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We have now entered the realm of the fiasco

I learned about real fiascos in Italy.  A fiasco is a bottle that you cook beans in.  You put the beans and water in the bottle and sit it in the warm embers of your fireplace before you go to bed.  If everything goes right, those beans will be tender and delicious in the morning.  But beans are full of gas producing and nitrogen containing compounds so they tend to be unstable when they’re cooked under pressure.  So, you could come downstairs to find that your fiasco has blown up all over the place and you now have a mess to clean up.

In other words, fiascos are more likely to occur when you leave the bottle unattended.

On Nov 1, 2013, This American Life reprised one of my favorite episodes on Fiascos.  The funniest act in the episode is about what happens when an untested director reaches beyond her modest abilities to stage a Julie Taymor-esque version of Peter Pan complete with flying apparatus.  It’s hysterical but also illuminating.  You get the stages of a fiasco in the making from this act.  At first, the audience is bemused and forgiving.  Then the mistakes keep piling up and the audience progresses from sympathizing with the actors to ridicule.  Then they start getting involved.  The play completely breaks down and the audience is fully engaged in demolition.  At some point the audience recognizes that they are no longer watching a play.  They are watching a fiasco.

I think we are at the ridicule stage right now with Obamacare.  We are rapidly reaching the point of no return with this play.  We may get a reaction to Obamacare that was completely absent with HAMP but what the heck, why not revisit HAMP too, while we’re at it?

Some of us knew the Democrats were working with an untended mess of explosive beans but did they listen?  No.  They did not.  There are really no good options right now.  Just watch it explode and be ready on the other side with some game changing plan.  I’m going to bet that the fiasco is going to generate enough public anger that there will be a slim chink of an opportunity to get something passed.

Go big.  Like a public option.  Make it administered by a non-profit insurance company like Blue Cross.  Pour the subsidies into it.  Make sure providers in the area can’t lock public option participants out and tell everyone you’re working on a permanent fix.

The problem is the for profit insurance companies and the politicians who cooperated with them. Let’s stop forcing this fiasco on the uninsured, the poor and the sick.

And check out Fiasco! on This American Life for one of the funniest episodes they’ve ever broadcast.

Thursday: Fiasco

“There was an air of everyone sort of reaching beyond their own grasp”

Several years ago, This American Life presented one of the funniest pieces in it’s repetoire.  It was the story of a amateur theatre director in a small college town and her great ambitions for a spectacular production of Peter Pan.  All did not go as well but the show *did* go on, leading to the hillarious episode, Fiasco.

“Great chaos and heart-wrenching failure are more likely to occur when great ambition comes into play, when plans are big, expectations are great, hopes at their highest.”

I was thinking of this piece last night as Darragh, Sheri and I were talking on the Lions Share while at the same time, bulletin after bulletin of breaking news showed just how the expertly the Republicans were yanking Obama’s chain.  When Darragh read that Bush himself was calling Obama back to Washington, we all broke into laughter of disbelief at the absurdity of the situation.

“One of the criteria for greatness is that everyone is just about to reach just beyond theor grasp because that is when greatness can occur…. And maybe greatness could have occured.”

My friends, we are witnessing a fiasco.  The Obama campaign is completely out of its depth no less than that overly ambitious theatre director.  It is running the wrong campaign, Obama is horribly miscast and the whole campaign apparatus is coming apart at the seams.  Meanwhile, the GOP keeps boxing the hapless Obama into corners, first with Sarah Palin and now with the financial bailout.  He seems surprised, unprepared and unable tp cope or get himself out of the trap.  And the blows are coming in quick succession.  First, McCain suspends his campaign, Bush gives a speech, McCain urges Obama to reschedule the debates and offers one option after another, finally, Bush tells him to come home like some rebellious teenager on a school night.

“At some point the audience turned and said, “Oh, I realize what’s going on here.  This is a fiasco.””

“Yeah, this is a fiasco.  What’s really interesting about a fiasco is that once it starts to tumble down, the audience wants to push it along… Now, the reason they’re there is to chronicle these embarrassments.”

It doesn’t look good for the transcendent future leader of the free world.  The GOP has mastered the art of war, knows its enemies, uses the element of surprise and keeps the opponent off guard with a volley of actions, all of which lead Obama to look overwhelmed.  Timing will kill you.  If you don’t have time to recover and find your bearings, you quickly lose any advantage.  But Obama should have seen it coming.  The GOP are predators.  They have a single minded determination to seize power and never let it go.  Obama should have been prepared.  He should have done his homework on the economy.  He should have anticipated an attack as soon as early voting commenced and any hope of sending in a relief pitcher was nearly extinguished.

But he’s too busy shaking hands and praying with the faith voters, figuring out how to pander to the ones that haven’t flocked to Palin.  He’s so caught up in his own transcendence, his day dreams of his own magnificence, that he is failing in his ability to direct the production.  What happened yesterday was fascinating, both amusing and humiliating.   He never saw it coming.

“The fiasco itself is an altered state.  All of the normal rules are off…. The reason you go to the theatre, to see a great production, is to be, I think the word used to be, transported.  The idea being that you would be lifted away from your animal nature to a higher more spiritual realm… Of course, what happens here is the exact opposite.”

The laughter is completely inappropriate.  This production is a drama and the scenario is serious.  But what we are ending up with is a farce.  And with our economic livelihood’s on the line, that’s no laughing matter.