Steven Jonas (211)
I was going through an old floppy disk of mine, mining some health-and-wellness columns that I wrote awhile back for text that I could use presently. I still do quite a bit of such writing and I found that some of that old text, edited and brought up-to-date, could still be quite useful to me. (If you are interested in that side of my work, you can check it out at my own Web site and on an English one on where I publish about a column a month.)
While I was browsing through that old disk, I came across a letter-essay on 9/11 and its aftermath that I had sent to a friend on February 19, 2002. How that essay came to be on that particular health-stuff disk I have no idea. But anyway, reading through it, I thought that I would share it with you here and add a few comments in re the current "Nigerian terrorist" situation.
Many of us on the Left, whether the Democratic Party Left or the Real Left, are becoming increasingly disturbed, upset, concerned, what-have-you, with the behavior of the president in office. Obama came into office promising to be a different kind of president. Although certain of our compatriots were not so easily taken in, many of us (including myself, I must admit) thought that he would be, certainly in comparison to Carter and Clinton. But there were straws in the wind that he might not be. Earlier on, I had even noted some of them myself. However, for a while during the first few months of Obama's term, I did get caught up in the rhetoric. I should have paid a lot more attention to those earlier thoughts, as it has turned out, and will briefly review of some of them here. This brings us to the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).
The DLC is the right-wing organization that has dominated Democratic Party politics and policies since it was founded in the 1980s by the likes of Bill Clinton and Richard Gephardt, joined in the 1990s by the likes of Joe Lieberman. One of its prominent political positions was that in order to win elections Democrats had to look as much like Republicans as possible. This reversed the long-held mantra of Harry Truman that if someone wants to vote for a Republican, they will indeed vote for him (or her), not for a Democrat trying to look like one. It now is becoming quite clear that the Obama Democratic Party has become quite stuck in this mode. Strong criticism for the likes of Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson (much less any of the Republicans who have since the beginning of his Administration announced that they were out to "bring him to his Waterloo" [or worse])? Well, no. Personal, kill-the-messenger-type, attacks on the likes of Howard Dean? You betcha.
As I noted in my last BuzzFlash Commentary published a couple of weeks ago, the previous Sunday I had been walking on a street in New York City when two stickers on the back of an old SUV caught my eye. One said "McCain 2008." The other showed the Obama "sunrise" logo with the old Soviet hammer and sickle symbol imposed upon it. That's a clear message, no? Obama is a communist, no, rather a commie, and likely a Kenyan Muslim one to boot. Of course when folks of this car-owner's ilk, the "teabaggers" and such, aren't calling Obama a communist, they are calling him a "Nazi."
In that last column, I mused about what Obama would have already done and would be doing if he were actually a (presumably secret) communist. A couple of the readers' comments on my Commentary said essentially that what I listed was a left-liberal, not a revolutionary, agenda. They were quite correct. As I was careful to point out at the beginning of that Commentary, I was using "communist" in the context of the program of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) back in its heyday, in the 1930s and the 1940s until just after the end of World War II when it was quickly deep-sixed as any kind of a political force as the U.S. moved quickly from the hot war (finally) against fascism to a resumption of what would eventually become the 75 Years War against the Soviet Union.
Last weekend, I was walking on a street in New York City when two stickers on the back of a smaller, older, before bankruptcy, Chevy SUV caught my eye. One said "McCain 2008" (just McCain, no Palin). The other was of the Obama "sunrise" logo, with the old Soviet hammer and sickle symbol imposed upon it. That's a clear message, no? Obama is a communist, no, rather a commie, and likely a Kenyan Muslim one to boot. And oh yes, just in case you might think that New Yorkers don't harbor such thoughts, the car did have a New York State license plate.
Now there is really not too much evidence to support the "commie" appellation for the President, but I got to thinking. Supposing he were a communist. What kind of politics and policies would he have as President? Of course when folks of this car-owner's ilk aren't calling Obama a communist, they are calling him a "Nazi." But it is to answering the first question that the balance of this column is devoted. But before we get onto that one, we had better have a definition of "communist" to use because historically they have come in all shapes and sizes. Since Obama is a U.S. citizen, the wonderings and meanderings of putative GOP candidate for Senate and yes, maybe even for President, Lou Dobbs, and former House GOP leader Dick Armey, and their fellow "birthers" to the contrary notwithstanding, let us use the U.S. model of "communism" as our measuring stick. That is, we will use the U.S. model for the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) back in its heyday, in the 1930s and the 1940s until just after the end of World War II.
So Going Rogue and its companion guide to the truth, Going Rouge (available right here on BuzzFlash), are both out. And so is Sarah Palin. She is like the cat that got out of the bag. Since leaving the Alaska governorship, she has been stoking the Palin Fires. In a state in severe economic and environmental difficulty, there was simply no future there, right; and especially Right: might even have to take stimulus money. Definitely no future even if you can see Russia from it, that is on a very clear day standing tippy-toes on its farthest western point, at the Bering Strait (a very long ways from either Anchorage or Wasilla). She has her book and it and she are getting a lot of attention. Palin runs on enemies, not problems or programs to solve them (especially if one problem is premarital sex and the only available solution is abstinence-only education in high school). Her two main enemies are "the media" and "big government."
Looking at the title of this missive, the careful reader might well say "Pre Mortems? Don't you mean Post Mortems?" My answer is: "no, I don't mean post; I do mean pre." For what went on, on and about Election Day 2009, meant a lot more for what is to come in the upcoming 2010 and then 2012 elections than it did for the particular small number of elections on the day itself. In sum, the country drifted evermore in the direction of fascism, to be accomplished by either by election or coup or a combination of both.
Last week, we discussed why President Obama was heaven-sent for the GOP, pre-election. In my view (disagreed with by several commentators who made their cases very well I thought), he was the only prospective Democratic candidate who could have beaten John McCain. This was especially true if the Bush Administration had somehow been able to postpone the bursting forth of the economic crisis for less than two months. As is well known to BuzzFlash readers, it had of course been building for several years under Georgite economic policies. It is likely in retrospect that the "free-market" decision to let Lehman Brothers go bankrupt was, first, in their minds, the way to put things off. For if they had known what was going to happen both to the economy and their election chances, they would have done everything in their power to prevent that occurrence.
It was likely the GOP would lose the 2008 election, although that was hardly a sure thing. If the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the subsequent chain reaction in finance capitalism had occurred on November 18 instead of September 18, McCain might have won. If Hillary Clinton had somehow been able to pull out the Democratic nomination, whether or not the financial collapse and the revelation of the new Great Recession that had actually started some months earlier came before or after November 5, 2008, McCain might well have won anyway.
On Afghanistan Policy: Obama and the GOP
Commenting on a column by Prof. Andrew Bacevich (republished on The Planetary Movement), I noted that looking backward (and some noted this some years ago), it was obvious that the number one foreign/military objective of the Cheney/Bush administration was to create Permanent War. It would benefit their party politically over the long term. It would also benefit the major economic interests their party represents: the wealthy, the extractive industries, the military industry, and all of the others, large and small, opposed to any major reforms in domestic policy.
Using anger and fear, their principal political weapons, and the implied threat of another "terrorist strike" at the Homeland, they hope to force the Obama Administration to continue that policy, as much as it might not want to for all of the reasons stated by Prof. Bacevich and Frank Rich. If the President follows the Permanent War policy (as recommended by retired General Barry McCaffrey) he will be virtually ensuring his defeat in 2012.
So there was the crew at The Weekly Standard cheering the news of Chicago's loss. And the Chicago loss we're talking about here does not concern the Cubs. They haven't made it since Fred Merkle of the New York Giants committed his classic "boner" in 1908. But that's another story. "Hah," said Sean Hannity, trying oh-so-unsuccessfully to cover up his gloating, "he [Obama] didn't do his due diligence." (Hannity never uses the term "the President," at least not when I listen to him. I listen for a few minutes at a time now and then to see how long it takes for him to tell a lie, or take something out of context, or use two wrongs make a right, or go on one of his whining jags -- Beck cries, Hannity whines. The record has been three minutes and 40 seconds, although it's usually much less.) These guys were absolutely celebrating the loss. Whatever happened to patriotism? Oh I know. It's invoked only when they are trying to line up people to support a GOP president for some killing/torture policy or other.
Back on April 3, 2007, I published a Commentary under this title on BuzzFlash. I started off by saying in part that:
"There is currently a huge amount of speculation and alarums and excursions, mainly on the left-wing Web media, that there will soon be a massive U.S. air/missile attack on Iran on (you name it): Good Friday (April 6), Easter Sunday (April 8), or 'sometime in June' (2007). Most recently, these predictions have been fed by a report from official/semi-official/un-official Russian sources that such an attack, rumored for more than two years, is imminent.
"On this side of the Atlantic, authorities considered to be reliable and to have reliable sources have provided details of the planned attack and how the military is being organized to carry it out. Scott Ritter, the former Iraq U.S. weapons inspector, has been a strong and vocal critic of the CheneyBush Administration over their War on Iraq and their stated reasons for it. As reported to me by a friend, at a meeting at the District 8 Democratic Club in Arizona on March 31, he said the attack on Iran will occur 'by the end of June.'"
In that column, I went on to say that I didn't think that such an attack would occur for one or more of the following reasons: "the security position of the United States, the future of any Jewish state within the current confines of the borders of Israel, the future of the American military, the price of oil, the economic status of the Western democracies and Japan, the explosion of anti-Western terrorism around the world, the U.S. national budget, to say nothing of the tens of thousands of Iranian citizens who would be murdered in such an attack."
So House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi becomes very unusually emotional in recalling the events that lead up to the murders of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in November, 1978. She calls for some civility in the increasingly hostile attacks on herself, the Obama Administration, "liberals" in general, and "the government." And then up steps Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican minority Leader. This is your big chance, Jack. You could say something like, "yes, the current protesters have perfectly legitimate grievances, but we do think that the rhetoric and the mood are getting out of hand, that threats of violence have no place in the conduct of our treasured American democracy, neither civil war nor secession is on the Republican agenda, that in fact we do have a major chance to begin to 'take back America' in the 2010 Congressional elections, that the Republican Party is organizing to do just that, and we welcome the support of everyone who wants to participate in the democratic process in order to accomplish that goal." But you didn't say anything like that. Instead, you threw red meat to the wolves.
So Dick Cheney is going around the country justifying torture, (without any proof whatsoever, and anyway in terms of the law, that argument is irrelevant) saying how many hundreds of thousands of lives it saved, that the U.S. is, or at least was when he (ooops, he means Bush) was in power, really a nation with a Unitary Executive that can over-ride domestic law, the Constitution, and international law whenever the President thinks that that is justified for "reasons of national security." (Sorry Dick, but if you would only read Article II, which defines the Executive Branch, you would know that such a doctrine is not even distantly implied in it, but that's another story.) Furthermore, he charges that the bringing of any charges against folks who, for example, actually engaged in torture, even of the type not approved specifically by himself, is just pure politics.
That in itself is a funny charge to make (even if GOPers make it all the time). "Politics" is the process that all organizations from nations to PTAs use to resolve policy differences short of the use of force. Of course, Cheney seems only to understand force, but thank goodness the Obama Administration has chosen to at least look into the possibility of charging one or more persons with a crime or crimes connected with the use of torture under the previous administration. Why? Because they have adopted a different policy on torture. Starting an investigation is certainly better than picking up a suspect or two in the matter and just throwing them into Gitmo, isn't it? So let's hear it for politics and the examination of torture policy under the Cheney (oops, I mean the Bush) Presidency.
(Of course Cheney's "Unitary Executive" concept happens to be a really good argument for President Obama to use his power under that concept to just enact his version of national health care reform [one that hopefully would include a public option] without consulting Congress. Just do it, Barack. The security of the nation demands it. For at the rate the current for-profit insurance/drug industry "health care system" is running, the personal bankruptcies it causes will seem like small potatoes when it bankrupts the country. That is certainly a matter of national security, isn't it? Of course Cheney doesn't think in those terms. "National security" matters for him are those that are good for the oil/coal and arms industries and the political future of the GOP, not the future of the civil society of the nation. But that's another story.)
On the morning of June 18, 1815, it rained in Belgium. A chance event. Napoleon Bonaparte, triumphant in his "100 Days," felt that he had to wait for the ground to dry before launching his main assault against the Duke of Wellington's men. Had that not happened, Napoleon might well have achieved his aim of destroying the British force before they could get organized and before their main supporting Prussian force could arrive later in the day. Thus, the outcome of the battle that has been famous since that day might have been such that it would have been more of a footnote to the history of Napoleon's re-establishment of his Imperium than the metaphor for his final defeat. But it did rain.
It has been said as well that one additional reason that Napoleon delayed that morning was that he had had a bout of diarrhea; a chance event. Again, if it possibly were not for something he happened to have eaten, the outcome might have been very different. He might not have waited so long for the ground to dry. Why Sen. Jim (gays should not be allowed in the classroom) DeMint would have had to have chosen a different metaphor to describe the true aims of his party in the so-called "health care reform debate." That is, of course, the destruction of the Obama Presidency. The role of chance in history.