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STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH

First, let's call the Black Thing From the Center of the Earth (now there's a good movie title, no?) what it should be called.  It's not an "oil spill."  This is not the Exxon Valdez, with a very large but ultimately known and quantified amount of heavy crude oil spoiling an important but distant and self-limited piece of valuable land and seascape.  It's not an "oil slick," although that is a side feature of it in the places where the oil layer on the surface of the ocean is relatively thin.  It's not some simple "oil leak" (as British Petroleum [BP] likes to characterize it), like the one that dripped regularly from the oil pan of my aged-by-the-time-I-got-it 1956 Jaguar XK150. 

This one is an undersea gusher, this one is a disaster, and this one was presented to us by a combination of the oil company, BP, the Swiss company, Transocean, Ltd., which runs the drilling platform, and Halliburton (remember them?), the drilling services company that just happened to complete the "cementing" of the well and the associated pipe (in this case, a highly complex process with a very special kind of cement) just 20 hours before it blew.  Although there are at least two other major companies involved, I think that "BP Gusher Disaster" has a nice ring to it. And let's remember.  The Exxon Valdez disaster does have a corporate name attached to it, forever.

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STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH 

Representative Patrick McHenry, a Republican appropriately enough of North Carolina, has proposed replacing the visage of Ulysses S. Grant with that of Ronald Reagan on the $50.00 bill. This man thus would replace the picture of the man who militarily did more than anyone else to win the Civil War for the Union with that of the man whose current followers want more than anything to tear it asunder. Funnily enough, this man is of course a close namesake of one of the heroes of the American Revolution.  By the time of the creation and the adoption of the US Constitution, Patrick Henry was a strong anti-Federalist.  Indeed he opposed ratification of  the Constitution by his former colony, Virginia.  The Constitution begins with the words "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union" and provides for very significant powers to the Federal government.  Henry was very definitely against it and them, just as many so-called "Tea Partiers" are today.

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STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH  

On April 10, 2010, the erudite columnist Bob Herbert of the New York Times had this to say about the subject of "big government":

One of the reasons so many conservative [sic] Republican absurdities became actual U.S. policy was the intellectual veneer slapped upon them by right-wing think tanks and commentators. The grossest nonsense was made to seem plausible to a lot of people - people who wanted to believe in a free lunch. When Mr. Reagan told the country that 'government is the problem,' the intellectual handmaidens of the corporate and financial elite were right there to explain in exhaustive detail why that was so.  The result, in addition to the terrible consequences of Iraq and Afghanistan and the damage to America's standing in the world, was the tremendous (and tremendously debilitating) transfer of wealth from working people in the U.S. to the folks already in the upper echelons of wealth and income. The elite made out like bandits - often literally."  Which of course is why those elites are against "big government" and drag a bunch of common folk who don't know any better right along with them.

Of course, Reagan wasn't the only one.  I remember cringing in my seat when in his first State of the Union Address, Bill Clinton, Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council before he became President of the United States, said "the era of big government is over."  The GOP/Tea-Party/Paulite (as in Ron, not Saint) users/re-users and over-users of the phrase are of course referring to a certain set of government functions.  They include: taxation (without bothering to tell us taxation for what), regulation of such things as financial markets (which most Tea-Partiers just don't seem to be able to get so they are just viscerally against it when you-know-who is for it) and the environment (which right-wingers are against until something happens to THEM, like a railroad tank-car spill or a ground pollution event that could have been prevented if there had been regulation); health insurance reform (which they are convinced by the Sean Hannitys of their world means a "government takeover of health care" when the whole operating system remains in private hands just as it is now (except for those chunks which are now in public hands, like the VA health system from which one can be sure a goodly number of Tea Partiers get their health care) but why confuse anyone with facts); and just about anything that might help the "undeserving poor" (especially if they are not white), however that term might be defined.

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STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH

All the rage (literally, for some of the victims and some of their parents) is the discussion/controversy in a number of countries over Catholic priests' sexually abusing children and teenagers over a period that may go back as far as 50 years.  (It may well go back even further than that, but there may be no survivors, folks who would be quite old now, willing and/or able to come forward).  The controversy has two parts: the abuse itself and then the cover-up for the offenders.  Some Catholic dioceses in the United States have paid out very large sums in settlements.  In one instance, a U.S. Cardinal involved in the cover-up has apparently "moved" (fled?) to a position at the Papal Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome and apparently will never return to the United States.  In recent weeks the controversy has become particularly full-blown because of accusations, some apparently well-documented, that the current Pope Benedict XVI himself participated in one or more cover-ups when he was Cardinal Ratzinger in Germany and then head of the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.

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STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH

As I noted at the beginning of my Commentary No. 136 that appeared on BuzzFlash last week, fascism may be briefly defined as: “A politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies the Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective violence to achieve political and economic ends; and corporate domination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy."

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BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY
By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH    

Fascism may be defined briefly as: “A politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies the Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective violence to achieve political and economic ends; and corporate domination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy."

Fascism is a form of government and societal organization that arose in a number of countries around the world, beginning at the conclusion of World War I.  (If you want to read a description of the fascist state written before the appearance of the first one in Hungary under Admiral Miklos Horthy in 1919, see Jack London’s fictional The Iron Heel, originally published in 1908.  It is amazingly prescient, although London predicted that the form would appear first in the United States.)  The three most prominent fascist states were, in order of historical appearance, pre-World War II Italy (its fascist dictator Benito Mussolini gave the name to the governmental form), Japan, and Germany.  They were the united opponents of the Western capitalist democracies and the Soviet Union in World War II.  Fascism in one form or another persisted through or newly appeared after the conclusion of the WW II in such countries as Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay.  They were all considered, as it happens, allies of the United States and its partners in the “fight against communism.”

The most prominent member of this list is, of course, Nazi Germany (1933-45).  The Nazis indeed produced a unique form of fascism.  It was one in which racial hatred became one of the most prominent features of its focus and program with the ultimate objective of murdering as many members of the designated “inferior races” as they could capture and imprison.  Indeed, in Eastern Europe towards the end of World War II, in military retreat, the Nazis actually diverted manpower, transport, and supply resources from fighting the Soviet Army to continuing to exterminate as many Jews as they possibly could.

One of the mysteries of the Nazi rise to and maintenance of their complete control over the German nation was how they managed to finance it, their reign beginning as it did in the depths of the Great Depression on January 30, 1933.  They accomplished this feat through the use of a number of different modalities.  How they did it holds some important lessons for certain forces in certain modern major powers that might be considering the attempted imposition of fascism upon their respective nations.  So how indeed did the Nazis do it?

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BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY
By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH    

First came the "Birthers."  President Obama is not a citizen.  He's a Kenyan, he's a Muslim, he's an Indonesian, he's a Kenyan-Indonesian-Muslim (dunno which is worse so might as well throw them all in), a Hawaiian (oops, didn't know that Hawaii is a US possession, OH, you mean it's a state!?!), a Martian (shhh!  He's blaaack).  Show them birth certificates, published birth announcements, nah, es macht kein unterschiedung (that's German for it makes no difference).  They know what they know when they know it.  And after all, they are egged on by a mass media that treat the "controversy" as a legitimate one, so why not?

Then came the "Deathers."  These folks include a former Lieutenant Governor from one of the largest states and a former Governor from one of the smallest (how's that for coverage and veracity?).  They were convinced that a provision for paying physicians for what many already do --- counseling for rational end-of-life care WHEN REQUESTED BY THE PATIENT OR THE PATIENT'S FAMILY --- was really a provision for government-imposed euthanasia.  Again, as Josef Goebbels was so fond of saying, facts make no difference when you've got a hot political message to exploit.  And again, the mass media gave them some traction by treating the matter as a legitimate controversy.

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BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY
By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH              

This week's cover of Time magazine screams "Washington is Frozen."  The New York Times News of the Week in Review for February 21, 2010 tells us that "Washington doesn’t work."  Evan Bayh of "Bayh, Bayh-Partisanship" tells us that he is leaving at the end of his term because there is just "too much partisanship in Washington" that leads to "nothing getting done" and is the fault of "ideologues on both sides.”  Nevertheless, on that score Bayh tends to finger (or is it give the finger to) the "far left" in preference to any sort of GOPer.  (Would that there were a "far left" in Washington, but that's another matter.)  So it's just all of that partisanship that's the matter.  Why people aren't even civil to each other anymore.  And again, that's the fault on both sides.

Well, there are two points (at least) that one can make here.  First, it ain't both sides that are primarily responsible for the partisanship, and there is indeed plenty of it.  Washington doesn’t “work” because the GOP doesn’t want it to and is doing everything in its power to make sure that it doesn’t.  “Washington working,” in the sense of major national problems like the failing health care delivery system, the crumbling infrastructure, and the rapidly declining education system being productively dealt with, significantly reduces the GOP’s political chances.  After all, they have been, and are being so at ever-increasing volume, the party that is against “big government,” even though the big problems we face precisely require big government if they are to be dealt with.  Every time that “big government” can do something positive reduces their chances of getting back into power so that they can, in the delightful Grover Norquist’s terms, “shrink it to the size of a bathtub and then drown it in the tub.”

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BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY
By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH  

The Daily Kos does a good deal of polling on a regular basis.  Not too many of their polls get much attention in the what now passes for the "Mainstream (otherwise known as the 'we make our choices very carefully') Media."  However, one that was published a couple of weeks ago (Feb. 2, 2010) got quite a bit of publicity.  It had surveyed a reasonably random sample of self-identified GOPers to see what their views were on a number of policy and political issues known to be dear to at least some GOP hearts.  Among the findings, not necessarily in order of anybody's ranking of importance, with brief comments from yours truly, were:

  • 39 percent of Republicans believe Obama should be impeached, 29 percent are not sure, 32 percent said he should not be voted out of office.

Impeached for what offenses was not specified. Nor was there any indication that any of the respondents knew what the Constitutional requirements for impeachment are, even though presumably the bulk of these folks supported the impeachment attempt on President Clinton.

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BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY
By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH  

"NEW YORK (CBS, 1/12/10) Pat Robertson, the American Christian televangelist and host of "The 700 Club," said that Haitians need to have a 'great turning to god' while he was reporting on the devastating 7.0 earthquake that shook the island nation . . .'Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about. . .        They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said "We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince." True story. And so the devil said, "Ok it’s a deal." And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got something themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another.' " 

Actually, Pat, it was not (Louis) Napoleon III (1852-1870) against whom the Haitian slave revolt took place but the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1798-1815), but when you are making up stuff like you do, what difference do the facts make? 

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