Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Fix Is "In" (Be Courteous About It!)

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SEC files charges against hedge fund founder Cohen
I've said it since they stole the 2000 election and something was just so wrong about how everyone in power positions just rolled over and died as the Wehrmacht rolled in and laid waste to the country.

And now, it's gotten worse.

Really. Just look around at the greedy plebes excitedly applauding the tearful clowns.

And it's all due to a triumph over the mildest type of reform effort. As if any occurrence of an event trying to save the ability of our form of government to bring positive results to the majority of people is a bad thing.

But . . . you get what you pay for.

I say today (and I've said for over a decade) if government can't work or work well with this group (not that government can't work at all) . . .

Vote them out!

Sun Jul 21, 2013

Washington Is Not Broken

Ruins of Washington in 1976 film, Logan's Run

Ruins of Washington in 1976 film, Logan's Run

With enough isolation and security, it's possible to protect most systems from outside attack. Concerted efforts may overwhelm the system temporarily, and every point of ingress adds vulnerability, but in most instances these issues are solvable. They're the kind of problem that keeps security and protocol experts in business. Every day, companies from Amazon to Zipcar deal with these issues, and live.

However, protecting a system against an internal threat is much more difficult. Not only do those on the inside have much better access, they also know the rules, know the bottlenecks, know how to exploit weak points to cripple functionality much more effectively than any outside entity. It's this access and understanding that makes the most trivial internal mole much more frightening to intelligence agencies than the greatest super-spy batting for the other team. It's what makes betting against your own team the greatest sin in sports. It's the sort of attack that can permanently damage a system to the point where recovery is difficult or impossible.

It's what is crippling our nation.

As you watch the same handful of politicians trot between the same round of Sunday morning talk shows, you'll hear the same mythology put forward again and again: our government is sadly hindered—broken—by intractable issues and rising incivility. Left and right, simple intransigence (if not incompetence) is standing in the way of progress. It's the common refrain, repeated daily, the assumption against which all stories about our current government are framed.

It's also completely wrong.

The United States is not the victim of a left-right tussle over priorities. It's not being torn by clashing ideologies.

It's not a problem; it's a strategy. It's not an accident; it's sabotage. 2013 Republicans are the 1919 Black Sox of politics, and the fix is in.

The evidence of this deliberate sabotage is everywhere. Record numbers of filibusters in the Senate. Time-wasting passage of bills in the House purposely deigned to fail (including not just the food stamp-free Farm Bill but 38 separate votes to overturn the Affordable Care Act).

A ramped-up media circus that's focused not on pressing forward with any issue, but on pressing down on the whole idea of government action.

In a system compromised from the inside, the saboteur has what to those on the outside seem to be noble goals:

Mitch McConnell made his case, saying "We have an opportunity to pull back from the brink... I hope we'll come to our senses and not change the core of the Senate."
Getting people to nod along with the anti-change message is exactly what the saboteur wants because, having located a point of weakness, he fights to prevent it's removal.

The saboteur isn't fighting to protect the system; he's fighting to protect the weakness. Contrast Businessweek's take on the minor changes Harry Reid proposed to filibuster rules in the Senate ...

It would not mean that future bills would automatically pass with a simple majority. It would not mean that the minority party couldn’t still delay Obama’s judicial nominees. It would only prevent Republicans from using the filibuster to block a president’s appointees. In that sense, it’s the mildest kind of reform.
. . . with the response from Mitch McConnell:
Reid’s "course correction" is considered an abomination of historic scale by McConnell, since it would limit the minority party’s power. "This will kill the Senate," McConnell declared last week.
This statement, in defense of laughably weak rules that have made blocking a bill in the Senate easier than a single member raising a hand, demonstrates the desperation of the saboteur. Like a hacker who has found an exploit, the last thing he wants is a patch.

On the House side, Republicans haven't needed to look deep into the machinery of government to find a vulnerable gear.

Simple numbers have allowed the GOP majority to ensure that the House does no productive work. It's meant not only an unending parade of "kill Obamacare!" votes, but guaranteed impassable creations like the Farm Bill.

It's meant that no serious effort (and not even much of an un-serious effort) was made to find a budgetary solution that could head off the problem of the sequester.
It means that the House will find ways to demand "no amnesty," "the rule of law," and improved security for borders in the "interior of our country" until they have reduced the Immigration Bill to such meaningless drivel that it can’t be salvaged.

If the signs of the fix are not clear enough, Republican sabotage is also delivered via an astounding level of self-proclaimed incompetence. This takes the form of GOP Congressmen and Senators who (as)sure you that, despite every opportunity and dozens of staffers, they have not read the bills that cross their desks.

Despite months in committees and weeks of floor debate, they will dismiss major bills as "passed in the middle of the night." Despite a preponderance of legal training, and despite the fact that it's their job they will also rush forward to tell you that they certainly don't understand all those big words and long sentences in the legislation before them. Why, how can you count on Congress to pass any of this stuff when it's just so, so ... wordy.

Sabotage also comes in the form of committee meetings and hearings, many of them chaired by Darrel Issa, intended not to address issues, solve problems or even gather information, but simply to keep certain ideas floating the air. The IRS "scandal." The global warming "hoax." The Benghazi "cover up."

Each of Issa's scandals has proven to be groundless, with talking points that depend on heavily doctored testimony and altered statements, but finding real scandals was never the point.

None of this should be a surprise. Issa announced that he would go after the administration (for everything it said and for things it didn't say) even before the GOP regained the majority in the House. In fact, destroying the ability of the government to conduct business was the cornerstone of Issa's campaign. The sole point of every Issa hearing is simply this: government is evil.

And that's the critical difference — the enormous difference — between what the Republicans in Congress are doing now versus what any political party has done in the past. Usually, the very nature of politics keeps the worst excesses in check. After all, a politician successfully painted as too extreme in any position is in danger of failing to hold onto office. A saboteur is of limited value outside the system.

However, starting in the 1980s, the GOP has set themselves up not as the party of better governance, or even good governance. They've set themselves up as the party of anti-governance.

Since Reagan declared "government is the problem," Republicans have worked hard to build an identity as the party that's not out to reform Washington, but out to destroy it. By cementing this identification, they feel there's nothing to lose, and everything to gain, in making the system fail.

In setting themselves as the "government is bad" party, the GOP feels that every failure of government only confirms their message, only makes their position stronger. It's something like the pattern in which a pyromaniac starts fires so he can have an opportunity to become a hero ... only the GOP lets the fires burn, because their goal is to prove that the fire department is useless.

The Republican Party is hell-bent on a United States government that is weak, insolvent, and incompetent. And they’re getting what they want.

The nature of this internal attack has even redefined the term Conservative. When new candidates are launched, whether facing off against Democrats or sitting Republican politicians, the chief quality that defines conservatism isn't intelligence, or experience, or even a set of beliefs.

Being a modern conservative has little to do with positions on taxes, or abortion, or anything else. What's demanded is intransigence, an allegiance to the idea that all government is evil and an unwillingness to cooperate on any subject at any time. It's made any Republican who dares to do anything productive in Washington into an instant target and ersatz liberal.

Why is Lindsey Graham at the top of every conservative hit list? Not because his positions have crept in one inch from the extreme right, but because he dares think there's still a role for action in the Senate. That kind of thinking no longer fits with the modern GOP. Conservatism is now measured on a scale of how willing the candidate is to kneecap America.

When we see a new poll showing that the approval rating of Congress is 18 percent, we think, "Surely people will do something to end how the GOP is wrecking the Senate and turning the House into a farce," but Republicans in Congress don't moan about these problems ... they cheer.

When some complete idiot in either chamber (say Ted Cruz or Rand Paul) launches into a nonsensical tirade that only leaves everyone more certain that Congress is entirely populated by candidates chosen from under rocks ... they cheer.

When we see failure, stupidity, inaction and frustration ... they know they've done their job. In the next round of elections, just as in the one before that, and the one before that, Republicans are planning to rush back to the voters with a message of “see, government is no good” and counting on the voters to reward them for making that statement true.

A weak, easily exploited government is exactly what their corporate sponsors want. The inability to make government function is exactly what the Republicans preach. They see no downside in destruction

How do you fight against saboteurs in the system?

You patch the weak points they’ve learned to exploit, specifically by pressing beyond the latest weak agreement and pressing for a return to the talking filibuster.

You expose their actions by talking openly about the difference between democratic debate and deliberate derailing of the government. This includes making sure that local and national media hear from you when they resort to the easy "both sides do it" or Washington food-fight narratives.

You throw them out of the system by working to see that GOP members of Congress don’t remain in Congress. This won’t be easy, since the saboteurs have already seen to it that the continuity of districts  was smashed to almost ensure their safety, and their roadblocks have made certain that the floodgates of corporate funds remain open. You just have to work harder.

Perhaps most importantly, you must demand brilliance from government. Not just competence. Not just “good enough.”

Brilliance. When government gets the chance to execute on its plans — within this administration and at every level — you set the bar high.

Then set it higher. You make it clear that you don’t expect your government to be run like a business; you expect it to be run better than a business, with a goal of generating the most benefit for the public, rather than concentrating power and wealth for a few.

Because this isn’t the usual battle in democracy between good policy and bad. It’s a fight over the existence of democratic government as a viable institution.

And this is the bottom of the ninth.

And it's still in season.

Speaking of "in season," Karen at Sardonicky always is.

And she's got an excellent essay on Helen Thomas' significance for our time.

And hers and our own.

The Person Who Asked Why


Beach Bum said...

Got to love President Carter's words about American democracy, we have been in the zombie phase for a long time.

Cirze said...

Heck, Beach,

I'm expecting that group to start touring again any day now.

As there are a lot of zombie fans now.

Love ya,