Sunday, June 10, 2012

In Step With Bill Maher, Accidental Historian

COUNT ON BILL MAHER to give wingnuts at our favorite wingnut rag, The Daily Caller, weekly conniption fits over his comedic "seriousness," which is the ultimate oxymoron:
It’s been some time since a United States citizen was tried and convicted of treason,  a crime that carries some serious penalties, according to the U.S. Code:

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

Perhaps HBO “Real Time” host Bill Maher doesn’t realize the seriousness of such a charge. On his Friday program, Maher elaborated on the suggestion he made in a tweet that President Barack Obama’s opponents are guilty of treason for blocking his economic initiatives.
And your point is? Here's what Bill Maher said that had the DC's Poor, Jeff's panties all in a wad:

Treason is indeed a serious charge — and a serious case can be made that Republicans are committing treason against the United States of America. Whether such a charge could be brought against members of Congress, in both chambers, is not beyond the realm of existing law and historical practice, i.e., possibility. Even if a charge of treason, the ultimate crime against the United States, doesn't stick, there are other lesser, but severe, remedies available to Congress of expulsion and censure. In fact, in the institution's history, TWO U.S. senators have been charged with treason: William Blount (R-TN) in 1797, and John Smith (R-OH) in 1808.
SIDEBAR: Interestingly, both carry that fateful "R" party brand, although it should be noted that the "Republicans" (later the Democratic-Republicans) were the "Democrats" of the day, versus the "Whigs" (Federalists) that evolved into Lincoln's Republican Party. But this is of limited truth-in-labeling historical significance, since today's Democratic Party are descendants and inheritors of Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Republicans, while today's Republican Party transmogrified into the evil Zombie faction of the "Dixiecrat Democrats" that had been a remnant of postbellum virulent anti-Lincoln-Republican politics, which never recognized the victory of North over South and is still fighting the Civil War on the political and economic spheres.

Come to think of it, even the South's obsessive extractionist [energy] and agricultural economy and its systematic weakening of our northern manufacturing base follows the same historical pattern. The southern Republican Party's ideological — I would argue, also cultural and historic — posture to let our auto manufacturing crown jewels in Detroit DIE, from its titular leader, Mitt Romney, to the House and Senate leadership, governors, and rank-and-file, is a natural "states' rights" response to these cultural and historical patterns. We should not forget, or minimize, how ingrained southern heroic Civil War military culture (or as it's typically referenced in the South, "the war between the states"), "Old Dixie" Confederacy, is celebrated in the South, even in Brazil, where proud descendants of unbowed "Confederados" who emigrated there rather than accept defeat and surrender to the North, celebrate their colorful history.

Viewed through this historical and cultural lens, the southern Republican Party's nearly monolithic stance against the so-called Detroit "bailout" wasn't as insane as it appeared to the rest of us. Given the fact that the greatest number of senators expelled from the Senate (the institution's maximum sanction for a finding of treason; seven expelled, one later reversed) was on the charge of "support for the Confederate rebellion," or giving aid and comfort to the enemy in times of war, a charge technically akin to treason, its application to members of a certain political party during wartime is hardly an American history rarity.
Of the two senators charged with treason in the Senate: Blount was accused of "Anti-Spanish Conspiracy; Treason" seeking the aid of a United States government interpreter to seize Spanish Florida and Louisiana with British and Indian help, in order to transfer those territories to Great Britain; Smith was charged with "Disloyalty/Treason" for being implicated in the murky Aaron Burr plot to lead the western territories in rebellion. Ironically, Senator Blount acquired the ignoble title of being the first U.S. senator ever expelled from the Senate, while Smith beat the rap, avoiding expulsion by a 19 to 10 vote, less than the necessary two-thirds majority. Smith resigned two weeks after the vote, at request of the Ohio legislature. (His counsel was Francis Scott Key, who penned the lyrics in poetry of the Star Spangled Banner — ah, the tangled webs History weaves.)

Consider the following TREASON scenario against Republicans. We already know that on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009 House and Senate Republicans held a private dinner
..."in which they plotted a campaign of obstruction against newly installed president Barack Obama. During a lengthy discussion, the senior GOP members worked out a plan to repeatedly block Obama over the coming four years to try to ensure he would not be re-elected. The disclosures — described as "appalling and sad" by Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod — undermine Republican claims that the president alone is to blame for the partisan deadlock in Washington."
Progressives would say, and this is our constant beef against President Obama and his team — that they're not tough enough for Chicago (!) no less — "appalling and sad" is the understatement of the year for a cabal of opposition party conspirators plotting from the very beginning, at the height of our Republican-created 21st century depression, that they would not work with this president on any of his policy initiatives, but rather obstruct and block him at every turn for the sole stated purpose (by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from the southern state of Kentucky) of ensuring that he is not re-elected. The only missing ingredient for an outright charge of treason is the disclosure of followup meetings in which specific Republicans specifically strategize to block the President's economic policy initiatives in order to deny him a political "win."

In peacetime and normal, good economic times, this obstructionist strategy might be viewed simply by the POLITICOs who lap it up, as cutthroat, hyper-partisan obstructionist politics. Given that this is a time of war, as we fight two, arguably three wars simultaneously, that we are living through a second economic depression, as defined by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, and considering that the strength or weakness of our economy is the single most critical national security threat we face — then, any attempt by any person, politician, or political party to deliberately undermine our economic recovery and block policy legislative initiatives which have been deemed by impartial consensus among economists (e.g., President Obama's blocked jobs bill will create 2 million jobs) to strengthem our economy, any such attempt to block our economic recovery, therefore endagering our national security, for purely partisan political purposes is, by definition, treason.

 I've often felt that all great comedy is unrevealed truth. Bill Maher is a great comedian.
SIDEBAR II: One senator, Reed Smoot (R-UT), was actually charged with "MORMONISM" in 1907, but escaped expulsion. According to a Senate historical note: "After an investigation spanning two years, the Committee on Privileges and Elections reported that Smoot was not entitled to his seat because he was a leader in a religion that advocated polygamy and a union of church and state, contrary to the U.S. Constitution. By a vote of 27 to 43, however, the Senate failed to expel him, finding that he satisfied the constitutional requirements for serving as a senator."

So, essentially, prejudice against the Mormon religion was an early 20th century bellwether of our shifting morays for not only what does or does not constitute marriage (polygamy), but whether Mormonism itself was a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state. Anti-polygamy laws were enacted and remain in place today, just as laws criminalyzing homosexuality have been struck down. The fact Smoot survived expulsion, while upholding the concept of religious freedom, did not speak well for the then-Mormon tolerance of polygamy, nor for the separation of church and state. (Another entry in the tangled web of History. Now this is what I call FASCINATING!)

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