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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

“The New Tribalism”: Not That Different From What’s Happening In The Rest Of The World

We are witnessing a reversion to tribalism around the world, away from nation states. The same pattern can be seen even in America – especially in American politics.

Before the rise of the nation-state, between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, the world was mostly tribal. Tribes were united by language, religion, blood, and belief. They feared other tribes and often warred against them. Kings and emperors imposed temporary truces, at most.

But in the past three hundred years the idea of nationhood took root in most of the world. Members of tribes started to become citizens, viewing themselves as a single people with patriotic sentiments and duties toward their homeland. Although nationalism never fully supplanted tribalism in some former colonial territories, the transition from tribe to nation was mostly completed by the mid twentieth century.

Over the last several decades, though, technology has whittled away the underpinnings of the nation state. National economies have become so intertwined that economic security depends less on national armies than on financial transactions around the world. Global corporations play nations off against each other to get the best deals on taxes and regulations.

News and images move so easily across borders that attitudes and aspirations are no longer especially national. Cyber-weapons, no longer the exclusive province of national governments, can originate in a hacker’s garage.

Nations are becoming less relevant in a world where everyone and everything is interconnected. The connections that matter most are again becoming more personal. Religious beliefs and affiliations, the nuances of one’s own language and culture, the daily realities of class, and the extensions of one’s family and its values – all are providing people with ever greater senses of identity.

The nation state, meanwhile, is coming apart. A single Europe – which seemed within reach a few years ago – is now succumbing to the centrifugal forces of its different languages and cultures. The Soviet Union is gone, replaced by nations split along tribal lines. Vladimir Putin can’t easily annex the whole of Ukraine, only the Russian-speaking part. The Balkans have been Balkanized.

Separatist movements have broken out all over — Czechs separating from Slovaks; Kurds wanting to separate from Iraq, Syria, and Turkey; even the Scots seeking separation from England.

The turmoil now consuming much of the Middle East stems less from democratic movements trying to topple dictatorships than from ancient tribal conflicts between the two major denominations of Isam – Sunni and Shia.

And what about America? The world’s “melting pot” is changing color. Between the 2000 and 2010 census the share of the U.S. population calling itself white dropped from 69 to 64 percent, and more than half of the nation’s population growth came from Hispanics.

It’s also becoming more divided by economic class. Increasingly, the rich seem to inhabit a different country than the rest.

But America’s new tribalism can be seen most distinctly in its politics. Nowadays the members of one tribe (calling themselves liberals, progressives, and Democrats) hold sharply different views and values than the members of the other (conservatives, Tea Partiers, and Republicans).

Each tribe has contrasting ideas about rights and freedoms (for liberals, reproductive rights and equal marriage rights; for conservatives, the right to own a gun and do what you want with your property).

Each has its own totems (social insurance versus smaller government) and taboos (cutting entitlements or raising taxes). Each, its own demons (the Tea Party and Ted Cruz; the Affordable Care Act and Barack Obama); its own version of truth (one believes in climate change and evolution; the other doesn’t); and its own media that confirm its beliefs.

The tribes even look different. One is becoming blacker, browner, and more feminine. The other, whiter and more male. (Only 2 percent of Mitt Romney’s voters were African-American, for example.)

Each tribe is headed by rival warlords whose fighting has almost brought the national government in Washington to a halt. Increasingly, the two tribes live separately in their own regions – blue or red state, coastal or mid-section, urban or rural – with state or local governments reflecting their contrasting values.

I’m not making a claim of moral equivalence. Personally, I think the Republican right has gone off the deep end, and if polls are to be believed a majority of Americans agree with me.

But the fact is, the two tribes are pulling America apart, often putting tribal goals over the national interest – which is not that different from what’s happening in the rest of the world.

 

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, March 23, 2014

March 24, 2014 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Killing Of Osama bin Laden: Both Well Executed And Lawful

Some are questioning the legality of the raid in Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. Was it lawful for a team of Navy SEALs to launch a mission in Abbottabad without permission from Pakistani leaders? Did they comply with international strictures when they killed the al-Qaeda leader rather than capturing him and bringing him before a court of law?

In a word: yes.

The analysis must begin with the events of Sept. 11, 2001, when about 3,000 innocents were murdered by Osama bin Laden and his forces. There was no guesswork involved in pinpointing the culprits: He took credit for the bloodshed and reiterated his call for attacks against the United States and its allies. In passing the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) just one week later, Congress explicitly empowered the president to take all appropriate and necessary action against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and all those who helped or harbored them. It was, in short, a declaration of war, and Osama bin Laden was rightly targeted for his central role in the atrocities.

Absent a surrender, there is no question that U.S. forces would have been entitled to shoot him on sight had they encountered him on an Afghan battlefield. But that is not where the terrorist leader spent his time. After lengthy and intricate intelligence-gathering, the Obama administration tracked him to a heavily secured mansion in a city outside Islamabad populated by military officers and the country’s elite military academy. With suspicions high that Osama bin Laden enjoyed some semblance of official protection, the Obama administration rightly decided to proceed without notifying Pakistan.

International law recognizes a country’s inherent right to act in self-defense, and it makes no distinction between vindicating these rights through a drone strike or through a boots-on-the-ground operation. Administration officials have described the raid as a “kill or capture” mission and asserted that the SEALs would have taken Osama bin Laden alive had he surrendered and presented no threat to U.S. personnel or the others in the compound that night. This, according to official accounts, did not happen.

Much has been made of the disclosure that Osama bin Laden was unarmed, but this, too, is irrelevant in determining whether the operation was lawful. The SEALs entered the compound on a war footing, in the middle of the night, prepared to encounter hostile fire in what they believed to be the enemy leader’s hideout. They reported that they became embroiled in a firefight once inside; they had no way of knowing whether Osama bin Laden himself was armed. Even if he had signaled surrender, there is no reason to believe that danger had evaporated. As Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said during a congressional hearing on Wednesday: “From a Navy SEAL perspective, you had to believe that this guy was a walking IED,” prepared to blow up himself and those around him or possibly to detonate an explosive that would have engulfed the entire house.

It is easy in the light of day to second-guess decisions made in the heat of war. It is particularly easy for those who refuse to acknowledge that war in the first place. Based on information released by the administration, the covert military operation that brought down the most wanted terrorist in the world appears to have been gutsy and well executed. It was also lawful.

By: Editorial Board Opinion, The Washington Post, May 4, 2011

May 6, 2011 Posted by | 911, Congress, Democracy, Ground Zero, Homeland Security, Journalists, Middle East, National Security, President Obama, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who’s Soft On Terror Now?

By the time U.S. Navy SEALs shot Osama bin Laden dead in his Pakistan hideaway, he was already becoming a historical anachronism. During his 10 years of running and hiding, events had passed him by. In the end, he appeared more David Koresh than Hitler or Napoleon — a religious zealot imprisoned by his own homicidal delusions, and little more.

“I am confident that Muslims will be able to end the legend of the so-called superpower that is America,” bin Laden once said. Like most fanatics, however, he failed to grasp the resilience of our democracy. America had largely recovered from the terrible strategic blunders that fear and outrage over the 9/11 atrocity had driven it to.

Al-Qaida’s hope was to lure the United States into Afghanistan, where they imagined it would destroy itself like the Soviet Union. That the neoconservative cabal inside the Bush administration would use the attack to justify invading Iraq provided an unanticipated propaganda boost.

The U.S., bin Laden told a CNN interviewer in 1997, “wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose agents on us to rule us and then wants us to agree to this … If we refuse to do so, it says we are terrorists.”

But images of Abu Ghraib faded as Iraq’s fratricidal strife yielded to steadfast military and diplomatic effort; America’s intention to leave Iraq became clear. Recent political tumult across the Arab world has owed nothing to bin Laden’s fever dream of a restored Islamic empire.

Writing from Benghazi, Libya, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen celebrated the liberation of “the captive Arab mind.”

“Bin Laden’s rose-tinged caliphate was the solace of the disenfranchised, the disempowered and the desperate,” Cohen added. “A young guy with a job, a vote and prospects does not need virgins in paradise.”

None of which should diminish our satisfaction at bin Laden’s death. I happened to be watching the Phillies-Mets game Sunday night when spontaneous cheers of “USA, USA!” broke out as fans got the news on their cellphones. For once, ESPN delivered a non-sports headline at the bottom of the screen.

My brother the Mets fan called the next day to express his feelings. Thirteen people from our New Jersey hometown, he reminded me, died on 9/11. I didn’t know any of them personally, but he knew several victims. Nothing can bring the victims back or erase their loved ones’ pain. Avenging those deaths, however, brought exactly what President Obama said it did: justice.

Bin Laden could have surrendered. Instead, he took the easy way out. Good riddance to him.

Everybody’s got their own way of remembering. Me, I get out my “Concert for New York” DVD and watch the Who turn Madison Square Garden upside down with a thunderous rendition of “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” — maybe the most powerful rock anthem ever written — for an audience of uniformed New York cops, firefighters and EMTs.

Announcing themselves honored to be invited, the English band played in front of a huge projection of the U.S. flag, the Union Jack and the World Trade Center. I can’t watch it dry-eyed. Everybody in the crowd looks like my cousin or somebody I grew up with.

No doubt you’ve got your own 9/11 memories. The question is: What to do with those thoughts and emotions now? Will the feelings of unity — those cheering fans in Philadelphia were Democrats and Republicans alike — bring about a lessening of partisan political anger?

President George W. Bush was quick to offer congratulations. Even Dick Cheney was gracious for once. It was Cheney’s classless accusation that President Obama was risking national security by dropping the “Global War on Terror” trope that set the tone for strident rejection of his legitimacy.

Soft on terror? Obama not only accomplished what the previous administration hadn’t done in eight years of trying, he’d put his presidency on the line. Had the SEALs’ mission in Pakistan failed like President Carter’s 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran, the recriminations would never have ended. Instead, it revealed Obama as one tough, shrewd cookie.

“For most Americans,” writes the New Yorker’s George Packer, “the killing of Osama bin Laden is the equivalent of a long-form birth certificate in establishing Barack Obama’s bona fides as commander-in-chief.”

Realistically, however, not much has changed except American self-confidence. The truth is that the nation panicked somewhat after 9/11. Anxious to find an opponent worthy of their own revolutionary romanticism, Bush administration neoconservatives turned Osama bin Laden into a virtual Hitler to suit their own Churchillian fantasies.

“Islamofascism” they called it. Enraged and distraught, many Americans bought it. Except that bin Laden’s deluded followers posed no military threat to the integrity of the United States or any Western nation. At worst they were capable of theatrical acts of mass murder like the 9/11 attacks.

And that was sufficient evil indeed.

By: Gene Lyons, Salon War Room, May 4, 2011

May 5, 2011 Posted by | 911, Democracy, Foreign Policy, Ground Zero, Homeland Security, Muslims, National Security, Neo-Cons, Politics, President Obama, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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