Washington, CT. At the south end of my property, there is a typically sculptural Eastern White Pine that sits up on the edge of a clearing and overlooks the hollow below. Like other members of its species, this tree is like a ballet dancer, arms outstretched and unlike the stolidly massive Spruce, it pirouettes in the landscape. Once in a while, for reasons known only to it, the Red Shoulder Hawk that nests in the tall oaks at the north end of the property decides it will roost in this White Pine instead of its customary oaks far above. At that point, the local Blue Jays descend en-masse to hop through the cover of the needles and maybe get a peck or two on the Hawk.

Like a raucous Greek Chorus, one band of Jays screams a strophe from stage left while the other replies in antistrophe from the right. The Hawk doesn’t generally last long in the hubbub and emerges to fly off back up the Hollow, harried all the way. I surmise the Hawk does this from time to time for a little entertainment and in order to lull the Jays into overconfidence. I once saw the bigger bird do a lightening-quick barrel roll to snatch one of the impertinent Jays before he knew what had hit him.

Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky recently exposed himself to a similar bout with the Jays. He used one of those charming relics the Framers left us in their hybrid of Socratic/ Platonic vs. Aristotelian politics. Plato and his teacher Socrates considered democracy to be more akin to a thugocracy while Aristotle, the physician’s son saw virtue in Democracy. Their debate erratically continues today in the form of our government. I don’t know whether Senator Bunning was concerned with virtue in general, but he was concerned with the virtue of the Senate following their own rules and so he used an old tool which allows a single Senator’s voice to hold up pending legislation. Looking at the Obama Administration’s “Pay-Go” legislation, which called for no legislation to be made without  being paid for, he opposed a spending measure that did not meet the standards adopted. Memory has a short half-life with our politicians, and so they raised a ruckus all around, claiming that the Senator was some heartless Ebenezer Scrooge, starving the citizenry. Perhaps technically he was, but he was also doing something that is rarely done these days: he was calling for fiscal honesty and discipline. The Jays mobbed him but good. He relented and flew off after his assailants pulled some of their typical procedural legerdemain.

As one of literary bent and so frequently guilty of casting the charge of a Pox On Both Houses at our besotted political parties, I was impressed that at long last, at least one Republican stalwart stood tall and took a beating in the name of fiscal discipline. So, due respect to the Senator from Kentucky and perhaps I’ll retreat a little myself and render up the proper score in this latest event:

Carl Scott: 7           D.W. Sabin : 0

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  1. Bravo on you, Rev. Sabin, speaking the truth to reality…my, my …and you admitting the “all the same” business. I do hope your coevals are going to read, what may be the finest blog at FPR in quite a while!
    I dunno about Jim Bunning other than he threw head balls and you gotta love him for the chin music but as far as standing on “principle” you’ve hit the nail on the head. It could only have been better had he been standing for election in Nov.
    Now, I do hope Carl Scott responds to your admirable and noble conciliations! Did we have an ephiphany? A “come to Jesus” moment? Whas up?
    It’s Voegelin..isn’t it?

  2. I love your analogy of the jays and the hawk. (On my bicycle rides I’ve enjoyed watching redtail hawk antics and the turning of tables in the air, so it’s a picture that’s easy to follow.)

    I think this whole sordid affair needs to bring about a new discussion:

    Do we believe in the existence of Obama? Or is he just a figment of self-proclaimed disciples who invented the story for their own self-aggrandizement? How can we take seriously the existence of an Obama when his followers’ teachings contain so many internal contradictions? They preach in favor of PayGo one day and against it the next. They prophecy in favor of deficit control one day, and for massive new spending programs the next. And if there really is an Obama, why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? The doctrines are so self-contradictory. How could a real Obama allow such things to be said in his name?

  3. Oh for christ’s sake Bunning voted for unfunded legislation dozens of times over in his career (W’s tax cuts, anyone?), including UI extensions. That he chose this one time to cause a big a stink is a result of a. hating any and all things from the Other Side, b. being forced by his own party to not seek reelection (GOP leadership was pissed at him for pulling this pandering crap) and c. he is truly a horse’s ass with no sense of shame. Nice attempt at cognitive dissonance, though.

  4. That’s a remarkable analysis, ASKlein, especially considering on whose behalf you claim to have made it. I’m not sure how you would test the validity of your three reasons, but let me toss out yet another reason Bunning might have picked this time to hold up approval: It came shortly after Congress and the President enacted another PayGo. It was a good time to test and/or demonstrate the sincerity of that move, which timing would provide valuable information as to whether we should believe in the existence of anything else they say or do. If he had picked another time, it might not have provided quite such unambiguous information.

  5. AS Klein,
    Go ahead and freight the event cited with all manner of countervailing proofs but for once, , disgruntled or not, one member of Congress stood up and suggested that we might be served by doing what we say we are going to do AND observing a little fiscal discipline. It is utterly unsurprising that the GOP leadership might ignore fiscal discipline with the same fervor as their rumored antipode.

    Had Caligula’s Horse rendered a stomp for temperance, I would have offered him the same congratulations.

    Modern American Politics is the very definition of cognitive dissonance and so any mention of activities within the Beltway or any number of State Houses comes gilded with that issue.

    Still, for a few days, the rather unsettling imposition of legislative discipline and fiscal restraint was on the floor and there was no place to hide and so the Jays mobbed and there is absolutely no cognitive dissonance in that revelation…it was a rare moment of cognitive reliability for a government that has never met a deficit it dislikes. Who played the role is of little importance, I was simply tipping the hat to the idea of a Republican taking a stand for fiscal discipline…however antiquated that notion may be, particularly with the knowledge that the last time there was a budget surplus, the Democrats were in charge. Ho Ho Ho.

  6. I suspect that ASKlein likes the movie, “Mr Smith Goes to Washington.”

    I would love to see him bat against Senator Bunning.

    Good one, Sabin.

    I have eight acres here in the balmy south of Michigan, four of Michigan white pine and four of the Slough of Respond, complete with beaver dams. From about June until October our pines hold an unholy mixture of grackles, red-winged blackbirds, blue jays and other bad guys, whose swoooooosh out of the trees at dawn is a sound like no other. If I’m walking down our long driveway when it happens I fell like I’m in a Hitchcock movie. Bunning probably does, too.

  7. What’s so true is that there will be short attention span disagreement as to whether the old reprobate was having his “Road to Damascus” moment at a vulnerable sector of society’s immediate expense? Thereby masking the real issue of democratic accountability with regard to economic decision making. Carry on regardless with market fundamentalism and the Federal Government will be bankrupt and deficit spending will no longer be an option anyway!

  8. Bruce Smith, that CNN piece claims to be a fact-check, yet nothing that Bunning said or did was shown by it to be unfactual. Bunning already stated, in explaining his position, that he is not proud of all his past votes. If CNN was so concerned about facts, it would have fact-checked that particular statement. Or it at least would have demonstrated some knowledge of it. But all it did was fact-check a strawman. Therefore, it deserves only derision.

  9. Cheeks,
    That Michigan “Slough of Respond” of Willson’s does sound scenic don’t it? We shall not get despondent over his muddy bon mots thrown at Dylan. About 8 weeks from now I’ll be up in the far-north woods of Wisconsin, playing grabass with the siblings. In about 3-4 weeks, I get up at the first glint of light in the east, rustle up some Stumptown Coffee (now avail. amongst the pencil-necks and not just for them librul Portland Hipsters) and listen to the spring mosh pit of birdsong. Most sleep through it but to immerse yourself within the avian conclave at first light is one of life’s amply validating, still-free pleasures.

    As to any potential epiphanic reverie, nothing near so scenic as that…Voegelin, after all, is subject to the time lapses of the U.S. Postal Service between the University of Mo and here. My epiphanies, of course, tend to the bootlegging side of the spectrum and so are best kept in strictest moderation. Carl Scott and his confreres will not likely respond. First we have the “extenuating circumstances” raised by AS KLEIN and then we have the old adage of Dear Ole Ed Abbey who said “Charity should be spontaneous, calculated altruism is an affront”. They are only exercising the virtue of prudence in steering clear of my amateur Dogpatch Socratic Murmurs. Some olives have thorns.

    My viniculture days are long gone and the Isle of Islay has never fully recovered from my attempt at temperance but what I do know is that while picking through the rotten fruit of Washington, once in a while one stumbles upon a nearly perfect fruit of ripe quality and I will take the stand for Fiscal Discipline as just that. We have to take what we can get and enjoy it to the fullest.

    The economy is not suffering from Market Fundamentalism in toto, no, this market is about as fundamentalist as the Catholics under the Borgia Pope, Alexander VI. Cheer up though because it will likely suffer the same fate of accidentally drinking some of its own poisoned wine. Simony will do that to a Swell.

  10. That was a delightful read independent of the metaphorical element, which made it the more delightful.
    A Senator takes the opportunity to do some plain speaking in the light of day and by nightfall the political armies are laying down smoke and mustard gas. What the heck is the matter with these stooges?

  11. Ha ha ha, You Rascal You, Sabin! But know that when I first heard about it, on the Laura Ingraham show (I know, I know) where she defended what Bunning did, and her defense sounded right on to me. Later that day I read some of NRO’s Ponnuru and hesitated a bit, but never for a moment regretted what Bunning did. So, sorry Sabin, I’m not part of that Jay pack.

  12. So you have it, DW. Carl, a Straussian acolyte, comes home to roost in fealty with the Connecticut leaf-hopper! Now, I am a believer!

  13. In my book it is morally wrong to use innocent people as leverage to get your own way. Bunning’s action was like cutting off food stamps to low wage alcoholics’ wives and children in order to stop wages being spent on booze. In this case, however, the alcoholics were not the low wage workers but Bunning’s fellow politicians. Would Bunning vote to have his income and health care insurance stopped until the issue of government debt was resolved? Would his fellow politicians agree to the same? I think not.

  14. Bruce Smith,

    If you feel that strongly about it, you should take it up with the 99 obstructionists who refused to fund the extension to unemployment benefits and COBRA. Bunch of spoiled brats who wanted to get their own way, and threatened to take the ball and go home if they couldn’t.

  15. Bruce,

    It’s hard to keep up with the way you keep shifting your anti-Bunning arguments.

    I get tired of Congressional grandstanding, too, but if Bunning hadn’t brought up his objections that’s all we would have been left on the issue of extending unemployment benefits and COBRA. Since he was willing to make himself a target, we have a chance to debate the wisdom of spending money without identifying a source of funds. That would be more substantive than the grandstanding we got in the orchestrated campaign by which politicians and the media attacked Bunning without even bothering to check into his reasons.

    If you want substantive debate on other issues like establishing state banks to exploit the citizens of North Dakota and profit from their labors to the tune of $60 million/year, I would suggest that Jim Bunning would give you more substance than most of his colleagues.

  16. Yes.I’m suggesting Bunning should have shifted the argument. The state bank partners with the private banks.

  17. Cutting millions of real world families off from their only income in the name of a mere abstraction is not something I would expect to be praised on this website. Bunning is an ass who needs never worry about how to pay his rent or where his next meal is coming from, and he was engaged in nothing but narcistic posturing. A shameful spectacle when people outside the Beltway are threatened with calamity to stoke one old fool’s vanity before he retires.

  18. JonF, Keep in mind that Bunning is the only one of the Senators who was willing to actually pay for extended unemployment benefits and COBRA. The other 99 didn’t think it was all that important. I would guess the other 99 are the ones who don’t care about people.

  19. JonF,
    You seem to suffer the same addled disease as our Congress. Considering the need to pay for things before buying them a “mere abstraction” is exactly what is bringing this nation to its knees. Incidentally, knees are those things you will be resting upon when you are praying that the “old fools” who got your nation into such a fix can actually get us out of it….. without every last one of us wondering where the next meal is coming from or why your local store will only accept a debit card for buying bread because wheelbarrows of currency are clogging the isles.

    Was it a symbolic gesture by a man marginalized by his own party, not running for re-election and perfectly happy all these years to further the charade of this government? Sure it was but it had the single virtue of reason in that it was:
    1. Attempting to hold the Idiot Congress to its own recently concocted rules (in particular, a part of that rumored “change ” package).
    2. Asserting that if one is not willing to secure payment for something, it should either be passed by or considered robbery if undertaken.

    Merely feeling for the unfortunate does not get the job done. Nor does weakening the entire system to salve feelings.

    Brigandage is not becoming a republic concerned with longevity.

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