‘Evil is relatively rare. Ignorance is epidemic’
The evidence is in. Turns out, what you don’t know CAN hurt you! I’d suggest that’s been proven, now, as it’s evident that most Americans neither understand how their government is currently working, nor how this republic was originally designed to work. The 2014 vote — indicating an electorate largely liberal on issues and, counter-productively, conservative on leadership — hit that nail on the head.
When I read about the leaked report that someone in the White House had said the American public was stupid, I had to smile: my sentiments exactly, at news of the nation’s stunning miscalculation on which political party has their back. The apparent inability of the public to sort out the difference between those who have an intent to govern as best they can and those who have no intention to even try has brought us to a pretty pass. That the attitude and rhetoric of the winning party in these few days shows a pathological disdain for the desire of the public is quickly proving to be the hammer that drives that nail of public pique and apathy into their coffin.
Mitch McConnell continues to sound as reasonable as possible while saying nothing much, giving the impression that he will (finally) moderate all difficulties to move the country ahead, although those of us on the left know he means into the last century and earlier. Meanwhile, his Bagger’s meet behind closed doors to skewer his plutocratic ambitions. The Baggers offer a cultural challenge, for sure, paranoid as a wild hare and breathless in anticipation of Armageddon but on the topic of corporatism, they align with progressives: they’re a’gin it. And they don’t like the Turtle Man cozying up with the administration on the possibility of ramming through the Pan-Pacific free trade treaty via fast track.
This is a Republican party schism that continues to widen, although not all schisms are created equally. The progressives have had their own problems getting their message into the halls of government but they might have done better had ANY Dem message made its way into those halls over the last few years. The progressive wing isn’t a new creation, like the Tea Party. Some might even say it’s the historical old Dem vanguard, at least since FDR picked up his veto pen, only more recently occulted by oligarchy. That it’s used as an equivalency for the radicalism of the Baggers would be funny, if not so broadly — and sadly — believed.
Harry Reid, in his pitch to be Minority Leader of the Senate, seems to understand that. This week he appointed Elizabeth Warren, who has become the face of progressivism, to a custom made position as a strategic policy adviser in the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, putting the Dem agenda on a more populist footing. Concerns that she will be hampered from speaking her mind didn’t shake Elizabeth’s commitment to look after the little guy. “Nobody’s clipping my wings,” she declared, and I believe her. Of the two parties, she’s aligned with the one that sees the corrupting power of big money as a gigantic problem, not a perk. So besides strengthening his own bone fides, Reid has fired a shot across the Republican’s bow.
And, although the Pub’s have already raised war whoops about Obama making no attempt to “meet them half way,” even gathering steam for (continually-threatened and truly obstructionist) impeachment if he uses presidential authority to impact immigration, the Prez has gone whistling past the graveyard with no intention of slowing down. I’m sure much of this weeks news has long been in the works, but it’s all bubbled up concurrent with a kind of loosening of restraint on the left.
First off, with the tick-tick-tick of this term running out, the President nominated Loretta Lynch, a black woman, to replace Eric Holder. The slight veneer of civility between the parties will likely shatter over her confirmation. Not long after that announcement, Obama came out in full support of net neutrality. His FCC appointee, Tom Wheeler, finds himself in a quandary over what the administration recommends and his lobbyist inclinations to give the edge to big money, but he’s tamped down the rhetoric in the last few days. If he decides not to go with the ‘hybrid’ plan that creates a second tier (faster network) for high rollers, he told Silicon Valley, he’ll need political cover from supporters. Those making book on this come down on the side of the administration. If you find petitions to sign and/or activist op’s, like this one, don’t hesitate.
This week, in order to ensure a livable air quality for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum hosted in Beijing, China has had to go to draconian measures: schools closed, driving forbidden, shops and government agencies closed, hospitals running half-time. This is a country that suffers much the same pollution this nation did as it came into its own after the industrial revolution. Many city-dwellers are regularly forced to mask themselves in order to protect from respiratory irritants. And let’s give the Chinese their due: they both recognized their problem earlier and began to do something about it more quickly than did we. For the first time this century, China’s use of coal is down, and check out this chart to see where they — and we — stand in terms of the (encouraging) solar boom.
So it should not come as a surprise that China’s President, Xi Jinping, and America’s President, Barack Obama, have found commonality as regards carbon emissions. Both are pledging large reductions in the next years, which is seen as a major turning point in the global effort to stem the climate crisis and a move Al Gore is calling a game change. It’s obviously not enough, and too far in the future to make the impact environmentalists deem necessary, but it’s a beginning — both to cooperation in conserving the planet and commitment to sound science. The fact that this represents a non-binding agreement is entirely the fault of Republicans, who would have refused such legislation out of hand.
The howl from the right is audible, given their lock on carbon-based industry. Boehner calls this agreement a job killer, which might be true, short-term, but ignores an uptick in the advancement of clean energy technologies. I suspect there was a howl from horse traders, blacksmiths and livery stables over Mr. Ford’s little project a century ago as well, but we made the necessary updates quickly enough. It should be noted that Chinese intransigence to curb their carbon footprint as the worlds largest polluter, in a race to catch up with western culture, has been the number one talking point the Pubs have leaned on in their argument against curbing our own gluttonous oil appetite. They’ll have to find a new excuse now, thanks to those darned tree-huggers and Commies, popping up everywhere!
Next, ordering changes in enforcement of immigration rules by executive order, Obama aims to step into the immigration fight, as he pledged to do, next week. Because Congress would not act, the Prez is set to allow illegal parents of legal residents to obtain work documents with no fear of deportation (3.3 million) and add protection for (a million) undocumented children. Rules for low-priority deportations will be reconfigured, as well as restrictions for those with high-tech skills. Obama will reportedly tighten up policy on convicted criminals, recent border-crossers and national security risks, as well, while increasing resources.
Flagship for all things xenophobic and racist, this immigration fight will likely shut down all pretense of “negotiation” or “bipartisanship,” as if we expected either. The GOP, despite Mitch’s demurring, has already threatened another budget shut-down along with the aforementioned impeachment as punishment for overstepping the Constitution. I doubt that Obama would go into this fight delusional on Constitutional law, but our High Court is no longer a trustworthy arbiter for the document they pledged to serve so only time will tell what happens next.
Not bad for a weeks work, eh? Pretty progressive. And yes, I know — there are all kinds of things the Prez has done that those of us on the left consider betrayal of liberal principal. For instance, ISIS and al Qaeda have shaken hands, partners again, and they’re toying with the idea of printing their own money for their nifty new Caliphate. I suspect you know the bad news — Obama doubled down on “advisers,” but they’re evidently walking on air because their boots are still NOT on the ground, while the Pentagon warns they may soon be. Jon Stewart gave UN Ambassador Samantha Power a hard time over this ISIS business, you’ll want to watch.
Will Pitt wrote a piece outlining much going on right now that those on the left can’t abide — Obama’s devotion to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Dem push for an XL Pipeline vote in order to help über-moderate Mary Landrieu keep her job in Louisiana, and deployment of 1500 more troops in Iraq — called Who Needs Republicans. It’s a “with friends like these, who needs enemies” essay and all of the things outlined are truly discouraging to those of us that have worked against these happenings to no avail. As he finishes his op/ed, he concludes, “So, to recap: in the ten days since the Republicans took full control of Congress, Democrats in the Senate, House and White House have flexed hard in favor of a ruinous “trade” deal, a poisonous oil pipeline, and an ongoing disaster of a war.”
I find myself agreeing with him in many ways but I won’t — can’t, if I’m to live up to the counsel of my higher angels — become cynical about what lies ahead. In those same ten days we’ve also elevated Elizabeth Warren to prominence, made net neutrality a national priority and named a black woman as candidate for Attorney General. We’ve established a working commitment with a fledgling world superpower to reign in our mutual carbon footprint, finally taking global leadership on climate change, and our immigrant population will gain some relief next week from a deportation policy that has devastated thousands of families.
This is not a perfect world and we don’t live in a perfect nation. Truly, we have yet to be self-reflective enough to discover the reason for our enormous imbalance. Look at the recent vote, with the lowest turn-out since the early 1940s. We had to BEG people to come out for it! How disconnected from our own good is that?
A writer I like very much, Richard Powers, has much the same understanding of politics as does Mr. Pitt but processes a bit differently, through a spiritual filter. In advance of the dismal projections on mid-term votes, he wrote to encourage participation, citing the differences between the parties:
For example, there’s the difference between President Bush and President Gore. If Gore were President we would NOT have invaded Iraq. And I say that with utter certainty. Indeed, the slaughter of innocents on 9/11 might well have been thwarted. And I say that with great confidence (even if you ascribe to the view that 9/11 was an “inside job”). That means that we could have been spared all the madness that has flown from those twin abominations.
The difference between another Scalia and another Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the difference between President Bush and President Gore, just as the difference between another Alito and another Sonia Sotomayor is the difference between sanity and a system in which corporations are persons and filthy lucre is speech. Do you get it yet? If Romney had been elected in 2012, we would have gone to war with Iran, and Syria. And if the Zombie Cult had controlled the Senate in 2013, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would not have passed. (Our health care system is still an immoral racket, but we are, as a whole, better off now than we were before this bill became law. Tens of millions of previously uninsured citizens have been covered, and health insurance racketeers can no longer deny coverage because of “pre-existing conditions.” ) Oh yeah, and if it weren’t for the Zombie Cult and its Death Eater Overlords, we could have had an Ebola vaccine already. Seriously.
Seriously. The difference, whether we see it or not, is the difference between a culture of life and a culture of death.
There is another challenge this week that needs mentioning, one that’s making the GOP’s grinchy little heart flutter faster. The Supreme Court of the United States — or rather, four of its Justices: Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Kennedy — have decided to take a case based on the mandate clause of the Affordable Care Act.
As a follower of all things SCOTUS, I have a couple of people I look up to. One is author of The Nine, Jeffrey Toobin. He often shows up on CNN when they need a SCOTUS expert. Another is Linda Greenhouse, long time SCOTUS observer and reporter, who is both even-handed and academic in her review of their decisions. I read a New York Times article this week by Linda, Law in the Raw, that began:
Nearly a week has gone by since the Supreme Court’s unexpected decision to enlist in the latest effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act, and the shock remains unabated. “This is Bush v. Gore all over again,” one friend said as we struggled to absorb the news last Friday afternoon. “No,” I replied. “It’s worse.”
What I meant was this: In the inconclusive aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, a growing sense of urgency, even crisis, gave rise to a plausible argument that someone had better do something soon to find out who would be the next president. True, a federal statute on the books defined the “someone” as Congress, but the Bush forces got to the Supreme Court first with a case that fell within the court’s jurisdiction. The 5-to-4 decision to stop the Florida recount had the effect of calling the election for the governor of Texas, George W. Bush. I disagreed with the decision and considered the contorted way the majority deployed the Constitution’s equal-protection guarantee to be ludicrous. But in the years since, I’ve often felt like the last progressive willing to defend the court for getting involved when it did.
That’s not the case here. There was no urgency. There was no crisis of governance, not even a potential one. There is, rather, a politically manufactured argument over how to interpret several sections of the Affordable Care Act that admittedly fit awkwardly together in defining how the tax credits are supposed to work for people who buy their health insurance on the exchanges set up under the law.
This argument against the ACA rests on a clerical error. It seems almost impossible that some 10+ million people might be denied health care because of something like that, but we only have to look back to 1866, where — in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company — “corporate personhood” was established, not by ruling of the court but by a precedent set within a court reporters transcription. It still holds today.
In the Greenhouse piece, she finishes:
So this case is rich in almost every possible dimension. Its arrival on the Supreme Court’s docket is also profoundly depressing. In decades of court-watching, I have struggled — sometimes it has seemed against all odds — to maintain the belief that the Supreme Court really is a court and not just a collection of politicians in robes. This past week, I’ve found myself struggling against the impulse to say two words: I surrender.
It would surely make a good many business concerns jubilant to return medical insurance to its previous state of usury but it would do very little for the public at large, and even less for the poor. The Republicans think they have a mandate to run the board with planned gains for corporate America, now that they’ve swept the election and there’s no doubt that they will make life tough for many of us that are efforting toward a less repressive and diminished future for mainstream citizens. They’ll do it with gusto.
Unless the Dems can get a handful of candidates through Congress in the next few weeks, appointments will likely cease for this president’s cabinet, as well as dozens of outstanding openings in the judicial. For you readers that love populism, that want to see oversight and the kind of ‘level playing field’ Ms. Warren speaks of, pray for the health of the two liberal SCOTUS elders, who are helping to hold up an assaulted Constitution by sheer strength of will. And while you’re asking the Universe for boon, you might cover the hearts and minds of a confused and stressed American public, learning about politics the hard way.
Standing back as far as I can, my concern is for those in need, those who require kindness and assistance. The Pubs can scream mandate as much as they want but the real mandate comes from deep within the soul of those whose hearts are open, pliable, available. We are here for one another, we are here not to simply tend our own nest but to create a loving circle of comfort and inclusion from one to another; even enfolding those who do not know their own good or where to look for it. Challenged by our very soul, then, the only mandate worth a moment of our precious time — yesterday, today or tomorrow — comes straight from the heart.