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“Imagine; The Democratic States Of America”: Is It Finally Time For Us Northeners To Encourage The South To Go Its Own Way?

I have a confession to make: I’m prejudiced against the South. You might even call me an anti-Southern bigot.

I’m not proud of it. It’s just a fact. I grew up a liberal, secular Jew in New York City and southern Connecticut — a Yankee through and through. The thought of “my” America being yoked together with a region that fought a bloody, traitorous war to defend the institution of slavery and a way of life based upon it — well, it just felt morally grotesque. That this same region persisted in de jure racism (backed up by brutal violence) right up through the decade prior to my birth in 1969 only made it more galling.

I became more conservative in my 20s. But it was the conservatism of the urbane, formerly left-liberal, mostly Jewish neocons, which is (or at least used to be) the furthest thing from the Southern, populist wing of the Republican Party that, in our time, sets the tone and agenda for the party as a whole. And as I’ve moved a few clicks back in the direction of my youthful liberalism over the past decade and become an unapologetic anti-Republican, my distaste for the South hasn’t diminished.

That’s why I get a little kick out of it any time I hear someone make an argument in favor of Southern secession — whether it’s a Southerner who wants to get the hell out of Obama’s godless Euro-socialist dystopia or a Northern liberal wishing the yokels would do exactly that.

Sure, Lincoln was willing to sacrifice vast quantities of blood and treasure to keep the South from bolting for the exits. But that was eons ago. And some days — like today, less than a week from the likely seizure of the Senate by the Southern-dominated GOP — I find myself wishing the South would make another go of it.

Today, the Democrats control the Senate by a margin of 53 to 45. Two senators, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, call themselves independents but caucus with the Democrats, bringing their effective total up to 55 seats. The House of Representatives, meanwhile, is held by the Republican Party by a margin of 233-199.

But without the 11 states of the Confederacy? Whoa boy. By my calculations, Democrats (with Sanders and King) would control the Senate by a wildly lopsided margin of 49 to 29 seats. And the House — entrenched power-base of the post-Gingrich GOP backed up by jimmy-rigged gerrymandering? Without the South, Democrats would hold the House easily, 160-135.

Then there’s the White House, where even with the South the Democrats hold an electoral edge rooted in ideology and demographics. If the 2012 election had been held in a post-secession America, Barack Obama’s 332-206 Electoral College romp would have become a monumental wipeout of 290-88. As for 2004, it would have gone from a relatively narrow win (286-251) for George W. Bush to a John Kerry landslide of 251-133.

Without the South, the country could very well be renamed the Democratic States of America.

Secession would have numerous policy implications. The deficit would likely shrink, since despite the South’s fondness for anti-government rhetoric and ideology, the region benefits substantially more from federal programs than it pays into the federal treasury. Serious gun control legislation might actually make it through Congress. ObamaCare would probably work better (the South has led the way in refusing to expand Medicaid), but it might also be possible to pass the kind of sweeping reform of the health-care system (single payer) that proved impossible for Obama.

In sum, the U.S. without the South would look an awful lot more like Canada and Europe than it currently does — while the newly independent Confederate States of America would likely look like, well, nowhere else in the civilized world. Rates of poverty, already among the highest in the nation, would probably leap higher still. Guns would be ubiquitous. Without a meddlesome Supreme Court to uphold reproductive rights, women in the New Confederacy might find it impossible to obtain abortions. Something similar would probably hold for gay rights (not just with regard to marriage, but even including sexual activity itself) and, of course, for African American voting rights. (Ten out of 11 states in the South have passed voting restrictions in the past four years. Imagine what would happen without what remains of the Voting Rights Act and the oversight of federal courts?)

So what do you say? Is it finally time for us Northeners to encourage the South to go its own way?

I’d be inclined to say yes, except for one thing. I have family members in the Midwest who hold views as conservative as those that prevail across wide swaths of the South. If it’s ideology and culture (rather than region) that divides us, then shouldn’t these Fox News aficionados join in the exodus? And come to think of it, my neighbor down the street in the Philadelphia suburbs has a Tea Party bumper sticker on his pickup truck. Maybe he’d be better off relocating somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon line, too.

You get the idea.

The dysfunction of our public institutions and the ideological polarization and self-segregation of our culture can easily convince us that we lack any common ground with those on opposite sides of the various conflicts that divide us. And yet here we are, sharing the same soil, the same history, the same democratic norms and ideals. If we don’t want to set a centrifugal precedent that states and even smaller groups of citizens are free to break off from the country and set out on their own at the first sign of tension — a precedent that if acted on with any regularity could easily lead to the dissolution of the nation itself — we need to accept that we’re stuck with each other and have no responsible choice but to learn, somehow, to get along.

Maybe that Lincoln fellow was onto something after all.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, October 29, 2014

October 29, 2014 Posted by | Confederacy, Republicans, The South | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“How Can Dems Be Losing To These Idiots?”: The Most Anti-Idea Party In The History Of Parties

Back in February, I wrote a column arguing that the Democrats would need a strong, base-motivating message this year. By which I did not mean happy talk about jobs or the minimum wage. I meant the age-old motivator, fear—stoking fear in their base of what a Republican Senate would look like.

Well, here we are eight months later and less than a week out from the voting, and they haven’t done it. They’ve done a little of it. They push the “war on women” button, and a couple of others, like Social Security, which I discussed yesterday. But it just amazes me. They are running against a party that is as intellectually dishonest and bankrupt and just plain old willfully stupid as a political party can possibly be, and they have developed no language for communicating that to voters.

I mean it is truly admirable, in its perverse way, how anti-idea this party is. It has no economic plans. Did you see this Times article last week called “Economists See Limited Gains in G.O.P. Plan”? I trust that you understand the world of newspaper euphemism enough to know that “limited gains” basically means “jack shit.” It’s all tax cuts and fracking and the wildly overhyped (in jobs terms (PDF)) Keystone pipeline.

Republicans know the truth about these proposals deep down, or I think most do (I suppose some actually are that dumb). But they keep peddling them like a costermonger selling rotten fruit. Why? At least in part because they also know deep down that things like an infrastructure bank are what will really create jobs. I mean, it’s the very definition of creating jobs. But they can’t be for that, because it would be a vote for Obama, and Party Chairman Limbaugh would call them mean names.

Not a single constructive idea. Oh, they put out these things they call “ideas,” so they can sound like they have ideas, but they’re not meant for actual implementation. They’re just meant to exist so candidates can campaign saying, “See? I have ideas!”

And then, of course, there are a few actual ideas they do have, like the Ryan Budget, but those are deep-sixed at campaign time, because the Republicans know that it would indeed force seniors to pay more out-of-pocket for their Medicare—I mean, as far as Paul Ryan is concerned, that’s the point!—and they’d much sooner not have to answer such questions at election time.

So they’ve got nothing. Not on the economy. Not on immigration reform. Not on health care—ah, health care. Think back with me now. In the first half of this year, there were a lot of news stories that got pumped out through Speaker John Boehner’s office about the Republicans working on a plan to replace Obamacare. Oh, it’s coming along, he said in summer. And the media scribbled down stories: Lookout, Obama! Republicans coming with alternative proposal!

Well, try Googling it now. You won’t find a word. They have no intention of “replacing” Obamacare with anything, and they never did. It was just something they knew they had to say for a while to sound responsible in Beltway land. Oh and by the way, that celebrated House lawsuit against Obamacare—remember that one, announced back in June? It turns out they haven’t even filed it! How empty can you get? Even their smoke and mirrors is smoke and mirrors.

On foreign policy, which is to say on the question of a world that is clearly in a deep crisis that the United States must perforce play a central solve in trying to solve, Republicans again have nothing meaningful to say. And please, don’t tell me “but Rand Paul!” His speech laid out some decent notions as far as they went, but how can a person support the war against ISIS while opposing the arming of the Syrian rebels? That’s like supporting a crackdown on bank robbery while advocating that banks keep the safes unlocked. And Paul, probably, is the closest thing the party has to a responsible voice on foreign policy.

I could go on, but you follow me. The GOP has absolutely nothing of substance to say to the American people, on any topic. The Republicans’ great triumph of this election season is their gains among women, which have happened because (mirabile dictu!) they’ve managed to make it through the campaign (so far) without any of their candidates asserting that rape is the will of God. All these extremists who may be about to win Senate seats are winning them basically by saying opponent, opponent, opponent, Obama, Obama, Obama.

And the Democrats can’t beat these guys? This should not be hard. But it is hard. Why? There’s the “who votes” question. There’s money, especially the outside dark money I wrote about last week. And there’s the GOP skill at pushing the right fear buttons. And there’s the fact that the president happens to be, well, you know.

But the underlying reason is this: The Democrats don’t have the right words for attacking the Republicans’ core essence and putting Republican candidates on the defensive. When Republicans attack Democrats, the attacks quite often go right to the heart of Democratic essence, and philosophy. “My opponent is a big-government, big-spending, high-taxing” etc. That gets it all in there in a few short words. Every Republican says it, and the fact is that it’s typically at least sort of true, because Democrats do believe in government and spending and taxes.

As a result, in almost every American election, the Democrat is instantly put on the defensive, while the Republican is playing offense. Of course that’s going to be truer in a sixth-year election of an incumbent Democratic president. But it’s usually more true than not. The Democrat, who is for things, who wants to do things besides cut budgets and taxes, carries the burden of explaining why those things will be good.

In fairness to the Democrats, they’re a little boxed in, because they can’t respond to the above attack by saying, “Well, my opponent is a small-government, low-spending, low-taxing” etc., which wouldn’t sound like much of an attack to most people.

So what they have to do instead is find a way to talk about this policy bankruptcy and duplicity of the GOP that I describe above, the party’s essential anti-idea-ness, because it’s through that bankruptcy and duplicity that the Republican Party manages to conceal from voters its actual agenda, which is to slash regulations and taxes and let energy companies and megabanks and multinational corporations do whatever it is they wish to do. Most Americans may be for limited government and lower taxes, but they sure aren’t for that.

In my experience, Democrats seem kind of afraid to do this. Partly afraid of the Republicans, and partly afraid of the conglomerates (they seek campaign contributions from Citibank too). And maybe my suggested way isn’t the only way to do it.

But high-ranking Democrats collectively need to perform the following exercise. Sit down together in a room. Distribute index cards. Let each of them write down five adjectives they associate with the GOP, adjectives they not only believe themselves but hear from constituents. Because the crowd has wisdom that the individual does not, take those that get the most mentions and turn them into attack on the GOP’s essence that will put Republican candidates on the defensive. Maybe that’s when our campaigns will change.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 29, 2014

October 29, 2014 Posted by | Democrats, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Stop Bashing The CDC”: Government Is The Enemy Until You Need A Friend

After a rough start dealing with America’s first Ebola cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appear to be getting the problem under control. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be more incidents; a health care worker was diagnosed with the virus in New York yesterday after returning from West Africa. But the CDC now seems better able to control secondary infections, particularly among health care workers, who are at the greatest risk.

As the 21-day incubation period lapses without new infections in Texas, dozens of people are being cleared from the watch list. But Ebola lingers as a reminder of how easily safety organizations can weaken and what we must do to keep them effective.

“Government is the enemy until you need a friend,” said former Secretary of Defense William Cohen. Government organizations like the CDC, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration exist mostly to be our friends when we need protection from harm.

Unfortunately safety organizations like these don’t get much love in between disasters. They get attacked by those who covet their budget. They get attacked by those who hate government in general. They get attacked by corporations that don’t want to spend the money to comply with regulation. And they face political pressure to paper over potential problems that could embarrass some elected official. It’s hard to retain talent under conditions like that.

When we don’t take care of our safety organizations and don’t listen to them, they atrophy. Then disasters happen, and whoever is on watch ducks the blame. The person on watch always uses words like “Nobody could have foreseen …” For example: “Nobody could have foreseen” that the Army Corps’ levees in New Orleans would crumble during Hurricane Katrina. “Nobody could have foreseen” that terrorists might hijack an airplane and fly it into a building on 9/11. “Nobody could have foreseen” that dismantling Glass-Steagall Act protections would lead banks to gamble with taxpayer-guaranteed deposits. Not true. In most cases, agency staff anticipated the problem and tried to warn their bosses, but the boss didn’t pay attention because it was politically inconvenient or too expensive.

Frankly it’s a wonder that our safety agencies work as well as they do. The CDC is a case in point; they got many things right after their original poor response:

  • They quickly acknowledged that procedures were not working.
  • They didn’t circle the wagons. They listened to international medical organizations that had more experience in handling Ebola in the field.
  • They rapidly rolled out new procedures and equipment for protecting staff and training people in the proper use of the equipment.
  • Without succumbing to hysteria and political pressure, they updated travel regulations to ve rify the health of travelers from Africa while allowing essential aid workers to move unimpeded.

CDC did not do what so many agencies and private sector entities do in similar situations: Deny the problem, conceal data, refuse to change and retaliate against critics. The CDC responded and recovered more quickly than most. For example, they responded even more quickly than the U.S. Army did in giving our troops adequate protection against improvised explosive devices in Iraq.

Whatever the mistakes of government safety organizations, private sector safety organizations – the ones that exist inside corporations – are often much, much worse. Halliburton Co. and their contractors undercut internal safety processes in the prelude to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and four years later, they’re still fighting over who’s to blame. American International Group Inc.’s internal risk-management processes failed dismally in the subprime mortgage crisis, and rather than accept responsibility, they’re still arguing over the terms of the taxpayer bailout that saved them from bankruptcy.

Fast recovery is perhaps the best we can realistically ask of any safety organization, public or private, which faces infrequent, catastrophic risks. If we want these organizations to do the job, we need to treat them right. We need to give them the budget they need to conduct drills and stay sharp. We need to give them professional leadership and not put political appointees in charge. And we need to drop the hypocrisy of treating them as the enemy in between those rare but inevitable moments when we need them to save us. Far from failing, the CDC performed well under the circumstances. We won’t always be so lucky.

 

By: David Brodwin, Economic Intelligence, U. S, News and World Report, October 24, 2014

 

October 29, 2014 Posted by | CDC, Ebola, Federal Government | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Christie’s Questionable Judgment”: The Curious Case Of Kaci Hickox’s Quarantine

On Friday, Kaci Hickox, a Doctors Without Borders nurse, arrived back in the United States after helping treat patients in West Africa. It was not a happy return: after arriving at an airport in New Jersey, officials put her in quarantine.

Hickox’s isolation is the result of a new policy endorsed last week by Govs. Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York, who announced new guidelines requiring 21-day quarantines for those arriving from West Africa – whether they’re showing symptoms or not.

The result is a scenario that seems hard to believe: New Jersey has effectively detained a nurse in a tent with no shower, not because she’s showing symptoms of the Ebola virus, but because officials fear she might at some point show symptoms of the Ebola virus.

Christie defended the mandatory quarantine, saying the nurse was “obviously ill.” This was apparently obvious only to the governor – who has no background in medicine or public health – and was clearly not obvious to Hickox herself.

Christie boasted on one of the Sunday shows yesterday, “I absolutely have no second thoughts about it,” adding that he expects his policy to soon become “a national policy.” A few hours later, however, second thoughts emerged.

Facing fierce resistance from the White House and medical experts to a strict new mandatory quarantine policy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Sunday night that medical workers who had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa but did not show symptoms of the disease would be allowed to remain at home and would receive compensation for lost income. […]

After Mr. Cuomo’s announcement, Mr. Christie issued a statement saying that, under protocols announced on Wednesday, New Jersey residents not displaying symptoms would also be allowed to quarantine in their homes.

The shifts came on the heels of White House pressure on Cuomo and Christie, urging them to adopt policies more in line with science. It’s unclear whether the revised approach will allow Hickox to leave her state-mandated tent.

There are a few angles to this to keep in mind, not the least of which the dubious legality of New Jersey imposing a mandatory quarantine on a woman who’s reportedly asymptomatic. Forcing medical professionals to remain in their homes for 21 days is marginally better, at least with regards to their personal convenience, but remains problematic. Indeed, by the same reasoning, states would have to impose similar penalties on doctors and nurses treating an Ebola patient in the United States.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top Ebola expert at the National Institutes of Health, warned on “Meet the Press” yesterday of “unintended consequences” – the more we discourage public-health workers from treating Ebola patients, the worse the threat becomes.

This isn’t complicated. The best way to deal with Ebola is to treat the problem at the source: West Africa. There are American medical professionals who are willing to make an enormous sacrifice by traveling abroad to address this crisis, but if the United States discourages them, they’ll help fewer patients, the virus will spread, and the threat will become more severe.

In other words, a policy intended to keep Americans safe will likely put Americans at greater risk.

As for the politics, about a week ago, Christie seemed eager to be one of the more sensible voices in his party, warning of unnecessary “hysteria” surrounding Ebola. To be sure, the governor hasn’t devolved into Rand Paul-esque nuttiness, but Christie unilaterally locking up a healthy nurse for three weeks raises credible questions about his judgment.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 27, 2014

October 29, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Ebola | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Direct-To-Camera Lies”: Scott Walker Runs Ad Supporting Equal Pay After Repealing Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Law

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) released an ad on Tuesday in which his female lieutenant governor applauds his support for equal pay for women — just two years after the governor signed a bill repealing the state’s equal pay law.

“Under Scott Walker, workplace discrimination will always be illegal for any reason,” Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch says in the ad. “Mary Burke wants to create more opportunities to sue. We want to create more opportunities for women to succeed.”

Walker’s campaign released the ad soon after recent polls showed him and Burke, his Democratic challenger, in a dead heat, with Burke leading heavily among women.

Burke has criticized Walker for quietly signing a measure in 2012 that repealed Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act. The law gave victims of wage discrimination more avenues through which to plead their cases in court.

Walker never publicly commented on his decision to sign the equal pay repeal and his office never released a public statement about it. But Republican lawmakers who backed the repeal said the equal pay law was generating unnecessary hassles for businesses and false claims of pay discrimination.

“It’s an underreported problem, but a huge number of discrimination claims are baseless,” said state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R) shortly after the law was repealed.

But the equal pay law appears to have been effective. Between 2009, when the law was signed, and 2010, Wisconsin women saw a 3 percent spike in median income measured as a percentage of male earnings. In the two years the law was in place, not one pay discrimination lawsuit was filed, and Wisconsin rose from 36th to 24th in the rankings of states with the best ratio of female to male pay.

By contrast, after Walker repealed the legislation in 2012, Wisconsin dropped to 25th in wage gap rankings, according to 2013 data.

One of the Democrats who co-authored the equal pay bill said it clearly had an effect on employers, even without leading to any more lawsuits. “Since the law was put into place, employers actually took notice and were very conscious of the fact that they had to follow this law or they were at risk of a lawsuit,” state Rep. Christine Sinicki said in 2012.

EMILY’s List, a progressive women’s PAC that supports Burke, said Walker’s new equal pay ad is a lie.

“When it comes to the issues that matter to women, Walker has nothing to offer but direct-to-camera lies,” said Marcy Stech, a spokesperson for the group. “Walker and Kleefisch know that their record is out of step with the women of Wisconsin whose votes they are desperate to capture — so blurring their record is their only option.”

“Voters are too smart to fall for these last-ditch efforts to mask Walker’s record of working against economic opportunity for women,” she added.

Burke’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

 

By: Laura Bassett, The Huffington Post BLog, October 28, 2014

 

 

October 29, 2014 Posted by | Pay Equity, Scott Walker, Wisconsin | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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