Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice…

The “supercommittee” admitted defeat; it won’t have a blueprint for reducing the nation’s deficit (stories here, here and here).  Is this a bad thing?

Some have argued, no: the first direct result of getting no plan from this committee is that the law which authorized it will now automatically cut $1.2 trillion from defense and non-defense spending over ten years starting in 2013, and that may end up giving us more deficit reduction than we’d have gotten otherwise.  No way to know for sure, of course, but it makes sense.

I mean, there’s no reason to believe that the same members of Congress who thought nothing of threatening government default for political gain this past summer were likely to come to any agreement now, not when the party that controls the House (and virtually controls the Senate with the threat of filibuster) is still holding its breath threatening to turn blue rather than be responsible and discuss the best ways to increase revenue as part of the answer (along with spending cuts and overall economic growth) to getting the federal budget on a healthy path.  None at all.

To believe otherwise would mean, first of all, believing that the sheep people lined up behind Speakers Boehner and Limbaugh have any goal more important that the defeat of President Obama.  They don’t, unless it is the personal destruction of Obama, and anyone unlike themselves.  Second, it means they would have to have the backbone to say no to the no-tax extremists and the campaign contributors.

I read an interesting article making the point that we’re foolish to think that our elected representatives will do anything that makes sense for us, because they’re in place to serve their bosses: namely, the minority of the population who actually vote in the primaries, and the even smaller percentage of the people who pay the bills through campaign contributions both above and below board.  (By the way, read Michael Moran’s piece setting the stage for his blog The Reckoning.)

The other thing to watch out for right now, though, is the cowardly Congress finding a way to back out of the deal it made with itself!  No Congress can pass a law that would prevent a future Congress from unpassing that law; just because it set itself this deadline and mandated future budget cuts as a penalty for failing to meet that deadline can’t prevent the next Congress from overriding all or some part of the threatened budget reductions, and that’s entirely possible for a group that already can’t say no to anyone (which is a big part of what got our budget in this mess to begin with).

Give some thought to Moran’s suggestion: in times of crisis, what if we take control away from politicians and give it to people who know what they’re doing?

A real super-committee – a real committee not only empowered to take the steps necessary to right the American economy, but competent to do so – would include 12 serious thinkers. They might include policymakers like former Fed Chairmen Paul Volker or (the suitably contrite) Alan Greenspan, economists of left and right like Stanford’s John B. Taylor, Yale’s Robert Schiller, NYU-Stern’s Nouriel Roubini, plus a few representatives of labor, small business and capital – let’s say Robert Reich, Joseph Schneider of Lacrosse Footwear, and Warren Buffett, just for kicks. No investment bank chairman, please, and no one facing reelection.

Can you imagine this group failing to come up with a solution? Can you imagine any of them worrying more about the next election than the future of the world’s largest economy? Certainly, they would clash – perhaps over the same tax v. spending cut issues. The difference: they would understand better than any member of Congress that no solution is far worse than a less-than-perfect solution.

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Dear Anita Perry,

I am surprised, I must say.  I’d have thought that after more than 30 years as the wife of a professional politician you wouldn’t be so sensitive to a little push-back.  But they are less deferential out in the rest of the country than we are back here at home in Texas, huh?  Getting all teary and everything because you think Governor Haircut has been “brutalized” due to his Christian faith?  Is that really going to be your best approach?

Anita PerryThe thing is, most of the rest of the country takes pluralism and religious tolerance seriously. They’re not all evangelical Christians like so very many here at home, and they don’t wear their faith on their sleeves, either.  Just because you are comfortable talking about your faith doesn’t mean everyone else is interested in hearing about it, especially people who make their voting decisions without little or no consideration of a candidate’s religion, and there are a lot of those people in America.

Frankly, most of America probably wouldn’t even know what church you folks belong to if you hadn’t made a big deal about it.  You’re the ones who brought your religion into this, so you can’t be a crybaby when others make it an issue.

After all, you’re part of the plurality here—white, Christian America—so you can’t whine when someone, or anyone, has the temerity to be anything but subservient or obsequious.  If on the one hand you proudly tell us that God’s call to your husband to run for president of the United States was like encountering a burning bush, then you cannot on the other hand complain when people question his relationships with religious figures like Robert Jeffress.

You said that these brutal attacks are coming from the news media as well as some of your fellow Republicans.  I’d like to suggest two things.  The first is to remind you (again) that reporters covering the campaign are supposed to investigate the claims made by candidates; they are not there merely to transcribe and distribute the candidates’ profound words.  They are supposed to poke and prod and ask questions and look for inconsistencies and errors, and publish their findings.  That’s reporting; that’s their job.  And the second thing is, if you’re unhappy about being attacked by Republicans you thought were your friends, well, welcome to a contested Republican primary.

One other thing, if I might.  I see you being quoted as saying this opposition comes “because of his faith.  He is the only true conservative.”  Apologies if I’m misunderstanding here, but are you saying that conservatism is a religious faith?  Or, that people who are not evangelical Christians are incapable of being “true conservatives”?  If so, that’s going to come as a big surprise to the members of the less-demonstrative Christian denominations, the Roman Catholics, the Jews, the Muslims, the Hindus, the Buddhists,  the Shintos, the Mormons, the Quakers, the Unitarian-Universalists,  the Scientologists, the Rastafarians and, of course, the atheists, agnostics and secular humanists who are all part of the Weekly Standard/Fox News Channel/Rush Limbaugh axis of moral superiority.

This morning on ABC News the governor stood by what you said yesterday in Tigerville, South Carolina (Tigerville?  Really?), and I think that’s exactly what he should have done; a man should stand up for his wife.  But if he really agrees with your sentiment, and his skin isn’t as thick as he’s let on, you two are in for quite an unpleasant ride.

Now, if you could please explain to me how it is that you blame President Obama for your son losing his job, as you claimed this morning, even though your son voluntarily resigned.  This should be good.

Take your seats, please, the curtain’s going up for the Big Finish

Since we last checked in with our heroes: Speaker Boehner, faced with his own proposal going down to defeat in the chamber he (ostensibly) leads, capitulated—he added a balanced budget provision to his plan for lowering government spending, reducing debt and raising the federal debt ceiling, to placate enough members to get the bill passed.  It worked; and as expected, and warned, the Senate rejected the plan; now Majority Leader Reid is trying to persuade Senate Republicans to let his plan come to a vote. [UPDATE 3:03 pm: The House rejected Reid’s plan before the Senate had a chance to vote on it.]

The Wall Street Journal editorial page wants Republicans to accept a plan now, and claim a victory, even if it’s one that doesn’t solve all the nation’s economic problems once and for ever.  (Why didn’t I think of that?)  An economy struggling to recover from recession doesn’t need the government to suddenly stop making some of its payments—and you can take comfort in knowing, there is a plan for who gets paid first in the event the debt ceiling is not raised by the deadline next Tuesday…the bureaucratic imperative prevails.

I still choose to believe that Congress may bring us to the edge of default but reason will prevail and the debt ceiling will be raised to prevent a default…that puts me in the company of an American conservative icon:

Socialists-7-27-11-color-640x469 

Thanks to David Horsey, seattlepi.com and Hearst Newspapers…click the cartoon to read Horsey’s commentary:

If it were not for their powerful recklessness, I would simply get a good laugh out of the alarmists on the right who see socialism in any tilt toward moderation in our politics.

(snip)

To ensure that his country does not follow Greece into a bottomless hole of debt, Tory Prime Minister David Cameron has implemented a budget balancing formula of three-to-one – that is, three parts spending cuts to one part revenue increases. These austerity measures have, not surprisingly, provoked rioting among leftists and students. Nobody in Europe would be silly enough to call this socialism.

Yet, when President Barack Obama proposes the same formula to rein in the debt in the United States, a mental riot goes off in the heads of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, the House Republican Caucus, the Tea Party and all the others who are somehow convinced Obama wants to turn America into Sweden.

Consumed by their fear of phantom socialists, these folks see politics in stark, black-and-white terms. If you are not with ’em, you’re agin’ ’em  and even the most staunch conservative risks charges of treason if he shows a willingness to bargain with the other side.

(snip)

Like ultra-conservatives of past decades, today’s reactionaries have scared themselves silly by demonizing their opponents: every liberal hates America, every Democrat is a socialist, every moderate is a dupe, every compromise is a pact with the devil. What is new is that this mindset now dominates the majority caucus in the United States House of Representatives. And because of that, there very well could be no deal to raise the debt ceiling, unless the president and the Senate choose to grant the militants everything they want.

(snip)

…to confuse the centrist economic policies of Barack Obama with socialism is as absurd as calling a conservative like Tom Coburn a RINO – Republican In Name Only. As clean cut, moral and upstanding as my fellow citizens on the right may be, I have to say they have become unhinged from economic and political reality and, in their delusion, they are about to take us all over a cliff.

In a Newsweek interview, Tom Coburn, a guy I disagree with about most things, summed it up frightening well:

“We’ve never been in this territory before. I mean, if we handle this wrong, we’re near the end of our republic as we know it.”

Houston’s News Authority has left the building

Today they smothered the last vestige of what once was the most kick-ass radio news station in Houston when KTRH Radio fired morning anchors Lana Hughes and J.P. Pritchard.  “Eh, yeah, 27 years…but it’s just not working out for us; we feel like we need to go in a new direction.”

JPP(Full disclosure: I worked with Lana and J.P. at KTRH, liked and respected them both.  I anchored afternoon drive with Jean Jangda, and then Tom Bacon, while they held down the mornings.  In fact, I was already at the station when they were hired, separately, and then when they were made the morning drive team.)

Today’s KTRH (740 on your AM dial) is just a faint echo of the real news organization it once was: full of reporters and writers and producers who bested every other broadcaster in town, and competed with two daily newspapers despite the papers’ overwhelming advantage in resources.  But that station is long gone, and I haven’t listened to KTRH in years.  It lost all depth of coverage, all its authority…become almost feathery, just a series of short readers ping-ponged back and forth between the morning anchors, and the rest of the day filled with Limbaugh and Limbaugh imitators, local and syndicated.  I can’t even turn it on for the Astros’ game (this part is not the station’s fault) because the Astros won’t can Milo Hamilton.   Lana and J.P. were the last link to that past.

As is the norm in these cases, station management has nothing but the highest praise for those so hastily dispatched—“been blessed to work with” them—and J.P. is quoted as saying he knows this is “nothing personal,” just part of a changing business.  But management let them know about “the change” after they got off the air this morning, and after 27 years they just won’t be back.  Makes you wonder: if they were so valued, and so loved, why weren’t they given an opportunity to say goodbye on the air?  To the audience, they will simply vanish, perhaps to be referred to by the new people, in mock reverent tones, for a week or two.  And why has every scintilla of evidence of their existence already been scrubbed from the website, like they were never there?

Station management reportedly admits that this decision means the end of a “traditional morning news show” on the station, and they hope for something more like “Fox and Friends.”  (Great.)  They say they’re making this change based on research and feedback—ah, the magic words that signal another victory for consultants…

In 1984 KTRH was the powerhouse news/talk station in Houston, making a ton of money, when it committed ritual hara-kiri of the talk component because a new program director (who would go on to become a consultant!) proclaimed that talk was a dying format that appealed only to the older demographic…well, we’ve all seen how right he was about that!  Since then subsequent management slowly brought back in the talk shows to fill time, because no one can bear to listen to the same news stories over and over and over again all day, but you need to keep the cume ratings up.  Then the station was bought, and ended up absorbed into Clear Channel Communications, and like most of the other tentacles of that beast it became a rebroadcaster—of right-wing talk, and right-wing news.  Today, they announce they’re going all the way…back to news/talk, but now with a partisan political point of view.

Hey, it’s their station (broadcasting on my airwaves and yours, free of charge), and they can do with it what they want.  What they want is to make money, and I’m fine with that—but don’t any of you for one minute think that they’re trying to do anything other than that.  Any informing or educating or entertaining, or whatever, that happens along the way, is gravy—they’re here to make money.  Today’s decision is, ultimately, undoubtedly, one they believe will make them more money (which, as I said, I’m fine with).  Any consideration about serving “the public interest, convenience and necessity” is an afterthought.

Lana and Jeeps: well done, old friends…sleep in.

Last Call for 2010

party-hat I’m cleaning out files and dumping what I’ll never use—some of it because the crummy foreign-made hyperlinks are broken—and while reorganizing the rest I found some things that need to be posted now, as a benchmark, because I’m sure this stuff isn’t over yet.

I’ve been very interested in the growing disaffection with American politics and politicians, and not just what’s coming from tea parties.  Back in April Mark McKinnon and Lawrence Lessig called for a constitutional convention if only to shock the legislative classes into understanding that people have had enough of the corruption that has institutionalized itself  in Washington, D.C.  By fall, of course, Jon Stewart got tens of thousands to rally for simple reasonableness in politics and government, and by the end of the year McKinnon and some other esteemed names were launching the No Labels approach to finding solutions to problems.  This could just generate “passionate ambivalence”, but I’m optimistic: the dismissive comments coming out of the loudest mouths on both ends of the spectrum might just mean the center has found a weapon to use against the unreasonable and the extreme.

Inconceivably, the Roman Catholic Church took the disgrace of the priest sex abuse scandal, and made it worse: first a senior official says criticism of the church is like anti-Semitism; then we learn that while in his prior job the man who now leads this church had authority directly from Pope John Paul II to act in these cases, and for 20 years chose not to; and now for Christmas, the pope says western society and its permissive sexual attitudes are partly to blame for many of the church’s celibate employees sexually abusing underage members of their parishes.  Like I said before, why aren’t these people in jail?

On the subject of blogging, I recently found some great sites that have helped boost traffic here at the corner idea stand.  Take a look at Blogiche, Alpha Inventions, and BlogSurfer if you want to get more eyeballs on your blog; you’ll get a new insight into what else is out there, too.

I’ll wrap up with syndicated columnist Scott Burns and his column from last January which reminded us then (and now) that everything old is new again: there’s always a crisis, we can’t rely on our government to take care of us, and we are getting better as the years go by.