Monday, July 8, 2013

Slow Start

It may take a day or so for me — and a lot of people — to get back up to speed after the time off (even if some of us had to work on Friday) for the 4th of July holiday weekend.  So forgive me if the postings are a tad light today.

I’m slowly going through my newsfeeds and catching up with some of the things I may have missed, such as Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) signing an ultrasound requirement bill in Wisconsin.  He did it when basically no one was looking and on a slow news day when everyone else was either at the beach or sleeping in.

This was not totally unexpected; Gov. Walker has always proclaimed his anti-choice views.  But what I find interesting is that he basically kept the signing under wraps as if he knew that if he made any public show about signing it, he’d get a lot of backlash.  Or at least that’s how it appears.  The same with Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.  New abortion restrictions were slipped into the state budget, and he signed the bill like he was running on his way to catch a bus, saying nothing in the process except, “Well, we have a new budget.  Gotta go, seeya.”

Both of these men were proud and loud to campaign on their anti-abortion creds, but when it comes to signing the bill, they dodge the press and do it like their bail release papers.  Maybe they just know that they’re doing something that they know a majority of Americans don’t want to see done, but they’re also afraid that if they actually veto a bill that they know will end up costing their state millions of dollars to defend in court and get people rallying against them, they might not be able to run for re-election without incurring the wrath of the American Taliban.

It’s also been a while since we caught up with David Brooks, and maybe it’s just as well.  Friday he penned a column in support of the coup in Egypt and put forward the notion that perhaps the Islamists that were running the country under President Morsi weren’t mentally capable of governing.

Islamists might be determined enough to run effective opposition movements and committed enough to provide street-level social services. But they lack the mental equipment to govern.

Yikes; racist much?  It’s one thing to say that religious fundamentalists like the Islamists or the Taliban or right-wing Christians are not on board with the idea of democracy such as what we attempt to practice here in the U.S. and other nations and that secular constitutional governments are not their cup of Tea, so to speak, but to suggest that they lack the capacity for democracy takes it to a whole other level.  Now we’re into the “white man’s burden” that recalls the age of missionaries armed with bibles and Rudyard Kipling verses going into whole continents and pillaging them in the name of Christ and Standard Oil.  And, according to our Mr. Brooks, the people on the receiving end of our beneficent plundering will never be capable of American democracy, white bread, and the three-martini lunch.

In reality, the U.S. has no ability to influence political events in Egypt in any important way. The only real leverage point is at the level of ideas. Right now, as Walter Russell Mead of Bard College put it, there are large populations across the Middle East who feel intense rage and comprehensive dissatisfaction with the status quo but who have no practical idea how to make things better. The modern thinkers who might be able to tell them have been put in jail or forced into exile. The most important thing outsiders can do is promote those people and defend those people, decade after decade.

It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients.

To be fair, at least Mr. Brooks didn’t posit that the best thing for Egypt would be another Pinochet, like the Wall Street Journal suggested.

You don’t have to wonder what America would be like if we allowed the religious fundamentalists to take over the country and they decided who does or does not have the mental ingredients for their idea of government and democracy.  We’re already seeing it in places like Texas with Gov. Rick Perry, who, unlike his counterparts in Ohio and Wisconsin, has no problem bragging about how he just loves to control the uteri in his state.

Whether they’re standing on a soapbox or sneaking it through in the middle of the state budget, they’re getting their way.

Those are just a couple of things that caught my attention as I slowly get back to speed.  There will be more coming, more’s the pity.  It’s going to be a long summer.