One Year Of Interesting Times: Part III: The Delightful Simplicity of Burned Bridges

Sometime you have a challenge before you. A big one. Maybe you won’t surmount it.

You dither. Hold back. Is there a way out?

Then, however it may happen, you’ve crossed the Rubicon. There’s no going back. You’re going to make it or you’ll fail. You’re no longer a passive observer. You’re in the shit for real.

That feeling is better than denial. It’s constructive. It’s positive. You cannot commit to success until you dispense with false illusions. Everything has changed. It’s hard to say when. Maybe it was a done deal before my blog was started. Maybe not. It’s hard to know the exact moment when you’ve gone past the point of no return. But it’s in the rearview mirror and receding.

Unreality is ebbing. Ossified thinkers can no longer hold the tide back. Willful denial has been discarded and cleaning house is the order of the day. Things are changing and they’ll continue to change with or without political leadership. They’ll change if you adapt nimbly. They’ll change if you stand in the middle of the road weeping. After the shit has hit the fan, there is no going back.

Washington is barely capable of propping up it’s own weight. But America is getting feisty. Americans once again care who has a job. Who pays the bills. And, more darkly, who doesn’t and why not.

Don’t believe me? Think America can return to sleeping at the wheel? Not a chance. Here are a few examples of unreality blown away by values rooted in the terra firma.

Examples from our craptacular two party system:

  • In February 2009, some guy on a trading floor went on a rant. From that spark, the Tea Party materialized to horrify beltway Washington.  Nobody in power’s orbit is happy about flyover rednecks complaining about debt. The press relentlessly hammers the Tea Party with “teabagger” jokes, satire, exaggeration, dismissiveness, and tantrums. Our vice president called them terrorists. It hasn’t worked. The Tea Party exists despite (and possibly because of) entrenched opposition.  It shifts elections. Wishing them away hasn’t yet made them vanish.
  • The last mid term elections were an epic shellacking that cost the Democrats 6 Senators, 63 Congressmen, and the majority in the House. Regardless of cause (Obamacare?) the populace went from granting Obama the election to inflicting a crushing defeat on his party.  A u-turn in 24 months. Also a hint applied with a sledgehammer.

Examples from Washington’s pet called the press:

  • The press truly pulled out all the stops for their guy in 2008.  I felt dry humped and discarded.  I was not alone.  The press periodically abandons all pretense of objectivity but this time was different.  It bit them on the ass and they’ve lost their shirts. Newsweek claimed we are all socialists now and crashed so hard they were sold for $1. The Washington Post’s profits dropped 50% in one quarter. The New York Times was trading at $48 in 2004 and now it’s trading at $8. There’s nothing new about a biased press (ask Orson Welles) but now is when events have run them down like dogs.  Their refusal to adapt is a self inflicted mortal wound.

Examples of politicians applying the brakes on spending:

  • In February the Republican Governor of Wisconsin took a shot at frugality. Thousands protested, things were broken, threats were shouted, and the president chose to meddle in non-federal affairs. The protesters failed…face plant!  The Governor got about what he wanted. Would it have played out differently in 1980? 2004? Quite likely. But not now.  Update: Round two was a $30,000,000 recall campaign, which failed.  The status quo lost two for two.
  • In April, the Federal budget; which was due the previous September went into sudden death overtime. A close vote minutes before the deadline dodged a shutdown. What was the focus of the fight? Flag burning? Gays in the Military? The war on drugs? Flag burning gay soldiers on drugs? No! It was debt and spending. Nothing more, nothing less.  Americans have grown a spine and are fighting mad about debt.  They’ve stopped using denial to pay the bills.
  • In July, Minnesota had it’s own budget scuffle. Their Governor vetoed a budget that didn’t increase spending enough to suit him. The state was shut down for 14 days.  One party agitated for more spending and taxes and the other held fast. Eventually the Governor accepted a “compromise” that was pretty much a total defeat.  He’d misread the moment.  Frugality (or at least a lukewarm attempt at it) is today’s game.
  • In August the debt ceiling was raised. So what?  It has been raised more times than Lindsey Lohan’s skirt; a shameful 74 times since 1962. This time it got ugly. The nation went to the brink of default. A fourth replay of the Federal Budget battle and showdowns in Wisconsin and Minnesota. “Kick it down the road” didn’t fly in 2011 like it normally does.

Examples of things that looked like paranoia which are looking prescient:

  • Right now is the time when “fiat currency” transitions from a phrase used by bunker dwelling goldbugs to Grandma’s worries.  Fiat currency means that money is nothing but symbolic green pieces of paper.  Folks turn to gold when “full faith of the Government” isn’t reassuring.  Gold was trading at $330 on the day of Clinton’s first election.  It dropped to $250 for Bush’s first election.  Eight years later it was $750 for Obama’s election.  A year and a half later it was $1,200 and I was writing my first post.  It was $1,700 when I wrote the draft of this “anniversary” article.  It hit $1,850 before I scheduled the post.  It topped at $1,917 on Monday.  Basics like currency are no longer taken for granted.
  • Ayn Rand ranted against socialist meddling in 1957.  Nobody cared.  Suddenly, 52 years later, Atlas Shrugged is terrifying.  A half million copies were sold in 2009 alone.  When 1,200 pages of didactic wholesale economic destruction is riveting we know “who is John Galt”.
  • Standard and Poor’s cut America’s credit rating. The DOW immediately crapped itself.  Folks no longer pretend to be surprised.  This is exactly what was supposed to happen, it happened for the right reasons, and it happened on schedule. As a counterpoint Texas, the butt of jokes on both coasts, has gained an AAA rating. Ouch!
  • California, a State that would like to lead the nation, ran out of money and issued IOUs.  Maybe they should ask Texas for a loan?

Examples involving other nations:

  • Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain have all skated on thin ice.  Now they’re regretting it. Britain and Iceland get honorable mention too. European  welfare states have teetered forever but now is when the show gets interesting. Germany is unhappily facing the yoke that America won’t shoulder.  Greek citizens protest in the delusion that protesting makes money appear. Paris is losing it’s title as the host of quasi-predictable underclass riots to Britain.  Europe is in such a panic they’ve forgotten to sneer at antiquated American morality while genuflecting for EU and UN technocrats.
  • Since December there have been revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen. America had nothing to do with any of them.  Societies that looked like they were cast in cement are fluid right now.

Have I made my point? Have I made the case that the shit has hit the fan, that Elvis has left the building, that denial is obsolete? I hope so.  Denial was unbecoming of our great nation. I’m glad it’s over.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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3 Responses to One Year Of Interesting Times: Part III: The Delightful Simplicity of Burned Bridges

  1. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    OK. I like what you write. I agree with much of what you say. I only want to bring up ONE point here; the problem with the Media isn’t Media bias. Media will ALWAYS have bias, unless you can interest the Seraphim in reporting – and then we wouldn’t understand what was being printed. It is not possible to include every bit of data associated with every story. And in making choices about what facts and what stories to print, the beliefs of the writer will necessarily color the results. There is simply no way for this to be avoided.

    The PROBLEM is the myth, put forward mostly by Liberal Western Intellectual Twits, that the Media is, could be, or ever was, unbiased.

    Once upon a time each city of any size in the United States has at least two newspapers. Except for a few very special markets like New York, they weren’t both profitable; one got the city printing contracts (and supported the City administration) and the other was supported by some hopeful as a platform for his ‘reform’ candidacy.Everybody in town who didn’t breathe exclusively through their mouths knew who owned each paper, and what you could expect from them in the way of bias. Most people read the paper they agreed with. Some particularly good citizens read both.

    It was in this era that the really great newspaper reporters wrote. Their stuff wasn’t neutral; it had a point of view and helped make it with forceful (and occasionally wonderful) writing. The problem with the Liberal media is that, in order to disguise that they had (temporarily) achieved a near monopoly on the popular media, they promulgated the absurd idea that the Media was unbiased, and then dumbed down their writing to disguise their angles. They failed to disguise their bias, but sadly they succeeded in turning their writing into pap. Now, with people realizing that reading them for ‘neutral’ information is an absurdity, they no longer have any reason to read them for pleasure. And the media go into free-fall. The problem isn’t Bias. The problem is that the media have forgotten how to goddamned WRITE in a way that won’t put the reader into a coma. The media gave up arguing in favor of preaching, and very few people like being sermonized over.

    Aside: Regarding Media Bias; there is something wonderfully crazy-American about NPR/PBS: broadcast networks wholly owned by the government that are anti-Patriotic. Only in America would Pravda be that neurotic!

    • The problem with media bias is not so much bias of one source or the next; it’s that bias from many sources is a landslide towards one side. Five or fifty or fifteen news sources that all exhibit a similar slant is terrible. A few sources that are all over the board is superior.

      But as I’ve mentioned, this might be self correcting. Old media has ridden it’s knee jerk preference for a certain bias right into the fiscal crapper. Have you picked up a newspaper lately? They’re a quarter the size of a paper from a decade ago. And their stock price is even more diminished. Maybe in a few years, complaints about media bias will seem quaint and dated.

      With the exception of NPR, which is as insulated from public opinion as Pravda or BBC. I agree that their unique combination of pro-government and anti-American is amusing in its internal inconsistencies.

  2. Pingback: Adapt Or Perish: Washington Post | The Adaptive Curmudgeon's Blog

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