Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Lovely Waltz of Boehner and Obama

"Goodbye and don't come back!" yelled Speaker of the House John Boehner as he kicked the Tea Party down the steps of the Capitol and slammed the door of the House behind them.  That marriage of convenience is definitely over.  On Thursday and again on Friday, Boehner made clear that he is done with the Tea Party.

We know he really means this because he attacked their fund-raising organizations, as reported in the NY Times, claiming they were opposing the bipartisan budget bill primarily to raise funds for themselves and increase membership in their groups. "They are using you for their own purposes," he told the members of his caucus in private.  He also said this publicly.  That's a serious accusation.  It's not the kind of thing that can be unsaid.  It's also as close as you can get to attempted murder in politics because attacking the Tea Party money groups is like cutting off the air and water of the Tea Party.

This drastic move by Boehner is, at least in part, because he is still terrified that the Tea Party's shenanigans last fall  -  threatening to put the nation into default and actually shutting down the government  -  will cost the GOP the loss of the House in 2014.

There's more going on though.  Back in early October, I claimed that Boehner was slyly encouraging the Tea Party to undertake extreme action such as the government shutdown so that he could subsequently push the TP over a cliff (or the Capitol stairs) and be rid of them and their extortionist ways.  That analysis was exactly right. He let them have their way on the shutdown, the public was angry about it, and the GOP approval rating dropped to the lowest point it's ever been since such things have been measured.  And everybody was blaming the Tea Party.

Then Boehner waited.  He had let the Tea Party walk the road to its own destruction.  Now all he had to do was find the right moment to declare it dead.  Meantime he allowed Rep. Paul Ryan to reach a bipartisan budget agreement with Democratic Senator Patty Murray.  Before the resulting measure came to the floor, the right-wing Tea Party funding groups were screaming about the "establishment GOP selling out".

It was a declaration of war.

Now Boehner's attack on the funding groups has raised this intra-party war to nuclear war.  Well, a pox on both sides.

Well, maybe not on Boehner.  He's been plotting and scheming against the Tea Party, not just to maintain his control of the GOP and keep it in the majority in Congress but possibly because he really cares about our country and about preserving the kind of party system and the rules of party politics that have served us well for a long, long time.  Forgive me, but I think John Boehner is a patriot.

And what about the next debt ceiling confrontation due this spring?  Not to worry.  Boehner The Patriot will do as he did last time and send the legislation to the floor for passage by Democrats and the less insane among the GOP.

The day of Tea Party extortion is done.  The Tea Party is toast at its own tea party!

And please keep in mind that Boehner could not have killed the Tea Party last fall without the cooperation of President Obama.  Boehner KNEW he could count on Obama not to budge in the face of the right-wingers' demands.  Therefore Boehner could goad the Tea Party to it destruction, knowing Obama would allow them their self-destructive closing of the government rather than give an inch on the health care act.  Obama and Boehner each played their part in defanging a major threat to our country. That was the sine qua non of Boehner's plan, his unspoken partnership with Obama.  Very stealthily they waltzed the Tea Party to its death.

Dance on, boys!  It delights this old woman pol to watch you in your mastery.  Dance on, President Obama and Speaker Boehner, dance on!  And thank you both for saving us from the ignorance and viciousness of the Tea Party.

It looks like happy holidays after all!



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Plethora of Good News

You remember "plethora".  It's the incongruous word used by the chief bad guy in "The Three Amigos",  one of the outstanding movies of the "silly" genre.  El Guapo asks his assistant bad guy Jefe, "Would you say I have a plethora of pinatas?"

Well, kiddoes, I don't know how we are fixed for pinatas right now, but we sure have a plethora of good news, just in time for the ho ho ho season.  It's bullet point time!

-  The health care website is working.  I told you it would be.  But, by contrast, the NY Times sales shop site still doesn't work.  It hasn't whenever I've tried it over the past several years.  And Fox News had to cancel some twit program gizmo recently because of a "computer glitch."  Oh, media, heal thyself!  The media would be ridiculous if it wasn't so dangerous.  Because of the irresponsible way it blathered the GOP line about the rollout, some people may believe the insurance program is as bad as the website was, not get insurance, and then die for lack of medical care.

-  A woman has been named to run General Motors.  Yes, a woman.  In this commerce driven, business dominated country, that's as big a step forward for equality as Obama being elected in 2008.

-  A woman has been named to head the Federal Reserve.  In this old-boy, money crazed world of ours, that's as big a step forward as Sally Ride getting in the space capsule.  (Actually a Russian woman went into space earlier.)

-  Scientists announced they have developed a gene therapy for curing cancer.  This is huge!  And partisan.  The GOP has and will cut cancer research funds, and its government shutdown caused some labs to close, thus harming or imperiling ongoing research experiments.  But this research achievement not only made it through the maze of cutting and closing but showed the high value of the programs the GOP is out to squash.

-  The Congress got something done!  It approved a judge for the D.C. appeals court, filling an EIGHT-YEAR vacancy.  This was possible because Harry Reid finally stopped shadow-boxing and led the Democrats to kill the filibustering of judicial and administrative appointments.

-  The Volker Rule was adopted by the five fed agencies that oversee the banking industry.  Oh, you say quietly, whoop-de-doo and what do I care?  But you do care. The Volker Rule, had it been in place earlier, would have prevented the greedy and risky insanity that led to the 2008 financial collapse.

-  A businessman got a four-year jail sentence for putting a defective product on the market, in this case a breast implant that was filled with a cheaper grade of silicon not approved for such use.  Thousands of women suffered horribly.  Four years doesn't sound like an adequate length of time in the pokey for his crime until you realize that we Americans virtually NEVER send business criminals to jail, unless they are women, e.g. Leona Helmsley for tax stuff, and Martha Stewart, who should have been jailed for bad recipes but instead did time for insider trading.  Anyway, the jailing is in France so we Americans still have an unblemished record of not treating wicked business crime as actual crime.  Note that the French s.o.b was fined only $103,000 by the French court.  In the USA he would have been fined a great deal more, apparently because we feel that taking a man's money hurts him more than going to jail.  Maybe it does.  In America.

There's more good news, but I'm exhausted enough already from being happy.   All that cheering and dancing and lifting of toasts  -  wears a person out!  Anyway, if I had a Christmas tree these lovely items of good news would be the presents under it.  And since I'll be alone on Christmas Day I'll try to find a TV showing of "The Three Amigos".  It should never be allowed to be off the air.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ninety-nine Kinds of Pie on the Wall and Bob 'n Ray

Well, not exactly ninety-nine kinds of pie.  Actually nine kinds of pie, which is still a lot of pie.  That's how many kinds of pie were on the White House Thanksgiving menu this year.

There's a lot of cool things about President Obama, but this may be the coolest.  He is obviously a man who likes pie.

What kinds, you ask?

Here's the list from the White House:  pumpkin pie, pecan pie, sweet potato pie, peach pie, apple pie, banana cream pie, coconut cream pie, chocolate cream pie, huckleberry pie.

There's some omissions here that one could sigh over.  Such as mince, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, butterscotch, black bottom, cherry, strawberry-rhubarb, Key Lime, lemon, grasshopper.  Some people would sigh over the omission of shoo-fly pie. Not me. Its name is better than the pie. Mincemeat is a standard of Thanksgiving in a lot of homes, including mine when a child, but it's really an English thing.  It would be a lot more popular if it didn't have "meat" in its name.  There's no meat in it, but you can put a lot of brandy in instead. Very English touch.

Indeed, pie itself is English, especially apple pie.  Things are not "as American as apple pie". Things are "as English as apple pie."  "As American as Chevrolet"?  Yes.  What about "as American as hot dogs"?  Yes, they're American.  And so is chocolate cake.  We invented chocolate cake.  And fudge.  (Vassar, about 1900.  Stick around and I may post that classic recipe one of these days.).  Chocolate candy in general is American.  Before we Americans started messing around with chocolate, people just drank it.

But let's dismiss history and just stay focussed on pie.  I could riff off here about how hard it is now to make a lovely flaky crust since the health police have outlawed partially hydrogenated shortening.  My daughter is remedying this with vodka.  In the crust.  Not in the cook.  Take that, you health police!

One unforgettable Thanksgiving I made sixteen pies.  All pumpkin, as I remember.  My six kids were delighted.  Each had his/her own pie.  And then some.  But it didn't start out like that.  The process evolved into sixteen pies because I have a double crust recipe I use for crust and the Libby can double pie recipe for filling. But the recipes have different ideas of what size a pie is.  And I have different size pie pans. Therefore, part of the time I'd come out with more pumpkin filling and part of the time I'd have too much crust.  So I just kept going, making pies, and hoping it would all even out eventually.  Of course it didn't, so I quit after Number 16.

It was like the man on the plains of Kansas who was interviewed by Wally Balloo on history's best radio show: "Bob and Ray".  Or as their best fans called it  -   and them  -  "BobnRay".  Wally Ballou  (and you could spell his name any way you wanted to:  Balloo, Ballou, Baloo, etc.) was "radio's beloved reporter".  Of course he was really Bob Elliott or Ray Goulding.  (Or were they Bob Goulding and Ray Elliott?)  Whichever. All the characters were Bob or Ray.  It was unimportant to remember who was playing which roles.  Just like the segment that was about "Lawrence Spechtenberger, Interstellar  Officer Candidate", except when it was about "Lawrence Fechtenberger, Interstellar Officer Candidate."  It was "brought to you by the chocolate cookies with the white stuff in between", except when it was "the white stuff in the middle."

Everything about Bob 'n Ray was loose.  The same with that fame-bringing achievement of the man on the Kansas plains.  He was being interviewed by the gentle and inadequate Wally Baloo for having built the tallest structure in the world.  It had happened in an unstructured way.  He hadn't planned to build this skinny skyscraper on the Kansas plains.  It started out as just a brick barbecue.  But it was a little uneven, with one side a little higher than the other one. And the guy kept building and building in hopes it would eventually even out.  It didn't, of course.  And he kept building and building.  Way, way up into the sky.  Like my pie crust and pie filling, it never evened out.  I won't tell you what finally happened to it.

Bob n' Ray stayed on the air for fifty years.  Ray is dead as of 1990 at age 68.  Bob is still bobbing along at age 90.  (Or is Ray alive and Bob dead?) They gave us the memorable sign-off tags of "Write if you get work" and "Hang by your thumbs".  They also gave us modern comedy.  Before them comedy was mostly gags, a la the Borscht Belt.  You know  -  jokes!  They invented the wild and wonderful styles and formats that in turn gave us improv and stand-up.  From them come Woody Allen, Robin Williams, Jonathan Winters, Jerry Seinfeld  -  who all acknowledge the debt  -   and every other stand-up or or skit artist or lets-pretend rifter since 1948.  They are the inventors of one of the greatest of all human arts and certainly the second greatest American art form.  (Top of the list of American stuff is jazz, then BobnRay comedy and its progeny, then the musical comedy.)

So sit back and listen to some jazz, and stream in some old Bob and Ray shows over the net, and eat some fudge and some pie.  And reflect.  It's a pretty good old world after all that has such things in it.

And has a pie-eating American president as well.

Meantime don't forget:  Write if you get work!   Hang by your thumbs!
Sometime I'll tell about my late husband sitting in on a Bob and Ray show as a teenager back in the early '50s.