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October 1, 2013

This shutdown stuff is making me nauseated

By Cary Brunswick
The Daily Star

---- — When my daughters were teenagers, they sometimes read a magazine called “YM” for “Young and Modern.” The publication had a regular feature titled “Most Embarrassing Moments,” where alleged teen girls would write in about publicly humiliating experiences, usually concerning with their bodily functions.

I have been reminded of that feature in recent days by some of the occurrences in the United States. Sometimes you are driven to those most embarrassing moments by the actions and statements made by politicians and others about current issues and events. 

And, eventually, despite your best efforts, that embarrassment can turn into anger and frustration.

For example, it could not get much more embarrassing than House Republicans being willing to let our government shut down today because they didn’t like the government health insurance program that was already approved by Congress in 2010.

Knowing the Senate and Obama would not go along, the House regardless early Sunday passed a spending plan that would delay Obamacare for a year and repeal a tax on medical devices. Without a last-minute deal, which Monday seemed unlikely, the government was set to shut down at 12:01 a.m. today.

The House last week wasted precious time by approving a budget that defunded Obamacare. Naturally, the Senate restored the money and sent the bill back to the House. The House went along with a temporary spending plan to avert a shutdown, but with the Obamacare delay attached along with a clause that allows employers and insurers to refuse to cover birth control.

All this may sound like business-as-usual for Washington politics, except that the stakes are so high. According to experts, a government shutdown would slow the economy, waste billions of dollars in federal money and scare already-jittery stock markets. And that’s not counting the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who would not be working, curtailing some services.

House Speaker John Boehner has been trying without success for a couple of years to get Obamacare repealed. Now, he is threatening to hurt the nation and many citizens just to get a delay in the program. And he mistakenly thinks he represents the national sentiment.

All this is embarrassing enough to make you sick to your stomach. 

And then there are the climate-change naysayers in Congress and their continuing opposition to attempts by the Obama adminstration to limit carbon emissions. They are embarrassing enough to upset anyone’s digestive tract.

Yet another dire warning about climate change was issued Friday, when the U.N.’s Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change reported that “warming in the climate system is unequivocal and since 1950 many changes have been observed … that are unprecedented over decades to millennia.”

Thomas Stocker, a co-chairman of the working group behind the report, warned that aggressive government action was needed to prevent the worst-case scenarios presented in the report for the century ahead. That’s because humans are the main cause of global warming.

“Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system,” Stocker said. “Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Meanwhile, about a dozen members of the House Energy Committee continue to deny the science behind climate change, even though 97 percent of climate experts agree we’re in big trouble. In fact, Republicans in the last Congress voted more than 50 times to block proposed climate actions.

Then there’s Sen. Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and former chairman of the Environment and Public Works panel, who called climate change the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.’’ 

Must be he forgot about President Bush’s “weapons of mass destruction’’ used to justify an invasion of Iraq.

Such moments certainly are not limited to Washington, however. It was especially embarrassing to be an American two weeks ago when Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, was selected to be Miss America for 2014.

It took only minutes after the pageant in Atlantic City ended for the bigots to hit the social media sites to rant about her nationality and complexion. And she wasn’t even the first woman of color to be crowned Miss America.

Numerous social-media users expressed their disgust that a woman of Indian heritage had won the crown. Some tweeters even referred to her as an Arab and a terrorist.

Fortunately, Davuluri, of Syracuse, is levels above her detractors.

“I have to rise above that,” said Davuluri. “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.” She said she was pleased that the nearly century-old pageant recognizes diverse kinds of beauty and talent.

Unlike many of us, however, she did well in hiding her embarrassment about the comments made on social media sites.

Cary Brunswick, of Oneonta, is a freelance writer and editor. He can be reached at brunswick@earthling.net. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Star and its editorial board.