By August 2nd we’ll all be sweating
July 15th 2011
I have kin in a small town in Oklahoma, unlikely as that sounds, which is why I know something about the weather in that small town. The forecast for tomorrow is humid and 107. That actually represents a cooling trend; it was 108 today. But they should be used to it—this is the 43rd straight day they’ve had triple digit highs. And I thought Fresno was bad.
There’s no end in sight: the next 10 days all forecast 107 or 108. However, Oklahoma, parched, barren, dessicated Oklahoma, is getting ready to share the wealth.
At NOAA, meteorologists are frantically warning the upper midwest to expect the heat wave to expand over their region, sending heat indices to over 110 over much of Minnesota.
And then it will expand east, reaching Washington just in time for deadlines on the credit limit crisis to begin falling.
Only in America could the weather become politicized. The heat wave and drought in Oklahoma and Texas is the worst those states have ever recorded, far worse than the one that caused the dust bowl of the 1930s. Conservatives are furious when you mention that. Even the weather sites are susceptible: a stat today showed that 72% of Texas is now in extreme drought, and some sites couldn’t resist noting that only 10% of the state was in extreme drought when Governor Goodhair had his day of prayer for rain.
Oklahoma Senator Inhofe had to cancel an appearance at a global warming denier convention. The Senator had gone to his summer home in Oklahoma, a clear sign of mental illness in and of itself. Once there, he decided to take a refreshing dip in the warm, pink waters of his lake. Because of the record shattering heat wave, the normally clear lake was suffering a massive algae bloom, and the swimming Senator got a nasty upper respiratory infection as a result. I normally wouldn’t laugh at the man’s misfortune, but it was impossible not to chortle when he released a statement saying he wouldn’t be at the denier conference because he was ‘under the weather’.
With or without Inhofe, all this hot air is moving toward Washington DC, which seems a bit redundant. Once there, it will collide with a man-made heat wave that may be even more destructive and far longer lasting. Yes, this is the most obvious and heavy-handed metaphor you will read today.
The debt talks are continuing, with Congress foregoing much of its summer recess in order to negotiate a way out of the self-imposed credit limit crisis. Unlike the physical heat wave, which is only partially attributable to humans, the heat wave in Washington is wholly man-made.
Here’s where we stand. Over the past several years, the GOP have tried strenuously to destroy Social Security and Medicare, two bugaboos they think the country (and by ‘the country’ they mean the ultra wealthy) would be better off without. To this end, they reformed Medicare in 2004, turning it into the unfriendly monster that afflicted seniors up until this year. They then tried to privatize Social Security in 2005, and this past spring, the Ryan Plan tried to privatize Medicare. The latter two schemes were slapped flat.
So, since they couldn’t get what they wanted through legislation and saw their hopes of a congressional majority slipping, they decided to get what they wanted through extortion, and demanded that Obama make massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare, or they wouldn’t pass the vital, but normally routine debt limit extension.
Had it been just the usual greedheads who make up the GOP, they might have pulled it off. Obama, always conciliatory, would have offered 70% of what they wanted, and after a few days of humming and hawing in order to impress the folks back home that they weren’t just taking the first offer, they would have grudgingly accepted, with the warning they would be back to renegotiate the following year.
But the GOP isn’t just greedy these days, or even just greedy and stupid. Now they are flat-out insane, taken over by ideologues who have, in the name of Reagan, decided that any increase in tax liability to any billionaire, no matter how egregiously little the tax burden to begin with, is totally unacceptable.
Obama figured this out, grinned, and offered them EIGHTY per cent of what they wanted. But with just one little provision. Agree to rewrite the tax code so massive corporations like Exxon, who made over $14 billion in profits, would have to pay some taxes. As it now stands, they actually get tax benefits for those profits. Their defenders protest that they DO pay taxes, in other countries, which tells you something about just how mental these people really are. If the US were to tax companies like Exxon, even slightly, then they would move to those other countries were, um, they would still be paying the same amount of tax. Just to make sure Republicans couldn’t possibly accept the counter-offer, he suggested ending a little luxury tax loophole on those corporate jets, as well. Mind you, he didn’t propose to raise a single tax. He just wanted to close some loopholes in existing taxes.
Naturally, the Republicans had reacted much the same way sane people might have reacted if Obama had demanded droit du seigneur with jurisdiction over all girls graduating from middle school. There was a large chorus of inchoate screams, the gist of which was “Oh, hell, NO!”
[Historical note: since the French have no term for droit du seigneur they call it droit de cuissage, which means “Right of the thigh” which is a marvelously circumspect way of describing ius primae noctis, or “I get to knock up your daughter, only in Latin”]
Most people have caught on by now. When Obama first made his offer, my mailbox filled up with pleas, requests for donations, and support from a wide variety of liberals and liberal groups to assure Obama that if this deal went through, he was finished.
But after a couple of days, that vanished, and I can only assume that folks at MoveOn and Daily Kos and the like could only stare, amazed. The congressional Republicans, after all, were basically rejecting a free Lamborghini because it didn’t have a cup holder.
Obama knew that these people were crazy, and would blow sky high over that cup holder. He also knew they would do so very publicly and noisily, with lots of chest-beating.
He also knew that a lot of people, including not a few Republican voters, would look at this and say, “what the fuck is WRONG with you people?”
In the past few days he has tightened the screws significantly. In an televised interview, he was asked if the default on August 2nd would affect the mailing of some seventy million Social Security checks the next day. He answered somberly that he couldn’t guarantee that the funds would be there to allow the checks to go out. This doubtlessly put several million pacemakers around the country into action, trying to keep their patients alive and conscious. Nor was it just empty bluster: the government can’t write checks without authorization from Congress, and that is what Congress is blocking. The administration can’t spend a dime without authorization from Congress.
In fact, technically speaking, the President doesn’t even really have a place at the debt limit negotiations. That’s entirely the purview of Congress. But both sides wanted him there, the Dems for his leadership and the Republicans in hopes of humiliating him.
To that end, the Republicans were openly crass and disrespectful to him, culminating in Eric Cantor rudely and loudly interrupting Obama three times in a row. At which point, Obama gave Cantor a level stare, and got up, saying, “Let’s continue this tomorrow, shall we?”
The Republicans misplayed that, claiming that Obama “stormed out”, suggesting that he was so angry and overwhelmed by the moral rectitude of Mr. Cantor that he forgot to put the bone through his nose before leaving the table. Those big black bucks always gotta be angry about SOMETHING, don’t they?
This didn’t play well with the public, who don’t hold with the Republican belief that the legitimacy of no Democratic President should ever be recognized. They pulled that crap with Clinton and it backfired, and they’re pulling it with Obama, and it’s backfiring, and has some nasty racial elements to boot.
In fighting regimens such as Jiu-Jitzsu or Aikido, there is an element called “Randori.” This translates as “chaos” but, far from being chaotic, is is a carefully taught method of neutralizing multiple attackers. The practitioner uses his opponents’ mass and fury against them, rechanneling the force of their blows into pulling the attackers to the ground, where they lose the advantage of strength and numbers.
Obama has proved himself an expert at Randori.
Unfortunately, his opponents are not sane, and while they may not defeat Obama, they may yet deliver a catastrophic blow to a reeling world economy rather than accept a car without cup holders.
By July 22nd, the date Obama says a vote must be taken in Congress in order to avoid default, Washington DC should be under a sticky, tumid, enervating mass of hot, wet air. It should be miserable.
But the real heat is on the Republicans to try and figure out how to avoid destroying their own country without looking stupid.
If you can believe that.