Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Nullification, Racism, War and Sputtering


Why is the American government shut down, sacrificing its "full faith and credit," to destroy a Heritage Foundation, Mitt Romney-originated plan to cover a few million people with health care?

Why are 800,000 government workers furloughed in a depression, a foolish anti-Keynsian measure, sending the US and the world economy tumbling?

Andrew Sullivan provides a conservative answer - there is nothing conservative, contra the New York Times which continues to misuse the term, or respecting of the Constitution - in shutting down the government in opposition to democratic elections and Supreme Court decisions (by an often extraordinarily reactionary and racist "Court," yet). The "Republicans" do not just live in racism, though Sullivan underlines this; their aim is to bring down American government to strengthen the .0001% and strip ordinary people of the last legal and social protections of the welfare state.

If this sounds like a blueprint for provoking a revolution in terms of unbearable extremes of wealth and poverty - read the first section of the Communist Manifesto - it is.

But the "Republican" party has also become a cacophony of clashing voices, of a mind at odds with itself. For some of what the Pauls want is internationally sane and often decent, while what they seek domestically is crazed and hideous. In one voice, the Republican party - say Chris Christie or John McCain or Lindsey Graham - wants to garrison and police the whole world, to spend endless amounts on the military and surveillance in order to keep down the poor (the counterpart of this vision is Newt Gingrich's rocket to the moon and a fantastic moon colony of the ultra wealthy - the Romneys have reserved a place...- fled from the war-destroyed, environmentally wrecked earth).

In contrast, led by the Pauls, the dissidents often want out of imperial wars - this is a conservative approach - and thus fought to derail Obama's "humanitarian" aggression against Syria. But the Pauls' conservative opposition to empire also lacks any feeling for others as human, any sense of solidarity from below. It is intelligent to reject the imperialists - they are so "concerned" about ordinary people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Libya that they shoot them up, "destroy the village in order to save it." They kill "fewer" with drones, the Samantha Powers and Democratic neo-neo cons like to say, blowing up civilians, often children and even Americans, in countries that the US is supposedly not at war with (is the aggressor in...)than in the Iraq war. But if this is humanitarian, what is anti-humanitarian?

In contrast to conservatism, the real, democratic solidarity has always been that of common humanity from below. But the two views share a skepticism that American foreign policy and its imperial adventures have any decent justification. Among ordinary conservatives (not leaders), that means there is often a possibility of breaking through the racism. If we notice, as Ron Paul does, that American drones striking children make enemies, what is to stop a person also from having some sympathy for the children and other innocents, staying with it and waking up to the fact that there is no decent imperialism?

But the other side of the tea party is just straight racism, a racism which plays on the same lie about nonwhites that corrupts conservative anti-imperialism. It is a racism toward Obama - "no birth certificate, a Kenyan anti-colonialist, a Muslim terrorist or sympathizer" - and racism toward the poor (most of whom are, as Sullivan says, "non-black"). In this respect, sadly, the same people who resist war, often on sensible grounds, make unreconstructed Scrooge look like the good samaritan and fume particularly against that black guy...and are willing to shut down the government, no matter the cost.

The Republicans, here of one "mind," are also busy stripping voting rights away as in North Carolina, rightly being sued by Attorney General Holder, and 20 other states. For the whole Republican party aggresses on behalf of the ultra-rich against everyone else, bewildered by racism toward the poor (exploiters are quick to allege the laziness and parasitism of those who work, or would happily work, for a living, "the 47%" in Mitt Romney's memorable numbering). They have, as Sullivan says about medical care, lost their "minds"...

The Republican Party, he adds, needs to go down. That is an apt judgment about its willingness to destroy decent government, one should notice, on behalf of miserliness as well as service to banks and oil and the military, though it will hang on, tearing at itself for quite a while. But those who are beginning to see through imperial wars need to take heed that others are human. And the Democratic adherence to war and militarism, surveillance and the banks needs to be broken.

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Sullivan also speaks movingly of his own frailty and of the meaning of this quite minimal Obamacare in the lives of - for the rights of - millions...

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For the moment, government "as usual" also needs to be restored, the 800,000 need to be reemployed, the health of many given a chance (amusingly, the shutdown cannot deter Obamacare, the funding already allocated, which is proceding today), the economy halted from abrupt descent...

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Andrew Sullivan
The Daily Dish
"The Nullification Party
OCT 1 2013 @ 11:37AM


I’ve been trying to think of something original to say about the absurdity now transpiring in Washington, DC. I’ve said roughly what I think in short; and I defer to Fallows for an important dose of reality against the predictably moronic coverage of the Washington Post.

But there is something more here. How does one party that has lost two presidential elections and a Supreme Court case – as well as two Senate elections - think it has the right to shut down the entire government and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States Treasury to get its way on universal healthcare now? I see no quid pro quo even. Just pure blackmail, resting on understandable and predictable public concern whenever a major reform is enacted. But what has to be resisted is any idea that this is government or politics as usual. It is an attack on the governance and the constitutional order of the United States.

When ideologies become as calcified, as cocooned and as extremist as those galvanizing the GOP, the American system of government cannot work. But I fear this nullification of the last two elections is a deliberate attempt to ensure that the American system of government as we have known it cannot work. It cannot, must not work, in the mindset of these radicals, because they simply do not accept the legitimacy of a President and Congress of the opposing party. The GOP does not regard the president as merely wrong – but as illegitimate. Not misguided – illegitimate. This is not about ending Obamacare as such; it is about nullifying this presidency, the way the GOP attempted to nullify the last Democratic presidency by impeachment.

Except this time, of course, we cannot deny that race too is an added factor to the fathomless sense of entitlement felt among the GOP far right. You saw it in birtherism; in the Southern GOP’s constant outrageous claims of treason and alliance with Islamist enemies; in providing zero votes for a stimulus that was the only thing that prevented a global depression of far worse proportions; in the endless race-baiting from Fox News and the talk radio right. And in this racially-charged atmosphere, providing access to private healthcare insurance to the working poor is obviously the point of no return.

Even though the law is almost identical to that of their last presidential nominee’s in Massachusetts, the GOP is prepared to destroy both the American government and the global economy to stop it. They see it, it seems to me, as both some kind of profound attack on the Constitution (something even Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts viewed as a step too far) and, in some inchoate way, as a racial hand-out, however preposterous that is. And that is at the core of the recklessness behind this attack on the US – or at least my best attempt to understand something that has long since gone beyond reason. This is the point of no return – a black president doing something for black citizens (even though the vast majority of beneficiaries of Obamacare will be non-black).

I regard this development as one of the more insidious and anti-constitutional acts of racist vandalism against the American republic in my adult lifetime. Those who keep talking as if there are two sides to this, when there are not, are as much a part of the vandalism as Ted Cruz. Obama has played punctiliously by the constitutional rules – two elections, one court case – while the GOP has decided that the rules are for dummies and suckers, and throws over the board game as soon as it looks as if it is going to lose by the rules as they have always applied.

The president must therefore hold absolutely firm. This time, there can be no compromise because the GOP isn’t offering any. They’re offering the kind of constitutional surrender that would effectively end any routine operation of the American government. If we cave to their madness, we may unravel our system of government, something one might have thought conservatives would have opposed. Except these people are not conservatives. They’re vandals.

This time, the elephant must go down. And if possible, it must be so wounded it does not get up for a long time to come.

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“'What Kind Of World Do These People Live In?'
OCT 1 2013 @ 12:25PM


“When I think of the Republican Party, I don’t think of principled conservative legislators who are men and women of vision strategy. I think of ideologues who are prepared to wreck things to get their way. They have confused prudence — the queen of virtues, and the cardinal virtue of conservative politics — with weakness. I know I’m very much a minority among conservatives in this, but the behavior of Congressional Republicans pushed me out of the party two years ago, even though I almost always vote Republican, or withhold my vote.

I am not a liberal, and do not want to vote for liberals, especially on social policy. But I told a Louisiana conservative friend the other day that the Congressional Republicans are making me consider the previously unthinkable: throwing my vote away by voting for a Democrat in the special election next month to replace my GOP congressman, who just resigned to take another job. The GOP candidates in this local race are hot and heavy to overthrow Obamacare. I think about how poor this district is — 26 percent of the district lives in poverty, making it one of the poorest Congressional districts in America — and how badly we need jobs and economic growth, and I think: What kind of world do these people live in?” – Rod Dreher.

You can tell I’m in the same camp, although I gave up completely on the GOP a decade ago as I saw its craven acquiescence to an imperial presidency, its love of massive, unfunded spending, its dogged support of wars of doomed nation-building, and its Christianist loathing of almost anything vibrant in modernity. But these past few days, by pure accident, I’ve thought about them in a slightly new perspective. I’ve been in Washington, DC, for a bunch of minor medical procedures: my thrice-yearly testosterone implant; my flu shot; a booster pneumonia shot; an HPV vaccine; an impending colonoscopy; an HIV blood test; and last, but by no means least, a repair of an umbilical hernia that has had me immobile since Friday. My compromised immune system requires constant check-ups, and the Dish now pays for my COBRA insurance – which will soon have to be traded in for Obamacare because my options are running out.

A word to Republicans: why would you want to deny someone these basic forms of healthcare? Or force them into bankruptcy because of them?

I could struggle on for a while without them and without my HIV meds. But sooner or later, I’d start running out of money, probably get a bad case of pneumonia, or an uptick in likelihood of cancer if my HIV breaks out again, or a hernia operation that was urgent rather than precautionary, or a debilitating bout of flu likely to make my asthma-ridden lungs even weaker in the future. This is the fragile reality I live in as a spectacularly privileged, if immuno-suppressed inhabitant of one of the most advanced societies on earth. But take any of it away and my well-being and basic health begin to fray.

Are you, Republicans, prepared to say that the countless working Americans who cannot now afford any of this should carry on without it indefinitely? People only have one life, you know. It can erode pretty quickly. On what moral grounds do you consign people to this fate when it is currently unnecessary?

I understand the important arguments about cost control, and any number of arguments about how to construct a system like this. I think I’ve heard them now for close to three decades – and we’ve all benefited from the arguments. But these needs are about as real as any can be. And our system has passed a remedy of sorts. It will need adjustment, reform, cost-cutting, and constructive criticism to make it work as well as it might. But seriously, after all we’ve gone through, you’re prepared to bring our entire system of government to a halt in order to prevent sick people from getting access to this kind of treatment?

What hallucinating, self-serving monsters have you become?

(Photo: Conservative Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Senator Ted Cruz’s partner on defunding Obamacare, after the Senate voted to amend the House’s spending bill by removing language defunding the Affordable Care Act and voted to fund the government at a $986 billion annual level through Nov. 15, on September 27, 2013. By Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images.)"

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"If It Happened There
OCT 1 2013 @ 3:57PM

Joshua Keating has begun “a regular feature in which American events are described using the tropes and tone normally employed by the American media to describe events in other countries.” The inaugural dispatch covers the lead-up to the shutdown:

The current rebellion has been led by Sen. Ted Cruz, a young fundamentalist lawmaker from the restive Texas region, known in the past as a hotbed of separatist activity. Activity in the legislature ground to a halt last week for a full day as Cruz insisted on performing a time-honored American demonstration of stamina and self-denial, which involved speaking for 21 hours, quoting liberally from science fiction films and children’s books. The gesture drew wide media attention, though its political purpose was unclear to outsiders.

Better still, in my view, is this classic piece by Henry Fairlie way back in 1980:

“Just as Americans in general do not have the habits of deference, so the conservative in America does not have them either. Ultimately he does not defer even to the country’s institutions. If one of these institutions, such as the Supreme Court, makes decisions he detests, he will defame that institution. He is as ready as is the common man to bypass the institutions he ought to defend.”

The American conservative is being revealed right now as the purest form of political vandalism known in the Western world. It is emphatically not conservative. Conservatives try to reserve constitutional order; today’s Republicans seek to destroy all such restraints and any form of moderation."

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