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“Sedition In The Name Of Patriotism”: Cynical Opportunists In League With Sectarian Fanatics

On many occasions during the last few years, as I heard talk of secession and nullification, and of defiance of the courts, and of duly enacted statutes representing slavery and tyranny, and of Higher Laws and a Right to Revolution, and most recently, of allegiance to a foreign government–all more or less countenanced by one of our two major political parties–I’ve thought of a historical parallel, as described in one of my favorite books, George Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England.

The period in question was just prior to World War I when a Liberal majority government committed by mandate and party alliance to Home Rule for Ireland was obstructed by a Tory minority in alliance with Ulster Unionists which explicitly and implicitly threatened civil war. Here’s how Dangerfield describes a crucial lurch into sedition, when Tory leader Bonar Law traveled to Belfast to pledge allegiance to Ulster and its political leader, Sir Edward Carson, at a huge rally:

At this historical gathering the sedition being preached by Mr. Bonar Law, who led off with a scholarly appeal to Ulster’s worst fighting instincts, was nearly surpassed by Mr. Walter Long. “If they put Lord Londonderry and Sir Edward Carson in the dock,” roared Mr. Long, “they will have to find one large enough for the whole Unionist Party.” Whereat Mr. Bonar Law and Sir Edward Carson turned toward each other, clasped hands, and maintained this affecting attitude long enough for the whole assembly to realize that they were doing their level best to look like generals on the eve of battle. And then, while everyone stood with bared heads, Sir Edward released Mr. Law, and strode to the front of the speakers’ stand. “Raise you hands,” he shouted. “Repeat after me–never under any circumstances will we submit to Home Rule.” In the centre of the show grounds there was a signalling tower, with a flagstaff ninety feet tall, and while the audience, and the Marquess of Londonderry, and the Protestant Primate, and the Presbyterian Moderator, with obedient thunder intoned those words after Sir Edward, a Union Jack was broken from the flagstaff. It measured forty-eight feet by twenty-five. It was the largest ever woven. Patriotism could do no more.

Sedition in the name of patriotism should sound familiar today. Just over a century ago in England, the seditionists–aptly described by Dangerfield as cynical opportunists in league with sectarian fanatics–won. The country recovered, but was never quite the same. Are we headed in that same direction?

You have to wonder, as does Paul Waldman today at the Plum Line:

The American political system runs according to a whole series of norms, many of which we don’t notice until they’re violated. For instance, the Speaker of the House can invite a foreign leader to address Congress for the sole purpose of criticizing the administration, and he can even do it without letting the White House know in advance. There’s no law against it. But doing so violates a norm not only of simple respect and courtesy, but one that says that the exercise of foreign policy belongs to the administration. Congress can advise, criticize, and legislate to shape it, but if they simply take it upon themselves to make their own foreign policy, they’ve gone too far.

But as has happened so many times before, Republicans seem to have concluded that there is one set of rules and norms that apply in ordinary times, and an entirely different set that applies when Barack Obama is the president. You no longer need to show the president even a modicum of respect. You can tell states to ignore the law. You can sabotage delicate negotiations with a hostile foreign power by communicating directly with that power.

I wonder what they’d say if you asked them whether it would be acceptable for Democrats to treat the next Republican president that way. My guess is that the question wouldn’t even make sense to them. After all, that person would be a Republican. So how could anyone even think of such a thing?

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 10, 2015

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Republicans, Sedition | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ryan’s Rhetoric Has Consequences”: First, One Must Understand His Own Culture And History

Reflections upon the recent holiday: The first time my wife saw tears in my eyes was in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, at the tomb of Jonathan Swift. The brilliant 18th-century Irish satirist was my first and most enduring literary hero, a towering figure who Yeats thought “slept under the greatest epitaph in history” — composed by Swift himself.

I knew the Latin by heart, but seeing it engraved in stone moved me, although Swift had been dead since 1745. “It is almost finer in English,” Yeats wrote, “than in Latin: ‘He has gone where fierce indignation can lacerate his heart no more.’”

Reading Swift taught me more about Ireland and my Irish-Catholic ancestors than I ever learned at my alcoholic grandfather’s knee, I can tell you that. An Anglo-Irish churchman who considered himself exiled from London to the city of his birth, Swift condemned British misrule of Ireland in the most memorable satires written in English or any other language.

His 1729 pamphlet “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents” retains the capacity to shock after almost 300 years. Impersonating the ever-so-reasonable voice of a public-spirited reformer of the sort who might today issue proposals from the Heritage Foundation, the narrator advocated genteel cannibalism.

“I rather recommend buying the children alive and dressing them hot from the knife,” he suggested, “as we do roasting pigs.”

It’s the laconic “rather” that chills to the marrow, precisely revealing the pamphleteer’s inhumanity.

Swift was certainly no Irish nationalist. A Tory by temperament and conviction, he’d have been appalled by the idea that the island’s Roman Catholic majority could govern itself. Even so, Professor Leo Damrosch’s terrific new biography makes a compelling case that both his voice and his personal example were instrumental to an evolving Irish national consciousness.

I thought of Swift’s “Modest Proposal” the other day, listening to the ever-so-reasonable Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) explain that America’s poor have only themselves to blame. “We have this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular,” Ryan explained, “of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.”

Any question who he was talking about? As several commentators have noted, this business about “inner city” men not working isn’t so much Republican “dogwhistle” as GOP air-raid siren.

Ryan has since alibied that he’d been “inarticulate” and wasn’t trying to implicate “the culture of one community.” This came soon after a speech in which he’d told a heartfelt tale of a small boy who didn’t want a “free lunch from a government program,” but a Mommy-made lunch in a brown paper bag that showed somebody cared about him.

Coming from a guy busily trying to cut funding for school lunch programs and food stamps, this was pretty rich. Also apparently, apocryphal. The witness who’d told Ryan the tale in a congressional hearing had not only swiped it from a book called The Invisible Thread, but reversed its meaning. Which wasn’t so much that government assistance, as Ryan warned, threatens to leave children with “a full stomach and an empty soul,” as that sermons mean very little to hungry children.

Delivered just before St. Patrick’s Day, Ryan’s disquisition upon the undeserving poor earned him the scorn of the New York Times’ Timothy Egan. Taking note of Ryan’s great-great grandfather, who emigrated to the United States during the catastrophic Irish famine of the 1840s, Egan pointed out that Ryan’s words echoed the rhetoric of Victorian Englishmen content to let his ancestors die lest they become dependent upon charity.

It’s not always understood in this country that the mass starvation of Irish peasants — more than a million died, and another million emigrated — resulted not from the failure of the potato crop but English government policy. Ireland remained a net exporter of food throughout, with British soldiers guarding shipments of foodstuffs as they were loaded.

Rhetoric, see, has consequences. From Swift’s time onward, the native Irish had been depicted in terms justifying their subjugation. Virtually every negative stereotype applied to our “inner city” brethren today was first applied to Paul Ryan’s (and my own) ancestors. Irish peasants were called shiftless, drunken, sexually promiscuous, donkey strong but mentally deficient. They smelled bad.

Understanding that history is exactly what makes Irish-Americans like Timothy Egan, Charles P. Pierce and me — if I may include myself in their company — so impatient with a tinhorn like Ryan. If he wanted to understand his own ancestry, it’s authors like Swift, Yeats and James Joyce that Ryan ought to be reading, instead of that dismal ideologue Ayn Rand.

Nobody should let ethnic groupthink determine his politics. But if a politician like Paul Ryan hopes to be respected, it would help if he showed some sign of understanding the past.

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, March 19, 2014

March 20, 2014 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Poor and Low Income | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Looking For Mister Goodpain”: The Doctrine That Has Dominated Economic Discourse Is Wrong On All Fronts

Three years ago, a terrible thing happened to economic policy, both here and in Europe. Although the worst of the financial crisis was over, economies on both sides of the Atlantic remained deeply depressed, with very high unemployment. Yet the Western world’s policy elite somehow decided en masse that unemployment was no longer a crucial concern, and that reducing budget deficits should be the overriding priority.

In recent columns, I’ve argued that worries about the deficit are, in fact, greatly exaggerated — and have documented the increasingly desperate efforts of the deficit scolds to keep fear alive. Today, however, I’d like to talk about a different but related kind of desperation: the frantic effort to find some example, somewhere, of austerity policies that succeeded. For the advocates of fiscal austerity — the austerians — made promises as well as threats: austerity, they claimed, would both avert crisis and lead to prosperity.

And let nobody accuse the austerians of lacking a sense of romance; in fact, they’ve spent years looking for Mr. Goodpain.

The search began with a passionate fling between the austerians and the Republic of Ireland, which turned to harsh spending cuts soon after its real estate bubble burst, and which for a while was held up as the ultimate exemplar of economic virtue. Ireland, said Jean-Claude Trichet of the European Central Bank, was the role model for all of Europe’s debtor nations. American conservatives went even further. For example, Alan Reynolds, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, declared that Ireland’s policies showed the way forward for the United States, too.

Mr. Trichet’s encomium was delivered in March 2010; at the time Ireland’s unemployment rate was 13.3 percent. Since then, every uptick in the Irish economy has been hailed as proof that the nation is recovering — but as of last month the unemployment rate was 14.6 percent, only slightly down from the peak it reached early last year.

After Ireland came Britain, where the Tory-led government — to the sound of hosannas from many pundits — turned to austerity in mid-2010, influenced in part by its belief that Irish policies were a smashing success. Unlike Ireland, Britain had no particular need to adopt austerity: like every other advanced country that issues debt in its own currency, it was and still is able to borrow at historically low interest rates. Nonetheless, the government of Prime Minister David Cameron insisted both that a harsh fiscal squeeze was necessary to appease creditors and that it would actually boost the economy by inspiring confidence.

What actually happened was an economic stall. Before the turn to austerity, Britain was recovering more or less in tandem with the United States. Since then, the U.S. economy has continued to grow, although more slowly than we’d like — but Britain’s economy has been dead in the water.

At this point, you might have expected austerity advocates to consider the possibility that there was something wrong with their analysis and policy prescriptions. But no. They went looking for new heroes and found them in the small Baltic nations, Latvia in particular, a nation that looms amazingly large in the austerian imagination.

At one level this is kind of funny: austerity policies have been applied all across Europe, yet the best example of success the austerians can come up with is a nation with fewer inhabitants than, say, Brooklyn. Still, the International Monetary Fund recently issued two new reports on the Latvian economy, and they really help put this story into perspective.

To be fair to the Latvians, they do have something to be proud of. After experiencing a Great-Depression-level slump, their economy has experienced two years of solid growth and falling unemployment. Despite that growth, however, they have only regained part of the lost ground in terms of either output or employment — and the unemployment rate is still 14 percent. If this is the austerians’ idea of an economic miracle, they truly are the children of a lesser god.

Oh, and if we’re going to invoke the experience of small nations as evidence about what economic policies work, let’s not forget the true economic miracle that is Iceland — a nation that was at ground zero of the financial crisis, but which, thanks to its embrace of unorthodox policies, has almost fully recovered.

So what do we learn from the rather pathetic search for austerity success stories? We learn that the doctrine that has dominated elite economic discourse for the past three years is wrong on all fronts. Not only have we been ruled by fear of nonexistent threats, we’ve been promised rewards that haven’t arrived and never will. It’s time to put the deficit obsession aside and get back to dealing with the real problem — namely, unacceptably high unemployment.

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 31, 2013

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Deficits | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From Irish Radical To Muslim Inquisitor”

For Representative Peter T. King, as he seizes the national spotlight this week with a hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, it is the most awkward of résumé entries. Long before he became an outspoken voice in Congress about the threat from terrorism, he was a fervent supporter of a terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army.

“We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry,” Mr. King told a pro-I.R.A. rally on Long Island, where he was serving as Nassau County comptroller, in 1982. Three years later he declared, “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.”

As Mr. King, a Republican, rose as a Long Island politician in the 1980s, benefiting from strong Irish-American support, the I.R.A. was carrying out a bloody campaign of bombing and sniping, targeting the British Army, Protestant paramilitaries and sometimes pubs and other civilian gathering spots. His statements, along with his close ties to key figures in the military and political wings of the I.R.A., drew the attention of British and American authorities.

A judge in Belfast threw him out of an I.R.A. murder trial, calling him an “obvious collaborator,” said Ed Moloney, an Irish journalist and author of “A Secret History of the I.R.A.” In 1984, Mr. King complained that the Secret Service had investigated him as a “security risk,” Mr. Moloney said.

In later years, by all accounts, Mr. King became an important go-between in talks that led to peace in Northern Ireland, drawing on his personal contacts with leaders of I.R.A.’s political wing, Sinn Fein, and winning plaudits from both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, the former president and the British prime minister.

But as Mr. King, 66, prepares to preside Thursday as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee at the first of a series of hearings on Muslim radicalization, his pro-I.R.A. past gives his many critics an obvious opening. The congressman’s assertions that 85 percent of leaders of American mosques hold extremist views and that Muslims do not cooperate with law enforcement have alarmed Muslim groups, some counterterrorism experts and even a few former allies in Irish-American causes.

Mr. King, son of a New York City police officer and grand-nephew of an I.R.A. member, offers no apologies for his past, which he has celebrated in novels that feature a Irish-American congressman with I.R.A. ties who bears a striking resemblance to the author.

Of comparisons between the terrorism of the I.R.A. and that of Al Qaeda and its affiliates, Mr. King said: “I understand why people who are misinformed might see a parallel. The fact is, the I.R.A. never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States.”

He said he does not regret his past pro-I.R.A. statements. The Irish group, he said, was “a legitimate force” battling British repression — analogous to the African National Congress in South Africa or the Zionist Irgun paramilitary in British-ruled Palestine. “It was a dirty war on both sides,” he said of I.R.A. resistance to British rule.

As for the hearings, he noted that counterterrorism officials from the Obama administration have often spoken, especially since a string of largely homegrown plots since 2009, of the threat from American Muslims who take on radical views. “Al Qaeda is recruiting from the Muslim community,” he said. “If they were recruiting from the Irish community, I’d say we should look at that.”

Mr. King’s witnesses at the hearing will feature a fellow House Republican, Frank Wolf of Virginia; Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, who is Muslim; Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim physician and activist who has been sharply critical of some fellow Muslims; and two family members of young men who embraced extremist violence. (The committee’s top Democrat, Representative Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, has invited Leroy Baca, the sheriff of Los Angeles County, who has praised Muslim assistance to law enforcement, and Representative John D. Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, who has many Muslim constituents.)

The furor about the hearing is less about the witness lineup, which does not seem especially incendiary, than about statements by Mr. King that appear to spread blame for terrorism to the entire population of American Muslims.

“This hearing is not focusing on the acts of a criminal fringe but is broad-brushing an entire community,” said Alejandro J. Beutel, policy analyst at the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington.

Mr. Beutel, who has compiled a database of terrorist incidents since 2001, said the problem of radicalization of young Muslims is serious, and his group has helped counter it with a number of measures, including a video featuring nine imams speaking against extremism that has become a Web hit. But he said broadly accusing Muslims of complicity in terrorism will hamstring the fight to prevent extremism, which depends on tips from citizens willing and unafraid to contact authorities.

Even Mr. King’s critics acknowledge a fundamental difference between the violence carried out by the I.R.A., which usually sought with varying success to minimize civilian casualties, and that of Al Qaeda, which has done the opposite. The I.R.A. was responsible for 1,826 of 3,528 deaths during the Northern Irish conflict between 1969 and 2001, including those of several hundred civilians, said the historian Malcolm Sutton.

“King’s exactly right to say there’s a difference of approach between the I.R.A. and Al Qaeda,” said Tom Parker, a counterterrorism specialist at Amnesty International and a former British military intelligence officer. “But I personally consider both of them terrorist groups.”

Mr. Parker was at a birthday party for a friend in London in 1990 when the I.R.A. tossed a bomb onto the roof of the rented hall, a historic barracks. Many people, including Mr. Parker, were injured, but none died, by lucky chance of location and quick medical response, he said.

What troubles him, Mr. Parker said, is that Mr. King “understands the pull of ancestral ties. He took a great interest in a terrorist struggle overseas. He’s a guy who could bring real insight to this situation.” Instead, he said, “he is damaging cooperation from the greatest allies the U.S. has in counterterrorism.”

Some who have been close to Mr. King agree. Niall O’Dowd, an Irish-born New York publisher and writer who worked with him on the peace process in the 1990s, broke publicly with him Monday on his Web site, IrishCentral.com, describing Mr. King’s “strange journey from Irish radical to Muslim inquisitor.”

In Northern Ireland, Mr. O’Dowd said, they saw a Catholic community “demonized” by its Protestant and British critics and worked to bring it to the peace table. Seeing his old friend similarly “demonize” Muslims has shocked him, he said.

“I honestly feel Peter is wrong, and his own experience in Northern Ireland teaches him that,” Mr. O’Dowd said. “He’s a very honest, working-class Irish guy from Queens who’s had an amazing career. Now I see a man turning back on himself, and I don’t know why.”

By: Scott Shane, The New York Times, March 8, 2011. Original Post: For Lawmaker Examining Terror, a Pro-IRA Past

March 9, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Homeland Security, Islam, Islamophobia, Muslims, Politics, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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