Friday, August 5, 2011

First Draft Done! Going To Vegas

The first draft of my play--the play I've been wrangling with for almost two years now--is done.  It's rough and raggedy and definitely needs a rewrite.  Said rewrite will start on Monday, when the wife and I return from a weekend in Vegas and some much-earned vacation.  Hopefully that rewrite will take no more than about a month, after while time I'll...what?  Send it out into the world to struggle and (one hopes) prosper.  Of course what 'sending it out to the world' actually entails, or how I will do that, or how I SHOULD do that...I have no idea.  But, that's a problem for another day.

I have a lot to say about that.  The play was basically scrapped in its entirety on July 3rd (a very important date for me).  I then rewrote it almost from scratch.  The scrapping and rewrite were the result of what seems to me still to be maybe the most crucial insight or discovery about how to structure long narratives that I've ever had.  In a way I feel as if I've unlocked the secret, although I now that feeling is at least in part illusory.  Still, it's been a big month.  I've understood something for the first time and I think it will help a huge amount going forward.

Also, totally unrelated as this is: I've decided that not only will I be voting for Obama next year but that I may actually give money to the Democratic Party.  The Republican shenanigans with the debt ceiling last month, on top of the increasingly persuasive proof that our current deficit is as much the fault of George W as anyone else (J Chait in the New Republic has a good piece on this right now) combined with the fact that somehow Sarah Palin remains someone who's embraced by a sizable minority (at least) of the Republican Party... it's all too much for me.  Obama hasn't been perfect, and the Democrats irk me in non-trivial ways.  But, it doesn't matter.  I'm done with them.  They showed their true colors this summer I think and I for one did not like what I saw.  (I suppose that opinion could change if the Republicans manage to nominate a moderate like Huntsman.  But, they never will.)

Okay.  Off to Vegas.  Posting to resume (I hope) next week.


John Gullett, MD said...

Congratulations!! Good luck in Vegas!

Saxo Philologus said...

Wow. Jonathan Chait? Giving money to the Democratic party? I could see voting for Obama last time, but he's proven himself to be an awful president. Blame the Republicans for the budget if you wish, but recall that Obama's budget was voted down 97-0 in the senate. He's fundamentally unserious about entitlement reform, the most serious problem we face, and is a tool of the public-sector unions, the most nefarious special interest group in the country.

Saxo Philologus said...

He also promised to take public financing in his '08 campaign and reneged on that promise; promised to close Guantanamo (and political hay in doing so) and didn't; gave a speech castigating the raising of the debt ceiling last time around; turned down the recommendation of his own debt commission; nominated Sonia Sotomayor, etc, etc.

I'm seriously baffled. What is it that you see in him?

ANCIANT said...

Wow. That's a lot of mojo, Saxo.

I don't have a full-throated defense at hand, because I do see flaws in the Democratic party (though not as many as you do, apparently). The public-sector union thing is the biggest. I don't know if I would say he is a "tool" of the union(s) however (where is the evidence?). But, on that issue, I'm not that enthused about Obama, for sure.

I'm not sure how you can say he's fundamentally unserious about entitlement reform. He seemed willing in the last round of debates to put Medicare and Social Security on the table for negotiation. How far he would have actually gone, I don't know. But, he at least seemed open to the idea. He's also been pretty good about, for example, opposing the Teacher's Unions; he's arguably done a good deal more for Education Reform than Bush ever did.

And this, I guess, is one reason for my support. I think he is fundamentally more of a moderate than he's given credit for. I think that he, like Clinton, has the potential to actually effect reform on many of the issues that you point to. (Just as Only Clinton could reform Welfare, I think only a Democrat can reform Social Security, etc.)

More than that, however, my reason for wanting to support Obama is a fundamental revulsion at the tactics and personalities of the Republican Party. Their flat-out refusal to even consider any kind of revenue increase in the recent negotiations unnerved me. The glee that House leaders such as Cantor et al seemed to take in opposing Obama's budget proposals, their almost atavistic partisanship unsettled me. (And yes, I know that Reid and Pelosi are not much better. But they're slightly better.) Add this to the bewildering popularity of figures like Palin and Bachmann (and Perry, soon enough), and I come away feeling like that Republican Party, is not at its core a fundamentally serious party.

It's true: as Senator, Obama made a symbolic vote against raising the debt ceiling--one he himself has since acknowledged as purely political in nature. The difference, I think, is that if Obama were in the Senate now facing a debt ceiling vote that was likely to be close during difficult economic times, I think he would have realized that this was not the time to make symbolic votes. A significant portion of the Republican Party seemed not to feel that way. I find that somewhat appalling.

Saxo Philologus said...

Re: the unions,

1) the ridiculous carve-outs for unions in the health care bill.

2) he supports card check

3) the GM bailout, which has so far been a money-loser for the government

4) failure to sign free trade agreements

5) the NLRB decision opposing Boeing's construction of a new plan in South Carolina because the union opposes it.

6) Vindictive canceling of contracts for Texas military contractors and shipping of the jobs to more union -friendly (at the time) Wisconsin.

Obama has never proposed reform of Social Security or Medicare (unlike, e.g. Paul Ryan, whose plan was defeated by the Democratic House and demagogued by the president); he mentions it only in the most abstract of terms.

Obama may well be a moderate, but it's hard to know what he stands for except condescending centrism ('there are those who...and there are those who... and I am always in the reasonable middle).

The Republican party is full of loons, but on the most important issue of the day, entitlement reform, they are moving in the right direction. Frankly I can deal with Bachmann for president at this point because she will actually do something about the debt, unlike, evidently, Obama.

Dezmond said...

Saxo speaks the truth. Bachmann, Tea Party, etc. drive me nuts too. BUT, without them, serious spending cuts would not even be a major topic of discussion right now. They are the ones who forced it on the table.

It will take everyone swallowing things they do not like. It will take serious entitlement reform, serious cuts in all areas and in everyone's sacred cows (from defense to food stamps), and revenue increase (code: tax hikes, or at least getting rid of so many loopholes). Pelosi and Co. is just as bad. Recall during the debt debate, it was Pelosi who said that she would fight any cuts in Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. That is a dumber statement than has come from any Tra Partier.

ANCIANT said...

Saxo (and Dez)

Except on the GM bailout, I don't know enough about the specific issues you mention to comment intelligently. On that issue (GM), I support the government's decision and think it will ultimately be vindicated. (Recall how many Republicans complained about the money loaned to bail out banks; it now looks as if the government will actually make a profit on those loans). Furthermore, I'd argue the GM issue was not about helping the unions (who had to agree to sizable and significant contract restructuring) but trying to prevent further loss of American jobs.

I'd also suggest that every politician has to get money from somewhere. To pick one Republican leader at random: Eric Cantor gets massive amounts of money and support from the still mostly-unregulated world of American hedge funds. Are hedge fund managers preferable to union bosses?

I'm in total agreement with you both about entitlement reform. It is THE issue for the next ten years. Whether or not Obama is serious about entitlement reform is an open question. I think he is. Furthermore, I think it was an issue on which he was prepared to offer significant compromises in the most recent debt talks. But I don't see how it's reasonable to expect him to sell entitlement reform to his party when the Republicans refuse, a priori, to make any concessions on any sort of tax increase, however cosmetic. (And the revenue increases Obama was proposing were not onerous in any way).

I would also remind you both that the single biggest cause of deficit spending for the last decade has, by almost all accounts, been the Bush tax cuts. So, if the core issue here is who can balance the budget, hasn't the Republican Party already got a few strikes against it?

The Republicans may be better on the issues; they may not. But I can't agree with you all that their 'loons' are just sideshows. I foolishly supported George W because I was lead to believe that the wise party elders would keep him in check--that his lack of curiosity and obviously intellectual shortcomings would ultimately matter less than his being 'right' on more of the issues. But I was wrong--and could I do it over again, I think I'd vote for Gore. The Republican Party is a party of idealists. (Idealogues, some might say). If the US were run by executive fiat, their approach might work. But it's not. It's run by committee, and committees work by compromise. The President and governing party should be pragmatists, not idealists. Obama is a pragmatist. He's about the art of the possible. That is not inspiring. It is not sexy. It does not rally the masses. But it's what I want in a President--especially given the alternatives.

JMW said...

The Republicans (or Tea Partiers, at least) are all about entitlement reform now because the economy is deep in the crapper and they can't bring themselves to utter a single word about raising taxes. Even when taxes are, historically, not particularly high right now. In fact, they're on an almost Rand-ian drive to basically eliminate taxes, if you listen to them. This doesn't mean entitlement reform isn't important; it just means the Tea Party's ideology is clearly built around a government that doesn't really give a damn about any kind of social safety nets, because who the hell are they to get involved in my business, take my money for other people, etc. They don't talk reform (about anything); they talk scorched earth. Of course, this doesn't mean they aren't perfectly willing to legislate about people's private lives. If God said it was OK to, it must be OK to. Reid and Pelosi are terrible. I'm not saying they're not. And Obama's been more toothless than I expected him to be. But this: "Frankly I can deal with Bachmann for president at this point..." Holy shit.

JMW said...

Oh, and T., congrats on finishing the draft of the play. I'm sure it's terrific.

Dezmond said...

I hear you, JMW. But I look at it like this. We all know that everything has to be on the table if we are going to solve this: taxes, cutting entitlements, cutting defense, etc. But which of these things is MOST important, or is the biggest problem. That is entitlements. And on that, the Republicans are the ones who are actually serious. The Dems are only on board because they are being dragged kicking and screaming, and leaders like Pelosi are still opposed to cutting any of the major entitlements.

ANCIANT said...

You're right, Dez. Entitlements are the core issue. Revenue increases and tax reform aren't going to make significant inroads into deficit reduction. But the fact that the Republicans are demanding large-scale entitlement cutbacks--cutbacks which will be financially significant--while at the same time refusing, point-blank, to consider even _insignificant_revenue increases seems, to me, to be absurd. Obama has to have something to give his supporters; if he's going to go to the Democrats and convince them to agree to cutting programs Democrats love, tentpoles of their party, he has to be able to show he's gotten something in return--even if it's minor. The Republicans, in the end, are about winning the moral argument; they're not about actually effecting a solution. (Or, at least, the Tea Party Republicans). This is why I've given up on them.

Dezmond said...

I agree with everything you said.

ANCIANT said...



That's what I like to hear.

(If only my wife ever said it....)

So what about you, Dez? Are you open to Obama in 2012, are are you for sure voting Republican? Or does it depend on the candidate?

Saxo Philologus said...

Congratulations on finishing the play, by the way!

Saxo Philologus said...

The Tea Party believes, quite reasonably, that the size and scope of government has become intolerable in this country. The basic function of a government is to enforce laws fairly and protect its citizens and its borders, and on the last of these the government has proven woefully ineffective. What I can't understand is why you think we need more government. Everything they touch (with the exception of the military, but see the V.A.) turns to disaster. Medicare is bankrupt and riddled with fraud. Public housing is a catastrophe; anti-poverty programs have been a resounding failure, merely creating a permanent underclass addicted to Section 8 housing and AFDC checks (see Hurricane Katrina). The Drug War has filled up prisons and done nothing to reduce drug use. Federal meddling in public schools has been ineffective at best. What we need is a lean, effective federal government that hires the best people and pays them well, but limits its activities to duties that it can carry out successfully.

The country is not under-taxed, I would submit to you. Total taxes as a percentage of GDP are, I believe at an all time high (you can correct me if I turn out to be wrong, but I think it's something like 25%). Nor do I think the Republicans are unwilling to compromise. If the top tax rate was brought down to, e.g., 25% and all deductions were eliminated, the effective tax rate would go up, but most Republicans (I believe) would go along with it.

Saxo Philologus said...

Pre-emptively, let me just state for the record that I think Bush was a bad president, and that it was almost criminally irresponsible to start two wars without ever bothering to pay for them.

Very little of what Bush did strikes me as conservative in any sense of the word. In essence, he was fiscally profligate and socially conservative, the worst of both worlds.

ANCIANT said...

As I've said earlier, Saxo, I'm not for increasing the size of government. But, I am a realist. If we were ruled by an Emperor, what you propose might be possible. But we aren't. We're ruled by a coalition. Whatever the Republicans may desire in an ideal world, they control only one body of Congress. Therefore it seems to me reasonable that instead of drawing lines in the sand and refusing, point-blank, to consider any tax increase (or revenue increase) of any variety, they would be wise to take the best deal they could get. The deal Obama offered to the Republicans in recent weeks was, by most accounts, one that gave the Republicans much more than it took. Both David Brooks and Ross Douthat, to name but two Republican commentators, wrote Op-Eds urging the Republican leadership to take the deal. The Republicans did not. They are an all-or-nothing party. Putting aside whether or not one disagrees with their 'all' (and I'm not sure I do), I have a fundamental disagreement with their political strategy. Government is not all or nothing. It is about adults who disagree on core issues coming together and finding out a way to achieve what is possible. You write that you believe the Republicans are willing to compromise; I don't see it.
(Nor did last night's debates change my view).

Dezmond said...

As for my voting, I do not want to vote for Obama again. I voted for him in '08, mainly due to the Palin factor. I have been surprised by how bad he has been. I really have. This was not the guy who gave that electrifying, unifying, new middle way speech at the '04 convention.

But, for me, it depends on the Republican candidate. I will not vote for Bachman. I will not vote for Perry. I will not vote for Cain. Most of the others I need to hear more from. My two favorites are Gingrich and Romney. Romney is smart and his record in Massachusetts indicates that regardless of the red meat statements required to do well in Iowa, a president Romney would be reasonable. Gingrich is by far the best of the candidates, and at heart he is a moderate. He would compromise and has a better grasp of legislative wrangling and give and take than any of the others do. But Newt will not get the nomination.

JMW said...

Yeah, there's no way Newt gets the nomination. And I would have agreed more with your take on him in the past. I think he's getting nuttier in old age. (May we all!) And while I agree Obama has fallen short of electrifying, I'm one of those people who isn't disappointed from the far left; I'm disappointed from the middle. And per T.'s take on it, I have a hard time blaming Obama entirely for that when I consider (many of) the Republicans so off the charts right now. Oh, I agree about Romney, too, though I don't think there's any way he wins a general election, for various reasons.

JMW said...

Also, this is fun. The group of us should do it on cable TV sometime.

ANCIANT said...

Well I'm not sure I think Obama has been as bad as you do. Curious what specifically about his administration has disaffected you. I'm certainly not suggesting it's been an unqualified success. I guess, though, I tend to feel he's done a fairly good job with a very difficult set of circumstances (economic collapse, partisan and refractory Congress, etc). I'm still open to voting for a Republican candidate next year, though Romney, for me, leaves a lot to be desired. (Perry is a non-starter).

One problem I have with him (and with all Republican nominees, to various degerees): I don't know how much of the 'red meat' he has to give to supporters during the primaries is for real. Last night, e.g., he said he wants a Federal Amendment to define marriage as heterosexual. Is that a true statement, or just something he says to placate the base? It's unsettling either way, of course, but if it's something he's really going to work toward, it's closer to appalling. But, we'll see. He has seemed better than in past years. And, compared the nut-jobs he's surrounded with, he can't help but look good.