Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March 23, 2015
Every now and then I look at what I’ve written and decide that I sound like a one-note scold, constantly painting a dark picture of the state of the nation, the culture and politics. It can’t be that bad. Then I read a newspaper. It is.
Consider The Seattle Times edition of Sunday, March 22. On the front page of the local news section was an article about a man who has settled claims against King County and the State Department of Corrections arising out of an incident in which he was shot sixteen times by a King County Deputy Sheriff and a Corrections officer, who were part of a team serving a warrant on the son of the owner of the house where the unfortunate man lived. He was in bed when shot. How many categories does this incident fall under? The danger posed by guns, police officers with inadequate training, hiring of policemen who are too nervous and fearful to be trusted, our gun-cursed society which makes them fear everyone . . . . At least race wasn’t involved this time.
On the same page was a column commenting on a story making the conservative rounds about how Seattle’s new minimum wage law (not yet in effect) is causing restaurant closures. The myth had its beginning on the web site of the Washington Policy Center (Improving lives through market solutions), which tied the ordinance to "a rising trend in restaurant closures." There isn’t any, but no matter. The tale was picked up by The American Enterprise Institute (Freedom Opportunity Enterprise) which described the situation as follows: "Seattle’s new minimum wage law government-mandated wage floor that guarantees reduced employment opportunities for many workers goes into effect on April 1 and already the city has seen a number of restaurant closings and job losses . . . ." (Typesetting in the original) And so on around the loop to the right; a living wage is a liberal policy, which interferes with the market, so it’s evil. No doubt it also interferes with underpaid workers’ freedom of contract.
On the business page was a column aptly titled "U.S. snoozes while rest of world invests in infrastructure." It pointed out that we are plagued with collapsing bridges, that we need more public transportation, and that addressing the problem would create jobs, both during construction and after. However, there’s a problem: "lack of political leadership and the consequences of wars and tax cuts." Freely translated, that refers to Republican fiscal priorities, which brings us to Paul Krugman.
Krugman noted in last Friday’s New York Times that we’ve moved well beyond the point of principled, rational disagreement about economic policies. Facts and performance do not seem to matter to Republicans; the story is always the same: cut taxes, but spend more on the military, and make up part of the deficit by cutting social spending. He describes the last as : "savage cuts in food stamps, similarly savage cuts in Medicaid . . . and an end to Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies." People would go hungry and lose health care coverage, but who cares? Those cuts don’t balance the budget, so there are "magic asterisks," promises to find revenue or cut something else, the latter probably being Social Security, Medicare, and other benefits for ordinary folk. The result would be even more upward redistribution. Krugman pointed out that this sort of budgetary fraud is a recent phenomenon, and peculiar to the GOP. The Bush administration "was no slouch when it came to deceptive presentation of tax plans, but it was never this blatant. . . . So, no, outrageous fiscal mendacity is neither historically normal nor bipartisan. It’s a modern Republican thing." Perhaps GOP budgetary fraud is peculiar to the Obama years, but contemporary Republican-conservative-right wing policies, attitudes, rhetoric and behavior are the result of a longer-term development.
An insight into the change in Republican politics was offered by Elizabeth Drew in November, 2013. The occasion was a memorial service a few days earlier for Tom Foley, former Speaker of the House. In a column on The New York Review of Books blog,[49] she described the praise given Foley and the atmosphere of bipartisan warmth which reflected the civility of Foley’s time. Ms. Drew noted that Foley and the GOP leader, Bob Michel, met once a week throughout Foley’s speakership. "Such an arrangement now is unimaginable."
Foley was an emblem of a seemingly distant past, one increasingly difficult to remember or imagine. "The fractiousness that had been developing almost from the day he stepped down as Speaker, having been defeated for reelection in the Republican sweep of 1994, reached its apogee at the hands of some of the very people sitting there paying tribute to him." One of those was Newt Gingrich, who became Speaker in 1995, and who did much to change the atmosphere. Michel, in his tribute, with his hyper partisan successors in the audience, said, "I only hope that the legislators who walk through here each day will find his spirit, learn from it, and be humbled by it." That wasn’t likely to happen and hasn’t.


49. http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/nov/01/foley-memorial-decency/  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March 10, 2015
Almost from the moment he entered on the national stage, Barack Obama has been accused of treason by the right and, if anything, it’s become worse. Consider the web site which asks people to sign a petition to impeach him for treason "for adhering to, aiding and abetting the enemies of this country by using taxpayer money to finance the Muslim Brotherhood's global jihad and working to replace our Constitution with a Shariah[sic]-compliant, New World Order, Socialist/ Communist agenda."[39] 
Another right-wing page complained that the government’s reaction to the potential spread of Ebola was inadequate, leading to this conclusion: "This severe inaction by the President has left me little doubt that he is actively seeking to destroy America. . . .[I]naction when action is required by the President is dereliction of duty. . . . It makes him an enemy. Barrack Obama is committing treason."[40]  Or, according to one of the great minds at Fox, referring to a speech by Mr. Obama on climate change, "It is almost treason for him to be focusing like this."[41]

On one of Alex Jones’ hysterical web sites, we find this: "When the president of the United States, Barack H. Obama[,] accepted rotating status as chairman of the United Nations Security Council, he committed high treason . . . ."[42]  This claim is based on an alleged violation of Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, which provides in part:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.
Leaving aside whether a rotating chairmanship is an "Emolument, Office, or Title," and whether the UN is a foreign state, Jones, or whoever wrote this bit of nonsense, simply made up the notion of treason. The clause makes no mention of it, nor of any penalty. The author acknowledged that, so turned to the "lost" Thirteenth Amendment, which largely copied the original clause, but added: "such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States, and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them." The failed amendment is a favorite of the daffier members of the right wing. It specified a penalty, but still made no mention of treason. That conclusion lies solely in the minds of the Obama-haters.
That mind set is graphically summarized in a web site accumulating scurrilous anti-Obama posters, many of them screaming "Treason!"[43]
Occasionally Republican officials have joined the chorus. Consider the State Senator in Maine who posted a picture of Mr. Obama supposedly saying "Why haven’t I done anything about ISIS? Because I’ll deal with them at the family reunion."[44]  A Republican national committeeman accused the President of treason because he is "blowing up the Constitution everywhere he goes."[45]  A Republican member of the New Hampshire Legislature has called for the formation of a commission to bring charges of treason against President Obama for "giving aid and comfort to the enemy and attempting to overthrow our government from within." This apparently has to do with immigration.
"Treason" not only is thrown about irresponsibly, it isn’t used with anything resembling consistency. An example: referring to the holdup in funding the Department of Homeland Security, GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson declared that if Obama "does stand in the way, particularly of things that are vital to the security of this country, then we can start talking about treason" So if Congress plays fast and loose with funding because it wants to make a point about immigration, that’s OK, but if Obama demands a clean bill, that’s treason. Carson’s own definition would apply if Congress had carried out its threat not to fund: "If things are done to the contrary to the security of this country, whoever does them is guilty of treason."[46]
Contrast these accusations with the Republican invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress. That was done in a manner designed to insult the President, which alone demonstrates a singular lack of patriotism. It was known that Netanyahu would criticize Mr. Obama’s attempt to reach an agreement with Iran regarding nuclear weapons, a sensitive, difficult, critical initiative which could go far to stabilize the Middle East. To invite a foreign Prime Minister to attack that initiative was bad enough. To applaud his interference with negotiations, to applaud this line — "Well, this is a bad deal. It's a very bad deal. We're better off without it" — is worse. To threaten war as an alternative, as Republican Senator Ron Johnson did, is still worse, and he took it a step further: "if Israel believes its threatened and it takes military action, the United States has got to back our strong ally."[47]  Even in the abstract, that is an extreme statement; it would allow another country to drag us into a war of aggression. Given the policies of Israel under hawks such as Netanyahu, it is a proposal to put foreign policy in the hands of a nervous, bellicose regime.
As if that were not enough, forty-seven Republican Senators, in order to make entirely clear their lack of patriotism, to say nothing of their arrogance, bias, ill-will and foolishness, interfered yet further by sending an open letter to Iran in effect telling it not to bother negotiating with Obama because Congress might undo any agreement.[48]  Governor Jindal and ex-Governor Perry have added their names.
Is any of this treason? Not by any reasonable definition, but let’s apply the right’s version to itself. Consider the inevitable reaction if Mr. Obama had invited a high official of another country — one with a record of oppression and abuse — to the White House and had turned over the podium at a press conference so that he could lay out American foreign policy. Or, perhaps to make the parallel closer, imagine that the President, during a State of the Union address, had done the same. Cries of treason would be deafening, and would not be confined to the fringe.
Last month I noted the tendency toward hypocrisy in "conservative" politics. I underestimated the extent.



40. http://www.politicalears.com/blog/second-texas-ebola-case-is-proof-of-obama-treason/

41. Audio link at http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/foxs-kilmeade-almost-treason-obama-tackle-climate-crisis 

42. http://www.infowars.com/has-president-obama-the-constitutional-lawyer-committed-open-treason/

43. https://www.google.com/search?q=obama+treason&rlz=1T4GGNI_enUS539 US540&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=uy_-VK7TG cSzoQSSroDACA&ved=0CCcQsAQ&biw=1097&bih=561

44. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/maine-republican-obama-isis  

45. http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2013-06-25/news/sfl-peter-feaman-obama-treason-20130625 _1_tea-party-president-barack-obama-commander   

46. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/ben-carson-obama-dhs-treason

47. http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/03/08/3631187/senator-lists-war-alternative-containing-irans-nuclear-program/

48. http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2015/03/09/391920282/47-gop-senators-tell-iran-they-may-not-honor-a-nuclear-deal
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