Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In the Pit

photo (c) 2003 Bill Hicks

In the GOP, the back benchers (so to speak) still toil on, defending the pretty much indefensible. Tbogg has very little trouble illustrating the problem with the torture defense. But that there is a "torture defense," that illustrates a larger problem, the GOP problem.

There are of course quite a number of illustrations of this larger problem. August bodies such as the New York Times are now writing pieces musing on the almost mysterious fact that the GOP seems unable to field any candidate for President this cycle that can be taken seriously. This is a worrisome fact, because it implies that our system is seriously broken in some kind of structural way. Consider, for example, that it is quite possible that instead of Obama as a re-electable and now reasonably seasoned candidate for the job, there were some candidate who was as patently unqualified as, say, Herman Cain. It's certainly a theoretical possibility isn't it? So what, then? If the electorate is stuck with two dangerously incompetent candidates as their final choice, how is the magic of democracy to save us, in a world where the President can order the deployment of nuclear weapons, submarines, aircraft carriers, and the most powerful military organization ever devised. If the GOP can become this broken, what if Democratic strategists decide to undertake the same strategy?

The corruption of the Republican Party has been a long time coming, of course. For some reason, strategists in that party have chosen, at nearly every turn, to take the dark path of fear and confusion, and this after their last great President, Dwight Eisenhower, warned the nation of the powers and dangers of the military-industrial complex. Joe McCarthy, in the '50s, provided a counter-point to Eisenhower's optimism, stirring the pot of paranoia with fears of a domestic "red menace" beyond all rationality. In the '60s the GOP chose the "Southern Strategy," raking in racist voters who were leaving the Democratic Party because the Democrats had finally and belatedly gotten on the right side of the terrible "race issue" which blights our history in its entirety, from 1776 onwards. In the '70s, after the Supreme Court ruled that women had a constitutional right to medical care which could include abortion, the GOP once again encouraged a "right to life" movement which has on occasion used even deadly terrorist tactics to achieve its ends--the denial of equal medical care for women. Then there's the scapegoating of homosexuals, the endless absurdity of resistance to the very simple idea that people of the same sex can marry, draconian immigration measures (see, e.g., Arizona, Alabama, et al.) which can break up families wholesale, deny even water service to undocumented people. The list goes on I'm sure, but is tiring. I haven't even mentioned the whole tangle of Second Amendment positions which the GOP stands on, or the current attack on historically established labor rights, or the various efforts by Republican-governed states to roll-back voting rights--an effort which may in the end give us a President Romney or Cain via voter suppression alone.

One can generalize for the sake of space. The GOP fear-mongers at every turn. It is supported in this general effort by a body of highly capable paid salesmen--the right-wing commentators, such as Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Bortz, etc.--not to mention a whole "news" network, Fox, as well as much of the more "mainstream" media including even NPR, which now cringes in fear of being called "liberal" and in response makes every absurd effort, day in and day out, to "balance" every issue in their reportage. Next weekend NASCAR holds its final race of the season, and a Championship is at stake. Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden are attending officially. You should read the bilious consternation voiced by some of NASCAR's worst fans on their bulletin boards. There is even a frequently expressed fear that somehow the "gubment" is going to make NASCAR switch to electric cars. "He'll take away our guns," anyone? This is a symptomatic result of the fact that one whole national political party has, since the 1950s, picked the dark side of every political issue, including some that otherwise wouldn't even exist. If anybody gets their news from RightRadio, it's the NASCAR fan (or at least the bigoted segment of the cohort; some of my best friends are NASCAR fans I have to say).

The overarching GOP strategy has its short term successes. In the long run, it is disastrous for America and may well in the final analysis bring our democracy to an end. It yields in 2011 a list of potential Presidential candidates who are all--every one--deeply lacking in Presidential ability, although one or two might manage to be spokesmen for hidden sources of power. This strategy yields a contradictory governing philosophy which is against all taxation--which is the only method by which our government can do what we want it to do. And of course this anti-tax "plank" is part of the reason all the Republican candidates teeter on the abyss, with Romney, who used to be more attached to realities such as the basic concept of "contradiction", teetering the most obviously, changing his positions like a weather-vane in a hurricane.

Meanwhile, although Mr. Obama is capable enough, on many issues it's not as though he's got the only view. Many of the Bush Administration's erosion of fundamental constitutional rights continue. Guantanamo still exists. New York City can terminate press freedom for the evening while it rounds up, arrests, and expels the Occupy group. Pretty quiet on that one, Mr. O? Perhaps because New York's police efforts are assisted by the Federal Government:

Under Obama's tenure, the military-industrial complex continues to thrive, as does Wall Street. Aside from the inchoate Occupy event, the presidential campaign is not being run on these real issues--issues which might ought to be actually at issue. Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the White House agree, pretty much, that the long-term commitment of the US Government to our senior citizens, embodied in Social Security and Medicare, cannot be sustained as promised. That's a pretty remarkable fact, isn't it. One might even imagine it were an issue free for the taking, if the "out" political party hadn't already decided that it's more effective to red-bait, race-bait, queer-bait, gender-bait, and fear monger. And of course toady to big money--back in the mid-80s it was the Reagan Administration which presided over the income cap on social security taxes which both turns social security into a welfare program, and starves it of the funds required to make it at least a somewhat adequate pension program for Americans who manage to live to an age which they can no longer work.

In such circumstances, and given that there is only, in the end, a choice between the D and the R, people not consumed by fear must end up voting for Obama. Unless, of course, when they get to the polls they are turned away because they didn't know they had to have some special picture ID that their legislature has just edicted.

Update: with regard to the collaboration of Federal officials with various city officials, re expelling the Occupy, from Juan Cole today:

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan let slip in an interview with the BBC that she had been on a conference call with the mayors of 18 cities about how to deal with the Occupy Wall Street movement. That is, municipal authorities appear to have been conspiring to deprive Americans of their first amendment rights to freedom of assembly and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Likewise, A Homeland Security official let it slip in a phone interview that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security had been strategizing with cities on how to shut down OWS protests. The FBI is said to have advised using zoning ordinances and curfew regulations, and to stage the crackdown with massive police force at a time when the press was not around to cover the crackdown.

Wonkette suggests that the PATRIOT Act is implicated here, but I’m not sure how that works. Actually the techniques discussed are standard for US police forces in dealing with peaceful protests (the only routine technique missing is that of putting saboteurs among the protesters who cause destruction and create an image of them as violent.

What these two reports show is a high-level conspiracy to deprive Americans of their constitutional right to protest peacefully.

When will we see Occupy Wall Street protesters hooded, dressed in orange jump suits, and sent to Guantanamo for military trials? When you let the government act without regard for the rule of law toward foreigners suspected of terrorism, you open yourself to be treated the same way if the rich decide to sic their police on you (it is mostly their police). This is why a rule of law has to be maintained. Anything less ratchets toward tyranny.

(There are links at his site.)

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