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Ryan’s Speakership Demands

Paul Ryan will likely be the next Speaker of the House, following a scramble to find a replacement once Boehner announced his retirement. But to get to that point, Ryan has demanded that:

  1. The whole party support him.
  2. Rule changes to make that support somewhat lasting.
  3. An arrangement for someone else to do some of the fundraising.

The first two points are likely workable. The third is, while laudable and understandable, a load of crap. This is the party that pushed the Citizens United case. The party of the almighty dollar. Those funds aren’t going to raise themselves. They aren’t self-rising. You can try to get by with your vegan speakership without eggs by substituting some vinegar and baking soda, but real cake takes eggs.

And Ryan doesn’t want eggs.

The way that plays out is fairly obvious and a real-world example of a slippery slope. A big-money donor wants Ryan, so the big-money donor gets Ryan, because how are you going to not hand-hold the whales? But then a second-tier pocketbook wants Ryan. What can he do? Pretend that the lesser money does not also spend?

Before you know it, Paul Ryan will be pan-handling in the parking lot, just like every other Speaker in American history.

Of the other two demands, the first is just as silly. “You all have to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. Not just mouth the words!” Ok, Ryan. Whatever you say.

The whole point of electing the speaker is that the vote reflects the feelings. Demanding universal support is something that dictators do. It’s just a terrible optic.

The rule change is the only one that makes sense as a demand. But it’s also the bitterest of the pills he’s asking for. The rule allows the House to demand a change in leadership, and it’s hard to see that changing. Actually, it’s impossible to see that changing, because there will always be some way to accomplish it if enough members want it.

In the ends, Ryan will probably take the job for lack of an alternative. That’s pretty much how the GOP Presidential nomination will also play out. The GOP doesn’t have a unified agenda anymore. They have the party that got by on anger and fear, getting reelected to do basically the establishment’s business, and they have the minority elected on fear and anger, to actually push the fear and anger agenda.

That minority, the Freedom Caucus, are the daughters who actually got the fucking pony, and now they are half-way down the road to deciding having a pony is a lot more trouble than it’s worth, so maybe someone knows a good pony-meat recipe?

They’re trying to decide whether to slaughter it directly, or maybe send it out the barn door, count 60-mississippi, and then chase after it, hunt it down. Give it a sporting chance.

Why the Large Don’t Lead

Thoughts about how the supposed leaders seldom live up to that title.

Big companies in the technology sector have apparently decided to stand against the N.S.A.’s overreach. Once it began to harm or threaten their profits and reputations, that is. They could have moved years ago, though. Why not?

Hollywood calls out against social problems of various sorts, such as the soon-to-screen The Wolf of Wall Street, but they stand fast as ever to their antiquated distribution model.

The big companies don’t take big risks. They fear losing their primacy. This reflects, once again, the exceptionalism bug. The notion that we are the ones, the only ones who can do what we do, we do it better, we do it right. Or else why would we be here? Why aren’t cockroaches the dominant species?

That seems to be at least one explanation for the U.S.’s decline in certain areas. Why we are playing catch-up in healthcare (again, the health insurance industry could have spearheaded reform efforts decades ago, but failed to bother), haven’t upgraded our train systems, and, yes, why our credit cards (see recent news on the Target store breaches) still use half-century-old technology (magnetic strips instead of smart cards).

When things seem to be going so well, we are awfully reluctant to change. What if it makes things worse? What if that worsening leads to systemic decline? What if we have to eat the grandkids just to stay afloat?

Worse, a dominant force may suppress up-and-coming competitors through anti-capitalist activities. It may prevent competitors from gaining a foothold long enough to displace the dominant institutions.

It took Mozilla to change the browser marketplace for the better. Internet Explorer might as well have been the tombstone of the web, and look at the relative vibrancy of the web today! We need these disruptive forces, at least so long as market leaders cannot lead.

We see the same trends in politics. The head of the party, as in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, “How we gonna run reform when we’re the damn incumbent?” We’ve seen a shift in House Majority Leader John Boehner of late. But only because he is facing his political future. He is not sitting pretty, but must make some waves to stay afloat.

We saw the same thing with Microsoft’s browser. Only after they were behind could they actually move ahead. Much of Apple’s innovation comes because of their market position (strong, but not the lead). They have a loyal customer base (not every iThing owner, of course) that supports their vision. But even Apple follows on things where they are leaders, such as removing anti-consumer locks from music.

It’s amazing how twisted our language is. Leader seldom means that. It mostly means the king of the hill, too large to easily be pushed off. But the leaders remain. They go find new hills, they carry scars and blisters.

The renewable energy sector today leads us to a better tomorrow, while the entrenched energy interests (who could make major investments, both speeding the process along and positioning themselves for the next generation) sit atop the hill. Sure, they might buy some wind or solar on their way down. But they seem too scared to lead, just like the rest of the “leaders.”