Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day







Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23, 2015
The Republican Party’s lack of seriousness, of substance, was reaffirmed by the choice of Joni Ernst to deliver the rebuttal to the State of the Union address. Assigning it to a freshman Senator indicates the party’s unwillingness to deal seriously with issues. Sen. Ernst complied by telling us that "rather than respond to a speech, I’d like to talk about your priorities."[4]  It’s reassuring that she knows what they are.
One, it appeared briefly, is dealing with a slow economy and political gridlock: "The new Republican Congress . . . understands how difficult these past six years have been. For many of us, the sting of the economy and the frustration with Washington’s dysfunction weren’t things we had to read about. We felt them every day." Is she about to acknowledge that Republicans caused the dysfunction and opposed any attempt to spur the economy? Hardly; she didn’t even stay on that topic, but instead wandered off to a tale of her hardscrabble upbringing and down-home values.
Returning to the subject, she said "We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs." What will she do about it? We don’t know, except that "too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare." Apparently she hasn’t read the news about health care recently. As to stagnant wages, she opposes an increase in the minimum wage, among other reactionary stances.[5]  Her solution to unemployment is to build the Keystone pipe line. We could create far more jobs and protect the environment with any number of other infrastructure jobs. 
She suggested that the President should cooperate with her plans. She had earlier hinted at impeaching him,[6] but perhaps if he behaves, he can serve out his term. "You’ll see a lot of serious work in this new Congress," we were told. However, she apparently will consider legislation with her cramped notion of the government’s powers always before her: she also has hinted, broadly if ungrammatically, at nullification. "You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. Senator, why should we pass laws that the states are considering nullifying?"[7] 
Nullification would be her most restrained solution. She also has endorsed the notion that federal officials attempting to implement Obamacare be arrested by local law enforcement.[8]  Speaking to an NRA gathering, she declared: "I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere. . . . and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family -- whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important."[9]  This is the approved, official face of the 2015 Republicans.
Most of her speech was standard right-wing blather. She ended with the usual paean to "you, the hardworking men and women who make the United States of America the greatest nation the world has ever known." Great, that is, except for the awful condition that it has sunk to, which she vows to change.

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4.
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jan/20/joni-ernst-state-of-the-union- republican-response-full-text

5.
http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/2014/10/29/iowa-values-joni- ernst-opposes/18096415/

6.
http://www.salon.com/2014/07/30/iowa%e2%80%99s_joni_ernst_the_todd_akin_of_2014/

7.
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/joni-ernst-iowa-nullification-states-laws

8.
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/joni-ernst-obamacare-arrest-law-enforcement

9.
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/10/23/1338587/-Joni-Ernst-carries-a-beautiful-little-Smith- Wesson-to-defend-against-the-government

Thursday, January 8, 2015

January 8, 2015
Articles on the new Congress over the past few days were given rather different slants. One was captioned "Republicans eager to prove they can govern." More realistic were headings stating "GOP-led Congress ready to defy Obama" and "Clashes Ahead: Republicans Ready to Fight Obama Agenda".
The best, though, came from Andy Borowitz of The New Yorker. In a column entitled "Unskilled Workers Report for New Jobs,"[3]1 he reported that the "new hires, who have no talents or abilities that would make them employable in most workplaces, will be earning a first-year salary of $174,000." They are the beneficiaries of a "a federal jobs program that provides employment for people unable to find productive work elsewhere." As with most federal programs, this one has its detractors: "Some critics have blasted the federal jobs program as too expensive, noting that the workers were chosen last November in a bloated and wasteful selection process that cost the nation nearly four billion dollars."
Mr. Borowitz commented that the newbies would work only 137 days a year; that, however, seems to me to be the only silver lining.

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3.
http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/unskilled-workers-report-new- jobs?mbid=nl_ BOROWITZ

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

January 7, 2015
There was a provocative column by Andrew O’Hehir on Salon last Saturday, entitled "The NYPD’s mini-rebellion, and the true face of American fascism."[1]  He used the recent behavior of the New York Police Department and Sinclair Lewis’ dystopian novel It Can’t Happen Here as his points of departure. The novel, published in 1935, posited an authoritarian American government modeled on the German and Italian governments of the time. Although O’Hehir aptly described the story as "melodramatic . . . and . . . highly specific to its era," he thinks that "certain aspects of Lewis’ fascist America still resonate strongly," and that the New York police unions’ protest against Mayor de Blasio "carries anti-democratic undertones, and even a faint odor of right-wing coup."
He’s certainly right that many of the police officers and their union have acted irresponsibly, and that their defiance of the mayor is little short of open rebellion. He’s also correct to criticize the secrecy, spying and militarism of the national government, which he describes (with some slight exaggeration) as "a vast subterranean ‘deep state’ no one can see or control." However, I have two quarrels with his analysis.
The first is the use of the term "fascist." Apart from historical reference to Italy under Mussolini, it has no exact meaning, and attempts to define it have been unsuccessful. Using that word is like the right calling liberals communists; it creates more heat than light.
The other criticism— and I confess to some uncertainty about it — is of O’Hehir’s belief that Sinclair Lewis’ "clearest insight came in seeing that the authoritarian impulse runs strong and deep in American society . . . ." O’Hehir refers to support for the police "from ‘true patriots’ eager to take their country back from the dubious alien forces who have degraded and desecrated it." Certainly there is a great deal of rhetoric along that line. It is only sensible to worry about a government, present or future, which has too much power, which it uses badly, and which has too many secrets. I expressed a similar concern, and worried about authoritarianism, during the Bush-Cheney years. [2]  However, that focus ignores the strong libertarian streak in contemporary American conservative politics. There are more on the right who wish to tear down government than those who want it to be stronger (except, of course, for the military).   
However, Mr. O’Hehir certainly is correct in this observation: "We still comfort ourselves with mystical nostrums about American specialness." The constant bleating about exceptionalism distorts history and ignores present sins and failures. He’s also on target with this description of views on the right: "[T]hese worldviews rest on the idea that America is not defined by its democratic institutions, but by a mystical or spiritual essence that cannot be precisely described — but is understood far better by some of its citizens than by others."

The last, I think, defines the current right-wing position. It is an attitude, not a philosophy.

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2.
See my note of January 7, 2007