| Outdated: Rethinking America’s Exceptionalism!

Rethinking America’s Exceptionalism ~ The Globalist.

Can Americans exist without the ideology of exceptionalism that has carried them for over two centuries?

Myths enclose those who believe in them. They are not subject to debate or rational consideration. One cannot hold them up to the light and parse them for their true and applicable aspects as against their false and misleading ones.

They are there, stories whose frequent telling has inscribed upon them a balanced, inalterable structure. This gives mythology its enclosing character. One lives either within it or not, one either accepts it as a guide to “what happened” or not and, finally, “what will happen.”

Perceptions of self and other are often rooted in myths. And so it is for Americans. And yet, our time is a time of de-mythologizing.

For us, we Americans, that means we are now called upon to advance beyond the mythologies that carried us from our nation’s very beginnings until 2001.

That is why this is such a big moment historically, as large as when our common narrative was first articulated, in its quite mythological form, almost four hundred years ago.

This point should not be difficult to grasp. Many Americans understand already, it seems to me, what truly happened in September 2001. But for others the point may prove nearly impossible to accept.

It did not help that the Bush Administration chose to case the events of September 11th as a call to arms, a time to reaffirm the very things that, in those horrific moments, had finally become untenable.

We had clung to the notions of American power and exceptionalism already for far too long — and with ever less good reason or grounding in reality.

This inability to come to terms with where we stand as a nation — and where the United States stands in the world — becomes readily apparent when we observe what we call our “culture wars.”

Providentially blessed?

Or when we listen to our national political discourse. When we consider policies for health care, immigration, education or the proper regulation of our markets, does it truly make sense to claim that our institutions, as established, are providentially blessed? Is it wise to keep spinning the myth that we still live in sacred time and should therefore be immune to change?

Do we not face conditions at home and abroad that are evolved such that we, too, must consent to a changed America, lest it fails to advance? If we are not ready, or capable, as a nation to do that, can we seriously say that we are evolving historically and are ready to leave certain beliefs and practices behind?

Given our internal divisiveness, even the question — to say nothing of any answers — seems nearly intractable. Too few of us seem able to face it. The unworkable condition of our national politics represents an uncrossable divide.

“In the end we couldn’t connect,” House Speaker John Boehner, a conservative Republican, said as he emerged from talks with President Obama in the summer of 2011. “Not because of different personalities, but because of different versions of our country.” This is the point precisely.

Letting go

A question arises that may determine the future of the United States itself: How can a people disabuse themselves of their mythological beliefs?

Fortunately, this challenge is not without precedent. There are examples threaded through history: The English, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Germans, the Japanese, certainly the Chinese, they all had to undergo such a transformation to find their common core, or a new one.

All of these peoples (and many other, less powerful people, too) have let go of the national myths that had once driven them on. These myths may linger as stories, but they are understood to be no more than that.

No doubt, this process of de-mythologizing one’s own nation is painful. In every case, it was a response — whether to defeat, decolonization, internal decay and sometimes more than one of these in combination. In short, the disillusioning of a myth-driven people is always a national reply to the knock of history.

Editor’s note: This essay is adapted from Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century by Patrick Smith (Yale, 2013). Published by arrangement with the publisher. Copyright © 2013 by Yale University Press. For previous excerpts see here and here.

________________________________________________________________________

Hegemony A

| Wake Up America! Congressional “Mad Dogs” render the powerful powerless!

Congressional “Mad Dogs” Render the Powerful PowerlessRALPH NADERCounterpunch.

SHUTDOWN – blared the Washington Post headline. None of the powers-that-be could stop a small faction of Republicans in the House of Representatives from shutting down many federal government operations starting on October 1.

Suddenly the powerful Business Roundtable and U.S. Chamber of Commerce are powerless, along with two hundred corporate trade associations, who see Uncle Sam as their big customer. Suddenly, the Republican dominated National Governors Association, together with Mitt Romney, the Party’s presidential nominee in 2013, are powerless. Also powerless so far are the allegedly sovereign people, who want uninterrupted safety inspections, enforcement of labor and environmental laws, children’s nutrition and educational programs (like Head Start), student loan processing, veterans benefits, detection of epidemics, access to national parks, and inspections of nuclear power plants.

All of the above want the federal government to stay open. Most of them do not want to see 800,000 federal workers (out of two million) furloughed. It doesn’t matter to House Republicans. About thirty-five to forty obscure, foot-stomping Republicans have scared the easily frightened House Speaker, John Boehner, and his curled-lip deputy, Rep. Eric Cantor, into doing what no foreign enemy since the British burned Washington in 1812 has been able to do. This cohort, representing the most cruel, ignorant, narcissistic Republicans in the Party’s history, has closed down much of the national government.

Usually lapdogs for big business or business lobbies back in their one-party dominated Congressional Districts, this small echo chamber in the House, assisted by some of their ilk in the Senate, have become “mad dogs.” These “mad dogs” do not obey their owners, they embarrass them and make our tepid economic recovery shudder. They shake foreign allies’ confidence in the super-power, whose lawless military Empire budgets are mostly untouched by the shutdown.

To make matters more calamitous, these “mad dogs” are also attempting to block the increase in the nation’s debt ceiling later this month that is necessary to pay for bills already incurred. Just the rhetoric by these ideologically inebriated Republicans is giving the stock marketers and the big business barons nightmares.

The ostensible reason for these “mad dogs” frothing at the mouth is Obamacare, or what is euphemistically called the Affordable Care Act, which does little to control the drug, hospital and insurance industry’s prices. These congressional canines bark daily that the American people are against “big government” Obamacare. They fail to point out that a solid segment in the polls consists of Americans who oppose Obamacare because they want full Medicare for all, or what is called single-payer – a far more efficient, accessible, and simple system with better outcomes and opportunities for disease and injury prevention. Under single-payer, everybody is in, nobody is out, with free choice of doctor and hospital. (Visit www.singlepayeraction.org)

Why is this Republican faction – a minority in its own Party – so extortionately against Obamacare that they would shut the government down? The answer is simple: Obama. They do not like him. Moreover, these Congressional “mad dogs”, well paid and insured by taxpayers, prefer the present ‘pay-or-die’ gouging marketplace that, according to a peer-reviewed study by Harvard Medical School researchers, takes the lives of 800 Americans each week who cannot afford health insurance to be diagnosed and treated in a timely manner (http://www.pnhp.org/excessdeaths/health-insurance-and-mortality-in-US-adults.pdf).

The question remains: Why have all these power brokers suddenly become powerless, including all the business lobbies? One explanation is that hyped-up Tea Party activists can threaten primaries against moderate Republicans. In addition these “mad dogs” are in a feeding frenzy and cannot see any reality beyond their pack.

Most puzzling are the allegedly sovereign people, including federal employees, their families and the millions of workers around the country who extend or rely on federal operations. True, there are a few scattered protests around the country. In France, were the Parliament to shut down the government, the French would likely sack the Parliament. In Washington, D.C., the press reported an “eerie silence,” before and after midnight struck on September 30. And they might have added – around the country.

How can this not embolden the “mad dogs” further?

It is one thing for America to be a nation of sheep, controlled by the multinational corporate supremacists who have no allegiance to our country other than to control it and ship jobs and industries to repressive regimes abroad. It is quite another matter altogether to be sheep led by “mad dogs” from uncompetitive Districts, whose sheepish voters brought them to Congress where they are exercising their slash and burn plundering.

Who is in charge here? Our Constitution opens with the words “We the People,” not “We the Congress” or “We the Corporations.” That is why people are deemed sovereign.

That sovereignty is in our hands only if we exercise it and challenge our wayward politicians. Time again for that oft-repeated but ignored cliché: Wake up America! (Easy first step – the Congressional switchboard is 202-224-3121 or find your member of Congress’s email address at contactingthecongress.org.) Tell Congress they are putting their own jobs at risk by allowing the shutdown to continue.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.

_________________________________________________________________________

BRAIN TRAFFIC1

ObLies1

| Spiralling debt: US begins shutdown amid budget row!

US begins shutdown amid budget row ~ BBC.

The US government has begun a partial shutdown after the two houses of Congress failed to agree a new budget.

The Republican-led House of Representatives insisted on delaying President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform – dubbed Obamacare – as a condition for passing a bill.

More than 800,000 federal employees face unpaid leave with no guarantee of back pay once the deadlock is over.

It is the first shutdown in 17 years and the dollar fell early on Tuesday.

What does shutdown mean for two million federal employees, agencies and tourist destinations?

Goldman Sachs estimates a three-week shutdown could shave as much as 0.9% from US GDP this quarter.


“The Republican leadership looks and feels trapped – they made demands that they knew wouldn’t be met rather than be accused of weakness and betrayal by their own hardliners”

image of Mark MardellMark Mardell North America editor

The White House‘s budget office began notifying federal agencies to begin an “orderly shutdown” as the midnight deadline approached.

Shortly after midnight, President Obama tweeted: “They actually did it. A group of Republicans in the House just forced a government shutdown over Obamacare instead of passing a real budget.”

House Speaker John Boehner told reporters he hoped the Senate would agree to a bipartisan committee known as a conference “so we can resolve this for the American people”.

“The House has voted to keep the government open but we also want basic fairness for all Americans under Obamacare,” he said.

The Senate is to meet again at 09:30 (13:30 GMT) on Tuesday.

The BBC’s Mark Mardell in Washington says the divide in US politics has grown so bitter that government itself cannot function.

Who is affected?

Who will be affected

  • State department will be able to operate for limited time
  • Department of defence will continue military operations
  • Department of education will still distribute $22bn (£13.6bn) to public schools, but staffing is expected to be severely hit
  • Department of energy – 12,700 staff expected to be sent home, with 1,113 remaining to oversee nuclear arsenal
  • Department of health and human services expected to send home more than half of staff
  • The Federal Reserve, dept of homeland security, and justice dept will see little or no disruption
  • US Postal Services continue as normal
  • Smithsonian institutions, museums, zoos and many national parks will close

Democrats were never likely to make concessions on healthcare reform – Mr Obama’s signature achievement and a central issue in last year’s presidential election, our correspondent says.


Timeline: US budget crisis

  • 20 September: House votes to scrap funding for Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”)
  • 30 September: Congress passes two budget bills coupled to Obamacare, both rejected by Senate
  • 1 October: Key provisions of Obamacare come into force despite shutdown
  • 17 October: Deadline for extending government borrowing limit, or debt ceiling

But Republicans have made demands that they knew would not be met rather than be accused of weakness and betrayal by their own hardliners, he adds.

On Monday afternoon, the Democratic-led Senate voted 54-46 against a bill from House Republicans that would have funded the government only if President Obama’s healthcare law was delayed for a year.

Major portions of the healthcare law, which passed in 2010 and has been validated by the US Supreme Court, are due to take effect on Tuesday regardless of whether there is a shutdown.

President Obama went on national television to criticise Republicans for trying to refight the last election.

Engineers with the US Navy talk to the BBC about what they will do during a shutdown: Make skis

A shutdown would have “a very real economic impact on real people, right away,” he said, adding it would “throw a wrench” into the US recovery.

“The idea of putting the American people’s hard-earned progress at risk is the height of irresponsibility, and it doesn’t have to happen.”


“For all the talk of the rise and rise of China, the US remains the biggest and most important economy in the world.”

image of Robert Peston
Robert Peston Business editor

After the Senate vote, the chamber’s Democratic majority leader blamed Republicans for the imminent halt to all non-essential government operations.

“It will be a Republican government shutdown, pure and simple,” said Harry Reid, referring to the Republicans as “bullies”.

Mr Obama has signed legislation ensuring that military personnel would be paid. The defence department had advised employees that uniformed members of the military would continue on normal duty, but that large numbers of civilian workers would be told to stay home.

Under the shutdown, national parks and Washington’s Smithsonian museums will close, pension and veterans’ benefit cheques will be delayed, and visa and passport applications will go unprocessed.

John Boehner: “I hope the Senate accept our offer”

Programmes deemed essential, such as air traffic control and food inspections, will continue.

The US government has not undergone a shutdown since 1995-96, when services were suspended for a record 21 days.

Republicans demanded then-President Bill Clinton agree to their version of a balanced budget.

As lawmakers grappled with the latest shutdown, the 17 October deadline for extending the government’s borrowing limit looms even larger.

Democrat Jim McGovern to Republicans: “You own this”

On that date, the US government will reach the limit at which it can borrow money to pay its bills, the so-called debt ceiling.

House Republicans have also demanded a series of policy concessions – including on the president’s health law and on financial and environmental regulations – in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

“I’m thoroughly disgusted with our politicians,” Ken Griffith from Kentucky told the Associated Press news agency.

“They’re acting like a bunch of three year old children. It’s who can hold their breath the longest.”

| Congress and the Imperial Presidency Debate Syria – An Analysis!

Congress and the Imperial Presidency Debate Syria – An Analysis (3 September 2013) ~ Lawrence Davidson.

 

Part I – The President Goes to Congress

 

President Obama has sidestepped the political hole he had dug for himself (what we might call the “red line” hole) over his proposed attack on Syria. Having insisted there must be “consequences” for a breach of international law, specifically the alleged use of banned chemical weapons by the Syrian government, he was faced with both popular American reluctance to support military action and Congressional pique over not being included in the decision process.

 

As a consequence President Obama announced on 31 August 2013 that he now supports a Congressional debate and vote on the issue of attacking Syria. Then he told us how he sees the situation, “This [Syrian chemical] attack is an assault on human dignity…. It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons…. Ultimately this is not about who occupies this [White House] office at any given time, its about who we are as a country.” 

 

Part II – The U.S. and Chemical Weapons

 

For all I know, the president really believes his own words, but I am pretty sure his implied question of “who we are as a country” is meant to be rhetorical. If one was to give an evidence-based answer to that inquiry, as it relates to chemical weapons, it would be embarrassing in the extreme. Lest we forget, the U.S. defoliated parts of Vietnam with a chemical weapon called Agent Orange and by its use killed a lot more than large swaths of jungle. Agent Orange killed and maimed an estimated 400,000 Vietnamese and an estimated half a million children have subsequently been born deformed. It also did a fatal job on many of the American troops that handled the stuff. Later, the U.S. sold chemical and biological weapons-grade material to Saddam Hussein and followed up by helping his army aim the stuff accurately at Iranian troops. Saddam also used it on the Iraqi Kurds. Then there is the fact that our “very special friend,” Israel, used phosphorous bombs (a banned chemical weapon) on the civilians of Gaza. At the time Israel did this, President Obama occupied the oval office. I don’t remember him displaying any moral angst or positioning U.S. ships in the eastern Mediterranean with cruise missiles aimed at Israeli airbases. The truth is that during all of these episodes no one in the government worried (at least publicly) about what our actions or lack thereof, said about what sort of country this is.

 

However, this question does deserve a direct answer. What sort of country is the U.S. in relation to the use of chemical weapons? The kindest answer one can give is it is a bloody hypocritical nation.  

 

Part III – Back to Congress

 

Nonetheless, sending the issue of a possible attack on Syria to Congress is a timely political move for the president. It puts off having to face the dilemma of taking military action that cannot both constitute meaningful punishment for the violation of international law and, at the same time, keep the U.S. from becoming ever more deeply embroiled in the Syrian civil war.

 

It also could be a good political move for the U.S. as a whole because it creates a good precedent. Having Congress debate and vote on the issue of military action against Syria could help resuscitate the moribund War Powers Act. Although Obama claims he has the authority to launch an attack no matter what Congress decides, he would be politically hard pressed to do so if the legislators said don’t do it. Thus the maneuver might narrow the otherwise rapidly expanding powers of the imperial presidency. Of course, none of this means that Congress can’t be scared or otherwise bamboozled into giving the president the power to do something militarily stupid. Vietnam and Iraq stand as powerful precedents in that regard.

 

There is another very interesting potential consequence of the president’s going to Congress. It might create a situation where there is a publicly noticeable difference between the express desires of a majority of the voting population and the special interests now encouraging military action against Syria. In my last analysis I laid out the idea that in the interim between elections, the influence of powerful special interests have much more to say about policy than do the voters, most of whom pay little attention to foreign policy. Now, however, we have a rare moment when the populace is paying attention and polls indicate that a healthy majority do not want further intervention in the Middle East. Who will the Congress respond to in the upcoming debate and vote, their special interest constituents or the voting kind?

 

Part IV – Conclusion

 

Of course, the notion that the President of the United States, with or without Congressional approval, has the authority to act as the world’s “policeman” and punish violators of international laws, that it itself flaunts, is offensive and dangerous. There are international institutions in place such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) that, imperfect as they are, can be used to prosecute violations such as the use of banned weapons. (It is to be noted that the cause of “human dignity” would be greatly advanced if the U.S. would stop refusing to ratify the treaty empowering the ICC).  

 

How do you characterize a situation where one or a small number of community members takes it upon themselves to go outside the law to punish alleged wrongdoers? Here in the U.S. this is known as “vigilante justice.” Most often this sort of behavior  results is a “lynching” based on little or no reliable evidence. 

 

President Obama’s going to Congress will not change the vigilante nature of U.S. intentions. Let’s just hope that Congress listens to the people this time around and tells the President to keep his cruise missiles to himself. And then, lets hope he does just that.

________________________________________________________________________

crosshairs2_op_800x483

 

 

US Barb2