Monday, August 1, 2011

Weimarer Zeit

There isn't anything more that needs to be said.
A deal to raise the federal debt ceiling is in the works. If it goes through, many commentators will declare that disaster was avoided. But they will be wrong.

For the deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status...

Make no mistake about it, what we’re witnessing here is a catastrophe on multiple levels.

It is, of course, a political catastrophe for Democrats, who just a few weeks ago seemed to have Republicans on the run over their plan to dismantle Medicare; now Mr. Obama has thrown all that away. And the damage isn’t over: there will be more choke points where Republicans can threaten to create a crisis unless the president surrenders, and they can now act with the confident expectation that he will.

In the long run, however, Democrats won’t be the only losers. What Republicans have just gotten away with calls our whole system of government into question. After all, how can American democracy work if whichever party is most prepared to be ruthless, to threaten the nation’s economic security, gets to dictate policy? And the answer is, maybe it can’t.

David Atkins at Digby talks about the two paths to deal with aggression -- the To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch method, where no matter what one suffers at the hands of real crazy and true evil, you seize the moral high ground and persevere. This has been what Congressional Democrats have done for decades now, and what the current President has done over and over: capitulate.

And the long series of escalations by the Rethugs, and now the Tea Partei brownshirts, has taken us right to the brink: These asshats were really willing to destroy the economy of the entire planet to get what they wanted -- and they'll do it again.

That isn't Democracy. It's giving the bully your lunch money. And over and over, you hand him your fifty cents until one day, the bully says, "This ain't enough. Gimme a dollar or I'll beat you up." So you pay the dollar, and things go along -- until the bully says, "This ain't enough. Gimme a dollar-fifty."

This is what's been happening since the early 1990's.

Then, there's the 'Chicago Way' of dealing with the bullies -- ironic, given where the President is from. Since Washington likes to reduce life to movie-clip sound bites, Atkins added an edited clip from a 1987 film, "The Untouchables", in his post.

In 1920's Chicago, the city is effectively run by pudgy psychopath Al Capone (Robert DiNiro). Sent in to clean up the situation, Dudley Do-Right FBI agent Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) tries to enlist the help of John Malone, a grizzled Chicago police veteran (Sean Connery). At first, Malone refuses to assist Ness, but ends up sitting in a Catholic church and telling Ness precisely what time it is.

This is the full scene:
MALONE: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see, what I'm saying is: What are you prepared to do?
NESS: Anything within the law.
MALONE: And then what are you prepared to do? If you open this can of worms, you must be prepared to go all the way. Because they're not gonna give up the fight -- until one of you is dead.
NESS: I want to get Capone! I don't know how to do it.
MALONE: You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way! And that's how you get Capone. Now; do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I'm offering you a deal. Do you want this deal?
NESS: I have sworn to capture this man with all legal powers at my disposal and I will do so.
MALONE: [Sighs] Well... the Lord hates a coward. [offers NESS his hand; NESS shakes it] Do you know what a blood oath is, Mr. Ness?
NESS: Yes.
MALONE: Good, 'cause you just took one.