Jan 3, 2016

January 3, 2016: Eisenhower’s Farewell, Military-Industrial Complex, The 'Iron Triangle'


Periodically my uncle posts on his Facebook page a reminder of Dwight Eisenhower’s “Farewell” speech to the nation delivered in early 1961 as he was in the process of relinquishing power to the newly elected John F. Kennedy.  Asking those who frequent him on Facebook if we remember it, I posted this response:

“Yes, I remember it. What inspired it was that Ike sent his science advisor George Kistiakowsky to SAC headquarters to inspect the plans the Air Force had in place for nuclear retaliation in the event of a nuclear exchange, only to be informed that not only was the president's advisor not privy the 'plans', but that the president himself was not cleared for security. Kistiakowsky famously replied that he would put in a call to the oval office and the generals would be free to explain to the commander-in-chief himself why it was that the information was not forthcoming. Eventually the military brass backed down, perhaps reckoning the stature of the former General would make their position look ridiculous. Upon examining the military's strategic plans which included nuclear weapons targeting Moscow that would be nine times the power used at Hiroshima, Ike concluded that the military, and their industrial partners, were engaging is grotesque "overkill", producing weapons and levels of retaliation out of all proportion to what was militarily necessary. The result was his famous "Farewell Address" to the nation, patterned after the example of another supreme commander George Washington.”

Originally dubbing it the “Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex” Ike, always the diplomat sensitive to political sensibilities, reduced to calling it simply the “Military-Industrial Complex” so as to hopefully not thwart much needed efforts to reign in on the military by needlessly offending tender congressional egos. 

Ike was clearly on to something.  In what would later be described by historians and scholars of public administration ‘The Iron Triangle’ (1) Ike the experienced military and political leader spoke with great authority. 

“My fellow Americans:

Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.

My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and, finally, to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.

In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the Nation should go forward. So, my official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.

II.

We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.

III.

Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology -- global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger is poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle -- with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research -- these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs -- balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage -- balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.

IV.

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.


Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

V.

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

VI.

Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war -- as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years -- I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.

VII.

So -- in this my last good night to you as your President -- I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find some things worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.

You and I -- my fellow citizens -- need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation's great goals.

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.” (2)

Prescient words spoken by a man who was in a position to know much and learn more; a man of enduring decency and commanding stature. 

______________

1.     The “Iron Triangle” is the relationship between contractors, the military and the relevant congressional committees responsible for military appropriations.  Generals make their annual budgetary demands before congress based on real and imagined military requirements themselves determined after consultation with the contractors.  They are put before the relevant committees who are themselves beneficiaries of massive campaign contributions by the very contractors that do business with the military.  The result is a closed loop, a three corner arrangement, an “iron triangle” from which spiraling costs and military requirements can produce some very outrageous outcomes. 


Jan 1, 2016

100 Catherine Avenue (‘Round Here)




I turn my collar and step out into the night
feeling my bones and the shivering timbers
As the wind whistles through my soul
And the shrouds start their singing
reaching a screaming high-pitched howl.

At night they come ‘round like clockwork
gather and circle ‘round my bed.
I cannot make out the conversation
For the ringing in my head.
‘round here, the night is very long

She came searching for a reason
And cradled gently in my arms
I chased away the demons
And filled her full of joy and hope.
‘round here, we stand up very strong

She called one morning sobbing
reaching, grasping through the line
she cried “Joey, I’m bleeding,”
 And, almost incoherently, “I’ve lost our grain of sand.”
“’round here, it’s slipping through my hands”

‘round here, she said “it’s slipping through my hands”
‘round here, she said “no one understands”
‘round here, she said “you’ll miss me when I’m gone”
‘round here, she said “you’ll need them to keep you warm”
‘round here, the night is very, very, long

If I close my eyes I find myself
On the Atlanta Highway once again.
On my way back from the “Love Shack”
Blinded by the blood-red mourning sun.
‘round here, I’m blinded by the mourning sun

She found them on the streets of Athens
and brought the little urchins home.
 saying “someday you’re gonna miss me,
and you’ll need them to keep you warm.”
‘round here, you’ll need them to keep you warm

The ghost-white curtains are moving
Though the windows are tightly closed
And they move now ever closer
To keep me safe and sound.
‘round here, they keep me safe and sound

‘round here, she said “it’s slipping through my hands”
‘round here, she said “no one understands”
‘round here, she said “you’ll miss me when I’m gone”
‘round here, she said “you’ll need them to keep you warm”
‘round here, the night is very, very, very, very long

Stopping by a graveyard on a snowy evening
Broken stones once marked the names and dates
A scene conjured up by Frost and Faulkner
Abandoned now to smuttish time and cruel fates.
‘round here, we once carved out our names

Now I find myself walking dogs
Chasing squirrels and Counting Crows
And though the nights are oh so long
I cannot greet the garish sun
‘round here, we do not greet the garish sun

‘round here, it’s slipping through my hands.
‘round here, no one understands.
‘round here, I miss you, now my muse is gone.
‘round here, I need them now to keep me, to keep me, warm.
‘round here, the nights are very, very, very, very, very, very long.

‘round here.
_______
Special thanks to Counting Crows for the refrain “Round Here”, as well as William Faulkner, Robert Frost, the B-52’s, William Shakespeare and, of course, Katie for the inspiration.

As Bono and U2 remind us, every poet is a thief.


Dec 11, 2015

December 11, 2015: Have You Forgotten Yet?


 
Sassoon, Too Soon

Have you forgotten yet?...
The roly-poly laughter to Looney Tunes delight
The arms outstretched in warm familiar
The welcome greeting with joy to spare

Have you forgotten yet?...
The torn and tattered stitched so carefully
Into a quilted tapestry, a thing of beauty
While she wrestled tortured demons

Have you forgotten yet?...
The simple faith, the trusted certainty
That goodness lies at every hand
And even faceless face has soul

 Have you forgotten yet?...
The simple Facebook postings
From the ‘Happy Wives Club’
And all the thoughtful gifts of love

Have you forgotten yet?...
Holding hands, her firm response
As she lay with half her skull removed
And the Chaplain enters the sterile room

Have you forgotten yet?...
The joy and sorrow, the sweet and sour
Have you forgotten yet...you fool?
Look down, and swear by all you’ve known

 
That you will never forget

 -----------------

Today is Katie’s Birthday, she would have been 56 years old.

I am indebted for the inspiration to the Poet Lauriat of the Great War Siegfried Sassoon and his poem “Aftermath”. 

 

 

 

Dec 10, 2015

December 9, 2015: Old Fashioned Oligarchy, Athens and Democracy, Cancer on the Republic



“We are now in a free fall toward old fashioned oligarchy—that noxious, thieving, tyrannical, oppressive species of government that America’s original settlers fled Europe to escape.”

          ----Robert F. Kennedy Jr. “Billionaires and Ballot Bandits”

 Kennedy isn’t alone in his assessment.  A widely reported study conducted at Princeton and Northwestern universities (1) released last April, and dubbed by some the “DUH Report”, concluded:

 "The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” (2)

Oligarchy, defined here as “a form of government in which power is vested in a dominant class and a small group exercises control over the general population,” (3) has now become documented fact.  Reviewing over 18,000 policies enacted between 1981 and 2002, the study found that the “resulting data empirically verifies that U.S. policies are determined by the economic elite.” (4)

This, of course, comes as no surprise either to those of us who have stood witness to the usurpations of economic and political power; nor to those millions who have suffered diminution of circumstance and future prospects through the foreclosure of the American Dream.

It also goes a long way to explain the utter unresponsiveness of this government as it does the bidding of the corporate and economic elites but consistently fails to address the underlying causes of our current economic malaise; as well as the complete ‘tone deafness’ of the corporate heads and political elites to the pain inflicted by inspiringly myopic and self-serving economic policies.  From a CEO of a fast-food chain blaming his workers for their poverty—accusing them of bad judgement, it seems, for accepting employment at his wretched business in the first place—to one JEB Bush, in a singular act of contempt and callousness, admonishing the poor not to organize for higher wages but to instead work longer hours. (5)

But the threat goes much further than the devastation of the American middle class.  As noted in previous posts, a thriving middle class is a perquisite to a healthy republican order.  Without a strong and a commanding middle class, the rich will plunder society and first attempt to buy power they will, failing that, call out the military and usurp it.

 The above quote by Robert Kennedy was posted on Facebook in a meme by a friend of mine.  I commented on the post as follows:

 “And it is also the reason that the Athenians originally created Democracy. The oligarchy that misruled Athens produced a revolution that produced the world's first Democratic government. Declaring the oligarchy, a 'tyranny' the Athenians not only introduced a new term in the political lexicon but went about the business of reigning in on the abuses of the economic elite through direct political participation. Yes, at its origin, Democracy was about controlling wealth.

Yes, Democracy, at its origin, was about controlling wealth, and about the equitable distribution of it.  To be a true democrat one must be about economic justice.  This is why those who support the interests of the emergent oligarchy are about the business of limiting the franchise, gerrymandering the political landscape, erecting obstacles and limiting access to voting, and changing the way we finance elections so that they can be outright and legally purchased. 

At base the modern conservative movement, and the oligarchs they serve, is fundamentally anti- democratic and anti-republican.  The conservative movement betrays the promise of the democratic experiment and is a cancer upon the republic.

_______

(1).  The report was picked up by both the BBC and UPI wire service. See http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2014/04/16/The-US-is-not-a-democracy-but-an-oligarchy-study-concludes/2761397680051/ as well as: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746

(2). See the UPI report.

(3). Ibid

(4). Ibid

(5). http://news.yahoo.com/jeb-bush-people-longer-hours-235206730.html#

Nov 30, 2015

November 30, 2015: Slave Trade Agreements, Instruments of Exploitation, Controlling the Debate


"The British and Americans, as all nations, have always been adept at covering the basest crimes with a coat of righteousness"
                                 ---from "The Quotations of Chairman Joe"
 
There were two postings on my Facebook page this morning on different but highly relevant and connected issues.  Both by Senator Bernie Sanders. The first questioned why, under the pending trade deals, we are moving to further the importation of all kinds of cheap goods into this country but we cannot bring ourselves to do the same thing when it comes to importing cheaper pharmaceuticals from abroad.  I commented that I agree with the Senator, but that we should remind ourselves that the entire ‘principle’ of “Free Trade” was largely the invention of the British and to a lesser extent the other western European powers, later followed by the United States, to enforce first the British Mercantile System and slave trade, and later to impose and maintain the drug trade, principally the production of opium in India for sale in China. This, by degrees led to the use of military force to suppress insurrections as, famously, in the case of the Boxer Rebellion and the Opium wars, conflicts in which the United States, not yet a world power, played a secondary, albeit supporting role. 

I raised this point to demonstrate that the lofty ‘principle’ of “Free” trade was, at its origin, nothing less than a ruse for exploitation leading speedily to the oppression and colonization of the rest of the world.  A “noble” principle assuaging the consciences of expanding wealth; a veneer of righteous ‘principle’ covering, however transparently, the base instincts of human avarice, gluttony and greed.
The British and Americans, as all nations, have always been adept at covering the basest crimes with a coat of righteousness. 


 
 The proclamation of “Free Trade” is, perhaps for us, the most mendacious of the use of Orwellian language.  More accurately, one would presume, what we are truly witnessing is the emergence, or rather re-emergence, of a modern form of the ‘slave’ trade; and, accordingly we might better refer to the pending group of agreements as slave trade agreements inasmuch as the effect, if not the outright intent, of these instruments is to drive down the standard of living around the globe and make more universal the misery of the human race. 

The second posting by the Senator asked why the media is not covering the issue.  As seen in a previous column the White House had promised a full-fledged public discussion and debate. (1)

Given the secrecy surrounding the negotiations and the reluctance—indeed the refusal—of this administration to be forthcoming concerning the contents of these trade agreements, I had my doubts.  Granting the president ‘fast-track’ authority in which the treaties would not be subject to committee hearings, or any hearing, and their would be no amendments allowed to these agreements, but rather a simple up and down vote, it was clear that we—the people—were about to be railroaded.

 Accordingly, I submitted this comment to the Senator’s post:

“The conspiracy of silence. The last thing the national and multinational corporations want is a full-fledged discussion of this travesty against the peoples of the world. It follows, then, that the media will do the bidding of their corporate paymasters and remain silent. MSNBC's dismissal of Ed Schultz was the shot across the bow and the rest of the so-called 'journalists' wet themselves to their socks.”
 
And so it goes.  He that has the gold makes the rules; he that controls the forum and the language controls the debate. 
___________


(1).  See blog posting:

May 22, 2015: Response from the White House, Shroud of Secrecy, Deep Suspicions

Nov 29, 2015

November 28, 2015: The Hammer Speaks


Without the valley there can be no mountain
Without darkness there can be no light
Without an end there can be no beginning
Without injustice there can be no virtue
Without evil there can be no good.
Without death, life is meaningless.

And so it is, this temporal existence
This union of opposites, joined at the hip.
Two sides of the same coin
The rhythm, the yin and yang
Each justifying; each compelling, the other. 

Some are born posthumously
Some speak epigrammatically
Some philosophize with a hammer.

The hammer speaks.

Nov 10, 2015

November 10, 2015: Weeper of the House, True Believers, The Price of Power.


There is something dangerous about orthodoxy in the hands of a true believer”

                        ----From “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”

John Boehner has resigned from the House of Representatives and in so doing relinquishing his post as ‘Weeper of the House”.  In his place the scum have elevated Congressman Paul Ryan, otherwise known as little Eddie Munster, to the position of presiding officer of the United States House of Representatives and 3rd in line to the Presidency. 

Boehner (pronounced boner) by all accounts had a miserable time of it, trying as he did to weave a line between the forces of responsible governance and the newly-minted base of the Rescumlican party for which political responsibility and good governance are anathema.  It proved a treacherous path indeed, a Faustian bargain, reducing a once promising leader to a mere weeping caricature. 

The crazies, it would appear, are emerging from the woodwork. This is not, however, a recent phenomenon, nor should we understand it as a product of purely Republican malignancy.  The movement that has masticated into what we now refer to as the ‘teabagger’ movement began a long time ago, traceable originally to the disciples of Ayn Rand and the followers of Barry Goldwater.  But they, alas, were few and full of labor.  What gave the movement real impetus was the Supreme Court Decision in Roe v Wade

In which the court for the first time declared a zone of personal privacy extending to reproductive rights.  This mobilized the religious fundamentalists who, seeing abortion as an abomination, mobilized in large enough numbers to become the foot soldiers of an emerging political movement.

The principle culprit, the man who led them unto the national stage, was none other than Jimmy Carter.  It was Carter who, through the albeit temporary alliance of the Black and White southern Baptist conventions, found in these ‘foot soldiers’ a ready army of campaign workers ready to do the tedious and mundane tasks necessary to launch and win a national political campaign.  Winning the presidential election of 1976 with their support, Carter gave legitimacy to what was heretofore a largely marginalized and silent segment of the electorate. 

But, alas, what was to become known as the ‘Religious Right’ could find no home in the party of Ted Kennedy, Bela Abzug, and Eleanor Smeal. (1)  By 1980 American religious ‘fundamentalism’ had transformed itself from a mere adjunct in support of a single issue, and of a particular presidential candidate, into a ‘movement’.  In the hands of Jerry Falwell, and dubbing itself the ‘Moral Majority’, Christian Fundamentalism emerged as a national political ‘movement’, moving as it did beyond not only single-issue politics but to the conservative political ‘right’, embracing Ronald Reagan and the politics of unfettered capitalist exploitation.  In the hands of these practitioners it was held, with a straight face, that it was the will of the Lord that not only should the social safety net be shredded but that personal and capital gains taxes be cut in half.

Over the ensuing decades it only got worse.  As the Republican party of our forefathers transformed itself into the Rescumlican party of today it opened its doors and embraced with wholesale enthusiasm the likes of the heretofore banned John Birch Society, crypto-fascists, not a few remnants of the Ku Klux Klan and Southern racists, but more recently the corporate-sponsored Teabaggers, libertarians, and other eternal malcontents.  It has become, by degrees, a reincarnation of the old 19th century ‘Know-Nothing’ Party, denying science and climate change, evolution, and universally observable fact.  

The problem is that, given the religious veneer over which this caldron of intolerance and ignorance is presently covered, the “Political Right” or, as I prefer, the “
Idiot Wrong” has not only gone over to the ‘dark side’, but in so doing has exhibited such a marked degree of belligerence and intolerance as to threaten the very concept of republican governance.

There is something about conducting oneself in the public square with the firm conviction that one has god on one’s side.  If one is convinced that through political action one is working god’s will then compromise becomes damn near impossible.  If one assumes that good, however ill-defined must rest in one’s own hands and must, in the end, prevail then all other centers of political power are either suspect, evil, or illegitimate.  A certain self-righteousness emerged on the political wrong manifesting itself as a continuous stream of righteous proclamations, political obstructions and, when the electorate had the temerity to turn them out of office, temper tantrums.  Consider the record in recent years of conservative behavior:


* April 2011: House Republicans threaten a government shutdown unless Democrats accept GOP demands on spending cuts.

* July 2011: Republicans create the first-ever debt-ceiling crisis, threatening to default on the nation’s debts unless Democrats accept GOP demands on spending cuts.

* September 2011: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

* April 2012: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

* December 2012: Republicans spend months refusing to negotiate in the lead up to the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

* January 2013: Republicans raise the specter of another debt-ceiling crisis.

* September 2013: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

* October 2013: Republicans actually shut down the government.

* February 2014: Republicans raise the specter of another debt-ceiling crisis.

* December 2014: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

* February 2015: Republicans threaten a Department of Homeland Security shutdown.

* September 2015: Republicans threaten another shutdown [over Planned Parenthood]. (2)

 There is something dangerous about orthodoxy, be it religious, political or economic, in the hands of a “True Believer” (3).  When they are not wreaking havoc upon the national political consensus, undoing the work of centuries, and shredding the social safety net, they are, when voted out of power, about the business of obstruction and nullification. 

Make no mistake about it.  When one is guided by the ‘light’; when one sees ones actions in the political arena to be a manifestation of the ‘will of god’, then there is small room for political debate and no tolerance for political opposition.  Accordingly, one sets about the business of restricting the franchise (voter ID, Gerrymandering, restricting access to polling places), overturning elections (Bush v. Gore, the mess in Ohio in 2004), and vilifying the political opposition (Faux News, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter et. al.)  By these means the ‘light of the world’ has been, by degrees, transformed into a political abyss, a cauldron of darkness.  Christ, it is now earnestly held, was a confirmed Capitalist, nearly two millennium before the advent of Capitalism.  Facts?  What are mere facts in the hands of a ‘true believer’?

The Faustian bargain that Boehner forged with the forces of darkness has, at last come undone.  It remains to be seen, now that he is free of the constraints of power, what his commentaries will be on the state of our union but others, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke among them, have vented their frustration at the intolerance and ignorance boiling on the political surface of the political cauldron.  A veritable witch’s brew, balking at the elevation of little Eddie Munster, protesting that even he was not ‘conservative enough’ to lead this rabble.  Ideological purity has its limitations, and its price.

____

1.  Ted Kennedy is well known.  Bella Abzug was a renowned liberal congresswoman from New York City and avid supporter of reproductive rights.  Eleanor Smeal was chair of the National Organization of Women, also a strong supporter of Roe V. Wade.


3. See Hoffer, Eric. “The True Believer” Perennial Library, Harper and Row Publishers, New York. 1951. 160 pages.