Theatre Bizarre - Scaredy Cat Club by Patricia Drury

It’s Intermission here under the Beltway Bigtop. The house lights are back on, the Clowns are taking a brief break and the Audience is taking the opportunity to catch their breath after the remarkable performance that they’ve just been witness to as the red clowns and blue clowns faced off in the Scaredy Cat Sideshow.

For the past several days the blue clowns have been celebrating their big (temporary) win. Audience polls have shown that the audience holds the red clowns responsible for the clown war that left the lights turned off at the Bigtop for 16 days. Despite the audience’s sentiments, the blue clowns’ big win may not be worth getting too worked up about:

Because the deal only includes minor concessions, the Beltway consensus is that it represents a resounding defeat for Republicans, who “surrendered” their original demands to defund or delay Obamacare. In the skirmish of opinion polls, that may be true, for now. But in the war of ideas, the Senate deal is but a stalemate, one made almost entirely on conservative terms. The GOP now goes into budget talks with sequestration as the new baseline, primed to demand longer-term cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. And they still hold the gun of a US default to the nation’s head in the next debt ceiling showdown.

Surrender? Any more “victories” like this and Democrats will end up paying tribute into the GOP’s coffers.

Speaking of surrender, the blue clowns’ “idea guys” in the Bigtop Office of Promotions are hot on a way for the blue clowns to “win” the next round, too…

Ezra Klein: Democrats Should Return To Being Wimps Quickly

No matter which deal ultimately resolves the U.S. government shutdown, it’s almost certain to include a new bicameral budget commission. This will be the eighth major budget commission since 2010. Until now, every single one of them has failed for the same reason: taxes. And if nothing changes, this one will fail too.

But something should change: Democrats should admit the obvious. For the time being, they’ve lost on taxes. And you know what? That’s OK. At least, it could be, if they were willing to admit it and smartly negotiate the terms of their surrender.

Meanwhile, the Ringmaster delivered a speech to celebrate the end of the shutdown and decided to blame bloggers for the trouble:

You cannot make this stuff up.

Obama gave his usual adult talking to the children, meaning American citizens, type of speech to mark the cease-fire in the budget battle so that the two sides can work out a peace accord. Of course, it goes without saying that both sides keenly want a pact that will inflict cuts on middle and low-income Americans while only imposing at most token costs on the wealthy, and in particular, secure the prize that the leadership of both parties keenly desire, namely, cuts in Medicare and Social Security, dressed up as “reforms”.

“And now that the government has reopened and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do, and that’s grow this economy, create good jobs, strengthen the middle class, educate our kids, lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul. That’s why we’re here. That should be our focus.”

Theatre Bizarre by Patricia Drury

Meanwhile, over in the Bigtop Funders pavillion, one of the big funders, formerly a leading member of the Union of Pickpockets and Banker Bozos, Peterson T. HedgeHog pricked up his ears and jabbed a member of the Bigtop Office of Promotions who cranked out a reminder that the Bigtop Funders expect a windfall – soon, damnit!

Why is it that I think, when the president was decrying the effect of professional activists who profit from conflict, he probably wasn’t talking about these eternal grifters?

Fix the Debt, the organization that took flight last year from the very deep pockets of octagenarian Blackstone co-founder Pete Peterson, held an afternoon event at the National Press Club to remind everyone that, crisis averted, the real problem in this country remained our crushing long-term debt. You might think that the fiasco of the past few weeks would have prompted some soul-searching within the organization – after all, its well-broadcast doomsday warnings of a nation drowning in red ink have only helped to feed conservative Republican fury about out of control spending, even as budget deficits steadily decline and the long-term fiscal picture brightens. It is that fury that, as much as anything, drove the brinksmanship over the government shutdown and debt ceiling, but Fix the Debt officials spoke as if they have had no role in bringing us to this point – as if, to the contrary, we arrived at this point precisely because we were not listening to them.

This is the real threat to the recovery right here. Not partisan bickering. Not the temporizing in the deal cut last night. Not even Ted Cruz and the members of the monkeyhouse on the other side of the Capitol. It is this permanent class of deficit fetishists and austerian fantasts. These are the people who will wreck lives. These are people who get heard in the White House instead of being told to go pound sand until we elect Paul Ryan to be president. Every time the president mentions the deficit, these guys get their semi-annual woodies and a little bit of actual progressive politics dies again. These are the people whose credentials really should have been revoked last night, if there actually was the kind of Democratic triumph that we’re being sold today. Pete Peterson must have bought Purina short. I am so dreading that conference committee.

In the end, it seems that the Bigtop funders stepped in and interceded with the red clowns. Warning shots were fired across the bow:

Hard times have arrived for the Republican Party and particularly for right-wing pressure groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, Heritage Action and the one-time lavishly funded tea party PAC, FreedomWorks. According to a report in Politico, heavyweight Republican donors are frustrated and “horrified” that their money is going to wrong-headed politicians and groups that appear to have no effect on election outcomes. …

Donors, they say, were “horrified in November after pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns for president and Congress with nothing to show for it,” and in the wake of the Republican shutdown fiasco, they have become even more concerned.

Behind the scenes, the Bigtop Funders were quite agitated at the Koch Klowns Krew; pressures appear to have built to a level that the Kochs themselves felt the need to disassociate from what their money bought the actions of their sponsored clowns:

Koch Industries, umbrella corporate behemoth for the conservative Koch brothers, sent a letter to members of the Senate on Wednesday disavowing any rumored positions on shutting down the government over the president’s health care law. Even for the controversial and unloved Kochs, it seems, the Republican plan to force a shutdown over Obamacare went too far.

Slomo clown fight y Rob, Joyce, Alex & NovaThe internecine fighting among the red clown’s factions grew quite intense and the Bigtop funders ratcheted up the pressure, threatening recriminations against the demurring Koch Klown Krew:

Their frustration has grown so intense in recent days that several trade association officials warned in interviews on Wednesday that they were considering helping wage primary campaigns against Republican lawmakers who had worked to engineer the political standoff in Washington.

Such an effort would thrust Washington’s traditionally cautious and pragmatic business lobby into open warfare with the Tea Party faction, which has grown in influence since the 2010 election and won a series of skirmishes with the Republican establishment in the last two years.

Some of these Bigtop Funders spoke with some degree of admiration at the way that the Ringmaster and the blue clowns keep their progressive wing from having even the slightest bit of influence getting in the way of the corporate agenda:

Joe Echevarria, the chief executive of Deloitte, the accounting and consulting firm, said, “I’m a Republican by definition and by registration, but the party seems to have split into two factions.”

While both parties have extreme elements, he suggested, only in the G.O.P. did the extreme element exercise real power. “The extreme right has 90 seats in the House,” Mr. Echevarria said. “Occupy Wall Street has no seats.”

Hmmm… do you think, circus fans, that the way that the Ringmaster and the blue clowns suppress their progressive wing might have something to do with the fact that they keep winding up in a position of defending themselves against increasingly extreme attacks by the red clowns?

Blue Clowns In Bondage

Wonder Woman Crucified for Milk by jooleeah_stahkey

“When I saw Wonder Woman being constantly put in positions where she’d get tied up with her own rope, or held hostage, even as a kid, my reaction was ‘C’mon, she’s too smart for that.’”

— J. Michael Straczynski

How does the Ringmaster always seem to wind up in a hostage situation? In the past, people chalked it up to him being a bad negotiator:

“You can always tell when Obama’s negotiations with the Republicans are winding down, because he’s missing his watch and his lunch money.”

— Bill Maher

That is when they were not busy calling the Ringmaster a, “stupid negotiator” (with all due respect):

Amazing Carny: In The Wheel of Fortune by Circus DivasObama is an absolutely terrible negotiator, and his reactions to GOP hostage-taking have been incredibly disappointing, to say the least. This is especially true on the impending debt-ceiling vote, where Obama has dashed the possibilities for a “clean” vote in favor of one that gives the GOP license to extract concessions from the administration. Jonathan Chait explains:

I don’t really blame the Republicans for this, either. If Obama is going to begin by saying he’d like a straight vote on the debt ceiling but is willing to make policy concessions, what do you expect the Republicans to do? Keep in mind, the assumption that the Congressional minority can use the debt ceiling as a hostage to win substantive policy the president opposes is entirely novel. Obama has introduced this new development.

Obama isn’t stupid, or insane, or dangerously credulous, but this is a stupid, insane, and dangerously credulous approach to negotiating. Whether the White House is blind to the radicalism of the GOP caucus or willfully ignorant, I don’t know; either way, it doesn’t inspire much confidence.

We have now seen that, contrary to speculation based upon previous results (and a desire to think well of the Ringmaster) that when faced with the prospect of losing something that he actually does care about, the Ringmaster has the ability, gumption and common sense to stand his ground.

Given this, his many previous failures to stand up to hostage takers over issues like single-payer, the extension of the Bush tax cuts, an assortment of austerity measures and his unforced errors on entitlements – must all be reassessed.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the Ringmaster is just “not that into” the audience or its needs. The Ringmaster intentionally gets into these hostage crises in order to be “forced” to rob the audience. Hostage crises are the means that the Ringmaster has chosen to obfuscate the responsibility for his own actions.

Audience to visit the Midway

The Simpsons Ride Midway Carnival Games by insidethemagic

While the audience is on the Midway, some blue clowns are encouraging them to visit the Whack-A-Rat booth. Hopes are high among the blue clowns that many of the Koch Klown Krew will be replaced by Moder-Rats or at least the sort of Corpo-Rats that fill out the ranks of the blue clowns.

Many in the audience have been getting notes like this from famous blue clowns that pretend to know them personally:

From: Governor Howard Dean
Subject: Speaker Pelosi?

joe —

I’ve never seen anything like what the Republicans tried to pull over the last two weeks. But one thing is for sure, DFA members are determined to hold the Republicans accountable at the ballot box. …

Would you like to see Nancy Pelosi take the gavel again as House Speaker in 2015? I would. Over 10,000 DFA members making 5 million calls to take back the House will help make it happen, but it will take more than calls to win.

Please contribute $20 right now to fuel our campaign to Call Out The Vote.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll just released reveals that 74% of Americans now disapprove of the Republican Party — the worst ratings ever for the GOP. We can thank Sen. Ted Cruz for that.

With their control of the House in jeopardy, Republicans are running scared in district after district. Now we need to turn this momentum into the resources it will actually take to win back the House in 2014.

The red clowns are also organizing to take advantage of the Whack-A-Rat utility to advance their red clown ideology. Some red clowns are so mad about having taken a public drubbing in the Scaredy Cat Sideshow that they have hatched a plan to force the red clown leader in the third ring to ride The Terminator:

Terminator_and_Paratrooper,_night by andrew c dunnThe Senate Conservatives Fund, the outside group founded by former Senator and Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, has endorsed Matt Bevin, the Republican challenger running in a primary against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The group has been critical of McConnell’s handling of the budget and debt limit crises and funded $340,000 in attack ads against him in September. … In recent weeks, McConnell, buoyed by extremely strong fundraising, has indicated he is unconcerned by the primary challenge, turning his sights on top Democratic prospect Alison Lundergan Grimes and the general election.

Given the gerrymandered, voter-proof districts that most of the clowns live in, it is unlikely that too many of either the Koch Klown Krew, the Moder-Rat or Corpo-Rat red or blue clowns will get fatally whacked, most likely they’ll just get more funding from their respective backers and more annoyed at the general audience.

There is new evidence that, swirling in the collective minds of the audience is a sentiment that might put off the dreams of dominance of both red clowns and blue clowns, however:

In U.S., Perceived Need for Third Major Party Reaches New High

Amid the government shutdown, 60% of Americans say the Democratic and Republicans parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed. That is the highest Gallup has measured in the 10-year history of this question. A new low of 26% believe the two major parties adequately represent Americans.

3rd party 1

The results are consistent with Gallup’s finding of more negative opinions of both parties since the shutdown began, including a new low favorable rating for the Republican Party, and Americans’ widespread dissatisfaction with the way the nation is being governed. …

3rd party 2

Republicans (52%) and Democrats (49%) are similar in their perceptions that a third party is needed. In fact, this marks the first time that a majority of either party’s supporters have said a third party is needed.

Audience disgust at the red and blue clowns both is at an all time high as is disgust with the entire Beltway Bigtop enterprize. Clowns of each side in attempting to leverage recent events for support and political advantage may indeed find an unreceptive audience.

The blue clowns, despite their perceived success are in a particularly bad spot and will likely find themselves treading the highwire unable to satisfy their fans in the audience due to their allegiance to the Bigtop funders. As economist Richard Wolff, points out in this interview, the blue clowns enable the Koch Klowns Krew and red clown ideas by validating their schtick about government being the problem:

For the last 50 years, we as a people have felt it appropriate to criticize our school system, our energy system, our medical insurance system for the last two years, even our system of marriage. We criticize systems with one overwhelmingly obvious exception. That’s the capitalist system. For 50 years it has been taboo in this country to criticize business, the business community, the economic system that puts them in the driver seat of our economic system. … The Tea Party simply cashes in on that history by saying, look, the economic crisis is the worst we’ve had in 75 years (true enough), and therefore you should be really angry (and we’re going to show you the way) at the government, which we are going to blame, because that’s what everybody is used to. I think they’re performing a function that makes it very easy to understand why they get such enthusiastic funding from all sorts of wealthy business interests, because, again, they’re shifting the criticism and the upset about how this economy is working away from the capitalist system that is the way we organize production, away from the people who sit at the top of that system, and focusing it instead on the government. …

[T]he Democratic Party bears a major responsibility for the success of the Tea Party. And when they berate the Tea Party and denounce it, there’s something peculiar, since they’re so complicit in this situation. You’d look long and hard in the history of the Democratic Party over the last 50 years to find a word of criticism of capitalism as a system. The Democratic Party avoids it. The Democratic Party joins in pretending that a political solution is adequate to deal with an economic system that has now collapsed twice in the last 75 years. … And because they didn’t, because they never offered a real alternative, they have kind of left the field open for the Tea Party folks to take that ball, a ball that says you can’t criticize capitalism, you can only criticize politicians, and take it to its logical end, to the discomfiture of the Democrats.

Old Kids Book by 'Playingwithbrushes'So, stay tuned Circus fans as the blue clowns and the red clowns re-engage each other in another exciting round of the Grand Bargain Circus. There will be yet another super-duper-catfood-commission swinging into action soon. Can 29 clowns get in the car? Can they get it to the Ringmaster’s magic table with “everything on it?” Will the hapless morons at Fix the Debt manage to convince the audience that catfood is a tasty alternative diet program for Granny?

See you next time!

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”

-– Mark Twain