saw a placard at a pro-equality rally. Lincoln argued that the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence are the bedrock of what makes America a beacon of freedom, and that basic rights were not to be subjected to "popular sovereignty."
The placard that reminded me of the Lincoln side of basic rights posed a simple question:
"When do I get to vote on your marriage?"
The Republicans believe that the wagon train will not make it to the frontier unless some of the old, some of the young, some of the weak are left behind by the side of the trail. The strong, the strong they tell us will inherit the land.
During his time in public life, Mario Cuomo could turn a phrase. Eloquence is not always the seeking of applause. His goal was usually to put into the vision of his audience the reality of those who are forgotten.
His most famous phrase came in an interview with The New Republic in 1985. "You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose."
It looks a lot worse than prose when you see legislative maneuvering on CSPAN. Statesmanlike disagreement becomes exposed as bickering, as the minutiae of legalistic considerations are treated as more vital than the people affected by laws.
The interminable sausage making was part of what made Obamacare unpopular. Dumb compromises to placate those who would support progress, except for something or other, made it look like little more than log-rolling. It provided a jumping off point for absurd distortion. Some folks still believe in death panels, the bureaucratic chainsaw massacre story of conservative fame.
The reaction of some I talk with in social circles or at Sunday worship was understandable to me. People we knew were hurting, and legislators wanted to talk about technical rates on medical devices?
The sausage making this season is even worse, heading toward Soylent Green territory. It's hard to watch. They're putting what in the grinder?
This is not prose. In some ways it goes beyond sausage. Whatever is being produced doesn't rise to that level. Nothing is being produced. The only objective of Republican efforts seems to be obstruction. The motivation is an open disdain for those struggling to work their way out of poverty.
People who gather at bus stops early in the dawn, waiting for transportation to hard jobs are attacked as lazy by expensively dressed pundits and well-compensated politicians. "He who does not work, neither shall he eat," they sneer. Conservatives work hardest at keeping those who ride those buses from voting.
Republicans, having lost the last election, retain only the House of Representatives, in spite of losing the popular vote there as well. The conservative survivors demand that those who were chosen by the voters enact the economic agenda of Mitt Romney.
If background analysts are to be believed, strategies devised by conservative leaders in the House are being vetoed by Senator Ted Cruz of Green Eggs fame. Here's how he does it:
Republicans, elected by a minority of voters, have enough votes to enact a budget. But they must either have near unanimity, or they must attract support from Democrats.
Republicans don't want to rely on Democrats.
That's partly a point of pride. Primary voters in a shrinking Republican Party don't want to vote for Republicans who are willing to work with Democrats. Period.
And it's partly a point of ideology. Relying on Democrats will involve accepting those in economic straits as worthy of consideration. Democrats are unlikely to vote for anything that further bloats those living in privilege while further downgrading the lives of the middle class, along with those who get up before dawn to work at low paying jobs.
This combination of partisan pride, electoral fear, and ideological intransigence gives a small minority of those elected by a minority veto power over government. Ted Cruz may be unpopular with pretty much all of the Senate, and most of the House, but a phone call from Senator Cruz inspires loyalty from this small group.
Small cabals have been triumphant before, but not for long. The democratic tradition in America has remained strong. We have faith and an overview of history to reassure us.
History comes in seasons, of a sort. This season is painful to watch.
We don't see prose, or even sausage making in the House of Representatives. We see palace intrigue by a political party whose primary policy is excommunication.
In early 1986, Vice President George W. Bush, trying to curry favor with conservative groups, briefly attacked then Governor Mario Cuomo. Cuomo replied:
There are few things more amusing in the world of politics than watching moderate Republicans charging to the right in pursuit of greater glory.
- Mario Cuomo, to Mary McGrory, January 30, 1986
In the generation's time since then, it has become much harder to be amused.
Joe Scarborough Possessed by Jerry Turner's Demons (7:37) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
9:00 AM, September 29, 2013
St. Mark's United Methodist Church
314 Graham Rd
Florissant, MO 63031
|This is the day that the Lord has made.|
|All God’s children are given this day.|
|And we rejoice.|
|God sees the mask we show to the world,|
|and tells us we are not that mask.|
|God sees the wrong we have done,|
|the inner despair.|
|God tells us we are not that guilt or that pain.|
|We worship because we have glimpsed the truth.|
|That God is crazy about us, crazy about you.|
|We worship to share God’s love.|
|We worship to love God back.|
|Your journey home is beginning now.|
|Your day has come.|
|This is your time.|
|And we rejoice.|
Found on Line:
"This Is The Day That The Lord Has Made"
Second Baptist Church in Las Vegas Nevada
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite notes that unmarried Senate candidate Cory Booker has flirted with an, uh, exotic dancer, that Joe Scarborough's crew is horrified, and that Scarborough screwed up the facts of the presumed scandal. I have my own example of Joe's lazy bypassing of actual facts.
James Wigderson chronicles a local version of Monicagate, a small district sex scandal. Except, this time, politicians are applying an antiquated law against adultery to press charges. James is unimpressed with the tactic.
Conservative Julian Sanchez of Cato, provides an interesting legal analysis of NSA data gathering with some emphasis on the growing elasticity of the third party doctrine. I am not as versed, but I wonder if Sanchez himself stretches the definition of meta-data to expand on his point. The Census folks can gather and release statistical information about income levels in my neighborhood. They cannot release information about my individual income. Still, as usual, Julian Sanchez informs, educates, and does it in an engaging bit of writing. I try to forgive him for all that.
- I don't know how he makes it so interesting, but he does. Kent Pittman, writing from Open Salon, completes a 2 year part-time project and rebuilds his at home office.
It was a long, long, astonishingly long speech. Besides its length, it was criticized as self-promoting, even preening. But, looking at a transcript, you can find substance.
He offered commentary on the national work ethic and bureaucracy, a "crazy, unintelligible and incomprehensible" system of work rules and inefficiency. Even some corporations were in for criticism, bonuses flowing with the certainty the state would make up losses.
He was not entirely unsparing of his own party. "We know the party has problems."
Critics say the speech typifies his entire career, going back to the very beginning. He is sometimes characterized as a thug. I certainly think of him that way. Even his friends have always feared him. But he does seem to be loved by his base.
It is the on and on and on speech for which he seems destined to be remembered in history. It will not overshadow the destruction and danger he has carried with him, but it does mark a milestone.
Pointless, rambling, self-promoting, aimless, and long, long, long.
It was not as long as Strom Thurmond's famous filibusters against equal rights for black people. But Thurmond had a purpose. His objective was to keep black people down because, well, just because. This speech, in contrast, was a speeding car with no steering wheel.
This new effort was directed toward ... nothing, really. Just a devotion to the speaker of words and more words, along with his continuous effort to remain the center of the world.
As he spoke for hour after hour, he could not know that this day's time in the spotlight would be matched in pointlessness, and overwhelmed in length, by a fifteen year old kid in Texas who would one day grow up to become a United States Senator.
It was February 5, 1986. Fidel Castro finally ended his longest speech ever. It went for over 7 hours.
Nobody knew that speech would serve as a template for a repeat performance in the United States Senate more than 26 years later.