Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Q.  How do countries go to Hell, and become “failed states?”

A.  When a critical mass of the population have more loyalty to something other than their nation.

My experience in failed states like Iraq and Afghanistan and close=to-failure countries like Pakistan, Congo and Rwanda, convinces me, it’s as simple as that.

When enough people have some prior claim of loyalty and obligation that supersedes their connection to their country and its government, that state is headed towards  dysfunction and death.

In Iraq today, there are still not enough people who put loyalty to their nation ahead of their sect or region, or their obligation to some political party, warlord, imam or sheikh.  There is  a government of Iran-manipulated Shia supremists led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but it is justly hated by Iraq’s Sunni minority, disregarded by most Kurds, and alienated from many Shi’ites who are not Tehran fanboys, or want more tolerance for Others (especially Sunnis with whom many Shiites have intermarried), who resent government corruption and ineptitude, or simply take orders from their own mosque, tribe, clan, or some other Shia politician. The result: political paralysis, and uncontrolled violence beyond the reach of the state.

Afghanistan as a nation-state is even more of a fiction than Iraq.  The Hamid Karzai government is Pashtun-supremist in a country where Pashtuns are (unlike the Iraqi Shia) not a majority, just the largest minority.  It generally has only as much support as it can buy, because those not on the corruption gravy train, including many Pashtuns, are shamed as well as appalled by the greed and ineffectuality of every arm of the state, civil, military or police. Minority Uzbeks, Tadjiks, Hazara or Baluch identify their interests ethnically, religiously, regionally or by diktat of tribal, clan or family elders.  They may be Afghan in their passports or papers, but not in their hearts.

I grew up believing that “I am an American” was, short of family loyalty to Mom, Dad and my brothers, what was printed deepest in my heart.

I was conscious and sincere when I pledged my allegiance to the flag and the country for which it stands.

I was proud to be a Jew and rooted for the Jews in Israel and for Sandy Koufax and Al Rosen, Jan Peerce and Richard Tucker.  But it was sweeter that they, too, were Jewish Americans.

For a time, growing up in Richmond,  (before I became conscious of its racist politics) I was gratified to be a Virginian, the home state of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and Robert E, Lee, but that was because of what they meant to American history.

We were Democrats in my family, and we took shots at Ike’s constant golfing.  We were no country-clubbers and my Uncle Murray taught me a Tech Sergeant’s suspicion of Generals, but he was our President.

We respected, or at least we tolerated him and his works because we’d elected him (just without my family’s votes).

We were Americans, and we included everyone who lived here, everyone who said they, too were Americans.  We had our differences and our disagreements, we prayed in a variety of formulations to a variety of deities; we traced our lineages to different points of the globe, but we were a nation united.

Today, we have become a nation divided, fractured into smithereens, hammered on the hard anvils of race, class, gender, and accumulated wealth, into particular identities, distinct and distant from a melded loyalty to the common good.

According to Ed O’Keefe in the Washington Post,

73 Republican Congressmen are so in hate with Obamacare that they will close down the government unless it is postponed for a year.  At least 45 are willing to stick with their beef with the healthcare law that they will renounce America’s debt and default, unless they get to tie the country’s social safety net into a 365-day knot.

Is it loyalty to a Tea Party ideology, a radical take on “conservatism,” that is more important to these people than the faith and credit of their country or the functioning of its people’s government?

The demography of the Tea Party as well as the intended victims of most of its political agenda suggests the loyalty is not ideological as much as racial.  Why should we generally wealthier and more successful White people be asked to fund services used disproportionately by poorer, less accomplished Blacks and Browns?

This color-coded politics may help to explain the T-baggers’ obsession with Obamacare, named for and credited to America’s first Black President.  Obama’s overthrow has been the shocking, Party-at-all-costs-even-those-to-the-country policy of mainstream Republicans as well as the far-right wing-nuts, since Day 1 of his presidency.  They loathed the White Clinton, but with nothing like the negationality of this.

On the other hand, the middling social and economic rank of most members of the Earl Grey Brigade, married to policies that consistently transfer economic resources and opportunities from the middle class to the top 1%, suggests a manipulation of poorer fools by much better-off politicians to benefit the really rich who pay for their public careers.

In Florida, for example (and, report Lizette Alvarez and Robert Pear in the NY Times,

in Republican-run Missouri, Ohio and Georgia), Obamacare is being undermined to prevent citizens from getting the best medical insurance bang for their bucks.  Among the cheap tricks, with potentially expensive consequences for mostly poor and elderly people of African- or Latin-American backgrounds, (but also millions of poor and middle-class Florida Whites), include barring Federally-funded “navigators” from access to county health facilities – where many poor and uninsured people go for medical treatment.  The idea is to prevent them from guiding customers to the medical insurance coverage that best suits their needs and budgets.

Florida Governor Rick Scott says he’s afraid the “navigators,” in gathering facts to help them refine their searches for the best deal available, will breach citizens’ privacy.  Of course, every one of the navigators’ questions and more would have been routinely asked of any of those citizens had they sought care at one of Scott’s dozens of Columbia/HCA hospitals back in the 1990s. 

That was when Scott had leveraged Columbia/HCA into the largest medical care network in the country.  He did this with almost no invested capital, but a pyramid of debt – the very arrangement he most despises when government does it.  Of course, the company he ran had to plead guilty to more than a dozen federal charges of overbilling Medicare and Medicaid and trying to cover it up, and wound up paying close to $2 billion in settlement money, which also made it number one in its field in America. 

Scott crawled away from the wreckage with a $10 million golden parachute and an estimated $350 million in stock, and although his own Board forced him to resign, a Republican Justice Department in Washington chose not to prosecute him.

Hey, the guy’s a pioneer, too big to jail before bigness really went bad. .

Gov. Scott’s loyalty to the moguls of medical care has superseded his responsibilities to his state’s citizens in a uniquely egregious way.

No other state has done this: even if assisted shopping and open competition get Florida customers lower healthcare prices, they won’t be allowed to benefit from them for at least two years.  That’s how long the Legislature has banned the State Insurance Commissioner from setting new (presumably lower) rates for health insurance.

“In other states,” the Times notes, Obamacare has allowed “insurance commissioners to obtain better deals for consumers.”

says Florida presently has 4 million people with no health insurance, of whom close to 600,000 are Hispanics.  Chang reports Federal Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius emphasized that “a higher proportion of Hispanic Americans are uninsured and eligible for health coverage benefits under the law than the rest of the population.”

Once Americans would have seen this concentration of injustice as a cause for concern.  But Scott and his fellow Republicans are running on a record of “cutting the herd” of American citizens by denying subsidized medical coverage to those who need it most

The Governor, who largely financed his own election with money he “earned” at his criminal corporation, conspired with the Legislature to refuse Federal funding (100% for the first 3 years, 90% thereafter) to extend Medicaid to what the Herald says is “an estimated 800,000 to 1.3 million residents who are now uninsured.”      

The expansion, the Herald says, would offer Medicaid “to those earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $15,000 a year for an individual.  Now, “In Florida, an adult must have a dependent child and earn no more than 19 percent of the poverty level to be eligible for Medicaid.” 


Do the math: that means, to get Medicaid coverage in Florida you can make no more than $36.50 a week.  $40 a week, $160 a month, you’re out!  Pay for your own medical bills.


Of course, you can’t, which is why Jacksonville’s Florida Sun-Times reports,

“Florida’s failure to take federal dollars and extend Medicaid coverage could have serious consequences for the state’s major teaching hospitals such as UF Health Jacksonville (formerly Shands Jacksonville) and Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, because they treat a disproportionate number of uninsured patients, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown said.”

Is it that rich Gov. Scott so hates poor people and the hospitals that serve them that he’d let ‘em all die rather than breach his commitment to “conservative philosophy?”  Or is just that his loyalty to the Republican Party, or the private institutions that profit from the health care industry is simply greater than his loyalty to America and its commonweal?

Either way, he and the rest of the disloyal opposition are killing our country.  



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