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The International Writers Magazine: USA: Reality Check + Readers Responses

Opening Act
Staged Drama in the Final Minutes to Avoid Government Shutdown (for now)
James Campion
"It is still an open question, however, as to what extent exposure really injures a performer."
- Harry Houdini


The Show was in full force by late Friday night when word came down a mere 22 minutes before the deadline to close the federal government. A deal struck!
    For now.
    Oooh...drama; as trumped up and distilled as any lame B-Movie script. And as any worthy cliff-hanger, there are heroes and villains, saviors and demons, and of course winners and losers; but alas these titles can and do change by the minute in The District.

    After a year of feckless deadline-pushing by Democrats, who held "super majorities" in both houses of the legislature for the past year and Republicans, who used every political machination to filibuster and delay voting until what looked like a landslide November would put them more or less in the game, the sausage makers stepped into the spotlight. And they used that spotlight to provide a preview of the political bloodshed to come; the Main Attraction. Soon the 2012 budget and the looming deadline vote to raise the debt ceiling will have to be answered for, and if this is any indication, it will provide the truest elements of drama.
    Until then, the Speaker of the House of Representatives was Friday's big winner. Just as Nancy Pelosi before him, when she pulled off her party's cherished health care initiative and thus the most significant Democratic legislative victory in a generation, John Boehner displayed great resolve and just the right amount of backroom conniving to rally and then stay his caucus tide; bringing about the greatest single year budget slashing in the nation's history. Unlike Pelosi though, Boehner needed Democrat votes, especially in the thorny Senate where the rules change on the fly. Make no mistake, as was the case with the Health Care Reform Law, there awaits fallout, but not without the hedging of a political bet.
    Boehner's gamble to include ridiculously frivolous ideological riders like defunding Public Broadcasting or Planned Parenthood or even reduce funding to monitor greenhouse gas omissions and eliminate the funding to implement health care reform, struck gold. As the long hours of Friday passed and the glare of the spotlight shined on the ideological wish list, the Republicans held firm until their last breath, when all along no one, not the president, the Speaker, or the Senate Majority Leader thought any of it had a hoot in hell of surviving, Boehner played the extreme elements of his party, now popularly referred to as the TEA Party, like a pro, while continuing to spew his fiscal mantra --driving up his cut numbers with a deal already in his back pocket. He would not become another Newt Gingrich and take a P.R. beating and revive a politically wounded Democratic president.
    It was something this space did not think he had in him, as predicted here last week when it looked like all the world he would hand off this kind of con job to his pit bull, Eric Cantor. But Boehner stiffened, and until the final hours, dangled red meat to his social conservative colleagues, and then by conceding to drop the goofy demands at the last minute, appeared to be giving up the store, when just a few billion were handed back to Democrats already having caved on $78 billion from the original 2011 budget proposal.
    It may not have been genius, but it was a damned smart and sinister move, and proved Boehner may be a man of his word; this new conservative movement could well actually be about the fiscal and not the usual parade of Terry Schiavo religious wack jobs that crippled the party in 2006, put Barack Obama in the White House, and made media whores out of idiots like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

    Seven minutes before 11:00 pm, the victorious Speaker of the House was the first to address the media with less than a minute of standard Republican hoo-ha about "fighting for budget cuts" and "keeping America working"; but took no questions. Eleven minutes later, Boehner's nemesis, who was also a de facto political victor in this little sideshow, the president of the United States stood before a window overlooking the Washington monument and began waxing poetic about sacrifices and the largest single annual budget cut ever and then went off the rails with a "Joe Cool manipulated the bi-partisan government victory" spin; yammering on about school kids from some God-forsaken mid-western hamlet, finishing his three minutes with a look ahead to "working together as one".
    By 1:00 am, the White House, suddenly presiding over by far a larger one-time program-slashing than anything Ronald Reagan dared attempt, would leak the contents of secret meetings over two days when Boehner and vice president Joe Biden engaged in an Irish stand-off, both threatening to paint the other as a raving lunatic to the press if the government were to shut down, to which the story goes Boehner admitted to his fancy two-step and had to head back to placate the TEA Party just in time to save face.
    Ah, but then the losers first had to take to the podium at 11:10 pm, when Senate Majority Leader and poster boy for the mass Stimulus and Health Care moves of 2009, Harry Reid stood in the Capitol chamber and with the hoarse whisper of a broken man spoke of a "grueling process" to hack $40 billion from the government coffers in two months as if it came straight from his bank account, but in reality was a spit in the bucket of the trillions in the hole this government has dug over the past eleven years when a surplus was blown up by supposed conservative Republicans and a president who not only refused to veto one spending bill but signed onto an unfunded tax relief, ran two wars and bloated Medicare on the Chinese jiao.
    Four minutes later, Mitch McConnell, who was all-but ignored in this process, stood at his own podium across from Reid and began waving the white flag of "avoiding the repeat of history", before wrapping up his dreary two minutes by waiting for the thud that was once the Gingrich for President 2012 campaign. His terrible failures of 1995 have finally finished him. There are new legislators in town, Newt, who can get the dirty job done and still look like Yankee Doodle Dandies.
    At 11:18, 42 minutes before the dreaded deadline, the reviews for The Show were in: It is a summer blockbuster, passing its script through the United States Senate and then rushed back to the House for an after-midnight vote and then quickly on to the chief executive's desk.
    A $39 billion cut to the trillions tumbling into infinity, and hardly a burp from Wall St. or a whisper on Main St. It was, in the end, just an Opening Act, but what an act! By 1:15 am, Saturday ultra-right congresswoman Michelle Bachmann was on FOXNEWS decrying Boehner as a gutless appeaser and leftist congressman Anthony Weiner was whining about Harry Reid and the president selling out.
Coming soon: Act II -- This time it's personal.

© James Campion April 11th 2011
*The next big deadline in Washington is May 16, if not earlier.  Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner now estimates that the nation's debt ceiling will be reached no later than that date.


This is mostly bollocks. (ANGLO-AMERICA ON PARADE -- Issue: 3/2/11)
Of course the British society depicted has a rigid and repressed hierarchy - the movie is set 70-90 years ago within the Royal Family.
    British society has changed enormously since then (as has American society), and, having lived in America for four years now, I would suggest that nowadays is a good deal freer and less rigid about such things as women's rights, gay rights and atheism than America is.
    Likewise, I went to Oxford, and the entirety of the Harvard portions of the Social Network could have been set in Oxford just as easily - nothing uniquely American there.
    This article compares apples and oranges to reinforce outdated and ridiculous stereotypes and is clearly written by somebody who has never spent more than a few days in the UK.


Awesome analysis, I love the English/American counterpoint, haven't seen anyone else play that angle.

J. Young

"The Social Network" is a silly, manipulative, boring film--but oh so trendy. I mean, the subject matter is so deadly dull that director Fincher inserts utterly gratuitous scenes of women making out with each other and dancing in bras on tabletops to distract us from the fact that the ongoing story has gone absolutely flat. It's embarrassing movie-making, That Emperor has no clothes.
    "The King's Speech" is a GREAT movie that will be remembered decades from now for it's wonderful story and incredible performances. Sure, it glosses over history, and smoothes a pat happy ending over a much more complicated real life situation, but that doesn't distract from the depth and wonder of the movie itself, crowned by a performance by Colin Firth that will never be forgotten.
    The Academy makes a lot of mistakes, and having "The Social Network" win Best Picture wouldn't even be one of the worst in it's history. "Braveheart"--a lousy movie indeed--was a much bigger error, for example. And that's why the awards show is interesting--because mistakes are made.
    But no mistake can take away the fact that, this year, we have a GREAT movie on our hands, and that movie is "The King's Speech."


Neither "The Social Network" nor "The King's" Speech should win the Best Picture. 'Docudramas' or 'Faction' films are cheesy mongrels and should have their own Oscar category a long way below the Documentary in importance. If the Oscars were serious awards they would reserve Best Picture for a work of imagination and true creativity. Everybody knows how these "Based-On-True-Story" concoctions will end before they even enter the cinema - how tedious and safe is that?


One point needs to be clarified: "Rocky" wasn't quite the fantasy you make it out to be. It was based on the life of heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner, a Pole from Bayonne, N.J., who sued Stallone and won. The kicker? (I heard Wepner speak about this in person.) Stallone offered him one of two compensation packages: $70,000 up front or 1% of everything the movie makes. "And you know what happened, right?" Wepner asked. "Me being a Pollack. I said, 'This shitty little movie? Give me the 70,000.'" He smiled. "You know what 1 percent turned out to be?" I don't know the figure, but it was in the millions.


Let me start by saying I think these radical Islam hearings are a waste of time. (THE CAKE HAS BEEN TAKEN -- Issue: 3/16/11) When I get beyond the "Fuckin' A right they should expose that shit!" emotional rush I ask myself, "Then what?" Are they going to go around arresting whole groups of people on a whiff of evidence or put them in internment camps like the Japanese Americans during WW2? No. So what's the point other than to tell us shit we already know? Having said that though, look at the facts - 22 arrests in the past year alone with radicalized Muslims at the helm. 22. That's more than the last 8 years COMBINED. That's hard to ignore and I like the audacious balls of anyone grabbing that political 3rd rail and damn the torpedoes. When fundamentalist Christians, Hasidim, Hindus, Buddhists, snake charmers, Voodoo priestesses and Wiccan chieftains attempt 22 attacks in one year then yeah maybe someone should put pressure on those communities to clean up their shit too. Like the saying goes, "It's all fun and games until someone's eye gets poked out" and if one of these clod's attempts actually works you can bet people will scream at the Government for not doing anything. And I wonder how McCarthy would have come off in the 50's had there been a Fox News to even out the stranglehold the big 3 networks had on how we all thought about Commies in our midst.
     And the reason the liberal press isn't calling for Peter King's head is because their Dali Lama - NPR/PBS - just got their collective asses trashed by having their obvious preference for radicalized Islam - or for anyone against the mighty evil Judeo-Christian American Empire - exposed. The same evil empire that sucks so badly except for when the 7 or so millions of taxpayer money is wired into their account on the first day of the new fiscal year. And for Obama to step in and call anything "fascist" would only open up his own 180 degree opposite nuttiness to scrutiny.
    And I'm sick and tired of the "Wall Street marauders pilfer freely with no repercussions " take. HELLO?! The Federal Government created the reckless environment with their inane manhandling of the market and you and your ilk keep whining as if crack cocaine USERS are more guilty than the SUPPLIERS. Really? The same people you clearly see F'd the whole Obamacare fiasco are alternately fucking geniuses with home/bank regulation?! That's the intellectual equivalent of Sally Field's Sybil.

Ken Eustace

Awwww....that's sweet...."sticking up for the Constitution"....that is so enlightened, so in tune with today and "the now".
    Gimmee a break, James. King is correct to do this. I don't see the Hasidic Jews blowing up anything but Palestinians who are trying to change the Israeli zip code to "Mediterranean sea". The Christians while with a pretty shaky past aren't blowing up things outside of the recently ended Irish thing.
    No, our problems are with Islamic radicals. Why not call some people in to discuss why we are so "hated". I mean, all you have to do is watch Al Jazeera for that answer and not waste taxpayer dollars on this but then again...when they are having dog and pony shows like this, it takes away time that they could be using to really do damage to our country in a way only our Congress is capable of doing.
    Look, this is not a trampling on anyone's rights. Trust me, if Al Qaeda went away, if radical Islam stopped waging war on "infidels"...all of this would be history. At least there is a dialogue going. While it may not be the best way to go about it...unless you can dig up Bin Laden and bring him in for a chat...ya gotta do the best with what ya got.
BTW, for all of the moral the end McCarthy was right. The media and Hollywood today only verify that.

Bill Roberts

Peter King is a brute and a thug and if we were any kind of half decent society then we'd put his ilk on trial and try and smear the gunk from our collective soul.

Sarah P.

Countdown to Compromise
Congress Stretches Credibility
James Campion
On the brink...


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