August 31, 2019
Haven’t We Read This Somewhere Again?

…except that Reagan had a nicer smile and read his lines better.
The quote is from W. Lance Bennett’s News: The Politics of Illusion, published in 1988:

Beginning in his first months in office, Ronald Reagan built a coalition that successfully dismantled nearly forty years of government social protection programs. The cuts in every social service and public protection area were awesome. Yet there were no headlines proclaiming “Reagan coalition dismantles Forty Years of Government Reforms.” Instead the dismantling of each program was announced separately, often days apart, and frequently was dwarfed by the ongoing crises of state and economy. In looking at The Wall Street Journal coverage of just five of the dozens of Reagan dismantling efforts, we find that only two received front-page coverage (Social Security cuts and the termination of the CETA jobs training program). A proposal to close the Consumer Product Safety Commission was given about four inches on page five in one issue, and a longer article on page 48 in another. A plan to cut off welfare to families of strikers was relegated to page six. The decision to stop tracing the owner transcripts of firearms was covered on page 131. The impact and linkages among these issues were further diminished by the fact that the stories were spread over a period of two months.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:21 PM
August 22, 2019
We’re Lagging in Snuffing!

…laments my neighbor Tony Piel, former director and general legal counsel of the World Health Organization:
In this new age of global war on democracy, it’s best first to silence your political opponents, and then be “free” to do as you like. Everyone is doing it, some more successfully than others. But warning: You too may be targeted.

If, as a “progressive” activist, you find yourself “accidentally drowned” in your own bathtub, or victim of some other form of “suicide,” a U.S. agency or team probably did it. That’s what happened to democratically elected former Guatemalan President Arbenz Guzman and former Chilean President Salvador Allende, to name two. They were deemed too socially democratic to continue in office, let alone in life. Of course, these happenings may just be deniable “fake news.” We wouldn’t really do something like that, would we ?

The U.S. has an impressive past history of political assassinations, usually carried out by passionate, self-righteous or demented individuals, almost always by gunshot, thus re-affirming our inalienable Second Amendment right “to bear arms” (and use them). The four best-known examples of this predilection for guns are: (1) the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth using a .44 Derringer, (2) the assassination of President James Garfield in 1881 by Charles Guiteau using a Bulldog handgun, (3) the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901 by Leon Czolgosz using a .32 revolver, and (4) the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald (and others) using a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle (or so the Warren Commission believed).

The U.S. historical record of successful domestic assassinations of public officials comprises some sixty targeted political figures, including a number of State Governors, City Mayors, Congressional Legislators and a few Court Judges. Fifty-four of them (or some 90 percent) were by gunshot, a distinctly American preference. Were these killings an exercise in Second Amendment rights, or something else ?

So, it isn’t as though we Americans are entirely lacking in success in assassinating our own political figures and perceived opponents. But what is missing in our record to date are examples of government-sponsored assassinations or killings ordered by the head of state to achieve a personal goal such as to get elected or re-elected to the highest office in the land.

That’s where the Russians are clearly ahead of us. Lately, the Russians have shown a marked preference for poisoning. In this category, former KGB agent Vladimir Putin’s Russia has us all beat by miles. If you find yourself shot or poisoned to death for political reasons in almost any city anywhere in the world, Russia probably did it. Of course, Putin will deny involvement in any secret, national and international poisonings and assassinations. Here’s some recent examples of note:

Putin critic Yuri Shchekochikhin dropped dead from a then-unknown poison in 2003. Putin’s political opponent Alexander Litvinenko died of Polonium-210 poisoning in London in 2006. Independent journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in her own Moscow apartment in 2006. Putin critic Boris Nemtsov was fatally shot near the Kremlin in 2015. Opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Musa was poisoned in 2017. Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok nerve toxin in Salisbury, England in 2018. Current opposition candidate Aleksei Navalny has been poisoned by an as-yet unidentified toxin in 2019.

The U..S. is currently lagging behind Russia in the sophistication and volume of successful “snuff jobs” to silence the political opposition. But the current White House Office of Legal Counsel and Department of Justice have given us renewed hope for catching up. They have announced that, thanks to executive privilege, a sitting U.S. president can never be indicted or prosecuted for anything. Thus a president could snuff out, not just a few, but all of his critics and opponents, beginning with those calling for his impeachment, without the encumbrance of due process and the rule of law. How “great” can you get ? Even Putin’s Russia hasn’t thought of that one !


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:57 PM
July 20, 2019
More Relevance from 1916…

…when Madison Grant published his runaway bestseller, The Passing of the Great Race:

As in all wars since Roman times, from a breeding point of view, the little dark man is the final winner. No one who saw one of our regiments march on its way to the Spanish War could fail to be impressed with the size and blondness of the men in the ranks as contrasted with the complacent citizen, who from his safe stand on the gutter curb gave his applause to the fighting man, and then stayed home to perpetuate his own brunet type.

This same Nordic element, everywhere the type of the sailor, the soldier, the adventurer, and the pioneer, was ever the type to migrate to new countries, until the ease of transportation and the desire to escape military service in the last 40 years reversed the immigrant tide. In consequence of this change our immigrants now largely represent lowly refugees from quote “persecution” and other social discards.

In most cases the blood of pioneers has been lost to the race. They did not take their women with them. They either died childless or left half breeds behind them. The virile blood of the Spanish conquistadores, who are now little more than a memory in Central and South America, died out from these causes. This was also true in the early days of our western frontiersmen, who individually were far finer type than the settlers who follow them.

(Ed. note: To Silicon Valley, a lot of them. Look at Jeff Bezos for instance. His adopted father was Cuban.)


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:22 PM
July 19, 2019
Slow Learners

In the American Labor Legislation Review, the Yale economist Irving Fisher wrote, “At present the United States has the unenviable distinction of being the only great industrial nation without compulsory health insurance.”

Professor Fisher’s “present” has dragged on for quite a while now. His study came out in 1916.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:41 PM
July 15, 2019
When We Really Needed A Wall

Blame it on the Democrats. Roosevelt let her in:

Born as the 10th child of the MacLeod family on the Outer Hebridean Isle of Lewis in 1912, Mary Trump was raised in a strict Presbyterian, Gaelic speaking household. She emigrated to New York in 1930 and found work as a domestic servant before later marrying businessman Fred Trump and having five children.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:43 PM
June 21, 2019
What Is It About Iran?

…my neighbor Alan Tucker wonders. Here’s his answer, long but worth it:

What is it about Iran with us? A national schizophrenia? A disinterest in looking farther back into our national past than Mork and Mindy? What? For example, an article titled “Ayatollah Calls Trump ‘True Face’ of the U.S.” ran in the Feb. 8 New York Times. Thomas Erdbrink, reporting from Tehran on what the Ayatollah actually said, did what a journalist for the indispensable Times is supposed to do — and on site! So far, so good.

But then (read carefully now) Erdbrink segued into some context, beginning with “The history of animosity between both countries is long and deep,” followed by what we think of Iran — four words: sponsor of terrorist organizations.

“Iran has also been held responsible by the United States for several terror attacks, most decades ago. One of them, of course, was the seizure of 54 members of the American Embassy staff in Tehran for 444 days during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Iran has also been accused of involvement in a 1983 bomb attack at a Marine barracks in Lebanon, where 241 service personnel died…. Iran denies the accusations.

“Iran has pressed several claims against the United States. Iran holds the United States responsible for having supported Saddam Hussein with intelligence, funds and weapons after he attacked Iran [Note: Iraq attacked Iran.] in 1980, dragging both countries into a [sic] eight-year war where thousands of Iranians and Iraqis died. [Deaths as would be typical in eight-year wars.]

“In 1988, an American naval vessel, the Vincennes, shot down an Iran Air commercial plane, flying over the Persian Gulf [yes, Persian Gulf] to Dubai, in the united Arab Emirates. All 290 people aboard died. Iran called the attack deliberate and the United States called it a mistake. Under a settlement … the United States offered no apologies and was order to pay around $60 million in damages to families of the victims.”

Really, that’s it? No mention of the genesis of the history of animosity? Such as that in the mid-1950s the US and the UK colluded to overthrow a democratically elected government in Iran. What a nice thing it would have been if we had nurtured that nascent Middle Eastern as a product of the shining example of America’s vaunted exceptional mission in the world. Instead, it was let’s take the oil from the wogs. And they’re barely civilized, not like us. (Oh, did they have a glorious civilization while the Europeans were living in huts? Who knew? Who cares?)

Here is one succinct (but ungrammatical) summary of the event: “Mohammad Mosaddegh (16 June 1882 – 5 March 1967) was an Iranian politician. He was the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 until 1953, when his government was overthrown in a coup d’état aided by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency and the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service.

“An author, administrator, lawyer, and prominent parliamentarian, his administration introduced a range of progressive social and political reforms such as social security and land reforms, including taxation of the rent on land. His government’s most notable policy, however, was the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913 through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later British Petroleum and BP). [Nationalization done in order to fund the new government’s social and political reforms. And we must lazily wonder: however did the British manage to control the oil under Iranian soil since 1913. A referendum of the people of Iran?]

“Many Iranians regard Mosaddegh as the leading champion of secular democracy and resistance to foreign domination in Iran’s modern history. Mosaddegh was removed from power in a coup on 19 August 1953, organized and carried out by the CIA at the request of the British secret service (MI6), which [unilaterally] chose Iranian General Fazlollah Zahedi to succeed Mosaddegh.” (Wikipedia)

This happened on President Eisenhower’s watch. Ike’s biographer Stephen Ambrose had this to say in 1990 (excerpted): “Mossadegh headed a government that had seized the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (British owned) and then broken diplomatic relations with London. The British had retaliated by setting up a de facto blockade of Iranian oil; meanwhile the British, along with American oilmen, told Ike that Mossadegh was a communist. [These days, instead of communist it would be the snappier “state sponsor of terrorism.”] In the spring of 1953, Foreign Secretary Eden came to Washington, to propose a joint effort between the British Secret Service and the CIA to topple Mossadegh. Eisenhower was receptive….

“It was the CIA’s first big-time coup. The aim of their plot was to depose Mossadegh and bring the Shah back to power; the means were out-and-out bribes for the Iranian Army officers…. Ajax had to have the approval of the President…. Establishing a pattern he would hold throughout his presidency, he kept his distance and left no documents behind that could implicate the President in any projected coup.

“Ajax was a great success. The Iranian Army arrested Mossadegh, the Shah returned, he cut a new oil deal that gave the American oil giants 40 percent of Iran’s oil, Eisenhower announced an $85 million aid package for Iran, and everyone was happy — except the Iranian people, and the British oil executives, who lost their monopoly….

“The methods used were immoral, if not illegal, and a dangerous precedent had been set. The CIA offered the President a quick fix for his foreign problems. It was there to do his bidding; it freed him from having to persuade Congress, or the parties, or the public … at the expense of also greatly extending the risks of … getting into deep trouble.”

What followed after the colluders then set up the Shah as emperor of Iran? He (and we as consultants, surely) established his dreaded secret police army called Savak, to keep in line anyone who might not welcome this national catastrophe in the proper spirit. A fog apparently fell over these events here in the Western Hemisphere, à la the Times and pretty much everywhere else but you can bet that the Iranians (and their oil-rich neighbors) remembered it and Mosaddegh clearly, and still do: the great-grandfathers, grandfathers, and fathers, and mothers of today’s Iranian people. That festering injustice of 1953 and crimes of the corrupt and vicious police state came to a boil among the populace after another quarter of a century, in 1979. One of the first things the Islamic Revolutionaries did was get at the CIA and State Dept. files in the US embassy. Hmm, I wonder why….

(Four years later Ike happened to be my Commander-in-Chief as I sat on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific overseeing the planning of potential nuclear air strikes against two countries with which we were not at war — a little endeavor not officially disclosed to the American people, but everyone seemed to know. Including the Soviets and the People’s Republic of China. They may have taken umbrage; our intelligence thought so. So unfair of them to take it personally against us.)

The United States has a long record of pretty much manufactured unilateral aggression against foreign sovereign states since the mid-nineteenth century. To leave out our Central and South Latin American adventures: concessions obtained by force in China … American gunboats forcing a passive nineteenth-century Japan to admit the West … the Mexican-American War (grabbing our New Mexico and California) … the Spanish-American and Cuban and Philippine Wars….* Trying to run NATO – created essentially to counter a postwar threat from Russia – right up to the Russian’s border? Today we trembling Americans are faced with all sorts of threats, typically depicted as existential. (Is it maybe time to institute a coastal watch force, on the lookout for enemy landing craft?) However did all these threats arise? Could it be that we ourselves had a really big hand in their creation? That we are now the major threat in the world? I ask you.

* Spain itself never recovered from the shock to its centuries-long cultural identity and pride – witness the writings, at the time, of Ortega y Gasset and especially Unamuno, his masterpiece titled Tragic Sense of Life.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:52 PM
April 27, 2019
The Pubic Hair Test, Revisited…

…since Joe Biden flunked it so spectacularly way back when, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. From the New York Times of October 11, 1991:

In a telephone interview Wednesday night, Mr. Biden made it clear that he viewed the problem before him as how to walk the fine line between guaranteeing that a person who sexually harassed a colleague did not acquire a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court and fairly treating both Mr. Thomas and Ms. Hill.

"I must start off with a presumption of giving the person accused the benefit of the doubt," he said. "I must seek the truth and I must ask straightforward and tough questions and in my heart I know if that woman is telling the truth it will be almost unfair to her. On the other hand, if I don't ask legitimate questions, then I am doing a great injustice to someone who might be totally innocent. It's a horrible dilemma because you have two lives at stake here."

…Mr. Biden told reporters today that if he had to conduct the hearings again, he would not change the decisions he made.

Really? Consider this then:
Nearly two decades after Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his fractious Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it remains unclear who was lying… Lillian McEwen, a retired administrative law judge who said she dated Clarence Thomas from 1979 through the mid-1980s, told The Washington Post: “The Clarence I know was certainly capable of not only doing the things that Anita Hill said he did, but it would be totally consistent with the way he lived his personal life then…”
And at least two other women waited in the wings to testify against Judge Thomas, but Biden never called them. Not that they would have been needed actually. Not in a fair trial.

Anybody with an ounce of common sense had to know that the liar in the room was not Anita Hill. And no senator could have believed Clarence Thomas for a minute. The judge, after all, had flat-out flunked the Pubic Hair Test, which was first described in the literature by me in January of 2001 and which I now repost as a public service:

Fans of political theater will recall that Professor Anita Hill had charged her former boss with a pattern of sexual harassment which included showing her a Coke can with a pubic hair sticking to it. Judge Thomas swore that he had never in his life done such an ungentlemanly thing.

How could we, the millions of spectators at this morality play, know what to think? Was it the future Supreme Court justice who was telling the truth, or was it the demure law professor? How could anybody possibly know? Could common sense help, maybe?

Was there anything in Professor Hill’s much-investigated background to suggest that she was a pathological liar? Even if she was, why would she had come up with such a peculiar lie? Did she suffer from hallucinations? Was she “creative?” Perhaps even an aspiring screen writer?

But even if she were, why would she have dreamed up such an unlikely scenario? Would the Coke can business be more destructive to her presumed harasser than any other lie she could just as easily have dreamed up?

No to the first question. Professor Hill seemed depressingly literal and humorless. It was hard to imagine her engaged in a flight of fancy. And no to the second. The tale of the pubic hair and the Coke can was so meaningless and bizarre that even the most simple-minded of senators would have realized that it was too weird not to be true. A competent liar would have stuck to such old standbys as indecent exposure, groping, and dirty pictures.

The Pubic Hair Test therefore indicated with zero probability of error that this particular woman could not and did not invent such a senseless, incomprehensible story. It had to be true.

God knows whose pubic hair that was, or what the future Supreme Court justice thought its presence on a Coke can signified, or what made him imagine that his weird performance might be seductive, but the incident plainly happened pretty much the way Professor Hill said it did.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:03 PM
April 18, 2019
Guess Who…

…said this at a dog and pony show in South Carolina for GOP presidential hopefuls:

There’s a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican party. It is the constitutional position. It is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, stay out of entangling alliances, be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them.

Q: Congressman, you don’t think that changed with the 9/11 attacks, sir?

No. Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.

We don’t understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we’re building an embassy in Iraq that’s bigger than the Vatican. We’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us. (Applause.)

Q: Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?

I’m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we’re over there because Osama bin Laden has said, “I am glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.” They have already now since that time killed 3,400 of our men, and I don’t think it was necessary.

I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem.

They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free.They come and they attack us because we’re over there.

I mean, what would we think if other foreign countries were doing that to us?

This is the only time I can remember that any remotely serious presidential candidate, of either major party, has even posed the basic question that Osama bin Laden once suggested that we ask ourselves: Why didn’t his men attack Stockholm?

Asking it at last was Ron Paul, an obstetrician who at the time — 2007 — was an obscure Texas congressman from Tom DeLay’s old district.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:24 PM
April 03, 2019
We Have Met the Enemy and…

…he is still us:

Lately I have been re-reading the history of my own times, and it turns out to be a discouraging exercise. Even a frightening one.The excerpt below is from a 1968 essay by the great I.F. Stone in the New York Review. Substitute the “War” on Terror, switch the names of the politicians as appropriate and the piece could run almost unchanged today. We’ve come a long way, baby — only in a circle. Stone had the 2016 election figured out a half century ago:
The average man approaches the problem of war with simple reactions of anxiety and threatened virility thousands of years old. There is a strong movement for peace, but there is also a strong contingent of cavemen among us, and it is hard to see which is the majority; the same people often belong to both categories. Reagan and Wallace speak for large constituencies, too. In Vietnam as in Korea the Democrats have kept the wars limited while Reagan, like MacArthur before him, speaks for a Republican right wing which thinks the whole business can be ended in no more time than it takes to go from the 17th to the 18th hole by dropping a bomb on Peking and another on Moscow.

The two urgent issues are the Vietnamese war and the black revolt. Both require solutions for which we are poorly conditioned. One is to give way in Vietnam to a communist, though also nationalist, tide. The other is to deal with the aspiration of the blacks, the other poor, which can only be met by fundamental changes, a real redistribution of income from haves to have-nots, and an intervention of the state deeper and more far-reaching than anything America has ever known before. The only party less prepared for this than the Democrats, though not much less so, is the Republican Party.

The issues, however, are beyond that unspoken ideological consensus within which the two-party system operates. The Democratic Party, unlike the Republican, has some legitimate claim to being the party of “the people.” But the people for whom it speaks turn out on closer examination to be middle-class owners of property, white-collar workers, or the organized working class.

The urban and rural poor, and all but the thin upper strata of the blacks and our other “colored” minorities, are not really a part of its constituency. They are outside “the people” in whose name it claims to speak. Unfortunately for revolutionary theorists, the more fortunate, those with something to lose, are the overwhelming majority. The poor, white and black, are but a lower fifth of the population. Should the Democratic Party move too far in the direction of taking them in, and serving their interests, it is likely to lose much of its white skilled worker followers to the Republican party. It is this which makes the Democratic Party look so unsatisfactory to the black radicals and the new left, purveyor of half measures rather than fundamental change. But in this the party faithfully reflects a majority constituency, and in this sense it is truly representative.

The new radicals generally are unwilling to face up to this reality. They prefer to believe that there is something wrong with the party, or with something called “the system,” or that society is sick, rather than admit that what they are revolting against is the majority itself. To admit that would be too difficult and too untactful a break with the dominant ideology of democracy. Black nationalist separatism is fantasy based on despair but in one respect is more realistic than the New Left, for in proposing separation it recognizes that what it is combating is the white majority and not some clique, conspiracy, or perverse ruling elite which has somehow led “the people” astray.

In a democratic society it is always assumed that the people are good, as in theology it is always assumed that God is good. Evil is an accident, or the work of the devil. When large numbers of ordinary men commit some outrage against humanity, it is tacitly assumed that somehow they are not part of “the people." That myth, the Common Man, is the theoretical sovereign of democratic society, and when he turns up in a racist mob or a typical veterans organization, ideology literally turns off our vision. Democratic political stereotypes remain stalwartly non- and pre-Freudian because you can't win elections by telling voters that they themselves are at fault. It is easier to let them off the hook by blaming some abstraction. Adam’s sins are still attributed to some serpent which crept into the garden.

It is the nature of the white majority, and of man, that brings the two-party system to the verge of breakdown when faced with the need to swallow a military defeat and to tax the whites for the benefit of blacks. The danger is that the white majority may choose instead to follow a simplistic demagogy which advocates as the way out a get-tough policy at home and abroad. Against that darkening a backdrop, McCarthy is a wan hope.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:19 PM
March 24, 2019
Hoover for President

From Beard’s Basic History of the United States, on the election of the Republican Herbert Hoover in 1928:

Gross inequalities in the distribution of wealth, long the subject of populist, progressive, and socialistic criticism, Hoover had frankly faced, to the alarm of conservatives, and he proposed to attack them by the use of the inheritance tax. The inheritance tax, he declared in 1919, “does redistribute overswollen fortunes. It does make for equality of opportunity by freeing from the dead hand control of our tools of production. It reduces extravagance in the next generation and sends them to productive service.” To Republicans who had assailed the income tax of 1894 as communistic that must have sounded like treason to the Grand Old Party; and to scholastic economists, a foolish flouting of “natural law.”

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:32 PM
March 08, 2019
More On Israel

Andrew Sullivan has an equally useful (and convincing) piece on the whole overblown “anti-semitic” battle of words referenced in my previous post.

Go read it here. Please.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:07 PM
March 07, 2019
What’s Not Anti-semitism

Here, from FlaglerLive, is a sample from the best and most informative piece on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s “anti-semitism” that I’ve come across:

Like most American Jewish youth, I grew up knowing Israel. During holidays, I sang prayers about Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. In Hebrew school, I learned about the country’s culture, its cities, its past prime ministers. At my Jewish summer camp, we started every day with the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah.

My image of Israel was a rosy one. When I finally visited it in college, I was spellbound by the lush landscapes and sparkling cities, certain I would one day move to this golden ancestral home myself…


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:20 PM
February 18, 2019
Iconic Sexual Assault

From The Associated Press:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The ecstatic sailor shown kissing a woman in Times Square celebrating the end of World War II died Sunday. George Mendonsa was 95…

Friedman said in a 2005 interview with the Veterans History Project that it wasn’t her choice to be kissed. “The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed,” she told the Library of Congress…“It was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event.”


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:32 PM
February 13, 2019
Why Lie?

This piece of mine ran in the New York Times of Sept. 20, 1973. Change a name or two ––Yemen for Cambodia, say –– and it could run tomorrow. After all, we still bother:

WEST CORNWALL, Conn. — The Pentagon's most recent lies about bombing Cambodia bring back a question that often occurred to me when I was press attaché at the American Embassy in Vientiane, Laos.

Why did we bother to lie?

When I first arrived in Laos, I was instructed to answer all press questions about our massive and merciless bombing campaign in that tiny country with: “At the request of the Royal Laotian Government, the United States Is conducting unarmed reconnaissance flights accompanied by armed escorts who have the right to return fire if fired upon.”

This was a lie. Every reporter to whom I told it knew it was a lie. The Communist Pathet Lao knew it was a lie. Hanoi knew it was a lie. The International Control Commission knew it was a lie. Every interested Congressman and newspaper reader knew it was a lie.....


All the lie did was make us look just as cheap and dishonest as the North Vietnamese, who were also lying about the presence of their troops in Laos and South Vietnam.

Why, then, did we bother to tell it?

A surprising number of reporters thought we bothered because the truth would make men free, and armed with it they would rise up and make us stop the bombing. But our lies weren't skillful enough to keep the truth from anybody. Everybody knew we were bombing, and nobody cared enough to stop us.

The diplomats in our embassy said we lied because public admission by an American official that we were violating the Geneva accords would damage chances of getting back to the terms of those accords someday. But then in March of 1970 President Nixon publicly admitted the bombing of Laos and many other clear violations of the Geneva accords.

And still the lies and the secrecy continued. American air bases in Thailand remained off limits to the press, sortie figures were juggled or concealed, reporters were not allowed on bombing missions. The B‐52 bombing of Northern Laos went on in secrecy so deep that Ambassador G. McMurtrie Godley kept knowledge of the raids from his own embassy's political section. Insofar as the executive branch could possibly manage it, the air war in Indochina was kept a secret till Aug. 15, the day Congress ended it.

The bombing didn't shut off enemy supplies. It didn't bomb Hanoi to the conference table. It didn't destroy the enemy's morale or halt his advances.

Consider that in 1969 Laotian Government troops took the Plaine des Jarres with the assistance of massive U.S. bombing. A few months later they lost it despite massive U.S. bombing. Somewhere in that equation is a factor that works out to zero.

Outside the government, many people knew all along that our bombing was a bloody, ineffective sick joke. But inside the government this was less widely understood. The lies and the secrecy saw to that by insuring that the only source of detailed information on the bombing was the bombers themselves.

In 1970, Les Whitten, of the Jack Anderson column, came to Laos and wrote a story based on his tape-recorded interviews with refugees from the Plaine des Jarres. The story was that the U.S. Air Force was bombing Laotian villages, although our ambassadors kept assuring everybody that no such thing was going on. It wasn't the first time this story had been written, but it was the first time it had got the wide circulation that Anderson was able to give it.

The day after a copy of Whitten's story reached the embassy in Vientiane, the country team decided that the U.S. Information Service should go to the refugees and find out what they had really said. Newspaper stories, in that embassy, were considered unlikely repositories of truth.

Acting from motives of purest bureaucratic self-defense, we were finally going to ask the people on the ground at the time just where all those bombs had been falling. Never before—through the years of bombardment, the hundreds of thousands of refugees, the tens of thousands maimed and wounded and killed, the billions of dollars gone forever—had such an idea occurred to the U.S. Embassy.

Now that it had, the fact turned out to be that many of those bombs had indeed been falling on villages, just as Whitten had said. The officer instructed to conduct the poll wasn't any wavemaker, but he wasn't going to falsify the figures collected by his interviewers, either. They showed that a majority of the refugees, so huge as to approach unanimity, had seen their villages destroyed by American bombers.

The embassy coped with this lengthy, detailed and disturbing report by deciding that it wasn't a report at all. It was merely a preliminary study carried out by a junior officer with no training in polling techniques of a subject that turned out on investigation not to be worth pursuing. The U.S.I.S. report was thus awarded the highest security classification of them all—nonexistence.

That secrecy was never so much a way to keep the facts about our bombing from leaking out of the executive branch as it was a way to keep those facts from leaking in. After all, the lies did serve to keep something from somebody, and the somebody was us.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:07 PM
February 12, 2019
Nothing New Under the Sun

This from Truthout:

In 1920, Davenport wrote to Madison Grant, a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History, and a fellow eugenicist: “Can we build a wall high enough around this country … so as to keep out these cheaper races, or will it be a feeble dam … leaving it to our descendants to abandon the country to the blacks, browns and yellows.”

Such a remark needs to be understood within the history of eugenics. Davenport’s suggestion here wasn’t merely a comment about a physical structure. It was a suggestion that stemmed from a eugenic worldview that the “unfit” were taking over the nation and putting in jeopardy the survival of the “fit.” Immigration policy wasn’t enough. Even forcefully sterilizing thousands wasn’t enough. To keep out the “unfit,” the nation needed a structure that signified that “defectives” from “shit-hole countries” were not welcome.

In our present moment, Trump’s perpetual insistence to build a wall mirrors these ideas. Indeed, according to this mindset, a wall must be built to “keep out these cheaper races,” lest the country be abandoned “to the blacks, browns, and yellows.” To understand the gravitas of such a claim, we must place Trump’s xenophobia in the context of a nation that, for decades, advocated for similar policies while sterilizing those deemed “unfit” within its borders.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:42 PM
February 11, 2019
Our First Socialist

From These Truths, by Jill Lepore:

Before the Civil War, however, the federal government raised revenue and regulated commerce almost exclusively through tariffs … tariffs appeared to place the burden of taxation on merchants, which appealed to Jefferson. “We are are all the more reconciled to the tax on importations,” Jefferson explained, “because it falls exclusively on the rich.” The promise of America, Jefferson thought, was that “the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone.”

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:21 PM
November 30, 2018
Nothing New Under the Sun

I copied the following excerpts long ago from somebody or other’s White House memoirs, but neglected to write down whose. Change the names, though, and these might have come from tonight’s news. Unfortunately.

Once a senior Agency officer, while briefing the Senate Armed Services Committee, was asked a question out of the blue about casualties inflicted on North Vietnam’s civilian population during USAF bombing attacks. The CIA officer provided such figures as he could. Several days later Helms happened to be walking through the White House arcade between the Mansion and the President’s Oval Office. Lyndon Johnson, walking along side, took Helms by the arm and said in a fatherly tone, “Now, if you feel any urge to go up and testify in Congress on this whole question of civilian casualties in Vietnam, I just hope you’ll pass by and have a drink with me the afternoon before.” Helms, of course, promised he would. He later said of the incident, “This was his way of conveying a message to me that he wanted to have something to say about this. It was done pointedly but not vociferously.”‘ At his morning meeting the next day, Helms told the DDI of the President’s sensitivity to North Vietnamese civilian casualty figures and instructed all elements in the Agency to avoid the subject . . .

With President Johnson I finally came to the conclusion that what I had to say I should get into the first 60, or at least 120 seconds, that I had on my feet. Because after that he was pushing buttons for coffee or Fresca, or talking to Rusk, or talking to McNamara, or whispering here or whispering there. I had lost my principal audience. . .

Nor were the temperament and personal style of Richard Nixon the only obstacles Helms faced under the new regime. The new President surrounded himself with a staff that combined an intensely personal loyalty to its boss with a vindictive capacity for seeing presidential adversaries in every quarter.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:21 PM
October 04, 2018
What Else is New?

From Our Times, the United States 1900 - 1925, by Mark Sullivan:

It is a worthwhile speculation about our American national psychology whether the instinctive emotions of the simpler old-fashioned Americans of the South and West may have gone deeper and may have accounted for, or at least been associated with, some of the social and political phenomena of the time…

In any event, this was precisely the period, in the rural parts of the country especially, of a passionately defensive native Americanism that found expression in the immigration restriction law; in insistence on political isolation for America; in susceptibility to suspicion against institutions charged with having foreign origins or affiliations; in such phrases as “hundred-per-cent American”; in readiness to join a secret society based on intolerance of aliens (including, paradoxically, intolerance toward the Negro); and, as a minor but real manifestation, in suspicion against New York City and ideas emanating from it, on the theory that New York, in its attitude on some matters, was more nearly alien than representative American.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:18 PM
August 28, 2018
Back in the Olden Days…

…we had, not often but occasionally, politicians like George Norris of Nebraska, America’s greatest senator. (You could look it up.) He was a Republican for much of his career, long before that party had been hijacked by proto-fascists, and was the father of the Tennessee Valley Authority. (Also the grandfather, full disclosure requires me to add, of my wife.)

I think of George Norris often these days, with each new revelation from Trump’s squalid swamp. Whenever the senator had a buck or two to spare he invested it in U.S. Treasury bonds, for fear that investing in any private securities, might someday, somehow, unconsciously influence his vote. When the senator died in 1943, his estate consisted principally of a small house in McCook, Nebraska, and an old Buick.

And, oh yeah, the Rural Electrification Act, the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the direct election of U.S. Senators, and the Norris Dam.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:19 PM
December 21, 2017
Slow Learners

From the New York Times:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on a secret visit to Afghanistan on Thursday that the U.S. is “here to see this through” as they discussed a newly announced U.S. strategy to break the stalemate in America’s longest war and consulted on upcoming parliamentary elections.
Do I have to keep repeating this advice to each clueless president since George W? Apparently, so here goes:

From Rudyard Kipling, in 1895:

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:41 PM
October 05, 2017
Don’t You Just Hate It…

…when the Russians meddle in our elections? From declassified CIA documents:

The Nixon administration’s decision for a covert CIA role in the 1970 campaign continued the practice of the preceding Kennedy and Johnson administrations, which for nearly a decade had directed clandestine Agency actions in Chilean electoral politics. During Chile’s 1964 presidential contest, for example, CIA had channeled $3 million into the coffers of the eventual victor, Christian Democrat Frei. A year later the Santiago Station, working closely with the American Ambassador, used covert funds to help defeat as many as 13 leftist candidates who might otherwise have won congressional seats. In 1969, CIA operatives spent several hundred thousand dollars opposing congressional candidates allied with Dr. Salvador Allende Gossens, an avowed Marxist and founding member of the Chilean Socialist Party. In addition to funding political parties secretly, the Agency had carried out extensive propaganda activities and subsidized anti-leftist newspapers and radio commentators.

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:21 PM
August 04, 2017
The Danger of American Fascism

…by Henry A. Wallace, Roosevelt’s wartime vice president — the last true progressive to get that close to the presidency. Written in 1944, this essay needs only a few name changes to describe the America of our so-called "president.”


A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party…

In every big nation of the world are at least a few people who have the fascist temperament. Every Jew-baiter, every Catholic hater, is a fascist at heart. The hoodlums who have been desecrating churches, cathedrals and synagogues in some of our larger cities are ripe material for fascist leadership.

The really dangerous American fascists are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful.

American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery…


Fascism is a worldwide disease. Its greatest threat to the United States will come after the war, either via Latin America or within the United States itself.

Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after "the present unpleasantness" ceases:

The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups.

The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism.

They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

Several leaders of industry in this country who have gained a new vision of the meaning of opportunity through co-operation with government have warned the public openly that there are some selfish groups in industry who are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage. We all know the part that the cartels played in bringing Hitler to power, and the rule the giant German trusts have played in Nazi conquests. Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.

The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. It was Mussolini's vaunted claim that he "made the trains run on time." In the end, however, he brought to the Italian people impoverishment and defeat. It was Hitler's claim that he eliminated all unemployment in Germany. Neither is there unemployment in a prison camp.

Democracy to crush fascism internally must demonstrate its capacity to "make the trains run on time." It must develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels.

The worldwide, agelong struggle between fascism and democracy will not stop when the fighting ends in Germany and Japan. Democracy can win the peace only if it does two things:

…Speeds up the rate of political and economic inventions so that both production and, especially, distribution can match in their power and practical effect on the daily life of the common man the immense and growing volume of scientific research, mechanical invention and management technique.

…Vivifies with the greatest intensity the spiritual processes which are both the foundation and the very essence of democracy.

The moral and spiritual aspects of both personal and international relationships have a practical bearing which so-called practical men deny. This dullness of vision regarding the importance of the general welfare to the individual is the measure of the failure of our schools and churches to teach the spiritual significance of genuine democracy. Until democracy in effective enthusiastic action fills the vacuum created by the power of modern inventions, we may expect the fascists to increase in power after the war both in the United States and in the world.

Fascism in the postwar inevitably will push steadily for Anglo-Saxon imperialism and eventually for war with Russia. Already American fascists are talking and writing about this conflict and using it as an excuse for their internal hatreds and intolerances toward certain races, creeds and classes.

It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion. It may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac. It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction. But if we put our trust in the common sense of common men and "with malice toward none and charity for all" go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:52 PM
July 11, 2017
…and Where We Stop, Nobody Knows

…but we can make a good guess. Lately I have been re-reading the history of my (relative) youth, and it turns out to be a depressing exercise. Even a frightening one. The excerpt below is from a 1968 essay by the great I.F. Stone. Substitute the “War on Terror” for Vietnam, switch the names of the politicians as appropriate, and the piece could run almost unchanged today. Stone had the 2016 election figured out half a century ago:

The average man approaches the problem of war with simple reactions of anxiety and threatened virility thousands of years old. There is a strong movement for peace, but there is also a strong contingent of cavemen among us, and it is hard to see which is the majority; the same people often belong to both categories. Reagan and Wallace speak for large constituencies, too. In Vietnam as in Korea the Democrats have kept the wars limited while Reagan, like MacArthur before him, speaks for a Republican right wing which thinks the whole business can be ended in no more time than it takes to go from the 17th to the 18th hole by dropping a bomb on Peking and another on Moscow.

The two urgent issues are the Vietnamese war and the black revolt. Both require solutions for which we are poorly conditioned. One is to give way in Vietnam to a communist, though also nationalist, tide. The other is to deal with the aspiration of the blacks, the other poor, which can only be met by fundamental changes, a real redistribution of income from haves to have-nots, and an intervention of the state deeper and more far-reaching than anything America has ever known before. The only party less prepared for this than the Democrats, though not much less so, is the Republican Party.

The issues, however, are beyond that unspoken ideological consensus within which the two-party system operates. The Democratic Party, unlike the Republican, has some legitimate claim to being the party of “the people.” But the people for whom it speaks turn out on closer examination to be middle-class owners of property, white-collar workers, or the organized working class…


The urban and rural poor, and all but the thin upper strata of the blacks and our other “colored” minorities, are not really a part of its constituency. They are outside “the people” in whose name it claims to speak. Unfortunately for revolutionary theorists, the more fortunate, those with something to lose, are the overwhelming majority. The poor, white and black, are but a lower fifth of the population. Should the Democratic Party move too far in the direction of taking them in, and serving their interests, it is likely to lose much of its white skilled worker followers to the Republican party. It is this which makes the Democratic Party look so unsatisfactory to the black radicals and the new left, purveyor of half measures rather than fundamental change. But in this the party faithfully reflects a majority constituency, and in this sense it is truly representative.

The new radicals generally are unwilling to face up to this reality. They prefer to believe that there is something wrong with the party, or with something called “the system,” or that society is sick, rather than admit that what they are revolting against is the majority itself. To admit that would be too difficult and too untactful a break with the dominant ideology of democracy. Black nationalist separatism is fantasy based on despair but in one respect is more realistic than the New Left, for in proposing separation it recognizes that what it is combating is the white majority and not some clique, conspiracy, or perverse ruling elite which has somehow lead “the people” astray.

In a democratic society it is always assumed that the people are good, as in theology it is always assumed that God is good. Evil is an accident, or the work of the devil. When large numbers of ordinary men commit some outrage against humanity, it is tacitly assumed that somehow they are not part of “the people." That myth, the Common Man, is the theoretical sovereign of democratic society, and when he turns up in a racist mob or a typical veterans organization, ideology literally turns off our vision. Democratic political stereotypes remain stalwartly non- and pre-Freudian because you can't win elections by telling voters that they themselves are at fault. It is easier to let them off the hook by blaming some abstraction. Adam’s sins are still attributed to some serpent which crept into the garden.

It is the nature of the white majority, and of man, that brings the two-party system to the verge of breakdown when faced with the need to swallow a military defeat and to tax the whites for the benefit of blacks. The danger is that the white majority may choose instead to follow a simplistic demagogy which advocates as the way out a get-tough policy at home and abroad. Against that darkening a backdrop, McCarthy is a wan hope.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:56 PM
July 07, 2017
Tough Guys and a Gal

“I would bring back waterboarding, and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” the so-called “president” said last year. You could tell what a really really tough guy he was, couldn't you? It must have broken his heart back when a crippling but mercifully short-lived attack of bone spurs kept him out of the Vietnam war. No doubt he was recalling those early agonies when he later told another campaign audience, “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works. Believe me, it works.”

So naturally he named another tough guy, a Tea Party congressman from Kansas named Mike Pompeo, to head the CIA. And Pompeo, a big fan of waterboarding himself, has just picked as his top deputy one Gina Haspel. Ms. Haspel had gained in-house fame of a sort by running a secret CIA jail in Thailand where one prisoner was waterboarded 83 times before his torturers finally decided he had nothing useful to tell. She later ordered the destruction of the videotapes and recordings of his torture.

So here we are back again to those wondrous worlds of yesteryear — the Inquisition, the Nazi death camps, the gulag, the Salem Witch trials, the Crucifixion, the Roman Circus. And Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, both draft dodgers like the so-called "president."

Before we get too excited, though, let's examine again the testimony of a man who knows, as Trump and King and Pompeo and Haspel never will, the truth about waterboarding. Not only is it torture, it is what you try after other forms of torture haven’t worked. (I first posted M. Alleg’s story in 2006. Fat lot of good it did then and a fat lot it will do now. But still…)

The following is from a 1958 book called The Question. The author, a French newspaper editor in Algeria named Henri Alleg, had already resisted a month of hideous torture at the hands of his own country’s paratroopers, including electric shock and having his testicles burned. The worst, inflicted only when all else had failed, was yet to come…


A few moments later L— came into the room. Twenty-five years old, short, sunburnt, pomaded hair, small forehead. He came up to me, smiling, and said, “Ah! So you’re the customer? Come with me…”

L— now laid on the ground a black plank, sweating with humidity, polluted and sticky with vomit left, no doubt, by previous “customers.”

I lay down on the plank. L— , with the help of another man, attached me by the wrists and ankles with leather straps fixed to the wood…

Together they picked up the plank to which I was attached and carried me into the kitchen. Once there, they rested the top of the plank, where my head was, against the sink. L— fixed a rubber tube to the metal tap which shone just above my face. He wrapped my head in a rag, while Captain D— said: “Put a wedge in his mouth.”

With the rag already over my face, L— held my nose. He tried to jam a piece of wood between my lips in such a way that I could not close my mouth or spit out the tube. When everything was ready, he said to me: “When you want to talk, all you have to do is move your fingers.”

And he turned on the tap. The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could.

But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, the fingers of both my hands shook uncontrollably,

“That’s it! He’s going to talk,” said a voice.

The water stopped running and they took away the rag. I was able to breathe. In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw out the water I had swallowed. Befuddled by the air I was breathing, I hardly felt the blows.

“Well, then?” I remained silent. “He’s playing games with us. Put his head under again!”

This time I clenched my fists, forcing the nails into my palm. I had decided I was not going to move my fingers again. It was better to die of asphyxia right away. I feared to undergo again that terrible moment when I had felt myself losing consciousness, while at the same time I was fighting with all my might not to die.

I did not move my hands, but three times I again experienced this insupportable agony. In extremis, they let me get my breath back while I threw up the water.

The last time, I lost consciousness.

M. Alleg never broke under the torture and was sent away to ten years in prison, from which he escaped and fled to Czechoslovakia.

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:06 PM
July 01, 2017
The Yellow Peril

Below are Fred Reed’s conclusions. For his supporting evidence, go here. I find it very convincing, but then I would. Pinko peacenik snowflake that I am.

To one watching the advance of Chinese science and technology, or to me anyway, several things stand out. First, the headlong pace. Second, the amount of it that appears aimed at making China independent of the West technologically and getting the United States off Beijing’s back. Third, the apparent calculated focus. It looks like intelligent design, as distinct from America’s competitive scrabbling for profit by special interests, the hope being that this might inadvertently benefit the country as a whole…

While Beijing works to benefit China, rapidly increasing its techno-industrial clout, Washington spends insanely on weaponry. It is trying to apply a military solution to a commercial problem. America crumbles economically, politically, culturally, but has the very best bombers.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:33 PM
June 13, 2017
We've Come a Long Way, Baby

John F. Kennedy’s press secretary was Pierre Salinger, a concert pianist at the age of six, winner of the Navy and Marine Corps medal as captain of a submarine chaser off Okinawa, a reporter and editor for The San Francisco Chronicle and Collier’s, legal counsel for a Senate committee investigating organized crime, and a top JFK aide in the 1960 presidential campaign.

Donald F.Trump’s press secretary is Sean Spicer.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:39 PM
April 17, 2017
Slow Learners

From the New York Times of today, April 17, 2017:

KABUL, Afghanistan — Talks between the United States and Afghanistan wrapped up here on Sunday, as the Trump administration reviews its options in the 15-year American presence in Afghanistan in the face of a resurgent Taliban.

Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, met with Afghan leaders, including President Ashraf Ghani, in talks that came days after the United States dropped a huge bomb on a honeycomb of Islamic State caves in eastern Afghanistan.

From Counterpunch, dated January 15, 1998:
Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention…

Brzezinski: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire?

From Rudyard Kipling, in 1895:

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:11 PM
March 20, 2017
Round and Round We Go

In a comment on my last post, Rocky D says he has been a reader since 1996. I didn’t think it had been that long, and the Bad Attitudes archives seems to have become mostly inaccessible. In the process of poking around, though, I found the following. It reinforces my vague memory that the CIA was getting a raw deal these days. The so-called president says the agency can’t be trusted because they were wrong about the weapons of mass destruction that tricked the Idiot Son into invading Iraq. But consider this entry, from October of 2002:

Paul D. Wolfowitz is one of George W. Bush’s bits of rough trade over at the Pentagon, another being Donald H. Rumsfeld. Lately both have been sulking over the CIA’s insubordinate refusal to believe that Saddam is about to drop an atom bomb on the Mall.

So now they want to set up a special Pentagon intelligence unit that will squeeze the CIA’s facts in such a way as to produce the truth for a change.

Yesterday Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz explained to the New York Times just how those poor souls over at the CIA had managed to go so wrong.

Firstly, the fierce chickenhawk said, “They are not making independent intelligence assessments.” Readers of Orwell will understand this sentence at once. Independence is disobedience.

And secondly, there exists “a phenomenon in intelligence work, that people who are pursuing a certain hypothesis will see certain facts that others won’t, and not see other facts that others will. The lens through which you’re looking for facts affects what you look for.”

Note Mr. Wolfowitz’s use of the second person plural. He would find the first person singular to be, in this context, literally unimaginable.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:03 PM
February 15, 2017
Our Uncanny Amnesia About Iran

What is it about Iran with us? A national schizophrenia? A disinterest in looking farther back into our national past than Mork and Mindy? What? For example, an article titled “Ayatollah Calls Trump ‘True Face’ Of the U.S.” appeared New York Times. Thomas Erdbrink, reporting from Tehran on what the Ayatollah actually said, did what a reporter for the indispensable Times is supposed to do — and on site! So far, so good.

But then (read carefully now) Erdbrink segued into some context, beginning with “The history of animosity between both countries is long and deep,” followed by what we think of Iran – four words: sponsor of terrorist organizations. “Iran has also been held responsible by the United States for several terror attacks, most decades ago. One of them, of course [?!], was the seizure of 54 members of the American Embassy staff in Tehran for 444 days during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Iran has also been accused of involvement in a 1983 bomb attack at a Marine barracks in Lebanon, where 241 service personnel died…. Iran denies the accusations.

“Iran has pressed several claims against the United States. Iran holds the United States responsible for having supported Saddam Hussein with intelligence, funds and weapons after he attacked Iran [Note: Iraq attacked Iran.] in 1980, dragging both countries into a [sic] eight-year war where thousands of Iranians and Iraqis died. [Deaths as would be typical in eight-year wars.]

“In 1988, an American naval vessel, the Vincennes, shot down an Iran Air commercial plane, flying over the Persian Gulf [yes, Persian Gulf] to Dubai, in the united Arab Emirates. All 290 people aboard died. Iran called the attack deliberate and the United States called it a mistake. Under a settlement … the United States offered no apologies and was order to pay around $60 million in damages to families of the victims.” That’s it on the Times’s “history of animosity.”

Really, that’s it? …

No mention of the genesis of the history of animosity? Such as that in the mid-1950s the US and the UK colluded to overthrow a democratically elected government in Iran. What a nice thing it would have been if we had nurtured that nascent Middle Eastern as a product of the shining example of America’s vaunted exceptional mission in the world. Instead, it was let’s take the oil from the wogs. And they’re barely civilized, not like us. (Oh, did they have a glorious civilization while the Europeans were living in huts? Who knew? Who cares?)

Here is one succinct (but ungrammatical) summary of the event: “Mohammad Mosaddegh (16 June 1882 – 5 March 1967) was an Iranian politician. He was the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 until 1953, when his government was overthrown in a coup d’état aided by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency and the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service.

“An author, administrator, lawyer, and prominent parliamentarian, his administration introduced a range of progressive social and political reforms such as social security and land reforms, including taxation of the rent on land. His government’s most notable policy, however, was the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913 through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later British Petroleum and BP). [Nationalization done in order to fund the new government’s social and political reforms. And we must lazily wonder: however did the British manage to control the oil under Iranian soil since 1913. A referendum of the people of Iran?]

“Many Iranians regard Mosaddegh as the leading champion of secular democracy and resistance to foreign domination in Iran’s modern history. Mosaddegh was removed from power in a coup on 19 August 1953, organized and carried out by the CIA at the request of the British secret service (MI6), which [unilaterally] chose Iranian General Fazlollah Zahedi to succeed Mosaddegh.” (Wikipedia)

This happened on President Eisenhower’s watch. Ike’s biographer Stephen Ambrose had this to say in 1990 (excerpted): “Mossadegh [a variant transliteration of his name] headed a government that had seized the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (British owned) and then broken diplomatic relations with London. The British had retaliated by setting up a de facto blockade of Iranian oil; meanwhile the British, along with American oilmen, told Ike that Mossadegh was a communist. (These days, instead of communist it would be the snappier “state sponsor of terrorism.”] In the spring of 1953, Foreign Secretary Eden came to Washington, to propose a joint effort between the British Secret Service and the CIA to topple Mossadegh. Eisenhower was receptive….

“It was the CIA’s first big-time coup. The aim of their plot [code name Ajax] was to depose Mossadegh and bring the Shah back to power; the means were out-and-out bribes for the Iranian Army officers….

“… Ajax had to have the approval of the President…. Establishing a pattern he would hold throughout his presidency, he kept his distance and left no documents behind that could implicate the President in any projected coup.

“Ajax was a great success. The Iranian Army arrested Mossadegh, the Shah returned, he cut a new oil deal that gave the American oil giants 40 percent of Iran’s oil, Eisenhower announced an $85 million aid package for Iran, and everyone was happy – except the Iranian people, and the British oil executives, who lost their monopoly….

“The methods used were immoral, if not illegal, and a dangerous precedent had been set. The CIA offered the President a quick fix for his foreign problems. It was there to do his bidding; it freed him from having to persuade Congress, or the parties, or the public … at the expense of also greatly extending the risks of … getting into deep trouble.”

What followed after the colluders then set up the Shah as emperor of Iran? He (and we as consultants, surely) established his dreaded secret police army called Savak, to keep in line anyone who might not welcome this national catastrophe in the proper spirit. A fog apparently fell over these events here in the Western Hemisphere, à la the Times and pretty much everywhere else – it seems clear that the unwashed between our coasts are ignorant of what you would think would be an important part of the story – but you can bet that the Iranians (and their oil-rich neighbors) remembered it and Mosaddegh clearly, and still do: the great-grandfathers, grandfathers, and father, and mothers of today’s Iranian people. That festering injustice of 1953 and crimes of the corrupt and vicious police state came to a boil among the populace after another quarter of a century, in 1979. One of the first things the Islamic Revolutionaries did was get at the CIA and State Dept. files in the US embassy. Hmm, I wonder why….

(Four years later Ike happened to be my Commander-in-Chief as I sat on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific overseeing the planning of potential nuclear air strikes against two countries with which we were not at war — a little endeavor not officially disclosed to the American people, but everyone seemed to know. Including the Soviets and the People’s Republic of China. They may have taken umbrage; our intelligence thought so. So unfair of them to take it personally against us.)

The United States has a long record of pretty much manufactured unilateral aggression against foreign sovereign states since the mid-nineteenth century. To leave out our Central and South Latin American adventures: concessions obtained by force in China … American gunboats forcing a passive nineteenth-century Japan to admit the West … the Mexican-American War (grabbing our New Mexico and California) … the Spanish-American (and Cuban and Philippine) War….*

Trying to run NATO — created essentially to counter a postwar threat from — right up to the Russian border? Today we trembling Americans are faced with all sorts of threats, typically depicted as existential. (Is it maybe time to institute a coastal watch force, on the lookout for enemy landing craft?) However did all these threats arise? Could it be that we ourselves had a really big hand in their creation? That we are now the major threat in the world? I ask you.

* Spain itself never recovered from the shock to its centuries-long cultural identity and pride – witness the writings, at the time, of Ortega y Gasset and especially Unamuno, his masterpiece telling titled Tragic Sense of Life.

Posted by A. David Tucker at 04:21 PM
February 04, 2017
Right to Life

You don’t have to read the whole book on right-to-life by Supreme Court Justice-in-waiting Neil Gorsuch; Vox has done it for you. And the issue turns out to be not nearly as simple as proponents on either side of the argument would have it. Take a look. The first two paragraphs below are from Gorsuch’s book, and the third is from Vox.

Clarence Darrow of Scopes Monkey fame proclaimed, “Chloroform unfit children. Show them the same mercy that is shown beasts that are no longer fit to live.” Novelist Sherwood Anderson and physician Abraham Wolbarst, two future members of the Euthanasia Society of America, openly argued that society had a duty to kill those with defects because they unnecessarily drained community resources.

Madison Grant, a New York attorney and Yale Law graduate who also served as a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History and cofounded the American Eugenics Society, proclaimed that “[t]he laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit and [a] human is valuable only when it is of use to the community or race.”… In 1939 Ann Mitchell, an ESA cofounder, welcomed the advent of World War II as a “biological house cleaning.” She counseled “euthanasia as a war measure, including euthanasia for the insane, feeble-minded monstrosities.”

Of course, euthanasia did become a war measure, specifically for Nazi Germany, which launched the T4 program the same month it invaded Poland; about 200,000 disabled people were killed in various Nazi euthanasia efforts. And the effort was substantially inspired by American euthanasia advocates. Gorsuch notes that Adolf Hitler himself wrote to Madison Grant, describing Grant’s pro-eugenics book The Passing of the Great Race as “his Bible,” and stated that he had “studied with interest the laws of several American states concerning prevention of reproduction by people whose progeny would, in all probability, be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:38 PM
January 10, 2017
Oh, the Horror, the Horror

From CNN.COM we learn that:

Conservative author and television personality Monica Crowley, whom Donald Trump has tapped for a top national security communications role, plagiarized large sections of her 2012 book, a CNN KFile review has found.

The review of Crowley’s June 2012 book, “What The (Bleep) Just Happened,” found upwards of 50 examples of plagiarism from numerous sources, including the copying with minor changes of news articles, other columnists, think tanks, and Wikipedia.

Yawn. Time to plagiarize myself, who wrote this in 2008 for Salon:

I know exactly how Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick felt on seeing his words from their author’s womb unfairly ripped by Barack Obama.

I’ve been feeling the same way ever since the presidential campaign of 1984, when I wrote this for Walter Mondale: “In Reagan’s America, a rising tide lifts all yachts.” Mr. Mondale lost every state but Minnesota, but my line lived on. Through the years it has been stolen by the best — Molly Ivins, Ralph Nader, Joseph Stiglitz, Warren Buffett, Doonesbury, Rush Limbaugh — and always without credit.

Do I feel used? Cheated? No, I feel the same way I did in 1988 when the media went into snit mode on discovering that Joe Biden — the horror, the horror! — had failed to footnote a line or two he lifted from a British politician. I just feel indifferent.

The awful truth is that speechwriters have a secret, unwritten code. In obedience to it, the first thing we do on finding ourselves in the White House is to rummage through the papers of past presidents in search of things to pilfer.

Here’s one such thing, from Warren G. Harding’s keynote address at the 1916 Republican Convention: “We must have a citizenship less concerned about what the government can do for it, and more anxious about what it can do for the nation.”

With the subtraction of a few syllables and the addition of a soupçon of affectation (“Ask not?”), Harding’s piffle could be and was recycled for John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address — just as Harding himself had swiped it from a speech Oliver Wendell Holmes gave in 1884. Nor was Holmes likely to have been the first to come up with the general idea, which after all basically reduces to nothing more than, “Don’t expect me to do everything around this house, young lady.”

And nor was I the first to come up with that business about rising yachts. I can’t find any earlier evidence of it on the Internet, but that means nothing. All us monkeys pounding on all those typewriters for all those years? Somebody wrote it before.

Virtually all writing is plagiarism anyway, whether the writer knows it or not. Very few ideas, except out at the cutting edge of science, have not occurred to somebody before and been written down in one form or other. The only function remaining for the writer is to repeat in today’s idiom what has already been written, somewhat differently, for readers in the past. This is particularly true in political prose, which tends to be light on facts and innocent of all but a few childish ideas.

To criticize a politician for plagiarizing, then, is no more sensible than to criticize a fish for swimming. It is what both animals are designed to do. The only sensible criticism would focus on how effectively political speech does the job for which it is intended. How skillfully does the politician mix and administer the small dose of simplistic placebos that the patient is considered able to handle?

For instance, this draft language for a speech was written in 1860 by the incoming secretary of state, William Henry Seward. Note that it is entirely free of meaning:

“The mystic chords which, proceeding from so many battlefields and so many patriotic graves, pass through all the hearts and all hearths in this broad continent of ours, will yet again harmonize in their ancient music when breathed upon by the guardian angel of the nation.”

Seward’s boss repurposed this into:

“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

This is equally free of meaning, but goes a considerable way toward explaining why Seward was the incoming secretary of state and Lincoln was the incoming president. It ain’t what you say but how you say it.

And that is why the Clinton camp has found itself reduced to rolling out the pop gun of plagiarism at this difficult point in the campaign. They have no other artillery.

But as somebody or other may have more or less said somewhere else, Obama probably has nothing to fear from smear itself.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:11 PM
November 26, 2016
Our Brief Romance with Fidel

Fidel Castro died yesterday at the age of 90.

The fact is barely mentioned in the New York Times obituary, but America at first welcomed as a hero the man who overthrew Batista. In our great lack of wisdom, however, we soon decided that Cuba — Cuba! — posed an existential threat to the United States. John F. Kennedy would have blown up the world to save it if the grownups in Moscow hadn’t stopped him.

To remind us of our brief pre-paranoia honeymoon with Fidel, though, here’s Sam Smith at Undernews:

One night in April 1959 Allison was conducting his program as usual – sometime between ten thirty and one am – at Cores Restaurant, 1305 E St NW, when the recently victorious Fidel Castro and his aides came into the restaurant looking for something to eat without any idea a radio program was underway. Castro had come to Washington to speak at the National Press Club, right around the corner from the restaurant.

Here is the tape of what happened next as reported on the program that followed. It is extraordinary:

Audio Tape

And here’s more from Smith, who was a reporter for the Harvard student radio station in those days:
“The most noteworthy figure to appear at Harvard during my tenure was the newly victorious Fidel Castro, who spoke to 8,000 enthusiastic faculty and students (including one from Brandeis named Abbie Hoffman) at Dillon Field House. Castro was still considered a hero by many Americans for having overthrown the egregious Batista. While those of us who had taken Soc Sci 2 knew that not all revolutions were for the better, there was about this one a romance that took my thoughts far from Harvard Square as a top Castro lieutenant, sitting in front of my little recorder in the Bick, told me of his days with Fidel in the mountains. Castro was booed only once according to my broadcast report later that evening, when he “attempted to defend the execution of Cuban war criminals after the revolution.”

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:32 PM
August 03, 2016
Racist Replay

This footage was put together by The New York Times. It’s bad enough to read about Trump’s mobs. To see them and hear them is far more disturbing. Nothing new, though, to anyone old enough to remember the vicious desegregation struggles of the Fifties and Sixties. We’ve come a long way since then. Or not.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:56 PM
July 22, 2016
Original Sin

You always knew this, of course, but still it’s nice to see it confirmed by an expert. From Harper’s Magazine, by Dan Baum:

In 1994, John Ehrlichman, the Watergate co-conspirator, unlocked for me one of the great mysteries of modern American history: How did the United States entangle itself in a policy of drug prohibition that has yielded so much misery and so few good results? Americans have been criminalizing psychoactive substances since San Francisco’s anti-opium law of 1875, but it was Ehrlichman’s boss, Richard Nixon, who declared the first “war on drugs” and set the country on the wildly punitive and counterproductive path it still pursues. I’d tracked Ehrlichman, who had been Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser, to an engineering firm in Atlanta, where he was working on minority recruitment. I barely recognized him. He was much heavier than he’d been at the time of the Watergate scandal two decades earlier, and he wore a mountain-man beard that extended to the middle of his chest.

At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:24 PM
July 12, 2016
Nothing New Under the Sun

I am rereading, by no means for the first time, Thurman Arnold’s great book, The Folklore of Capitalism. Published in 1937, it has aged well. Sad to say. These excerpts are from chapter eight, “The Personification of Corporation.”
The Supreme Court of the United States, because it could express better than any other institution the myth of the corporate personality, was able to hamper federal powers to an extent which foreigners, not realizing the emotional power of the myth, could not understand. This court invented most of the ceremonies which kept the myth alive and preached about them in the most dramatic setting. It dressed huge corporations in the clothes of simple farmers and merchants and thus made attempts to regulate them appear as attacks on liberty and the home. So long as men instinctively thought of these great organizations as individuals, the emotional analogies of home and freedom and all the other trappings of “rugged individualism” became their most potent protection…

This entire volume could be filled with the queer effects of the personification of industrial enterprises in mixing ceremony with the production and distribution of goods. Control of great organizations drifted out of the hands of those who knew the techniques of the business and into the hands of bankers. Stock manipulation became more important in control than efficiency of production. Organizations competed with each other in building magnificent structures for pure show in order to gain dignity and prestige in the company of their peers…

Nothing in the Middle Ages compares for sheer fantasy with the holding company, or with modern security manipulation by which control of large organizations may be obtained without investment risk. Equally fantastic was the notion that a corporation had the rights of a citizen of the state which incorporated it. This permitted the use of the sacred doctrine of states rights to hamper regulation of industrial empires which had no connection with any particular state…


Unemployed were relentlessly persecuted on moral grounds, in spite of the fact that there were plenty of material goods to feed and clothe them. It was thought sound economics to reduce them to the lowest level of subsistence and make the taking of that pittance as humiliating as possible. Every move the government made was accompanied by hostile oratory and blind irritation.

This was not done by ill will. It was simply the result of thinking in terms of a fiscal fairyland in which industrial organizations were individuals and government was supposed to protect their property.

Since corporate property had come to mean the right of an organization to distribute goods, the government could not engage in such distribution without damaging the whole structure. Government itself could not be efficient because it did not operate for profit, which was an essential element of efficiency. If a man did not work for profit, he became bureaucratic, unless he happened to be a minister of the gospel, a professor, or perhaps a scientist. Hence, government clerks could not fail to be bureaucratic. This extended down to the lowest governmental units. Municipal light plants were bad in principle.

Even charity could not be administered by the government because the government would not know where to stop. Needy and unemployed people would get the idea that the world owed them a living. This was supposed to ruin their characters. Thus in the great drought which occurred in the Southwest at the end of President Hoover's administration, money could be raised for the farmers only by the Red Cross. Government money could only go for crop loans, which was not thought to be such a dangerous use of the funds and would not have such a bad effect on the character of the farmers.

In any event, the fact that government organizations could not be put to practical use was tied up to character, the home, religion, law, and the science of economics. Any counter-proposal was some form of socialism, which led to both bankruptcy and bureaucracy.

On one occasion only could the government step into the temporal world of corporate organization and that was in time of war. Then all questions of where the money was coming from disappeared. Only then were the great corporate personalities supposed to subordinate their rights to a greater cause.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:03 PM
July 08, 2016
The People’s Republic of North Dakota

Yves Smith tells you something you didn’t know. North Dakota? Apart from a lonely Democratic senator, North Dakota’s government is about as deep red as you can get.

In 1932, North Dakotans voted 57 to 43 to ban corporations from owning or leasing farmland. In 1963, the legislature enacted a law that required pharmacies be owned by a state-registered pharmacist. The effect was to ban chains, except those operating at the time the law was passed. In 1980, North Dakotans voted to establish a State Housing Finance Agency to provide mortgages to low-income households.

In recent years several of these laws protecting independent farmers and businesses have come under attack by big corporations. After several attempts by Big Pharmacy failed to convince the legislature to repeal the Pharmacy Ownership Law, Walmart spent $9.3 million to finance a ballot initiative. In November 2014, the initiative lost by a vote of 59-41.

In 2015, big corporations did convince the legislature to overturn the 1932 anti-corporate farming law. This June, North Dakotans voted to reinstate the old law by a resounding margin of 76-24.

Today the economic structure of North Dakota reflects its focus on independent and cooperative businesses. The Pharmacy Ownership law, for example, has markedly benefited North Dakota. A report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) found that on every key measure of pharmacy care, including quality and the price of drugs, North Dakota’s independent pharmacies outperform those of neighboring states and the U.S. as a whole. Unsurprisingly North Dakota also has more pharmacies per capita than other states. Its rural residents are more likely to have a nearby pharmacist.

North Dakota’s banking system reflects a similar community-based structure. An analysis by ILSR found that, on a per capita basis, the state boasts almost six times as many locally owned financial institutions as the rest of the nation (89 small and mid-sized community banks and 38 credit unions). These control 83 percent of the deposits of the state. North Dakota’s community banks have given 400 percent more small business loans than the national average. Student loan rates are among the lowest in the country.

As Stacy Mitchell, director of ILSR’s Community-Scaled Economy Initiativeobserves, “While the publicly owned BND might well be characterized as a socialist institution, it has had the effect of enabling North Dakota’s local banks to be very successful capitalists.” In recent years, local banks in North Dakota have earned a return on capital nearly twice that of the nation’s largest 20 banks.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:18 PM
June 29, 2016

I know it’s tough, people, but how about looking in a mirror now and then? Linh Dinh shows you how:

While Clinton compares Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler, Sanders states, “To temper Russian aggression, we must freeze Russian government assets all over the world, and encourage international corporations with huge investments in Russia to divest from that nation’s increasingly hostile political aims.”

Russia is a threat to world peace, they both agree. In boring reality, however, it is the United States that has surrounded Russia with missiles, staged provocative war games on Russia’s borders and pushed Georgia and Ukraine into wars with Russia.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is used by Big Brother to fan hatred and paranoia of Muslims. From 9/11 to the Orlando Shooting, every “Muslim” terror attack on American soil has been framed and narrated, with no real evidence, by Big Brother. As with the Boston Bombing, Portland Christmas Tree Plot and the Shoe Bomber Plot, etc., Big Brother has either steered and coached the alleged terrorists, or had foreknowledge of them.

In boring reality, the US has also attacked Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan and Syria. Waging war on all these Muslim countries, the US has killed millions and generated millions more in refugees. According to Big Brother, however, the US is not a most brutal and systematic assailant of Muslims, but their hapless target.

Killing Muslims and stealing their land, Israel has also painted itself as a civilized, dignified and unbelievably restrained victim of barbaric Muslim terror.

Without Israel, the US would not be killing and demonizing Muslims endlessly, nor would it suffer these terror attacks pinned on Muslims. Without Israel, not just the US but the entire world would be much more peaceful.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:56 PM
May 30, 2016
There, There, Little Nation…

…don’t be frightened. Before reading any more of the usual crap in the MSM about the perils to the American Way of Life posed by Russian expansionism, read this from The Saker. It’s long and you may disagree with his conclusions, but there should be no ignoring of his facts. For most of my lifetime we have got the Russian menace dead and diametrically wrong. In the worst instance of this so far, John F. Kennedy almost stumble-footed us into a nuclear world war by invading Cuba. Our world was only saved by Nikita Khrushchev’s brave commission of political suicide.

As a nation we love war, we really do. But while mostly we prefer to bully the small and helpless, we are also a perpetually fearful and misinformed nation — one quite capable of repeating Kennedy’s overreach. And Putin is no Khrushchev.

Remember that, on this Memorial Day.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:22 PM
May 27, 2016
I’m a Very Good Killer

This is from Linh Dinh’s Postcards from the End of [the] America[n Empire]. His is the most provocative, original, intelligent and informed voice that I have so far come across on the internet. Take a look.

To begin to see what ails us, let’s start at the top. Tom Paine equated kings with wars, and although we have no king as such, our executive office has usurped the power to unleash war to itself, irrespective of Congress or popular opinions, so that each President has become a de facto king as long as he occupies the White House. With no check or balance, he can have anyone killed, imprisoned or tortured, and even destroy an entire nation. Or take our current President’s nonchalance towards his kill list, as in “I’m a very good killer” and joking about drone strikes, and compare it to the agony Washington went through as he contemplated executing a Brit soldier, Charles Asgill, in retaliation against an American prisoner of war who had been hanged by the English. Asking Congress to decide Asgill’s fate, Washington wrote that “It is a great national concern, upon which an individual ought not to decide.” Echoing Washington’s anguish, Paine called this possible revenge murder “a sentence so extraordinary, an execution so repugnant to every human sensation.” In the end, Asgill was spared. Released, Asgill charged that he had been treated barbarically during his captivity, but this is only an indictment against his local jailers, not anyone higher up. An Abu Ghraib it was not. Think also of how American diplomacy and civility has declined since, for Washington’s behavior is a far cry from Hilary Clinton’s chirpy “We came, we saw, he died!” when speaking about Muammar Gaddafi, a foreign leader who had been sodomized with a knife, killed then displayed in a supermarket freezer by the American-supported thugs. And no, such breezy barbarity is not at all common, since no one but the US routinely violates foreign countries, persons or corpses.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:17 PM
May 25, 2016
The New Normal…

…Well, not so new actually. Nearly as old as me, actually. Consider our “Defense” Department, enthusiastically funded by the taxpayers of a country last invaded in 1812. Since World War II we have become death merchants to the world, nor is there any sign of this ever changing. Not one major presidential candidate or political party since V-J Day has ever dared to propose that we exchange guns for butter — or for bridges, or schools, or highways, or health or…

And so the beat goes on:

The United States is rescinding a decades-old ban on sales of lethal military equipment to Vietnam, President Obama announced at a news conference in Hanoi on Monday, ending what the New York Times called “one of the last legal vestiges of the Vietnam War.”

“The decision to lift the ban was not based on China or any other considerations,” Obama said. “It was based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving toward normalization with Vietnam.”

So, to sum up: the sale of weapons is a sign of normalization. Appropriate, in that that is what is normal in America’s foreign relations in the 21st century. Not whether a nation is an ally or adversary per se, but whether they are a customer for our defense industry. For example, Saudi Arabia. Sure, they fund Sunni terrorism globally and played a role in the horrible events of 9/11, but they are also one of America’s most prolific buyers of weapons, and so are courted.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:03 PM
May 11, 2016
Way Back in 1979!

…today’s horror show was precisely foreseen. Frightening stuff from Sally J. Goerner at Dr. Goerner holds out some hope if you follow the link to her whole article, as you should.

…But the pundits are all missing the point: the Trump-Sanders phenomenon signals an American oligarchy on the brink of a civilization-threatening collapse.

The tragedy is that, despite what you hear on TV or read in the paper or online, this collapse was completely predictable. Scientifically speaking, oligarchies always collapse because they are designed to extract wealth from the lower levels of society, concentrate it at the top, and block adaptation by concentrating oligarchic power as well. Though it may take some time, extraction eventually eviscerates the productive levels of society, and the system becomes increasingly brittle. Internal pressures and the sense of betrayal grow as desperation and despair multiply everywhere except at the top, but effective reform seems impossible because the system seems thoroughly rigged. In the final stages, a raft of upstart leaders emerge, some honest and some fascistic, all seeking to channel pent-up frustration towards their chosen ends. If we are lucky, the public will mobilize behind honest leaders and effective reforms. If we are unlucky, either the establishment will continue to “respond ineffectively” until our economy collapses, or a fascist will take over and create conditions too horrific to contemplate…

Rigged systems erode the health of the larger society, and signs of crisis proliferate. Developed by British archaeologist Sir Colin Renfrew in 1979, the following “Signs of Failing Times” have played out across time in 26 distinct societies ranging from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the collapse of the Soviet Union:

1. Elite power and well-being increase and is manifested in displays of wealth;

2. Elites become heavily focused on maintaining a monopoly on power inside the society; Laws become more advantageous to elites, and penalties for the larger public become more Draconian;

3. The middle class evaporates;

4. The “misery index” mushrooms, witnessed by increasing rates of homicide, suicide, illness, homelessness, and drug/alcohol abuse;

5. Ecological disasters increase as short-term focus pushes ravenous exploitation of resources;

6. There’s a resurgence of conservatism and fundamentalist religion as once golden theories are brought back to counter decay, but these are usually in a corrupted form that accelerates decline.

The crisis reaches a breaking point, and seemingly small events trigger popular frustration into a transformative change. If the society enacts effective reforms, it enters a new stage of development. If it fails to enact reforms, crisis leads to regression and possibly collapse.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:22 PM
May 02, 2016
Why I Am a Republican

On account of it’s the party of the young, which I am at heart. Just take a look at our platform:

We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs — expansion of social security —broadened coverage in unemployment insurance — improved housing — and better health protection for all our people. We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people…

Further reductions in taxes with particular consideration for low and middle income families … Continual study of additional ways to correct inequities in the effect of various taxes…

“Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country — they are America”… The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is our firm and permanent policy … We will continue to fight for dynamic and progressive programs which, among other things, will assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex…

We shall continue to seek extension and perfection of a sound social security system…

We favor self-government, national suffrage and representation in the Congress of the United States for residents of the District of Columbia…

We recommend to Congress the submission of a constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women…

The Republican Party supports an immigration policy which is in keeping with the traditions of America in providing a haven for oppressed peoples, and which is based on equality of treatment, freedom from implications of discrimination between racial, nationality and religious groups …

As the Party of the Young and in glowing appreciation of his dynamic leadership and inspiration, we respectfully dedicate this Platform of the Party of the Future to our distinguished President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and to the Youth of America.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:43 PM
April 26, 2016
In Search of the Least Flawed

Son Ted didn’t attend Trump’s Hartford rally, but here’s his takeaway from son Mike’s takeaway from the event in the previous post :

The problem is, fine, Bernie is flawed; but compared to what?

Hillary is extremely similar to two well-known historical presidential candidates: Hoover and Bush Sr. The similarities are eerie. All three have résumés that made Beltway insiders and no-mind pundits assume, and tout, that the candidate was among the best-qualified and best-prepared candidates in the country’s history. All three have some degree of personal magnetism that has enabled them each to generate incredibly devoted and quite large coteries of personal friends who are nearly maniacal about helping the candidate get to the White House. All of these core groups of friends are also defensive and thin-skinned to the point of paranoia.

And very relatedly, the candidates are all similar in terms of decades within the bubble in terms of personal finance. They all also have a distasteful fascination with personal wealth, though Hillary’s graspingness is orders of magnitude more unattractive. They also all three suffer from a truly surprising level of utter failure to appreciate the challenges and opportunities of the moment the country is in as they approach the White House.

Hillary will for instance do everything she can to get a Geithner or a Summers in as Treasury secretary, and will also launch whatever land war she has the first opportunity to. Both her domestic and foreign policy inclinations will result in historic disasters, and my fear is that based on Hillary’s personal lack of skill, the Democratic party will be tarred with failures at home and abroad that are really creations of the pivotal George W. Bush Administration.

Like Hoover and George Herbert Walker Bush, Hillary has “one-termer” written all over her.

Can I fault Bernie for not praising Obama? No. He has been the best president since LBJ, but that is not a high bar. Every one of his considerable accomplishments has been half-a-loaf. Could he have gotten a decent health care plan through? No. Could he have gotten an effectively sized stimulus package through? No. But in both of these and in many other cases that could be named, he has resolutely failed to acknowledge the partial nature of his victories.

Obama thus has substantially set back the forward progress of the country. And he set the stage for Bernie’s rise. If only he had forthrightly acknowedged that the Affordable Care Act was nothing more than a weak start, which is the truth. The ACA with its savagely unequal reliance on catastrophic-only coverage — called High Deductible Health Plans — is nothing but a tourniquet, and Obama’s failure to call this spade a spade is the main factor that allows Hillary to claim that the health insurance issue is basically taken care of, and Obamacare just needs a tweak or two.

Is it better than before? Yes, much. But most middle income families who buy a Bronze Plan could easily still be bankrupted. Problem not solved.

And, if we stipulate that everything that made Obama a relatively good president occurred in the first two years of Democratic control of Congress, and that nothing of note significant has occurred certainly in the past four years, we are left with the cold reality that Hillary will not be able to get things done any more than Obama. She has no more sway in Congress than he does, less talent, and certainly less (I would even say no) natural progressive instincts. Congress blocked Obama’s incrementalism, and it will block hers just the same way.

So the trade between her and Bernie in terms of policy comes down to this: neither can get any domestic initiatives passed, and she will start another war abroad.

She in addition will be diminished at least, and based on the strong mistrust she inspires, quite possibly she could lose to Trump. She has myriad personal weaknesses and foibles of the type he is so expert at exploiting. Whereas Bernie would be very hard for Trump to diminish. He is personally boring but blameless, and more to the point, he just doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about him, rendering him impervious to the type of horrible and very effective personal attacks that are Trump’s stock in trade.

To me, it’s not a fun choice, but it is a very easy one.

One final parting shot at Obama: he has many of the elements of greatness, but his original sin of overwhelming self-confidence has created in him a Great Man sense of history, with himself of course in that central role, with potentially disastrous consequences for his party.

He has been the worst and most neglectful leader of a political party perhaps ever in U.S. history. His decision to sideline Howard Dean and Dean’s fifty-state strategy to rebuild a progressive, nationwide Democratic party, and the related politically inept decision to tell Obama’s own armies of supporters to go home and let the Rhodes Scholars and other grown-ups from Money Land, like Rahm Emmanuel, take over the adult work of governing, instead of encouraging them to stay active and engaged as policy partners to the Administration in pressuring Congress during that crucial first two years — those decisions have created the current perilous and extremely weak postion in which the Dems find themselves.

We have what, 18 governorships and what, seven statehouses blue on both sides of the aisle? Where has the president been on literally, any measure of party building? Obama’s obscenely selfish focus for the past 7+ years on his own political future and his own political needs have left his party in as weak a posture as any in memory coming out of a two-term presidency. Where is the contingency planning, and where is the redundancy?

Literally all we have in politics right now is the presidency. If we lose that in 2016, we inherently lose both houses of Congress, we lose any chance we had of turning the Supreme Court, and we have no state political backstops. If the next president is a Republican, that person will have a Stalin-like level of power for at least 24 months, maybe more. That’s on Obama for his long dereliction of duty as the Democratic leader.

And rendered all the more inexcusable by the fact that in terms of legislative activity, he has had almost nothing of significance to spend time on since Pelosi surrendered the gavel in 2011. Especially after he secured his own reelection in 2012, Obama has no excuse for his totally MIA status in terms of party building. Typical of Obama, we pay the price while he rides off into the sunset.

President Barack Hussein Half-a-Loaf. Better than no loaf. But I don’t fault Bernie for not hyping Obama’s record. He made some good starts in several areas. Better than nothing, and in some cases it was impressive to get even these small bits of progress. And yes, way better than President Clinton ever did. And, to somewhat repeat, if only Obama had the decency to be appropriately humble and apologetic about the incomplete, preliminary and in the case of the ACA, the for legitimate political reasons necessarily misshapen nature of these changelets, then maybe Hillary wouldn’t have the space to implicitly or sometimes explicitly claim that these problems were fixed, so the nation can move on to more important business like new trade deals.

Bernie is an imperfect tribune at best. But at least with him we don’t have to worry about backsliding, triangulation, and disguised attempts to pass parts of the Moneyland agenda. And the war. Don’t forget the war.

Not a nice election.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:24 PM
April 11, 2016
No Place to Chill

From The Unz Review:

There’s Bombay Pizza, “Home Of The Curry Pizza,” but that’s no place to chill. In such a bedroom “community,” you’re lost if you’re not plugged in to school or work. There is nothing and no one to resocialize you, so for a young man, this means that Grand Theft Auto, Minecraft and YouJizz will be your best companions. Since Jay already had a nervous breakdown, his dad doesn’t want to push him. “What should I do? What will he do when I die?”

A third of Americans under 35 now live with their parents, and half of them spend half of their incomes servicing debts. You’re not likely to get married if you’re living with mom and dad, that’s for sure, but soon enough, we will see three generations under one roof again, out of economic necessity. We will also see more couples with their kids all in one room. Poor people worldwide already live this way, and we are poor…

Do read the whole essay from which this comes. It goes a good ways toward explaining, among other things, Bernie Sanders’ appeal. I hadn’t heard of its author, Linh Dinh, or read anything by him. I intend to change that.

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:44 PM
April 07, 2016
Slow Learners

Fifty-five years ago today the sainted John F. Kennedy almost blew up the world. It was on this day in 1961, that he launched his unconstitutional, unnecessary, stupid, incompetent, and insane invasion of Cuba.

I wasn’t totally surprised by this top-secret CIA invasion, and Castro might have had an inkling too. This is from I.F. Stone’s Weekly of January 16, 1961:

Near Guatemala’s Pacific Coast, 35 miles from the Mexican border, lies a new solidly paved, closely guarded airstrip … Could it be the base for a cooperative U.S.-Guatemalan-Cuban exile airborne military operation against Fidel Castro? Los Angeles Mirror Aviation Editor Don Dwiggins heard about the strip and broke a story reporting it had been built with U.S. funds in a mysterious ‘crash’ program .… On the subject of U.S. participation, no official in Washington had a word to say.”

—Time Magazine, Jan. 6.

“Each week a plane leaves Miami International Airport with 50 to 60 young Cubans bound from local staging areas for one of three secret training camps … As a part of the same operation, veteran fighter pilots, recruited from among defectors from Castro’s own air force and from Latin American countries, are training at what was once a dilapidated airstrip in Guatemala.”

New York Daily News, Jan. 9.

U.S. Helps to Train Anti-Castro Forces
At Secret Guatemalan Air-Ground Base

New York Times, page 1 headline, Jan. 10.

President Kennedy’s finest hour is generally considered to be his role in subsequently cleaning up his own bloody mess, the Cuban missile crisis. Fortunately for mankind, Premier Khrushchev chose to withdraw his missiles to avoid nuclear war. The choice cost him his job, but saved the world.

It has taken our nation more than half a century to end — or at least begin to end — the folly of the Cuban policy that Kennedy left us. At that rate it we won’t be able to shake ourselves loose of Bush’s unconstitutional, unnecessary, stupid, incompetent, and insane invasion of Iraq until 2051.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:57 PM
April 02, 2016
Scared to Death

Bertrand Russell on cowardice, from Unpopular Essays, published in 1950:

Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity towards those who are not regarded as members of the herd. So it was in the French Revolution, when dread of foreign armies produced the reign of terror. The Soviet government would have been less fierce if it had met with less hostility in its first years. Fear generates impulses of cruelty, and therefore promotes such superstitious beliefs as seem to justify cruelty. Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear. And for this reason poltroons are more prone to cruelty than brave men, and are also more prone to superstition. When I say this, I am thinking of men who are brave in all respects, not only in facing death. Many a man will have the courage to die gallantly, but will not have the courage to say, or even to think, that the cause for which he is asked to die is an unworthy one. Obloquy is, to most men, more painful than death; that is one reason why, in times of collective excitement, so few men venture to dissent from the prevailing opinion…

But it is to be feared that the dreadful alchemy of the atomic bomb will destroy all forms of life equally, and that the Earth will remain forever a dead clod senselessly twirling around a futile sun. I do not know the immediate precipitating cause of this interesting occurrence. Perhaps it will be a dispute about Persian oil, perhaps a disagreement as to Chinese trade, perhaps a quarrel between Jews and Mohommedans for the control of Palestine. Any patriotic person can see that these issues are of such importance as to make the extermination of mankind preferable to cowardly conciliation.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:18 PM
March 28, 2016
Fun Facts About Guantánamo Bay

From Jacobin:

Castro also urged the US to return the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base to Cuban hands, drawing focus to an oft-ignored obstacle to the normalization of relations between the old enemies. Castro’s request is nothing new: Cubans of all political stripes have long demanded the base’s return, and since 1960, Havana has refused to cash the $4,085 lease payment Washington sends each year, alleging the lease is illegal.

While we’re at it, you will have noticed the wonderful lack of self-awareness demonstrated by all those Republics who were outraged that Obama would visit a country that locked up its political prisoners. Were they under the impression that Guantánamo was a summer camp?


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:13 PM
The Result Achieved is…

…more often than we think the result desired. Here’s Professor Wolff:

So at 4 a.m. this morning I got up and did a little Googling [this will give you some idea of the depths of my obsessions.] In-state tuition at Berkeley is currently $14,460 [this may be a trifle off, as I think this figure is a year or two old.] In 1968, it was $300, which in 2016 dollars is $2044. Although $2044 is not free, it is an amount that a serious student could earn with part time jobs. If California establishes a fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage, as it appears poised to do, that would work out to about five hours of burger flipping a week during term time. That still leaves room and board, of course, and also books and lab fees, but the point is that it would be possible, as we used to say when I was young, to “work your way through college.”

I have written elsewhere on this blog about the reasons for the soaring costs of college. I believe it is no accident [the favorite line of old-time Marxists] that costs began to rise exponentially roughly during the tumultuous Sixties [i.e., in the early Seventies.] The social function of student debt is to compel college graduates to take safe, trouble-free jobs in order to pay off their debts, rather than opting for community organizing or other forms of social disruption.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:57 PM
March 20, 2016
GOP to Topple?

Interesting argument from Corey Robin today. Unfortunately he’s mostly right about Carter; let’s hope he’s all the way right about the rest. Read the whole thing here.

This does not mean that Republicans or conservatives can’t get elected now. Jimmy Carter got elected in 1976. But his presidency signaled not a resurgence of liberalism but its end: his deregulation was an early warning signal of the morphing of Democratic liberalism into Reaganite neoliberalism; his funding of the Salvadoran regime, building of the MX Missile, and support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan, were the first act of Reagan’s Second Cold War. So will there be elections—perhaps one, maybe more—of Republicans and conservatives that signal not a resurgence of conservatism and the GOP but their end…

When I tried to make some of these points on Facebook last night, a reader thought I was insane. He pointed out that Republicans are today in control of 31 governorships and 30 state legislative chambers; have total control (the “trifecta” of the governorship and both houses of the legislature) of 22 state governments (to the Democrats’ 7); and control both branches of Congress (54-44 in the Senate—it’s really 54-46 because the two independent caucus with the Democrats—and 247-188 in the House). How could I possibly think conservatism or the GOP is not a wildly popular banner under which Trump will march into the White House?

For this simple reason: In 1972, the Democrats were in control of 31 governorships and 23 state legislative chambers (to the GOP’s 16; the rest were split); had total control of 17 state governments (to the GOP’s 9); and controlled both branches of Congress (54-44 in the Senate, 255-180 in the House). Not entirely dissimilar from today, only in the opposite direction. And what happened? The largest landslide in American electoral history. In favor of the Republican candidate.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:32 PM
March 03, 2016
Old Times There…

…are not forgotten:

In the South, it seems, old prejudices have persisted. Southern counties that had more slaves on the eve of the Civil War are distinct from their neighbors: White residents in those areas are more hostile toward African Americans and they are more likely to vote Republican today, new research shows. Drawing on archival Census figures and recent polls, the study adds to an expanding body of evidence on the importance of racial anxiety to the predominantly white Republican coalition.
Don’t you just love that word “anxiety?” Turns out all those Republics aren’t racist at all. Just anxious, poor little things.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:00 PM
February 20, 2016
Decent Republicans?

A correspondent (call him Ted) writes as follows:

If Obama’s goal is to get a decent justice actually confirmed, he should consider a candidate who:

● Is pro-choice
● Is pro-marriage
● Is pro gun-control
● Is pro-immigrant
● Is a member of Congress
● Has a J.D.
● Is a Republican

Sounds like a unicorn, but this is a big country, and this creature does exist. In fact even my cursory research shows that two of them exist, here, and here. These guys both appear to be decent humans who are Republicans because they view themselves as fiscally conservative (which of course barely matters on the Supreme Court). If one of these guys gets through, which you can only anticipate he would, especially in the case of Mark Kirk with the amazing back story of recovering from the stroke, we get a very decent justice for some number of years (and if it’s Kirk we very likely get back that Senate seat in November); if he doesn’t, the GOP has literally painted itself into an amazingly tough “Obstructionist” corner for the 2016 election. And one huge bonus with either of them is that they break the insane and greatly harmful Harvard/Stanford/Yale Law School grip on the Supreme Court.

There’s got to be many more decent Republicans out there who are not in Congress — I mean not as many as there used to be in the day, but we only need one! Another guy with a similar profile of whom I just happen to be aware is Michael Steele, the former Maryland Lt. Gov., RNC chair, and MSNBC commentator. Remember, the finest justices of recent memory, John Paul Stevens and David Souter, were Republicans. Harry Blackmun was much less skillful but also a decent justice. Those guys of course all snuck in by mistake, but if you as a Democratic president actually went looking for a decent Republican, I think they would come out of the woodwork.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:00 PM
February 19, 2016
War Is Not a Bug…

…it’s a feature.

In 1967 there appeared a book called Report from Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace. It purported to be a document leaked from a secret “Special Study Group” formed by the government. It was considered at the time to be a satire. The years since have proven it to be a prediction.

A sample:

We find that at the heart of every peace study we have examined – from the modest technological proposal (e.g., to convert a poison gas plant to the production of “socially useful” equivalents) to the most elaborate scenario for universal peace in our time – lies one common fundamental misconception. It is the source of the miasma of unreality surrounding such plans. It is the incorrect assumption that war, as an institution, is subordinate to the social system it is believed to serve.

This misconception, although profound and far-reaching, is entirely comprehensible. Few social clichés are so unquestionably accepted as the notion that war is an extension of diplomacy (or politics, or of the pursuit of economic objectives). If this were true, it would be wholly inappropriate for economists and political theorists to look on the problems of transition to peace is essentially mechanical or procedural – as indeed they do, treating them as logistic corollaries of the settlement of national conflicts of interest.

If this were true there would be no real substance to the difficulties of transition. For it is evident that even in today's world there exists no conceivable conflict of interest, real or imaginary, between nations or between social forces within nations, that cannot be resolved without recourse to war – if such resolution were assigned a priority of social value. And if this were true, the economic analyses and disarmament proposals we have referred to, plausible and well conceived as they may be, would not inspire, as they do, an inescapable sense of indirection.

The point is that the cliché is not true, and the problems of transition are indeed substantive rather than merely procedural. Although war is “used” as an instrument of national and social policy, the fact that a society is organized for any degree of readiness for war supersedes its political and economic structure. War itself is the basic social system, within which other secondary modes of social organization conflict or conspire. Is this system which has governed most human societies of record, as it is today.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:25 PM
January 18, 2016
Black and Red

Go here and here to remember the actual Martin Luther King, Jr., as opposed to the soft-edged specimen we are generally offered on this day. But the red-baiting J. Edgar Hoover was closer to the mark than we might like to think. Myself, I prefer the radical and real hero, that “goddamned nigger preacher,” as Lyndon Johnson once called him.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:00 PM
November 21, 2015
Round and Round We Go

Here, to show how far we haven’t come as a nation, is the late and inimitable Molly Ivins, from The Fort Worth Star-Telegram of May 11, 1997:

You can’t get a decent deal with people who don’t want the government to work. They don’t want it to work well; they don’t want to work at all. The Shiite Republicans aren’t interested in fixing government – they want to destroy it.

Why let them? Why let them abolish the tax credit for investing in low-income housing when we continue to subsidize housing for Donald Trump, who gets to write off the interest on his family mansion, his New York condo, his place in the country, his villa in Aspen, his townhouse in Miami, and his grand estate in Palm Beach? Why cut the capital-gains tax and the estate tax (so rich folks will invest more, explain the R’s), when the R’s aren’t willing to invest even $5 billion of the $112 billion needed to repair schools in this country? You tell me what’s a better investment.

I think Clinton should give up on trying to make deals with these folks and just start kicking ass. And do we think he will? Of course not. Pol to the bone.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:40 PM
November 16, 2015
The Past Is Ever With Us

Back in June of 2000, in the earliest days of Bad Attitudes, I posted the following. Unfortunately it has aged well, and so here it is again:

Take it from Thorstein Veblen, the hard times, they are a-coming. The tip-off is that the minimum wage is edging up by a few niggardly pennies.

Professor Veblen published “The Theory of Business Enterprise” in 1904, during a period of business consolidation similar to our own. The consolidators of the day were known as “Lords of Creation,” but not because they created anything. They merely absorbed one another amoeba-fashion, as Time-Warner and America Online have just done. The principal object of the Lords was not to create anything new and useful, but rather to siphon money out of already existing corporations and into the pockets of those who controlled them. This resulted, then as now, in a peculiar form of surface prosperity that never seems to get down to the men and women who actually do the nation’s work.

Here is how Professor Veblen viewed the rising tide which in his day was lifting all yachts.*

To the workmen engaged in industry, particularly, substantial benefits accrue from an era of prosperity. These benefits come, not in the way of larger returns for a given amount of work, but more work, fuller employment, at about the earlier rate of pay. To the workmen it often means a very substantial gain if they can get a fuller livelihood by working harder or longer, and an era of prosperity gives them a chance of this kind.

Gradually, however, as prosperity — that is to say, the advancing price level — rises and spreads, the increased cost of living neutralizes the gain due to fuller employment, and after the era of prosperity has been under way for some time the gain in the amount of work obtainable is likely to be fairly offset by the increased cost of living.

As noted above, much of the business advantage gained in an era of prosperity is due to the fact that wages advance more tardily than the prices of goods. An era of prosperity does not commonly bring an increase of wages until the era is about to close. (Emphasis added.)

The advance of wages in such a case is not only a symptom indicating that the season of prosperity is passing, but it is a business factor which must by its own proper effect close the season of prosperity as soon as the advance in wages becomes somewhat general. Increasing wages cut away the securest ground of that differential price advantage on which an era of prosperity runs.”

* This figure of speech, now a political cliché, was originally used by Walter Mondale during his 1984 presidential campaign against Mr. Reagan. At least I thought it was original when I wrote it, and will continue to think so unless someone can point me to an earlier occurrence. I hope no one can, as this is the only cliché birth to which I imagine myself ever to have given.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:04 PM
August 25, 2015

The parties have come a long, strange way from Booker T. Washington and Vito Marcantonio to Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. This from Thaddeus Russell’s A Renegade History of the United States:

Guglielmo's analysis of voting patterns in Chicago during the 1920s shows that “many Italians willingly voted alongside African-Americans throughout these years.” Furthermore, “some Italians never seemed overly concerned about belonging to the same party [Republican] as African Americans, even when the Democrats furiously fought to paint that party as ‘Negro’ through and through. Indeed, Italian-language newspapers openly advertised the point that Italians and African-Americans held similar party affiliations, and on one occasion, L’Italia held up African-Americans as a model for Italian political organization and behavior.”

When the national political parties were demographically realigned in the 1930s, both Italian Americans and African Americans moved overwhelmingly to the Democratic Party and remained solid voting blocks for the Democrats for the next 30 years. Indeed, one of the greatest champions of black civil rights during the 1930s and 1940s was Vito Marcantonio, the left-wing New York Congressman whose East Harlem district contained large numbers of both Italians and African Americans. Marcantonio sponsored several civil rights bills, led the congressional fight against the discriminatory poll tax in southern states, and worked to make lynching a federal crime.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:42 PM
August 19, 2015
Free the American 320 Million

This is the issue which ought to lie at the heart of the upcoming presidential race but won’t. That Obama set out to follow the same disastrous “free trade” policies as Reagan, the Bushes and Clinton is beyond my comprehension. If Hillary lacks the guts to cut free from her husband and her corporate backers on TPP, the rest of us will be well and truly fornicated.

When Ronald Reagan came into office, as the result of 190 years of Hamilton’s plan, the United States was the world’s largest importer of raw materials; the world’s largest exporter of finished, manufactured goods; and the world’s largest creditor.

After 34 years of Reaganomics, we’ve completely flipped this upside down. We’ve become the world’s largest exporter of raw materials, the world’s largest importer of finished goods, and the world’s largest debtor. We now export raw materials to China, and buy from them manufactured goods. And we borrow from them to do it. Our trade debt right now stands at over $11 trillion, and it’s the principal reason why one-seventh of all assets in the United States are foreign-owned.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:26 PM
August 14, 2015
The Birth of the Southern Strategy

It is always discouraging to be reminded, again and again and again, that there is sure enough nothing new under the sun. But let’s do it anyway. Here’s a passage from Richard Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics. I had forgotten that the GOP’s Southern strategy dated back not to Nixon’s 1968 campaign but to Barry Goldwater’s four years earlier. So — discredit where discredit’s due:

Goldwater's departure from the Republican pattern was compounded by his position on civil rights. One of the oldest, though hardly the most efficacious, of the traditions of many conservatives in the north — and even to a degree in the South as well — has been a certain persistent sympathy with the Negro and a disposition to help them in moderate ways to relieve his distress. This tradition goes back to the Federalist party; it was continued by the Whig gentry; it infused the early Republican Party.

By adopting “the Southern strategy,” the Goldwater men abandoned this inheritance. They committed themselves not merely to a drive for a core of Southern states in the electoral college but to a strategic counterpart in the north which required the search for racist votes. They thought they saw a good mass issue in the white backlash, which they could indirectly exploit by talking of violence in the streets, crime, juvenile delinquency, and the dangers faced by our mothers and daughters.

Eisenhower, like Goldwater, had been unmoved by noble visions of progress toward racial justice, but he at least gave lip service to the ideal and thought it important to enforce the laws himself and to speak out for public compliance. But Goldwater arrived at the position, far from conservative in its implications, that the decisions [ed. note: Brown v. Board of Education] of the Supreme Court are “not necessarily” the law of the land. Of course, the decisions of the court have always had political content and they have often been highly controversial; there is no reason why they should suddenly be regarded with whispered reverence. But it is only in our time, and only in the pseudo-conservative movement, that men have become to hint that disobedience to the court is not merely legitimate but is the essence of conservatism.

It is not the authority and legitimacy of the court alone that the pseudo-conservative right calls into question. When it argues that we are governed largely by means of near-hypnotic manipulation (brainwashing), wholesale corruption, and betrayal, it is indulging in something more significant than the fantasies of indignant patriots: it is questioning the legitimacy of the political order in itself. The two-party system, as it has developed in the United States, hangs on the common recognition of loyal opposition: each side accepts the ultimate good intentions of the other. The opponent’s judgment may be held to be consistently execrable, but the legitimacy of his intent is not — that is, in popular terms, his Americanism is not questioned. One of the unspoken assumptions of presidential campaigns is that the leaders of both parties are patriots who, however serious their mistakes, must be accorded the right to govern. But an essential point in the pseudo-conservative worldview is that our recent presidents, being men of wholly evil intent, have conspired against the public good. This does more than discredit them: it calls into question the validity of the political system that keeps putting such men into office.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:01 PM
July 13, 2015
A White Jesse Jackson?

From Sam Smith at Undernews:

In 1988, Jesse Jackson ran a remarkable campaign for president that was based in no small part on bringing together forces that the elite prefer to see at each others’ throats. As he had put it earlier, “When we change the race problem into a class fight between the haves and the have-nots, then we are going to have a new ball game.”
From Wikipedia:

At the conclusion of the Democratic primary season, Jackson had captured 6.9 million votes and won 11 contests; seven primaries (Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and Virginia) and four caucuses (Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina and Vermont). Jackson also scored March victories in Alaska’s caucuses and Texas’s local conventions, despite losing the Texas primary.

Back to Sam Smith at Undernews:

One need have no illusions about Sanders being the ultimate choice to recognize the difference he has already made in our country and how much more he can continue to make before we have to choose, say, between Bill Clinton’s wife and George Bush’s brother. We have a whole year in which to make things really different and better. It’s Bernie time. Enjoy it.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:26 PM
June 15, 2015
Lest We Forget…

…what actually happened in Ukraine, as opposed to what the lamestream media has been obediently feeding us. This from James Howard Kunstler:

Ukraine became a failed state due to a coup d’état engineered by Barack Obama’s state department. US policy wonks did not like the prospect of Ukraine joining Russia’s regional trade group called the Eurasian Customs Union instead of tilting toward NATO and the European Union. So, we paid for and enabled a coalition of crypto-fascists to rout the duly elected president. One of the first acts of the US-backed new regime was to declare punishment of Russian language speakers, and so the predominately Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine revolted. Russia reacted to all this instability by seizing the Crimean peninsula, which had been part of Russia proper both before and through the Soviet chapter of history. The Crimea contained Russia’s only warm water seaports and naval bases. What morons in the US government ever thought Russia would surrender those assets to a newly-failed neighbor state?

Was Vladimir Putin acting irresponsibly in this case? The opposite would be a much more logical conclusion. And what interest does the United States have in Ukraine? Surely no more than Russia would have in Texas. And when else in the entire history of the USA all the way back to George Washington did any government official declare Ukraine to be America’s business? Answer: Never. Reason: we have no legitimate interests in that corner of the world. So why in the early 21st century are we making this such a sore spot in our foreign relations? Because our waning influence in the world, in turn a product of our foolish inattention to our own economic problems and failing polity at home, is driving America batshit crazy.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:49 PM
April 29, 2015
The First Fall of Saigon

Forty years after the Vietnam phase of our eternal war ended we might want to go back another 30 years, to Saigon in September of 1945 when it all really began. What follows is from the diary of a war correspondent in French Indochina named Germaine Krull. The full diary ends with these words:

The Annamites [Vietnamese] will win their independence because they are ready to die for it … It may be too late already. We may never regain face, but if we do, it won’t be with the assistance of machine guns.

Mme Krull saw the future way back then, but the new American president didn’t. President Roosevelt had wanted to see the French colonies freed. Ho Chi Minh had even worked for the OSS during the war, and sought our friendship as it ended. But Harry Truman saw France as an ally in the struggle against communism, and so he chose the machine guns. Millions upon millions of people have paid the price ever since, as our insane eternal wars roll on.

I’m posting below the last few pages of Mme Krull’s fascinating accounts of Saigon in September of 1945. The full text is available here as a PDF.


Nothing in particular happened; there were still fewer Annamites to be seen on the streets and almost all of them had left their former jobs and masters. For the first time, French women were forced to do all their own work themselves, which did nothing to temper their feelings toward the Annamites. This mass desertion, reducing them temporarily to the rank of domestics themselves, was the one sin they could not forgive.

A few British officers and I went for lunch at the house of some wealthy colonials. It was a magnificent repast, complete with wines and champagne, pleasant conversation’ and immaculate service. The cooks and houseboys were Chinese. “Oh, we could not dream of employing Annamites. You can’t trust them. What a relief it will be finally to leave this wretched country. If only they would let us have a good, strong reprisal, everything would be over in a few days. This same sort of thing happened in 1942, but we put a swift end to it. The leaders were sentenced and most of the followers arrested — that was all. It is the only way to deal with people like that. Force is the only thing they understand. Everything else is useless.

“Colonel Cedil isn’t ruthless enough. We hear that General Gracey is worried because he doesn’t have enough troops. If so, why don’t they let us take over? We could muster enough arms and volunteers. We have ways of making them wish they had never started this. In 1942, I was in charge of re-establishing order at X. Well, we burned a few villages, jailed a few hundred natives, sentenced their leaders and that was all there was to that disturbance. Everything went back to order and the coolies went on working as before. They don’t want anything else. They expect that of us…”

An Australian journalist arrived by car from Hanoi with a permit from the Viet-Minh. He reported that: “Everything is all right in Hanoi. The people are well off and the French are safe. This movement is widespread, however, and the Annamites will fight for their freedom. Everything is in the hands of the Viet-Minh and is being well administered. There is no fighting or disorder. There are a few British there and one French correspondent who can’t do much. Ho Chi Minh is a wise and admirable old man. You should go there and see for yourself. There wasn’t a single incident on the road from Hanoi to Saigon. The whole way was clear and with a Viet-Minh permit, it was perfectly easy to get by the few Annamite posts.”

From time to time, an Annamite dwelling would burst into flame. Women and children were fleeing. That night, French soldiers strolled on the Rue Catinat, a gun on one arm, a woman on the other. I have never been so deeply ashamed as on that day of September 23rd. When I returned to the hotel the faces of the English were expressionless and conversations stopped as I went by. I remember the horror and shame I had felt in June of 1940 when Vichy was established, but never in my life had I felt such utter sadness and degradation as on this night.

These men, who were supposed to be the soldiers of France, this undisciplined horde whose laughing and singing I could hear from my window, corrupted by too many years in the tropics, too many women, too much opium and too many months of inactivity in camp, they were the ones to whom the task of re-establishing “order” I had been entrusted. That night I realized only too well what a serious mistake we had made and how grave the consequences would be. It was the beginning of a ruthless war. Instead of regaining our prestige we had lost it forever, and, worse still, we had lost the trust of the few remaining Annamites who believed in us. We had showed them that the new France was even more to be feared than the old one.

The last ten days in Saigon proved to me that the French population understood nothing of the situation and knew nothing of the outside world; that it consisted of people who would not tolerate the least infringement upon their comfort and who also were incredibly cowardly. Never have cause and effect been so closely linked. The events of the 22nd of September determined the issue of the conflict. Everything which happened thereafter can be directly traced to that date — women captured and mistreated, men and children assassinated, Dutch, English and American officers killed, shooting, burning factories, mysterious disappearances, all these and more happened. The French, terrorized by the lack of foresight and motivated by avarice, were unwilling to give up even one piaster. They are responsible for what happened.

The Annamites will win their independence because they are ready to die for it. We must recognize this inevitable fact — in a month, a year at the most, we will have to come to an agreement with them.

It may be too late already. We may never regain face, but if we do, it won’t be with the assistance of machine guns. The “good old days” are gone forever.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:00 PM
April 20, 2015
A Major Media Fail

None of what follows is news in the sense that it has never been reported before. It is news in the sense that most Americans, due to a combination of incompetence, laziness and spinelessness on the part of our media, are completely unaware of it. Proof of this is the almost universal outrage over Putin’s actions (reactions, more accurately) in the Crimean crisis. Pay special attention to what George Kennan said below. As usual, he was right. And to what Clinton did. As usual, he was wrong.

From the campaign trail on Oct. 22, 1996, two weeks before he defeated Bob Dole for a second term as president, Bill Clinton used NATO enlargement to advertise his assertiveness in foreign policy and America’s status as the “world’s indispensable nation.” Clinton bragged about proposing NATO enlargement at his first NATO summit in 1994, saying it “should enlarge steadily, deliberately, openly.” He never explained why.

President Clinton, thus, reneged on the pledges made by Baker to Gorbachev and Shevardnadze. Clinton lamely called upon Russia to view NATO’s enlargement as an arrangement that will “advance the security of everyone.”

Clinton’s tough-guy-ism toward Russia was, in part, a response to even more aggressive NATO plans from Clinton’s Republican opponent Bob Dole, who had been calling for incorporating Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary as full members of NATO and had accused Clinton of “dragging his feet” on this. Clinton was not about to be out-toughed.

Those three countries joined NATO in 1999, starting a trend. By April 2009, nine more countries became members, bringing the post-Cold War additions to 12 – equal to the number of the original 12 NATO states.

Clinton made what quintessential Russian specialist Ambassador George Kennan called a “fateful error.” Writing in the New York Times on Feb. 5, 1997, Kennan asserted: “Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era.

“Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:00 PM
February 18, 2015
The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight

Ed at Gin and Tacos asks a question to which most of the answers are depressing in the extreme. And virtually none of our true failures will even be discussed in run-up to the 2016 coronation. Or after it. Been down so long it looks like up to us.

What exactly are we good at anymore? At least during the Cold War we were able to prop up right-wing dictators or interfere with the internal politics of tinpot countries enough to ensure that the right strongman was “elected.” Now we can’t even do that right. Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan (where all efforts at Nation Building / winning Hearts and Minds have been abandoned and ground forces are now exclusively interdicting terrorists) have proven definitively that our conventional military power — honestly the only thing we have as a nation at this point that we can claim is Number One and not be fooling ourselves — is of limited use in the modern world. We’re great at it. We can blow up your tanks, shoot down your planes, sink your ships, and bomb your cities into oblivion better than anyone else.

The question is, so what? What good is that anymore? If we have to fight a conventional World War III with Russia or China — doubtful at best — we’ll do quite well. With that and a bus pass, as my grandfather loved to say, you can get a ride on the bus.

We’ve ceded our strengths in manufacturing, education, and non-frivolous technology to the rest of the world. Our welfare state is an embarrassment. Our law enforcement and justice system are a case study in corruption. Our Congress and state legislatures are cautionary tales of what not to do. Other industrialized nations laugh at our health care system. Our standard of living is declining, wages have stagnated for three decades, and the rising cost of living is slowly making 99% of us poorer as we work longer hours with no mandated vacation or personal leave. Is the U.S. still a better place to live than the majority of the countries on Earth? Of course.

But we’re not comparing the U.S. to Chad. Compared to our peer group, it’s hard to figure out what our strengths are anymore other than consuming energy, maintaining a giant stockpile of nuclear weapons, and having a big, powerful, expensive conventional military. Oh, and I guess we’re pretty good at spying on everyone’s telecommunications, although if I had to place a wager I’d bet the Israelis, Russians, or Swiss are even better at it.

The failure of the Iraq War creates some eerie similarities between the modern U.S. and the final years of the USSR. After wrecking its economy and standard of living with profligate military spending for thirty years, the Soviets found themselves pulling out of Afghanistan in defeat (and the government they installed had collapsed by 1991, too). The rest of the world, including the U.S., looked on and asked, “If you’re spending that much on the military and you can’t even win a war against a Stone Age country, what CAN you do?”

It was a valid question. It is a valid question to ask ourselves as well. We’ve bled ourselves dry paying for two wars since 2002 and massive annual defense budgets every year for more than a half-century now. What do we have to show for it? Shouldn’t we at least be able to do Military Stuff right? If we can’t, what exactly do we have going for us?



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:00 PM
February 06, 2015

President Obama, God love him in this instance at least, has finally cracked open the door to Cuba. Soon it will swing wide, in spite of all the shrieking from the GOP and a few Democrats. Their corporate supervisors will see to that. There is, after all, money to be made down there. Count on it, it won’t be long before Sheldon Adelson opens a casino in Havana, with the kind of floor show too hot for even Las Vegas. The legendary Superman himself must be long dead, but surely Sheldon could come up with another foot-long Cuban hot dog to sit up straight for the Yankee tourists.

But enough of the future. Let’s look at the pointless, stupid and murderous past: the undeclared war on Cuba we have been waging for more than half a century. Its most active phase began under Saint Jack, and would have led to a nuclear holocaust if a grown-up, Nikita Khrushchev, hadn’t stepped in at the cost of his own career. Instead our little weenie war continued under a series of cowardly presidents who all, except Saint Ronnie, certainly knew better. So two cheers for President Obama (It would have been three if he hadn’t stalled around till he was re-elected).

For those who have forgotten the backstory of this vicious folly or never knew it, here’s a brief history from Noam Chomsky. We should, as a nation, be ashamed of ourselves. But we, as a nation, consider shame Un-American.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:14 PM
February 05, 2015
Cold War Nostalgia

You’ve got to be incredibly delusional to come up with a policy that puts Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky on the same side of an issue. But Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama has managed to pull it off. Read this by Kevin Zeese in Mint Press News. Excerpt:

The views of Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky on this conflict are quite similar, though it’s difficult to find two more polar opposites regarding U.S. foreign policy. Indeed, Chomsky has been a long-time critic of Kissinger for the bombings in Southeast Asia and the various coups against democratic leaders that occurred during his tenure. Chomsky has said that in a just world, Kissinger certainly would have been prosecuted for these actions. (These were the war crimes that CODEPINK recently protested before the Senate Finance Committee.)

Yet when it comes to Ukraine, Chomsky and Kissinger essentially agree with each other. They disagree with the more hawkish Obama administration and the even more extreme Sen. John McCain — who are both escalating the conflict in their own ways.

The original sin in this whole terrifying mess was our decision to act like a bunch of drunken Patriot fans when Gorbachev decided to end the Cold War in 1989. It wasn’t enough to win the game. We had to tear down the goal posts and beat up Seahawk fans in the parking lot. Which is to say we set out immediately to expand NATO and the European Union right up to Russia’s borders. A quarter century later we are still doing it, which is why Obama touched off the present conflagration by overthrowing Ukraine’s elected president and installing a US/NATO stooge. You could look it up.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:41 PM
January 22, 2015

From Undernews:

They say that the first person in any political argument who stoops to invoking Nazi Germany automatically loses. But you can look it up: According to a 2006 article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, the English word “privatization” derives from a coinage, Reprivatisierung, formulated in the 1930s to describe the Third Reich’s policy of winning businessmen’s loyalty by handing over state property to them.

In the American context, the idea also began on the Right (to be fair, entirely independent of the Nazis) — and promptly went nowhere for decades. In 1963, when Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater mused “I think we ought to sell the TVA”— referring to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the giant complex of New Deal dams that delivered electricity for the first time to vast swaths of the rural Southeast — it helped seal his campaign’s doom. Things only really took off after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s sale of U.K. state assets like British Petroleum and Rolls Royce in the 1980s made the idea fashionable among elites — including a rightward tending Democratic Party.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:53 PM
January 07, 2015
Nothing New Under the Sun…

…except that the Supreme Court has since declared legal the whole corrupt process described below by Henry George, Jr. in The Menace of Privilege (1906). Which is, I guess, one way of stamping out crime.

There would, perhaps, be little need for the creating of corporations were it not for the granting of privileges. But artificial persons, which have more powers than natural persons and life-everlasting, are far better suited than natural persons to take care of privileges — to fight for their continuance and extension. As a consequence it has now become almost an invariable rule either for artificial persons under the general corporation laws to receive from Government the special grants of power; or else such privileges, being granted to natural persons, are at once by them turned over to corporations or artificial persons. And these artificial persons possessing Government grants, are the most active and most potent of all persons in politics.

The very significant aspect of the Presidential contest of 1904 was the charge by opponents against the managers of each of the two great parties of receiving campaign contributions from the large privilege-possessing corporations. More significant still was the common belief that the charge was true, the partisan view being that, while the opposing candidate would of necessity be contaminated by such money, their own candidate was too upright and too strong to be swerved in the least from principle, affected in the least for evil. Yet Presidents are but men, subject to men’s strengths and weaknesses. And just as Mr. Buchanan was most complacent in face of the growing aggressiveness of the slave power which seated him and supported him in the Presidency, so monopoly powers might reasonable expect at least protection from a Chief Executive which their money and their efforts materially contributed toward seating in the White House.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:42 PM
January 03, 2015
A New Year for the Old Order

Happy New Year to Bad Attitudes readers! I hope this year brings you whatever you need.

And I’m hoping that for the world, too, though in the latter case I remain somewhat skeptical. In the US, as we stare down the barrel of a Hillary Clinton presidency, with a possible challenge from Jeb Bush, it’s good to be reminded that other civilized countries — perhaps I should omit “other” — are not as locked into the old order as we remain. In fact there are active movements to change that order, for example in the two parties I mentioned in a previous post, Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. The ranks of both parties were empty a few years ago, and now the powers that have controlled the government to the benefit of their own class at the expense, both fiscal and moral, of the rest are feeling the heat. The level of panic is evident in their actions, such as the surprise call for snap elections in Greece after the third failure of the legislature to elect a president, a largely honorary role in that country’s system; the maneuvering among old-order parties in Spain to overcome existing differences and partner against the new power that has arrived so recently yet seems so fearsome; and even the uncertainty in the UK about the upcoming election and the probability of another coalition of convenience or some other form of minority government.

As usual, Seamus Milne puts it better and more clearly:

The powers that be in Europe are determined to prop up a failed economic model regardless of the cost — as they will be in Britain if Labour wins the general election in May. The aftershocks of the breakdown of that neoliberal regime are still being felt across the world economy — in falling commodity prices, capital flight, stagnation and recession. But the interests that depend on it won’t let go without a serious challenge.

That’s just as true in terms of global power. The US and its satellites, including Britain, may have suffered a strategic defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan — symbolised by last weekend’s ceremony to mark the end of Nato’s combat mission, held in secret for fear of Taliban attacks. But they’re not letting go either. Some 13,000 troops are staying on as “trainers”, just as thousands of western troops have been returning to Iraq for the war against Isis — the al-Qaida breakaway spawned by their own invasion and occupation — with talk of a major assault in the spring.

In the same spirit, every effort was made at the time of the Arab uprisings of 2011 to hijack, control or crush them. Some of the results can be seen today in the disaster zone across the Middle East, the growing power of the western-backed autocracies of the Gulf, the brutality of Egypt’s new dictatorship and the maelstrom in post-intervention Libya, whose civil war is likely to intensify in the coming months.

Here’s hoping the world finds ways to cope, and we all live long and prosper!


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:24 PM
December 22, 2014
What, Me Racist?

This from Richard Hofstadter’s 1965 book, The Paranoid Style in American Politics:

Goldwater’s departure from the Republican pattern was compounded by his position on civil rights. One of the oldest, though hardly the most efficacious, of the traditions of many conservatives in the North — and even to a degree in the South as well — has been a certain persistent sympathy with the Negro and a disposition to help him in moderate ways to relieve his distress. This tradition goes back to the Federalist party; it was continued by the Whig gentry; it infused the early Republican party. By adopting “the Southern strategy,” the Goldwater men abandoned this inheritance. They committed themselves not merely to a drive for a core of Southern states in the electoral college but to a strategic counterpart in the North which required the search for racist votes. They thought they saw a good issue in the white backlash, which they could indirectly exploit by talking of violence in the streets, crime, juvenile delinquency, and the dangers faced by our mothers and daughters.
I had forgotten that it was Goldwater in 1964 and not Nixon in 1968 who first embraced and named the racist strategy that ever since has been at the heart of Republican electoral strategy.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:42 PM
December 12, 2014
Business as Usual

A reality check from Nafeez Ahmed on our national hand-wringing over government torture. Like the poor, official torture is always with us. Read it all and weep, if you have tears left.

Media coverage of the Senate report has largely whitewashed the extent to which torture has always been an integral and systematic intelligence practice since the second World War, continuing even today under the careful recalibration of Obama and his senior military intelligence officials. The key function of torture, largely overlooked by the pundits, is its role in manufacturing nebulous threats that legitimize the existence and expansion of the national security apparatus…

Yet Obama did not ban torture in 2009, and has not rescinded it now. He instead rehabilitated torture with a carefully crafted Executive Order that has received little scrutiny. He demanded, for instance, that interrogation techniques be made to fit the US Army Field Manual, which complies with the Geneva Convention and has prohibited torture since 1956.

But in 2006, revisions were made to the Army Field Manual, in particular through ‘Appendix M’, which contained interrogation techniques that went far beyond the original Geneva-inspired restrictions of the original version of the manual. This includes 19 methods of interrogation and the practice of extraordinary rendition. As pointed out by US psychologist Jeff Kaye who has worked extensively with torture victims, a new UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) review of the manual shows that a wide-range of torture techniques continue to be deployed by the US government, including isolation, sensory deprivation, stress positions, chemically-induced psychosis, adjustments of environmental and dietary rules, among others.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:39 PM
December 04, 2014
History Doesn’t Just Rhyme…

…it actually does repeat itself. This is from Henry George, Jr.’s The Menace of Privilege, subtitled “A Study of the Dangers to the Republic from the Existence of a Favored Class.” It was published in 1905.

There would, perhaps, be little need for the creating of corporations were it not for the granting of privileges. But artificial persons, which have more powers than natural persons and life-everlasting, are far better suited than natural persons to take care of privileges — to fight for their continuation and extension. As a consequence, it has now become almost an invariable rule either to form artificial persons under the general corporation laws to receive from Government the special grants of power; or else such privileges, being granted to natural persons, are at once turned over to corporations or artificial persons. And these artificial persons possessing Government grants, are the most active and most potent of all persons in politics.

The very significant aspect of the Presidential contest of 1904 was the charge by the opponents against the managers of each of the two great parties of receiving campaign contributions from the large privilege-possessing corporations. More significant still was the common belief that the charge was true, the partisan view being that, while the opposing candidate would of necessity be contaminated by such money, their own candidate was too upright and too strong to be swerved in the least from principle, affected in the least for evil. Yet Presidents are but men, subject to men’s strengths and weaknesses. And just as Mr. Buchanan was most complacent in the face of the growing aggressiveness of the slave power which seated him and supported him in the Presidency, so monopoly powers might reasonably expect at least protection from a Chief Executive which their money and their efforts materially contributed toward seating in the White House…

In April, 1904, Mr. William Bourke Cockran of New York, on the floor of the House of Representatives, repeated in an insinuating way a newspaper story that the election of 1896 — the campaign that was won for “honest money” — was bought. Mr. Cockran named $16,000,000 as the sum which was said to be paid…

If it should mean protection and profit, what would $16,000,000 mean to a syndicate such as, under Mr. Morgan’s guidance, cleared $100,000,000 within the space of a few months in underwriting and manipulating steel stock? The sum of $16,000,000 would be only one item in the expense account of railroad combinations whose annual gross revenue is $2,000,000,000. Have not the tariff-engendered monopolies first and last put many times $16,000,000 into Presidential, Senatorial and Congressional elections, to the end of shutting out competition and thereby conducting a systematic robbery of the people at large?



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:06 PM
November 18, 2014
Character Building

Waterboarding is in the grand old High WASP tradition, it seems. My son Mike came across this excerpt from George Biddle’s autobiography in a 1939 edition of Harper’s Magazine. The Reverend Endicott Peabody founded Groton School in 1884, with the object of shaping the moral character of rich kids.

For Peabody, the primary method of instilling a “manly, Christian character” was through athletics, primarily football. Sports taught cooperation, teamwork, along with a respect for following rules and sportsmanship. Everyone had to play. A letter from 1909 conveys the importance that Peabody placed on football. “In my work at Groton I am convinced that football is of profound importance for the moral even more than the physical development of the boys. In these days of exceeding comfort, the boys need an opportunity to endure hardness, and, it may be, suffering.”

Discipline was administered in a hierarchical manner by the faculty and older boys. George Biddle, who went on to become a well known artist, recounts going to a secluded basement bathroom and watching a dozen third form boys punishing a new boy, “little Teddy Roosevelt”, then 14 and the son of Theodore Roosevelt, who had violated some unspoken rule.

One boy held a stopwatch as the others held the offender under a faucet where the water “came from the open spigot with tremendous force and the stream could be concentrated in violence by thumb and forefinger. Besides the culprit was winded and frightened and held upside down during the pumping. He was being forcibly drowned for eight or ten seconds…” He recounts how they water boarded “little Teddy Roosevelt”, not for a specific transgression, but to send a message to the whole second form whose “tone … we disapproved of.” Amazingly, Teddy “was very plucky and began answering back. Shouts arose: ‘Shut up! Under again. Shut him up!” So they waterboarded him twice.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:45 PM
November 10, 2014
Individual Conscience In a Time of Collective Insecurity

Harry Leslie Smith has written what is to me a very moving piece at The Guardian on the upcoming remembrance we call Veterans Day. Here is one of those insightful folks who sees the ambiguity of life and does not quail but rather stares directly at it, and in so doing achieves a measure of understanding of the Other.

Smith volunteered for the RAF at the start of World War II, and he seems to feel nothing resembling regret about that decision. Yet he is able to look at the 60,000 men who registered as conscientious objectors in the UK and the 100,000 who deserted posts or failed to return from leave without rancor. He points out that many, especially the poor, in Britain at the time had been destroyed by the Depression and did not see a clear reason to offer their lives to support a state that didn’t support them. Some had gone through World War I and had PTSD, or shell shock as they called it then. Some had religious or moral objections. Some simply couldn’t handle the strain.

It is unfortunate that too many in this present age look upon these men as cowards whose objections to battle are best forgotten. But I believe it is important that we remember those who dissent in a time of war even if we believe our struggle to be true and just. How a nation treats those who oppose their war aims is the true measure of its enlightenment.

To say Smith is forgiving these people would be to underestimate his point. He is honoring multiple approaches, while maintaining his own approach as best for him. But what caused me to tear up was the phrasing of the penultimate sentence in this paragraph:

This is but one of the reasons I will no longer wear the poppy today: it represents only what is seen as the “courage” of war — those who stood and fought, but not those who stood and disagreed. It is the reason why, when I recently went to see the ceramic poppies that surround the Tower of London like a turgid lake of blood, I recalled not only lives lost in battles from ancient and modern wars but also those that were changed irrevocably by the consequences of having an individual conscience during a time of collective insecurity. I feel we must find a way to remember them too.

Here in the US, at least, there seems to be little social room for “having an individual conscience during a time of collective insecurity.” Our collective emotional insecurity is used by politicians, weapons and drug manufacturers, and insurance and health-care corporations to keep the economy going (“the economy,” as Bill Hicks said, “which is fake anyway!”). Our collective economic insecurity is ensured by the financial system enshrining inequality as the proper measure of a civilized society, offering an everyone-for-themselves ethic to confuse those who attempt to emulate the government dependence of those heroes who claim to bestride our world.

But I digress. My intent is to thank Harry Leslie Smith for his dedication to his own ideals and those he fought for. From the point of view of a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, I’d like to return the kind words and say, along with Joseph Campbell, that one can disagree with the aim of a war and feel that it should not have been fought, but that does not detract one whit from the courage and heroism of those who offer their lives in the service of a cause they deem greater than themselves.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:34 AM
November 07, 2014
We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby…

…since 1996, when the late, great Mollie Ivins wrote this:

There is some kind of magical thinking that seizes politicians in election years. “I know how to fix welfare — we’ll just require them all to get jobs!” What jobs? The reason most people are on welfare in the first place is that they can’t find jobs — or child care. Or the jobs don’t carry health insurance, so when a kid gets sick his mom has to go back on welfare to get medical treatment for him.

The way this society works is really simple: The shit flows downhill and the people at the bottom are drowning in it. Every little change that makes it harder for them to climb up means that millions more of them drown. And most of them are children.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:19 PM
September 25, 2014
Here We Go Again Again Again Again…

Couldn’t have said it better myself, so I won’t. Here’s Frank Rich on Obama’s idiotic descent into the Big Muddy:

In truth, we already have boots on the ground in the form of “special forces” and “advisers.” The moment they start returning to America in body bags, or are seen being slaughtered in ISIS videos, is the moment when the recent polling uptick in support for this war will evaporate. That support is an inch deep, and Congress knows it, which is why members of both parties fled Washington for the campaign trail last week rather than debate Obama’s war plan. As Paul Kane of The Washington Post pointed out, the Senate could not even fill up the scant allotted time (five hours) for debating the war, and “so at one point a senator devoted time to praising the Baltimore Orioles for their successful baseball season.” Next to this abdication of duty, Congress’s disastrous rush to authorize war in Iraq in 2002 looks like a wise and deliberate execution of checks-and-balances.

Almost everything that is happening now suggests this will end badly. We’ve failed to curb ISIS in Iraq because, for all the happy talk about its inclusive new government, Sunni Iraqis have yet to rally behind their new Shiite prime minister Haider al-Abadi any more enthusiastically than they did behind the despised Nouri al-Maliki. As for our expansion into Syria, even if we can find and train 5,000 Syrian “moderates” to fight the Islamic State, it will take a year to do so, according to our own government’s no doubt optimistic estimate. And they’ll still be outnumbered by ISIS forces by at least four-to-one. Nor do we know all the unintended consequences that will multiply throughout the region — as they have in every other American intervention in the Muslim world — with each passing month.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:06 PM
September 24, 2014
Notes from the Gilded Age, Part I

From Social Problems by Henry George, published in 1883:

Great wealth always supports the party in power, no matter how corrupt it may be. It never exerts itself for reform, for it instinctively fears change. It never struggles against misgovernment. When frightened by the holders of political power it does not agitate nor appeal to the people; it buys them off. It is in this way, no less than by direct interference, that aggregated wealth corrupts government, and helps to make politics a trade. Our organized lobbies, both legislative and Congressional, rely as much upon the fears as upon the hopes of moneyed interests. When “business” is dull, their resource is to get up a bill which some moneyed interest will pay them to beat. So, too, these large moneyed interests will subscribe to political funds, on the principle of keeping on the right side of those in power, just as the railroads deadhead President Arthur when he goes to Florida to fish.

The more corrupt a government, the easier wealth can use it. Where legislation is to be bought, the rich make the laws; where justice is to be purchased, the rich have the ear of the courts… A community composed of very rich and very poor falls an easy prey to whoever can seize power. The very poor have not spirit and intelligence enough to resist; the very rich have too much at stake.

The rise in the United States of monstrous fortunes, the aggregation of enormous wealth in the hands of corporations, necessarily implies the loss by the people of governmental control. Democratic forms may be maintained, but there can be as much tyranny land misgovernment under democratic forms as any other — in fact they lend themselves most readily to tyranny and misgovernment. Forms count for little…

This at least is certain: Democratic government in more than name can exist only where wealth is distributed with something like equality — where the great mass of citizens are personally free and independent, neither fettered by their poverty nor made subject by their wealth.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:48 PM
September 23, 2014
If It’s Good Enough for Massa…

Here’s Richard Rhodes, in Why They Kill:

“The South, statistically the most violent region of the country, combines poverty, enthusiasm for military service, conservative Christian values and social segregation as well. Indeed, so-called black violence may well be a subset of Southern violence, since African American culture derives directly from the southern culture in which it was originally embedded before the great migration of African Americans to northern cities.”


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:03 PM
August 21, 2014
The Occasionally Good Old Days

Back in the late 1950s I worked for a long-dead tabloid called The Washington Daily News. It struggled as the smallest of the three papers in town and was being kept alive, I suspect, mainly to give the Scripps-Howard chain a right-wing voice in the capital. Its editor was John O’Rourke, a remote figure who appeared irregularly in the city room. As far as I can remember, I had never met him.

Until the paper published the first of a three-part series I had written on the crooked practices of local car dealers. Shortly after the paper hit the streets, O’Rourke showed up trailed by four other suits and disappeared into his office. A few minutes later the city editor hollered that Mr. O’Rourke wanted to see me in his office right away. “Tough luck,” the reporter at the desk next to me said. “You’ve just written the world’s first one-part three-part series.” We both knew that auto ads were a major part of the paper’s puny revenue stream.

The four suits in the editor’s office turned out to be the paper’s business manager, its advertising director, and two representatives from the auto dealers. Plainly I was toast.

“Can you back up everything in your pieces?” O’Rourke said without a word of preamble as I stood there.

“Yes, I can.”

“That’s all, then. Go on back to work.”

And so I did. That was the sum total of my first and only meeting with Mr. O’Rourke. The series ran in its entirety.

I mention this because:

Time Inc. has fallen on hard times. Would you believe that this once-proud magazine publishing empire is now explicitly rating its editorial employees based on how friendly their writing is to advertisers?

Last year — in the opposite of a vote of confidence — Time Warner announced that it would spin off Time Inc. into its own company, an act of jettisoning print publications once and for all. Earlier this year, the company laid off 500 employees (and more layoffs are coming soon). And, most dramatically of all, Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp now requires his magazine’s editors to report to the business side of the company, a move that signals the full-scale dismantling of the traditional wall between the advertising and editorial sides of the company’s magazines.

Even with all of that, though, it is still possible to imagine that Time Inc.’s 90+ publications, which include some of the most storied magazines in American history, would continue to adhere to the normal ethical rules of journalism out of simple pride. Not so!

Here you see an internal Time Inc. spreadsheet that was used to rank and evaluate “writer-editors” at (Time Inc. provided this document to the Newspaper Guild, which represents some of their employees, and the union provided it to us.) The evaluations were done as part of the process of deciding who would be laid off. Most interesting is this ranking criteria: “Produces content that [is] beneficial to advertiser relationship.” These editorial employees were all ranked in this way, with their scores ranging from 2 to 10.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:35 PM
August 19, 2014
Why Am I Not Surprised…

…by this from Public Citizen? Because I am deeply versed in economics? Hardly. I never took so much as an introductory course in economics.

No, I was suspicious of NAFTA when Clinton first trotted it out twenty years ago not because I had a deep understanding of the free trade issue but because I was old enough by then, although only sixty, to have already learned the difference between shit and chocolate ice cream.

Cut out those pesky tariffs, Clinton told us, so we can move those unionized auto assembly jobs from Michigan to Mexico and everybody benefits. Mexican wages are bound to go up and if American workers wind up taking a little hit on wages their cars will become cheaper.

See? Easy. In our pursuit of the greatest good for the greatest number there is no need, for instance, to include in NAFTA a requirement to lower American tariffs in lockstep with the predictable increase in Mexican assembly line wages. The invisible hand of the market will take care of that. It wouldn’t (and didn’t), of course, the invisible hand being invisible due to its nonexistence.

Absent any such requirements, it was plain that Clinton wasn’t selling us chocolate ice cream. And sure enough:

On the eve of the North American Free Trade Agreement’s 20th anniversary, a new Public Citizen report shows that not only did promises made by proponents not materialize, but many results are exact ly the opposite. Such outcomes include a staggering $181 billion U.S. trade deficit with NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada, one million net U.S. jobs lost because of NAFTA, a doubling of immigration from Mexico, larger agricultural trade deficits with Mexico and Canada, and more than $360 million paid to corporations after “investor-state” tribunal attacks on, and rollbacks of, domestic public interest policies.

The study tracks the promises made by U.S. corporations like Chrysler and Caterpillar to create specific numbers of American jobs if NAFTA was approved, and reveals government data showing that instead, they fired U.S. workers and moved operations to Mexico. The data also show how post-NAFTA trade and investment trends have contributed to middle-class pay cuts, which in turn contributed to growing income inequality; how since NAFTA, U.S. trade deficit growth with Mexico and Canada has been 45 percent higher than with countries not party to a U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and how U.S. manufacturing and services exports to Canada and Mexico have grown at less than half the pre-NAFTA rate.

“NAFTA’s actual outcomes prove how damaging this type of agreement is for most people, that it should be renegotiated and why we cannot have any more such deals that include job-offshoring incentives, requirements we import food that doesn’t meet our safety standards or new rights for firms to get taxpayer compensation before foreign tribunals over laws they don’t like,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Given NAFTA’s record of damage, it is equal parts disgusting and infuriating that now President Barack Obama has joined the corporate Pinocchios who lied about NAFTA in recycling similar claims to try to sell the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is NAFTA-on-steroids…”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:50 PM
July 28, 2014
Lest We Forget

The excerpt below is from a review by Bill Curry of Ralph Nader’s new book, Unstoppable, which sounds like something we should all read. Curry is a former Clinton White House advisor who ran twice for governor of Connecticut against John Rowland. Both times the voters in their wisdom chose Rowland — a sleaze bag who wound up in prison for corruption and is currently a minor-league Rush Limbaugh who sells his political endorsements on station WTIC.

Between 1996 and 2000 the Wall Street Democrats who by then ruled the party’s upper roosts scored their first big legislative wins. Until then their impact was most visible in the quietude of Congress, which had not enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s. It was the longest such stretch since the 19th century, but no one seemed to notice.

In the late ’70s, deregulation fever swept the nation. Carter deregulated trucks and airlines; Reagan broke up Ma Bell, ending real oversight of phone companies. But those forays paled next to the assaults of the late ’90s. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 had solid Democratic backing as did the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. The communications bill authorized a massive giveaway of public airwaves to big business and ended the ban on cross ownership of media. The resultant concentration of ownership hastened the rise of hate radio and demise of local news and public affairs programming across America. As for the “modernization” of financial services, suffice to say its effect proved even more devastating. Clinton signed and still defends both bills with seeming enthusiasm.

The Telecommunications Act subverted anti-trust principles traceable to Wilson. The financial services bill gutted Glass-Steagall, FDR’s historic banking reform. You’d think such reversals would spark intra-party debate but Democrats made barely a peep. Nader was a vocal critic of both bills. Democrats, he said, were betraying their heritage and, not incidentally, undoing his life’s work. No one wanted to hear it. When Democrats noticed him again in 2000 the only question they thought to ask was, what’s got into Ralph? Such is politics in the land of the lotus eaters.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:09 PM
July 17, 2014
230 Tits for a Tat

Beth Miller at Mondoweiss, on Israel’s invasion of its occupied territory, Palestine. There was a time when the nascent Israel was an exciting experiment in democracy and community, but that was another country and besides, the wench is dead. For the rest of the essay, go here.

I am writing this to my fellow American Jews. Well, to some of them. For a specific type of American Jew, actually. To those whose parents or grandparents were socialists and started unions before marching with Dr. King in Alabama. To those who despised George W. Bush and marched against the invasion of Iraq. To those who knocked on doors for causes they believed in while telling their children “be the change you want to see in the world”. To those who read poems at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs about “first they came for the…and I did not speak out because I was not a…” To those who instilled in me the unshakeable conviction that we must always stand on the side of the oppressed, even when no one else will…

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:45 PM
July 10, 2014
Lucky Us

In 1972 Gore Vidal wrote:

Political corruption has been with us since the first congress sat at Philadelphia, and there is nothing to be done about it as long as we are what we are. In fact, as election costs mount the corruption will tend to become institutionalized by the small group of legislators and bankers, generals and industrialists, who own and govern the United States, Inc. But it does not take great prescience to realize that that they are playing a losing game. As the polity becomes more and more conscious of the moral nullity at the center of American life, there will develop not the revolutionary situation dreamed of in certain radical circles but rather, a deep contempt for the nation and its institutions, an apathy bound to be exploited by clever human engineers. In the name of saving the environment and restoring virtue, they will continue the dismantling of an unloved and unhonored republic.

Thank God we dodged that bullet, huh?



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:05 PM
June 27, 2014
A Sadness About Our Public Discourse

Professor Fouad Ajami died Sunday, at age 68. I thought his obituary in the New York Times, like many of their obits, was deeply interesting. I saw Ajami frequently on television, as an expert commentator, on CNN mostly. He was definitely suave, and I thought persuasive in his analyses, at least on their surface. For me, he did bring a certain credibility: he was an Arab, born and raised in the Levant until he was 18, when his family came to the U.S.

I always had reservations about his analyses, however, as he had become an American college professor rooted in this country, and, worse, a denizen of the ideological think-tank subculture. In other words, for decades he was no longer a day-to-day or more or less continuous presence in his area of expertise — the Middle East, its Arab nations and peoples.

As the obituary makes clear, he was a member of that amazing, only-in-America group, our public commentators who are almost always wrong about the really important things, but who seem never to go away quietly in disgrace (in Olde England, one admiral who failed at war was hanged for it):

● Dick Cheney: “In a speech in 2002 ... Cheney invoked Mr. Ajami as predicting that Iraqis would greet liberation by the American military with joy.” At the time, this astute “expert” assessor of the contemporary Iraqi public temperament was safely ensconsed in his scholar’s office at Johns Hopkins, a short drive from the White House;

● The Condoleezza, who “summoned him to the White House” when she was (ugh!) national security advisor fresh from ... a sunny California campus half the globe away from Iraq;

● The hapless Paul Wolfowitz, whom Ajami advised when Wolfie was deputy secretary of defense under the unbalanced Princeton grad and wrestling cheat Donald Rumsfeld. At least Rummie served in the military;

● And Princeton professor Bernard Lewis (another scholar who moonlighted as an Important Expert Advisor for the powerful). Lewis, who “urged the United States to invade Iraq,” advised President George W. Bush himself — going right to the tippy top, as it were. From the obit, I learned the degree to which Ajami was in that cohort with Professor Lewis. (William Kristol wasn’t mentioned in the obit as one of the always-wrong, as should have been his due. I’m sure Willy published lots of praise about Ajami in his magazine)…

(By the way, let us nevermore hear how elitist liberal universities like Princeton turn out, exclusively, legions of brainwashed liberals and other leftist and perverted crazies who poison and undermine our republic. Think Lewis and Rumsfeld. Ajami, too, taught at Princeton. And we must add to my little counter-argument U.S. Senator Ted Cruz as well.)

Professor Ajami bought into the Gilded Age legacy of Democracy, Always and Forever. He “despaired of autocratic Arab governments finding their own way to democracy,” with the implication that others — oh, who, I wonder, could those others be? — would lead them to it, like horses to water. He told his audience “of how a generation of Arab intellectuals tried [and failed] to renew their homelands’ culture through the forces of modernism and secularism.” (We can pass over, for now, the perception that there may be a homeland on the other side of the Atlantic that needs its culture renewed through the forces of modernism and secularism.)

That catalog of wet-dream stuff for other nations has long been the price of entry to the circle of the powerful and the righteous, the ones who, as the obit said, “believed that the United States must confront what he [Ajami] called a ‘culture of terrorism’ after the 2001 terrorist attacks…” Not before? How come the revelation came so late to this seemingly so knowledgeable scholar of the region and its cultures?

Prof. Ajami also “strove to put Arab history into a larger perspective,” often referring to “Muslim rage over losing power to the West in 1683, when a Turkish siege of Vienna failed.” (In 1683? The Times offers us that lunatic howler with a straight face.) “He said this memory had led to Arab self-pity and self-delusion, as they blamed the rest of the world for their troubles.”

You have to be pretty far removed from the reality on the ground anywhere (and from common sense) to come up with imaginings like this. I suppose the Muslim Middle East is 99% full of just plain people. Folks who have families, children, jobs, little joys and too often sorrows. They want education for their children, things like that, and maybe not so much finally to get revenge for 1683 in Austria by destroying two buildings far away from Austria, in New York City.

I’ve never been in the Arab Levant, but I doubt the respectable folks there, busy with living their lives as best they can, sit around the kitchen table and lament the failure of the Ottomans (who were themselves culturally centered in Asia Minor, I believe, not in Iraq or the Arabian peninsula) to overrrun Vienna. What a crock of shit — yet Professor Ajami shrewdly got the power players to buy it and butter his bread.

Well, that’s the message they wanted to hear, to be sure. I’ll bet the local people in the Middle East complained and still complain endlessly about stuff, real stuff, not just Ajami’s imaginary nonsense ... but I’ll also bet it hasn’t typically included anger at being humiliated by the cavalry of the Holy Roman Empire, a k a “the West.”

The Times obituary failed to observe that Prof. Ajami is only one in a large coterie of men (mostly) who determinedly urge “us” into this or that war or other military escapade, but who have never troubled themselves to put on the uniform of military or naval service and risk standing in harm’s way. Yes, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, that includes you, not just the “Dick” and Wolfie and Feith and many of the rest of the gang so eager to keep Dover Air Force Base busy.


Posted by A. David Tucker at 04:32 PM
June 25, 2014
Benghazi. Benghazi! BENGHAZI!! beirut?

On that April morning of 1983, when Ronald Reagan was presumably in the Oval Office, John Reid was in what remained of his office in our Beirut embassy, lying under the debris of a fallen wall:

“The first thing I heard was Beth in the adjacent office, shouting, ‘John, are you okay?’ I replied, ‘I don’t think so.’ Blood was running from my face and scalp, I had lost my glasses, I could see out of only one eye, and I was pinned to the floor.”

John, later a colleague of mine in Laos, survived his injuries and so did Ambassador Robert Dillon. But 63 others died. The quote above and the picture below are from Reid’s article, “The Deadliest Attack Ever,” in American Diplomacy. More from that article:

Recently, I listened to recordings of some statements to media after the 1983 bombing. I am astonished by some of my mistakes, some of the details I got wrong. I had not seen or remembered things correctly, I had not yet compared with my experiences with those of others, everything was chaotic and confused, and everyone was under enormous pressure to say something, to do something, to understand and explain what had happened. I regret my errors, I am glad that, 30 years later, they don’t matter, and that’s my excuse. I was not engaged in conspiracy or cover-up, nor were people responsible for errors and contradictions in similar circumstances after the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attack. To allege that they were is demeaning, self-serving and ridiculous.

Several months after the embassy bombing (and after Reagan had ignored numerous warnings that the detachment of American troops at the Beirut airport was a magnet for future terrorist attacks) a suicide bomber killed 241 U.S. Marines there. A mere two days later Reagan responded forcefully by launching “Operation Urgent Fury” (Seriously. You can’t make this shit up.) — an attack on Grenada. Eighty-seven people died in Reagan’s hasty changing of the subject, 18 of them American soldiers and sailors.

Most of our troops, however, were luckier:

The Army has awarded 8,612 medals to individual Americans involved in the October invasion of Grenada, although it never had more than about 7,000 officers and enlisted soldiers on the island.

So was Reagan, whose murderous little misdirection worked so well that he was not only not impeached, but re-elected by the fools he had kept safe from the threat to our freedoms posed by Grenada (population 91,000).



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:33 PM
June 19, 2014
Sons of Bitches One and All

Here’s a small part of Jim Wright’s advice to the warhogs currently polluting the airwaves. For the full cathartic, go here.

What’s the goal? What’s the objective? Is it to end terrorism? Is it to enforce peace at the muzzle of a gun? Is it it to make defense contractors rich? Is it for jobs? Or is it for magic flying bunnies who shoot rainbows and cheap gasoline out of their little assholes to the sound of Yankee Doodle Dandy?

Or, or, is it just because you hate Barack Obama?

That’s it, isn’t it?

It is.

You sons of bitches one and all, you simpering capering madmen, this time at least have the courage to face the cameras, to look into America’s eyes, and tell them that their sons and daughters will be dying because you John McCain, because you Mitt Romney, because you Dick Cheney, because you Donald Rumsfeld, because you George W. Bush you lying bastard, because you conservatives hate Barack Obama and for no other reason. Go on, tell us, go on. Wave your little flags and beat your fleshy chests, roll out the marching bands and tell us just how many more American soldiers should die. Go on, put a number on it. Ten? A hundred? Fifty four thousand? How many of us have to die? How many more bodies will it take to satiate your mindless hunger for blood and revenge? How many more American lives are worth your insane hatred of the president? How many? How much further into debt should we drive our nation, another trillion dollars? Two? Ten? A hundred? Put a price on it you insane sons of bitches, go on, give me a number, write me a check. Tell me how much you’re willing to pay, show me the goddamned money. How many more years? How many? One? Five? Another decade? Fifty? What is it? Don’t wave your hands and make some vague prognostication, give me a number, how many lives, how much money, how many years? You look us in the eye and you fucking tell us…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:28 PM
June 15, 2014
Time For a Little Perspective

Before we trembling, ever-fearful Americans lash out around the world once again with our low-risk (low to us, that is) bombings, we might usefully pause to gain a little perspective. Let us put aside for the moment the hysterical excursions into the trendy geopolitical speculations of highly paid but low-information dabblers such as the Times’s David Brooks.

Let’s also pass over their unhelpful invocation of “hegemony” for every entity that would presume to challenge our own hegemony. Let’s agree likewise that the current fatuous name-calling — “autocrat” is today’s favorite epithet, “dictator” apparently having been deemed old-fashioned — is the substitute for analysis that it is. Instead, let’s calm down and meditate on the triggers of today’s alarums.

Item: The turmoil in Ukraine was started by popular — and initially nonviolent — protests against corruption in the country’s governance. That a neighboring autocrat took opportunistic advantage of that uprising and of inherent nationalistic divisions is an adventitious byproduct of that trigger.

Item: The fighting in Syria was somewhat similarly initiated by popular opposition to that country’s dictatorial governance. The opposition was nonviolent at first. Not surprisingly, given the religious divisions common throughout the Middle East and North Africa — the opposition has evolved into a more complex composition.

Item: The current chaotic situation in Libya was triggered by a popular uprising, largely nonviolent in its earliest days, against the country’s dictator and the corruption surrounding him. Other unrest in the region around the same time, first in Egypt and then especially in Tunisia, was likewise initially popular in origin.

Item: Today’s advances that the Sunni-based al-Queda-like ISIS is making into much of Iraq (and, we are told, they had been making from across the Syrian border for a year or more) were essentially triggered de novo by ... oh, dear, not by popular uprising, but by a series of unintended consequences of our own fraudulent “Just do it” invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq in 2003.

Not the least of those consequences is the quite predictable but also virulent anti-Sunni bias of our default puppet there, the Shiite and once-and-future Iranian fellow-traveler, Maliki. While ISIS may be leveraging the toxic effects of Maliki’s bias to their own advantage among Sunni Iraqis, the resulting popular discontent among the Sunni peoples in Iraq is what has enabled that. (Seven or eight years ago, the practical-minded, non-geopolitician Joe Biden said he thought Iraq would end up one way or another split into Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd -- and did he ever get shit dumped on him for that.)

Our own nation was more or less founded in an outburst of popular discontent. Shouldn’t we maybe, kinda, sorta be reassured that popular discontent — We the People — is now showing itself elsewhere in the world? (That there happen to be violent reactions to those shows of popular discontent should not surprise us, or even the amateur geopoliticians such as Brooks or fearless warriors of the podium such as Senator Graham and the always-wrong William Kristol.)

But wait! Is popular discontent starting to show itself again here in the United States as well? Please hold off on the bombs, guys, so we can take stock of our own house first.



Posted by A. David Tucker at 07:03 PM
June 13, 2014
George W. Roosevelt

The recently-deceased historian Gabriel Kolko, writing in Counterpunch:

A Quaker, Hoover was an entirely self-made man, a very successful mining engineer-entrepreneur who made a fortune; he mastered Latin to the point that he made the still-standard translation of Georgius Agricola’s De re metallica and knew Mandarin. Roosevelt was born into privilege, went to Harvard, where he was a “C” student and a cheerleader…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:30 AM
May 27, 2014
Our Broken Fiddle

Poking through the archives I just came across this post from January 2 of 2003. Unfortunately it remains relevant, and so I put it up again:

Could That Shining City
On the Hill Be Helsinki?

For your contemplation, I offer this story by Warren Hoge in today’s New York Times. It is on the front page where it ought to get all our attention, but won’t.

This is because we were raised to withstand all evidence that ours might not actually be in every respect the noblest nation ever to bathe God’s little green footstool in such supernal effulgence.

Nevertheless, let’s take a look at Finland’s system of criminal justice, as Mr. Hoge has…

All done? Interesting stuff, but it would never work here, would it? For one thing Finland is full of Finns, and the United States is full of Americans.

But aren’t those Finns pretty similar to us genetically?, you ask. After all, Doctor Science, aren’t they Christians? Lutherans or something?

Actually, children, religious faith is one of many things that are not genetically determined. Let’s look for others in the story. Did you notice where Mr. Hoge says Finland has “a relatively classless culture with a Scandinavian belief in the benevolence of the state and a trust in its civic institutions?”

No genetic marker for these disorders has been discovered so far either, and we scientists are in pretty general agreement than none ever will be. We say, instead, that such conditions and attitudes grow out of our “culture.”

Okay, enough with the Doctor Science.

I once heard a political consultant describe American democracy as “that system in which you give the people what they want, and you give it to ’em good.”

So think of our culture as a violin, and our politicians as musicians. Any one of them might think he could get better sounds out of a clarinet or a flute, but that isn’t what we’ve given him to play. The only thing that can come out is fiddle music.

And so we ourselves have actually chosen a society with shameful extremes of poverty and immense wealth. We have chosen untrustworthy civic institutions. We have chosen a state that is no more benevolent than it absolutely has to be in order to avoid revolution.

These are the things we demand or permit — it comes to the same thing in practice — on November the fifth of every even year. Because we are this kind of stupid, we have 702 Americans out of every 100,000 in jail. Because the Finns aren’t, they have 52.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:28 PM
April 30, 2014
David Brooks: Grand Strategist

Is it willful blindness or just plain blindness? David Brooks, in his April 29 NY Times column “Saving the System,” has hit a new low, and has invited company along as well. He begins, “All around, the fabric of peace and order is fraying.”

Stunned silence, but from a reflexive conservative and low-octane expert on everything under the sun, that is hardly noteworthy. Most educated people anywhere would agree that the international “fabric” is undergoing a number of significant changes: religious discord in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East; an aggressive China that doesn’t seem to know its place; Russian unruliness along its own borders; and more. There’s always something popping up because, as everyone outside the American Heartland realized following the profound international disruption set off by the Second World War, the world is changing, big time.

But Brooks goes on to quote an analysis of “grand strategic history” (whew!) from Charles Hill, a “legendary” State Department officer who, according to Wikipedia, advised Reagan, Kissinger (“Satire died the day Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize”), and fellow geopolitical grand strategist Rudy Giuliani…

For Brooks, Hill, who teaches at Yale, grandly proposes in part that “when an established international system enters its phase of deterioration, many leaders nonetheless respond with insouciance, obliviousness, and self-congratulation.” Hill then observes that “when the wolves of the world” sense this flabbiness, they pounce to exploit the opportunities that open.

The wolves, for him, are the current boat-rockers: Russia (aka Putin), China, and all sorts of undifferentiated folks in the Middle East. Then comes this gem from Hill – which constitutes the essence of Brooks’s piece: “The old order, once known [by American commentators] as ‘the American Century,’ has been situated within ‘the modern era,’ which appears to be stalling out after some 300-plus years. The replacement era will not be modern and will not be a nice one.”

Yikes! So pronounces an American spokesman for the American Century, anyway. (And by the way, whatever can Hill mean by “will not be modern”? Back to the Dark Ages for us all? A new brand of postmodernism? And not nice for everyone in the world, or just for — Americans?)

Enter the eminent authority on world history née pop sociologist David Brooks to riff on this astonishing shard of “grand strategic” misdirection. “Throughout recorded history … powerful people have generally tried to impose their version of the Truth [so capitalized in the original] on less powerful people. But, over these centuries, civilized [yes, he actually wrote “civilized”] leaders have banded together to restrain these vices … Dominant powers [since the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia] have tried to establish procedures and norms to secure national borders and protect diversity. [Hey, David, the European powers of the Thirty Years War didn’t give a shit about “diversity” — a term that would have been alien to them anyway, but Brooks needs it here to make us think, oh, yeah: Ukraine.] Hegemons like the Nazis or the Communists tried to challenge this system, but the other powers fought back.” But David, wasn’t the United States another “hegemon”? And still is? This may be a bit more complicated than you think.

After referring to some nonsense about a new “containment” from another right-wing apologist, Yale’s John Gaddis, Brooks asks a good question: “How do you get the electorate to support the constant burden of defending the liberal system?”

How, indeed, when the machinery that powers his putative liberal system — our only defense against slipping into medieval darkness — is rather mysteriously leaving a huge swath of that same electorate desperately in the lurch. Then comes the inevitable Brooksian turn from geopolitical blue-skying to our hackneyed neo-conservative domestic Manichaeism: “The Republicans seem to have given up global agreements that form the fabric of that system [what can that clause possibly mean?], while Democrats are slashing the defense budget that undergirds it.”

At last, it is out in the open: world historian Brooks’s “civilized” leaders, plural, turn out to be a leader, singular: America — and our gargantuan military is what sustains the “fabric.” So much for the power of the shining beacon of American exceptionalism, our freedoms and our ideals.

After lamenting that “it is harder to get people to die for a set of pluralistic procedures to protect faraway places” — he has in mind primarily Ukraine and Islamic nations, but maybe also some islands in the South China Sea — our Grand Strategic Historian ends his piece, next, with a somber warning.

(By the way, as a veteran I can’t help smiling ruefully, as they say, at Brooks’s unhappiness about people’s unwillingness to die for those pluralistic “procedures.” Not his unwillingness, or Hill’s, or Lindsay Graham’s, of course, as they are seemingly ready to parachute into Syria or the Crimea or Iran, Bowie knives clenched in teeth. Speaking for myself and I think maybe for the families of the dead and wounded service men and women who died or were mangled in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, if I had to be a casualty in battle, I would not want it to be for a “procedure.”)

Turning all contemporary international relations into something out of an American eighth-grade civics textbook, Brooks proceeds to give us the Polonius-worthy assessment that “The liberal pluralistic system is not a spontaneous natural thing.” Duh. But the final sentence, about what he sees as requirements for preserving that “hard-earned ecosystem” (really, David, ecosystem?), one being financial enforcement, alias U.S. multinational corporation money and our captive IMF and World Bank pushing other peoples around, ends with this prescription: “… and hard power enforcement.”

So we see, we finally see: the ultimate task of the column is to prod the electorate to support the “constant” burden of defending the liberal system with a massive and ultra-expensive armamentarium of guns and bombs at the ready to be deployed by hundreds of thousands of uniformed young Americans against any “wolves” that would threaten the reigning hegemon’s maintenance of its self-ordained international “fabric.” We being that hegemon, of course.

You have to wonder what an educated and aware person in Egypt, say, or Finland, or Japan, or Chile, or France, or Iraq, or Belgium, or Mexico would think about all this crude and transparent America-centric self-dealing? That educated non-American person might well be overcome by lots of questions.

Exactly whose fabric of peace and order? Whose liberal pluralistic system, costing whom and benefiting whom? Just which powerful people have or haven’t gone about attempting to impose their version of the Truth? And who besides Russia (Soviet or otherwise), Germany, and Japan — in the eyes of the Egyptian or Mexican or French or Iraqi person, let alone a Chinese or Iranian person — has often acted as a wolf of the world? (Hints: We had 662 bases in 38 sovereign foreign countries in 2011, according to a Pentagon report; no nation — zero — had a base in the United States.

Also: the U.S. is at a minimum acknowledged to have bombed sovereign foreign nations or put military or paramilitary boots on the ground 54 times since 1945, exclusive of CIA and some special ops; sovereign foreign nations have bombed the U.S. or put hostile military boots on American soil … zero times.)

But here’s the most depressing item in the column: Brooks — who made his bones with his jejune book on a supposed new American class of bourgeois bohemians — helps teach a grand strategy course at Yale. Yes, that Yale.


Posted by A. David Tucker at 06:47 PM
April 18, 2014
“Supporting Democracy”

Last time I wrote on foreign policy here, it turned into a rant about our ridiculous excuse for a political system, so now that I’ve got that off my chest, I wanted to set out some basic ideas about the underlying values that, in an ideal world, should govern the relationships of nations.

First and most important is that people are the most important players in foreign policy, not nation-states, not resource control, not economic concerns. Every nation should have the right to determine its own destiny and its own political and economic system without the interference of others. Given that so many nations are creations of imperialism, the borders of those states often do not reflect the wishes of the inhabitants and there should be no qualms about allowing the people of such artificial nations to divide themselves into multiple nations. The key right here is that the people should make that choice without coercion or interference from foreign powers.

Second is the matter of human rights. The best and most widely accepted statement of those rights is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it should be used as the guide. Obviously this can sometimes conflict with our first value since left to their own devices, some people will use their right of self-determination to abrogate the rights of others — women, gays, religious minorities, etc. That cannot be tolerated and raises the issue of how it might be possible to enforce human rights across international borders.

The third important goal or value that must be at the center of any foreign policy is the protection of the earth on which we all live. All nations need to curtail fossil fuel use and those who have benefited for so long from burning those fuels should be helping the developed nations, especially those most threatened by climate change. For many nations, no doubt including our own, we need to work to alter the food system from one dominated by large corporations, factory farming, centralized distribution, and heavy use of insecticides and fertilizers (many of which are petroleum-based) to one that emphasizes local crops, local markets, small family farms, and organic and traditional methods. We need to de-emphasize export crops and the use of foods for fuel if we are going to keep climate change damage at a minimum.

So how would these ideas play out in practice? Let’s take a current example, the crisis in Ukraine…



First of all, it would mean that the U.S. and Russia would butt out. The U.S. should not be “supporting democracy” in the Ukraine or anywhere else since we obviously don’t have a democracy at home and have a long history of opposing democracy elsewhere in the world. The Russians shouldn’t be interfering either, but it isn’t up to the United States to stop them. Leave that to other players in the region who have more at stake or to international institutions.

Second, the rights of the people of the Ukraine are paramount including the right to determine their own government. Since the Ukraine has a very brief history as a nation-state and a much longer history as an occupied region, it’s quite possible that populations in different parts of the region have different ideas about how they should be governed. That said, given the chaos that has resulted from the overthrow of Yanukovych, they should be permitted to make a choice. Again, it is not the role of the U.S. or the Russian Federation to interfere to attempt to influence that choice. It should be the role of international institutions to see that referenda are conducted in a fair and free manner wherever they are appropriate.

Given the rise of neo-fascist elements in Ukraine, there is a credible threat to ethnic minorities in some parts of the region. All parties should make it clear that the rights of these groups must be protected whether they are Russians in western Ukraine or Tatars in Crimea. Again, neither the U.S. nor Russia has the right or the moral standing to interfere inside Ukraine to enforce the protection of these groups. That is also a job for international institutions.

Lastly, no progress can be made for the people of Ukraine until the fighting stops and there are stable and democratically chosen governments in the region. That is the most important short-term goal of any moral policy.

You will probably notice I used the term “international institutions” many times. What are these institutions? Regrettably there aren’t any good options available at this time. The only institution that has some capability and legally justifiable mandate to become involved is the United Nations, and it has become a tool of the United States and the Western powers to a great extent. Any moral and responsible foreign policy has to deal early on with the weaknesses of the UN as an institution, and help it gain standing as an independent arbiter of international law. That’s a subject for another day.

Meanwhile, as I heard Dr. Stephen Zunes say recently, the first rule must echo the Hippocratic Oath — do no harm. Arm the Ukrainian government? No. Send Russian troops in to protect people in Eastern Ukraine? No. Send CIA Director and international war criminal John Brennan to “advise” the ruling junta? No. Send an Assistant Secretary of State to hand out cookies to protestors trying to overthrow a government? No.

Meet with Putin and mutually agree to keep hands off Ukraine, and while we’re at it, let’s dissolve NATO or at the very least withdraw it from nations bordering the Russian Federation. The Cold War is allegedly over and we ought to work to keep it that way instead of trying to revive it or heat it up.


Posted by Charles Dunaway at 04:29 PM
April 11, 2014
Mistakes Were Made

Speaking of counterfactuals, as I was in Monday’s posting, here’s another one I wrote elsewhere some years ago on President Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address — the speech in which he warned against “unwarranted influence … by the military-industrial complex.”

I also remember Eisenhower’s farewell address, but have trouble getting too misty-eyed about it. Who had been president for the previous eight years? Who had sent White Star special forces teams to Northern Thailand just months before? Who was to tell the incoming president that the greatest threat to world peace facing him was Laos? Who made the unspeakable Dulles secretary of state and kept him in the job? Who sent thousands of “advisers” and billions in military aid to Diem after he violated the terms reached at Geneva by refusing to hold the national elections that he (and we) knew Ho Chi Minh would win?

Who blew the very real possibility of ending the Cold War by continuing the U-2 flights and making it impossible for Khrushchev to pursue the detente he was plainly seeking? Who let the other unspeakable Dulles gin up an invasion of Cuba and then left the whole mess on Kennedy’s plate? Who was the only president of my lifetime who had the military knowledge, popularity and heroic stature to actually do something about that whole military industrial complex thingy that upset him so?



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:14 PM
April 07, 2014
Why We Will Never Learn

Thomas Polgar, the last CIA station chief in Vietnam, died in March at the age of 92. His obit is in today’s New York Times. And here’s Polgar himself, remembering the fall of Saigon. As well as, in this brief aside, the war criminal Henry Kissinger.

One day I had an opportunity to ask Mr. Kissinger what he thought of our intelligence. Not speaking of Vietnam, but generally. He was getting this big flow of intelligence from CIA world wide at the time. What did he think of the value of it? And he thought for a moment and then he said, “Well, when it supports my policy, it’s very useful.” And I think we are here at the heart of the problem. It is that American policy is not formulated in response to what the intelligence shows. We first formulate the policy and then we try to find the intelligence to support it.

It is interesting to speculate what might have happened if Truman had decided to let the country continue to bumble along, as it had somehow since 1776, without any “intelligence” agency at all. No Shah of Iran, hence no hostage crisis and no Ronald Reagan. No U2, hence no refreezing of the Cold War. No Bay of Pigs, hence no Cuban Missile Crisis. No arming of the Taliban, to teach those Russians a lesson. No Weapons of Mass Destruction, hence no… The list goes on and on. The CIA stands in relation to the White House as the drug dealer stands to the addict.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:37 PM
March 25, 2014
Toward a Sane Foreign Policy

For too long, American foreign policy has been dominated by the doctrine of American Exceptionalism. There are variations in the public face of policy between the so-called liberals and the right wing, but essentially the basic marketing plan is the same: the United States is the world’s only (and greatest ever) superpower and as such has an obligation to intervene wherever necessary to preserve freedom and democracy and protect American enterprise. Stripped of its marketing veneer, this is old-fashioned “white man’s burden” colonialism updated for the modern age.

As with colonialism, the external civilizing rationale is a cover for the actual motivations: greed and the lust for power. With neocolonialism, like its predecessor, the needs and even the lives of the people whose government is overthrown are not worth consideration — they are collateral damage of the drive toward “progress.”

In recent decades, we have seen the international bankers, led by the IMF and World Bank and the US megabanks, act first by putting the target country into debt far beyond their ability to pay. This was the message of John Perkins’ excellent work in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Once the target nation was in over its head, the country was forced to impose austerity on its citizens and use its resources to pay back the bankers. As Perkins described, this technique was used to great effect in the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America and Asia and elsewhere in the developing world. If the nation’s leaders objected to funneling their people’s wealth to Wall Street, the CIA was more than happy to cook up a plot to assassinate or overthrow them and insure their replacement was a willing pawn of the United States.

Today this same technique has been used in Greece, Spain and Ireland which were previously defanged by joining in the European currency union managed by the German banks. Unlike the developing nations who could have simply defaulted and stuck the banks with their well-deserved losses, these nations no longer had control over their currency so had no choice. Their people got brutal austerity so the bankers could be paid off.

In the developing world, a new paradigm has arisen. A nation that has abundant natural resources or acts as a natural conduit for the resources of another is targeted even if it has no significant national debt. First the National Endowment for Democracy and its slave NGOs move in to “build democracy,” by which they mean support groups in the country that oppose the government even if that government is democratically elected (i.e., Ukraine and Venezuela). These groups get training often in the United States in techniques of organizing protest demonstrations, and can range from genuine peaceful organizations that strive to win elections to outright fascists and terrorists who see a chance to gain power and loot the country for themselves. The NGO and the State Department simply don’t care and find both useful…


Once the billions in US taxpayer dollars and the sophisticated techniques taught by the NGO’s have done their work, the “democracy” groups are encouraged to take to the streets. When they do, they are inevitably hailed by the US government and its lackeys in the mainstream media as freedom loving peaceful citizens protesting a corrupt and/or undemocratic government. The government is loudly encouraged to treat the protestors with kid gloves and work out an accommodation with them. (One only has to recall how the United States government dealt with the Occupy protestors to find the irony there.)

If the government fails to roll over and play dead, the next phase is to release the snipers (origin unknown). They first take potshots at the police or security forces trying to incite them take violent action against the demonstrators, who by this time are more belligerent than before. If they do, then the “Responsibility to Protect” or R2P doctrine is wheeled into service to give the US or NATO or some other handy proxy an excuse to intervene to protect the poor beleaguered freedom-loving citizens from their repressive government. If the government doesn’t get suckered in by this ploy, the snipers simply turn their weapons on their fellow demonstrators and blame the government for it. The State Department and the sycophantic press corps never question this and R2P can be employed just as effectively.

What comes next depends on the strength of the target nation’s government and the value of its resources. The weaker governments, like that of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine, collapse and the strongest voices in the mob seize power. Those are usually the most extreme and violent factions of course, but they will readily do the bidding of the US in order to gain power. If the prize is great enough (if there is oil underneath the ground), then the nation is invaded or bombed to insure that the most extreme and violent opposition factions are put in power (Libya). If not, a prolonged civil war complete with imported weapons and terrorists can ensue as in Syria.

In most cases, these are resource wars. The targeted nation has oil or gas or is the most efficient route for a pipeline to bring oil and gas from some other source to Western markets. The military/industrial/espionage complex is serving the energy industry as well as the financial industry, both of which are dependent on the continued flow of oil and gas to the US and the profits to be gained from controlling the market for these vital resources in the future. It is easy to get support for this neocolonial resource grab because the entire built environment in America is completely dependent on the continued availability of cheap petroleum and natural gas. Every American is concerned about prices at the pump or the cost of heating and that legitimate concern can be easily diverted into support for a foreign policy designed to control oil and gas worldwide as well as unbridled domestic production regardless of the environmental cost. Conservation is for wimps, not superpowers.

This is American foreign policy in 2014. The only fair descriptive terms for this policy are immoral, insane, disgusting, megalomaniac and evil. There is no way to adjust this policy or modify it and achieve a morally defensible result. This is a systemic evil and it must be completely replaced. We could settle for some minor tweaks in policy and a kinder, gentler marketing stance, but in our hearts we would know it was fake and so would everyone else in the world.

Two questions follow:

• What is the appropriate foreign policy for the USA?
• How can it be achieved?

Let’s tackle the first question.

The first objective for a sane foreign policy is that we look long and hard at ourselves — who we think we are and what we are consuming. Before we can hope to change foreign policy, we have to change the attitude that America is entitled to consume 25% of the world’s resources when we have only 5% of the population. We have to reject the idea that American corporations are entitled to go into every nation in the world and reap profits at the expense of the local population. We also have to face the evil that we have done in the world and stand ready to do what we can to right those wrongs.
What would be the logical first steps?

• Close down the NSA and make its work public with an apology to those who have been hurt by it.
• Close down the CIA’s operations division and publish its sordid history on the internet with only the names of the living innocent redacted. Remove the yes-men who have risen to power in the CIA’s analytical division with people who have the courage to tell the truth to power.
• Repeal and disavow NAFTA and the WTO and all the bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that favor American business over the interests of the people of America and other nations.
• Reduce the size of the military budget by at least 50% and bring all US armed forces stationed overseas home.
• Shut down the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID and all other alleged NGO’s that have acted as a front for the CIA and American foreign policy interests.
• Nationalize the energy industry so they can no longer control our government and launch a massive campaign to conserve energy.
• End support of the highway and automotive and associated industries and initiate a massive project to build an alternative transportation infrastructure that is not dependent on oil.
• Break up the big banks and reform or replace the Federal Reserve so that no bank can ever pose a systemic risk to the economy.
• Setup a Foreign Reparations Administration to channel some of the money we have saved in the preceding steps to provide needed aid to the countries that have been the victims of our foreign policy, from Greece to Ukraine.

There’s no need to go further. It is readily apparent that these are politically impossible goals. So we have the questions in the wrong order. We cannot achieve these goals unless and until the people of the United States take control of their government away from the corporations, banks and the wealthy oligarchs. They will not even begin to move in that direction until they come to realize that their interests and the interests of the wealthy who own the corporations and banks are completely opposite to one another. That realization will not come until they reject the media and the consumer culture or if the economy collapses to the extent that the realization is shoved in their face. If that happens, it might be too late.


Posted by Charles Dunaway at 04:12 PM
March 24, 2014
The Charge of the Lightweight Brigade

Can’t say I’ve searched the entire narrow span of the MSM, but this is the first major mention I’ve come across of the remote possibility that the United States might in some minuscule fashion if you viewed the matter from just the right angle hold some microscopic measure of responsibility under certain circumstances perhaps not totally unimaginable for the present mess in Crimea. From the New York Times, and good for them:

…Safeguarding this maritime muscle may well have been one reason President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sent armed forces to seize Crimea. But is it possible that the Sevastopol base is just the most concrete manifestation of Russia’s deep interests in Ukraine that the United States and its NATO allies either ignored or forgot as they tried to bind it more tightly with the West?

For years, Mr. Putin has complained about the West moving unilaterally to reorder the Continental balance of power — promoting Western capitalism and democracy — with little indication anyone was heeding his concerns. Its courting of Ukraine, apparently, was a step too far, prompting Mr. Putin to risk sanctions and the worst conflict since the Cold War to make clear that Washington and its friends do not call all of the shots anymore…

Read the rest and then forward it to the idiot McCain and Graham, care of any of the Sunday talk shows.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:18 PM
March 21, 2014
A Reality Pill from an Actual Expert

In contradistinction to silly blabbermouths like John McCain and Lindsay Graham, Jack F. Matlock, Jr. actually knows a thing or two (or millions) about Russia, Crimea, and the Ukraine. Seeing as how he was Reagan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, you’d think he’d be all over Fox News these days. Here’s why he isn’t:

Well, I think that what we have seen is a reaction, in many respects, to a long history of what the Russian government, the Russian president and many of the Russian people — most of them — feel has been a pattern of American activity that has been hostile to Russia and has simply disregarded their national interests. They feel that having thrown off communism, having dispensed with the Soviet Empire, that the U.S. systematically, from the time it started expanding NATO to the east, without them, and then using NATO to carry out what they consider offensive actions about an — against another country — in this case, Serbia — a country which had not attacked any NATO member, and then detached territory from it — this is very relevant now to what we’re seeing happening in Crimea — and then continued to place bases in these countries, to move closer and closer to borders, and then to talk of taking Ukraine, most of whose people didn’t want to be a member of NATO, into NATO, and Georgia.

Now, this began an intrusion into an area which the Russians are very sensitive. Now, how would Americans feel if some Russian or Chinese or even West European started putting bases in Mexico or in the Caribbean, or trying to form governments that were hostile to us? You know, we saw how we virtually went ballistic over Cuba. And I think that we have not been very attentive to what it takes to have a harmonious relationship with Russia…

You see, in the Orange Revolution in Kiev, foreigners, including Americans, were very active in organizing people and inspiring them. Now, you know, I have to ask Americans: How would Occupy Wall Street have looked if you had foreigners out there leading them? Do you think that would have helped them get their point across? I don’t think so. And I think we have to understand that when we start directly interfering, particularly our government officials, in the internal makeup of other governments, we’re really asking for trouble…

Now, what have we been telling the Ukrainians, the Georgians — at least some of us, officials? “Just hold on. You can join NATO, and that will solve your problems for you.” You know, and yet, it is that very prospect, that the United States and its European allies were trying to surround Russia with hostile bases, that has raised the emotional temperature of all these things. And that was a huge mistake. As George Kennan wrote back in the ’90s when this question came up, the decision to expand NATO the way it was done was one of the most fateful and bad decisions of the late 20th century.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:26 PM
March 13, 2014
US Interference in Ukraine — Targeting for Regime Change

The National Endowment for Democracy tells us on their own web site that during 2012 alone they gave $3,355,834 to various groups in the Ukraine. That was not the only year and there is no reason to believe NED was the only organization sending United States taxpayer funds to opposition groups in Ukraine.

Can you imagine the outcry if another nation was spending millions in the U.S. funding groups that opposed our government? Now imagine that a rival power, say Russia or China, was not only spending millions to support “opposition” groups in our country but was also involved in every country in our hemisphere?

NED proudly tells us that they are not only involved in Ukraine and in Russia itself, but in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Mongolia, and Moldova. A quick glance at the map will show you that this group is allegedly promoting democracy in nations that almost completely encircle the Russian Federation.

As the organization proudly states, they are funded largely by the U. S. Congress (that’s you and me). They claim status as a nongovernmental organization (NGO), making it seem that they are independent of the State Department, which of course is not the case. They speak not just for the US government, but for a particular subset of the government, the neo-conservative globalists who retain power regardless of which party is allegedly in power in Washington.

The Board members include Elliott Abrams who pleaded guilty to misdemeanors in the Iran-Contra affair to avoid felony prosecution; Francis Fukuyama, one of the chief figures in the rise of Neo-Conservatism; Zalmay Khalilzad, George W. Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq; former Senator Norm Coleman, an outspoken advocate for the war in Iraq and for another war in Iran; and Robert Zoellick, former Managing Director of Goldman Sachs and national security advisor to the Romney Campaign. The current head of the NED is former Texas Congressman Martin Frost, a co-author of the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act leading inexorably to the financial crash of 2008.

The peculiar form of “democracy” that NED supports has a heck of lot more to do with so-called free-market capitalism, or to be more precise, with insuring the dominance of U.S. corporations on the international scene than it does with the legitimate democratic aspirations of people around the world.

NED is little more than a front organization for the Washington plutocracy funded almost entirely by U.S. taxpayers. I would suggest that any nation that has an organization within its borders receiving funding from the National Endowment for Democracy should declare that organization as a representative of a foreign power and either shut it down or force it to register as a foreign agent. The Congress should cut off funding immediately for this organization since it is fomenting chaos and disorder all around the world.



Posted by Charles Dunaway at 02:14 PM
March 08, 2014
Travel Before the Wright Brothers Spoiled It

From Dan Jenkins’ 1988 novel Fast Copy, about a young woman who inherits a small-town Texas newspaper during the first Great Depression

“I can’t believe my school is going to the Rose Bowl,” she said to her daddy on the phone by way of telling him what she wanted for Christmas — a lower-berth single room with bath on the Burlington Zephyr to Los Angeles by way of San Francisco. The round-trip ticket was only $214.30, not including meals…

The trip from New York to Los Angeles only took five days on the Burlington Zephyr.

Betsy, Millie and Ted boarded the train at Pennsylvania Station on Christmas Eve. They exchanged presents in thle dining car. By prior arrangment, Betsy and Millie gave each other a carton of Luckies. Betsy gave Ted a sleeveless sweater. Ted gave Betsy a Columbia helmet for a desk ornament. Ted and Millie only exchanged funny cards. Ted’s to her said get well soon. Hers to him included an I.O.U. for a French job whenever Betsy would permit it. Afterwards they stayed up until dawn with other revelers in the club car, getting so gasolined they must have sung “It’s Only a Paper Moon” thirty times to the accompaniment of Wilbur de Paris and His Saratogans, the jazz band on board.

They slept most of Christmas Day and night. Chicago to Denver. During the seven-hour stopover in Denver Ted took the girls to dinner at the Brown Palace Hotel. The stopover in Salt Lake City came between midnight and five a.m., a disappointment to Millie. “Darn, no Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” she said, sipping from the flask she carried in a garter above her left knee…

The train ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles took ten hours. They arrived in L.A. at noon on December 30, two days before the game.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:34 PM
March 06, 2014
Something Else I Never Knew…

…or more likely forgot. From Undernews:

Armed with Friedman’s ideas, President Reagan began calling for vouchers. In 1983, his National Commission on Excellence in Education issued “A Nation At Risk,” a report that declared, “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

It also said, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

For a document that’s had such lasting impact, “A Nation At Risk” is remarkably free of facts and solid data. Not so the Sandia Report, a little-known follow-up study commissioned by Admiral James Watkins, Reagan’s secretary of energy; it discovered that the falling test scores which caused such an uproar were really a matter of an expansion in the number of students taking the tests. In truth, standardized-test scores were going up for every economic and ethnic segment of students — it’s just that, as more and more students began taking these tests over the 20-year period of the study, this more representative sample of America’s youth better reflected the true national average. It wasn’t a teacher problem. It was a statistical misread....



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:11 PM
March 03, 2014
A 19th Century Statesman

Secretary of State John Kerry on Meet the Press yesterday:

Well, we’re now discussing all of the options. This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th-century behavior in the 21st century, and there’s no way to start with that if Russia persists in this, that the G8 countries are going to reassemble in Sochi … And the reason for this, David, is because you just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests.




Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:54 AM
February 13, 2014
Things You Didn’t Know About the Olympics

Tony in Sharon writes as follows:

The question of what events to put in or remove from the Olympics has been a long-standing challenge. Back in 1983, I worked for a while with IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch et al, in Lausanne, Switzerland to offer a scheme whereby “we,” namely WHO, would bring IOC drug test kits and chemicals into all regions and countries, as we had immunity from national customs officials, who then could not tip off national coaches what tests to expect, and adjust their performance enhancing drugs to evade those tests. As a result, there was a big decline in Eastern European medal winning in 1984. (Check the records.) Since then, with WHO’s help, IOC has obtained the equivalent of WHO’s international immunity for testing purposes.

At the time, Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling were among the longest standing events in the Olympics. No one would dream of eliminating either. The IOC policy at the time was to add only sports that were practiced in the most numbers of countries. One difficult question then, and which continued through Jacques Rogge’s Presidency, was whether to include women’s ski-jumping. In 1983 only about six countries had national women’s jumping programs, although it seemed pretty obvious that would change, and women can jump as well as men. So, finally we have it in 2014.

Meanwhile, the IOC has added anomalies like ribbon-dancing, perhaps more for political reasons than anything else. And in 2014 we get for the first time in the Olympics “slope-style” snowboarding and skiing, although that gives a decided advantage to those few countries that have the resources to set up and maintain the courses. The Samaranch principle is perhaps being violated, but O.K. it’s fun for everyone, so why not?

But this last year some influential block-heads proposed to eliminate free-style wrestling, as from 2020, despite the fact that free-style high and college wrestling is available in almost 200 countries. As coaches of the eminently successful “Green Wave” high school wrestling program, you must have been shocked by that brainless proposal. But here’s the good news: The plenary IOC has overridden that idiotic quasi decision, and has reinstated freestyle wrestling in all future summer Olympics.

We need to get back to the Samaranch principle, and respect the original ideals and purposes of the Olympics. The Olympics is no place to demonstrate for ideological positions, no matter otherwise how valid. The Olympics are a place where deadly enemies, even those at war with each other (e.g.Athens v. Sparta v. Macedonia) can come and devote all their energies to sport, which can make its own contribution to world peace.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:53 AM
February 01, 2014
Enemy Allies

It has been plain to me for a long time that the biggest foreign threats to the security of United State do not come from such usual suspects as Iran, Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and North Korea.

They come from inside our tent, not from out: from Israel, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. I’ll address Israel and Pakistan some other day, if I ever get around to it. For now Gary Brecher has done a pretty good job on Saudi Arabia at PandoDaily. Here’s an excerpt, but read it all here.

And of all their many skills, the one the Saudis have mastered most thoroughly is disruption. Not the cute tech-geek kind of disruption, but the real, ugly thing-in-itself. They don’t just “turn a blind eye” to young Saudi men going off to do jihad — they cheer them on. It’s a brilliant strategy that kills two very dangerous birds with one plane ticket. By exporting their dangerous young men, the Saudis rid themselves of a potential troublemaker while creating a huge amount of pain for the people who live wherever those men end up.

Saudis have shipped money, sermons, and volunteers to Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Russia’s North Caucasus just as they’re doing now in Syria. It’s a package deal — to get the money, you have to accept the Wahhabism and the volunteers. And it works. The Saudi package is usually resented at first, like it was by the Afghans who were outraged to be told they were “bad Muslims” by Saudi volunteers.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:52 PM
January 23, 2014
The Rat in the Hat

Here is James Truslow Adams, from his 1929 essay collection, Our Business Civilization:

The Republican Party may well look back to Hamilton as its high priest, but the odd thing is that Hamilton created all this heritage of strength and power and banks and tariffs for a very simple reason, and that reason the Republican Party would not dare to breathe about in any party convention, campaign, or speech: “The People, your People, Sir, is a great Beast.”

Imagine that as an exordium of a keynote speech to nominate Calvin Coolidge or Herbert Hoover. Hamilton deliberately set out to create special privileges for certain classes so that those classes would in turn support the government and control the people. What does the Republican Party do? It hangs on for dear life to all these special privileges, it preaches Hamilton’s corollaries as the one pure political gospel, and then it steals Jefferson’s major premise, and preaches the wisdom and the nobility and the political acumen of the common people!

One feels like inquiring in the vernacular, with deep emotion, “How did you get that way?” As when watching a prestidigitator, one’s jaw drops with amazement as the rabbit pops from the one hat we could not possibly have expected it from.

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:53 PM
December 30, 2013

The excerpt below is from Charles Pierce’s double evisceration of the utterly unspeakable Elliott Abrams and the painfully pathetic David Gregory. Read it all here. Please.

The last time a president was as “bold” as Gregory wants this one to be, he lied us into a war that continues to wreak ruin to this day. Elliott Abrams was working for him at the time. The time before that, peasants got slaughtered and American nuns got raped and murdered, and archbishops got ventilated on the altar, and Elliott Abrams, to whom the Dancin’ Master directed his volley of bad history, cheered all of this on, lied about it as part of his official duties, and continues to believe that to have been the height of patriotism and public service. Ghosts of the dead should howl him awake every night. He should be spat upon by the surviving families of the dead every day on his way to teach his history class. History itself should vomit him out of its mouth. Journalism should revolt at the very sight of him. He should be whatever is one rung below a pariah. Instead, he gets a guest shot to tell the nation he has spent his career misleading into armed conflicts in which he never would have picked up a weapon or stood a post that its foreign policy is not blood-soaked enough for his taste. It was a living parable of the uselessness of dead memory.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:00 PM
December 25, 2013
The Asylum Theory of Government

Thurman Arnold was a Yale Law School professor who became the chief trust buster in Roosevelt’s Justice Department and later a founder of the Washington law firm now known as Arnold & Porter. Along the way he was also a Wyoming legislator, the mayor of Laramie, and a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He published The Symbols of Government, excerpted below, in 1935.

Those being times very much like ours it might be of some interest to see how things looked to Arnold back then. Not that we can do much more to fix those things than he could, this still being a nation populated by Americans rather than, say, Swedes, Costa Ricans or Finns. Different strokes for different folks.

Anyway, Merry Christmas and here’s Arnold:

From the humanitarian point of view the best government is that which we find in an asylum. In such a government the physicians in charge do not separate the ideas of the insane into any separate sciences such as law, economics and sociology; nor then instruct the insane in the intricacies of these three sciences. Nor do they argue with the insane as to the soundness or unsoundness of their ideas. Their aim is to make the inmates of the asylum as comfortable as possible, regardless of their respective moral deserts … No psychiatrist today attempts to differentiate the content of foolish ideas, and of insane ideas. It is equally possible to adopt a point of view toward government where ideas are considered only in light of their effect on conduct…

The advantages of such a theory for purposes of thinking about government is that we escape the troublesome assumption that the human race is rational. We need not condemn policies which contradict each other solely on the ground that the action of government must be logically consistent. We need not constantly worry about permanent cures, and discard day-to-day policies because of their effect in the future on the morale of the irrational people we are governing. We need not delay such necessary undertakings as public relief because we are worried about their effect on the character of the recipients. We need not compel persons on relief to pauperize themselves and surrender the insurance policies which may afford future relief to their children because of a moral notion that no one is entitled to relief who is not a pauper…

Russia under Stalin is not so far from Russia under a benevolent despot as we may imagine. It is true that the notion of equal distribution of goods to the proletariat as the chief justification for the exercise of governmental power, contains ideals which appear to be new; but if we examine them we find that they are at least as old as Christianity…

The concept of government as an insane asylum liberates us from the notion that wise men think up principles and schemes of government for their duller fellows to learn and follow, and that thus social change is accomplished. It frees us from the notion that “thinking men” decide between the relative merits of communism and capitalism, and choose the better form. Finally, the theory is based on a humanitarian ideal which seems to be indestructible in the march of society — the ideal that it is a good thing to make people comfortable if the means exist by which it can be done.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:39 AM
December 16, 2013
Closing Gates

Professor Wolff at The Philosopher’s Stone:

Only slightly more than thirty percent of Americans over the age of 25 have earned the B.A. or its equivalent. It is important to pause for a moment to reflect on the significance of that statistic. Seventy per cent of the adults in this country are simply ineligible for almost every decent job because they lack the appropriate educational credentials.

To be sure, you need a college degree to be a professor, a doctor, or a lawyer. Indeed, you need several. But you also need a college degree to be a high school teacher, to be an elementary school teacher, to get into a corporate management training program, to work for a business consulting firm, to be an architect, a Registered Nurse, an FBI agent, to have any hope of working for a non-profit. If the Walmart website is to be believed, your chances of becoming a Walmart store manager without a college degree are minimal. So seventy percent of Americans can kiss all of those jobs goodbye.

Since virtually everyone who talks or writes about education and the American economy is in that thirty percent — and most are in the very much tinier segment of graduates of top colleges and universities (counting UMass and its equivalents as part of the “top”), the talk is all about how hard it is to get into the elite handful of Ivy League schools and their equivalents, as though that were the only question worth discussing.

Save when the conversation turns to African-Americans and Latinos, no one really acknowledges that most Americans do not have college degrees. Now, to be sure, a larger share of each age cohort gets some post-secondary education. After all, those 2774 four-year schools manage, on average, to graduate within six years only about 55% of the students who enroll. But the fact remains that even now, not having a college degree is the norm. By the way, when I was an undergraduate, only about six or seven percent of Americans had a college degree!

Education in America has been transformed from a pathway to prosperity into a barrier across the road. Through underfunding and overcharging, colleges have become important tools in our pursuit of inequality. I served in the army with a fellow draftee named John Schaar, a poor kid from the rural slums of western Pennsylvania. He had heard that a college education was essentially free in California, and so he hitchhiked out.

By the time I knew him he had his Ph.D. in political science. After the government got through with wasting his time at Fort Bragg, he went back to the California and became a legendary scholar and teacher in the state university system that Reagan later did his best to destroy. Today Jack would never have made it out of Pennsylvania.

For today ballooning tuition and crushing student loans effectively wall off most Americans from a college degree. And that wall itself is in large measure artificial. Law schools do little or nothing to prepare graduates for the actual practice of law. The skills required to be successful on the floor of the Stock Exchange are difficult to distinguish from those of a retiree who can keep track of a dozen cards at once at the Bingo parlor. Any good watchmaker or taxidermist or seamstress could become an equally good surgeon after an apprenticeship in the operating room. It is, after all, a manual skill.

By the time I started out as a reporter in the 1950s some of the major papers and a few of the smaller ones had begun to require a bachelor's degree. But the two best writers at the Washington Post in my time there were veterans who had started out as copyboys.

The same barriers were going up in other businesses, with even less justification. At least newspaper work required crude reading and writing skills, but what reason could there be for demanding a college degree from would-be bond salesmen, bankers, advertising men, and insurance adjusters?

Over and over universities have tried to demonstrate the relevance of a college education to job performance. Over and over they have failed, because no such relevance exists. The best argument the academy can come up with is entirely circular: college graduates make more money than nongraduates. Well, duh. People with enough money to buy into the game wind up richer than people who don’t? Is that the best you got? Post hoc is not propter hoc, as the academy should have learned in college.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:48 PM
December 11, 2013
Disgusting Socialist Propaganda

— University of Chicago Professor Emeritus of History Andrew C. McLaughlin, from his concluding remarks in his The Foundations of American Constitutionalism, lectures delivered in 1932 for the Anson G. Phelps Lectureship at New York University:

“I have spoken much of law and of institutional forms, of the mechanisms which help to bind the Union together, but cannot close without pointing out that a nation, if it be a nation, must have in its possession certain common beliefs and principles. About seventy-one years ago, Abraham Lincoln, on his way to Washington, made a brief but signally significant though extemporaneous speech at Philadelphia. He declared the Union had been held together by the principles of the Declaration of Independence, those principles which promised the blessings of liberty to all mankind. The compelling thought, then, is this: the nation is held together as a living thing not by courts or armies or congresses, but by an ethical principle of justice. Without it the nation, the American nation at least, would be without the very essence of nationalism. I wonder if it is necessary in these days to emphasize the need of social ethics as the heart of a vital community, a community that would really live and be a community in more than outward seeming.”



Posted by A. David Tucker at 03:44 PM
December 03, 2013
Business as Usual

Rubber Hose spells out what should be obvious to anybody who doesn’t mainline Fox News. Apparently it isn’t, though, to judge by the polls. You’d think that nobody on God’s little green footstool ever had an insurance policy cancelled until Obama came along.

One annoying thing about the ACA is anything bad related to health insurance is deemed to be an Obamacare problem even if it is a problem that long predated the health reform law.

For as long as I have been aware of this stuff, companies have cut employee hours to avoid giving them benefits. Just after I graduated high school, a friend of mine worked 29 hours per week at a book store. Why such an odd number? The company gave benefits to “full time employees” and defined people as full time if they worked 30 hours or more. This was in 1988. But when it happens today, it is all Obamacare’s fault. Labor stats don’t back up the notion that the ACA is causing any cutback in hours. But any company that cuts its hours has an incentive to say that it is doing the cuts because of Obamacare because then the law, and not the company, becomes the bad guy.

Likewise, business have been reducing the number of employees who get health insurance for decades. That phenomenon is what people were calling the “health care crisis” back in the early 1990s and the reason that Obama campaigned on health care reform as an issue which led to the ACA’s passage. But whenever any employer drops health insurance after the ACA’s passage, it must be Obamacare’s fault. And private insurance carriers have long been restricting the doctors and medical facilities you can visit (in-network vs. out-of-network), changes in policies, etc. This stuff was not invented by the 2010 law.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:56 AM
December 02, 2013
Watch Out, America!

We’re still number one in unfairness but tiny Israel is closing fast, according to Alex Kane on Alternet

But most Americans probably don’t know that the 2nd most unequal “rich” country is the close ally and client state of Israel, whose own oligarchs own a significant slice of the Israeli economy.…

About 21 percent of Israelis live in poverty, the highest among developed countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

I was 14 in 1948, when Israel was born. It sounded wonderful. From the horror of World War II had come a new nation dedicated to just and progressive communal values, to the dignity of labor, and without poverty or excessive riches. I dreamed of joining a kibbutz some day. Would they take goyim, though? Of course they would. After all, Israel was tomorrow!

…and tomorrow and tomorrow, crept in its petty pace to today.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:33 AM
November 28, 2013
Hiccups of Democracy

Young, old, democracies are all the same. From the New York Times:

NEW DELHI — At a certain point this fall, the presidential elections in the Maldives stopped looking like the hiccups of a young democracy and veered into the realm of farce.

Mohammed Nasheed was the leader after a first-round election back in September, but the country’s Supreme Court begged to differ. The court, which was allied with one of his rivals, voided the September election before it could reach a second round, citing irregularities in voter rolls…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:12 AM
November 11, 2013
The Eternal Politics of Fear

Theoretically the mob is the repository of all wisdom and virtue; actually it is the ultimate source of political power. Even the plutocracy cannot make war upon it openly, or forget the least of its weaknesses. The business of keeping it in order must be done discreetly, warily, with delicate technique.

In the main that business consists of keeping alive its deep-seated fears — of strange faces, of unfamiliar ideas, of unhackneyed gestures, of untested liberties and responsibilities. The one permanent emotion of the inferior man, as of all the simpler mammals, is fear — fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above all is safety. His instincts incline him towards a society so organized that it will protect him at all hazards, and not only against perils to his hide but also against assaults upon his mind — against the need to grapple with unaccustomed problems, to weigh ideas, to think things out for himself, to scrutinize the platitudes upon which his everyday thinking is based…

In America it is the newspaper that is his boss. From it he gets support for his elemental illusions. In it he sees a visible embodiment of his own wisdom and consequence. Out of it he draws fuel for his simple moral passion, his congenital suspicion of heresy, his dread of the unknown. And behind the newspaper stands the plutocracy, ignorant,, unimaginative and timorous…

It is precisely here, the first and favorite scene of the Great Experiment, that the culture of the individual has been reduced to the most rigid and absurd regimentation.

—H. L. Mencken, writing in 1920. The bogeyman of that time was the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, locally represented by unwashed and unintelligible immigrants from Italy, Eastern Europe and Russia itself. What he would have written about the Tea Party, Ayn Rand, the TSA and the NSA, we can never know. For even if the Great Misanthrope were to come back to life, his head would explode upon contact with Fox News.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:59 PM
November 05, 2013
Not Your Grandfather’s GOP?

Ted Cruz tells a Heritage Foundation audience we need a hundred more senators like the gratefully dead racist Jesse Helms, whose own hero was the equally dead miscegenist Strom Thurmond. Wonderment at this public display of GOP racism is widely feigned, which is like being surprised every morning when the sun rises. “Oh, my God, Mabel, come look what’s outside. There’s sunlight everywhere!”

Although to be fair there has been a slight change for the better, in the sense that at least Cruz is being honest about it. In the good old days of the Grand Old Party a Republican could risk apologizing for committing racism in public. Here’s former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, after expressing regret that Thurmond hadn’t been elected president on the States’ Rights ticket in 1948:

“A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embrace the discarded policies of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement.”

And here’s my post on December 11 of 2002, which doesn’t seem to me to require any updating:

This is what most of the press referred to as an “apology” from the racist Trent Lott for his most recent embrace of the policies of the past which others have discarded. It is a curious piece of linguistic work, immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with southern politics.

In 1966 Georgia State Senator Jimmy Carter was beaten for the governorship by an Old South racist named Lester Maddox. The moderate Carter had allowed himself to be, as they say in Dixie, out-niggered. He didn’t make that mistake in 1970, when he beat a moderate former governor by opposing bussing and inviting George Wallace to campaign for him.

Safely elected governor, Carter said in his inaugural address, “I say to you quite frankly that the time for racial discrimination was over.” Quite frankly, this bears a certain resemblance to Lott’s “apology.” Racial discrimination was fun while it lasted? Huh?

Carter, though, was sort of apologizing for having earlier lied that he was a racist when he wasn’t. Lott is lying that he’s not a racist when he is.

This isn’t just Lott’s lie. It’s the lie of the entire Republican Party, which has built its political success on a bedrock of racism since Richard Nixon adopted the Southern Strategy that Lyndon Johnson had handed him on a platter with the civil rights bills.

After the Vietnam War had driven Johnson from office, Richard Nixon ran for president as a “law and order” man. Both black and white voters understood exactly what he meant by that.

They still knew when Ronald Reagan ran for the presidency in 1980 promising even more law and order. They understood what color his “welfare queens” were, too, and they knew why he opposed affirmative action.

Reagan’s second presidential campaign, against the hapless Walter Mondale, was even more openly racist. And George Herbert Walker Bush’s campaign against Dukakis four years later was worse than that. Even the press noticed, as they hadn’t when racism wore Reagan’s smiling face.

All this time, back in the south, the Republicans were at work creating political ghettos — congressional districts with black majorities where African American voters could be safely quarantined while the Republicans corralled the more populous suburbs.

And now the Republican Party, much of the federal judiciary, the White House and both Houses of Congress are ruled by men of the hard right. They have many things in common — militarism, worship of wealth, contempt for the poor, a taste for repression, a distaste for dissent, on and on.

These men — the Lotts and Armeys, the DeLays and Ashcrofts, the Falwells and the Robertsons, the Rehnquists and the Thomases — share another thing, too. Although they lie about it, as Lott is so unconvincingly doing right now, they are every one of them in the service of racism.

And this is the large, putrescent dead rat on the floor of America’s kitchen that we pretend isn’t there.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:07 AM
October 31, 2013
A Fine Kettle of Spinoza

Wow, being owned by a nonprofit foundation really has advantages. Like for instance you get to hire people like Martin Kettle to discuss the relevance of Spinoza’s statement that “The purpose of the state is freedom”.

Spinoza wrote those words in his Theological-Political Treatise of 1670. It is worth reading the words in the context that he used them. The state’s purpose, wrote Spinoza, is “not to dominate or control people by fear or subject them to the authority of another”. On the contrary, he went on, “Its aim is to free everyone from fear so that they may live in security so far as is possible, that is, so that they may retain, to the highest possible degree, their right to live and to act without harm to themselves and others”. Therefore, he concludes (in the modern translation by Michael Silverthorne and Jonathan Israel), “the true purpose of the state is in fact freedom”.

Radical stuff for the 1670s, and still pretty far from being realized if we even still think of it as an ideal. Certainly it doesn’t coincide comfortably with the total surveillance state we actually live in here in the US. But it’s even muddier in Britain where, as Kettle points out, the ancient political structures of the island are largely inherited intact but gradually developed and evolved. Everyone theoretically answers to the crown, with the government actually executing affairs and parliament only recently asked for consent for war. Obviously the security and intelligence services there are not closely overseen, given that they advertised to NSA the relative lack of regulation compared to the US situation.

In the end, Kettle concludes:

Spinoza was profoundly right. The true purpose of the state is, in fact, freedom. That is why the state is fundamental to a safe and good shared life. It’s just that, in a democracy, freedom belongs to all the citizens, not just to those who control the state. And in Britain we do not yet have that kind of freedom.

And in the United States of the twenty-first century we might have theoretically that sort of freedom, but in fact we do not. Citizens at large have lost control to the corporations, behemoths that we used to understand had to be controlled or they would devour and lay waste to large swaths of economic life. When it was robber barons we learned to see through it; but corporations employ whole divisions, in both the bureaucratic and military senses, of propagandists and agitators.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:54 PM
October 15, 2013
History Doesn’t Repeat Itself…

…but it sure keeps on rhyming. This is from Garry Wills’ 1981 book, The Kennedy Imprisonment:

…Over and over in our recent history, presidents have claimed they had to act tough in order to disarm those demanding that they act tough. The only way to become a peacemaker is first to disarm the warmakers by making a little successful war. And if the little war becomes a big one, it must be pursued energetically or the “hawks” will capitalize on the failure. War wins, either way. If you are for it, you wage it. And if you are against it, you wage it.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:56 AM
September 28, 2013
The Meaning of No

Syrbal says:

If it is wrong when a MALE doesn’t listen to what a female is saying; why is it ok when women also refuse to listen?

How do I know this? Because in 1971, still a virgin at age 20 (unlike Samantha who had already had consensual sex with a boyfriend before the night with Polanski when she was drugged and raped), I was raped. I was not drugged. I had some wine, but I was not drunk or impaired. I said “No” and was ignored…

Nobody who insists ALL rapes are equal and all rapists equally monstrous actually serves society by that claim. Because if men who have been taught, as my rapist was and doubtless as Polanski was, that seduction involves women who lie with their “no” for society’s eye, will ever ASK “Did I do wrong?” Because no man, even wanting to confront a situation setting off some belated inner alarm bell, wants to be THAT monster. So, rape of the non-horrific, non-vicious variety remains the unspeakable topic. As long as EVERY man is branded as a rapist by dint of possessing the ‘weapon’ of rape … well, that is much like branding every gun-owner a serial killer. It accomplishes nothing good at all.

Before you rise up in outrage or nod in agreement, go here and read the whole thing. There may be more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:32 PM
September 27, 2013
Jay Bookman Explains…

… in just six words the GOP’s threats to shut down their own country’s government and destroy its credit rating:

This is how white people riot.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:54 PM
Death Panel for Mice

Alice Rivlin ran the Office of Management and Budget in 1995 when the Republicans forced one of their earlier government shutdowns. Here is a memory from that childish GOP tantrum of yesteryear:

AR: The questions you get are “Let me tell you about this activity; is it essential.” So you have to make a call on that.

My two favorite stories of that period are these. One was [the National Institutes of Health]. The clinical facilities where they had patients, that was clearly essential. But most of NIH is research and research management. We decided that was not essential. And so we sent the researchers home. But then you have laboratory animals. You can’t leave the laboratory animals to starve. So the technicians that take care of the laboratory animals are essential and the researchers are not.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:13 PM
September 11, 2013
Guaranteed to be Freedom-free

The previous post reminded me of the total prostitution of the word “freedom” by the warmongers who have dominated our foreign policy steadily since World War II, and pretty often before that.

Which reminded me of those golden days of yesteryear — 2003 actually — when the Congressional dining room was serving freedom fries, and when I served up this:

From the New York Times:

“On a day that the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, said the American-led war was ‘doomed to fail,’ the administration struck a small blow at France, another ally that has parted company with the United States over Iraq. The menu on Air Force One this morning featured ‘stuffed freedom toast topped with strawberries’ — a new name for French toast.”

Once I had recovered from this droll bon mot I got to thinking about poor old freedom, and how our everloving warleaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, have sent it out on the street to turn tricks for them.

The other day, for example, I heard a Nevada man tell a radio reporter that his Marine son hadn’t died in vain: instead he had sacrificed himself for, you guessed it, freedom.

The poor man was hardly alone. An extraordinary number of otherwise sensible citizens apparently believe that Mr. Bush has invaded Iraq to bring freedom to that country — never mind that it wasn’t remotely “free” even before Saddam Hussein.

And never mind that Iraq will not be free after him, either. There are words to describe what the country is likely to be, but “free” is not among them. The words are instead “military protectorate,” and “occupied territory,” and “dependency,” and “colony.”

Iraq, that is to say, will remain free of freedom. Those who keep it so will now be Americans instead of Iraqis, of course, but this only looks like an improvement from our side of the fence.

This corruption of “freedom” did not occur overnight. Ronald Reagan unblushingly used the term “freedom fighters” to describe such despots and butchers as Jonas Savimbi in Angola and the Contras in Nicaragua.

No doubt Mr. Reagan was unconscious of the absurdity, as he was unconscious of so much else. To him, free and freedom were words which applied to any leader, any movement, any nation, that appeared willing to take orders from Washington.

Freedom meant subservience, as indeed to many Americans it always had. During the Vietnam War, for instance, the Fort Dix stockade was used to confine deserters, draft dodgers, and other objectors to the war. A sign over its front gate read, “Obedience to the law is freedom.”

Once we grasp this concept, such phenomena as John Ashcroft and Admiral Poindexter become understandable and even admirable. When Mr. Bush's men strip away our civil liberties one by one, they are only killing to cure. The loss of freedom is the price of remaining free.

The price for the people of Iraq will be even higher. They must be colonized by smart bombs and the Third Infantry Division, so that Exxon and Halliburton may free their oil fields at last from the chains of Iraqi ownership.

Surely then, praise be to Allah, all the nations of Araby will rise in joyful song and clamor, each in his turn, to be washed in the blood of the Bush.

And if my aunt had wheels, she’d be a tea cart.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:51 PM
July 07, 2013
Return of The Bombing Officer

My first novel, The Bombing Officer, was published by E.P. Dutton in 1982. It was the story of a young American diplomat in Laos assigned to oversee the largest bombing campaign in history. The book had good reviews, but not so good sales. No one wanted to be reminded of our humiliating failure in Southeast Asia yet, or at least that’s my story.

I still think it’s my best novel, though, and I’d hate to see it disappear down the memory hole. And luckily I wrote it with a 29-pound Kaypro portable so that I had digital files on 5 ¼-inch floppies.

Now I’ve re-formatted The Bombing Officer as an eBook and put it up on Amazon. For further information and reviews, go here and then buy it. It goes for a buck ninety-nine, which works out to less than .002 cents a word.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:41 PM
June 26, 2013
Just So

Robert Scheer on the duty to blow whistles:

As Principle IV of what came to be known as the Nuremberg Code states: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

That is a heavy obligation, and the question we should be asking is not why do folks like Ellsberg, Snowden and Bradley Manning do the right thing, but rather why aren’t we bringing charges against the many others with access to such damning data of government malfeasance who remain silent?

Is there an international manhunt being organized to bring to justice Dick Cheney, the then-vice president who seized upon the pain and fear of 9/11 to make lying to the public the bedrock of American foreign policy? This traitor to the central integrity of a representative democracy dares condemn Snowden as a “traitor” and suggest that he is a spy for China because he took temporary refuge in Hong Kong.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:05 PM
May 27, 2013
Eternal War

The excerpt below is from an op-ed in the New York Times by Karl W. Eikenberry and David M. Kennedy. The first is a retired general and former ambassador to Afghanistan; the second is an emeritus professor of history at Stanford. Read the whole article. It is the only intelligent and useful thing about the military you are likely to run across on Memorial Day.

…The Congressional Research Service has documented 144 military deployments in the 40 years since adoption of the all-voluntary force in 1973, compared with 19 in the 27-year period of the Selective Service draft following World War II — an increase in reliance on military force traceable in no small part to the distance that has come to separate the civil and military sectors. The modern force presents presidents with a moral hazard, making it easier for them to resort to arms with little concern for the economic consequences or political accountability. Meanwhile, Americans are happy to thank the volunteer soldiers who make it possible for them not to serve, and deem it is somehow unpatriotic to call their armed forces to task when things go awry…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:08 AM
May 26, 2013
The Idealist

The excerpt below is from today’s New York Times.

In 1957 in Argentina, a former SS officer named Willem Sassen interviewed Eichmann at length. The tapes, which were rediscovered only a few years ago, reveal Eichmann boasting that he had helped draft the letter ordering the Final Solution and that several times, he refused requests from fellow officers to free a favored Jew.

“I worked relentlessly to kindle the fire,” he says. “I was not just a recipient of orders. Had I been that, I would have been an imbecile. I was an idealist…”

…as were so many, so very many, of history’s monsters. For more on this theme, go here.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:51 AM
May 15, 2013
Marching in Place

Watching MSNBC last night it struck me again how ignorant politicians and pundits are about bureaucracies. The subject this time was the IRS vs. the Tea Party, but it could have been Benghazi or most of the other “scandals” that flame up and burn out on our TV screens.

Few talking heads or politicians have served much time in large bureaucracies. I have, starting at the absolute bottom as a private in the U.S. Army. The experience taught me how to look on military officers, which is generally down. Obama and Clinton would have profited greatly from a similar immersion in reality, as would most of our soldier-sniffing and cop-loving patriots. Bringing back the draft would put a stop to a lot of this idiot babble about the greatest fighting men in the history of the known universe and all universes henceforth to be discovered.

All right, back to the point.

Next I became a sort of sub-boss in a much smaller bureaucracy — assistant city editor of the Washington Post. Then I was deputy director of the U.S. Information Agency’s two-man outpost in Casablanca. From Morocco I went to Laos as press attaché for the secret war (go figure). My next job was near the very top of the largest bureaucracy of them all, the federal government. From the White House I went to the Federal Aviation Administration as chief of public affairs. My only promotion in any of these bureaucracies, I’m proud to say, was the automatic one from private to private first class. My ambition seems to have been low to none, but then ambition is well known to be blind. Thus there was nothing wrong with my eyes (speaking metaphorically. In fact, my eyes suck.)

And so I am massively unastonished to learn that the top leadership of the IRS was unable to impose its will on a bunch of GS-11s in the Cincinnati office. I once spent a great deal of time and the taxpayers’ money on developing and implementing a program to modernize graphics throughout the FAA. Thirty-five years later, the Depression-era logo I thought we had killed off still shows up regularly on the evening news. The new, improved model seems to have survived only at the Department of Transportation.




Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:04 PM
May 07, 2013
The Wrong Train

President Obama himself seems to be the one about to cross the red line — that same red line we’ve crossed so many, many times before:

The United States will “shortly” begin arming Syrian rebels, looking to boost moderate factions over al-Qaida-affiliated extremists whose rise would be a national security “nightmare,” the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told CBS News on Tuesday.

“I do think we’ll be arming the opposition shortly,” Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said in an interview. “We’re doing a lot more there on the ground than really is known, but we do have to change the equation.”

I just have 20 short words for the president: Indonesia, Haiti, Chile, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Angola, Zaire, Libya, Lebanon, Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Just to name a few victims of our never-ending mission to force “democracy“ on the natives.

The invariant rule, Mr. President, goes as follows: When you take the wrong train, every station you reach is the wrong one.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:10 PM
April 26, 2013
Daddy’s Little Boy

Yesterday’s cringe-worthy dedication of Bush’s Folly leads me to re-post, not for the first time but I hope for the last, my 2006 psychoanalysis of the frat boy president. (For further elaboration on the theme, see this from 2002.)

The younger Bush’s career can only be understood as a lifelong obsession with disappointing the father he so plainly hates.

He follows his father’s footsteps in school, as a pilot, as a businessman, and finally as a politician. Unable to fill those footprints, he made each one seem unimportant by pretending contempt for it. He got C’s where his father got A’s; he was a cheerleader while his father captained the baseball team; he ducked the combat flying that made his father a hero; he burned through the seed money his father’s friends gave him, failing in the oil business which had made his father rich.

At last he was taken in hand by a sleazy political op who realized that the father’s name and money would be enough to elect the wayward son governor of Texas. (Polls at the time showed that a significant portion of the voters thought that W. actually was his father.)

Then Karl Rove set out to hand-carry his meal ticket into the White House itself.

Take that, you old fart, junior must have thought as he took the oath of office. Any asshole can get to be president. But even that wasn’t enough. Deep inside, where the Oedipal snakes writhed in his subconscious, there was still work to do.

What better to way to humiliate his father than to degrade the supreme office the old man had spent his life to reach? What sweeter revenge than to slime, like a slug, the presidency itself? And so he enlisted Rumsfeld and Cheney, his father’s ancient enemies, to help in the work of patricide.

Outdoing his father as president, the junior Bush must have known in his heart, was beyond his limited capacities. But his whole life offered proof of his ability to fail, and so he took the only path remaining. He would become, God help the rest of us, the worst president in history.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:42 AM
April 25, 2013
The Death of Racism

In the late 1950s I worked for the Washington Daily News, a long defunct afternoon tabloid. Of the three Washington papers, it was the most widely read among the African-American community which then as now was the majority group in the city. This didn’t stop us from identifying black suspects in police stories as “colored,” until one day a delegation of civil rights leaders protested to the publisher, John O’Rourke. So he split the baby in half, and from then on we tagged Caucasians by race, too: “Police charged John Doe, 53, white, of the 1200 block of DeKalb St. NW, with murder in the deadly assault.”

Which is beside my main point, but I just thought I’d throw it in. My main point involves advertising. One day I was down in the composing room, watching them put together an advertising supplement. I asked an ad salesman why all the clothing models were white when so many of our readers weren’t.

“White sells black,” he explained in simple words, as to a child. “Black don’t sell white.”

Nowadays this sort of racism is dead on Madison Avenue, except when it isn’t. Clinical death will occur only when the middle-aged black man in the Cialis ad heads off to the beach for a little bathtub action with his blonde sweetie.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:53 PM
April 24, 2013
Not Your Great-grandfather’s GOP

From the Social Evolution Forum:

Let’s make this discussion more concrete. In the context of American labor history, ‘cultural’ forces (in the broad sense) sometimes worked to encourage wage increases, and sometimes to hold them down. For example, at the beginning of the Great Depression there was a broad consensus among the political and business elites that worker wages should not be lowered. In December 1929 President Hoover addressed four hundred of key members of the business community urging them not to cut wages. Leading executives responded in 1929–30 by pledging to maintain wages at the expense of profits. As a result, real wages actually grew quite vigorously between 1929 and 1941, helped along by a deflation of prices.

Remember when the Great Recession hit in December 2007 and President Bush urged key members of the business community not to cut wages? Yeah, me neither.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:28 PM
April 09, 2013
Government Taken Over

Lately we’ve been hearing a lot of conservative crowing about the stunning success of Margaret Thatcher’s privatization of public monopolies. As with so many of the Chicago Boys’ factoids, though, there’s more to the story. Lots more. Here’s an excerpt from a long examination of the question by University of Missouri economist Michael Hudson.

Yet by 1997 the Conservatives were voted out of office by one of the largest margins in their history. What concerned voters were the results of privatization that Mrs. Thatcher had not warned them about. Prices did not decline proportionally to cost cuts and productivity gains. Many services were cut back, especially on the least utilized transport routes. The largest privatized bus company was charged with cut-throat monopoly practices. The water system broke down, while consumer charges leapt. Electricity prices were shifted against residential consumers in favor of large industrial users. Economic inequality widened as the industrial labor force shrunk by two million from 1979 to 1997, while wages stagnated in the face of soaring profits for the privatized companies. The tax cuts financed by their selloff turned out to benefit mainly the rich.

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:15 PM
April 01, 2013
Ancient Snark

From Prospects of Industrial Civilization, by Bertrand and Dora Russell (1923):

The only men nowadays who believe in injustice are those who profit by it, and even they in their hearts feel that their belief is not genuine but merely an embodiment of self-interest. I except from this indictment the big capitalists of America, who are more naïve, more untouched by modern thought, than any other set of men with the exception possibly of a few Central African negroes. American businessmen still believe in the capitalist system, but businessmen elsewhere merely hope it will last their lifetime, provided they can obtain sufficient machine guns and ships to shoot down or starve those who advocate systems which, in their hearts, they know to be better.

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:05 PM
March 29, 2013

Hurrah. Hurrah. We’re getting out of Afghanistan in 2014. Maybe. If and when, we know how it will look, because we’ve been there before. Over and over. And will be again, if we let the disgusting, discredited warhogs who lied us into Iraq do to it to us again. Very likely we will let them. We are what we are.

This is from Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia by Arnold R. Isaacs:



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:37 PM
March 27, 2013
The Endless Loop

One thing about living in a country with amnesia is that the old becomes new over and over again, as we repeat our forgotten idiocies. Here is a post I put up on Bad Attitudes on September 12, 2002, still fresh as a daisy:

Looking up something else in the files I just came across a four-year-old article from the New York Times, written as the Taliban were about to take over Afghanistan.

It’s easy to forget, and most of us conveniently have, that the Taliban was Made in the USA. What if, for just that once, we had managed to mind our own business?

From the Times of August 13, 1998, speaking of the likelihood that the mullahs would soon seize power:

“If so, the outcome is full of tragic irony for a nation that seemed set on a completely opposite course in 1973, when King Zahir Shah, the last representative of the Durrani Dynasty that had ruled the country for 250 years, was ousted in a coup mounted by his cousin, Mohammed Daoud.

“As President, Mohammed Daoud proclaimed himself a modernizer but lasted barely five years before he was killed in April 1978 in a coup staged by the Soviet-backed Communist Party, which proclaimed a still more radical modernization program.

“The Communists’ program aimed at uprooting the pervasive influence of Muslim clerics, whose support of the Durranis had consigned Afghanistan to a social and economic backwardness.

“Within hours of seizing the Arg Palace in Kabul, the Afghan capital, the Communists vowed to emancipate Afghan women, achieve universal literacy, and move the country beyond its bullock-cart economy.

“But the bid to force compliance with the Communist program, especially in the arch-conservative world of the Afghan village, triggered a civil war that drew in Soviet forces in December 1979.

“This in turn prompted President Jimmy Carter and later Ronald Reagan to commit the United States to backing the Afghan Mujahedeen, the self-styled Muslim holy warriors who drove out the Russians in February 1989.”

To put the matter clearly, the Russians were the nearest thing there was to good guys in the Afghanistan of the late seventies. The nearest thing to bad guys, then and now, were the ignorant village clerics…

As so often happened during the Cold War, we jumped eagerly into bed with the worst guys in sight. Even worse than the Russian alternative? Well, figure it out. Our exciting fling with the primitive, lawless Mujahedeen created the conditions for the Taliban takeover that the Russians had feared. And the takeover created the kind of country an Osama Bin Laden could get comfortable in.

Well, okay, but still.. We couldn’t very well have left this tiny land in the terrible claws of godless Russia, could we? Of course we could. We did it all the time, before and during the Cold War. And in this case, so what? Three and a half years later the Soviet Union collapsed anyway, giving everybody a get-out-of-jail card.

But wasn’t that collapse precisely because we had armed and financed those brave Afghan freedom fighters? Pretty doubtful. The Soviet Union had been a basket case for decades. It might have stayed on its feet for a year or two longer if Cold War cowboys like Zbigniew Brzezinski and William J. Casey hadn’t been gnawing at its crutches in Afghanistan, that’s true. But the aging invalid was about to topple in any case..

Suppose those few years had been spent under the Russians rather than the warlords and the Taliban? A number of things would have happened, all of them good. Afghanistan wouldn’t have been devastated in a pointless civil war, hundreds of thousands of Russians and Afghans would still be alive, and the country would be independent today just like the other ’Stans in the neighborhood. No better off, but no worse either.

And yesterday — September 11th of 2002 — could have been just another lovely day in early autumn.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:46 PM
March 26, 2013
Schlesinger Fails to Nail It

From Barbara Ehrenreich’s Fear of Falling, published in 1989:

To Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who led the search for issues and challenges in the fifties and early sixties, a “cycle” is about to begin again: “There is a lot of pent-up idealism. That will increase and in the 1990s we’ll enter a phase that will be much like the 1930s and the 1960s.” The possibility remained, of course, that the repudiation of greed would be as transient and superficial as the yuppies that immediately preceded it.

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:05 PM
March 19, 2013
Lest We Forget…

…not that we ever knew, or knowing, cared.

From The Information Clearing House:

“In Iraq, the US record speaks for itself: it backed Saddam’s party, the Ba’ath, to capture power in 1963, murdering thousands of socialists, communists and democrats; it backed the Ba’ath party in 1968 when Saddam was installed as vice-president; it helped him and the Shah of Iran in 1975 to crush the Kurdish nationalist movement; it increased its support for Saddam in 1979…helping him launch his war of aggression against Iran in 1980; it backed him throughout the horrific eight years of war (1980 to 1988), in which a million Iranians and Iraqis were slaughtered, in the full knowledge that he was using chemical weapons and gassing Kurds and Marsh Arabs; it encouraged him in 1990 to invade Kuwait…; it backed him in 1991 when Bush [senior] suddenly stopped the war, exactly 24 hours after the start of the great March uprising that engulfed the south and Iraqi Kurdistan…”

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:36 PM
March 15, 2013
Back in the Good Old Days

From an oral history of Camden County, in south Georgia:

Mama couldn’t cook without a little smoked bacon or some meat. Pa would be out working and she would bait him with that to keep him working the next day. He would see that meat in there. He would think it was something special just for him. She made him feel like he was worth a lot. Women did that. They made their men feel like they were worth a lot. They had a way of doing things, of letting the men know they were the providers and were special to them. They would do a little extra for them.

Now we kind of skip some of the good times like we do a bump in the road. Sometimes we miss the best times we’ve had, the togetherness, the relaxing times. People could get hold of those times before televisions. My Uncle Cager and Aunt Betsy Hutchinson would listen to the ‘Grand Old Opry’ on Saturday night. One night I was with Mama down there. Uncle Cager rolled his own cigarettes and he had his and had already smoked it down pretty well. She wanted a draw, and he took it out of his lips and gave it to her. Their love at that moment just touched me. I got to thinking about the Bible talked about considering the lilies of the fields and the sparrows and the bird that feeds the baby in the nest.

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:24 PM
March 09, 2013
What Bacevich Said!

Andrew Bacevich is one of the clearest and deepest voices against the war machine the United States has become. A retired Army colonel with a Ph.D. from Princeton whose son was killed in the Iraq war which he opposed, he’s now a professor of international relations at Boston University.

This combination of experience and education positions him perfectly to observe and reflect on the tenth anniversary of the second Bush war against Iraq. Training and inclination give a historical tint to his perspective, and I highly recommend the WaPo article.

Next year marks the centennial of the conflict once known as the Great War. Germany lost that war. Whether France and Britain can be said to have won in any meaningful sense is another matter. Besides planting the seeds for an even more horrific bloodletting just two decades later, the fighting of 1914-1918 served chiefly to provide expansion-minded British politicians with a pretext for carving up the Ottoman Empire. It proved a fateful move.

What London wanted from this new Middle East that it nonchalantly cut and pasted was profit and submission; what it got was resentment and resistance, yielding a host of intractable problems that in due time it bequeathed to Washington. In effect, victory in 1918 expanded Britain’s imperial domain only to accelerate its demise, with the United States naively assuming the mantle of imperial responsibility (euphemistically termed “leadership”). Thank you, Perfidious Albion.

Many another storied triumph has contained its own poison pill. More recent examples include the Six Day War, which saddled Israel with a large, restive minority that it can neither pacify nor assimilate; the ouster of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, giving rise to the Taliban; and Operation Desert Storm, after which the garrisoning of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia helped light the long fuse that would eventually detonate on Sept. 11, 2001.

Think you’ve won? Wait until all the returns are in.

McCain recently tried to use his beloved Surge in Iraq to convict Hagel of incompetence as a potential SecDef, though of course the real issue was that Hagel didn’t endorse McCain in 2008. Bacevich compares the surge to Andrew Jackson’s victory at New Orleans. It was indeed a great victory on the battlefield, but as the returns filtered in Gibbon’s words were recalled.


Such is the empire of Fortune (if we may still disguise our ignorance under that popular name), that it is almost equally difficult to foresee the events of war or to explain their various consequences. A bloody and complete victory has sometimes yielded no more than possession of the field; and the loss of ten thousand men has sometimes been sufficient to destroy, in a single day, the work of ages.

Jackson’s signature victory, of couse, took place two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent was signed, ending the War of 1812. And McCain’s surge made no difference in the outcome of the war, though of course it killed more Americans. It also caused Americans to kill more Iraqis, and to me it appears that the most underplayed aspect of the story in accounts I’ve been reading is the animosity provoked throughout the Middle East by the three Bush wars, two on Iraq and one on Afghanistan. Bacevich speculates that the entire second war on Iraq will be seen by historians as not very important, like the War of 1812, except that the War of 1812 left us with a national anthem. Even the importance of the American empire is fading in comparison to the rising literacy and production and general capabilities of the rest of the world.

In what has become one of the most momentous stories of the 21st century, the inhabitants of the Islamic world are asserting the prerogative of determining their own destinies. Intent on doing things their way, they are increasingly intolerant of foreign interference. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington sought to revalidate an altogether different prerogative, one pioneered by Britain: an entitlement to meddle.

Britain never learned its lesson; and hubris attracts Nemesis, in this case history, the great teacher. What about the US, will we learn from Britain’s example? Not yet. As Bacevich puts it, “Sure, American troops captured Baghdad and overthrew Saddam Hussein. So what?”

Back in 1947, the promulgation of the Truman Doctrine kicked off Washington’s effort to put its imprint on the Greater Middle East, while affirming that Britain’s exit from the region had begun. U.S. power was going to steer events in directions favorable to U.S. interests. That effort now seems likely to have run its course. The United States finds itself today pretty much where the British were back in the 1920s and 1930s. We’ve bitten off more than we can chew. The only problem is that there’s no readily available sucker to whom we can hand off the mess we’ve managed to create.

Still, we have made some progress: compare McCain’s fate with Jackson’s.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 09:52 PM
March 08, 2013
“War is the Health of the United States”…

…as Randolph Bourne almost said. Jim Fallows, my old colleague and former boss in the White House, has this to say about George W. Bush’s brainless embrace of Bourne’s theory:

This month marks ten years since the U.S. launched its invasion of Iraq. In my view this was the biggest strategic error by the United States since at least the end of World War II and perhaps a much longer period. Vietnam was costlier and more damaging, but also more understandable. As many people have chronicled, the decision to fight in Vietnam was a years-long accretion of step-by-step choices, each of which could be rationalized at the time. Invading Iraq was an unforced, unnecessary decision to risk everything on a “war of choice” whose costs we are still paying…

Anyone now age 30 or above should probably reflect on what he or she got right and wrong ten years ago. I feel I was right in arguing, six months before the war in “The Fifty-First State,” that invading Iraq would bring on a slew of complications and ramifications that would take at least a decade to unwind…

Read the whole post, which is great stuff. But the intro above got me thinking about the most beautiful phrase in the English language, “I told you so.” One of the small rewards of committing words in a public place is the ability to prove that we did in fact tell you so. Like Jim, I really did blog about Saddam’s aluminum tubes and imaginary weapons of mass destruction a decade ago. Further back in the day, I really did attack President Kennedy in my Washington Post column when he sent 16,000 military “advisors” to Vietnam. You could look it up.

Not that it mattered a bit, then or now. We are a nation of cop lovers and soldier sniffers, as George Carlin called us. Our national pastime is war, and we don’t let facts get in the way when we scent other people’s blood in the water.

And right now we are watching the same crowd of vicious cowards — Abrams, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Kristol, Tucker Carlson, Bolton, Lindsey Graham — mongering war with Iran. If they fail, it will only be because we can’t afford a new war just at the moment.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:58 PM
March 07, 2013

…and alack, but Ed at Gin and Tacos is, regrettably and inarguably, right that there is no left left:

This is the real drawback of our political system and process. With only two parties and the end of the political-ideological conflict between socialism and capitalist democracy that defined most of the 20th Century we’re left debating most — albeit not all — issues within a very narrow ideological range. We’ve all agreed upon the End of History and that free market capitalism is the final form of human social organization, and that America shall be a hegemonic military power, and that our politicians shall be beholden to the financial interests that back them, and that we will argue only in the margins (except on “social” issues, where legitimate disagreement is permitted because the titans of industry don’t give a shit about them). So we have already settled on policing the world and are now arguing about how best to do it, just as we have decided that the financial industry will shape our society to its liking and we are now arguing about whether a handful of regulators should be tasked with watching them do it.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:53 AM
March 04, 2013
Nothing New Under the Sun

From Peter Turchin, professor of ecology and mathematics at the University of Connecticut:

In the US, there is famously a close connection between wealth and power. Many well-off individuals — typically not the founders of great fortunes but their children and grandchildren — choose to enter politics (Mitt Romney is a convenient example, though the Kennedy clan also comes to mind). Yet the number of political offices is fixed: there are only so many senators and representatives at the federal and state levels, and only one US president. As the ranks of the wealthy swell, so too do the numbers of wealthy aspirants for the finite supply of political positions.

When watching political battles in today’s Senate, it is hard not to think about their parallels in Republican Rome. The population of Italy roughly doubled during the second century BC, while the number of aristocrats increased even more. Again, the supply of political offices was fixed — there were 300 places in the senate and membership was for life. By the end of the century, competition for influence had turned ugly. During the Gracchan period (139—110BC), political feuding led to the slaughter of the tribunes Tiberius and Gaius on the streets of Rome. During the next century, intra-elite conflict spilt out of Rome into Italy and then into the broader Mediterranean. The civil wars of the first century BC, fueled by a surplus of politically ambitious aristocrats, ultimately caused the fall of the Republic and the establishment of the Empire.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:44 AM
February 08, 2013
A Lot You Know About It, Mencken

From In Defense of Women, 1922, by H.L. Mencken:

If it were advertised that a troupe of men of easy virtue were to do a striptease act upon a public stage, the only women who would go to the entertainment would be a few delayed adolescents, a psychopathic old maid or two, and a guard of indignant members of the Parish Ladies Aid Society.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:55 AM
February 03, 2013
Remind You of Anybody? Gingrich? McCain?

From Candice Millard’s new book, Destiny of the Republic, on the assassination of President James A. Garfield:

Inexplicably, it seemed that the only cause for which Garfield would not fight was his own political future. In an early-adopted eccentricity that would become for him a central “law of life,” he refused to seek an appointment or promotion of any kind. “I suppose that I am morbidly sensitive about any reference to my own achievements,” he admitted. “I so much despise a man who blows his own horn, that I go to the other extreme.” From his first political campaign, he had sternly instructed his backers that “first, I should make no pledge to any man or any measures; second, I should not work for my own nomination.” The closest he had come to even admitting that he was interested in a political office was to tell his friends, when a seat in the U.S. Senate became available in 1879, that “if the Senatorship is thus to be thrown open for honorable competition, I should be sorry to be wholly omitted from consideration in that direction.” After a landslide victory, his campaign’s expenses amounted to less than $15o.

When it came to the presidency, Garfield simply looked the other way. He spent seventeen years in Congress, and every day he saw men whose desperate desire for the White House ruined their careers, their character, and their lives. “I have so long and so often seen the evil effects of the presidential fever among my associates and friends that I am determined it shall not seize me,” he wrote in his journal in February 1879. “In almost every case it impairs if it does not destroy the usefulness of its victim.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:04 PM
January 31, 2013
The Taming of the Beard

I let no Thursday go by without checking the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times, and nor should any other real man. Today we fashionistos learned:

As a Los Angeles-based brand manager for high-profile musicians, Nicholas Adler likes staying abreast of men’s fashion, sporting Rag & Bone jeans with slim-fit shirts and Ben Sherman sweaters. As a final touch he’s grown a beard, which once resembled the one worn by Mandy Patinkin’s character on the television show “Homeland,” but now is a more closely cropped length. “It’s a style thing,” said Mr. Adler, 36, who divulged that he spends up to 45 minutes, one to two times a week, grooming his beard.

This is from 17 t0 62 more minutes per week than I spend shaving, which I have been doing pretty much on a daily basis for 63 years now. Consequently my fashion statement, compared with Mr. Adler’s, has saved me roughly 400 eight-hour days — enough time to have composed 1.7 symphonies, or written a highly-regarded history of Bacon’s Rebellion, or hiked the Appalachian Trail twice. Not that I did any of these things, but still…

Not that I have anything against beards, either. In 1954 my college roommate and I grow semi-luxuriant beards, mine black and his red. At the time the only other American to wear one was Ernest Hemingway, who was to kill himself seven years later in a possibly unrelated incident.

Beards were so unusual that strangers would come up and ask about them, always the same questions. How long did it take to grow? Doesn’t it itch? What are you trying to prove?

What we proved to our own satisfaction was that beards were more trouble than they were worth, which was only the modest pleasure of giving the ’50s the finger. Now that face muffs are on the fashion page of the Good Gray Lady, even that is gone.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:11 PM
January 10, 2013
A Modest Proposal: Call Up The Militia

At least a portion of our national screaming match about guns has turned to actions that can be unilaterally taken by the Executive Branch. Robert Reich offers some of them here. There is one suggestion I have yet to see offered.

Call up the militia.

Guess who is the commander-in-chief of the militia referenced in the part of the Second Amendment that no one seems to know about? That’d be the President of the United States, according to Article II. So the commander-in-chief should activate the militia. Clearly, “security of a free State” is at stake if ordinary citizens are not safe to go to schools, shopping malls, movie theaters, public appearances of their elected representative, and Unitarian churches. (To name but a few of the sites of mass shootings in the last few years.)

So, President Obama should call up the militia. Anyone who owns a gun is ordered to report with their weapons for militia training and assignment. They would be evaluated as to their fitness for duty — including a mental health screening — as well as the condition of their arms and their proficiency in handling them. They would be furnished with proof that they reported for and completed this training. Thereafter, any gun owner who cannot furnish such proof would be subject to penalties, and still be required to report for militia duty.

It’s simple. It’s in the Constitution. And, of course, it is 100% unworkable.

For starters, I think we know the people screaming loudest about the Second Amendment would never submit to this sort of “tyranny.” (For rather a lot of them, the definition of “tyranny” is having to do anything a black person says.) It would cost a lot of money and time, both for organization and enforcement. Military resources would almost certainly have to be diverted to the task. And last, but certainly not least, “the militia” was redefined in 1903 to mean The National Guard.

Which brings us to the fun part. Just who do you think would waste no time at all in loudly and repeatedly bringing up that last fact? I’m gonna go with “Gun Owners” on that one. Maybe even Wayne LaPierre his own self. But even if they don’t point to that particular law, one way or another it’s a safe bet that they will themselves make the point that they are not subject to being a militia in the sense that the Founders not only intended, but specified.

And once we’ve established that the first clause of the Second Amendment is outdated and inapplicable, maybe — just maybe — we can have a sensible conversation about the amendment in its entirety. (Yeah, I know. But I said “maybe” twice, so cut me some slack...)

Sure, it’s kind of a convoluted way to make a point. But our Republican friends do that sort of thing all the time — how many votes has the House held to repeal Obamacare? (Also, too, Clinton Impeachment. Heck, the war in Iraq.) Government-as-performance-art can work for our side too, once in a while...



Posted by Kurt Weldon at 04:03 PM
January 05, 2013
Gimme That Old-time Conservatism

From the Congressional Record of September 16, 1981:

The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism.

…Senator Barry Goldwater



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:04 PM
December 31, 2012
Dredging Up the Past

The late Al Weisel, blogging as Jon Swift, used to run a best blog posts of the year feature, selected by the bloggers themselves. Below is mine for 2007, as I am reminded by Vagabond Scholar. I had completely forgotten the post but it seems to me to hold up, and so I reprint it in an excess of immodesty. And as a demonstration of Plus ça change… And to prove I am smarter than Muammar Qaddafi, who would be alive today if he had listened to me:

In the current Newsweek Evan Thomas has an unusually vapid review of a book by Andrew Roberts which may or may not be equally vapid, depending on how accurately Thomas has described it. The review is in a section called “Ideas,” and here is Thomas’s: People who speak English are really, really special, and the rest of you owe us a really, really lot.

This idea is hardly worth engaging, and so let’s pass on to one which is worth engaging — although only because it has invaded the national brain like some ghastly tumor threatening the very values that Thomas supposes us to possess:

The English-speaking peoples have been seriously threatened by force four times: twice by German aggression, once by Soviet totalitarianism, and most recently by Islamic fanaticism. The forces of freedom and democracy reeled after the first blows—at Dunkirk and Pearl Harbor in World War II and at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. “The English-speaking peoples rarely win the first battle,” writes Roberts, “but they equally rarely lose the subsequent war.”

All right, everybody. Let’s relax for a minute here.

The English-speaking peoples are not seriously threatened by force from Islamic fanaticism. The only major war subsequent to 9/11 was one we sought in Iraq, and it lasted only a few weeks. Everything after that was a badly botched occupation.

The 9/11 attacks and World War II are no more parallel than longitude and latitude are parallel, no matter how badly George W. Bush wants to be Winston Churchill. (I might mention here that I myself would very much like to be Dame Judi Dench, although the odds are against it.)

The only human force that can seriously threaten the existence of the United States, let alone the English-speaking peoples, would be a full-scale military attack from a combination of opponents. A coalition of Russia, Japan and China might pull it off.

But in the real world this will not happen, because the United States, Russia and China all have atomic weapons and Japan could have them by next Tuesday.

This is why North Korea and Iran are in such a scramble to get nuclear weapons: not to attack us, but to make sure we don’t attack them. The strategy works very well, as may be seen in the case of North Korea. Next thing we know, Bush will visit Pyongyang, nation-building.

Returning to the real world, the war on terror is not a war. Osama attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with stolen airliners and kamikaze pilots because, lacking an air force, he was incapable of war. One engages in terrorism not because one is powerful, but precisely because one is weak.

Terrorism is almost always about real estate, as in Ireland, Chechnya, Spain, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, and elsewhere around the globe. If the United States had remained neutral in the land dispute between the Israel and its Arab neighbors, there would have been no 9/11.

And if we were now to become neutral in that dispute, there would be no more 9/11s. That is the only way to end Islamic terrorism in this country. Every informed American with a double-digit I.Q. knows that; the only meaningful question left is whether our continued blind support of Israel is somehow worth whatever it costs in future terror attacks.

We have been misled to believe that we are mired in an apocalyptic clash between the forces of Islamic darkness and the forces of English-speaking light. But it only seems that way because Bush responded to an act of terror with an act of war against an evil but in this case innocent bystander.

Nor are the Iraqis reacting to Bush’s occupation with some fiendish and unfair new form of combat called “asymmetrical warfare” in which they cunningly “adapt to the enemy” in new and hitherto unimaginable ways. No, the Iraqis are reacting to occupation by a more powerful enemy in the same way that resistance fighters reacted to Hitler’s storm troopers. They are improvising against an occupying army the best they can.

Nor should we be surprised if the neighbors lend a hand. They do so for the same reasons that the Soviets supported Tito and British agents aided guerrillas all over Europe. The neighbors don’t want to be the next ones occupied.

Fortunately even if Bush turns Iran into his very own Cambodia, we will eventually be forced to withdraw from the Middle East just as Nixon did from Southeast Asia.

In both misbegotten struggles, our opponents were clear in what they wanted — our absence — and we were unclear about what we wanted. Our presence? Did we really want to stay? For how long? Forever? Why?

Was such a dubious prize worth the life of even one George Walker Bush or Richard Bruce Cheney? Like millions of other Americans neither of them thought so. But that, of course, was then.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:00 PM
December 13, 2012
Taxing the Undead

Here they come again, hordes of undead gentleman farmers lurching toward Congress:

A significant increase in the federal estate tax is possibly just days away. And without quick congressional changes, the farmers say, their heirs could face crushing taxes that could force the breakup of their decades-old family farms…

“Death should not be a taxable event,” said U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, Republican of Missouri. “At the very least we need to increase the exemption and drop the tax rate. We need family farms more than ever, and the death tax as it stands right now will force too many families to sell their land.”

Sen. Roy Blunt, also a Missouri Republican, said he faces estate tax concerns across the state.

“Missouri has 100,000 family farms,” he said. Of those, “15,000 farms would be impacted (by the new rates) ... More often than not, that means the family will have to sell the farm to save the farm.”

And here is David Kay Johnston, writing in the New York Times back in 2005 :

The number of farms on which estate tax is owed when the owners die has fallen by 82 percent since 2000, to just 300 farms, as Congress has more than doubled the threshold at which the tax applies, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report released last week.

All but 27 farmers left enough liquid assets to pay taxes owed, the budget office found, although it hinted that the actual number might be zero. The study examined how much in cash, stocks and bonds these farmers left to pay estate taxes, but the report noted that no data existed on how much life insurance the farmers had put into trusts. Virtually all wealthy farmers own life insurance in trusts, say estate tax lawyers who specialize in working with farmers…

President Bush, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association have asserted that the estate tax is destroying family farms. None, however, have cited a case of a farm lost to estate taxes, although in June 2001 Mr. Bush said he had talked to such farmers.

The number of farms subject to the estate tax, always a minority, has fallen because Mr. Bush persuaded Congress to raise the threshold for estate taxes to $1.5 million, double that for married couples, for last year and this year. With simple planning, couples with children can shield several million more dollars from the tax.

In 2000, when the threshold was $675,000, taxes were owed by 1,659 farm estates, the study found. Had the current threshold been in effect, only 300 farms would have owed any tax.

Next year, when the threshold rises to $2 million per person, just 123 farms will be subject to the estate tax, the study found. And in 2009, when it rises to $3.5 million, only 65 of the nation's 2.2 million farms will be affected, the study said.

And now me, in November of 2003 (full post here):

First of all, I would point out to Mr. Norquist’s suppositional seventy percent that it is not a death tax. The dead no longer possess their money, being dead. Lacking money with which to pay taxes, they cannot be taxed. Are we clear so far?

Nor is the estate tax double-taxation. The dead man presumably paid his taxes while still alive. But he cannot be required to pay further taxes after death on money he no longer has. Being, you see, dead.

And so the “death” tax is not levied on the dead at all, but upon the heirs of the dead. These heirs did not earn that money, nor have they ever paid taxes on it. Their inheritance is income to them, and is taxed on the same theory that lottery winnings, found money and large cash gifts are taxed.

Thus the estate tax is not paid by dead millionaires who dedicated their lives to creating jobs for their less fortunate countrymen, but rather by their fat rich kids.

Examples would be Bush the Elder, Donald Trump, Richard Mellon Scaife, and Rupert Murdoch. Other examples would be John F. Kennedy, Ted Turner, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Estate taxes are levied on a nonideological basis, but only conservatives whine about them.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:35 PM
December 02, 2012
Poor Babies

This from Corey Robin. Does it remind you of any major American political party?

But there was another side to this embrace of the fugitive intellect: the acute sense of wounded victimhood, which sounded like nothing so much as the grievances of a revolutionary class in the making. The master class performed that strange alchemy, so peculiar to privileged groups, by which the enjoyment of power — not just on the plantation or in the South but in national political institutions as well — is turned into the anxiety of persecution.

Calhoun was the master of this transposition, borrowing directly from the abolitionist canon to make the case that it was the slaveholder that was the true slave. He compared the tariff to the exploitation and extraction of slavery and the federal government’s use of coercive power against the states to the “bond between master and slave — a union of exaction on one side and of unqualified obedience on the other.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:47 PM
November 20, 2012
The Reagan Devolution

We just laughed when Jimmy Carter wore that silly cardigan sweater on TV and talked about achieving energy independence being the “moral equivalent of war” (Acronym: MEOW). Well, what the hell, what do you expect from a country full of Americans? The Germans, however

Since 2000, Germany has converted 25 percent of its power grid to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass. The architects of the clean energy movement Energiewende, which translates to “energy transformation,” estimate that from 80 percent to 100 percent of Germany’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2050.

Germans are baffled that the United States has not taken the same path. Not only is the U.S. the wealthiest nation in the world, but it’s also credited with jump-starting Germany’s green movement 40 years ago.

“This is a very American idea,” Arne Jungjohann, a director at the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Foundation (HBSF), said at a news conference Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C. “We got this from Jimmy Carter.”

Germany adopted and continued Carter’s push for energy conservation while the U.S. abandoned further efforts. The death of an American Energiewende solidified when President Ronald Reagan ripped down the solar panels atop the White House that Carter had installed.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:37 AM
November 17, 2012
Hitler Finds Out Obama Won

Nothing lowers the level of public discourse more than playing the Hitler card. So let’s play it. (h/t to DownWithTyranny)


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:19 PM
November 07, 2012
Even a Stopped Clock…

How often do I agree wholeheartedly with Fox News. Not often, but not never:

Another myth central to Obama’s campaign is that Mitt Romney wants to go back to the “policies that got us into trouble in the first place.”

What are those injurious Republican policies?

Presumably the president refers to the deregulation of financial institutions that liberals blame for the recession. But, it was Bill Clinton who repealed Glass-Steagall. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley bill, which undid that long-standing law, passed the Senate 90-8, with Vice President Biden among the many Democrats supporting the measure. By contrast, George Bush was a regulation nut. It was during his administration that the country adopted the oppressive Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:11 PM
October 30, 2012
Notes From a WASP Boyhood

This is from our local weekly, The Lakeville Journal:

LAKEVILLE — Diplomat John L. Loeb shared a startling memory with students at The Hotchkiss School in a talk on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

It was the fall of 1945 and Loeb was one of a handful of Jewish students at the school.

During movie night, the students saw newsreel footage of Nazi concentration camps.

Far from being horrified, Loeb said his fellow students “cheered and hooted.”

Afterward, one young man told Loeb, “We don’t like Hitler but at least he killed Jews.”

I didn’t know Ambassador Loeb, who was an upperclassman and, if I remember right, editor of the school newspaper. But one of my classmates was Jewish, as well as being musical, intelligent, small, and unathletic. He was, that is to say, asking for it.

So he was taken to the woods alongside the golf course, depantsed, and made to mimic masturbation. Photos of this were circulated. The following year he was expelled for stealing a watch that one of his tormentors had planted in his bureau drawer.

This was long ago and I’m told by people familiar with the school today that sadism and hate crimes are no longer condoned and tacitly approved at Hotchkiss. This may well be, as a fish rots from the top. In my day the headmaster turned a blind and benign eye on this sort of thing. His successors, I understand, have not.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:20 PM
October 15, 2012
Foe of the Month Club

Rudyard Kipling again, this time from the several years he lived in Vermont:

When the people looked, which was seldom, outside their own borders, England was still the dark and dreadful enemy to be feared and guarded against … But how thoroughly the doctrine was exploited I did not realize till we visited Washington in 1896, where I met Theodore Roosevelt, then Under Secretary ( I never caught the name of the Upper) to the U.S. Navy…

It was laid on him, at that time, to furnish his land with an adequate Navy; the existing collection of unrelated types and casual purchases being worn out. I asked him how he proposed to get it, for the American people did not love taxation. “Out of you,” was the disarming reply. And so — to some extent — it was.

The obedient and instructed Press explained how England — treacherous and jealous as ever — only waited round the corner to descend on the unprotected coasts of Liberty, and to that end was preparing, etc. etc. etc. (This in ’96 when England had more than enough hay on her own trident to keep her busy.) But the trick worked, and all the Orators and Senators gave tongue, like the Hannibal Chollops that they were…

And thus was born the military-industrial complex, which was to grow till now it strangles the nation. Perfidious Albion gave way to the Kaiser in 1916, to be replaced some 30 years later by the dark and dreadful Kremlin, which gave way to an Axis of Evil every bit as treacherous and jealous of our freedoms as England had once been before metamorphosing into our closest ally. Which it still is, or would be except for Israel.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:28 PM
October 13, 2012
Ike & The Gipper — A Minor Rant

Among my circle of Facebook friends — many of whom I used to interact with in the real world before the internets relieved me of that burden — there is a tendency to celebrate the common-sense wisdom of one Dwight David Eisenhower. (There is also a seemingly endless fascination with kittens and Star Wars, but that's for another post.) The good general’s quotes are brought up to demonstrate that the Republican Party was not always dominated by con artists, shills, and flat-out lunatics. “Why isn’t the GOP this sensible today?” or something similar is usually the comment that accompanies these citations.

What my friends don’t seem to realize is that The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today (since it would be an oxymoron to call it “The Modern GOP" or even “Today's GOP”) has its roots in a reaction against the very moderation that Eisenhower embodied. The short version is that early in Ike’s first term, a small group of right-wing reactionaries concluded that Eisenhower was a communist dupe (!) because he did not move immediately to uproot every last trace of the New Deal immediately upon taking office. So they decided they would do it themselves. Step One was to take control of one of the two major political parties, and we can all guess which one they picked.

Step Two was to get a candidate of their choosing onto the national ticket. That turned out to be Goldwater in 1964 — which was rather sooner than expected. Goldwater’s campaign is usually depicted as a setback for this peculiar brand of conservatism. But the reality is that winning the election was not the point of his candidacy, although I’m sure the folks who put him there would have viewed it as a nice perk if he had actually won. (All of this is admirably recounted by Rick Perlstein in Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, which I consider indispensable in understanding how we got into this mess.)

Step Three was to actually take the White House, which as we all know was accomplished by Saint Ronnie of Reagan.

Which brings us to another point my Facebook friends have made fairly regularly: The notion that Ronald Reagan — yes, even Ronald Reagan — would be “too liberal” for The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today. Nor is this point limited to Facebook. It seems to be Conventional Wisdom (which would explain why it’s disseminated on Facebook.) Last week it showed up here:

A lot of people have said that Reagan wouldn’t even recognize the Republican Party of today. Do you think that’s right?

I think that’s right. I don’t think Reagan or myself or any of us could win a primary now with these standards...

The problem with this idea is that it completely ignores the basic reality of what Reagan was — an opportunist. He would have become whatever his handlers told him to become in order to win a primary, and then a general election. I know The Version of the Republican Party That Confronts Us Today likes to claim that Reagan was a great leader. And certainly he exhibited many of the outward qualities of leadership. What he never exhibited was any actual leadership. Reagan was a follower, not a leader. It’s as simple as that.

So, let’s review:

1) Eisenhower was not representative of the GOP even when he was its nominal head.

2) Ronald Reagan is not our friend. Not then. Not now. Not ever.

Please make a note of it.

Posted by Kurt Weldon at 10:14 PM
October 12, 2012
Those Were the Good Old Days

Rudyard Kipling remembers when he was a 17-year-old cub reporter in Lahore:

I never worked less than ten hours and seldom more than fifteen per diem; and as our paper came out in the evening did not see the midday sun except on Sundays. I had fever too, regular and persistent, to which I added for a while chronic dysentery. Yet I discovered that a man can work with a temperature of 104, even though next day he has to ask who wrote that article…

From the modern point of view, I suppose the life was not fit for a dog, but my world was filled with boys, but a few years older than I, who lived utterly alone, and died from typhus mostly, at the regulation age of twenty-two.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:38 PM
October 11, 2012
Our Longest War: The Civil One

A hundred and fifty-one years and still counting, the Civil War goes on. The Confederacy morphed into the Dixiecrats and then into the GOP which was easily swallowed by the Tea Party and here we are. I cannot think of a single core principle of American conservatism which does not, upon close examination, serve the interests of the master over those of the slaves. Wage slaves to be sure, and no longer exclusively black, but a slave is a slave.

An excerpt from Michael Lind’s analysis of the Confederacy’s continuation of war by other means:

…Notwithstanding slavery, segregation and today’s covert racism, the Southern system has always been based on economics, not race. Its rulers have always seen the comparative advantage of the South as arising from the South’s character as a low-wage, low-tax, low-regulation site in the U.S. and world economy. The Southern strategy of attracting foreign investment from New York, London and other centers of capital depends on having a local Southern work force that is forced to work at low wages by the absence of bargaining power.

Anything that increases the bargaining power of Southern workers vs. Southern employers must be opposed, in the interest of the South’s regional economic development model. Unions, federal wage and workplace regulations, and a generous, national welfare state all increase the bargaining power of Southern workers, by reducing their economic desperation. Anti-union right-to-work laws, state control of wages and workplace regulations, and an inadequate welfare state all make Southern workers more helpless, pliant and dependent on the mercy of their employers.

A weak welfare state also maximizes the dependence of ordinary Southerners on the tax-favored clerical allies of the local Southern ruling class, the Protestant megachurches, whose own lucrative business model is to perform welfare functions that are performed by public agencies elsewhere, like child care…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:26 PM
September 20, 2012
I Will Be an Enemy to the People

To extol the virtues of Lewis Lapham would require an essay of the length and elegance he is famed for, something unfortunately beyond my powers. But I can recognize an artist when I see one, an artist of the caliber to provoke the dear departed Molly Ivins to call him the best essayist in America today.

A large part of what makes him so outstanding is his encyclopedic knowledge of history and literature. Who else can quote Aristotle, Machiavelli, Thomas Paine, and James Fenimore Cooper in addition to the standard Jefferson and Madison interpolations? And he’s not quoting them to demonstrate his breadth of knowledge; rather, he knows them intimately and brings their arguments to bear on current situations, demonstrating in the process the underlying connections between our modern super-society and the original democracy of Athens. Did you know there was, by Aristotle’s report,

…a faction of especially reactionary oligarchs in ancient Athens who took a vow of selfishness not unlike the anti-tax pledge administered by Grover Norquist to Republican stalwarts in modern Washington: “I will be an enemy to the people and will devise all the harm against them which I can.”

What has changed? Mainly the overt nature of the rapine. That was the lesson of the Roman Empire: the head on the throne is prone to roll, while that behind the throne persists. Which leads to the modern notion that if you’ve heard of him — at this point it’s still nearly always a him — he isn’t really powerful. We approach the Zaphod Beeblebrox situation in which the president of the galaxy is chosen because he’s the most outrageous personality in the galaxy, thus fully able to distract attention from the manipulations of those who actually control the levers of power.

But at this point the president still has the ability to assassinate Americans if he as judge, jury, and executioner happens to feel they need it. And he can continue to slant the playing field toward the massively rich who fund his campaign in contradistinction to the massively rich who fund Romney’s campaign. The rest of us, the 80% of the population that collectively hold 7% of the wealth, aren’t even pawns; we’re the board the game is played on. Our wishes, however pacific and generous, are of no count in our governance. Wars are waged despite our vocal opposition. Health care, universal among the rich, is denied us, yet we are required to buy insurance for it, thus enriching the insurance companies without actually providing medical care. Education is put beyond our means, or made to require the kind of debt that used to be outrageous for a house in the Bay Area, requiring decades of repayment and the accompanying servitude to the dollar to ensure the needed income.

The upshot of this division in control as well as wealth is the dissolution of republican democracy in the United States. Since 1945 we have nearly always been involved in at least one undeclared war. Without war our economy collapses, because we make nothing but weapons, drugs, and financial instruments. Along with humongous amounts of media in all its distracting shapes and colors, all conspiring to deny us the participation in civic life that is precisely what previous generations died for in the various wars they fought. Or at least what they intended to die for. What we got as a result of their sacrifice is in fact an oligarchy whose predations range across the globe, making enemies everywhere to ensure that when the current war dries up another conflict will be ready to take its place, another fanatic leader ginned up to represent the forces allied against the civilization we are proudly attempting to shove down their throats.

Enabling all this is a class of leaders whom Chomsky calls commissars because they invent the philosophy, the advertising that sells the regressive ideas championed by the powerful. Lapham calls them "the upper servants of the oligarchy".

Troubled op-ed columnists sometimes refer to the embarrassing paradox implicit in the waging of secret and undeclared war under the banners of a free, open, and democratic society. They don’t proceed to the further observation that the nation’s foreign policy is cut from the same criminal cloth as its domestic economic policy. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the predatory business dealing that engendered the Wall Street collapse in 2008 both enjoyed the full faith and backing of a government that sets itself above the law.

The upper servants of the oligarchy, among them most of the members of Congress and the majority of the news media’s talking heads, receive their economic freedoms by way of compensation for the loss of their political liberties. The right to freely purchase in exchange for the right to freely speak. If they wish to hold a public office or command attention as upholders of the truth, they can’t afford to fool around with any new, possibly subversive ideas.

Indeed, the upper servants have traded their inheritance of civic participation, what the founders would have called freedom, for purchasing power. The rest of us are constantly tempted to aspire to the same level of power, without recalling the basic truth of democracy: that it positively requires an informed and active citizenry if it is to have a chance of success. Absent that citizenry it immediately descends into plutocracy, from which the society either degenerates into open internecine warfare or is recovered by a citizenry grown once again powerful through knowledge and activity provoked by a sense of being poorly treated.

Democracy in America is a concept like many others in the founding documents, currently unrealized yet still promising a golden age of society should we ever choose to go there. The cost is becoming knowledgeable and active. Or we can continue to buy our way into the reigning plutocracy that is killing the planet.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:20 PM
September 08, 2012
The Future Foreseen

Going through some old family records last night, I came across this epitaph written by Colonel Ezekiel Polk for his tombstone in Bolivar, Tennessee. Born in 1747, he died in 1820, with all his faculties evidently intact.

Here lies the dust of old E.P.,
One instance of mortality.
Pennsylvania born, Car’lina bred
In Tennessee died on his bed.
His youthful days he spent in pleasure,
His latter days in gathering treasure.
From superstition lived quite free
And practiced strict morality.
To holy cheats was never willing
To give one solitary shilling.
He can foresee, and in foreseeing
He equals most of men in being,
That Church and State will join their power
And mis’ry on this country show’r,
And Methodists, with their camp bawling,
Will be the cause of this down-falling;
An era not destined to see,
It waits for poor posterity.
First-fruits and tithes are odious things,
And so are bishops, priests, and kings.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:07 PM
September 07, 2012
Did Clinton Blow the Housing Bubble?

This is fascinating stuff, if true. It has always seemed to me that the disappearance of well-paid blue-collar jobs in America can be traced to Clinton’s embrace of NAFTA. But can we also blame the housing bubble and consequent Great Depression II on him? I put the question out there for those with more knowledge of economics to answer.

From Business Insider, via the invaluable Naked Capitalism.

Basically, it was under Clinton that Fannie and Freddie really began blowing the housing bubble, issuing epic amounts of mortgage-backed debt.

The story that Gasparino tells is basically: Liberal Bill Clinton thought he could use government to make everyone a homeowner and so naturally this ended in disaster.

Gasparino specifically cites the controversial Community Reinvestment Act, a popular conservative bogeyman:

How did they do this? Through rigorous enforcement of housing mandates such as the Community Reinvestment Act, and by prodding mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make loans to people with lower credit scores (and to buy loans that had been made by banks and, later, “innovators” like Countrywide).

The Housing Department was Fannie and Freddie’s top regulator — and under Cuomo the mortgage giants were forced to start ramping up programs to issue more subprime loans to the riskiest of borrowers.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:47 AM
September 05, 2012
Fairy Tales of the GOP

From the Washington Post:

Republicans have in recent months sought to drive a wedge between Clinton and Obama, casting Clinton as a leader who pursued bipartisan compromise and Obama as a president who has taken his party farther to the left. Clinton is expected to reject the Republicans’ claim about Obama’s welfare policy in his speech tonight as he places Obama’s name in nomination.

So now let’s return to those thrilling days of yesteryear, courtesy of Jay Bookman:

I find it endlessly amusing to watch Republicans all but swoon these days when they hear the names of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as if to say “now THOSE are Democrats we could work with… if only we had reasonable Democratic leaders like THAT…”

The president was reviled and attacked bitterly, for failures both real but mainly imagined, and was granted not a scintilla of respect for the office that he held. In fact, the extremist hatred of all things Clinton became downright surreal, to the point that the president and his wife were investigated by the House Government Oversight Committee for involvement in the “murder” of aide Vince Foster. The committee chairman even took a pistol to a watermelon in his backyard to demonstrate how the vile deed was done.

Republican congressional leaders shut down the government repeatedly in their effort to bring Clinton down, and he was publicly accused of everything from rape — yes, “legitimate rape” — to running a major cocaine ring. Hillary Clinton in particular was turned into an object of misogynistic hate and ridicule, under attack for everything from her cookie-baking skills to her gender preference. Republicans at the time could not bring themselves to even utter her first name without spitting it out as a venom-inflected invective.

In other words, the Republicans tried to do to the Clintons precisely what they have since tried so gleefully to do to Barack Obama.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:39 PM
August 27, 2012
Hey, I Didn’t Say It…

James Howard Kunstler did, and he goes on to de-ball the Democrats almost as cruelly. I would never be that mean.

History will notice — even if we are too chickenshit to face it now — that the extraordinary turpitudes of US politics today represent an unprecedented failure of American manhood. It’s everywhere and pervasive along the spectrum of party politics, as untruth is everywhere and pervasive in American life.

The Republican case is too painfully obvious — Congressman Todd Akin being only the latest buffoon from the vast red state flyover cultural wilderness of franchise food and franchise thought to expose himself as lacking the basic male decency to defend womanhood against the consequences of plain-and-simple rape.

In Dixieland Republicanism — now a misty region-of-mind that extends way beyond the old Confederate borders — you have the perfect confluence of sheer stupidity with the put-on, fake religiosity of men too weak to take responsibility for their own actions. They can just pawn everything off on Jesus: the good, the bad, the mystifying, the shameful. All the Republican men have to do is show up at the Nascar oval in time for barbeque.

As for the courage of convictions, watch VP-designate Paul Ryan haul his mom out before a crowd of Florida retirees to prove his allegiance to Medicare and Social Security — two programs he would like to dismantle — on top of the fact that his mom is exactly the sort of multi-millionaire who a sane society would means-test out of receiving old-age support from the less fortunate taxpayers…


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:29 AM
August 21, 2012
I’d Rather Die Than

From the New York Times:

KABUL, Afghanistan — Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Afghanistan on Monday for discussions on the progress of the war, including an intensified wave of insider attacks by Afghan forces on NATO service members, even as New Zealand became the latest coalition partner to announce an accelerated troop withdrawal.

The visit by General Dempsey was characterized by NATO as one of his regular visits to Kabul. But it comes after a trust-eroding two-week stretch in which 10 American service members have been killed by Afghan security forces, in violence designated as insider or green-on-blue attacks.

My late stepfather, Ralph Ingersoll, was a magazine editor, newspaper publisher and World War II vet who had been around the block a time or two and kept his eyes open along the way. One day in 1963 the papers ran those famous pictures of the Vietnamese monk, burning himself to death in the middle of Saigon.

“Take a look at this,” Ralph said. “We’re well and truly fucked now.”

“How come?”

“You’re fucked anytime you get into a fight with people who would rather die than.”

“Than what?”

“Than whatever."

What would Ralph have said if American troops were being routinely gunned down in Saigon's streets by ARVN soldiers we ourselves had armed and trained? The question never arose. Things got bad in Vietnam, all right, but not quite that bad.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:34 PM
August 17, 2012
Assigned Reading

Go read this interview with Salon’s Joan Walsh. Do it now. It’s the most subtle and informed examination of our class wars that I’ve come across anywhere. Afterwards you can go out and buy her new book, What’s the Matter with White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age that Never Was, as I intend to do.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:14 AM
August 14, 2012
Phony Conservatives

Reagan’s budget director, since come to Jesus, tells it like it is:

…Mr. Ryan professes to be a defense hawk, though the true conservatives of modern times — Calvin Coolidge, Herbert C. Hoover, Robert A. Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, even Gerald R. Ford — would have had no use for the neoconconservative imperialism that the G.O.P. cobbled from policy salons run by Irving Kristol’s ex-Trotskyites three decades ago. These doctrines now saddle our bankrupt nation with a roughly $775 billion “defense” budget in a world where we have no advanced industrial state enemies and have been fired (appropriately) as the global policeman.

Indeed, adjusted for inflation, today’s national security budget is nearly double Eisenhower’s when he left office in 1961 (about $400 billion in today’s dollars) — a level Ike deemed sufficient to contain the very real Soviet nuclear threat in the era just after Sputnik. By contrast, the Romney-Ryan version of shrinking Big Government is to increase our already outlandish warfare-state budget and risk even more spending by saber-rattling at a benighted but irrelevant Iran…


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:43 AM
August 10, 2012
Crack Unit

From McClatchy’s:

RALEIGH, N.C. — The man police say walked into a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday morning and shot members of the congregation was a former Fort Bragg soldier with two good conduct awards and five achievement medals…

At the time of his discharge, Page was a psychological-operations specialist. Garcia said psychological operations soldiers provide their commanders with the ability to communicate information to large audiences by radio, television, leaflets and loudspeakers. In the field, these soldiers rely on language skills, regional orientation and knowledge of communications media to deliver information.

Your average non-veteran, reading this, might wonder how a homicidal racist with the I.Q. of a rutabaga could have functioned successfully in such a sophisticated military unit. I may be able help you out on this one.

Page’s old outfit was the Fourth Psychological Operations Group. My own old outfit, back in the mid-1950s, was the First Radio Broadcasting and Leaflet Battalion. It was also at Fort Bragg, also in the Special Warfare Center, and had the same official mission described above by Garcia.

Back when I was there the Special Warfare Center maintained a small library of books, leaflets, and other material bearing on psychological warfare. One day a new commanding officer inspected it, and was appalled by the sloppy appearance of the shelves.

“What the hell is this, sergeant?” the colonel said. “Why aren’t those books dressed?”

To dress, in military terminology, is to form a straight line left to right in order of height.

For serious students of military history, I’ve written before about this crack unit, first in a 2000 piece called “What Did You Do in the Cold War, Daddy?” (pdf), then in 2005, and again in 2009.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:06 PM
July 25, 2012
The Sky is Falling! Again.

In New York Magazine Frank Rich takes on the torrent of nostalgia porn that followed the death of Andy Griffith. Read it all here:

…Some declinists who should know better retreat into the those-were-the-good-old-days bromides that characterized the Andy Griffith hagiographies. Thomas Friedman and Charles Murray have little in common politically, but Friedman’s love letter to his old neighborhood in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park in the sixties and Murray’s paean to his small hometown of Newton, Iowa, in the fifties — both presented as middle-class Utopias united by solid values and a faith in the common good — are interchangeable.

And no wonder: According to the U.S. Census, both towns were more than 99 percent white at the time the two men graduated from high school. Would the midwestern nirvanas of St. Louis Park and Newton have been so friction-free if black or immigrant aliens had moved to Maple Street before Friedman and Murray left town for college? To measure the rapidly evolving America of 2012 against the segregated white America of a half-century earlier is as empirically spurious as contrasting the current bankrupt plight of Stockton, California, with the solvency of Mayberry (which, let us not forget, was not a documentary slice of sixties America but a repurposing of Hollywood back-lot sets first built to stand in for Atlanta streets in the 1939 Gone With the Wind)…

Lost in all our declinist panic is the fact that the election of an African-American president is in itself an instance of American exceptionalism — an unexpected triumph for a country that has struggled for its entire history with the stain of slavery. “Only in America is my story even possible,” Obama is understandably fond of saying, knowing full well that as recently as the year of his birth, 1961, he would not have been welcome in Mayberry, let alone the White House. That his unlikely rise has somehow been twisted into a synonym for America’s supposed collapse over the past four years may be the most disturbing and intractable evidence of our decline of all.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:33 PM
July 17, 2012
The Golden Age of Media

Paul Krugman, at it again:

…Perhaps in a better world we could count on the news media to sort through the conflicting claims. In this world, however, most voters get their news from short snippets on TV, which almost never contain substantive policy analysis. The print media do offer analysis pieces — but these pieces, out of a desire to seem “balanced,” all too often simply repeat the he-said-she-said of political speeches.

Trust me: you will see very few news analyses saying that Mr. Romney proposes huge tax cuts for the rich, with no plausible offset other than big benefit cuts for everyone else — even though this is the simple truth. Instead, you will see pieces reporting that “Democrats say” that this is what Mr. Romney proposes, matched with dueling quotes from Republican sources…

I wish I could say that things were a whole lot better back in the golden age of newspapering. But they weren’t. At least in my day — the 50s and early 60s — they were worse. Then as now, newspapers and television stations were, by definition, owned by millionaires. Apart from a few financially anemic partisan magazines like The Nation and The Progressive and privately financed hobbies like The National Review the print press was even more wedded than today to false equivalency masquerading as fairness. News on radio and TV was pathetic. Anyone who thinks the American media plumbed historic depths in helping to lie us into Iraq is too young to remember how enthusiastically they helped Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson lie us into Vietnam.

It may well be that we are, right now, in the true golden age of news. Enjoy it before the government steps in to control the spigot, as it is already starting to do. For now, though, every man, woman and child, from Ayn Rand Looney Tunes to Nobel Prize winners, can afford his or her own electronic printing press.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:45 PM
July 12, 2012
I Am Not a Koch

Here’s Frank Rich, making a vidious comparison:

Q: House Speaker John Boehner told supporters at a West Virginia fund-raiser that hating Obama is enough reason to go to the polls and conceded that “Americans aren’t going to fall in love with Mitt Romney.” (The latest Washington Post/ABC poll backs him up.) Can people really vote for Romney in spite of him?

Frank Rich: In the television era, only one hopelessly stiff, awkward, and socially inept candidate has ever been elected to the presidency, Richard Nixon. What he also had in common with Romney was a rogue’s gallery of secret fat-cat donors who would only become known after Election Day, thanks to Watergate.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:55 AM
July 11, 2012
The Sad Truth…

…from We Are Respectable Negroes:

For all of the talk in 2008 about post racial America, and the promise of a President who happened to be black, many in the public forgot that whoever is elected to the country’s highest office is a cog in a bigger machine. To believe that you could have radical transformational change through institutional politics was a chimera and a joke. The system is designed to be sedentary, slow, and constrained by inertia.

As such, the Age of Obama vs. the Age of Malcolm is a false comparison. The latter was a figure who worked outside of the system (and in fact created little actionable political change); the former is a product of a multicultural, elite class which is deeply invested in maintaining the status quo of the American as a passive consumer-citizen in a market democracy, and of protecting America as an empire.

Many first time, as well as young voters, did not understand this basic fact of American political life. Now, they are disenchanted and less likely to support Obama in the 2012 election. He is not a radical. He is not a “black” president. Obama is quite simply the President of the United States, and a figure who is part of a system which is beholden to certain interests above and beyond all others.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:01 AM
June 26, 2012
Thou Hast Taken Usury…

…and increase and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by extortion and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord. (Ezekiel, 22.12)

And here is exactly how thou did it, saith Michael Hudson at Naked Capitalism.

The largest asset in any economy is real estate — mainly the land’s site value. So about 80 percent of bank loans are mortgage loans. But by 1980 property prices had turned down as interest rates rose during the Vietnam War and the general Cold War buildup throughout the world. Overseas military spending obliged the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to borrow abroad to prevent the dollar’s exchange rate from declining.

So in the 1980s banks found a new market: corporate raiders treated companies much like real estate, to be bought on credit and managed to create a capital gain. The rise in interest rates to 20 percent by 1980 forced most states to revoke their usury laws, and credit card companies played states against each other in a race to the bottom when it came to protecting consumer rights. So the high-interest junk bond was born, largely at the hands of Michael Milken’s gang at Drexel Burnham.

American industry began to be financialized (and in the process, criminalized). But running a company to make a financial gain is different from running an industrial firm to expand production. Cash flow that was not paid to bankers and bondholders for the credit to buy out stock holders was used for purposes other than direct capital investment — above all for stock buybacks to support their price, and for mergers and acquisitions to acquire yet more companies.

The aim was not to increase production but to increase balance-sheet wealth — while extracting revenue from companies much like landlords bleeding a building. That is the time frame of finance capital, in contrast to industrial capital. It is short-term, not long term. This is why it is extractive rather than productive. The revenue has no counterpart in new direct investment in output, but rather in overhead debt extracting a rising flow of interest from the economy.

“Wealth creation” by debt leveraging — that is, asset-price inflation — was celebrated as a post-industrial economy, as if this were a positive and natural evolution. But in reality it is a lapse back into a rentier economy, and even into a kind of neofeudalism. The post-2008 bailouts have vested a new rentier elite to lord it over the 21st century, thanks to the fact that most gains since 1980 have gone to the 1% — mainly the financial sector, not to the 99%.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:57 PM
June 22, 2012
Drinking Sand Again?

Robert Stein makes a historical argument that things could be worse, and have been. Not sure he’s right, but read it all and see what you think.

Decades later, in the movie “The American President,” a White House adviser tells the Oval Office occupant, “People want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.”

A discouraged President replies, “People don't drink the sand because they're thirsty. They drink the sand because they don't know the difference.”

We once did.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:10 PM
June 20, 2012
Let’s Hear It For Attack Ads!

From this month’s Frank Rich column in New York magazine. Read it all here.

In defiance of the whither-democracy laments of such fellow academic authorities as Kathleen Hall Jamieson (the author of Dirty Politics) and Thomas Patterson (The Vanishing Voter), Geer chastises all the doomsayers for being “so worried about ‘civility’ in campaigns.” He argues not just that “democracy can survive negativity” but that “without negativity, no nation can credibly think of itself as democratic.” He points out, as others have, that negative ads tend to be more accurate than positive ads — a low bar, to be sure — and contain more news that voters can use. Mike Murphy, the irrepressible GOP political operative and wit, agrees. “We have a joke in the business,” he told Geer, that “the only difference between negative and positive ads is that negative ads have facts in them.”


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:21 PM
June 08, 2012
Watch the Dems Sell Out Public Unions

Ian Welsh gets it right:

Ordinary people hate other ordinary people who are doing better than them. The politics of envy isn’t about the rich, whom ordinary people almost never see, but about their neighbours. And Americans want a mean economy, one where everyone has to suffer like they do. As long as the union movement is about a few people keeping higher wages, it will continue to fail. A union movement which is centered around public service unions cannot stand.
I think this is the real story of the Wisconsin elections. Corporate money was a factor, no doubt, as was conservative propaganda, but all the money and spin in the world won’t help you win if most people just flat out don’t agree with you. The fact is, demagogic appeals to people’s fear and envy almost always trump good will and common sense. Nowhere is this more true than in America, where the only thing we love more than money is kicking someone in the guts when they’re down.

But, say lefties like Michael Moore, poll after poll shows that Americans usually come down on the progressive side of the issues. Well, maybe, but election after election keeps putting reactionary Republicans and conservative Democrats back in office. Why is that?

I don’t care what any poll says. This country is firmly, staunchly, stupidly center-right. It doesn’t matter if a poll says most Americans favor single-payer health care, because those same people will turn right around and vote for some right-wing demagogue who cries that it’s “socialism!” Most Americans would benefit from bigger stimulus spending, extended unemployment benefits, and a strong labor movement, but all of that’s irrelevant. Rational considerations like that get thrown out the window as soon as a politician or a talk show host tells people that the dirty fuckin’ Mexicans are stealing their jobs, or that lazy government workers are prospering on their dime, or that class warfare against multimillionaires in the form of the capital gains tax is wrecking our economy.

If Americans are so damn progressive, why do we live in the least progressive nation of all the advanced industrial democracies? Why does public policy always, always, drift in favor of the rich and powerful? The divide and conquer tactics employed by the likes of Scott Walker succeed because so many American fundamentally agree with them. When they’re told about wicked teacher’s unions, they remember the high school civics teacher who always gave them detention and think, “Yeah, fuck teachers!” When they hear about public service workers getting higher pensions than themselves, they remember some petty government department that levied a fine on them for some minor infraction, and they think, “Yeah, fuck government workers!”

As for the Mexicans, they haven’t got a chance in this environment. Anti-Mexican bigotry is de rigueur among the white working class. It is openly and proudly expressed. It’s just taken for granted that Mexicans, who may work as dishwashers and sleep six to a room, somehow constitute a privileged aristocracy that the government mysteriously favors over good hard working white Americans when dispensing all the benefits. This view as common as the day is long, and it’s impossible to dislodge it from a brain where it’s taken root. I’ve given up trying. I’ve been inches away from fist fights over this issue. The fact is, they want to blame Mexicans for their problems for one simple reason: they want to blame Mexicans for their problems. Period. Keep your logic to yourself.

Appealing to the the lowest common denominator works because the lowest common denominator is our most potent driving force. We are the lowest common denominator. We are overlapping, interwoven bundles of lowest common denominators that, working together in perfect synergy, has produced a nation whose most salient traits are militarism, economic inequality, and authoritarian police agencies. There’s a deeply ingrained core of hysterical, money-grubbing, self-defeating stupidity that makes up a large part of our national character. It goes all the way back to pre-colonial times. It’s just who we are. Read Richard Hofstadter, or even de Tocqueville, where the theme also pops up.

(A side note: while of us liberals and progressives are wringing our hands in despair, I’d bet money that the big strategic brains in the Democratic party are betting that going against public employee unions is smart politics. I heard this being ever so gently mentioned on some of the talk shows after the election results came in. Rather than standing up for organized labor on principle, they’re going to kneecap it for short term political gain. Public employees unions are going to be the next bargaining chip, the next sacrificial lamb, in some Obamian grand bargain with the far right. Watch the Democrats sell them out. You just watch them do it.)


Posted by OHollern at 09:37 AM
June 07, 2012
Father Knows Best

Going through old files yesterday I came across a 1990 letter I had evidently written to someone at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America who had asked for advice on a speech. I’d give the same advice today, substituting only Rick Santorum for the late, despicable Jesse Helms of North Carolina (below).

The real issue isn’t stopping sex. Even Helms knows that can’t be done. The real issue is making sex costly and painful for women — although not, of course, for men. If the real purpose of all this legislation and legal effort is indeed to cut down on teenage sex, then I have a suggestion for Mr. Helms. I will join him in support of it, in fact. In all cases of pregnancy outside of marriage the Federal government should carry out mandatory DNA testing to determine the biological father. The Internal Revenue Service would then withhold child support payments from his salary until the child reaches the age of 21. Simple. No problem. This would be the most successful population control program since the Black Plague…

Incidentally, I did a lot of research some years back on the settling of the Pacific Northwest in the years between 1848, roughly, and the 1880s. One of the things that fuels the Reagan world-view is ignorance of history. It might be useful to point out that in those days, teenage sexuality wasn’t much of a problem. Parents virtually (and often literally) sold their daughters into marriage with middle-aged widowers when the girls were 13 and 14. A single girl of 17 was considered an old maid.

The only occupations easily open to single women were teaching, taking in laundry, sewing, and prostitution. Every tiny town had its red-light district, where divorced and abandoned women wound up. Orphaned children were taken in by kindly farmers who worked them half to death, often beating and abusing them, until the kid (if male) got to be big enough to whip the old son of a bitch and run away. These were the true good old days, and any number of histories will give you examples.…

Parental notification for teens is, very openly, a control issue. The state attempts to bring the wayward girl back under Daddy’s control. The essential battle is already lost, of course, since the girl is plainly no longer a virgin. But at least she can be punished. The state can make her undergo birth and the loss of her child to others, or birth and a life sentence of struggling all alone to support that child…

The reason a girl doesn’t tell her parents she’s pregnant is precisely because they have already proven themselves incapable of dealing with the human and universal issues of sexuality. Under the proposed legislation the state would force them into that very area where they have already shown themselves to be awkward, ashamed, incapable, and incompetent.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:20 PM
May 30, 2012
Politics is the Continuation of War by Other Means

President Obama yesterday, awarding Presidential Medals of Freedom:

Administration officials filled the room as well – with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton beaming from the front row as Obama touted the “courage and toughness” of one of her predecessors, Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as America’s top diplomat.
Franklin C. Spinney, a long-time systems analyst for the Pentagon:
Kosovo is a case study in the failure of high complexity weapons and organizational arrangements. U.S. military planners predicted a “precision” bombing campaign would force the Serbs to capitulate in only two to three days, but the air campaign grinded on for 79 days. Yet when it was over, NATO intelligence determined only tiny quantities of Serbian tanks, armored personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery, and trucks were destroyed. Serbian troops marched out of Kosovo in good order, their fighting spirit intact, displaying clean equipment, crisp uniforms, and in larger numbers than planners said were in Kosovo to begin with.

Moreover, the terms of Serb “surrender,” which the undefeated Serb military regarded as a sell out by Serbian President Milosevic, were the same as those the Serbs agreed to at the Rambouillet Conference, before U.S. negotiators and Secretary of State Madeline Albright inserted a poison pill to queer the deal, so we could have what the politically troubled Clinton administration thought would be a neat, short war.

This is business of usual of course, for the world’s most aggressive and war-loving nation. Old folks will remember that Kissinger prolonged the Vietnam war for four bloody years to ensure Nixon’s reelection. Once this was accomplished he bombed Hanoi to save face, then immediately accepted the same peace settlement that Ho Chi Minh had offered four years earlier. Kissinger’s reward was the Nobel Peace Prize. No doubt he would have gotten a Presidential Medal of Freedom, too, if Nixon hadn’t been driven from office.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:24 AM
May 25, 2012
Pissing in a Blue Serge Suit

Here’s David Barash, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

There’s a noteworthy trend among retired military and civilian officials who, in their professional capacity, held senior roles with regard to our nuclear weaponry: When they retire, they often see the error of their ways, denounce what they have done and apologize for how they “succeeded” in their careers…

For example, former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s baleful influence went far beyond escalating the Vietnam War. More than anyone else, he was personally responsible for the immense escalation in the number of deployed U.S. warheads during the 1960s. After retiring from his Defense post and a stint heading up the World Bank, McNamara announced that much of what he had done during the Johnson Administration was quite literally a mistake.

In Errol Morris’s superb documentary, The Fog of War, in addition to admitting his colossal and murderous Vietnam blunders, McNamara commented as follows: “The major lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis is this: the indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will destroy nations. Is it right and proper that today there are 7,500 offensive strategic nuclear warheads, of which 2,500 are on a 15-minute alert to be launched at the decision of one human being?” Clearly, his answer was No.

What a shame that he didn’t act on this realization when he had the authority to do so!

A politician’s first duty, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, is to get elected. This requires telling a frightened, ignorant and superstitious electorate what it wants to hear. A Reagan or a George W. Bush can do this with an untroubled heart, since what we want to hear is what he wants to say.

A rising bureaucrat may or may not be in agreement with those in a position to advance his career. If the latter, he must put his convictions in a blind trust for future use, once he reaches the top of his personal ladder. Then, he tells himself, he will be free at last do the right thing.

But that day never comes; once a courtier, always a courtier. Look at Robert M. Gates and Colin Powell, good soldiers to the last.

Nothing is left, then, but to write your memoirs and hope the next guy will learn from them. It’s no use blaming McNamara for this. If he had “acted on this realization” at the time, McGeorge Bundy or some other striver left over from the Kennedy White House would have become secretary of defense.

It would have been, as Lyndon Johnson used to say in his simple, homespun way, like pissing in a blue serge suit. The wearer gets a nice, warm feeling, and nobody else notices a thing.

McNamara couldn’t have have changed the course of history a bit by rebelling, any more than Obama could have called off our pointless and idiotic “War on Terror” in 2009. It’s what the boss ordered, and we ordered it because we are what we are.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:21 PM
April 24, 2012
Lying in State

In A People’s History of the United States, 1492 - Present Howard Zinn excerpts an article I wrote for the New York Times in 1973. I always figured these few paragraphs would turn out to be my only durable literary legacy, and in an odd way this seems to be coming true.

Chasing down my old op-ed piece earlier today on Google, I discovered that Zinn’s brief excerpts have gone viral in the flourishing world of ghost-written student essays. The following paragraphs are the ones being heisted from Zinn’s book, repackaged, repurposed, and resold to student plagiarists as nuggets of original research. For whatever further service I may be to scholars, a pdf of the full text is here. The map below (you can steal that too; I did) shows where our bombs fell on Laos between 1965 and 1975.

The Pentagon’s most recent lies about bombing Cambodia bring back a question that often occurred to me when I was press attache at the American Embassy in Vientiane, Laos.

Why did we bother to lie? When I first arrived in Laos, I was instructed to answer all press questions about our massive and merciless bombing campaign in that tiny country with: “At the request of the Royal Laotian Government, the United States is conducting unarmed reconnaissance flights accompanied by armed escorts who have the right to return if fired upon.”

This was a lie. Every reporter to whom I told it knew it was a lie. Hanoi knew it was a lie. The International Control Commission knew it was a lie. Every interested Congressman and newspaper reader knew it was a lie....

After all, the lies did serve to keep something from somebody, and the somebody was us.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:55 PM
April 22, 2012
Penal Products, Inc.

Did you think that all they made behind those walls was license plates? Let Steve Fraser and Joshua B. Freeman disabuse you. An excerpt:

The Kansas Wagon Company, for example, signed a five-year contract in 1877 that prevented the state from raising the rental price of labor or renting to other employers. The company also got an option to renew the lease for 10 more years, while the government was obliged to pay for new machinery, larger workshops, a power supply, and even the building of a switching track that connected to the trunk line of the Pacific Railway and so ensured that the product could be moved effectively to market.

Penal institutions all over the country became auxiliary arms of capitalist industry and commerce. Two-thirds of all prisoners worked for private enterprise.

Today, strikingly enough, government is again providing subsidies and tax incentives as well as facilities, utilities, and free space for corporations making use of this same category of abjectly dependent labor…

“Now,” means our second Gilded Age and its aftermath. In these years, the system of leasing out convicts to private enterprise was reborn. This was a perverse triumph for the law of supply and demand in an era infatuated with the charms of the free market. On the supply side, the U.S.holds captive 25% of all the prisoners on the planet: 2.3 million people. It has the highest incarceration rate in the world as well, a figure that began skyrocketing in 1980 as Ronald Reagan became president. As for the demand for labor, since the 1970s American industrial corporations have found it increasingly unprofitable to invest in domestic production. Instead, they have sought out the hundreds of millions of people abroad who are willing to, or can be pressed into, working for far less than American workers.

As a consequence, those back home — disproportionately African-American workers — who found themselves living in economic exile, scrabbling to get by, began showing up in similarly disproportionate numbers in the country’s rapidly expanding prison archipelago. It didn’t take long for corporate America to come to view this as another potential foreign country, full of cheap and subservient labor — and better yet, close by.

What began in the 1970s as an end run around the laws prohibiting convict leasing by private interests has now become an industrial sector in its own right, employing more people than any Fortune 500 corporation and operating in 37 states. And here’s the ultimate irony: our ancestors found convict labor obnoxious in part because it seemed to prefigure a new and more universal form of enslavement. Could its rebirth foreshadow a future ever more unnervingly like those past nightmares?



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:43 PM
April 20, 2012
Anybody Home?

From Robert Stein, at Connecting.the.Dots:

After morphing into a Tea Party zealot to win nomination, the GOP choice is in the kind of tricky transition described by JFK while running against Nixon in 1960: “It must be hard getting up every morning trying to decide who you’re going to be that day.”

Nixon lost then but won eight years later by virtually erasing himself to edge out disorganized Democrats. Covering his campaign, Gloria Steinem wrote: “When Nixon is alone in a room, is anyone there?”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:34 PM
April 19, 2012
George Washington, Nanny of Our Country

Einer Elhauge, writing in The New Republic, reports that while this Supreme Court’s Originalists may oppose federal mandates, the Originals themselves didn’t:

…In 1790, the very first Congress — which incidentally included 20 framers — passed a law that included a mandate: namely, a requirement that ship owners buy medical insurance for their seamen. This law was then signed by another framer: President George Washington. That’s right, the father of our country had no difficulty imposing a health insurance mandate.

That’s not all. In 1792, a Congress with 17 framers passed another statute that required all able-bodied men to buy firearms. Yes, we used to have not only a right to bear arms, but a federal duty to buy them. Four framers voted against this bill, but the others did not, and it was also signed by Washington. Some tried to repeal this gun purchase mandate on the grounds it was too onerous, but only one framer voted to repeal it.

Six years later, in 1798, Congress addressed the problem that the employer mandate to buy medical insurance for seamen covered drugs and physician services but not hospital stays. And you know what this Congress, with five framers serving in it, did? It enacted a federal law requiring the seamen to buy hospital insurance for themselves. That’s right, Congress enacted an individual mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance. And this act was signed by another founder, President John Adams…


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:35 PM
April 05, 2012
A Meme is Born

While the rest of us were giggling over Rick Santorum’s fact-free attack in California’s university system, Sara Robinson wasn’t. I’d bet ten thousand Romney dollars that her decoding of Santorum’s babble is right on target.

Santorum was setting the stage. He warned us, very clearly: Following the War on Public Employees and the War on Women, this will be the summer of the War on Public Universities. Whether the proposals will be to revoke their charters, close campuses, or sell off their facilities to for-profit colleges, you can bet that ALEC already has the bills in the can, and will be introducing them in state legislatures presently.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:17 AM
April 04, 2012
The Sacred Duty of the Corporation

Things Al Franken and I didn’t know, from Naked Capitalism: it seems we were both tricked back in the 1990s by slick-talking corporate hucksters:

“It is literally — literally — malfeasance for a corporation not to do everything it legally can to maximize its profits. That’s a corporation’s duty to its shareholders.”

Since this sentiment is so familiar, it may come as a surprise that it is factually incorrect: In reality, there is nothing in any U.S. statute, federal or state, that requires corporations to maximize their profits. More surprising still is that, in this instance, the untruth was not uttered as propaganda by a corporate lobbyist but presented as a fact of life by one of the leading lights of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, Sen. Al Franken. Considering its source, Franken’s statement says less about the nature of a U.S. business corporation’s legal obligations — about which it simply misses the boat — than it does about the point to which laissez-faire ideology has wormed its way into the American mind…

It was only in 1997 that [the Business Roundtable] argued that taking care of shareholders was the best way to take care of the remaining stakeholders, rather than the other way around:

“…the paramount duty of management and of boards of directors is to the corporation’s stockholders; the interests of other stakeholders are relevant as a derivative of the duty to stockholders. The notion that the board must somehow balance the interests of stockholders against the interests of other stakeholders fundamentally misconstrues the role of directors.”

This doctrine, known as “shareholder primacy,” now reigns in the corporate world today, and it has so increased the power of those whom it has benefited that it will not be easy to dislodge. Those who propagate it believe, or would have us believe, that it is based in law; in fact, it is supported by no more than ideology.

This week’s New Yorker has a fascinating piece on ExxonMobil by Steve Coll which contains this exchange between Diane Sawyer and the company’s present CEO, Rex Tillerson:

Sawyer then asked him, “What is the responsibility of a multinational corporation to make the world better through charitable activity? Is it a tithe of ten per cent? How much?”

“Ultimately this is our shareholders’ money we’re spending,” Tillerson said. “So it’s not my money to tithe. It’s not the corporation’s. It’s our shareholders’.”

Tillerson’s predecessor as CEO, Lee Raymond, retired in 2006 with a going-away present from the shareholders of $400,000,000.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:17 PM
March 31, 2012
Contempt for Excellence

Bertrand Russell in Education and the Good Life, 1926:

In so far as the schools can rely upon the genuine merits of America, there is no need to associate the teaching of American patriotism with the inculcation of false standards. But where the Old World is superior to the New, it becomes necessary to instill a contempt for genuine excellence. The intellectual level in Western Europe and the artistic level in Eastern Europe are, on the whole, higher than in America. Throughout Western Europe, except in Spain and Portugal, there is less theological superstition than in America. In almost all European countries the individual is less subject to herd domination than in America: his inner freedom is greater even where his political freedom is less. In these respects, the American public schools do harm. The harm is essential to the teaching of an exclusive American patriotism. The harm, as with the Japanese and the Jesuits, comes from regarding the pupil as a means to an end, not as ends in themselves. The teacher should love his children better than his State or his Church; otherwise he is not an ideal teacher.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:52 PM
March 28, 2012
Desperate Housewives of the GOP

Frank Rich explores the history of the GOP’s devolution from birth control crusaders to vaginal probers. You will be astonished to learn that politics and not primitive religious doctrine was behind the shift. A taste:

…The GOP started backing away from its traditional beneficence on women’s issues at the tail end of the Nixon presidency. Nixon had a progressive GOP take for his time: He supported the Equal Rights Amendment, appointed an impressive number of talented women, and in 1972 signed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act to strengthen the policing of workplace discrimination. But, in a telling shift a few months earlier, he also vetoed a bipartisan bill enabling child care for the millions of mothers then rapidly joining the workforce. As Melich observes, it would have been consistent with GOP frugality if Nixon had rejected the bill solely because of its cost. But his veto was accompanied by a jarring statement that child care would threaten American families by encouraging women to work. The inspiration for this unexpected reactionary broadside came not from fundamentalist clergy but from cynical, secular political strategists eager to exploit the growing backlash against the sixties feminist movement, much as the “southern strategy” was exploiting the backlash against the sixties civil-rights movement.

This tactic preceded Roe v. Wade, which was decided in 1973. The new GOP was hostile to female liberation, period, not just female sexual freedom. The pitch was articulated by Newt Gingrich in his first successful congressional race in Georgia in 1978. His opponent, a state senator named Virginia Shapard, crusaded for the Equal Rights Amendment and bankrolled her own campaign. That uppity profile gave the Gingrich forces an advertising message: “Newt will take his family to Washington and keep them together; Virginia will go to Washington and leave her husband and children in the care of a nanny.” Newt won by nine percentage points. One of his campaign officials tied his victory to the strategy of “appealing to the prejudice against working women, against their not being home…”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:08 PM
March 26, 2012
The Evolution of the Tea Party

More from The Twentieth Century by historian Howard Zinn:

1976 was not only a presidential election year — it was the much-anticipated year of the bicentennial celebration, and it was filled with much-publicized events all over the country. The great effort that went into the celebration suggests that it was seen as a way of restoring American patriotism, invoking the symbols of history to unite people and government and put aside the protest mood of the recent past.

But there did not seem to be great enthusiasm for it. When the 200th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party was celebrated in Boston, an enormous crowd turned out, not for the official celebration, but for the “People’s Bi-Centennial” counter-celebration, where packages marked “Gulf Oil” and “Exxon” were dumped into the Boston Harbor, to symbolize opposition to corporate power in America.


Click image to enlarge


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:36 PM
March 24, 2012
When Will We Ever Learn?

This is from The Twentieth Century by historian Howard Zinn, published 32 years ago. Hardly a word or a number would need to be changed today.

One percent of the nation owns a third of the wealth. The rest of the wealth is distributed in such a way as to turn those in the 99 percent against one another: small property owners against the propertyless, black against white, native-born against foreign-born, intellectuals and professionals against the uneducated and unskilled. These groups have resented one another and warred against one another with such vehemence and violence as to obscure their common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country…

In this uncertain situation of the seventies, going into the eighties, it is very important to the Establishment — that uneasy club of business executives, generals and politicos — to maintain the historic pretension of national unity, in which the government represents all the people, and the common enemy is overseas, not at home, where disasters of economics or war are unfortunate errors or tragic accidents, to be corrected by the members of the same club that brought the disasters. It is important also to make sure this artificial unity of highly privileged and slightly privileged is the only unity — that the 99 percent remain split in countless ways and turn against one another to vent their angers.

How skillful to tax the middle class to pay for the relief of the poor, building resentment on top of humiliation! How adroit to bus poor black youngsters into poor white neighborhoods while the schools of the rich remain untouched and the wealth of the nation, doled out carefully where children need free milk, is drained for billion-dollar aircraft carriers.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:26 PM
March 17, 2012
Our Godless Past

This is a letter dated 17th July 1902 to Mr. W.F. Clark of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, from George F. Baer, president of the Philadephia & Reading Railway Company. Mr. Clark had urged Mr. Baer to end an ongoing strike of his railroad:

I see that you are a religious man; but you are evidently biased in favor of the right of the working man to control a business in which he has no other interest than to secure fair wages for the work he does.

I beg of you not to be discouraged. The rights and interests of the laboring man will be protected and cared for — not by the labor agitators, but by the Christian men to whom God in His infinite wisdom has given the control of the property interests of the country, and upon the successful management of which so much depends. Do not be discouraged. Pray earnestly that right may triumph, always remembering that the Lord God Omnipotent still reigns, and that His reign is one of law and order, and not of violence and crime.

The Hearst paper in New York said, “The pious pirate is no new thing. Baer and the relations between a just God and the thieving trusts must be left to the pulpit for adequate treatment.” The Times said the letter “verged very close upon unconscious blasphemy.”

The religious newspapers went farther. From Chicago: “selfish ignorant cant that this captain of industry mistakes for religion. This is the sort of thing that makes anarchists.”

From New York: “A ghastly blasphemy.”

From Boston: “The doctrine of the divine right of kings was bad enough, but not so intolerable as the doctrine of the divine right of plutocrats to administer things in general with the presumption that what it pleases them to do is the will of God.”

Today these hostile reactions from the MSM of 1902 read as odd relics of the nation’s remote pre-Christian past. Today Mr. Baer’s views have become the guiding principle of one of America’s two large — I can’t bring myself to say great — political parties.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:19 AM
March 14, 2012
Privatizing the First Amendment

Corey Robin points out that government, constitutionally barred from censoring free speech, has happily outsourced the job to the private sector — most recently in Arizona. Interesting piece. Read the whole thing here.

Second, in a way, I should have foreseen this fusion because, as I argued in my first book Fear: The History of a Political Idea, it has historically fallen to employers rather than the state to police the political opinions and practices of citizens. Focused as we are on the state, we often miss the fact that some of the most intense programs of political indoctrination have not been conducted by the government but have instead been outsourced to the private sector. While less than 200 men and women went to jail for their political beliefs during the McCarthy years, as many as two out of every five American workers were monitored for their political beliefs.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:34 PM
February 24, 2012
When Men Were Real Men

Apropos of nothing, here’s an item from the late Abigail Van Buren’s advice column in the Washington Evening Star of September 3, 1963:

DEAR ABBY: I just read the letter from A Buddy’s Buddy who cried along with the guy who didn’t want to live any more because he got a “Dear John” letter from his girl back home. Well, I feel sorry for all the commanding officers who have to play wet nurse to a lot of slobbering crybabies who want to blow their brains out because some two-timing little tramp gave them the brush. A real man would go out and celebrate getting rid of her. If A Buddy’s Buddy is typical of our men in uniform today we should recall some of the old soldiers from World War II. CAREER MAN.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:38 PM
February 08, 2012
Some Things Never Change

Googling myself just now, as who hasn’t, I came across this 1982 meditation in The Nation on the worthlessness of the CIA. Nothing has happened in the 30 years since to change my opinion that we would be better off if the agency had never been spawned. The only change I’d make today is to reveal the identity of Mr. D____. He was the late Larry Devlin, who was to reveal in his 2007 memoirs that he was once ordered to kill Congo’s prime minister Patrice Lumumba with poisoned toothpaste, but dragged his feet until Belgian spooks murdered the man instead.

Most of the piece is after the jump. Here goes:

Years ago there was a really good murder in the upstate New York town where I was a cub reporter. The newsmagazines, the wire services and the seven New York City dailies all sent reporters. But the little Middletown Times-Herald managed to stay out in front of these out-of-town hit-and-run artists, because we knew the territory. So when an eyewitness to the killing turned up, we got the tip.

The managing editor sent me to interview the man, an unemployed laborer with kids to feed. When he seemed reluctant to talk, I encouraged him with $25 of the paper’s money. Not only did we beat the competition with his dramatic eyewitness account, we beat them again the following day with the story of how he flunked a lie detector test on it, up in Albany. I listed the $25 on my expense account as “Bribe,” but the managing editor made me change it to “Miscellaneous Expenses.” I never paid for information again, on that newspaper or any of the others I worked for, even if it did seem like a good way to get imaginative stories.


The C.I.A. man gave me a holler as I walked by his office in our Casablanca consulate. Since I knew lots of people from my job with the U.S. Information Agency, he thought I might be able to identify some faces in a pile of photos he had. They had been taken at a party the Russians had given to mark the opening of their new consulate in town. (We had all been invited, but the American ambassador didn’t want us to go. He was frightened of the Russians, poor little man; maybe he thought they would infect us.)

I identified a dozen or so of the guests, but I didn’t know one particular man who was in so many of the photos that the C.I.A. officer thought he must be important. “Bill,” I said — that’s not his real name, naturally, since Reagan might jail me for ten years under the naming-of-agents act if I used it —“Bill,” I said, “all you had to do was go to the party and you could have been introduced to him.” It would have been a break for the taxpayers, too, not having to pay for an extra set of prints from the society photographers every time the Communists threw a party.


A Moroccan came to my office one afternoon to ask if I had seen that month’s copy of the magazine he published. It had a picture of dead Vietnamese on the cover, identified as victims of American bombing. The U.S.Information Agency had sent him the picture a long time ago; it showed civilian victims of a Vietcong rocket attack.

“In Arabic we have a saying,” this poisonous little toad told me. “‘A man can bite, or a man can kiss.”’ Now that he had shown America his teeth, he was ready to kiss her. He would print anything we wanted in his magazine. We could even plant somebody in his office, if we liked, to watch over our interests.

I told him he would just have to keep on biting, since the U.S.I.A. didn’t have funds for that kind of thing. “Well, there are some Americans in your embassy who do,” he said, and he was right. The C.I.A. pays to place garbage in rags like his. Of course I didn’t say that, because I was a diplomat, then.


One day I went out to the labor office in Khouribga, a Moroccan mining town, with our labor attaché Jim Mattson. (I can reveal his name because he was a State Department officer, not an intelligence op.) He was the only one of us in the consulate who spoke Arabic.

Afterward he told me what he had asked the labor officials: Did a man fill out a card when he registered for work? Where do you put the card then? Do you mind if I look? Where do you put his card after you find him a job? How long does the card stay in that file before you throw it out? How many are still in the file? And so on…

By the end he had learned plenty of things about the labor situation in Morocco’s biggest phosphate mining center. One of them was that the office provided jobs and benefits for practically nobody except the functionaries who worked there. Over the months and years, Jim had gotten to know more about Morocco than any of us, and that’s the way he did it. He just walked in and asked polite questions.


In my first week as the press attaché at our embassy in Laos, the C.I.A. station chief briefed me on what he thought I should know about his operation. (I won’t reveal his name, either, although it was spelled out on his parking bay in the embassy lot. The signs went like this: “Ambassador,” “Deputy Chief of Mission,” “USAID Director,” “Mr. D_____.”) Mr. D____ told me many secret things, and I learned more elsewhere as time went on. I never leaked them, but every one of them got out somehow and appeared in the papers sooner or later. It didn’t make any difference, though. We kept on doing them anyway, because Nixon and Kissinger felt they were things we ought to be doing. They kept on not working, too, and now Laos is a colony of Vietnam.


Reagan has fired William Kennedy, his U.S. Attorney in San Diego, for telling the newspapers that the Justice Department was blocking the indictment of a car thief named Miguel Nassar Haro. Nassar used to sunlight as chief of Mexico’s Directorate of Federal Security. He moonlighted not only as the head of a ring that stole cars in the United States for sale in Mexico but as a C.I.A. source on the rebels in El Salvador and Guatemala.

The incident raises disturbing moral and legal questions, unless you are as hard to disturb as the President and his Attorney General. It also raises two questions that are neither moral nor legal but just common-sensical.

This: if Reagan/Haig/Casey/Weinberger had known everything there was to know about the rebels in Central America — not just what a Mexican car thief could tell them, but absolutely everything — what would they have done about it? Anything different? And this: if you pay a car thief to steal you a Chrysler, he will steal you a Chrysler; if you let him know you’re interested in Sandinista support of the Salvadoran rebels, what will turn up in your driveway?


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:09 PM
January 24, 2012
At Least Gingrich is not Black

Robert Paul Wolff is a Jewish philosopher who taught at Harvard, Columbia and Chicago before becoming head of the Afro-American Studies department at the University of Massachusetts. Now retired in North Carolina, he blogs at The Philosopher’s Stone. The excerpt below is from an essay called “Free, White, and Twenty-one.” In it he takes on the political question of the week: What Can South Carolina Possibly See in Newt?

It was more or less at this time that a new and curious linguistic practice entered the public speech of America. Ordinary White working class families began to be referred to, and increasingly referred to themselves, as “middle class.” Now “middle class” is itself a rather suspicious bastard sociological category. It does not have the historical roots and deeper meaning of “petty bourgeoisie,” which conveys the notion of shopkeepers and small business owners who, although owners of their means of production, are yet not the great geldbesitzeren or haute bourgeois who command the economic heights. But it also does not merely mean “between rich and poor.” It does, in the American context, somewhat correspond to the old distinction between “suits” and “shirts” or “white collar” and “blue collar.” However, in the racially segregated America of the ’50s and ’60s, “middle class” clearly meant suburban, respectable, not living in an inner city ghetto. It meant NOT BLACK.

The Civil Rights Movement challenged the Black Codes, it challenged Jim Crow, it challenged the deeply embedded caste system of American society. And it was successful! I will yield to no one in my outrage at the discriminations that still afflict Black Americans, but I am old enough to recall what this country was like in the ’40s and ’50s, and that change has been dramatic, transformative, and irreversible.

We may celebrate this change as the greatest progressive victory of the twentieth century, but to a large number of Americans, the change has been devastating, incomprehensible, and hateful. No longer can Whites at the bottom of the economic ladder console themselves, in the dark night of their souls, with the secret thought, AT LEAST I AM NOT BLACK.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:35 PM
January 09, 2012
What’s the Matter with Iowa?

Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest and a history professor at Barnard College, writing in RD Magazine:

When I lived in Iowa in the 1970s, my father was pastor of one of the largest evangelical congregations in the state. Although he remained a Republican to his death, my father was resolutely apolitical in the pulpit.

Things began to change for Iowa evangelicals — and for politically conservative evangelicals elsewhere — in the late 1970s. Iowa, in fact, was the proving ground for abortion as a political issue. Until 1978, evangelicals in Iowa (as elsewhere) were overwhelmingly indifferent to abortion, even after the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973; they considered it a Catholic issue.

The Iowa race for United States Senate in 1978 pitted Dick Clark, the incumbent Democratic senator, against a Republican challenger, Roger Jepsen. All of the polling and the pundits considered it an easy win for Clark. In the final weekend of the campaign, however, pro-lifers (predominantly Catholic) leafleted church parking lots all over the state. Two days later, in an election with a very low turnout, Jepsen narrowly defeated Clark, thereby persuading Paul Weyrich and other architects of the religious right that abortion would work for them as a political issue.

Politically conservative evangelicals in Iowa began to mobilize. Ronald Reagan carried Iowa in 1980 over Jimmy Carter, the incumbent, evangelical Democrat. In 1988 I returned to Iowa for the precinct caucuses to write about evangelicals negotiating the vagaries of political life. Many were self-identified “housewives” who were “lobbying from the kitchen table.”

The religious right in Iowa never looked back. Concerned Women for America, Beverly LaHaye’s organization, became a political force. Rush Limbaugh and other fixtures of the downstream media became staples on WHO, Iowa’s Clear Channel radio station. The radio station KWKY, located — literally — in the middle of an Iowa cornfield, became a beacon of evangelical political rhetoric, most of it leaning toward the hard right. Gannett’s purchase of the Des Moines Register in 1985 diminished the newspaper’s independent voice.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:28 PM
January 04, 2012
More on USA, Inc.

Here’s Nicholas von Hoffman (Make-Believe Presidents, Pantheon Books, 1978) on the apparently indissoluble marriage between presidents and the Pentagon:

Laissez-faire, free market competition, is incompatible with the coordination, planning and allocation of resources for mobilization and the quasi-permanent war alert of our own times. Conservatives, with their free-enterprise faith, seem unable to grasp that their military and militant foreign policy assures the continued existence of the centralized state they profess to abhor.

This remains true, with the result that those segments of industry involved in war production have become so close to the Pentagon as to become indistinguishable, combining government inefficiency with private greed. Militarization is a job creator for sure, but of jobs that don’t need doing. Our massive war machine is a solution in search of a problem. Too often, it creates one.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:10 PM
Original Intent

From The Loyal Opposition:

At an early-morning rally today, a few hours before the Iowa caucuses begin, [Romney] discussed his love for the patriotic song — probably the most beloved in the canon — and recited several of the song’s verses, strongly suggesting that its vision of the country differed from President Obama’s…

The lyrics were written in 1894 by the Massachusetts poet Katharine Lee Bates, an ardent feminist and lesbian who was deeply disillusioned by the greed and excess of the Gilded Age.

Her original third verse was an expression of that anger:

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:23 PM
January 03, 2012

Two things here. First the Orwellian splendor of “build-down.” Second, Mr. Adams is unquestionably right. We don’t need a military capable of fighting two wars or 1.5 wars or even one war. We haven’t been invaded since 1812, unless you consider the question from the point of view of a Native American. Our bloated military has become the economic equivalent of a WPA in reverse, blowing things up so it can rebuild them. It would make more sense to fold the Navy into the Coast Guard, the rest of the Army into the Corps of Engineers, and the Air Force into American Airlines.

“Even at a trillion dollars, this is a shallower build-down than any of the last three we’ve done,” said Gordon Adams, who oversaw military budgets in the Clinton White House and is now a fellow at the Stimson Center, a nonprofit research group in Washington. “It would still be the world’s most dominant military. We would be in an arms race with ourselves.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:09 PM
January 02, 2012
Wrong Way Reagan

Jimmy from Sharon sends along this reminder from Capital Gains and Games that Saint Ronald, when it came to taxes, was actually playing for the other team. Of course you already knew this, but you might want to pass it on to your Republican friends. You do have Republican friends, don’t you? They will appreciate your input.


The cornerstone of Governor Reagan’s economic program was not the ballyhooed budget reductions but a sweeping tax package four times larger than the previous record California tax increase obtained by Governor Brown in 1959. Reagan’s proposal had the distinction of being the largest tax hike ever proposed by any governor in the history of the United States.”

The top income tax rate was raised from 7 percent to 10 percent, the sales tax rate went from 3 percent to 5 percent, the cigarette tax was increased from 3 cents to 10 cents per pack, the alcohol tax was raised from $1.50 to $2 per gallon, the bank and corporate tax rate went up from 5.5 percent to 7 percent, and the inheritance tax rose from a range of 2 percent to 10 percent to a range of 3 percent to 15 percent. According to Cannon, this was essentially the Democrats’ wish list of tax initiatives, with the sole exception that it did not institute tax withholding, which Reagan adamantly opposed. In Cannon’s words, “An economist who analyzed the tax bill without knowing its political background might conclude that it had been crafted by a New Deal Democrat…

[President Reagan’s] aides began pressuring him to support a tax increase. Conservative activists were appalled that Reagan would even consider such a thing, but he eventually endorsed the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982. According to a Treasury Department analysis, it raised taxes by close to one percent of GDP, equivalent to $150 billion per year today, and was probably the largest peacetime tax increase in American history.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:15 PM
December 19, 2011
Dissecting Newt

God know what he was telling Freddie Mac, but here's a summary of the clueless Newtster’s most recent attempt on history:

Gingrich, who explained that he was outraged by activist liberal elitist judges imposing their secular values on America (and more generally by “lawyers” who have come “to think that they can dictate to the rest of us”), declared that as president he would simply ignore Supreme Court decisions he didn’t like, abolish Federal appeals courts whose “anti-American” judges ruled in ways he didn’t like, and encourage Congress to subpoena judges to explain their decisions.

He claimed that Lincoln had similarly “just ignored” the Dred Scott decision, when he issued his Emancipation Proclamation; he said that Jefferson had similarly abolished Federal circuit courts whose judges he opposed; and he asserted that Jackson and FDR had also taken stances against what he declared to be the spurious doctrine of “judicial supremacy”— that the courts can pass judgment on the constitutionality of presidential actions or acts of Congress.

He insisted that the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision on detainees at Guantanamo could be declared “null and void” by the president “because it infringes on my duties as commander in chief to protect the country.”

He wrapped up his case by invoking those infallible and all-seeing guides, the Founding Fathers, who he said “were very distrustful of judges, saw them as an elite instrument of government designed to oppress people. And, as a result, consciously made the judicial branch the third branch and the weakest branch.”

You knew instinctively, of course, that all this was just more waste product from the GOP’s current White Hope (its Black Hope having self-destructed). But you probably didn’t have the time or inclination to do exploratory surgery. However The Liberal Curmudgeon (from which the above excerpt comes) has done a thorough dissection for you; sadly, the patient did not survive.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:01 PM
December 18, 2011
The Nonexistential Nuclear Nonthreat

In The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker writes:

Finally, the nuclear peace theory cannot explain why the wars that did take place often had a nonnuclear force provoking (or failing to surrender to) a nuclear one — exactly the matchup that the nuclear threat ought to have deterred. North Korea, North Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Panama and Yugoslavia defied the United States; Afghan and Chechen insurgents defied the Soviet Union; Egypt defied Britain and France; Egypt and Syria defied Israel; Vietnam defied China; and Argentina defied the United Kingdom. For that matter the Soviet Union established its stranglehold on Eastern Europe during just those years (1945-490) when the United States had nuclear weapons and it did not. They correctly anticipated that for anything but an existential danger, the implicit threat of a nuclear response was a bluff. The Argentinian junta ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands in full confidence that Britain would not retaliate by reducing Buenos Aires to a radioactive crater. Nor could Israel have creditably threatened the amassed Egyptian armies in 1967 or 1973, to say nothing of Cairo.

Pinker’s argument here is a powerful one, and should be taken into account by the dangerous fools who are now trying to lie us into another war, this time to save ourselves from atomic annihilation at the hands of Iran. But that country’s so far imaginary nuclear bomb would not be aimed at us. The Iranians would see it as comforting (although unusable) insurance against Israel’s equally nonthreatening nuclear capability. That capability, we should not forget, was at best unopposed by the United States back in the 60s. At worst, it was encouraged, even facilitated, by Washington.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:34 PM
December 14, 2011
War Criminals

I belong to an online forum called Vietnam Old Hacks, made up of correspondents and other observers of our murderous Southeast Asian follies. Lately there has been a discussion of whether a forum member should have flat-out called Henry Kissinger a war criminal.

We Americans learn nothing, absolutely nothing, ever, from our stupidities of even the very recent past. And our Vietnam idiocy, given the shortness of our national memory, now seems even more remote and irrelevant than Clinton’s repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Still, what’s an Old Hack to do? He’s got to try. So here’s Andrew Pearson, who was a television cameraman, correspondent and producer in Vietnam back in the day:

In 1970, Telford Taylor’s book was published: Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy. The subtitle: Is the US guilty of war crimes in Vietnam? He was America’s chief counsel for the prosecution at the Nazi war-crimes trials at Nuremberg in 1946. When I saw the cover of the book some forty years ago, I wasn’t ready to absorb the argument though by then I had witnessed in South Vietnam what various Geneva Conventions would say were crimes of war.

On page 206, Taylor writes, “... when the nature, scale and effect of intervention changed so drastically in 1965, it is more than “puzzling” (as the Senate Refugee Subcommittee put it) that virtually no one in high authority had the capacity and inclination to perceive and articulate the inevitable consequences. How could it ever have been thought that air strikes, free-fire zones and a mass uprooting and removal of the rural population were the way to win ‘the allegiance of the South Vietnamese’? By what mad cerebrations could a ratio of 28 to 1 between our investments in bombing, and in relief for those we had wounded and made homeless, have even been contemplated, let alone adopted as the operational pattern? One may well echo the acrid French epigram, and say that all this ‘is worse than a crime, it is a blunder’— the most costly and tragic national blunder in American history.... Somehow we failed ourselves to learn the lessons we undertook to teach at Nuremberg, and that failure is today’s American tragedy.”

Forty years after having read Taylor’s book, I really don’t mind at all when those of us call the old “leaders” war criminals. It’s apt. Reagan tried to get everybody to get over it with his invocation that it was a “noble cause.” Not even a blunder. Where does responsibility lie? Do we excuse our decision makers because, looking back, they didn’t know anything about the history of the place — didn’t think they needed to know anything about it. But the trouble with wars is that a lot of people can’t “get over it” for a variety of reasons. The older they get the closer the old memories cling. Truth seems to mature with age and language becomes more blunt.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:15 PM
War Criminals, cont’d

The following is Joseph Galloway’s reply to the Vietnam Old Hacks post (above) by Andrew Pearson:

Telford Taylor was right. You are right in your explanation of why we, in a profession that once prided itself as keepers of the truth, who were witnesses, cannot simply leave hard and harsh judgments to the historians long after we are dead. Why we hold the truth closer and more dear and speak more harshly as we grow old.

Vietnam and the pardoning of Richard Nixon and a national willingness to just slide by the truth and not hold up the war criminals to public scrutiny and justice set our feet on a path that led us straight into the fucking mess we find ourselves in as a nation right now. It led us straight into Bush Junior’s administration and two unnecessary wars — one only now ending after over eight years duration, 5,000 dead American men and women, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, three million Iraqis turned into refugees inside and outside their homeland; the other expected to drag on till 2014 and sputter to as uncertain a conclusion as the one in Iraq.

The Bush policymakers governed on fear and drove the public into acceptance of a foul and stinking trade-off — our freedoms in exchange for security against the evil arrayed against us. It drove us into acceptance of a loss of Constitutional guarantees underpinning the rights that made us unique among nations. From there it becomes easy to gain acceptance of the use of methods of interrogation, torture really, that heretofore were not only unthinkable but were, in fact, illegal under both our own laws and the international conventions that govern conduct in war that we signed and pledged to uphold.

Bush hired lawyers who opined that “The law is what we say it is, what YOU Mr. President says it is.” There are now bills working their way through our Congress that authorize the arrest and detention of Americans on American soil without any due process whatsoever, and their detention shall be by our military and totally outside the purview of the criminal justice system. We have chosen to combat an evil by embracing some of the very methods and crimes that we have used to define them as evil. We have chosen to trade precious freedom for security — and in the end we shall have neither freedom nor security.

When that odious administration staggered to an end and the people elected a man President who vowed he would change things in Washington, make things right, restore that which had been tarnished and blackened, he did none of those things. Rather than investigate and hold up to the light those who had stolen for the executive powers never granted under the Constitution, rather than restore the rights and guarantees of a people born free, rather than fix what had been broken, that man announced in his first weeks in office that he would do none of that; that his choice was “to look forward, not back.”

He would continue to prosecute the wars begun by his predecessors for years more. He would trample on the principle of equality under the law. He would neither investigate nor prosecute his predecessor and his co-conspirators, thus ensuring that now we would have two standards of justice: one for ordinary citizens and another, without punishment, for the power-brokers and the power-wielders. And nothing changed.

Nor will it anywhere short of an uprising by the people demanding restoration of their rights to equal justice, to privacy and security in their homes and in their communications, and the restoration of a balanced system of government based on three equal seats of power: executive, legislative and judicial. So yes we speak out, exercising a now-shaky right to free speech, and, yes, at times we use harsh words because the country and government we see today is NOT the government and country we grew up in and learned about in the schoolbooks.

I am still shocked that on this forum for those who were witnesses and tellers of the truth, of all places, some would suggest that we let all this slide, sweep the war criminals and their crimes against other peoples and our own under the rug for some yet-unborn academic historians to paw through and judge a century or two down the road.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:00 PM
December 06, 2011
The Land of Bad Debt and Phony Profits

In August of 1910, former President Theodore Roosevelt delivered in Osawatomie, Kansas, a speech in which he laid out what he hoped would become the fundamental beliefs of the Republican Party.

Here is part of what he said:

The new Nationalism puts the National need before sectional or personal advantage. It is impatient of the utter confusion that results from local legislatures attempting to treat National issues as local issues. It is still more impatient of the impotence which springs from over-division of governmental powers, the impotence which makes it possible for local selfishness or for legal cunning, hired by wealthy special interests, to bring National activities to a deadlock.

This new Nationalism regards the executive power as the steward of public welfare. It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested primarily in human welfare rather than in property, just as it demands that the representative body shall represent all the people rather than any one class or section of the people…

The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows…

We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.

Here is all of what President Obama said earlier today in Osawatomie. I hope you will read it all, after the jump. The president has found his true voice at last. See if you agree. I have posted the remainder of his speech after the jump.

Good afternoon. I want to start by thanking a few of the folks who’ve joined us today. We’ve got the mayor of Osawatomie, Phil Dudley; your superintendent, Gary French; the principal of Osawatomie High, Doug Chisam. And I’ve brought your former governor, who’s now doing an outstanding job as our Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius……

It is great to be back in the state of Kansas. As many of you know, I’ve got roots here. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Obamas of Osawatomie. Actually, I like to say that I got my name from my father, but I got my accent — and my values — from my mother. She was born in Wichita. Her mother grew up in Augusta. And her father was from El Dorado. So my Kansas roots run deep.

My grandparents served during World War II — he as a soldier in Patton’s Army, she as a worker on a bomber assembly line. Together, they shared the optimism of a nation that triumphed over a Depression and fascism. They believed in an America where hard work paid off, responsibility was rewarded, and anyone could make it if they tried — no matter who you were, where you came from, or how you started out.

These values gave rise to the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known. It was here, in America, that the most productive workers and innovative companies turned out the best products on Earth, and every American shared in that pride and success — from those in executive suites to middle management to those on the factory floor. If you gave it your all, you’d take enough home to raise your family, send your kids to school, have your health care covered, and put a little away for retirement.

Today, we are still home to the world’s most productive workers and innovative companies. But for most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefitted from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and investments than ever before. But everyone else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t — and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.

For many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over the harsh realities of this new economy. But in 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We all know the story by now: Mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or sometimes even understand them. Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off. Huge bets — and huge bonuses — made with other people’s money on the line. Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all.

It was wrong. It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility across the system. And it plunged our economy and the world into a crisis from which we are still fighting to recover. It claimed the jobs, homes, and the basic security of millions — innocent, hard-working Americans who had met their responsibilities, but were still left holding the bag.

Ever since, there has been a raging debate over the best way to restore growth and prosperity; balance and fairness. Throughout the country, it has sparked protests and political movements — from the Tea Party to the people who have been occupying the streets of New York and other cities. It’s left Washington in a near-constant state of gridlock. And it’s been the topic of heated and sometimes colorful discussion among the men and women who are running for president.

But this isn’t just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement.

Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that have stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for too many years. Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.

Well, I’m here to say they are wrong. I’m here to reaffirm my deep conviction that we are greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules. Those aren’t Democratic or Republican values; 1% values or 99% values. They’re American values, and we have to reclaim them.

You see, this isn’t the first time America has faced this choice. At the turn of the last century, when a nation of farmers was transitioning to become the world’s industrial giant, we had to decide: would we settle for a country where most of the new railroads and factories were controlled by a few giant monopolies that kept prices high and wages low? Would we allow our citizens and even our children to work ungodly hours in conditions that were unsafe and unsanitary? Would we restrict education to the privileged few? Because some people thought massive inequality and exploitation was just the price of progress.

Theodore Roosevelt disagreed. He was the Republican son of a wealthy family. He praised what the titans of industry had done to create jobs and grow the economy. He believed then what we know is true today: that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history. It’s led to a prosperity and standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world.

But Roosevelt also knew that the free market has never been a free license to take whatever you want from whoever you can. It only works when there are rules of the road to ensure that competition is fair, open, and honest. And so he busted up monopolies, forcing those companies to compete for customers with better services and better prices. And today, they still must. He fought to make sure businesses couldn’t profit by exploiting children, or selling food or medicine that wasn’t safe. And today, they still can’t.

In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here, to Osawatomie, and laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism. “Our country,” he said, “…means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy…of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him.”

For this, Roosevelt was called a radical, a socialist, even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight hour work day and a minimum wage for women; insurance for the unemployed, the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax.

Today, over one hundred years later, our economy has gone through another transformation. Over the last few decades, huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and made it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans.

Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where the workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100, so that layoffs were too often permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. These changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs or the internet. Today, even higher-skilled jobs like accountants and middle management can be outsourced to countries like China and India. And if you’re someone whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in another country, you don’t have a lot of leverage with your employer when it comes to asking for better wages and benefits — especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union.

Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there’s been a certain crowd in Washington for the last few decades who respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes — especially for the wealthy — our economy will grow stronger. Sure, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everyone else. And even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, they argue, that’s the price of liberty.

It’s a simple theory — one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. It fits well on a bumper sticker. Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible post-war boom of the 50s and 60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade.

Remember that in those years, in 2001 and 2003, Congress passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history, and what did they get us? The slowest job growth in half a century. Massive deficits that have made it much harder to pay for the investments that built this country and provided the basic security that helped millions of Americans reach and stay in the middle class — things like education and infrastructure; science and technology; Medicare and Social Security.

Remember that in those years, thanks to some of the same folks who are running Congress now, we had weak regulation and little oversight, and what did that get us? Insurance companies that jacked up people’s premiums with impunity, and denied care to the patients who were sick. Mortgage lenders that tricked families into buying homes they couldn’t afford. A financial sector where irresponsibility and lack of basic oversight nearly destroyed our entire economy.

We simply cannot return to this brand of your-on-your-own economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country. We know that it doesn’t result in a strong economy. It results in an economy that invests too little in its people and its future. It doesn’t result in a prosperity that trickles down. It results in a prosperity that’s enjoyed by fewer and fewer of our citizens.

Look at the statistics. In the last few decades, the average income of the top one percent has gone up by more than 250%, to $1.2 million per year. For the top one hundredth of one percent, the average income is now $27 million per year. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her workers now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade, the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about six percent.

This kind of inequality — a level we haven’t seen since the Great Depression – hurts us all. When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, it drags down the entire economy, from top to bottom. America was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity — that’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so that they could buy the cars they made. It’s also why a recent study showed that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run.

Inequality also distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. And it leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them — that our elected representatives aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans.

More fundamentally, this kind of gaping inequality gives lie to the promise at the very heart of America: that this is the place where you can make it if you try. We tell people that in this country, even if you’re born with nothing, hard work can get you into the middle class; and that your children will have the chance to do even better than you. That’s why immigrants from around the world flocked to our shores.

And yet, over the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk. A few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance fell to around 40%. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a 1 in 3 chance of making it to the middle class.

It’s heartbreaking enough that there are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal. But the idea that those children might not have a chance to climb out of that situation and back into the middle class, no matter how hard they work? That’s inexcusable. It’s wrong. It flies in the face of everything we stand for.

Fortunately, that’s not a future we have to accept. Because there’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this country — a view that’s truer to our history; a vision that’s been embraced by people of both parties for more than two hundred years.

It’s not a view that we should somehow turn back technology or put up walls around America. It’s not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all society’s problems. It’s a view that says in America, we are greater together — when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share.

So what does that mean for restoring middle-class security in today’s economy?

It starts by making sure that everyone in America gets a fair shot at success. The truth is, we’ll never be able to compete with other countries when it comes to who’s best at letting their businesses pay the lowest wages or pollute as much as they want. That’s a race to the bottom that we can’t win — and shouldn’t want to win. Those countries don’t have a strong middle-class. They don’t have our standard of living.

The race we want to win — the race we can win — is a race to the top; the race for good jobs that pay well and offer middle-class security. Businesses will create those jobs in countries with the highest-skilled, highest-educated workers; the most advanced transportation and communication; the strongest commitment to research and technology.

The world is shifting to an innovation economy. And no one does innovation better than America. No one has better colleges and universities. No one has a greater diversity of talent and ingenuity. No one’s workers or entrepreneurs are more driven or daring. The things that have always been our strengths match up perfectly with the demands of this moment.

But we need to meet the moment. We need to up our game. And we need to remember that we can only do that together.

It starts by making education a national mission — government and businesses; parents and citizens. In this economy, a higher education is the surest route to the middle class. The unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average. Their income is twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma. We shouldn’t be laying off good teachers right now — we should be hiring them. We shouldn’t be expecting less of our schools — we should be demanding more. We shouldn’t be making it harder to afford college — we should be a country where everyone has the chance to go.

In today’s innovation economy, we also need a world-class commitment to science, research, and the next generation of high-tech manufacturing. Our factories and their workers shouldn’t be idle. We should be giving people the chance to get new skills and training at community colleges, so they can learn to make wind turbines and semiconductors and high-powered batteries. And by the way — if we don’t have an economy built on bubbles and financial speculation, our best and brightest won’t all gravitate towards careers in banking and finance. Because if we want an economy that’s built to last, we need more of those young people in science and engineering. This country shouldn’t be known for bad debt and phony profits. We should be known for creating and selling products all over the world that are stamped with three proud words: Made in America.

Today, manufacturers and other companies are setting up shop in places with the best infrastructure to ship their products, move their workers, and communicate with the rest of the world. That’s why the over one million construction workers who lost their jobs when the housing market collapsed shouldn’t be sitting at home with nothing to do. They should be rebuilding our roads and bridges; laying down faster railroads and broadband; modernizing our schools — all the things other countries are already doing to attract good jobs and businesses to their shores.

Yes, businesses, not government, will always be the primary generator of good jobs with incomes that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. But as a nation, we have always come together, through our government, to help create the conditions where both workers and businesses can succeed. Historically, that hasn’t been a partisan idea. Franklin Roosevelt worked with Democrats and Republicans to give veterans of World War II, including my grandfather, the chance to go to college on the GI Bill. It was Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, a proud son of Kansas, who started the interstate highway system and doubled-down on science and research to stay ahead of the Soviets.

Of course, those productive investments cost money. And so we’ve also paid for these investments by asking everyone to do their fair share. If we had unlimited resources, no one would ever have to pay any taxes and we’d never have to cut any spending. But we don’t have unlimited resources. And so we have to set priorities. If we want a strong middle class, then our tax code must reflect our values. We have to make choices.

Today that choice is very clear. To reduce our deficit, I’ve already signed nearly $1 trillion of spending cuts into law, and proposed trillions more — including reforms that would lower the cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

But in order to actually close the deficit and get our fiscal house in order, we have to decide what our priorities are. Most immediately, we need to extend a payroll tax cut that’s set to expire at the end of this month. If we don’t do that, 160 million Americans will see their taxes go up by an average of $1,000, and it would badly weaken our recovery.

But in the long term, we have to rethink our tax system more fundamentally. We have to ask ourselves: Do we want to make the investments we need in things like education, and research, and high-tech manufacturing? Or do we want to keep in place the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our country? Because we can’t afford to do both. That’s not politics. That’s just math.

So far, most of the Republicans in Washington have refused, under any circumstances, to ask the wealthiest Americans to go the same tax rates they were paying when Bill Clinton was president.

Now, keep in mind, when President Clinton first proposed these tax increases, folks in Congress predicted they would kill jobs and lead to another recession. Instead, our economy created nearly 23 million jobs and we eliminated the deficit. Today, the wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest taxes in over half a century. This isn’t like in the early 50s, when the top tax rate was over 90%, or even the early 80s, when it was about 70%. Under President Clinton, the top rate was only about 39%. Today, thanks to loopholes and shelters, a quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1%. One percent.

This is the height of unfairness. It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay a higher tax rate than somebody pulling in $50 million. It is wrong for Warren Buffett’s secretary to pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. And he agrees with me. So do most Americans — Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. And I know that many of our wealthiest citizens would agree to contribute a little more if it meant reducing the deficit and strengthening the economy that made their success possible.

This isn’t about class warfare. This is about the nation’s welfare. It’s about making choices that benefit not just the people who’ve done fantastically well over the last few decades, but that benefits the middle class, and those fighting to get to the middle class, and the economy as a whole.

Finally, a strong middle class can only exist in an economy where everyone plays by the same rules, from Wall Street to Main Street. As infuriating as it was for all of us, we rescued our major banks from collapse, not only because a full blown financial meltdown would have sent us into a second Depression, but because we need a strong, healthy financial sector in this country.

But part of the deal was that we would not go back to business as usual. That’s why last year we put in place new rules of the road that refocus the financial sector on this core purpose: getting capital to the entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and financing to millions of families who want to buy a home or send their kids to college. We’re not all the way there yet, and the banks are fighting us every inch of the way. But already, some of these reforms are being implemented. If you’re a big bank or risky financial institution, you’ll have to write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail, so that taxpayers are never again on the hook for Wall Street’s mistakes. There are also limits on the size of banks and new abilities for regulators to dismantle a firm that goes under. The new law bans banks from making risky bets with their customers’ deposits, and takes away big bonuses and paydays from failed CEOs, while giving shareholders a say on executive salaries.

All that is being put in place as we speak. Now, unless you’re a financial institution whose business model is built on breaking the law, cheating consumers, or making risky bets that could damage the entire economy, you have nothing to fear from these new rules. My grandmother worked as a banker for most of her life, and I know that the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals want to do right by their customers. They want to have rules in place that don’t put them at a disadvantage for doing the right thing. And yet, Republicans in Congress are already fighting as hard as they can to make sure these rules aren’t enforced.

I’ll give you one example. For the first time in history, the reform we passed puts in place a consumer watchdog who is charged with protecting everyday Americans from being taken advantage of by mortgage lenders, payday lenders or debt collectors. The man we nominated for the post, Richard Cordray, is a former Attorney General of Ohio who has the support of most Attorneys General, both Democrat and Republican, throughout the country.

But the Republicans in the Senate refuse to let him do his job. Why? Does anyone here think the problem that led to our financial crisis was too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors? Of course not. Every day we go without a consumer watchdog in place is another day when a student, or a senior citizen, or member of our Armed Forces could be tricked into a loan they can’t afford — something that happens all the time. Financial institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out for their interests. Consumers deserve to have someone whose job it is to look out for them. I intend to make sure they do, and I will veto any effort to delay, defund, or dismantle the new rules we put in place.

We shouldn’t be weakening oversight and accountability. We should be strengthening them. Here’s another example. Too often, we’ve seen Wall Street firms violating major anti-fraud laws because the penalties are too weak and there’s no price for being a repeat offender. No more. I’ll be calling for legislation that makes these penalties count — so that firms don’t see punishment for breaking the law as just the price of doing business.

The fact is, this crisis has left a deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. And major banks that were rescued by the taxpayers have an obligation to go the extra mile in helping to close that deficit. At minimum, they should be remedying past mortgage abuses that led to the financial crisis, and working to keep responsible homeowners in their home. We’re going to keep pushing them to provide more time for unemployed homeowners to look for work without having to worry about immediately losing their house. The big banks should increase access to refinancing opportunities to borrowers who have yet to benefit from historically low interest rates. And they should recognize that precisely because these steps are in the interest of middle-class families and the broader economy, they will also be in the banks’ own long-term financial interest.

Investing in things like education that give everybody a chance to succeed. A tax code that makes sure everybody pays their fair share. And laws that make sure everybody follows the rules. That’s what will transform our economy. That’s what will grow our middle class again. In the end, rebuilding this economy based on fair play, a fair shot, and a fair share will require all of us to see the stake we have in each other’s success. And it will require all of us to take some responsibility to that success.

It will require parents to get more involved in their children’s education, students to study harder, and some workers to start studying all over again. It will require greater responsibility from homeowners to not take out mortgages they can’t afford, and remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

It will require those of us in public service to make government more efficient, effective, and responsive to people’s needs. That’s why we’re cutting programs we don’t need, to pay for those we do. That’s why we’ve made hundreds of regulatory reforms that will save businesses billions of dollars. That’s why we’re not just throwing money at education, but challenging schools to come up with the most innovative reforms and the best results.

And it will require American business leaders to understand that their obligations don’t just end with their shareholders. Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel put it best: “There’s another obligation I feel personally,” he said, “given that everything I’ve achieved in my career and a lot of what Intel has achieved…were made possible by a climate of democracy, an economic climate and investment climate provided by…the United States.”

This broader obligation can take different forms. At a time when the cost of hiring workers in China is rising rapidly, it should mean more CEOs deciding that it’s time to bring jobs back to the United States — not just because it’s good for business, but because it’s good for the country that made their business and their personal success possible.

I think about the Big Three Auto companies who, during recent negotiations, agreed to create more jobs and cars in America; who decided to give bonuses, not just to their executives, but to all their employees — so that everyone was invested in the company’s success.

I think about a company based in Warroad, Minnesota called Marvin Windows and Doors. During the recession, Marvin’s competitors closed dozens of plants and let go hundreds of workers. But Marvin didn’t lay off a single one of their four thousand or so employees. In fact, they’ve only laid off workers once in over a hundred years. Mr. Marvin’s grandfather even kept his eight employees during the Depression.

When times get tough, the workers agree to give up some perks and pay, and so do the owners. As one owner said, “You can’t grow if you’re cutting your lifeblood — and that’s the skills and experience your workforce delivers.” For the CEO, it’s about the community: “These are people we went to school with,” he said. “We go to church with them. We see them in the same restaurant. Indeed, a lot of us have married local girls and boys. We could be anywhere. But we are in Warroad.”

That’s how America was built. That’s why we’re the greatest nation on Earth. That’s what our greatest companies understand. Our success has never just been about survival of the fittest. It’s been about building a nation where we’re all better off. We pull together, we pitch in, and we do our part, believing that hard work will pay off; that responsibility will be rewarded; and that our children will inherit a nation where those values live on.

And it is that belief that rallied thousands of Americans to Osawatomie — maybe even some of your ancestors — on a rain-soaked day more than a century ago. By train, by wagon, on buggy, bicycle, and foot, they came to hear the vision of a man who loved this country, and was determined to perfect it.

“We are all Americans,” Teddy Roosevelt told them that day. “Our common interests are as broad as the continent.” In the final years of his life, Roosevelt took that same message all across this country, from tiny Osawatomie to the heart of New York City, believing that no matter where he went, or who he was talking to, all would benefit from a country in which everyone gets a fair chance.

Well into our third century as a nation, we have grown and changed in many ways since Roosevelt’s time. The world is faster. The playing field is larger. The challenges are more complex.

But what hasn’t changed – what can never change – are the values that got us this far. We still have a stake in each other’s success. We still believe that this should be a place where you can make it if you try. And we still believe, in the words of the man who called for a New Nationalism all those years ago, “The fundamental rule in our national life – the rule which underlies all others — is that, on the whole, and in the long run, we shall go up or down together.”

I believe America is on its way up. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:05 PM
December 01, 2011
The Borking of Scalia

The entire legal structure, in an important sense, rests on irresponsibility. What is “precedent” but a passing of the buck? What is “originalism” but hiding behind the Founding Fathers?

Richard A. Posner, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and a Reagan appointee, is nobody’s idea of a liberal. But he is everybody’s idea of a thinker, as you can discover by reading his book, Overcoming Law.

In a brilliant chapter called “Bork and Beethoven,” here’s what Judge Posner has to say about the childish and ahistorical theory of orginalism with which Justices Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia rationalize their prejudices:

Originalism is not an analytic method; it is a rhetoric that can be used to support any result a judge wants to reach. The conservative libertarians whom Bork criticizes (Richard Epstein and Bernard Siegan) are originalists; his disagreement with them is not over method, but over result. The Dred Scott decision — to Bork, the very fount of modern judicial activism — is permeated by originalist rhetoric…

Some of the most activist judges, whether of the right or of the left, whether named Taney or Black, have been among the judges most drawn to the rhetoric of originalism. For it is a magnificent disguise. The judge can do the wildest things, all the while presenting himself as the passive agent of the sainted Founders — don’t argue with me, argue with Them.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:01 AM
November 15, 2011
A Modest Proposal

Here’s the lead paragraph of a story from The Atlantic Wire:

A 60 Minutes report on Sunday examined the ways that members of Congress trade on inside, privileged information to make themselves rich — without breaking any laws. Even though many positions in the federal government are bound by conflict of interest laws, Congresspeople are exempt from insider trading rules and are perfectly free to make business deals based on information they learn through their jobs…

My wife’s grandfather (grandfather-in-law?) was the late and truly great senator from Nebraska, George Norris. During his forty years in Congress he never bought stocks or bonds in any private enterprise, on the grounds that it would be impossible to avoid conflicts of interest. The only securities he would buy were U.S. government bonds.

When he died in 1944, he left behind a small house in McCook, Nebraska, and an old Buick sedan — as well as the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Rural Electrification Act, and the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

I’m not suggesting by this ancient history that those were the good old days. There has never been a golden age for ethics on Capitol Hill, nor will there ever. Boys will be boys.

I’’m just sayin’, that’s all.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:29 PM
November 08, 2011
Mount Rushmore Again…

I suppose dopey comments from Michelle Bachmann aren’t really worthy of notice. Stupid people have been saying stupid things for millennia, after all. But this one caught my eye, nonetheless.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she would add former presidents Ronald Reagan, James Garfield and Calvin Coolidge to Mount Rushmore Tuesday in an ABC News/Yahoo! interview Tuesday.

When asked who she would add to the South Dakota monument, she proposed Reagan. She then mentioned James Garfield, who was president for just over seven months before being assassinated. She reportedly said she chose him because he is the only person to become president from the House of Representatives. (Bachmann could be the second if she is elected president.) She then said Calvin Coolidge would be a good candidate for the monument, since he “got the country’s budget back on track.”

Of course she would. But I have to ask, why not Eisenhower? Why not Grant? I mean, Garfield and Coolidge aren’t exactly heavy hitters in the proud history of the GOP. Of course, history doesn’t seem to hold much interest for our Republican friends, not even when they might invoke it to their credit.

For the record, there is a reason each of those four men is memorialized on Mt. Rushmore. Washington was instrumental — if not indispensable — in creating this nation. Jefferson doubled its size. Lincoln kept it from tearing itself apart. And Roosevelt turned it into an empire (although McKinley helped on that one.) Each of them, in other words, fundamentally transformed the country — physically, not just ideologically. The reality is that there aren’t any other presidents about which that can be said. That’s not to say those are our four best presidents ever (FDR, anyone?), of course, or that these men did not have flaws to balance against their achievements.

As for Bachmann’s choices, Reagan began the dismantling of this country. Coolidge is generally cited as a positive example by his admirers precisely because he did next to nothing, and Garfield is remembered for being shot. (Robert Klein once observed that when you look up Garfield in the encyclopedia, it says “See ‘Assassination.’”) Like Sarah Palin invoking Paul Revere’s bells, this doesn’t even cut it as glib and superficial pandering.

Luckily, Mt. Rushmore isn’t exactly sound enough structurally to add another sculpture. Unless, of course, the plan is for Marcus Bachmann to pray away all the parts of Mt. Rushmore that don’t look like Reagan, Garfield and Coolidge. So I guess we don’t have to worry about that happening any time soon. We do, however, have to worry for the foreseeable future about boneheaded conservatives proposing that Saint Ronnie be added to Mt. Rushmore…



Posted by Kurt Weldon at 03:13 PM
November 05, 2011
Historical Perspective

It’s time for another history minute, this one brought to you by Suetonius. Here he’s describing some of the bad deeds of the Emperor Tiberius:

A detailed list of Tiberius’s barbarities would take a long time to compile; I shall content myself with a few samples…

Some of the accused, on being warned to appear in court, felt sure that the verdict would be ‘guilty’ and, to avoid the humiliation of a trial, stayed at home and severed an artery; yet Tiberius’s men bandaged their wounds and hurried them, half-dead, to prison. Others obeyed their summons and then drank poison in full view of the Senate. The bodies of all executed persons were flung on the Stairs of Mourning, and dragged to the Tiber with hooks — as many as twenty a day, including women and children. Tradition forbade the strangling of virgins; so, when little girls had been condemned to die in this way, the executioner began by violating them.

Tiberius used to punish with life those who wished to die. He regarded death as a comparatively light affliction, and on hearing that a man named Carnalus had forestalled his execution by suicide, exclaimed: “Carnalus has got away!” Once, during a gaol inspection, a prisoner begged to be put out of his misery; Tiberius replied: “No; we are not yet friends again.”

In Capri they still show the place at the cliff top where Tiberius used to watch his victims being thrown into the sea after prolonged and exquisite tortures. A party of marines were stationed below, and when the bodies came hurtling down they whacked at them with oars and boat-hooks, to make sure that they were completely dead. An ingenious torture of Tiberius’s devising was to trick men into drinking huge draughts of wine, and then suddenly to knot a cord tightly around their genitals, which not only cut into the flesh but prevented them from urinating.

And they still had Caligula to look forward to.

It’s helpful to keep things in historical perspective. We have clowns, they had monsters. So I guess we should consider ourselves lucky. Of course, we invade foreign countries to rip off their resources, launch drone strikes, set mercenaries loose on helpless populations, and round people up and throw them into torture chambers, but, you know, that’s different.

Now that I think about it, I can imagine Dick Cheney knotting a cord around someone’s genitals. I can even imagine him enjoying it.

This is the cliff that Tiberius threw his victims from:



Posted by OHollern at 04:16 PM
October 22, 2011
My Name is Obamandias, King of Kings…

Charles P. Pierce writes:

Empires make me nervous. Imperial policies — even the gentler ones, even the purely commercial ones, even by proxy, and even when they result in the death of one of the few indisputable madmen on the modern scene — make my skin itch. (It’s the Irish in me.)

As to the blessings of globalization in Africa, well, that continent has been globalized out of most of its wealth and more than a few of its people since long before people invented the hedge fund. Will they do better under Goldman Sachs than they did under the Belgians? (The Nigerian precedent is not encouraging.) Free trade is not democracy, and the latter is in no way an inevitable consequence of the former. I don’t see the arrival of consumer goods and/or the modern financial markets as doing much for the average Ugandan.…

Iraq and Afghanistan aside, we fight our wars by automation, hurling thunderbolts from beyond the horizon, like Jove. There’s something scarifying about that, especially when it’s aimed at an American citizen, and it kills his teenage son, and the people who threw the thunderbolts don’t even try to show us why these people had to die. For a long time, we had people who said that the reason we were sending the Army all over the world was because there wasn’t any draft. One of the most apt criticisms of the “war on terror” was that it was being conducted without engaging the entire country in the effort. Now, not only is the combat removed from the citizenry, it’s increasingly removed from soldiers. Some guy at a console in Kansas City is making war on Pakistan. That makes me nervous.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:43 AM
October 21, 2011
When the Shouting Dies…

Why say it, when JollyRoger at Plutocrat has said it for me? I’ll only add that as we do unto foreign heads of state, foreign heads of state may one day do unto us.

It bothers me to no end to see “leftists” cheering about us having gotten this guy. From a practical perspective, cheering about Qaddafi’s death is no different from cheering about Saddam’s. Qaddafi getting killed doesn’t solve one problem I’m facing.

But, it might give me problems to face later.

Whenever we cheer on simply killing people, rather than lamenting that these people never had a day in Court, we are simply making it easier for Governments to kill off people they find to be irritating. The Government, once given a green light for this kind of behavior, will simply broaden the scope of those it finds reprehensible enough to kill, until the day when Government tries to kill anyone it finds to be irritating.

I far prefer the manner in which we conducted ourselves after World War II. While we made the Nazis and Japanese face the consequences of their activities in Court, Stalin simply murdered millions of German POWs. We established our system as a just system, and our philosophy as one that demanded that even the worst elements among us must be brought before the bar, and prosecuted, so that the whole world would be aware of why it was that we went after these people. We afforded some of the most vile people who ever lived strong defense lawyers, the right to face their accusers, and an opportunity to tell their own stories.

We worked pretty hard to catch people ALIVE back then, just to make sure that we COULD demonstrate to the world that we were dedicated to the cause of justice.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:35 AM
October 19, 2011
Fighting the Good Fight

When I was a young reporter at the long-defunct Washington Daily News, I was contacted by a group of county employees from the Maryland suburb — whistleblowers, as we didn’t yet call them. They wanted us to expose their supervisor’s use of county equipment and workers to improve his home. I told them that they would lose their jobs if the story ran. They said they didn’t care. I wrote the story. They lost their jobs.

That is what happens to government whistleblowers almost a hundred percent of the time. (I suspect you could drop the “almost” when it comes to the private sector.) In the real world any bureaucrat with an I.Q. in the double digits is smart enough to figure out how to violate the Whistleblower Protection Act without getting punished.

So I admire Carolyn Lerner and wish her well in her lonely fight against human nature. Maybe this time…

There’s been something special lately about the Office of Special Counsel.

It’s doing its job.

OSC is an independent federal agency with a long and well-deserved reputation for failing to protect federal whistleblowers, although part of its mission is “to safeguard the merit system by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices…”

Carolyn Lerner gets the credit. She was sworn in as special counsel in June.

Her “tenure is very young, but she hit the ground running and appears to be fearless,” said Thomas Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy group…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:59 PM
September 26, 2011
Bipartisan, Schmipartisan

From Frank Rich’s latest, in New York magazine:

The important thing to remember about Perry is that he’s anathema to Mitt Romney, Karl Rove, and many conservative pundits no less than to liberals. His swift rise does not just reflect his enthusiasts’ detestation of Barack Obama. Perry’s constituency rejects the entire bipartisan Establishment of which Obama is merely the latest and shiniest product.

For two decades, the elites in both parties and in the Beltway media-political combine have venerated a vanilla centrism, from Bush 41’s “thousand points of light” to Clinton’s triangulation to Bush 43’s “compassionate conservatism.” They’ve endorsed every useless bipartisan commission and every hapless bipartisan congressional “Gang of Six” (or Twelve, or Twenty, not to mention the new too-big-not-to-fail budget supercommittee).

Perry, by contrast, is a proud and unabashed partisan. If he’s talking about gangs, chances are they’re chain gangs, not dithering conclaves of legislators. He doesn’t aspire to be the adult in the room, as Obama does, but the bull in the china shop of received opinion…

Should Perry get the GOP nomination, he could capsize like Goldwater on Election Day. That’s the universal prediction of today’s Restons. But maybe he won’t. Perry would have a cratered economy to exploit, unlike Goldwater, who ran in a boom time when unemployment was under 6 percent and the GDP was up 5.8 percent from the previous year. Whatever Perry’s 2012 electoral fate, his lightning ascent is final proof, if any further is needed in the day of the tea-party GOP, that a bipartisan consensus in America is as unachievable now as it was after 1964…


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:11 AM
September 25, 2011
Lit Crit

Bet you always wondered what thesis Tennessee Williams had in mind when he wrote “A Streetcar Named Desire.” So here’s your answer, from a three-page picture spread in the December 15, 1947, issue of Life:

The drama ends when Blanche, clinging to her pitiful delusion that she is a grand lady, is led away by asylum attendants. Her sister and husband can now resume their happiness, proving Williams’ thesis that healthy life can go on only after it is rid of unwholesome influence.


Click image to enlarge


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:37 PM
September 21, 2011
Still Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf

From the New York Times:

The hemisphere’s oil boom is all the more remarkable given that two of its traditional energy powerhouses, Venezuela and Mexico, have largely been left out, held in check by entrenched resource nationalism. Venezuela is now considered to have bigger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, putting it at the top of OPEC’s rankings. If it opened up more to foreign investment, it could tip the scales further in the hemisphere’s direction.

Gee, I thought we were going to have to drill, baby, drill and run Canadian pipelines through the heartland and frack Pennsylvania and New York till flames shot out of everybody’s faucets and poison the Gulf of Mexico to keep our Hummers on the road. (Whatever happened to all those Hummers, anyway?)

Now it turns out that we didn’t really need to waste three trillion dollars to fail to seize the oilfields of Iraq. We could have just acted like adults in 1999 instead of throwing childish tantrums over the election of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s version of Joe Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung combined. (I take it that “entrenched resource nationalism” is double talk for kicking out foreign oil companies, an old commie trick.)



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:20 PM
September 20, 2011
Radical Compassion: A Passing

If I didn’t read The Guardian I probably would have missed it. But I do, so I didn’t, and I therefore wish to note the passing of an interesting and provocative voice, Carl Oglesby, who died a couple days ago.

In addition to writing a classic of conspiracy literature, The Yankee and Cowboy War (1976), Oglesby was an early (1965) leader of the Students for a Democratic Society, SDS, but as he tells it the group gradually moved to the left of him, and he was eventually expelled when a more radical leadership took over. He was interested in looking for ways to bridge the gap between the SDS view and the Pentagon view, an approach that is either deep or naive depending on your philosophy. He did not view the men in government whose decisions brought on the war on Vietnam as essentially evil; rather he saw them as exponents of a system that has evolved to create necessities, with the corollary that we must change the system rather than the individuals running it.

On Nov. 27, 1965, Oglesby gave a wonderful speech, relatively short and to the point.

We are here again to protest a growing war. Since it is a very bad war, we acquire the habit of thinking it must be caused by very bad men. But we only conceal reality, I think, to denounce on such grounds the menacing coalition of industrial and military power, or the brutality of the blitzkrieg we are waging against Vietnam, or the ominous signs around us that heresy may soon no longer be permitted. We must simply observe, and quite plainly say, that this coalition, this blitzkrieg, and this demand for acquiescence are creatures, all of them, of a Government that since 1932 has considered itself to he fundamentally liberal.

The original commitment in Vietnam was made by President Truman, a mainstream liberal. It was seconded by President Eisenhower, a moderate liberal. It was intensified by the late President Kennedy, a flaming liberal. Think of the men who now engineer that war — those who study the maps, give the commands, push the buttons, and tally the dead: Bundy, McNamara, Rusk, Lodge, Goldberg, the President himself. They are not moral monsters. They are all honorable men. They are all liberals.

But so, I’m sure, are many of us who are here today in protest. To understand the war, then, it seems necessary to take a closer look at this American liberalism. Maybe we are in for some surprises. Maybe we have here two quite different liberalisms: one authentically humanist; the other not so human at all.


His libertarian tendencies are already clear, as is his nuanced view of human character, which unfortunately is rarely popular in times of civil strife. In the speech he took a historical view that ended with an indictment even more salient today than when it was spoken. As colonialism drew to a close, he reports,

Liberalism faced a crisis. In the face of the collapse of the European empires, how could it continue to hold together, our twin need for richness and righteousness? How can we continue to sack the ports of Asia and still dream of Jesus?

The challenge was met with a most ingenious solution: the ideology of anti-Communism. This was the bind: we cannot call revolution bad, because we started that way ourselves, and because it is all too easy to see why the dispossessed should rebel. So we will call revolution Communism. And we will reserve for ourselves the right to say what Communism means. We take note of revolution’s enormities, wrenching them where necessary from their historical context and often exaggerating them, and say: Behold, Communism is a bloodbath. We take note of those reactionaries who stole the revolution, and say: Behold, Communism is a betrayal of the people. We take note of the revolution’s need to consolidate itself, and say: Behold, Communism is a tyranny.

It has been all these things, and it will be these things again, and we will never be at a loss for those tales of atrocity that comfort us so in our self-righteousness. Nuns will be raped and bureaucrats will be disembowelled. Indeed, revolution is a fury. For it is a letting loose of outrages pent up sometimes over centuries. But the more brutal and longer-lasting the suppression of this energy, all the more ferocious will be its explosive release.

Far from helping Americans deal with this truth, the anti‑Communist ideology merely tries to disguise it so that things may stay the way they are. Thus, it depicts our presence in other lands not as a coercion, but a protection. It allows us even to say that the napalm in Vietnam is only another aspect of our humanitarian love — like those exorcisms in the Middle Ages that so often killed the patient. So we say to the Vietnamese peasant, the Cuban intellectual, the Peruvian worker: “You are better dead than Red. If it hurts or if you don’t understand why — sorry about that.”

This is the action of corporate liberalism. It performs for the corporate state a function quite like what the Church once performed for the feudal state. It seeks to justify its burdens and protect it from change. As the Church exaggerated this office in the Inquisition, so with liberalism in the McCarthy time — which, if it was a reactionary phenomenon, was still made possible by our anti-communist corporate liberalism.

And what has happened since the fall of Communism, so called? A frontal attack on the social safety net, a vast increase in the mobility of global capital in search of the cheapest labor, and a worldwide recession caused by the concentration of wealth at the very top. This isn’t rocket science, we’ve fixed this problem in the past. But we have to outgrow our fear of conflict and fight for our side, because the other side does regardless. Class warfare? Fine, we’ll win.

Oglesby was nothing if not pragmatic. Whether his reality testing was accurate or not, he believed in trying to convince people of the truth of his argument, an approach that is morally sound but unfortunately rarely effective. In The Yankee and Cowboy War, beloved by Robert Anton Wilson, Oglesby pointed out that conspiracies such as those he believed surrounded JFK’s assassination and Nixon’s resignation are everywhere. With an echo of Acton’s famous dictum about power corrupting, he reported that

…a multitude of conspiracies contend in the night… Conspiracy is the normal continuation of normal politics by normal means… and where there is no limit to power, there is no limit to conspiracy.

A smart and committed man who spoke his mind despite the opprobrium it brought him, first from one side and then the other. A fascinating life, and one I hope a good biographer will detail for us.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:05 AM
September 11, 2011
Bush’s Two-Trillion-Dollar Baby is 10 Today

From Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz:

Today, the US is focused on unemployment and the deficit. Both threats to America’s future can, in no small measure, be traced to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Increased defense spending, together with the Bush tax cuts, is a key reason why the US went from a fiscal surplus of 2 per cent of GDP when Bush was elected to its parlous deficit and debt position today. Direct government spending on those wars so far amounts to roughly $2 trilllion — $17,000 for every US household — with bills yet to be received increasing this amount by more than 50 per cent.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:33 AM
September 09, 2011

Here’s Rick Hertzberg, hitting below the belt again. Way to go, Rick.

Obama made a forthright argument that primitive individualism has to be paired with what he called “another thread running throughout our history — a belief that we are all connected and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.” He cited the example of his (and history’s) favorite Republican:

We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future — a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad, launch the National Academy of Sciences, and set up the first land-grant colleges.

All true. But it helped that, in the middle of the Civil War, there were no Senators or Congressmen from the part of the nation that, at the time, styled itself the Confederate States of America. In other words, Lincoln didn't have to deal with so many of the sort of people of the type we would today call “Republicans.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:33 AM
August 31, 2011
For Your Frank Rich Fix…

Just back on line following Hurricane Irene. More tomorrow. Meanwhile, if you’re suffering from Frank Rich separation anxiety, go here. Excerpt:

…The sanitizing of 9/11 and the falsification of its genesis to jump-start a second war ended up muddying and corrupting the memory of the event rather than giving hawks and the right’s p.c.-police the permanent “war on terror” they craved. The attack’s meaning was eviscerated by its linkage to the endless debacle in Iraq. The images of the day were so bowdlerized and so shrouded in euphemistic pieties that the viciousness of the slaughter was gradually muted.

When the World Trade Center site developer Larry Silverstein said this July that “ten years from today, I suspect very few people will remember it as ground zero,” he was speaking the truth. To some degree, that’s already the case. It’s not just color-coded terror alerts, Freedom fries, and Rudy Giuliani’s once-unimpeachable political standing that are gone with the wind.

It shows just how much 9/11 has been downsized in the American cosmography over a decade that when a conservative Republican senator, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, tried to derail a bill aiding those with 9/11-related illnesses last year, most of his own political cohort gave silent assent. The most vocal champions of the surviving 9/11 victims and their families were New York officials and celebrities like Jon Stewart, most of them liberal Democrats. The righteous anger of the right had moved on to the cause of taking down a president with the middle name Hussein…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:48 PM
August 19, 2011
Lest We Forget…

…Dr. Stephen R. Keister reminds us:

“Tell big lies. Do not qualify or concede a point, no matter how wrong you may be. Do not hesitate or stop for reservations. The masses are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional natures than consciously, and thus fall victims of the big lie rather than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies but would be ashamed to resort to large scale falsehoods.” — Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:23 PM
August 04, 2011
The Pity of Conservatives

Few American conservatives would be as honest in public about their true beliefs as Macaulay, quoted here in A.N. Wilson’s history, The Victorians. Most of them, no doubt, wouldn’t be this honest to themselves. They would hide behind trickle-down economics and Laffer curves and the Chicago Boys and “job creation” and survival of the fittest and so on. But at the end of the day, they’re not Gentle Jesus. They’re just Gordon Gekko.

In the mind of Macaulay, the great Whig historian, for whom the Whig Revolution of 1689 was the high point and defining moment of British history, Chartism was a disastrous idea. He saw the notion of giving the vote to the uneducated and unpropertied classes as a recipe for national suicide.

“Have I any unkind feeling towards these poor people? No more than I have to a sick friend who implores me to give him a glass of water which the physician has forbidden. No more than a humane collector in India has to those poor peasants who in a season of scarcity crowd round the granaries and beg with tears and piteous gestures that the doors may be opened and the rice distributed. I would not give the draught of water, because I know it would be poison. I would not give up the keys of the granary, because I know that, by doing so, I should turn a scarcity into a famine. And in the same way I should not yield to the importunity of multitudes who, exasperated by suffering and blinded by ignorance, demand witlh wild vehemence the liberty to destroy themselves.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:44 PM
July 28, 2011
When the Grand Old Party Really Was

The debt ceiling crisis in a nutshell, from Abraham Lincoln via Paul Krugman:

But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:23 PM
July 20, 2011
So What Else Is Newt?

From historian Taylor Branch’s 2009 book, The Clinton Tapes:

At home, the president analyzed twisted political maneuvers heading toward the fall elections. He focused on Newt Gingrich. The speaker had given spring speeches across the presidential testing state of Iowa, discussing his thoughtful book about future challenges from cyberspace to the world economy. Gingrich also met with Clinton’s chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, whom the president had persuaded to stay on awhile, about a compromise legislative agenda before congress adjourned.

Bowles was optimistic, but the speaker’s pollsters brought him disastrous results the same day. Clinton said he knew, because Gingrich later confirmed it himself, that all the numbers recorded a sharply negative reaction to him from core GOP voters across the nation, not just in Iowa. They rejected overwhelmingly the speaker’s softer, pragmatic image. The White House had similar poll numbers, and so did House Republicans who were jockeying to replace Gingrich if he ran for president.

Overnight, the speaker reverted to red-meat politics. He turned publicly against all Clinton’s legislation, including a bipartisan tobacco bill sponsored by Senator John McCain. He accused Clinton of “blackmailing” Israel to help the Palestinians. He called Clinton the nation’s “Defendant-in-Chief” for cover-up, corruption and crime. He said Clinton was wrong to claim that tobacco advertising induced young people to smoke …

In their singular request to choke off all but the military aspects of government, Republicans were reduced to invective and cries for perpetual tax cuts. Clinton hoped a proper campaign, by framing and comparing programs for the voters, could expose the Republican strategy as anemic and spent, if not cynical. Their few moderates in Congress were resigned, and the dominant conservatives were splintered.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:02 PM
July 11, 2011
White Fright

More from the ever-interesting Professor Wolff. Fortunately this sort of thinking is now gone from the land:

At every step of the way, there were White historians and public figures who resisted this rewriting of the American story. Here is an excerpt from a speech delivered by our old friend Thomas Bailey in 1967 to the leading association of historians of America, The Organization of American Historians, on the occasion of his inauguration as its President. The topic of Bailey’s address was “the mythmakers of American history,” and after some remarks about that old chestnut, George Washington and the cherry tree [ you remember the one — “I cannot tell a lie.”], he turned to what he called the “newly formed hyphenate group,” African-Americans. Here is what he had to say:

“This belated recognition [of the experiences and activities of Negroes], though praiseworthy in some respects, is fraught with danger. Most non-militant Negroes would probably like to think of themselves as dark-skinned Americans, and this self-imposed Jim Crowism can be self-defeating. Pressure-group history of any kind is deplorable, especially when significant white men are bumped out to make room for much less significant black men in the interests of social harmony. If this kind of distortion gets completely out of hand, we can visualize what will happen when the Negroes become the dominant group in all our largest cities, as they already are in Washington, D.C. Coexistence may end, and we may even have hard-backed Negro histories of the United States, with the white man’s achievements relegated to a subsidiary treatment.”

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:39 PM
July 08, 2011
Middle is the New White

Professor Wolff at The Philosopher’s Stone decodes a bit of pol-speak for us, in his ongoing web tutorial on Afro-American studies:

One might imagine that this contrast died with the abolition of slavery, but nothing could be further from the truth. During more than a century after the end of the Civil War, the contrast between bondage and freedom was encoded in the Jim Crow laws that separated the races and condemned people of color to a second class citizenship. When those barriers to freedom fell, a new language was devised to mark the distinction between bondage and freedom. “Ghetto” and “underclass” communicated the same division, and once again, Whites defined themselves by their contrast with people of color, this time by identifying themselves as “Middle Class.”

American political rhetoric these days is obsessed with the needs, the interests, the concerns of “Middle Class Americans.” Now, taken as an economic, or socio-economic, term of art, “Middle Class American” is utterly incoherent. Households making anywhere from forty thousand to four hundred thousand dollars a year are routinely referred to as “middle class.” There is no longer the slightest suggestion that “middle class” identifies people who are, in some measurable sense, “in the middle.”

It takes very little sensitivity to language to grasp that “middle class” now means “not living in the ghetto,” “not living in the inner city,” Not Black. Now that the “strivers”, as Black professionals and entrepreneurs used to be called, have moved from the inner city to the suburbs, it has become acceptable to acknowledge the existence of a Black “middle class,” although the election of a Black President triggered deep-rooted anxieties so powerful as to reveal the continued presence in America of this identification-by-contrast rooted in the nation’s past.

It is worth reflecting for a moment on the real meaning of the outpouring of hysteria prompted by the election of Obama. It was not, in the ordinary sense, an expression of prejudice. Rather, it was a cry of desperation. Since my freedom is defined in contrast to their bondage, if they throw off all the chains of that bondage by appropriating what is ritually conceived as the most elevated position in the nation, then I am no longer free!



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:12 PM
It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…

I never thought I’d be holding up Bill Clinton as a profile in ballsiness, but here goes. This is from historian Taylor Branch’s 2009 book, The Clinton Tapes:

On tape, Clinton said he had pleaded for calm, and he described the climactic confrontation since as deceptively quiet. A week ago tonight, he almost whispered to Gingrich and Dole his reasons to veto their last, loaded resolutions keeping the government afloat. “You’re not the only people with convictions,” he told them.

His spiel extended full credit for sincerity to the other side. They all wanted to balance the budget, but they could finish the job without riders to the budget that would throw 380,000 kids out of Head Start. Or slash college funds or Medicaid.

If he must close the government to uphold countervailing values, so be it. He promised Gingrich and Dole that they would feel his priorities before this was over. Gingrich especially seemed shaken by the final notice. They were going over the cliff after all, and the Speaker quickly confided his surprise. All his calculations had assumed Clinton would bend or fold.

Clinton said he thought Gingrich and his caucus were fooled by their own propaganda about the moral force of their proclaimed crusade. In the past week of shock or shutdown, as the President’s approval ratings skyrocketed while those of Congress plummeted, they clung to hopes that the adverse reaction was temporary panic. The president thought the mainstream press fed their delusion by attributing his success to nimble posturing and salesmanship — anything but a strong stand on principle…

Since the 1980s, Republicans projected absurdly high growth and low inflation in order to conceal their massive accumulation of public debt, while the Republican Congress now was predicting years of low growth and high inflation to justify their maximum cuts in nonmilitary programs…

His polls had shot up nearly to 70 percent with the likeliest voters, 55 and older, even though he had not yet gotten to veto appropriations slashing Medicare and Medicaid. He said these shutdown vetoes were magnificent teaching tools … If the next continuing resolution contained more poisoned riders as the price of reopening the government, he would veto that, too, gaining a platform to explain. “There are horrible things in there,” he said. “People have no idea.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:38 AM
July 04, 2011
Cop Lovers and Soldier Sniffers

Here, from Tom Engelhardt, is our text for this Fourth of July:

These days [President Obama] can barely open his mouth without also bowing down before the U.S. military in ways that once would have struck Americans as embarrassing, if not incomprehensible. In addition, he regularly prostrates himself before this country’s special mission to the world and never ceases to emphasize that the United States is indeed an exception among nations. Finally, in a way once alien to American presidents, he invokes God’s blessing upon the military and the country as regularly as you brush your teeth.

Think of these as the triumvirate without which no Obama foreign-policy moment would be complete: greatest military, greatest nation, our God. And in this he follows directly, if awkwardly, in Bush's footsteps…

The president’s recent Afghan remarks were, in this sense, par for the course. As he plugged his plan to bring America’s “long wars” to what he called “a responsible end,” he insisted that “[l]ike generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events.” He then painted this flattering word portrait of us:

“We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination... and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach... we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish.”

I know, I know. You’re wondering whether you just mainlined into a Sarah Palin speech and your eyes are glazing over. But hang in there, because that’s just a start. For example, in an Obama speech of any sort, what America’s soldiers never lack is the extra adjective. They aren’t just soldiers, but “our extraordinary men and women in uniform.” They aren’t just Americans, but “patriotic Americans.” (Since when did an American president have to describe American soldiers as, of all things, “patriotic”?) And in case you missed the point that, in their extraordinariness and their outsized patriotism they are better than other Americans, he made sure to acknowledge them as the ones we “draw inspiration from…”

Oh, and let’s not forget that no significant White House moment ends these days without the president bestowing God’s blessing on the globe’s most extraordinary nation and its extraordinary fighters, or as he put it in his Afghan remarks: “May God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America.”

The day after he revealed his drawdown plan to the nation, the president traveled to Ft. Drum in New York State to thank soldiers from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division for their multiple deployments to Afghanistan. Before those extraordinary and patriotic Americans, he quite naturally doubled down.

Summoning another tic of this presidential moment (and of the Bush one before it), he told them that they were part of “the finest fighting force in the world.” Even that evidently seemed inadequate, so he upped the hyperbole. “I have no greater job,” he told them, “nothing gives me more honor than serving as your commander in chief. To all of you who are potentially going to be redeployed, just know that your commander in chief has your back... God bless you, God bless the United States of America, climb to glory.”

As ever, all of this was overlooked. Nowhere did a single commentator wonder, for instance, whether an American president was really supposed to feel that being commander in chief offered greater “honor” than being president of a nation of citizens. In another age, such a statement would have registered as, at best, bizarre. These days, no one even blinks.

In the excerpt above, Engelhardt expands on a point made long ago by the late George Carlin — that America is a nation of “cop lovers and soldier sniffers.”

But Engelhardt goes on to argue, inarguably, that President Obama is leading us into a mess in Afghanistan from which we will never extricate ourselves without further dishonor and defeat. Thus he follows with precision the political strategy of Johnson and Nixon, both of whom also pursued reelection by keeping alive a murderous war that they knew to be pointless and unwinnable.

Please read not just the passages I’ve posted, but Engelhardt’s whole essay.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:48 AM
July 03, 2011
A Rat May Look at a King

From Anthony Summers’ biography of J. Edgar Hoover, Official and Confidential:

In September 1964, when King was due to visit the Vatican, Edgar’s friend Cardinal Spellman was asked by FBI not to grant King an audience. To Edgar’s astonishment, the Pope ignored the advice. Then came news that the civil rights leader was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. King, in the hospital suffering from exhaustion, thought it “the foremost of earthly honors, not for himself but for the movement.” Edgar was beside himself with rage.

“The mores of this country has [sic] sunken to a new low,” he scribbled, overlooking the fact that the Nobel was awarded by foreigners. “He was the last one in the world who should ever have received it,” he said. “I held him in utter contempt…” King, Edgar thought, deserved only the “top alley cat” prize.

Bitterness was compounded by jealousy, for Edgar had long hankered after a Nobel himself. Herbert Jenkins, the longtime police chief of Atlanta, talked with him at this time. “For years and years,” Jenkins later revealed, “Hoover had tried unsuccessfully to win the prize. Many prominent Americans had been asked by Hoover to write the Nobel Committee … but every year Hoover was passed over … Then along comes a Negro southerner who is awarded the prize. It was more than Hoover could stand. It just ate away at him.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:30 PM
June 29, 2011
Happy Days

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, but this video was made just about exactly a month before President Kennedy was tragically killed in Dallas, Texas which as far as I’m concerned is still nut country although they say that about where I was from too. I remember that day coming home early on the school bus. There wasn’t any happiness on our school bus that I remember, just confusion. But what do I know? I was just a first grader.


Posted by Buck Batard at 05:46 PM
June 24, 2011
Nothing New Under the Sun

From pages eight and nine of historian Taylor Branch’s 2009 book, The Clinton Tapes:

[President Clinton] remarked, for instance, that he had no idea what Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas thought about the merits of gays in the military. “He may genuinely be for it or against it,” said Clinton. “All of our discussions have been about the politics.” He said Dole advised him quite candidly that he intended to keep the issue alive as long as he could to trap Clinton on weak ground, where he would “take a pretty good beating.”

Similarly the president said Dole consistently advised that budgets were the most partisan matters between Congress and the White House, and that Clinton could expect to get few if any Republican votes for his omnibus bill on taxes and spending. Clinton said Dole spoke of the opposition’s job not as making deals but rather making the president fail.

On page 158, same book:

Clinton praised [Democratic] Senator Robb’s spirited riposte in a recent debate when senatorial opponent Oliver North called him a lackey who voted mostly with Clinton. Robb replied that he had voted mostly with President Bush, too, because his duty was to help presidents when he could, not tear them down.

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:55 PM
June 22, 2011
The Money-grubbing Class

Buck sends along a 1932 essay in Harpers Magazine by Albert Jay Nock. By “barbarian” he meant something like the British aristocracy, which in his view still possessed a certain residual noblesse oblige. Most likely he was over-generous in this, being something of a snob himself. But a snob who could write. Here’s a passage from the article, titled Our American Upper Class:

In other societies, as a general thing, a member of the upper class is not supposed to make the accumulation of wealth his master-concern, or expected to be particularly good at it. His ancestors are supposed to have stolen enough in the first instance to enable him to rub along, merely taking care of what he has and devoting himself to other pursuits. The hoarding of wealth is not a serious infraction of the upper-class canon, though when it shows itself as a master-concern it is usually regarded with disfavor; but a master-concern with accumulation is not thought to comport with upper-class dignity…

When Mr. Hoover, Mr. Ford, Mr. Rosenwald, Mr. Sloan, Mr. Gifford, Mr. Dawes, Mr. Schwab, Mr. Farrell, Mr. Strawn talk nonsense their words are not referable to any class-criteria, for none exists; their divagations are published widely, accepted complacently, lauded uncritically, and it goes for nothing that the mere passage of time proves them to be nonsense.

The complete bankruptcy of intelligence exhibited in these representative pronouncements from our upper class should make a clean sweep of the notion so often advanced to account for the low level of our general culture, that our best minds nowadays go into business. They do not. They do not go anywhere. There is nowhere for them to go.

Our society has made no place for the individual who is able to think, who is, in the strict sense of the word, intelligent; it merely tosses him into the rubbish-heap; while picking out the stupidest millionaire in sight and placing him in the White House to the accompaniment of a deafening fanfare of adulation for his almost superhuman abilities.

Intelligence is the power and willingness always disinterestedly to see things as they are, an easy accessibility to ideas, and a free play of consciousness upon them, quite regardless of the conclusions to which this play may lead. Intelligence, therefore, while not precisely incompatible with success in accumulating wealth, is unrelated to it; hence it is disallowed by our Philistines.

It is ineffectual among our Populace, on account of that class’s intense preoccupation with the bitter problem of keeping body and soul together from day to day. The only class with which it might be effectual, our Barbarians, is virtually forbidden to transform itself by the cultivation of intelligence because of society’s strong insistence that it shall set up no class-ideals and class-criteria of its own, but shall keep steadfastly to those of the Philistines.

One may see evidence of this in the character of the great and rich educational institutions that our Barbarians have founded, as compared with those founded by the corresponding class in England. They are strictly middleclass institutions; that is to say, they are organized to do everything for the “average student,” for the motor-minded, a great deal for the incompetent, the merely clever, and sagacious, but nothing whatever for the unconsidered minority which gives promise of some day becoming intelligent.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:03 PM
June 15, 2011
The Toad vs. the Weiner

At Connecting.the.Dots Robert Stein does a contrast and compare on Henry Kissinger and Anthony Weiner. (For one thing, the Mass Murderer got laid in real rather than cyberspace.) Here’s a sample:

“Bound hand and foot by complexes, fraught with persecution mania ... His contradictions make him a species of monster ... From that moment ... I began to love him ... For the few seconds in which I held his hand in mine, the fatness of his sausage-like fingers, as the deformation of his face just a little earlier had surprised me.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:56 PM
June 10, 2011

From Kitty Kelley’s dissection of the Bush dynasty, The Family:

As President, Bush kept a male fertility figure, which he had received from the President of Mozambique, in the Oval Office bathroom. The carved wooden statue, facing the toilet, stood three feet high and was anatomically correct, if somewhat exaggerated. The President kept a roll of toilet paper on the extended male organ. He liked to send young women into the bathroom and watch their reaction when they emerged.

“Alixe Glenn, who was deputy press secretary and about twenty-six years old at the time, told a group of reporters about George Herbert Walker Bush’s weird sex thing,” recalled one White House correspondent. “She said the President told her to go into his bathroom and wash her hands. She did as she was told and came out red-faced with embarrassment. The President thought it was killingly funny.”


1. Why did the President of Mozambique think this was an appropriate gift?

2. Why did Ms. Glenn tell this story to reporters?

3. Why didn’t they print it?

4. If George Herbert Walker Bush were president today, would he Tweet?

5. If so, what?

6. Would Andrew Breitbart post it?

7. For sheer classiness, would you prefer (A) a president who finds it funny to embarrass a young female employee by exposing her to a giant wooden penis from Mozambique or (B) a president who allows a smitten young female employee to fellate him? “Neither” is not an acceptable answer; this is not a test of your political correctness. Choose one, and be honest.

8. Now rank the two presidents again, this time on the basis of psychosexual health.

9. Go to the bathroom and wash your own hands, as necessary.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:50 PM
May 29, 2011
Business as Usual

CNN World, May 29, 2011:

An investigation was underway Sunday into allegations that a coalition airstrike in southern Afghanistan killed a dozen children and two women, Afghan and NATO officials said…

“We do know about the allegations,” Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ronald Flesvig, an ISAF spokesman, told CNN. There was no mention of possible civilian casualties on ISAF’s daily operational update posted daily on its website…

Residents, according to Ahamadi, said an ISAF helicopter conducted the airstrike, which hit two houses where women and children were staying.

New York Times, September 7, 2002:

The United States Central Command acknowledged tonight that scores of civilians were killed or injured in an American airstrike on a string of Afghan villages in July, but blamed Taliban fighters for placing women and children near valid miitary targets…

“The ground location of the source of the fire was identified and fires were directed to that area,” the summary said. “Just as the weapon itself is not seen, it is also not possible to determine if the fires from the AC-130 gunship have damaged or destroyed the weapon. Consequently, personnel at the weapon’s location were the primary targets. Unfortunately, it is also not possible to distinguish men from women or adults from children.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:39 AM
May 23, 2011
Fake Muscles

Another note on the decline of the American Empire from Robert Stein at his always interesting blog, Connecting.the.Dots. I hope I’ll be that sharp an observer when I get to be his age.

Never mind men in outer space or those slogging in Middle East mud, media attention is on a horny old Frenchman in Manhattan detention, a former body builder with no procreative self-control and a preening pack of politicians playing Chicken with the national debt limit.

In the Age of Viagra, masculinity is being downgraded everywhere. Even 60 Minutes is obsessed with strength cheating by Lance Armstrong and other cycling idols.

The Bogart-Eastwood days of strong, silent men are long gone, replaced by caricatures on the national stage, flexing fake muscles and abandoning all the responsibilities that used to be associated with responsible manhood…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:25 AM
April 25, 2011
Reading, Writing, and Racism

For some reason (denseness?) it hadn’t occurred to me till reading this that the attack on public unions, like so much from the GOP, has its roots in racism:

While Beltway media portray a dual effort by Republicans and Democrats to avoid a government shutdown, the unavoidable question must be asked: Hasn’t a shutdown been the GOP’s goal the entire time? The Nation’s Melissa Harris-Perry agreed with Rachel Maddow on her show last night that many of the programs — and individuals — that have been targeted for funding cuts are beloved in American society; post office employees, teachers, Medicare. But the Republican Party, with little resistance from Democratic leaders, has been able to successfully demonize these figures and programs.

According to Harris-Perry, the GOP has manipulated popular opinion by linking these programs and workers with “less beloved” figures in American society: African-Americans, poor people and immigrant populations.

“The growth of the African-American middle class in the 1970’s was mostly men working at post offices and women working as teachers,” she says. “Republicans have been very successful in linking … even things for example like public schools to populations and communities that are less beloved, more stereotyped, more stigmatized. They’ve been able to lap those onto each other and sort of create these anxieties in populations that actually need and benefit from — on a daily basis — government actions.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:28 PM
April 20, 2011
Same Rose, Same Toilet?

Just about four years ago the Grand Old Tea Party held a cattle call in South Carolina for its hapless crew of presidential hopefuls. A lot of the old gang are still around and still hopeful. One is Ron Paul, for whom I’ve had a soft spot ever since. Here’s why, from my post of May 16, 2007:

Sure enough, Pastor Mike Huckabee had the crowd in giggles right off the bat with this thigh-slapper: “We've done what Senator McCain has suggested. We've had a Congress that's spent money like Edwards at a beauty shop.”

My, how they laughed! The folks wouldn’t have been more delighted if good old Mike had just gay-bashed Mark Foley or Ted Haggard or Ken Mehlman or Mary Cheney or Karl Rove’s beloved stepfather. Probably less delighted, actually.

But enough of that.

A few minutes later an odd thing happened. Some guy that nobody ever even heard of grabbed a mike and committed common sense, right up there on the stage with women and innocent children watching.

It came as a mild but not unpleasant shock, like pulling up the lid and finding a rose in the toilet …

The perpetrator was named Ron Paul, who turned out upon investigation to be an obstetrician with libertarian leanings, an Air Force vet and an obscure Texas congressman who once represented Tom DeLay’s old district. Here’s some of what he said:

We’ve started with — we’ve just — the Republicans put in the Department of Homeland — it’s a monstrous type of bureaucracy. It was supposed to be streamlining our security and it’s unmanageable. I mean, just think of the efficiency of FEMA in its efforts to take care of the floods and the hurricanes…

We were spending $40 billion on security prior to 9/11, and they had all the information they needed there to deal with the threat, and it was inefficiency. So what do we do? We add a gigantic bureaucracy, which they’re still working on trying to put it together, and a tremendous amount of increase in funds…

There’s a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican party. It is the constitutional position. It is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, stay out of entangling alliances, be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them.

Q: Congressman, you don’t think that changed with the 9/11 attacks, sir?

No. Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years …

We don’t understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we’re building an embassy in Iraq that’s bigger than the Vatican. We’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us. (Applause.)

Q:Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?

I’m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we’re over there because Osama bin Laden has said, “I am glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.” They have already now since that time — have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don’t think it was necessary.

MR. GIULIANI: Wendell, may I comment on that? That’s really an extraordinary statement. That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause, cheers.)

And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that. (Applause.)


I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem.

They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think if we were — if other foreign countries were doing that to us?

This is the first time I can remember that any candidate for the presidency, of either party, has taken seriously the question that Osama bin Laden once suggested we ask ourselves: Why didn’t his men attack Stockholm? The misnamed “War on Terror” can only be won once we react to that question like grownups, not like Rudolph Giuliani and the fools who cheered him so wildly last night.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:55 AM
March 25, 2011
A Government as Good as the People…

…Jimmy Carter promised us during his campaign for the presidency. He did not add "but no better," although he should have — as he was shortly to discover. I just came across the following paragraphs in my files. I wrote them 20 years ago, and post them now for whatever relevance they may have today:

Communism is a worse system than ours not because its ideals are too low but because they are too high. It assumes intelligence and good will to be widespread among the higher primates, which is wildly counterfactual.

Marx forgot that where we stand depends on where we sit: that the worker raised to a boss becomes a boss, no better and no worse than if he had been born a Rockefeller. And so communism inevitably fell to the Stalins, which is to say to newer, smarter, stronger and crueler czars.

Our own system was fashioned not by scholars sitting in the British Library, but by experienced men who were, most of them, fed up with kings and czars whether hereditary or self-made.

The safeguards they built into the Constitution meant that if we would never be governed by a philosopher-king like Marcus Aurelius, nor would we suffer under a Nero. The voters would choose from the unexceptional middle where most of them comfortably resided, dimly suspicious of their betters.

So far this has protected us from an excess of either good or evil in our leaders. Perhaps the misfortune of the first is balanced by the benefits of the second; perhaps not. A truly wise and good president would certainly be fun to try, though.

Unfortunately such a president, to be effective, would require a wise and good citizenry, congress, and courts. But a government for the people being rendered impossible by the people themselves, we must be content to muddle along with what we have. It is what it is, and it could be worse.

On the evidence so far offered by history Americans will turn in times of great stress to an FDR rather than to a Huey Long or a Father Coughlin. Even in times of lesser stress, we do not send a MacArthur or a McCarthy to the White House; we send an Eisenhower. Although a Reagan may have stocked his administration with scum like John Mitchell, James Watt and William Casey, they were not president.

The worst we can manage when it comes to Hitlers or Stalins in the White House seems to be amiable front men for evil. The latter do as much damage as they can in eight years, but it always falls short of fatal. Or has so far.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:25 PM
March 24, 2011
They Don’t Make ’em Like That Any More

Jim Hightower writes:

…While the great majority of workaday Americans are struggling to make it on about $30,000 a year — and having, at best, puny pensions and iffy health coverage — these incoming lawmakers tend to be sitting pretty on hundreds of thousands of dollars each in accumulated wealth. Their financial reports show them holding extensive personal investments in such outfits as Wall Street banks, oil giants and drug makers.

Their wealth and financial ties might help explain the rush by the new Republican House majority to coddle these very same corporate powers. From gutting EPA’s anti-pollution restrictions on Big Oil to undoing the restraints on Wall Street greed, they’re pushing for a return to the same laissez-fairyland ideology of the past 20 years that got our country in massive messes…

The late and incontestably great progressive senator from Nebraska, George W. Norris, was my wife’s grandfather. The senator refused to own stocks or bonds in any company whatever, on the grounds that a senator cast so many votes on so many matters that it would be impossible to avoid at least the appearance of self-interest. What little money he had was invested exclusively in U.S. government securities.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:56 AM
March 07, 2011
A Cringing Horde of Zombies

The flyer below dates back to 1955, more than a decade before Glenn Beck was born. But there was already plenty of stupid around and much of it survives today, barely changed. Fear of fluoride, for instance, will be familiar to any student of the paranoid right. And “communistic” has been replaced by fascistic and socialistic.

But the main reason I’m resurrecting this “Unholy Three” flyer is that in 1958 I covered a political meeting in Arlington, Virginia. One of the candidates for county office was from the tinfoil end of the political spectrum (for which see numbers 1, 2, and especially 3, below.) He had already spoken when Sam Eastman of the Washington Evening Star arrived, and so Sam passed him a note, hand to hand down the line of candidates, asking him to summarize his remarks.

The candidate did so, and passed his answer back. It read, in full, “I spoke in opposition to mental health.”


Click to enlarge


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:26 PM
The Hundred Years War?

Fom the Associated Press:

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that both the U.S. and Afghan governments agree the American military should remain involved in Afghanistan after the planned 2014 end of combat operations to help train and advise Afghan forces…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:56 AM
March 04, 2011
Making America Less Safe

Let’s start by all agreeing that terrorism is a bad thing, okay? But let’s also agree to the indisputable: that it will not and cannot destroy the United States. Here is a very partial list of states that have been visited by terrorism in recent memory: England, France, Spain, Ireland, Canada, India, Pakistan, Bolivia, Nicaragua. On and on. All of them remain in existence. None has assumed the fetal position, whimpering in fear and laying down unaimed fire in every direction. This is to say that only in the United States have the terrorists won.

More on this point from Daniel Larison at Eunomia.

The latest round of interventionist foreign policy over the last ten to thirteen years has focused heavily, though not exclusively, on countering the threat from jihadist terrorism, and everyone would acknowledge that many of the major policy decisions of the last ten years were made politically viable by the 9/11 attacks. Arguments for all of the policies connected to the “war on terror” lean heavily on the idea that terrorism, and specifically jihadist terrorism, represents a major or even an “existential” threat. Any reasonable assessment of the threat shows this to be absurd, and along with those overblown claims goes a large part of the rationale for pretty much every “war on terror” policy.

It seems to me that non-interventionists and realists make blowback arguments to focus on the consequences of current policy, and to point out the flaw in a national security and warfare state that actively makes America less secure by creating enemies where none should exist and provoking attacks that need not happen. It is also a rhetorical move to appeal to public concerns about security without endorsing standard authoritarian and jingoist responses to threats.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but what non-interventionists and realists should be trying to do is to channel the public’s appropriate moral outrage over terrorist atrocities towards reforming the policies that create these unintended, avoidable consequences. To that end, there doesn’t need to be any exaggeration of the nature of the threat or the power of jihadism, but there should be a steady stream of arguments that the threat can be significantly reduced or possibly eliminated by reforming U.S. policies so that they actually minimize the risks to the nation rather than generate new dangers. The threat from terrorism isn’t all that great, but it could be greatly reduced. All that it will cost us is our undesirable pursuit of hegemony.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:51 AM
March 02, 2011
Onward to the Past

In 1960 I wrote a mystery which went unpublished because I was too young and stupid to make a handful of changes the editor wanted.

By now I barely remember the plot, except that the murder somehow hinged on an abortion doctor’s efforts to avoid prison — abortion being illegal although common in most states.

The idea came to me from my stepfather, who then lived in Virginia’s horse country. A gynecologist friend of his was correctly suspected of performing abortions, and the more respectable physicians of Rappahannock County called an unofficial meeting of the local power structure to decide how to deal with this outrage.

In the middle of this, the abortionist himself showed up and took the floor. “I thought I might be able to help you fellows out,” he said, and began to list the wives and daughters of the gentry assembled on whom he had performed abortions. He had barely begun when the sense of the meeting was discovered to be that the state police and the Commonwealth’s Attorney should immediately turn their attention to other matters.

For years my manuscript lay quietly in various attics, and in 1973 Roe v. Wade gave it the final coup de grâce. The book’s motive for murder would now seem a quaint anachronism, like speakeasies or the Hays Office.

But time, in the United States, has a way of running backwards

Though Personhood USA has a reach into every state — and has collected almost 1 million signatures supporting personhood legislation throughout the country — the umbrella organization and its affiliates are currently throwing the most effort at Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska.

On Valentine’s Day, Personhood began a matching program and challenged supporters to help raise $50,000 to make $100,000 to push anti-abortion rights legislation in North Dakota, Montana, Iowa and Mississippi. Today is the last day of the challenge.

Mississippi is the biggest target, as it has a personhood amendment on the ballot that will get a vote in November. If passed, the constitutional amendment would effectively make abortion illegal.

—and now has caught up with my poor little manuscript. Unfortunately, though, I can’t find the damned thing.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:27 PM
February 19, 2011
They Know We Won’t Intervene

Whether the dreams of Egyptian hopefuls come to fruition or are gradually worn down by a dominant military, the world has been electrified by the sight of the people of Egypt converging on places like Tahrir Square to protest the corruption, brutality, and venality of the regime of Hosni Mubarak, dictator for over forty years.

The Tunisian and Egyptian protestors were successful in converting the overthrow of a brutal dictator into a waiting game. That success quickly bred imitation across the Arab world, where populations have begun to think that perhaps they too might throw off the yoke.

Protests against the regime of the King of Bahrain are meeting bullets from the regime. Gaddafi’s forces in Libya are by no means following the example of the Egyptian army.

What’s up with this wave of unrest? Sure, the rebellious populations have plenty to protest, but most of those grievances have been sore spots for decades. Why now?

Gwynne Dyer has a provocative answer: a growing perception in the Middle East and the Arab world that the US failure in Iraq basically eliminates any chance of American intervention on behalf of the harsh regimes we’ve historically supported in the name of anti-Communism or stability or whatever explanation the commissars came up with.

His theory that the US won’t intervene in the Lands of Oil is speculative; past empires have gambled everything they could find on maintaining that grasp just a little longer, passing up every chance to switch hands and grab a more reliable handle. Still, it makes sense in several ways. It’s not just Obama who’d avoid a war in the area, any more than it was just Carter who’d avoid a war in Southeast Asia.

As a result, the regimes that survived on the implied threat of American force exerted to maintain “stability” began to totter. Perhaps it was the self-immolation in Tunisia that sparked the widespread revolt, but there was some reason it wasn’t squashed immediately, whether by internal censors or by external ones. Dyer’s hypothesis deserves consideration.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 02:16 AM
February 17, 2011
Dying to Win

My late stepfather Ralph Ingersoll (founder of the New York daily PM) used to say, “If you’re up against people who literally ‘would rather die than—”, sooner or later they’re going to win.”

I thought of him just now, in reading Nicholas D. Kristof’’s report from Bahrain:

Another woman, Hayat, said that she had been shot with rubber bullets twice this week. After hospitalization (which others confirmed), she painfully returned to the streets to continue to demand more democracy. “I will sacrifice my life if necessary so my children can have a better life,” she said.

I thought of it in Poland, in Tiananmen Square, in Northern Ireland, in the Gaza Strip and of course in Tahrir Square. But I also thought of it in Vietnam, and now in Afghanistan. Every suicide bomber, everywhere, makes me think of it.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:10 PM
February 05, 2011
America, the Arsenal of Something or Other

Anyone around who still imagines that ours is a peace-loving country should read The Domestic Roots of Perpetual War (pdf), from which this excerpt comes. The author, Franklin Spinney, is not a peacenik or a pacifist. He spent most of his long career as high-ranking Pentagon analyst.

One source of the pressure for more defense spending is that our two relatively small wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both much smaller than the Korean or Vietnam war, have stretched our military to the breaking point. These wars are small in terms of scale and tempo of operations. Bear in mind that the Korean and Vietnam wars took place against a backdrop of cold war commitments. Today, the United States is spending more than it did in 1969, when we had 550,000 troops in Vietnam.

But the cold war meant that we also maintained hundreds of thousands of troops in Western Europe and East Asia, a huge rotation base at home to support these forward deployments, a large Navy fleet of 679 ships (compared with 287 today) to control the seas, and thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert in airborne bombers, missile silos, and submarines. Nevertheless, according to a report issued by the Congressional Research Service, the cumulative costs of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq have made the response to September 11 the second-most-expensive war, adjusted for inflation, in U.S. history, exceeded only by World War II…

In 1981, the Reagan administration was so intent on throwing money at the Defense Department that it rushed through an amendment to President Jimmy Carter’s budget. Without any systematic review — and not having the time to type up a new budget — Reagan’s political appointees directed the department merely to hand-write changes adding billions of dollars to hundreds of line items. Much of this largesse was immediately converted into cost growth in existing programs…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:12 PM
January 29, 2011
Long Time Coming

The turmoil in Tunisia (and now, more critically, in Egypt) will prove to be a world-changing event in ways that cannot now be foreseen. One day the uprisings will be understood to have been even more significant than even Bush’s and Obama’s idiot adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While Bush was drinking his way through Yale I was a United States Information Agency officer serving in Casablanca. The conditions that have now led to the upheavals in so much of the Arab world were already apparent. It was common to meet men in their thirties who had never held a job.

And when the three-year-old daughter of our office janitor was horribly burned in an accident, he was refused entry to her hospital room because he had no money to bribe the doorman. Multiply these indignities by the billions throughout the Arab world over the next half century or so, and the present riots become understandable.

Al Jazeera, so vilified by the Bush/Cheney administration, has been throughout a more valuable source of news about the Moslem world than our own news organizations. This remains the case. To follow what is actually happening as our geopolitical world shifts, watch Al Jazeera’s live stream in English.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:58 AM
January 27, 2011
Malpracticing to Deceive

Anthony Piel, writing in the Lakeville Journal. Piel, a former director and general legal counsel of the World Health Organization, concludes after the jump that “the best way to avoid malpractice suits is to quit malpracticing.”

If good police work is essential to nuclear security, how are we, the United States, actually doing? Here’s an example of the problem: Some years back in Paris, when I was “cooperating” with the International Criminal Police Organization (known as Interpol) tracking suspicious money flows, its chief administrator complained to me (as an American) that all too often when Interpol succeeded in nearly unraveling a network of illicit arms trafficking, they would find again and again the CIA (or MI-6 or Mossad or other intelligence agency) at the base of the illicit arms dealing network under investigation. That makes international police work dicey when facing the world’s greatest superpower and its satellites.

It also turned out, to Interpol’s dismay, that a number of powerful U.S. corporations, asset management firms, hedge funds, private equity firms and overseas tax-evasion subsidiaries were involved (and presumably are still involved) directly or indirectly in the financing, promotion and operation of the illegal international weapons trade.

These creations of deregulated, for-profit capitalism are thus contributing, knowingly or not, to the delivery of illicit weapons to strange places and actors, such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Iranians, Yemenis, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations around the world…

Today, a hedge fund located in Greenwich, Conn., may be financing at least indirectly the killing of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The profit motive underlying “free” global enterprise is one thing; but outright disloyalty to America and putting weapons of destruction in the hands of our enemies is something else — beyond excuse. Obviously, we Americans are not doing a proper job of policing ourselves, let alone policing others.

The same Interpol administrator also complained to me that although Interpol shared virtually all its information with U.S. police and intelligence agencies, the United States did not fully share its information with Interpol, and, he pointed out, U.S. agencies such as the CIA, FBI and NSA appeared to withhold critical information from each other.

The administrator’s comments were prophetic, as we soon found out when the United States failed to prevent the 9/11 surprise attack on Lower Manhattan and the Pentagon, in spite of the information that was available to individual U.S. agencies. This was a clear example of how a false concept of the need for proprietary “state secrets” can be used to undermine effective, cooperative intelligence and police action at home and abroad.

Fortunately, the Obama administration is making an all-out effort to collaborate with Interpol, in our own national interest, and to force the different elements of U.S. Homeland Security to communicate and work together. Also, for the first time in history, an American, Ronald Noble, has been made head of Interpol, an organization that helps coordinate the police work of nearly 200 countries.

Hopefully we shall make full benefit of this kind of international police cooperation. But we have to take care not to abuse the Interpol relationship for our own political ends.

The recent U.S. attempt to recruit Interpol to discredit WikiLeaks’ revelations about U.S. military misbehavior in Iraq and Afghanistan is not necessarily a step in the right direction. As they say in the medical field, the best way to avoid malpractice suits is to quit malpracticing.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:20 PM
January 25, 2011
Empire Building

If we actually want to expand and consolidate our influence abroad, the way to do it is not to bankrupt ourselves by sending in the cavalry. For instance, take our 30-year Southeast Asian War Games. Please. For another instance, look at Obama’s fundamentally insane attempt to colonize Afghanistan with drones.

And for a somewhat different approach, consider this:

China has announced plans to build a high-speed railway linking the southern Chinese Guangxi Zhaung autonomous region with Singapore via Vietnam, according to China Daily

“We will invest 15.6 billion yuan (US$3.05 billion) to build the railway linking Nanning and Singapore via Vietnam,” said Long Li, director of the region’s transportation department. “This is extremely important for the construction of the Nanning - Singapore Economic Corridor.”

The corridor refers to the economic link between China and ASEAN nations, starting at Nanning in Guangxi and passing through Hanoi in Vietnam, Vientiane in Laos, Cambodia’s Phnom Penh, Thailand’s Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on its way to Singapore. China Daily referred to Guangxi as the country’s main foreign-trade center, with ASEAN being its largest bloc trading partner.

Of course everything has its downside, as we see in this email from an old colleague who stayed in Thailand after our own efforts to impose a Southeast Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere had so disastrously failed. So you pays your money and you takes your choice, but the Chinese approach seems to involve lower body counts. At least in the short run.

Lemme tell you, man, it’s really bad. The Chinese squatters are the worst of the worst, obnoxious ass holes who simply buy off local officials and do as they please. I can cite numerous examples from personal experience, e.g., the market vendors in Nam Tha and Phonsavan who know NO Lao and could care less.

In March, I got up to the Bolavens plateau where I spent a year in ’63–’64. A joint Chinese/Australian mining concern has a concession to strip away 1,400 km2 of the plateau for bauxite and send it to Yunnan for an aluminum plant. 1,400 square kilometers! Essentially the entire southern half of the plateau. And the fuckers’ office is in the old IVS house we built in Houei Kong. [Ed. note: The International Voluntary Service in Laos was the rough equivalent of the Peace Corps.]

This is happening on top of Korean and other foreign hydroprojects that have displaced villages and destroyed indigenous cultures. And unrestrained logging everywhere, which destroys the habitat that indigenous groups have preserved for hundreds of years and on which they depend to sustain their way of life.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:56 PM
January 14, 2011
Mutually Unassured Destruction

If we all carried guns, the argument goes, there would be less gun violence. It is the mutually assured destruction argument.

Now we have a good example of how open-carry law has worked. In Arizona it is legal and common to carry sidearms openly so that in any gathering of normal size plenty of people are likely to be carrying sidearms for protection. Yet when the Tucson slaughter commenced, not one self-defensive weapon was drawn or used.

Why has this tragic occurrence disproved once again the gun lobby theory that an armed populace is safer than an unarmed one? Because, as the Tucson case demonstrates, events move too quickly for almost anyone to draw on the shooter.

Yes, you might say, but trained shooters would be able to react fast enough to prevent a murder. However the facts disprove that theory as well. Not once in all of the recent assassinations and attempted assassinations have the Secret Service guards, or anyone else, gotten a shot off at the perpetrator. In most the assassin, as in Tucson, is wrestled to the ground by guards or bystanders. Generally the assailants are taken prisoner immediately after firing their weapons.

Guns in schools, guns on the streets, guns everywhere. History has shown there is not much chance the proliferation of guns will stop murder and assassination.



Posted by Bill Doolittle at 09:53 PM
January 10, 2011
The Good Old Days

The excerpt below is from Upton Sinclair’s The Goose-Step: a Study of American Education. This quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore was published in 1923, even before Roe v. Wade. A thousand dollars then would be worth $12,795.50 today.

Or maybe it is medicine the young man has studied. He has heard about the nobleness of the healing art, but he has to keep an automobile and his wife wants to get into society, and competition is keen. There is one way a physician can make a thousand dollars by a few minutes’ work, and any physician who is in touch with the leisure class has women on their knees to him every week, begging him to take their money. Dr. William J. Robinson estimates that there are a million abortions performed in the United States every year, so you see that our medical schools have not steeled all their graduates against this temptation.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:51 AM
January 07, 2011
General Vang Pao Back in the Day

General Vang Pao, the rough-hewn leader of the CIA-backed guerrilla forces in Laos, died of pneumonia yesterday in Clovis, California, at the age of 81. Here are some memories of the Hmong leader that are not likely to be in the obits.

I was the press attaché at the American embassy in Vientiane during one of the periodic struggles with North Vietnamese forces for control of the Plain of Jars. The normal foreign press corps in Laos — three or four stringers and a staff correspondent from Agence France Presse — had swollen to a small mob. I was giving two and sometimes three briefings a day.

All of them wanted to leave the capital city and see the real war, which of course we were reluctant to let them do. It was a secret war after all, one of the few to have its own press attaché. But at last we sort of gave in, and I laid on a DC-3 to carry the reporters up-country to a village called Samthong. For public consumption this was supposed to be the headquarters of Military Region II, commanded by General Vang Pao. The actual headquarters was elsewhere, at the CIA’s semi-secret air base, Long Cheng.

General Vang Pao met the press outdoors. His only prop was a bedraggled prisoner of war, sitting sadly on the ground with his hands tied. The first question to the general was his opinion of the North Vietnamese.

“What would you think of somebody who came into your house and pissed all over the floor?” the general asked, glancing toward the prisoner. “Well, that’s what I think of the North Vietnamese.”

A Vietnamese-speaking reporter asked if he could speak with the captive, and the general told him to help himself. Afterwards the reporter translated, “This man says you attached wires from a field telephone to his penis and made him crank the magneto. Is that true.”

“Probably,” the general said. “Sometimes you have to encourage them.” And so it went.

Next day the New York Times ran an account of the press conference, prominently featuring the field telephone. That same day, General Kouprasith, military commander of the capital district, met with the press back in Vientiane.

The Times man, Henry Kamm, went first: “General Vang Pao told us yesterday that he uses electric shock to interrogate prisoners. Do you do that down here?”

“Oh, no,” General Kouprasith said, to my very temporary relief. “We find it works just as well to withhold food and water.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:50 AM
January 02, 2011
More Life at the Ending of Empire

Dennis Jett, professor of international affairs at Penn State and former U.S. ambassador to Mozambique and Peru, has an interesting op-ed on the McClatchy site. His basic claim is that by continuing the Bush tax cuts the Democrats and Republicans have combined to assure that Obama will be re-elected and the United States will decline to a secondary power.

Naturally, he says, this is the opposite of what McConnell says the Republicans are going for. But all Mitch has to do to realize that he can’t beat Obama in 2012, says Jett, is check the lineup of available candidates for the Republicans. Even Obama can beat them.

In exchange for this short-term political win for the Democrats, the Republicans get the long-term win of bankrupting the federal government through war and deficits, and the rich, who fund both parties, walk away with the profits. Turns out it’s more important to all three parties to cut taxes than to keep the country from falling apart.

But, Jett asks, do we really have a problem with high taxes in this country? He looks at studies of the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD, a group that includes pretty much all the so-called developed world and a few of the faster-developing countries from the rest.

These studies show taxes as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product in the U.S. are at their lowest level since at least 1965 and are the lowest in the OECD except for Mexico and Chile. At the same time, income inequality and poverty are higher in the U.S. than any other country in the OECD except Mexico and Turkey. As for the accusations that socialism is sweeping the land, only in Korea does the redistribution of income by government have a smaller effect.

The griping about taxes will continue nonetheless. The ability of Americans to have a rational discussion on the subject was long ago put to death by Ronald Reagan’s sound bites. Government became evil and greed became a virtue.

No country can be great if its citizens are unwilling to pay for it. No country will remain great if it neglects the health and education of those citizens who lack lobbyists. The tax cuts may have assured the President’s reelection, but they also ensure America will grow more separate and unequal, not unlike the proverbial banana republics. As a result the U.S. will slowly slip from the leader of the First World to an honorary member of the Third, unless Americans stop believing their exceptionalism stems only from their virtue and requires no sacrifice.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:08 PM
December 30, 2010
The Last Necessary Word on Palin

I pass along this from Robert Paul Wolff so you won’t have to waste any more of your time reading crap about Sarah Palin’s presidential prospects.

Back in the early seventies (when the late unlamented Richard Nixon was as yet an undisgraced president), I was sitting around with several UMass colleagues gossiping, as was our wont, about a mutual friend. He had just been elevated from the faculty to a Deanship, and we were speculating about what sort of administrator he would be. Since he had not even served as a Department Chair, we had no track record on which to base our speculations, so we were very much at a loss.

Then Zina Tillona, a Professor of Italian in the Romance Languages Department (since phased out as part of a long, tragic world-wide assault on the Humanities) offered a bit of folk wisdom that, with the benefit of many years of hindsight, I now recognize as truly profound.

“Well,” she said, “most people do most things the way they do most other things.”

At first, what she said struck me as being very close to tautological, but as I reflected on it, I began to realize the deep insight of that simple remark. People have styles of behavior, modes of interacting with the world, that are grounded in their character, and a person’s style of being manifests itself in small things as much as in large.

If a person is perpetually late, lingering with a student in her office rather than promptly moving on to the next student on her appointment list, she will probably continue to be late when it is Deans and Provosts she is dealing with. If a professor’s desk is neat and cleared of all papers, with six pencils lined up in a row, their newly sharpened points exactly aligned, then he will almost certainly be punctilious, precise, and obsessively complete in his scholarly work.

I thought of Zina’s maxim when trying to puzzle out the political ambitions and intentions of Sarah Palin. Would she run for the Republican presidential nomination? Did she even want to be president? One of my sons, to whom I had long since passed on Zina’s folk wisdom, recalled it for me, and went on to suggest that it held the answer to my questions.

Palin has held three significant positions in her life: mayor of Wasilla, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission, and Governor of Alaska. She walked away from the second and third, each time because she saw an opportunity to maximize her fame and personal wealth. She clearly had no interest in actually being Governor of Alaska, nor is there the slightest indication that she wanted actually to be, or even had any idea what was involved in being, Vice-President of the United States.

Since most people do most things the way they do most other things, she will almost certainly run for the nomination, because that is the best way to remain famous and to develop new money-making opportunities without working for them. But should she have early successes in the 2012 primaries, as well she may, she will find some way, before the nomination process is complete, to drop out of the race, presenting herself as a victim of all manner of plots and prejudices.

Indeed, even if she secures the nomination, it is a virtual certainty that she will quit the race before she is defeated on election day. That this will cause chaos in the Republican Party will be of no concern to her, for at no time in her entire career has she ever exhibited the slightest loyalty to anyone or anything beyond her own immediate interest.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:01 PM
December 28, 2010
Open Wide the Closets

And now, for a change of pace, some good news. Bill Clinton’s misbegotten child, DADT, is dead. Everybody has heard this by now, but whole generations of younger Americans can’t understand just how good this news really is. One who can is author Perry Deane Young, an army veteran and a war correspondent in Vietnam. Let him tell you how it was in the bad old days:


The repeal of “Don’t Ask don’t Tell” was a moment in history this old queer never thought he’d live to see.

Like many thousands before and since, I lied when I came to this line in the Army’s health questionnaire: “Do you now or have you ever had …. homosexual tendencies?” I had been actively, if secretively, homosexual since early puberty, but I also knew the brutal consequences of being open about those “tendencies.”

There came a moment of terror for me in February of 1967 when I stood at the alphabetical end of hundreds of soldiers posing for our graduation picture at the Fort Gordon Military Police School. Lost among that anonymous sea of olive drab, I was stunned to hear my name called out by one of the officers standing down front.

Words cannot begin to describe the fear and dread going through my mind as I slowly made my way to the front. Like all homosexuals at that time, I lived in constant fear of being “found out.” I honestly felt my hopes and dreams for the future would come crashing down. In fact, I felt I would never have a future except as some silly societal category of lesser human being…


My fears turned out to be unfounded. An officer handed me my diploma and I slowly made my way back into the stands, amid the whispers of what’s he done, why’s he so special?

To this day, I have no idea why I was singled out. All I know is that in that moment, I realized that I could not live with that sort of terror. Some day, somehow, I would have to deal with it. I could not live a lie. A wise old survivor of the death camps in Nazi Germany said it best: “Freedom is not having to lie about who you are.”

How can anybody believe that being homosexual is some sort of moral choice? Nobody in his or her right mind would choose to live the way homosexuals were forced to live in the 1950s and 1960s. Even now, the taint of being homosexual is so strong the suicide rate among gay teenage is several times that of heterosexuals. The suicide of the young Rutgers student last year dramatically illustrates how far we have yet to go.

During my time as a correspondent in Vietnam, I simply got up one morning unafraid to be myself. And, yes, there were some wonderful loving moments I cherish from my days among the military in Vietnam. In his book, Dispatches, Michael Herr mentions two Marines “making love” one night during the battle in Hue. And in my own memoir, Two of the Missing, I describe having sex with a Marine in Danang, a Navy Lieutenant in Saigon and an Army captain in Phu Bai.

Simply put, there have been homosexuals and homosexual activity among service men and women for as long as there have been service men and women. John Horne Burns’ The Galleria was a barely fictionalized account of gay American soldiers in World War II Italy.

The Marine Corps commandant is simply over-reacting to outdated images of homosexuality and masculinity in his recent statements against repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He does a disservice to homosexuals and to the Marines. He helps perpetuate the myth that homosexuals are weak and can’t be trusted to control themselves in a professional manner — and he also seems to think the Marines are redneck rubes who can’t handle being around somebody different.

The truth is the commandant is not nearly as aware of societal changes or as sophisticated as the troops he commands. He is concerned about image, and nothing more. The current Marines grew up in an environment of sexual and racial tolerance where being gay is simply not an issue. They also know that the old stereotypes of homosexuals as sissies, pansies, fairies are no more valid than the old stereotypes that denigrated people of color in our country.

The Marine commandant is wrong about homosexuals and wrong about the kind of men and women who serve in the U.S. military. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, gave an eloquent summary of both counts in his testimony before a senate committee on Feb. 2, 2010:

Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me personally, it comes down to integrity—theirs as individuals and ours as an institution. I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change. I never underestimate their ability to adapt.

As a gay man swiftly slouching toward the age of 70, I am dismayed by the attitudes that still cause gay men and women to kill themselves. But, I am heartened by changes in the laws that will make it possible for young gay Americans to grow up with the same freedoms everybody else enjoys. It reflects a healthier time for homosexuals and for America.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:27 AM
December 27, 2010
Annals of Life at the Ending of Empire

The half-way mark of Obama’s first term draws to an end. Most of the fine dreams that brought him to office have so far been frustrated. Worse, the dreamers on whose shoulders this presidency rode to Washington are alternately mocked and patronized, with the barely hidden assumption that anyone to the left of Wall Street is not a serious citizen, but instead is either a wild-eyed leftist who believes that wealth is evil, a bleeding heart who’d bankrupt the country for temporary and futile assistance to the needy, or a simpleton incapable of understanding the complex workings of modern economies.

To some extent this is based on the continuing use of an obsolete mode of thought. After the Second World War, American industry dominated the world in a manner never seen before. The other pre-war industrial powers were largely in ruins, with huge losses in population and industrial plant, while the US homeland was unscathed, and we lost far fewer soldiers from a larger population than we had in our Civil War. We were hurt, but our industries were pumping out new items so fast, our problem was to find ways to create markets. The Marshall Plan was not purely an act of humanity, though it was that, or of smart diplomacy, though it was that in spades. It was also a attempt to get the European market on its feet as fast as possible; otherwise American industries would soon find themselves overproducing and be forced to cut back, sending the economy back into a depressive spiral.

At that time it made some sense to see the success of the American method and its distribution of benefits through a wide swath of society as based on our industrial might, our ability to produce massively more than we needed or could even realistically consume. If our industries continued to prosper, the thinking went, our economy and society would, too. Of course there was a certain silliness to this line of thought; wartime prosperity happened because of the endless markets and full employment the war created. Still, it made sense politically to promise continued growing prosperity to a war-weary public.

So was the US then less plutocratic than it is now? To some extent, perhaps; but more importantly, the plutocracy is now headed by financiers rather than captains of industry. In other words, we no longer make things, we merely shuffle bits, so we no longer need lots of workers. In fact, having lots of workers just divides the pie into smaller chunks, so we prefer the smallest number of workers possible. The result is that an increasing subset of the population is excluded from the economic recovery the media and the administration tout, and many of those who are still included endure worsening conditions.

As our main industry is now Wall Street, we should probably adjust our thinking to include the obvious fact that what benefits Forbes-list types no longer trickles down even to the small extent it used to. People involved in what Calvin Trillin called “this business of securitizing things that didn’t even exist in the first place” only need the person on the street to con, and as a resource when a con goes bad and has to be paid off by the taxpayers. Witness on both counts the recent real-estate meltdown and the scams that caused it.

Thus it’s not surprising that we alternate between Democrats who represent Wall Street and Republicans who represent Big Oil. And unfortunately it’s also not surprising that Americans raised on television and superheros continue to believe that the next representative of Wall Street or Big Oil will save the economy and the environment concurrently, stop the wars, end the torture and the illegal surveillance, and return us to the democracy we thought we had. Though we haven’t had it for a very long time, and only a minority of us even then.

So Obama promises change and delivers not a bit of it. In fact he doubles down on the most horrific Bush policies with the exception of Iraq, from which he transfers troops to Afghanistan. Where we now have a hundred thousand troops and likely at least that many contractors, presumably searching for the hundred or so al Qaeda operatives thought to be hiding somewhere near the border with Pakistan.

Most likely the military presence has nothing to do with projected routes of oil pipelines. It is interesting to note, however, that oil and weapons are two more of the biggest remaining US industries, and that the interests of Wall Street and Big Oil converge when it comes to hostilities, especially those aimed at procuring and securing oil.

In any case, the old model no longer applies: what’s good for American mega-corporations is rarely good for the country as a whole. But American presidents continue to operate on the old model.

From this point of view, we can understand Obama’s promise to find a middle ground as aimed at an audience consisting of the industries represented by the two parties, in particular finance and oil. Seen from this viewpoint, the first two years have been a great success: Obama has maneuvered along traditional lines to please the two greatest destructive forces the country has yet produced, using the tried and true method of foreign war against a helpless adversary. Even better, a mercurial one, so that we no longer need to demonize a nation or a people, which is considered racist nowadays. We can, though, still manage to scare ourselves with belated realizations that our worldwide exploits and exploitations have not always been greeted by the locals with the fondest of regards.

Which, as Frank Herbert said, is the point.

If you think of yourselves as helpless and ineffectual, it is certain that you will create a despotic government to be your master. The wise despot, therefore, maintains among his subjects a popular sense that they are helpless and ineffectual.

Obama, of course, is no despot. Our system is not despotism but plutocracry, and it’s been that way since its founding. As Chomsky has taught for years, the powerful in America are bent on deterring democracy abroad and restricting it at home, rolling back the twentieth century as far as possible.

Obama is no more an agent of change than he is of despotism. The change he proposes is in the tactics of making deals among American mega-corporations as they divvy up the resources that our lives have become.

Perhaps that’s all he’ll need for re-election. That, and the weakness of any currently available Republican challenger, plus the bitter taste the public still has from the most recent Republican nightmare. Certainly he’s managed to alienate and even ridicule many of the most energetic of his former foot-soldiers, presumably following the classic Democratic strategy of assuming that they have nowhere else to go on election day. Unfortunately many will believe that.

As Gore Vidal says,

Our only political party has two right wings, one called Republican, the other Democratic. But Henry Adams figured all that out back in the 1890s. “We have a single system,” he wrote, “and in that system the only question is the price at which the proletariat is to be bought and sold, the bread and circuses.”

It’s passing strange to live in a country where people could take control of their lives and their government, yet choose not to.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:01 AM
December 23, 2010
Paranoia, Here We Come, Right Back Where We Started From

History repeats itself, no question. And no surprise either. It was formed and deformed back then by human beings; it still is, and by an unimproved species.

There are two ways of looking at this regular reemergence of past follies in almost identical shapes: either we have learned nothing from our mistakes, never will, and are therefore all doomed; or what the hell, we lived through these stupid patches before and so we probably will this time too. Take your pick, bearing in mind that it is Christmas, a season of hope.

Meanwhile, here’s a patch that I lived through as a young man, more or less intact and still bitching. This description of it is by Richard Hofstadter, in a 1963 speech at Oxford which was later published in Harper’s Magazine as “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Read “socialism” for “Communism” and “Obama” for “Roosevelt” and you’ll feel right at home. Professor Beck and Deacon McConnell make their appearances, too, along with many other familiar folks.

But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialist and communist schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners but major statesmen seated at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors discovered foreign conspiracies; the modern radical right finds that conspiracy also embraces betrayal at home…

The basic elements of contemporary right-wing thought can be reduced to three: First, there has been the now familiar sustained conspiracy, running over more than a generation, and reaching its climax in Roosevelt’s New Deal, to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for s0cialism or communism. Details might be open to argument among right-wingers, but many would agree with Frank Chodorov, the author of The Income Tax: The Root of All Evil, that this campaign began with the passage of the income tax amendment to the Constitution in 1913.

The second contention is that top government officialdom has been so infiltrated by Communists that American policy, at least since the days leading up to Pearl Harbor, has been dominated by sinister men who were shrewdly and consistently selling out American national interests.

The final contention is that the country is infused with a network of Communist agents, just as in the old days it was infiltrated by Jesuit agents, so that the whole apparatus of education, religion, the press, and the mass media are engaged in a common effort to paralyze the resistance of loyal Americans…


As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, the quality needed is not a willingness to compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Nothing but complete victory will do.

Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated — if not from the world, at least from the theater of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for unqualified victories leads to the formulation of hopelessly demanding and unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same sense of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.

This enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman: sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, luxury-loving…

Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he directs the public mind through “managed news”; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional); he is gaining a stranglehold on the educational system.

This enemy seems to be on many counts a projection of the self: both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. A fundamental paradox of the paranoid style is the imitation of the enemy. The enemy, for example, may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry…

One of the impressive things about paranoid literature is precisely the elaborate concern with demonstration it almost invariably shows. One should not be misled by the fantastic conclusions that are so characteristic of this political style into imagining that it is not, so to speak, argued out along factual lines. The very fantastic character of its conclusions leads to heroic strivings for “evidence” to prove that the unbelievable is the only thing that can be believed…

The singular thing about all this laborious work is that the passion for factual evidence does not, as in most intellectual exchanges, have the effect of putting the paranoid spokesman into effective two-way communication with the world outside his group — least of all with those who doubt his views. He has little real hope that his evidence will convince a hostile world. His effort to amass it has rather the quality of a defensive act which shuts off his receptive apparatus and protects him from having to attend to disturbing considerations that do not fortify his ideas. He has all the evidence he needs; he is not a receiver, he is a transmitter…


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:36 PM
December 17, 2010
Pulling Up the Ladder

During a Google search for something else, I just now came across a nativist blog called stoptheinvasionoforegon. It is a particularly repellent specimen of the genre and contains a particularly revolting selection of racist images. If you have the stomach for this kind of thing, Google it for yourselves.

If the internet had existed in the 1830s I imagine that the Cayuse and Klamath tribes would have spread the same sort of welcome mat for the wagon trains of land-hungry settlers just then arriving from Independence, Missouri.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:49 PM
Solidarity For Never

This is from an essay by George Orwell. Reading it I thought of Nixon’s exploitation of the hard hats whose sons and brothers he was sacrificing in Vietnam to get reelected. And of the working class dupes in the red states who turn out on election day every four years, if they turn out at all, to shoot themselves in the foot.

The backbone of the resistance against Franco was the Spanish working class, especially the urban trade union members. In the long run — it is important to remember that it is only in the long run — the working class remains the most reliable enemy of Fascism, simply because the working-class stands to gain most by a decent reconstruction of society. Unlike other classes or categories, it can't be permanently bribed…

Time after time, in country after country, the organized working-class movements have been crushed by open, illegal violence, and their comrades abroad, linked to them in theoretical solidarity, have simply looked on and done nothing; and underneath this, secret cause of many betrayals, has lain the fact that between white and coloured workers there is not even lip-service to solidarity.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:07 PM
December 14, 2010
There’s a Sucker Bought Every Minute

Andrew Trees in the Los Angeles Times:

“Swilling the planters with bumbo” was what it was once called — the Colonial American tradition of treating voters with gifts during election campaigns, particularly plying them with rum (including a concoction known as bumbo). Virtually everyone who could afford the practice did it, including George Washington, who served 160 gallons of rum to 400 voters during the 1758 campaign for the Virginia House of Burgesses. Needless to say, this was a prohibitively expensive way to campaign, and it meant that politics was largely the preserve of the rich.

I was reminded of this phrase when a recent Center for Responsive Politics study of 2009 data found that 261 of the 535 members of Congress were millionaires (this probably understates the actual number because members of Congress aren’t required to report their homes as assets). When looking at both houses together, the legislators weighed in with a hefty median income of $911,000. For the Senate alone, median income was an astounding $2.38 million…

John Adams railed against this development more than two centuries ago. At the time, the prevailing view was that government positions should pay little, if any, salary so that only men with virtuous intentions would fill them. But Adams pointed out that this so-called solution did not ensure the election of virtuous men, only the election of rich men…

Adams’ great fear was that we would have what he called “an aristocratic despotism”: the possibility of “the rich, the well born and the able acquir(ing) an influence among the people that will soon be too much for simple honesty and plain sense.” In typical fashion, his judgment of that aristocracy was unstinting in its harshness. He wrote of “the weakness, the folly, the pride, the vanity, the selfishness, the artifice, the unbounded ambition, the unfeeling cruelty of a majority of those (in all nations) who are allowed an aristocratical influence…”

As [Adams] warned back then, you get the politics you pay for.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:29 PM
December 06, 2010
The Birth of Music

From humble beginnings as a gramophone (like this one in the National Museum of Scotland) grew first the primitive Walkman, which was eventually to culminate in today’s magnificent iPod.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:34 PM
October 25, 2010
A Man is Known by his Enemies

This is excerpted from Claude G. Bowers’ 1925 study, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Struggle for Democracy in America. I would like Christine O’Donnell to read it and take it to heart. I would also like pigs to fly.

Just as the landed aristocracy of Virginia pursued him [ed. note: Thomas Jefferson, a Famous Founding Father] with increasing venom because of his land reforms, the clergy hated him for forcing the separation of Church and State. When he made the fight for this reform, it was a crime not to baptize a child into the Episcopal Church; a crime to bring a Quaker into the colony; and, according to the law, a heretic could be burned. If the latter law was not observed, that compelling all to pay tithes regardless of their religious affiliations and opinions was rigidly enforced.

This outraged Jefferson’s love of liberty. The Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists, who were making inroads on the membership of the Established Church, were prosecuted, and their ministers were declared disturbers of the peace, and thrown into jail like common felons. Patrick Henry and his followers fought Jefferson’s plan for a disestablishment — but he won. The ‘atheist’ law, which was never forgiven by the ministers of Virginia and Connecticut, was simple and brief:

No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burdened in his mind or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:57 PM
October 22, 2010
The Pubic Hair Test Revisited

Consider this:

Nearly two decades after Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his fractious Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it remains unclear who was lying…

Really? Consider this, then:

Lillian McEwen, a retired administrative law judge who said she dated Clarence Thomas from 1979 through the mid-1980s, told The Washington Post: “The Clarence I know was certainly capable of not only doing the things that Anita Hill said he did, but it would be totally consistent with the way he lived his personal life then…”

And most of all, consider that at the time of his confirmation hearing in 1991 nobody but those with a political reason to do so believed Clarence Thomas for a New York minute. This is because his denials so obviously flunked the Pubic Hair Test, first described in the literature by me in January of 2001, which I now repost as a public service:

Fans of political theater will recall that Professor Anita Hill had charged her former boss with a pattern of sexual harassment which included showing her a Coke can with a pubic hair sticking to it. Judge Thomas swore, no doubt truthfully as the truth is vouchsafed unto him, that he had never in his life done such an ungentlemanly thing.

How could we, the millions of spectators at this morality play, know what to think? Was it the stern federal judge who was telling the truth, or was it the demure law professor? Along with thousands of others, no doubt, I applied the principles that comprise the Pubic Hair Test:

Could Professor Hill could have made up a story so peculiar? In other words, was there anything in the accuser’s much-investigated background to suggest that she was a pathological liar? Did she suffer from hallucinations? Was she “creative?” Perhaps even an aspiring novelist?

And if she were such a pathetic fantast, as the Republicans pretended to think, would the Coke can invention be more destructive to her presumed enemy than any other lie she could just as easily have dreamed up?

No to the first question. Professor Hill seemed depressingly literal and humorless. It was impossible to imagine her engaged in a flight of fancy. The only suggestion to the contrary came from a young black man who seemed principally interested in reciting his resume on national TV. He thought Professor Hill had imagined that he was attracted to her, whereas she was really attracted to him, poor thing. This textbook case of projection could hardly have seemed plausible even to Orrin Hatch.

And no to the second. The tale of the pubic hair and the Coke can was so meaningless and bizarre that the most simple-minded listeners (and there were several among the senators) would have rejected it as a lie casting doubt on the rest of her story. To do maximum damage, any competent slanderer would have stuck to such old standbys as indecent exposure, groping, and dirty pictures.

The Pubic Hair Test therefore indicated with zero probability of error that this particular woman could not and would not have invented this particular senseless and incomprehensible story.

God knows whose pubic hair that was, or what the future Supreme Court justice thought its presence on a Coke can signified, or what made him imagine that his weird performance might be seductive, but the incident plainly happened pretty much the way Professor Hill said it did.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:53 AM
October 10, 2010
Their Man in Washington

More news from the swill kings who caused the present depression. (Don’t tell me this isn’t a depression; I have eyes.)

However, while Paulson has been criticized, unfairly or not, because $12.9 billion of the bailout money went to Goldman, he’s drawn little scrutiny for what he did in his first 18 months in office, during the final frenzied stages of the housing bubble.

In his eight years as Goldman’s chief executive, Paulson had presided over the firm’s plunge into the business of buying up subprime mortgages to marginal borrowers and then repackaging them into securities, overseeing the firm’s huge positions in what became a fraud-infested market.

During Paulson’s first 15 months as the treasury secretary and chief presidential economic adviser, Goldman unloaded more than $30 billion in dicey residential mortgage securities to pension funds, foreign banks and other investors and became the only major Wall Street firm to dramatically cut its losses and exit the housing market safely. Goldman also racked up billions of dollars in profits by secretly betting on a downturn in home mortgage securities.

“No one was better positioned . . . than Mr. Paulson to understand exactly what the implications of his moving against the (housing) bubble would have been for Goldman Sachs, because he knew what the Goldman Sachs positions were,” said William Black, a former senior thrift regulator who delivered the harshest criticism of the former secretary.

Paulson “knew that if he acted the way he should, that would have burst the bubble. Then Goldman Sachs would have been left with a very substantial loss, and that would have been the end of bonuses at Goldman Sachs.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:39 AM
October 07, 2010
NATO an Enabler of US Adventurism?

More good sense from Daniel Larison. Worth reading in its entirety:

As much as we can appreciate and honor the support our NATO allies have provided, we shouldn’t drag them into conflicts that have never really been their concern. “Out-of-area” missions will just keep happening again and again as the alliance looks for new conflicts to enter to provide a rationale for its existence. European nations are clearly tired of it, and at present they can’t afford it, either. The need for fiscal retrenchment has been forcing European governments, even the new coalition government in Britain, to make deep cuts in their military budgets.

Making NATO into a political club of democracies in good standing is also no solution to the Alliance’s obsolescence. As we saw in the war in Georgia two years ago, proposed expansion of NATO has been more of a threat to European peace and security than dissolving it. Once again, this is something that most European governments understood at the time, and which Washington refused to see. Without the belief that Georgia was eligible for membership and would eventually be allowed to join, it is unlikely that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili would have escalated a conflict over its separatist regions and plunged his country into war with Russia. That conflict was a good sign that the Alliance had outlived its usefulness. If it isn’t disbanded, it may start to become a menace to the very things it was supposed to keep safe.

America doesn’t need and shouldn’t want to perpetuate an outdated alliance. The creation of NATO was an imaginative solution designed to respond to the security conditions of the immediate aftermath of World War II, and it was an enormous success. But it is time for Americans to begin thinking anew about the world. A first step in doing that is letting go of an alliance neither America nor Europe needs…


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:06 PM
September 30, 2010
How To Be a Good Republican

First, appearances are everything. To be a good Republican you have to look like a good Republican. Which is not so easy these days. It used to be that a good Republican looked like a small-town banker — an agreeable Kiwanian with a prosperous paunch, dressed in a dark gray suit, a white shirt and a red tie drawn at the neck into a carefully constructed knot. If he had an adventurous bent, the banker might essay a triangular Windsor knot. Winter or summer, he always wore a hat.

The Windsor knot, by the way, is said to have originated with the Duke of Windsor, whose only other contribution to the world was to demonstrate just how thin royal blood could get. Before the war started, the newly minted Duke and Duchess made nice with the Nazis on one of their endless trips to nowhere, and were eventually shuffled off to the Bahamas by an exasperated British government. The Duke spent the war years perfecting his knot and studying the tango. Had he been an American citizen, there is no doubt the Duke would have been a Republican.

Republican women used to look like the banker’s wife, who was considered a style trendsetter and a model of sensible, plump American womanhood. She subscribed to family values before the phrase was invented. She was chairwoman of the annual bake-off fund-raiser for the hospital and wore a silver fox stole in the winter. She also wore a hat with some sort of bird feather in it and thought New York City was the home of the Devil. She was an enthusiastic Republican because her husband was an enthusiastic Republican. That’s all there was to it. She would have thought the Tea Party was inhabited by dangerous lunatics with terrible manners, sort of like the Hell’s Angels.

But all that was a long time ago, before everything got so confusing. Now where does a good Republican look for inspiration and guidance? Where once there was Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater and Dwight Eisenhower, all earnest and boring and utterly unsurprising, now we have John McCain, Michelle Bachmann, John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich? Oh, what a rich choice! But first…

No matter how you knot your tie, as a good Republican you will want to keep your eye on the donut. You will want to embrace the essence of Republicanism, the spirit of conservatism; you must long for the way things used to be, or at least say you do, before Big Government came along and ruined everything. You will want to have at hand a few phrases about fiscal responsibility, self-reliance and the American Way, even if you don’t quite know what the American Way is. If you happen to have one of the old GOP handbooks, go through it and cross out Communism wherever you see it and substitute Terrorism with a capital T. Cross out Roosevelt and insert Obama. Cross out New Deal and replace it with Bad Deal. Make sure you’ve got the words of the “Pledge of Allegiance” and “God Bless America” down pat and memorize the First Amendment.

Now you’re ready to adopt the GOP style that suits you. Which do you like best? Boehner or Bachmann, Palin or Gingrich? And don’t forget the Old Pilot. Maybe the bolts have popped out of his wings but he’s still flying the plane, more or less. How about Orrin Hatch? Now there’s a guy knows how to knot a tie. He can do it one-handed while the other hand is busy wielding the scalpel. How about Mitch McConnell? Isn’t he cuddly cute? Nobody said this was going to be an easy choice.

Perhaps it would be easier to make a selection from a list of GOP adjectives and construct your very own Republican persona. Here are a few descriptive words to help you: smug, hypocritical, selfish, greedy, hawkish, myopic, negative, reckless, stupid.

And, finally, let’s not forget wrong.



Posted by Paul Duffy at 10:39 AM
September 24, 2010
Droit de Denture

Sometimes a few words can bring a whole era to life. These are from the review in this week’s New Yorker of Ron Chernow’s new biography of George Washington:

The mar to his beauty was his terrible teeth, which were replaced by unsuccessful transplant surgery and by dentures made from ivory and from teeth pulled from the mouths of his slaves.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:32 AM
September 23, 2010
Nairobi vs. Plains: Contrast and Compare

I just bought President Carter’s White House Diary yesterday, and haven’t got far enough along to have any useful thoughts on it. Just as I arrived home, though, I got a call from Samuel P. Jacobs of The Daily Beast who wanted my opinion on the current craze for comparing President Obama’s problems to President Carter’s.

I didn’t really have any useful thoughts on that either, but that didn’t stop me. For those who give a feces, the result is here.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:22 AM
September 12, 2010
We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

To those of us who are getting along the news these days can seem, in a certain sense, comforting. After all we have been here before, haven’t we? — time after time, even. For an instance take a look at this, substituting Tea Party for pseudo-conservativism, Obama for Eisenhower, and so on as needed. Very few of Richard Hofstadter’s words would need changing if they were written for tomorrow’s New York Times. In fact they were written for The American Scholar in 1954. We somehow managed to stumble through that outbreak of national idiocy, soiled and tattered but mostly intact. With luck, we may even do it again.

The new dissent is certainly not radical — there are hardly any radicals of any sort left — nor is it precisely conservative … It can most accurately be called pseudo-conservative because its exponents, although they believe themselves to be conservatives and usually employ the rhetoric of conservatism, show signs of a serious and restless dissatisfaction with American life, traditions, and institutions.

They have little in common with the temperate and compromising spirit of true conservatism in the classical sense of the word, and they are far from pleased with the dominant practical conservatism of the moment as it it represented by the Eisenhower administration.

Their political reactions express rather a profound if largely unconscious hatred of our society … Adorno and his co-workers found that their pseudo-conservative subjects, although given to a form of political expression that combines a curious mixture of largely conservative with occasional radical notions, succeed in concealing from themselves impulsive tendencies that, if released in action, would be very far from conservative.

The pseudo-conservative, Adorno writes, shows “conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness” in his conscious thinking and “violence, anarchic impulsiveness and chaotic destructiveness in the unconscious sphere … The pseudo-conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or subconsciously aims at their abolition.”

Who is the pseudo-conservative and what does he want? It is impossible to identify him by social class, for the pseudo-conservative impulse can be found in practically all classes in society, although its power probably rests largely on its appeal to the less-educated members of the middle classes. The ideology of pseudo-conservatism can be characterized but not defined, because the pseudo-conservative tends to be more than ordinarily incoherent about politics. The lady who, when General Eisenhower’s victory over Senator Taft had finally become official in 1952, stalked out of the Hilton Hotel declaiming: “This means eight more years of socialism,” was probably a fairly good representative of the pseudo-conservative mentality…

The restlessness, suspicion and fear shown in various phases of the pseudo-conservative revolt give evidence of the anguish which the pseudo-conservative experiences in his capacity as a citizen. He believes himself to be living in a world in which he is spied upon, plotted against, betrayed, and very likely destined for total ruin. He feels that his liberties have been arbitrarily and outrageously invaded. He is opposed to almost everything that has happened in American politics in the past twenty years. He hates the very thought of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He is disturbed deeply by American participation in the United Nations, which he can see only as a sinister organization…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:11 PM
September 03, 2010
What Isn’t Black and White and Red All Over?

More good stuff with which I agree, this time from Professor Wolff at The Philosopher’s Stone, who is almost as old as I am and even wiser:

I never imagined Obama was a left liberal, and I didn’t campaign for him under that illusion. I thought he was a centrist, a left-centrist, in the framework of American politics, with the ability to mobilize the center and the left to defend against the horrors promised by the right. I was right about that. Had the depression not hit, he would in fact be doing quite well now, by his own lights, but quite well means successfully pursuing centrist-left policies. In point of fact, he has been astonishingly successful in that regard. The health reform bill … is the best that we could get, given the realities of American politics, and he is the first president in ninety years to get it.

You are mad at the wrong person. The real villain in this piece is the enormous number of Americans — not, I think and hope a majority, but enormous none the less — who are either conservative or hysterically insane with religious fantasies and political paranoia.

Do you want a genuinely leftist president? Fine, so do I. How do we get one? Answer, we change eighty or a hundred million Americans. Let me remind you — and I was there, so I know — that Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter were all Left Centrists at best. My grandfather gave his life to the Socialist Party, and its high point was electing him and six others to the NYC Board of Aldermen. This has NEVER been a country that was hospitable to genuinely leftist politics.

What we are now facing is a threat from the right unlike any I have seen in forty years. We are in danger of losing such tattered remains as we still have of a social safety net, and of seeing maniacal religious fanatics running our country. I am hoping that Obama will tap into his considerable political skills to stop that from happening, but even if he does, we will nonetheless be stuck with a politics that is markedly to the right of where it is now. These are godawful times, made all the more perilous by the fact that the very large number of genuine progressives in this country are dispirited.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:35 PM
Be Afraid, But Not Very Afraid

Here’s Daniel Larison in The American Conservative, making some excellent points (points, that is, with which I agree).

As I have said before, I don’t think the GOP will win the House, but if that did happen it would primarily be bad news for the Republican Party and the conservative movement. If that seems a little too counterintuitive for you, let me explain. Should the GOP somehow win the House, they will not have earned it and they will not deserve it, and they will proceed to destroy themselves in very short order.

Arguably, there was nothing worse for the American right than to be given the free gift of winning the 2002 midterms, because this win encouraged them to pursue the policies that proved to be their undoing, and a similar win in 2010 would have the same effect of enabling Republicans’ most destructively self-indulgent impulses. As one horrified by the prospect of Republicans in power, Erik should look forward to this.

After all, even if the Republicans won the House there would not be much that they could do once in office, except waste their time as they did in the ’90s hauling executive branch officials before committees to testify on this or that outrage of the week. They would likely be stymied by the Democratic majority in the Senate on any major legislation, and Obama would veto just about anything they passed if it somehow got to his desk. At the same time, Obama would make them into a much more effective foil for his arguments once they had some hold on power, and out of frustration they would become increasingly obsessed with “getting” Obama and become even less interested in representing the interests of their constituents…


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:43 PM
August 25, 2010
Sickly Fear

Below is an August 26, 1875, letter to the Bristol (Connecticut) Press. For the word “tramps” may be substituted, depending on the period, French, Irish, Negroes, Catholics, Polish, Germans, Czechs, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Muslims, illegal immigrants, or an oppressed, defenseless minority of your choice. Tea Partiers will want to choose themselves…

There would appear to be no immediate prospect of abatement of the tramp nuisance. Rather, the tramp seems to have become ubiquitous and the growth of his order is only equaled by his capacity for villainy and “general cussedness.) The few mild measures taken in some sections for the suppression of this dangerous class have proved wholly inoperative, thus far. How long the community at large will continue to bear the afflictions before resorting to a more vigorous and wholesome treatment is difficult to determine.

From the way in which people permit themselves to be imposed upon and cowed into acquiescence with all that these rascals insolently demand, we should judge that this is sort of a tramps’ millenium and is to be of indefinite duration. At any rate the tramps are increasing and with their multiplication, robbery, incendiarism, intimidation, rape and murder in like ratio become more and more common.

This tramp nuisance will continue just as long as people submit to it and no longer. The remedy is within reach. It is a simple remedy, easily supplied. It may appear to some to be harsh, but if people would be rid of the evil, they must first make up their minds that harsh measures are the only ones that can be made effective.

In the first place, stop feeding tramps. Secondly, let every man, woman, and youth learn now to use a revolver and have one or more of these useful articles in every house, especially if in an isolated situation. Then whenever a tramp appears, peremptorily refuse him food or shelter and escort him off the premises at the muzzle of a cocked revolver and if he isn’t easily scared and attempts force, shoot.

A trusty weapon in every house and a disposition to use it on very slight provocation, will do more to squelch this abomination than any other means possible to use. And when people drop their squeamishness and sickly philanthropy and all other classes of criminals with that promptness and fidelity which is possible only by taking the law into their own hands, the moral atmosphere will improve wonderfully and life, property and virtue will be properly respected.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:38 PM
August 01, 2010
The Welfare Queens of Wall Street

Here’s David Stockman, Reagan’s budget chief:

…The third ominous change in the American economy has been the vast, unproductive expansion of our financial sector. Here, Republicans have been oblivious to the grave danger of flooding financial markets with freely printed money and, at the same time, removing traditional restrictions on leverage and speculation. As a result, the combined assets of conventional banks and the so-called shadow banking system (including investment banks and finance companies) grew from a mere $500 billion in 1970 to $30 trillion by September 2008.

But the trillion-dollar conglomerates that inhabit this new financial world are not free enterprises. They are rather wards of the state, extracting billions from the economy with a lot of pointless speculation in stocks, bonds, commodities and derivatives. They could never have survived, much less thrived, if their deposits had not been government-guaranteed and if they hadn’t been able to obtain virtually free money from the Fed’s discount window to cover their bad bets…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:22 PM
July 12, 2010
Kagan Commits Perjury

Senator Tom Coburn, who completed his legal studies at Oklahoma State University Medical School in 1983, knows as much about the law as a hog knows about Sunday. Nonetheless

Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) asked if Ms. Kagan agreed with Critical Legal Studies, a left-leaning movement that flourished at Harvard Law School in the 1980s. CLS believed the U.S. legal system abetted traditional social and economic hierarchies, perpetuating an inequitable distribution of wealth and power.

“No,” Ms. Kagan wrote. “I do not agree with any of the ways of understanding law and the legal system that are described above.”

Likewise, Mr. Coburn asked if she “ascribed” to Legal Realism, an antecedent of critical studies developed in the 1920s by such figures as Jerome Frank, a federal appeals judge and former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman. Legal Realism rejected the 19th century view that law was akin to a science with unchanging principles that were discovered over time, and instead contended that law was a human creation that reflected human biases and imperfections.

“No,” Ms. Kagan replied.

The answer showed her to be either a liar or a fool. Liar is more probable. Her job at that moment was not to tell the truth but to get past the Senate and onto the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John G. Roberts had earlier showed her how the thing was done when he babbled on, at his own confirmation hearings, about baseball umpires and his undying fealty to the sanctity of legal precedent.

To anyone who is, unlike Coburn, actually interested in legal realism, I recommend reading not only Jerome Frank, but also Thurman W. Arnold, James Harvey Robinson, John T. Noonan, Jr., and Fred Rodell. Arnold, the most entertaining of these, is pictured below.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:17 AM
June 07, 2010
Lovable Old Gipper’s Folk Wisdom Saves World

Reagan’s national security adviser, Richard V. Allen remembers Israel’s 1981 air strike on the nuclear reactor under construction in Iraq:

In what seemed an eternity but was only two minutes or so, President Reagan was on the line, a slight note of irritation in his voice: “Yes, Dick, what is it?” I quickly recited what happened, and he asked me to repeat the message. After pausing for a few seconds, he asked, “Why do you suppose they did that?” My answer was something to the effect that the Israelis clearly did not want that reactor to become operational.

He went silent, and the phone line again filled with the churning of the copter. With characteristic aplomb, he suddenly asked: “Well, you know what?” I said, “What, Mr. President?” His retort was classic: “Boys will be boys!”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:40 PM
May 27, 2010
Forget About Kansas…

…what’s the matter with the South? It’s worth remembering that Dixie was well on its way out of the toilet before it chose to dive right back in. Badtux the Southern Penguin poses the question in this excerpt. And here’s his answer, which is not likely to surprise you. But plenty of people don’t know the backstory.

Historically, the American South in the period from around 1920 to 1965 was characterized by populism. A series of charismatic progressive governors was elected in most Southern states during this time period who brought their backwards states up to then-modern standards in many ways.

Public education had been crippled for decades by barriers that prevented most poor kids from advancing past the 6th grade, especially the cost of textbooks. Those barriers were removed and poor kids for the first time had the opportunity for a high school education. Public universities were vastly expanded and tuitions cut to zero for poor kids in many cases, allowing access to higher education for many for the first time.

A road network that was primarily rutted dirt roads in 1920 was by 1965 as good as any road network anywhere in the nation. Taxes on the wealthy that basically didn’t exist in 1920 were at national norms by 1965. In 1920 most Southerners had no electricity, indoor plumbing, or telephone service, by 1965 those were at national norms. Manufacturers noted the new infrastructure and the newly-educated work force and flocked to the South in droves. Decrepit cities like Houston and Atlanta started throwing up modern skyscrapers and becoming thriving metropolises.

Yet this burst of modernization basically had slammed to a halt by 1975. Instead of electing progressive governors, the South started electing regressives, people intent upon rolling back the reforms instituted by the progressives. When progressives did get elected, like Edwin Edwards in Louisiana during the late 1970’s, they found themselves fighting holding actions, basically trying to keep government services from being gutted by a populace increasingly hostile to government.

City parks and recreation programs were gutted and closed, city bus services were cut back or eliminated, and the roads and schools started to deteriorate. A few cities fought back and managed to become isolated islands of progressivism and prosperity, but most Southern cities started a long slide to ruin…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:38 PM
May 25, 2010
Still Babies? Still.

I hate to say I told you so, but Jimmy Carter told you so — back in his 1977 energy speech. America yawned. America is still yawning, despite the befouling of the Gulf Coast. Maybe God will help us, but we won’t.

From Grist, via Kate Sheppard:

…The last time lawmakers truly freaked out about the problem of our oil dependence — when gas prices topped $4 a gallon in the summer of 2008 — the Senate Energy Committee called in Skip Laitner, director of economic analysis at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The committee asked Laitner what efficiency — the famously unglamorous energy strategy — could do to relieve gas prices. He gave them an astonishing figure: It could save 46 billion barrels of oil. If the U.S. made an all-out investment in energy efficiency-cutting energy waste out of vehicles, buildings, the electrical grid, and elsewhere in the economy — Laitner believes it could save the energy equivalent of 46 billion barrels by 2030.

Domestic offshore drilling produced 537 million barrels a year over the last nine years, according to the Minerals Management Service. A full-bore efficiency plan would save the equivalent of 85 years of offshore drilling.

Looking at the transportation sector alone, Laitner recommended 10 short-term policies that would cut the need for oil. Congress eventually passed one of them-the “cash for clunkers” program. Even that could be improved upon: the lax fuel-economy standards for new cars meant the trade-in program didn't save nearly as much fuel as it could have…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:50 AM
May 24, 2010
The Clinton Legacy

Like the current economic meltdown (enabled by the 1999 repeal of the Glass Steagall Act), our immigration woes are in considerable measure Bill Clinton’s fault.

From The Rag Blog:

The coffin nail was the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. Every year since, millions of tons of cheap U.S. and Canadian corn swamp Mexico forcing small-hold campesinos and campesinas out of business. A Carnegie Endowment investigation into the impacts of NAFTA on poor Mexican farmers published on the tenth anniversary of the trade treaty calculated that 1.8 million farmers had abandoned their milpas in NAFTA's first decade — since each farm family represents five Mexicans, the real number of expulsees comes in close to 10,000,000, at least half of them women.

One consequence is that women now swim in the migration stream in dramatically increased numbers. Sisters follow their brothers north and wives their husbands, leaving the children at home with the grandmothers. A third of the households in Tanaco and just down the valley in Cucucho have no mother or father at home…


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:50 PM
May 23, 2010
The Buck Stopped Where?

My old White House boss Jim Fallows thinks very highly of President Obama’s West Point speech, but even more highly of President Eisenhower’s thematically similar farewell address in 1961 — the military-industrial complex one.

Nonetheless, I thought the argument and emphases of the speech made it important and wise, though for a different reason from what immediate press accounts have stressed. The short-term point about the speech is how different it is from George W. Bush’s argument for “preemptive war” at the same site eight years ago. The more significant point, to me, is how consistent Obama’s argument was with one of the statements of U.S. interest and strategy that holds up best over time: Dwight Eisenhower’s extraordinary “farewell address” to the nation nearly 50 years ago.

Well, okay, but Jim was in grade school nearly 50 years ago whereas I had spent the Eisenhower years as a college student, an army draftee, and a Washington newspaperman. Thus I have trouble getting too misty-eyed about that farewell address, although it was certainly extraordinary in one way.

Who had been president for the previous eight years? Who had sent White Star special forces teams to Northern Thailand only months before? Who had just told the incoming president that the greatest threat to world peace facing him was Laos?

Who made the unspeakable Dulles secretary of state and kept him in the job? Who sent thousands of “advisers” and billions in military aid to Diem after he violated the terms reached at Geneva by refusing to hold the national elections that he (and we) knew Ho Chi Minh would win?

Who blew the very real possibility of ending the Cold War when he continued the U-2 flights, thereby making it impossible for Khrushchev to pursue the detente the Soviet leader had plainly been seeking? Who let the other unspeakable Dulles gin up a CIA invasion of Cuba and who then left the whole mess on Kennedy’s plate?

Finally, who was the only president of my lifetime who had the military credibility, popularity and heroic stature to actually do something about that whole military industrial complexy thingy that upset him so?

But I agree with Jim — it was a swell speech.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:34 PM
May 03, 2010
Heil Freedom!

In Stieg Larsson’s best-selling mystery, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, an elderly Swedish industrialist remembers his long-dead brother:

“In 1924, now seventeen, Richard was a fanatical nationalist and anti-Semite. He joined the Swedish National Socialist Freedom League, one of the first Nazi groups in Sweden. Isn’t it fascinating that Nazis always manage to adopt the word freedom?”

In Doonesbury, yesterday:




Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:28 AM
April 30, 2010
When Will They Ever Learn, When Will They Ever Learn?

Insert Vietnam for Afghanistan as appropriate:

KABUL, Afghanistan — A Pentagon report on the last six months in Afghanistan portrays an Afghan government with limited credibility among its people, a still active if not growing insurgency and an enormous reliance on American troops to train, outfit and finance the country’s defense forces for the foreseeable future.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:54 AM
April 29, 2010
Shit Happens, Tony

Tony Hayward, chief operating officer of British Petroleum:

Asked whether the accident could have prevented, Hayward said, “All accidents can be prevented — there’s no doubt about that.”

Jerry Doolittle, daily newspaper reader since 1948:

“Anything that can happen, will.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:00 AM
April 25, 2010
The Banksters Are Always With Us

This was taken by war photographer Jim Caccavo in 1968. The setting is the former Tan Son Nhut air base near Saigon. The 3rd U.S. Army Field hospial is in the background.


Click image to enlarge


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:28 AM
April 16, 2010
Let’s Hear It for Congress!

Here’s a point of view seldom expressed these days, being done so by Robert Paul Wolff at The Philosopher’s Stone:

Since I had never visited Washington D. C., and now knew several people in the new Kennedy Administration, I took the train down to spend a week there… They were tremendously excited by their new jobs, but as I spent time with them, I grew more and more uneasy. It was all a bit like the court at Versailles under the ancien régime. There was a great deal of gossip, and a constant anxiety about the thoughts, the feelings, the preferences, the moods of one person, the President.

When I went over to the Capitol to take a look at Congress, my view of the government changed entirely. I spent several days in the visitors’ gallery of the Senate, watching debates and votes… I watched with great amusement as Everett Dirksen [shown below] protested his love of duck hunting and hunters, imitating to great effect a duck settling onto a pond at sunset. Apparently the government had imposed a tax on duck hunting in order to raise money for wetlands preservation, and then had used the money to drain swamps for development…

I watched the great maverick, Wayne Morse, bellow to an empty chamber that he was not going to kowtow to the Catholic Church, with regard to what I can no longer recall. And I watched as all but two of the senators came to the floor to vote on the renewal of the Civil Rights Commission.

What attracted me so greatly was the fact that each of these men and women was an independent person, beholden only to his or her constituents, and not subservient to the President, regardless of how charismatic and powerful he might be.

These were men and women with honor, not servile courtiers hoping to be given pride of place on a balcony or in a presidential jet. Exactly the same sentiments welled up in me as I watch octogenarian Robert Byrd deliver speech after speech calling George W. Bush to account for the damage he did to the U. S. Constitution.

It was fun visiting Marc Raskin in the Executive Office Building, and listening to the rumors about Kennedy and Marc’s secretary, Diane DeVegh. It was interesting hearing Dick Barnet talk about the inside story at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

But it was ennobling to watch the debates on the floor of the Senate. I think it was that week in a hot Washington summer, rather than any of the books I had read, that once for all time soured me on the Imperial Presidency.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:02 PM
April 10, 2010
The Subhuman Side of the News

Today’s Waterbury Republican-American carried this story on the appearance of beloved elder statesman Henry Kissinger at the Kent, Connecticut, Lions Club:

Kissinger delighted the audience with his humorous remarks and took his time answering a half-dozen different questions.

First Selectman Bruce K. Adams was the last in line and he took the opportunity to ask Kissinger for advice in governing and leading the small town he lived in. Kissinger candidly admitted that he has been focused on foreign policy rather than local politics. “I’m counting on you in making this the special place it is.”

Also today, the Associated Press carried some earlier advice from the retired Sage of Foggy Bottom:

WASHINGTON — As secretary of state, Henry Kissinger canceled a U.S. warning against carrying out international political assassinations that was to have gone to Chile and two neighboring nations just days before a former ambassador was killed by Chilean agents on Washington’s Embassy Row in 1976…

In 1976, the South American nations of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay were engaged in a program of repression code-named Operation Condor that targeted those governments’ political opponents throughout Latin America, Europe and even the United States.

Based on information from the CIA, the U.S. State Department became concerned that Condor included plans for political assassination around the world. The State Department drafted a plan to deliver a stern message to the three governments not to engage in such murders.

In the Sept. 16, 1976 cable, the topic of one paragraph is listed as “Operation Condor,” preceded by the words “(KISSINGER, HENRY A.) SUBJECT: ACTIONS TAKEN.” The cable states that “secretary declined to approve message to Montevideo” Uruguay “and has instructed that no further action be taken on this matter…”

“You can instruct” the U.S. ambassadors “to take no further action” on the subject of Operation Condor, said the Sept. 20 cable by Harry Shlaudeman, assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs, to Shlaudeman’s deputy.

The next day, on Sept. 21, 1976, agents of Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet planted a car bomb and exploded it on a Washington, D.C., street, killing both former Ambassador Orlando Letelier, and an American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt [below]. Letelier was one of the most outspoken critics of the Pinochet government.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:55 PM
April 08, 2010
And You Thought the Choirboys Had It Bad…

Despite what you’ve been reading, the Vatican is moving closer to Christ’s teachings all the time — although perhaps more slowly than some might prefer. Consider this 1455 Papal Bull from Pope Nicholas V, granting certain rights to the king of Portugal:

But since, as we are informed, although the king and infante aforesaid (who with so many and so great dangers, labors, and expenses, and also with loss of so many natives of their said kingdoms, very many of whom have perished in those expeditions, depending only upon the aid of those natives, have caused those provinces to be explored and have acquired and possessed such harbors, islands, and seas, as aforesaid, as the true lords of them), fearing lest strangers induced by covetousness should sail to those parts, and desiring to usurp to themselves the perfection, fruit, and praise of this work, or at least to hinder it, should therefore, either for the sake of gain or through malice, carry or transmit iron, arms, wood used for construction, and other things and goods prohibited to be carried to infidels or should teach those infidels the art of navigation, whereby they would become more powerful and obstinate enemies to the king and infante, and the prosecution of this enterprise would either be hindered, or would perhaps entirely fail, not without great offense to God and great reproach to all Christianity, to prevent this and to conserve their right and possession, [the said king and infante] under certain most severe penalties then expressed, have prohibited and in general have ordained that none, unless with their sailors and ships and on payment of a certain tribute and with an express license previously obtained from the said king or infante, should presume to sail to the said provinces or to trade in their ports or to fish in the sea, [although the king and infante have taken this action, yet in time it might happen that persons of other kingdoms or nations, led by envy, malice, or covetousness, might presume, contrary to the prohibition aforesaid, without license and payment of such tribute, to go to the said provinces, and in the provinces, harbors, islands, and sea, so acquired, to sail, trade, and fish; and thereupon between King Alfonso and the infante, who would by no means suffer themselves to be so trifled with in these things, and the presumptuous persons aforesaid, very many hatreds, rancors, dissensions, wars, and scandals, to the highest offense of God and danger of souls, probably might and would ensue — We [therefore] weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso — to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:44 AM
March 14, 2010
The Return of Cowboyism

Suggested by my last post, the following excerpt is from William Greider’s 2009 book, Come Home, America:

The U. S. military, despite its massive firepower and technological brilliance, has itself become the gravest threat to our peace and security. Our risks and vulnerabilities around the world are magnified and multiplied because the American military has shifted from providing national defense to taking the offensive worldwide, from being a vigilant defender to being an adventurous aggressor in search of enemies.

The predicament this muscle-bound approach puts our country in is dangerous and new. Go looking for trouble around the world and you are likely to find it. The next war may be a fight that is provoked not by them but by us. The next war may already have started somewhere in the world, perhaps in a small, obscure country that we’ve considered threatening.

From a review of the book by George C. Wilson, the Washington Post’s longtime Pentagon correspondent:

I agree with Greider that there is a new attack elephant in the American living room. The old watchdog that would bark if some stranger knocked at the door but only bite if he broke into the house has been retired. Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates seem to have fallen in love with Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Marine special operators who do their deadly work in the shadows. The top of our government was similarly infatuated with special operations during the Vietnam War until some of the operators got out of control and had to be reined in to discourage what was called “cowboyism” back then.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:27 PM
The High Cost of Peace

From today’s New York Times:

…What we had to abandon was quite clear: the rigid ideological, political and economic system; the confrontation with much of the rest of the world; and the unbridled arms race. In rejecting all that, we had the full support of the people.

The words could have been spoken by President Obama in his State of the Union, but weren’t. The author instead is Mikhail Gorbachev, who sacrificed his political career by calling off the Cold War.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:40 PM
March 03, 2010
The Founding Dope Fiend

Via Alternet, from Opium for the Masses, by Jim Hogshire:

In 1987 agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency showed up at Monticello, Jefferson's famous estate. Jefferson had planted opium poppies in his medicinal garden, and opium poppies are now deemed illegal. Now, the trouble was the folks at the Monticello Foundation, which preserves and maintains the historic site, were discovered flagrantly continuing Jefferson's crimes. The agents were blunt: The poppies had to be immediately uprooted and destroyed or else they were going to start making arrests, and Monticello Foundation personnel would perhaps face lengthy stretches in prison…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:13 AM
February 20, 2010
Our Great National Pastime

As we live in what is at present the most heavily armed and warlike society on earth, the following symptomatology might be of interest. It is from The Acquisitive Society, by British historian R.H. Tawney, writing in 1920.

Since then, setting World War II aside for the sake of brevity, we have made war, at various levels and in various ways, in Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, South and North Korea, South and North Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, the Congo, Colombia, Kuwait, Iraq, Haiti, the Philippines, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, El Salvador, Sudan, Somalia, the Soviet Union, China, the former Yugoslavia, Indonesia and Angola. No doubt I have forgotten a few; there have been so many.

Militarism is the characteristic, not of an army, but of a society. Its essence is not any particular quality or scale of military preparation, but a state of mind, which, in its concentration on one particular element of social life, ends finally by exalting it until it becomes the arbiter of all the rest. The purpose for which military forces exist is forgotten. They are thought to stand by their own right and to need no justification. Instead of being regarded as an instrument which is necessary in an imperfect world, they are elevated into an object of superstitious veneration, as though the world would be a poor, insipid place without them, so that political institutions and social arrangements and intellect and morality and religion are crushed into a mold made to fit one activity, which in a sane society is a subordinate activity, like the police or the maintenance of prisons or the cleansing of sewers, but which in a militarist state is a kind of mystical epitome of society itself.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:21 PM
February 16, 2010
Pat Robertson, Meet Mahatma Gandhi…

Pursuant to our recent interest in agnosticism and atheism, I pass along a specimen of Bertrand Russell’s apostasy, written 60 years ago but as fresh as yesterday’s earthquakes in Haiti:

Throughout the last 400 years, during which the growth of science has gradually shown men how to acquire knowledge of the ways of nature and mastery over natural forces, the clergy have fought a losing battle against science, in astronomy and geology, in anatomy and physiology, in biology and psychology and sociology. Ousted from one position, they have taken up another.

After being worsted in astronomy, they did their best to prevent the rise of geology; they fought against Darwin in biology, and at the present time they fight against theories of psychology and education. At each stage they try to make the public forget their earlier obscurantism, in order that their present obscurantism may not be recognized for what it is. Let us note a few instances of irrationality among the clergy since the rise of science, and then enquire whether the rest of mankind are any better.

When Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning-rod the clergy, both in England and America, with the enthusiastic support of George III, condemned it as an impious attempt to defeat the will of God. For, as all right-thinking people are aware, lightning is sent by God to punish impiety or some other grave sin — the virtuous are never struck by lightning.

Therefore if God wants to strike anyone, Benjamin Franklin ought not to defeat His design; indeed to do so is helping criminals to escape. But God was equal to the occasion, if we are to believe the eminent Dr. Price, one of the leading divines of Boston.

Lightning having been rendered ineffectual by the “iron points invented by the sagacious Dr. Franklin,” Massachusetts was shaken by earthquakes, which Dr. Price perceived to be due to God’s wrath at the “iron points.” In a sermon on the subject he said, “In Boston are more erected than elsewhere in New England, and Boston seems to be more dreadfully shaken. O! there is no getting out of the mighty hand of God.”

Apparently, however, Providence gave up all hope of curing Boston of its wickedness, for, though lightning-rods became more and more common, earthquakes in Massachusetts have remained rare. Nevertheless, Dr. Price’s point of view, or something very like it, was still held by one of the most influential men of recent times. When, at one time, there were several bad earthquakes in India, Mahatma Gandhi solemnly warned his compatriots that the disasters had beeen sent as a punishment for their sins.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:00 PM
February 15, 2010
Making Sausage

From McClatchy Newspapers, here’s one way to get the job done:

For the two generations of children who have attended integrated public schools, it's hard to fathom South Carolina spent $124 million on buildings and buses from 1951 through 1955 with the express purpose of preventing black and white kids from attending school together. Based on inflation, that would be $1.1 billion in 2010 dollars. The Legislature approved a 3-cent sales tax in 1951 to pay for the work, and the state borrowed against future sales tax revenue to build schools as quickly as possible.

Never before and never since has South Carolina spent as much money and energy improving public school facilities in such a short period as it did in the 1950s. But to call that period the golden era of school funding in the state would be using the wrong color. It was all about black and white.

And from the late, great Huey Long of Louisiana, here’s another way to get the job done.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:42 PM
January 17, 2010
Peace Has Its Day

It was dawn as 1,000 quiet Trentonians, bent on demonstrating their deep commitment to civil rights for Blacks in America, waited patiently to board buses for Washington, D.C. Lost in thought or just sleepy, each eased towards a line of buses in downtown Trenton, New Jersey.

We all knew this day we would be part of something bigger than all of us; we would be bearing witness to the struggle for equal rights for all Americans. We knew we were small players in a larger tragedy that had vexed America since its founding. And so hundreds and hundreds of buses roared and coughed their way down Route 22, through the slums of Wilmington and Baltimore. and finally past the magnificent monuments on the Ellipse honoring George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

As always in our flawed land, some whites had expressed fears of violence every time its citizens gathered to bolster the hopes of Black people that they would finally become full citizens.

I was there as a reporter for The Trentonian, a blue collar tabloid newspaper that gave enormous, if uncelebrated, coverage to the civil rights movement that was to reach its emotional crescendo this day, the 28th of August, 1963.

Disembarking into a sea of people, we realized immediately that this was no ordinary demonstration. This was to be a truly peaceful march — families, white and black, fathers with children on their shoulders, mothers cradling their infants.

Though I had covered numerous demonstrations and rallies, some of which turned violent, this was a solemn march of citizens peacefully seeking redress for centuries of discrimination and mistreatment. This march of 250,000 Americans that thronged the park behind the White House was more worship than war, more prayerful than raucous.

Previously I had covered the departure of James Farmer from New York with the Freedom Riders. After the buses left, an Asssociated Press reporter and I were jumped by a group of screaming northeastern racists. We were beaten, but not seriously injured. I was thankful later that I had not been on those buses whose passengers were to endure much worse treatment in Georgia.

On this more peaceful day I made my way to the roped-off foreground of the Lincoln Memorial and tried to enter to interview the celebrities and civil rights leaders milling about under the huge statute of Abraham Lincoln.

No luck until a friend inside shouted , “Bill, come on in !” Gail Buckley, there with her mother Lena Horne, the singer and civil rights activist, talked me through the tight security. Slowly I edged toward the wooden stands erected on the steps of the Memorial, and sat down close to the empty speakers’ podium.

And then I waited and waited and waited — trying to be unobtrusive, as if to imply, “I’m with them,” and blend in with the nation’s civil rights leaders. Slowly the stands filled up and the speakers began. A sea of citizens filled the expansive park, reaching from Washington to Lincoln on the banks of the Reflecting Pool.

Then came Martin Luther King, who delivered his historic speech, his words echoing across the park as they have down through history…



Posted by Bill Doolittle at 09:11 PM
December 31, 2009
The Year in 700 Words or Less

Last year’s big news was that George W. Bush wasn’t president.

Neither was John McCain. The other guy was, the skinny guy from Chicago with the funny name and the silver tongue. Many people were not happy about this. They say he talked his way into the White House and he doesn’t know what he’s doing. They say he’s a socialist who wants to ruin our health care system with a lot of heavy-handed government intervention. And we all know what happens when the government gets involved. Curtains. Sayonara. Forget about it.

National Fiber Threatened

Fortunately, there were enough right-thinking men and women in Congress to put a stop to the awful creeping socialism that was threatening the very fiber of our national fabric. Most of these stalwarts were Republicans, the party of good sense and restraint, but also some right-thinking Democrats and one Independent, who were not about to let creepy-crawly socialism threaten the very fabric of our national fiber.

These brave men and women voted their consciences, irrespective of how much money the big health insurance companies poured into their campaign coffers. This is America, not some cheap banana republic where money can buy any result. This is America where right-thinking senators and congresspersons come together, regardless of party affiliation, and do the right thing to keep strong the very fiber of our national fabric.

A lot of ink and valuable TV time was wasted on the debate over health care reform, which politicians of every stripe agreed was desperately needed, even if only because their annoying and ill-informed constituents said it was. In fairness to our intrepid senators and congresspersons, it wasn’t always so easy to tell what the people wanted.

National Fabric Endangered

Some of them called Obama a dangerous lefty and carried placards depicting him as Hitler, that infamous socialist. Some of them stood up in meetings organized by right-thinking politicians and screamed and yelled that government intervention would ruin Medicare and Medicaid. Get the government off our backs, they shrieked, and don’t touch our Medicare.

Faced with this sort of criticism, many of the most independent congresspersons climbed upon the fence and stayed there through the long season of mindless debate. Being right-minded, they were worried about the cost of the most radical reform measures, which they said would eat away at the very core of our American values and might eventually threaten the very fiber of our national fabric.

Good Sense Prevails

After a whole year in which George W. Bush was no longer president and Dick Cheney was not the vice-president and Donald Rumsfeld was not the secretary of defense, the government was still functioning, more or less, thanks to the non-partisan patriotism of right-thinking elected representatives and high-level officials of every political stripe. As the year came to a close, it appeared that the underhanded efforts to tear the national fabric to shreds had been defeated.

The health insurance bill that the skinny Chicago socialist had tried to put over on a gullible American public was pretty well wrecked by a few alert patriots from both parties and one Independent. It was a reassuring example of how well representative government works in a free society where you get what you pay for. No one knows exactly what is still in the bill and what has been taken out because no one has read all of its 1,000-plus pages and no one ever will.

A Couple of Other Things

On Wall Street things returned to normal. Executives awarded themselves multimillion-dollar bonuses for a job well done and Bernie Madoff was inducted into the brokers’ hall of fame.

Tiger Woods showed that he has what it takes to stay on top in the celebrity game. And so did Sarah Palin, whose book was named the best koob ever by the Dyslexia Koob Club.

Altogether, it was a pretty good year — the kind of year you look back at and say, It could have been a lot worse or it could have been a lot better. Whatever.



Posted by Paul Duffy at 11:55 AM
December 17, 2009
Once upon a Time, before Americans forgot how to fight back

Don’t stop here, this has nothing to do with that Ayn Rand follower Arthur Silber but was found in a comment on Avedon Carol’s blog, and from those words quoted from an FDR speech, it’s quite easy to conclude that our current President and FDR have nothing, absolutely nothing in common, or so it seems to me right now.

Perhaps a second term will reveal a different perspective but with Republicans likely to be coming into the House and Senate in droves, that doesn’t seem likely. Those of us who vote Democrat long for the days when a speech like the one in the link would be spoken by a President in Office and we continue to vote that way because we have Hope — Hope that another Democratic President will deliver what FDR did. Obama seems to have failed the test miserably so far.

So we long for any President who would follow the path that FDR strode. Those of us old enough to have seen it happen know what Ronald Reagan ushered in. We see it every day in our streets filled with homeless people, in our dying and dead small towns, in our handicapped and mentally ill who too often fall through the cracks and who usually never get the help they need and in hundreds of places and people where and whom Reagan helped to fall from grace and economic security. Sure, he created a small economic elite, but at the price of a hundred people whose economic security was lost for every one person who gained a small fortune. The only thing that trickled down was piss.

Yes, we want FDR back. Perhaps that is too much to ask for. Nevertheless, the Republicans are far worse and I won’t ever vote for a party that seeks to create a permanent political and economic aristocracy. Perhaps all we can hope for is small steps, one at a time. Right now no further stimulus money is available.

That has been decreed and was allowed to happen ever since that cretin Nixon opened the doors to China, which I didn't and don’t disagree with. However, the situation was made intolerably bad by George W. Bush’s desire to lower taxes and then use borrowed money from China to finance his war and thereby break the economy, with Obama continuing in the charade, or so it seems at the moment. Now we have become the economic slaves of a small elite due to our national debt, on top of slaves to our own government as Chuck mentioned in the previous post. It is hard to be hopeful, yet dum spiro spero. Now, here’s the FDR that so many of our people seem to have forgotten:

And so it was to win freedom from the tyranny of political autocracy that the American Revolution was fought. That victory gave the business of governing into the hands of the average man, who won the right with his neighbors to make and order his own destiny through his own government. Political tyranny was wiped out at Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.

Since that struggle, however, man’s inventive genius released new forces in our land which reordered the lives of our people. The age of machinery, of railroads; of steam and electricity; the telegraph and the radio; mass production, mass distribution — all of these combined to bring forward a new civilization and with it a new problem for those who sought to remain free.

For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital — all undreamed of by the Fathers — the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.

There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small-businessmen and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit. They were no more free than the worker or the farmer. Even honest and progressive-minded men of wealth, aware of their obligation to their generation, could never know just where they fitted into this dynastic scheme of things.

It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor — these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small-businessmen, the investments set aside for old age — other people’s money — these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.

Those who tilled the soil no longer reaped the rewards which were their right. The small measure of their gains was decreed by men in distant cities.

Throughout the nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.

An old English judge once said: “Necessitous men are not free men.” Liberty requires opportunity to make a living — a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.

For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people's money, other people’s labor — other people’s lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.

Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. They granted that the government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.

Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.

The brave and clear platform adopted by this convention, to which I heartily subscribe, sets forth that government in a modern civilization has certain inescapable obligations to its citizens, among which are protection of the family and the home, the establishment of a democracy of opportunity, and aid to those overtaken by disaster.

But the resolute enemy within our gates is ever ready to beat down our words unless in greater courage we will fight for them.



Posted by Buck Batard at 08:14 AM
December 15, 2009
The Hard Hittin’ Songs Series

A continuation of a series started a while back, here are two more Guthrie songs outlining the lives of radicals that Woody was in favor of. Listen to all the crooks that Woody goes after in the religious song about Chris that properly portrays him as a socialist. Woody obviously knew his Bible well as he never let ideology get in the way of seeing Christ as he is portrayed in the Bible . Make a list of Christ’s enemies while you listen. I think my wife and I counted about eight crooks that Woody said Christ went after when I played this the other day, more or less. Are there any you recognize who are mentioned who aren’t problems today?

And the second song posted below is in direct response to Jerome Doolittle’s post here and also in response to the foreclosure crisis we have today, just like in the 1930s.Not that I am advocating adopting Floyd or Dillinger’s methods, the technology in use today being too sophisticated to live long on the outside of four walls.

But where did all the protesters go? Alternet says we just don’t have it in us anymore. Personally I think they’re about right. We don't have the tools to fight, at least most Americans don’t, because they don't understand the difference between fascism and socialism and which one is good for the common people, and which one is bad. Socialism has actually become a bad word in America, unlike in the past. If so, we’re doomed to the same fate as the Romans and the Egyptians and the Greeks and the Mayans and every other leading civilization that ruled the earth, or at least a part thereof. Woody quite often feigned simplicity, although his past and his journals belie that point, and reveal a rich history of someone who made it a point to try to help others who found themselves in dire straits. In those days though, the Democratic establishment often tried to do what Woody did. In today’s world, it’s hard to see the Democrats engaging in that kind of behavior, with a few notable exceptions.

There was a time in America when a popular protester could sings songs about a radical socialist like Jesus and a criminal like Floyd and get recognition for it, both of whom worked, according to Woody, to go after the powers that be who robbed regular folks of their due. And the point is, although there was only one Woody, there were thousands and thousands like him out in the streets and all over the country expressing similar sentiments during the last great depression we experienced. We need more people like Woody today, not yesterday.


Posted by Buck Batard at 07:04 PM
December 04, 2009
Imitating the Japanese

Here in the United States, where we consider ourselves The Indispensable Nation, we’re engaged in dividing the pie between the insurance companies, the drug companies, the banks, and the weapons manufacturers. Military and finance are the only things we have left, as is typical of late-stage empires.

Like the old Chinese emperors, we consider ourselves the center of heaven and earth. But in fact we’re so far behind the middle of the pack that we can only hope to catch up by taking the most drastic measures available, namely actually looking at our situation honestly. Which, being Americans, we’re both well- and ill-equipped to do.

One thing we’re good at, if we can free ourselves from slavery to the financial interests, is learning from anything we see anywhere. Shamelessly stealing ideas is what got us going, as well as coming up with some of our own. So maybe we should check out what another group of folks renowned for their ability to learn from others is doing with their national effort.

With few energy resources of its own and heavily reliant on oil imports, Japan has long been a leader in solar and other renewable energies and this year set ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets.

But Japan’s boldest plan to date is the Space Solar Power System (SSPS), in which arrays of photovoltaic dishes several square kilometres (square miles) in size would hover in geostationary orbit outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

“Since solar power is a clean and inexhaustible energy source, we believe that this system will be able to help solve the problems of energy shortage and global warming,” researchers at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, one of the project participants, wrote in a report.

What kinda silly bullshit is this? Everyone knows oil will last forever, or at least our lifetimes, and as good TV-fearing Americans, isn’t our own lifetime all we care about?


The researchers are targeting a one gigawatt system, equivalent to a medium-sized atomic power plant, that would produce electricity at eight yen (cents) per kilowatt-hour, six times cheaper than its current cost in Japan.

The challenge — including transporting the components to space — may appear gigantic, but Japan has been pursuing the project since 1998, with some 130 researchers studying it under JAXA’s oversight.

Last month Japan’s Economy and Trade Ministry and the Science Ministry took another step toward making the project a reality, by selecting several Japanese high-tech giants as participants in the project.

The consortium, named the Institute for Unmanned Space Experiment Free Flyer, also includes Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, Fujitsu and Sharp.

Solar power satellites, I tell you now, are the way it’ll go. In the long term we either let our civilization destroy the planet, or we switch away from fossil fuels toward the cleanest forms of energy we can find. There’s nothing on earth even close to the reliable intense power coming from the sun all the time, every day, no weather, no significant cycles.

We can’t possibly use all the energy the sun sends us, at least at our current technical level, though of course Freeman Dyson posited a civilization that would completely enclose its sun, not losing a single watt, and thus be undetectable. We’re not there yet, so we can put up as many solar power satellites as we want, until we run out of silicon. And you know where there’s a lot of silicon? On the Moon.

In terms of elements, the crust is composed primarily of oxygen (41% to 46% by mass), silicon (21%), magnesium (6%), iron (13%), calcium (8%), and aluminium (7%).

While we debate which subset of the super-rich to enrich further, the Japanese have a decade-old plan, with target dates and corporations doing research, to free themselves from oil and coal and nuclear, the polluting energy sources, and move to a sustainable future.

The United States is going to change drastically over the next couple of decades. Broadly speaking, we can either clutch the last dregs of empire, or we can move into a coöperative role with the rest of the world. We don’t lead any more, no matter what we say. As Greider talks about in Come Home, America, our economic dominance has ended, but we haven’t acknowledged it yet.

We continue to claim pre-eminence based on our military strength, but we have to borrow the money from China to pay for that military. Which at least means war with China is unlikely, that’s something. But the world is chuckling behind its respective hands at our posturing. Everyone knows we no longer have the manufacturing base, and that’s the only thing that matters. Military power does not long outlast the outsourcing of industrial might, as Paul Kennedy went into detail explaining in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.

We need to recognize our actual position in the world and start behaving as one among equals, certainly not indispensable. If we’re unique, it’s as a melting pot. Concentrating our wealth as much as possible is destroying that positive energy, which built the nation and is its best legacy.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:11 PM
November 17, 2009
With Friends Like These…

Anyone who follows the news with moderate regularity and an open mind is already well aware that the real force behind jihad and 9/11 was and is our great and good friend, Saudi Arabia.

Anyone else should read the article by Johann Hari of Independent UK from which this is excerpted:

…And so Usama begins to tell me his story. He arrived in Tottenham in North London in the mid-1970s, when he was five years old. His Pakistani father was sent here by the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs, which aims to spread its puritan desert strain of Islam to every nation. His family led a locked-down life, trying to adhere to Saudi principles in a semi-detached house in the English suburbs. “We weren’t allowed music or TV or any contact with the opposite sex,” he says. “We were very sheltered. I didn’t go out a great deal.” By the age of 10, he had memorised every word of the Koran in its original Arabic…

He started to recruit other students, as he had done so many times before. But it was harder. “Everyone hated the [unelected] government [of Hosni Mubarak], and the US for backing it,” he says. But there was an inhibiting sympathy for the victims of 9/11 — until the Bush administration began to respond with Guantanamo Bay and bombs. “That made it much easier. After that, I could persuade people a lot faster…”

But once they had made that leap to identify with the Umma – the global Muslim community — they got angrier the more abusive our foreign policy came. Every one of them said the Bush administration’s response to 9/11 — from Guantanamo to Iraq — made jihadism seem more like an accurate description of the world. Hadiya Masieh, a tiny female former HT organiser, tells me: “You’d see Bush on the television building torture camps and bombing Muslims and you think — anything is justified to stop this. What are we meant to do, just stand still and let him cut our throats?”

Britain’s foreign policy also helped tug them towards Islamism in another way. Once these teenagers decided to go looking for a harder, tougher Islamist identity, they found a well-oiled state machine waiting to feed it. Usman Raja says: “Saudi literature is everywhere in Britain, and it’s free. When I started exploring my Muslim identity, when I was looking for something more, all the books were Saudi. In the bookshops, in the libraries. All of them. Back when I was fighting, I could go and get a car, open the boot up, and get it filled up with free literature from the Saudis, saying exactly what I believed. Who can compete with that?”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:28 PM
November 11, 2009
Here We Go Again

Excellent piece at Lenin’s Tomb on the Soviet Union’s 1979 military (the Soviets were already present in many other respects) invasion of Afghanistan. The parallels to our own Afghan idiocy just keep on piling up…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:11 AM
October 11, 2009
Zombies on TV

From Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen:

On today’s episode of CNN’s “State of the Union,” viewers can tune in to find yet another Sunday interview with last year’s unsuccessful presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). For those keeping score, this will be McCain’s 14th Sunday morning appearance since President Obama’s inauguration in January. That’s 38 Sundays, for an average of a McCain appearance every 2.7 weeks.

Oldtimers will recall with what boring regularity Walter Mondale was invited onto the talk shows in 1985, Michael Dukakis in 1993, Al Gore in 2001, and John Kerry in 2005.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:23 PM
October 06, 2009
Another Purloined Letter

The European Union’s finding that Georgia started last year’s mini-war with Russia comes as no surprise to anyone who knows how to read American newspapers.

As in Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin hoax and and both the Bushes’ pre-launch marketing of their Iraq wars, the truth was hidden in plain sight from the start. All you had to do was read the stories all the way to the end. No genius was required; just a healthy skepticism.

The excerpt below is from a McClatchy Newspapers piece by Dennis Jett. He’s a retired career diplomat who has served as ambassador to Mozambique and Peru.

Instead of adding weak and unprepared partners, NATO might want to devote its energies to working out an understanding with Russia about the fact that it does not pose a threat. Especially when those countries are its neighbors. That is of course unless we would have no objection to Mexico joining a revitalized Warsaw Pact.

The EU report observed that the United States, Ukraine and Israel supplied extensive economic and military aid to Georgia allowing it to double its military in just a few years. That kind of assistance and the political signals from Washington during the last administration no doubt emboldened Saakashvili. NATO and Palin and McCain might also want to think through the implications of giving political and military support to a country that is not ready to use either responsibly.

Eisenhower did not take the country to war in 1956 over Hungary and Johnson did not start one in 1968 over Czechoslovakia. With our armed forces stretched beyond the breaking point in Iraq and Afghanistan, a war at this time over Georgia is not possible even if a president were foolish enough to lead us into one…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:25 PM
October 01, 2009
Back When Our Boys Really Knew How to Enhance an Interrogation

A flashback from our last disastrous war of choice — the Southeast Asia War Games. (Not my description: in those days you could buy T-shirts with that message in Saigon):

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The federal government has dropped its charges against Hmong leader Vang Pao, a former St. Paul resident indicted with 10 others for allegedly plotting the violent overthrow of the communist regime in Laos…

Vang Pao rose from a 13-year-old runner to a major general in the Royal Lao Army — the highest rank ever attained by a Hmong tribesman. He led a CIA-sponsored guerrilla army against the Pathet Lao, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese from 1960 to 1975, before the fall to the communists of South Vietnam and then Laos.

Vang Pao’s units suffered heavy casualties and were credited with saving thousands of American lives. William Colby, a former CIA director, once called Vang Pao “the biggest hero of the Vietnam War.”

Back in the day, I was our embassy’s press attache in Laos, where the Plain of Jars had just been retaken after years from the Pathet Lao and their North Vietnamese allies. Most of the press corps in Saigon had flown in to join the fun.

Generally our mission in Laos had little to boast about in the military line, and so just for this once we were eager to semi-cooperate with the media. I laid on a World War II DC-3 to carry everybody up to a town just off the Plain of Jars called Samthong, which we pretended was the headquarters of General Vang Pao’s guerrilla army. The real headquarters was a few miles to the east, where the CIA had built an airstrip at Long Cheng.

General Vang Pao (below) issued from his Potemkin headquarters to take on the assembled world press. The first questioner asked the general for his opinion of the North Vietnamese presence in Laos. The general answered in the barracks-room French he had learned as a non-com in the colonial army:

“Suppose some son of a bitch shoves his way into your house and takes a piss in the corner, what would you think of him? Well, that’s what these sons of bitches are doing.” He gestured toward a sad, bedraggled Vietnamese prisoner sitting on the ground.

A Vietnamese stringer for the Associated Press got Vang Pao’s permission to question the miserable man, and began to translate for the English-speaking reporters.

At the end the AP stringer said, “General, this man is claiming that your soldiers hooked his genitals up to a field telephone and gave him electric shocks. Is that true?”

“You have to,” Vang Pao. “These bastards won’t talk until you encourage them.” Henry Kamm, the New York Times man, featured the answer prominently in his story next day.

By that time our traveling dog-and-pony show had moved on to the capitol city, Vientiane, for a briefing from the local commanding general, Kouprasith Abhay.

“General Vang Pao told us that he uses electric shocks to interrogate prisoners,” Kamm said. “Do you do that here in Military Region Five?”

“Oh, no,” Kouprasith said. “That sort of thing isn’t necessary. We find that not giving them water works just as well.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:26 PM
September 29, 2009
From the Gulf of Sidra to Lockerbie

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON – The Senate has unanimously condemned the release of the Libyan terrorist convicted in Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie and called upon Libya to apologize for celebrating his return…

It is by no means settled that Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi is really the man who blew up Flight 103.

For the moment, though, assume that he did. Our outrage over the release of a mass murderer, even a dying one, is understandable. But was his evil deed incomprehensible, or did it follow with a certain awful logic from a chain of violent, ultimately pointless acts — many of them committed by our own leaders with our full knowledge and approval?

On August 19, 1981, two American jets entered the Gulf of Sidra, whose waters are claimed by Libya. Two Libyan jets approached, and were shot down. The American planes were untouched.

On March 24, 1986, American planes again probed the disputed area. Two missiles were fired at them from the land. Four Libyan patrol boats were fired upon in the skirmish that followed. At least one of them was sunk. No Americans were killed and no damage was done.

On April 5, 1986, Libyan agents bombed a Berlin disco frequented by American servicemen. Two of them were killed, along with a Turkish woman.

On April 15, 1986, Reagan sent bombers against what the State Department later described as “targets near Tripoli and Benghazi.” By what could hardly have been an incredible coincidence, one of the sixty-some victims turned out to be Qaddafi’s 15-month-old adopted daughter, Hanna. Earlier in his presidency Reagan had signed an executive order saying, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”

On July 3, 1988, the U.S.S. Vincennes shot down Iran Air flight 655, flying at 12,000 feet on its regularly scheduled flight path. All 270 aboard, 53 of them children, died. The ship’s commander, Will C. Rogers III, was later given the Legion of Merit for “exceptionally meritorious conduct during the period of his command.” President George H.W. Bush answered critics by saying, “I will never apologize for the United States of America! I don’t care what the facts are.”

On December 21, 1988, Pan Am flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270.

There are no heroes in this cascade of events, only victims and villains. But it can’t hurt to remember Bush’s brainless words as we rage at Qaddafi for his welcome of the Lockerbie bomber, come home to take his own turn at dying.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:42 PM
September 23, 2009
The Art of the Lie

I have been rereading one of the most instructive government-insider books of our time: Daniel Ellsberg’s Secrets: a Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.

For me its overarching lesson is that even when we remember history, we can’t avoid repeating it. We are governed by the hard-wiring in the human brain that led us to be wrong the first time. How else explain that our leaders have felt it necessary to lie us knowingly into the Cold War, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan — and that we have let them do it?

I’ll be running excerpts these next few weeks, and at the end will try to tie it all together. In today’s installment, it is the summer of 1964 and Ellsberg has just been named special assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs John T. McNaughton, a former Harvard law professor:

Once at lunch a State Department official who obviously didn’t know John very well told me that my boss was the most straightforward man in Washington. I told that to John after lunch and assured him, “I defended your reputation. I told him you were the most devious man in town.” John smiled warmly and said, “Thank you.”

I often watched McNaughton with reporters, because he called me into his office whenever he had to give an interview. This was a way of covering himself — it may even have been a requirement in the department — so he could have a witness confirm that he was not the source of any classified or sensitive information in the ensuing story. I watched and marveled. John was great at this.

As he got into areas where he had to be especially untruthful or elusive, his Pekin, Illinois, accent got broader till he sounded like someone discussing corn at a country fair or standing at the rail of a river boat. You looked for hayseed in his cuffs. He simply didn’t mind looking and sounding like a hick in the interests of dissimulation. My future boss in Vietnam, Edward Lansdale, had the same willingness to appear simpleminded when he wanted to be opaque, as he did with most outsiders. In both cases it was very effective.

Reporters would tell me how “open” my boss was, compared with others they ran into, this after I had listened to an hour of whoppers. It became clear to me that journalists had no idea, no clue, even the best of them, just how often and how egregiously they were lied to…

One morning just before eight o’clock John came back from McNamara’s office minutes after he’d gotten a call and dashed out. He said to me, ‘‘A Blue Springs drone has gone down in China. Bob is seeing the press at eight-thirty. We have ten minutes to write six alternative lies for him.” It was the only time I remember the actual word “lies” being used…


Blue Springs was the code name for an espionage program of reconnaissance photographic flights by unmanned drone planes. John threw me a yellow pad, and I pulled up a chair to the opposite side of his desk. We sat across from each other and wrote as fast as we could for ten minutes. There was no time to exchange thoughts, to avoid overlap.

The first ones were obvious, probably the same for each of us. If the Chinese had already announced the incident, one, we had no idea whose plane it was; it wasn’t one of ours. Two, it was a Chinese Nationalist plane. I asked as we scribbled, “Does it have U.S. markings on it?”

“Who knows?” John didn’t look up.

Three, it was an experimental drone, off course. Four, it was taking weather readings when it went off course. I remembered that one from Gary Powers’s U-2, which went down in Russia in 1960. That cover story hadn’t worked so well because the Soviets had captured the pilot live and Khrushchev hadn’t told us at first.

This didn’t have any pilot, but what if the Chinese could display U.S. cameras? I had to think harder for the next couple of stories. McNaughton looked at the clock, ten minutes, grabbed my pad and started to run out, looking down at my six entries. As he was leaving the outer office, I called after him, “Why doesn’t [McNamara] just say ‘No comment’?”

John said over his shoulder, “Bob won’t say ‘No comment’ to the press.” A few minutes later he was back and waved me down to his desk again. He tore off the pages we’d written on and pushed one of the pads back to me. He said, “Bob liked these. He wants four more. We have five minutes.”

We wrote fast again. I had thought of another one while he was away, but the rest took more imagination than before. I can’t remember them. As he tore off the new pages after exactly five minutes, I said, “Look, really, I think he ought to give serious consideration to ‘No comment’ on this one.” I’d been thinking about it while John was out of the office. “The Chinese probably have enough wreckage that they can prove any of these stories are lies. The reporters understand about intelligence gathering, and they’re sick of being lied to. I think they’d rather be told we won’t talk about it.”

In his hurry John listened intently, as always, and he nodded. “I don’t think he’ll do it, but I’ll tell him what you said.” He was gone. It was eight twenty-five.

A little after nine o’clock John came back from the press conference. I asked him how it had gone. He said, “I was amazed. Somebody brought up the Chinese report, and he actually used your line. He said, ‘I have no comment on that,’ and took the next question. I never thought he would.”

“How’d it go over?”

“They actually seemed to like it! They didn’t press him at all.” A few minutes later one of the regular Pentagon reporters dropped into our outer office after leaving McNamara’s conference room. I was standing there, and he said to me, “Listen, tell your boss that that ‘No comment’ in there was very refreshing. I didn’t think McNamara had it in him.”

Actually, what had made that line usable, as I had suspected, was that it pointed toward an area of covert intelligence collection whose secrecy our own reporters would almost surely respect without trying to penetrate further. That wasn’t generally true. You couldn’t say “no comment” when you needed to discourage follow-up questions, which was most of the time. Then there was no substitute for what the uninitiated would call a lie. In those days it almost always worked.

Even within the executive branch, self-discipline in sharing information — lack of a “need to tell” — and a capability for dissimulation in the interests of discretion were fundamental requirements for a great many jobs. There was an abundance of people who, like John and me, could and did meet those requirements adequately. The result was an apparatus of secrecy, built on effective procedures, practices, and career incentives, that permitted the president to arrive at and execute a secret foreign policy, to a degree that went far beyond what even relatively informed outsiders, including journalists and members of Congress, could imagine.

It is a commonplace that “you can’t keep secrets in Washington” or “in a democracy,” that “no matter how sensitive the secret, you’re likely to read it the next day in the New York Times.” These truisms are flatly false. They are in fact cover stories, ways of flattering and misleading journalists and their readers, part of the process of keeping secrets well.

Of course eventually many secrets do get out that wouldn’t in a fully totalitarian society. Bureaucratic rivalries, especially over budget shares, lead to leaks. Moreover, to a certain extent the ability to keep a secret for a given amount of time diminishes with the number of people who know it. As secret keepers like to say, “Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead.”

But the fact is that the overwhelming majority of secrets do not leak to the American public. This is true even when the information withheld is well known to an enemy and when it is clearly essential to the functioning of the congressional war power and to any democratic control of foreign policy. The reality unknown to the public and to most members of Congress and the press is that secrets that would be of the greatest import to many of them can be kept from them reliably for decades by the executive branch, even though they are known to thousands of insiders.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:46 AM
September 11, 2009
It Ain’t All Bad

Amidst all the daily evidence that human evolution seems to run in reverse, it’s good to be reminded that sometimes it doesn’t:

LONDON, England (CNN) — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has issued a posthumous apology for the “appalling” treatment of Alan Turing, the British code-breaker who was chemically castrated for being gay…

Turing was just 41 years old when he committed suicide, two years after undergoing a court-ordered chemical castration. He had been found guilty of gross indecency for having a homosexual relationship. The punishment in 1952 was either a prison sentence or chemical castration. Turing chose the latter.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:46 AM
September 07, 2009
A Basic Difference

When Fiorello LaGuardia was the mayor of New York City during a newspaper strike, he famously reached out directly to the children of New York City by reading the comics over the air each day of the strike.

A great mayor in many ways, so beloved that he served four terms, this simple, fatherly act earned him more love and respect than almost anything else he did.

A Republican, he was also remembered for this work to alleviate poverty, reforming welfare and improving housing for the poor.

Now we have a young President who plans to reach out directly to children again, to encourage them to study and work hard in school.

For this simple act he has earned the enmity of many Americans, who see his bypassing of the parents and school administrators as a despicable act of treason.

Now a wing of that same GOP party is castigating Barack Obama for trying to improve the attitudes of American youth toward education.

There is a basic difference between what LaGuardia did and what Obama wishes to do. LaGuardia was white and Obama is black.



Posted by Bill Doolittle at 08:01 AM
September 04, 2009
Creepytime Gal

I am of course terribly upset by President Obama’s plans to indoctrinate the schoolchildren of America next week. It’s just more of the kind of wishy-washy, mushy, feel-good, Kumbaya stuff we’ve come to expect from him. Here’s how you indoctrinate school kids:


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:21 PM
Dept. of Nothing New Under the Sun

Here’s John Stuart Mill, writing in 1861:

If we ask ourselves on what causes and conditions good government in all its senses, from the humblest to the most exalted, depends, we find that the principal of them, the one which transcends all others, is the qualities of the human beings composing the society over which the government is exercised…

Again, how can institutions provide a good municipal administration if there exists such indifference to the subject that those who would administer honestly and capably cannot be induced to serve, and the duties are left to those will undertake them because they have some private interest to be promoted? Of what avail is the most broadly popular representative system if the electors do not care to choose the best member of parliament, but choose him who will spend most money to be elected? How can a representative assembly work for good if its members can be bought, or if their excitability of temperament, uncorrected by public discipline or private self-control, makes them incapable of calm deliberation, and they resort to manual violence on the floor of the House, or shoot at one another with rifles? How, again, can government or any joint concern, be carried on in a tolerable manner by people so envious that, if one among them seems likely to succeed in anything, those who ought to cooperate with him form a tacit combination to make him fail?

At least no one on the floor of our House is shooting at one another with rifles. Yet.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:02 PM
September 01, 2009
Cheney’s Endless Book Tour

As you sit stupefied before Cheney preening his soiled and broken feathers on every talk show he can find, relieve the monotony with this thought from Steve Benen:

What Obama really ought to do, according to Dick Cheney, is seek out the former vice president’s advice and follow it. After all, Cheney believes he’s proven himself on the issue.

I seem to recall the Bush/Cheney era a little differently. Cheney thinks it was a sterling success when it came to national security and counter-terrorism. Perhaps there’s something to this. After all, except for the catastrophic events of 9/11, and the anthrax attacks against Americans, and terrorist attacks against U.S. allies, and the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Bush’s inability to capture those responsible for 9/11, and waging an unnecessary war that inspired more terrorists, and the success terrorists had in exploiting Bush’s international unpopularity, the Bush/Cheney record on counter-terrorism was awesome.

After the previous administration established a record like that, President Obama didn’t ask Cheney for tips? The nerve.

I am curious about something, though. Terrorists first attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, early on in President Clinton’s first year in office. Six people were killed, hundreds more were injured. The Clinton administration caught those responsible, subjected them to the U.S. criminal justice system, and foreign terrorists did not strike again on U.S. soil during Clinton’s terms in office.

So, at any point in 2001, did the Bush White House turn to Bill Clinton and Al Gore and ask, “How did you do it? What were the keys to keeping this country safe over that period of time?”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:01 PM
All You Need to Know about Henry Kissinger

From Stephen Talbot’s letter to the editor in the current issue of The Nation:

I interviewed both men in 2001 for a PBS documentary, The Sixties: The Years That Shaped a Generation. McNamara told me that he’d come to realize the war was a tragedy that could have been avoided…

But Kissinger was unreconstructed, unapologetic. “If you are going to ask whether I feel guilty about Vietnam, the interview is over,” Kissinger said before I asked my first question. “I’ll walk out.”

I told him I had just interviewed McNamara. That got his attention. And then he did something I’ll never forget: he began to cry. Actually, he pretended to cry.

“Boohoo, boohoo,” Kissinger blubbered, rubbing his eyes. “He’s still beating his breast, right? Still feeling guilty.” He spoke in a mocking, singsong voice and patted his heart for emphasis.

It was one of those moments, before the camera rolls, when you get a rare glimpse into someone’s character and it’s even darker than you ever dreamed.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:51 AM
August 28, 2009
Mr. Republican

The real Republican role model — think Karl Rove and Lee Atwater and their employers, the Bushes — think Ken Starr and Ted Olsen and Richard Mellon Scaife — is not Ronald Reagan but Richard Nixon:

Because Kennedy was not a presidential candidate in 1972, he did not qualify for full-time Secret Service protection. But Nixon offered it to Ted Kennedy, given the assassinations of his brothers, President John Kennedy and Sen. Robert Kennedy, and right after Alabama Gov. George Wallace was shot in May 1972…

But Nixon’s motives for the offer were not pure. He worried that if a third Kennedy were shot, and while not having Secret Service protection, he’d be blamed.

Plus, he wanted dirt. And the best way to get it was to have a Secret Service agent rat on the senator. There is no evidence an agent turned into such an informer.

“You understand what the problem is,” Nixon told Haldeman and Ehrlichman on Sept. 7, 1972. “If the (SOB) gets shot they’ll say we didn’t furnish it (protection). So you just buy his insurance.

“After the election, he doesn’t get a ... thing. If he gets shot, it’s too damn bad. Do it under the basis, though, that we pick the Secret Service men.

“Understand what I’m talking about?”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:04 PM
August 22, 2009
Democrats: the Party of Business

Somehow I missed the factoid below when it first came out, but Skimble has pointed me to it. Follow this link for a stunning bar graph that makes the point so clearly that the even most mindless Republicans on the country club terrace should be able to grasp it. Not that they will.

Since 1929, Republicans and Democrats have each controlled the presidency for nearly 40 years. So which party has been better for American pocketbooks and capitalism as a whole? Well, here’s an experiment: imagine that during these years you had to invest exclusively under either Democratic or Republican administrations. How would you have fared?

As of Friday, a $10,000 investment in the S.& P. stock market index* would have grown to $11,733 if invested under Republican presidents only, although that would be $51,211 if we exclude Herbert Hoover’s presidency during the Great Depression. Invested under Democratic presidents only, $10,000 would have grown to $300,671 at a compound rate of 8.9 percent over nearly 40 years.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:38 PM
August 20, 2009
Draft Riots

Writing on Woodstock, Tom Degan makes a point too often overlooked or denied: the antiwar movement was in large measure a draft riot set off by the end of college deferments. Nixon made sure they would never happen again by turning a citizens’ army into a permanent mercenary force. Absent that, the kids would be in the streets right now.

Many of the upper class young men who partook in “the revolution” of the 1960s did so only because they believed in their hearts something that only a few of them have admitted to date: that fighting the war in Vietnam — or any war for that matter — was beneath them. Leave that nasty little chore to the minorities and the poor white guys.

When the nightmare that was Vietnam finally ended in the Spring of 1975; when the draft was abolished and they were out of danger — the scenario would be drastically altered as you can imagine. The peace sign would eventually give way to the dollar sign; marijuana was overtaken by the three-martini lunch. Uber radical Jerry Rubin would end his life working for Wall Street.

Many of the guys you can see in the film, Woodstock — smoking dope under the stars, dancing in a torrential downpour, and grooving to The Who — would end up as prostitutes for Corporate America — buying BMWs and voting for Ronald Reagan. The mantle of “Peace and Love” was, I believe, merely a convenient front. As balding, middle-aged men, most of them would gleefully support their nation’s illegal invasion of Iraq a generation later. By that time, these assholes weren’t the ones who would have to do the fighting and dying.

I’m not trying to say that they were wrong not to support American involvement in Vietnam. They were absolutely correct. If only they had shown a little more consistency. They — WE — are the phoniest, most hypocritical generation in the history of the world.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:01 PM
August 17, 2009
The Wreck of Empire

This passage by Gore Vidal appeared in the October, 1963, issue of Esquire. He failed to foresee our increasing physical fatness, but he nailed the rest.

Historians often look to the Roman Empire to find analogies with the United States. They flatter us. We live not under the Pax Americana, but the Pax Frigida. I should not look to Rome for comparison but rather to the Most Serene Venetian Republic, a pedestrian state devoted to wealth, comfort, trade and keeping the peace, especially after inheriting the wreck of the Byzantine Empire, as we have inherited the wreck of the British Empire.

Venice was not inspiring but it worked. Ultimately, our danger comes not from the idea of Communism, which (as an Archbishop of Canterbury remarked) is a “Christian heresy” whose materialistic aims (as opposed to means) vary little from our own; rather, it will come from the increasing wealth and skill of other Serene Republics which, taking advantage of our increasing moral and intellectual fatness, will try to seize our markets in the world.

If we are to end, it will not be with a Bomb but a bigger Buck. Fortunately, under that sanctimoniousness so characteristic of the American selling something, our governors know that we are fighting not for “the free world” but to hold onto an economic empire not safe or pleasant to let go. The Arab world — or as a salesmen would say, “territory” — is almost ours, and we must persevere in landing that account. It will be a big one some day.

Vidal wasn’t the only one to have seen that coming. In 1973 I searched out my old two-story wooden barracks at Fort Bragg’s Special Warfare Center to show my young and uninterested sons. By then the building was being used as office space by the Special Forces. I mentioned to a sergeant inside that back in the day we used to have classes in Thai, Lao and Vietnamese. Was the language program still alive?

Oh, yeah, he said, only now it’s Arabic.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:34 PM
August 07, 2009
Daniel Ellsberg and the Bomb

I believe Daniel Ellsberg to be one of the half-dozen most useful public Americans of my lifetime, which covers almost the same period as his. He was 14 and I was 13 that August in 1945 when Harry Truman murdered Hiroshima. I was elated and proud, just another fool among millions. But Ellsberg even then saw the future clearly. He still does. And he is still trying to wake us up.

I cannot recommend his 2002 book, Secrets, too strongly. Read it, and read Sven Lindqvist’s A History of Bombing. The truth is that civilians, mostly old men, women and children, are not collateral damage in air warfare. They are the intended targets.

Now read the essay from which these excerpts come:

I remember that I was uneasy, on that first day and in the days ahead, about the tone in President Harry Truman’s voice on the radio as he exulted over our success in the race for the Bomb and its effectiveness against Japan. I generally admired Truman, then and later, but in hearing his announcements I was put off by the lack of concern in his voice, the absence of a sense of tragedy, of desperation or fear for the future. It seemed to me that this was a decision best made in anguish; and both Truman’s manner and the tone of the official communiques made unmistakably clear that this hadn’t been the case.

Which meant for me that our leaders didn’t have the picture, didn’t grasp the significance of the precedent they had set and the sinister implications for the future. And that evident unawareness was itself scary. I believed that something ominous had happened; that it was bad for humanity that the Bomb was feasible, and that its use would have bad long-term consequences, whether or not those negatives were balanced or even outweighed by short-run benefits…

Most Americans ever since have seen the destruction of the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as necessary and effective — as constituting just means, in effect just terrorism, under the supposed circumstances — thus legitimating, in their eyes, the second and third largest single-day massacres in history. (The largest, also by the U.S. Army Air Corps, was the firebombing of Tokyo five months before on the night of March 9, which burned alive or suffocated 80,000 to 120,000 civilians. Most of the very few Americans who are aware of this event at all accept it, too, as appropriate in wartime.)

To regard those acts as definitely other than criminal and immoral — as most Americans do — is to believe that anything — anything — can be legitimate means: at worst, a necessary, lesser, evil. At least, if done by Americans, on the order of a president, during wartime. Indeed, we are the only country in the world that believes it won a war by bombing — specifically by bombing cities with weapons of mass destruction — and believes that it was fully rightful in doing so. It is a dangerous state of mind…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:03 PM
August 02, 2009
“Self-hating Jews”

Normally I’m able to contain my enthusiasm for Thomas L. Friedman, but fair is fair. He makes perfect sense today. And as longtime New York Times readers will know, it’s a kind of sense that was absent from those pages for far too long.

As Bradley Burston, a columnist for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, put it last week: “The settlement movement has cost Israel some $100 billion ... The double standard which for decades has favored settlers with inexpensive housing, heavily subsidized social services, and blind-eye building permits has long been accompanied by a kid-gloves approach regarding settler violence against Palestinians and their property ... Settlers and settlement planners have covertly bent and distorted zoning procedures, military directives, and government decrees in order to boost settlement, block Palestinian construction, agriculture, and access to employment, and effectively neutralize measures intended to foster Israeli-Palestinian peace progress.”

For years, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the pro-Israel lobby, rather than urging Israel to halt this corrosive process, used their influence to mindlessly protect Israel from U.S. pressure on this issue and to dissuade American officials and diplomats from speaking out against settlements. Everyone in Washington knows this, and a lot of people — people who care about Israel — are sick of it…

So if Mr. Obama has bluntly pressed for a settlements freeze, he is, in fact, reflecting a broad sentiment in Congress, the Pentagon and among many Americans, Jews included. Haaretz quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as calling two Obama aides pushing the freeze “self-hating Jews.” Bibi’s spokesman denies he said that. I hope he didn’t. When you have to trot that one out, you’re really, really out of ammo.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:47 PM
July 26, 2009
Thomas Jefferson Would Hardly…

…have been surprised by such religious recrudescences as Operation Rescue and the recent murder of Dr. George Tiller. Patriots and Peoples, a blog whose existence I discovered about five minutes ago, quotes the Founding Father:

The Presbyterian clergy are loudest, the most intolerant of all sects, the most tyrannical and ambitious; ready at the word of a lawgiver, if such a word could be now obtained, to put the torch to the pile, and to rekindle in this virgin hemisphere, the flames in which their oracle Calvin consumed the poor Servetus.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:17 PM
July 07, 2009
McNamara’s Truth

My contribution to the outpouring of love that followed news of Robert S. McNamara’s death:

A friend of mine once spent months working with McNamara on a literary project. Once she mentioned how difficult it must have been for him to find out what was really happening in Vietnam, given the institutional pressure in bureaucracies to lie to the boss when the news is bad.

McNamara said that wasn’t a problem at all; in fact he had never been lied to by his subordinates in the Defense Department. Never, she asked. Not even once?

Never, he insisted. Right from the start, he had made it very clear to his staff that he wanted nothing but the facts, no matter how unpalatable they might be. Thus the whole building knew that the best way to please the boss was to tell him the plain, unvarnished truth.

“Bear in mind,” my friend told me, “that this was coming from probably the most lied-to man in the world.” She found it astonishing and so did I. Certainly McNamara wasn’t stupid. How then could a man in his position be so blind?

Until it occurred to me that from his point of view he wasn’t being stupid at all. Stupid was for men like the sick, tormented James Forrestal, the first Secretary of Defense, who jumped to his death in 1949 from his room on the 16th floor of Bethesda Naval Hospital. Smart and healthy was being able to believe that you were never lied to, even by yourself. Especially by yourself.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:13 PM
Strange Was His Middle Name

Much will no doubt be made of the fact that his middle name really was Strange, Robert Strange McNamara. But it fits him so well; it’s one of those odd coincidences that get historians lathered up.

robert-mcnamara-in-vietnam.jpgI hope everyone who hasn’t seen Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara takes this event as a prod. (BitTorrent seems to have a lot of activity on that title right now). Errol Morris did history a great service with this effort.

Most people worldwide who’ve heard of McNamara know him as a war criminal, as Michael Tomasky describes him, and that’s certainly accurate. You never know how many people are lost in a war; but the Guardian estimates that over two million Vietnamese died, in addition to 58,000 Americans, not counting innumerable others who were maimed, orphaned, pauperized, and traumatized.

That’s what winning a war means to America, since, as Chomsky says, we won that war. We taught the world that if you disobey us your economy will be devastated, your countryside napalmed, and your farmland planted with antipersonnel bombs, and it will take you decades to recover. The problem for us is that Vietnam has taught the world that you can recover, and you can be independent of the big powers. That, in a nutshell, fucking with the US has a cost but it’s finite.

I think RSM understood this, at least later in life. Interestingly, he didn’t seem to question the idea that he had a great deal of responsibility for the events that created the war of the US against Vietnam — widely referred to as The Vietnam War, but from what I hear the Vietnamese call it The American War, to distinguish it from others Japanese, Chinese, French, and so on that preceded it.

robert-mcnamara-lt-col2.jpgBut McNamara was more than an architect of war. He was perhaps a vicious manager, but he seems to have gotten results by being straightforward, which is always gonna piss people off. During the Second World War he achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel through the appropriate combination of teaching and statistics, which, applied to the logistics of bomber campaigns, had immediate if devastating results. The Guardian obit is excellent in listing interesting and salient points from his career, it being easier to criticize the whole US adventure in Vietnam from the jaded former-imperial viewpoint of the British.

JFK offered him a choice of cabinet posts, and he took Defense. Kennedy had run to the right of Nixon on foreign policy questions, especially anti-communism, in the 1960 elections. Questions were asked about whether there might actually be a dangerous gap in the number of ballistic missiles between the mighty and efficient Soviet Menace and the small but wiry Forces of Freedom. So McNamara’s whiz kids set to work checking the details, and the results weren’t pretty:

…it soon became evident that the new cabinet officer had much to learn about politics.

One of Kennedy’s major campaign issues had been America’s supposed “missile gap” with the Soviet Union. McNamara, once confirmed by the Senate, conducted an urgent inquiry into how this gap could be closed. At his first press conference he was asked about his findings and responded briskly that the gap was really heavily in America’s favour. The Republicans went crazy, some even demanding that the election be rerun.

You gotta hand it to the Republicans, they never back off the crazy thing. One day that strategy’s gonna work for ’em, it’s due.

What makes McNamara interesting is that he wasn’t your standard-issue semi-evolved war-mongering profiteering scumbag. In fact, as Morris’s movie makes obvious, he was extremely intelligent, to the point that it actually got in his way (ask H.R. McMaster). He was relatively honest, especially as compared to, say, Rumsfeld and his exploits in the Tamiflu market.

At least McNamara was too smart to get caught if he was doing such things, and personally I doubt he was. I think he really believed he was doing the right thing all along, and that’s what makes Morris’s documentary so powerful. RSM can’t bring himself to acknowledge that a couple million people died in large part because of bad decisions he made. But he can show that he understands the decisions, why they were bad, that he made them, and that they had the results they had.

I take him to be saying in the movie that we’re all partly culpable. That our system leads to situations where intelligent people who are honorable and decent normally are forced into positions where they have to make decisions that end up killing millions for no good reason. I’m not at all convinced by his reasoning; he seems to me to proceed from some faulty assumptions on that argument.

Still, McNamara was not Kissinger. He seems to have felt genuine remorse about the people who died, and to hope that better decisions might be made in the future. One can see his participation in the Morris movie as his attempt to leave some recompense behind. In the film he doesn’t act like he expects forgiveness, but he does want to make sure we know that we share part of the responsibility. He made the decision, perhaps, but we formed him and put him there. And I think he’s right about that; I never believed in the great-man theory of history anyway.

I don’t fault Truman for dropping the nuclear bomb. The US-Japanese War was one of the most brutal wars in all of human history — kamikaze pilots, suicide, unbelievable. What one can criticize is that the human race prior to that time — and today — has not really grappled with what are, I’ll call it, “the rules of war.” Was there a rule then that said you shouldn’t bomb, shouldn’t kill, shouldn’t burn to death 100,000 civilians in one night?

LeMay said, “If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.” And I think he’s right. He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?



UPDATE: Mark Seibel at McClatchy asked Joe Galloway for a remembrance of McNamara, and Galloway contributed this gem.

The most bizarre incident involving McNamara occurred when he was president of the World Bank and, off on his summer holiday, he caught the Martha’s Vineyard ferry. It was a night crossing in bad weather. McNamara was in the salon, drink in hand, schmoozing with fellow passengers.

On the deck outside a vineyard local, a hippie artist, glanced through the window and did a double-take. The artist was outraged to see McNamara, whom he viewed as a war criminal, so enjoying himself.

He immediately opened the door and told McNamara there was a radiophone call for him on the bridge. McNamara set down his drink and stepped outside. The artist immediately grabbed him, wrestled him to the railing and pushed him over the side. McNamara managed to get his fingers through the holes in the metal plate that ran from the top of the railing to the scuppers.

McNamara was screaming bloody murder; the artist was prying his fingers loose one at a time. Someone heard the racket and raced out and pulled the artist off.
By the time the ferry docked in the vineyard McNamara had decided against filing charges against the artist, and he was freed and walked away.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:18 AM
June 19, 2009
Money Talks, Bullshit Walks

Wonderful post on unions by Joe Bageant today. The taste below contains a quote — the one about one man, one vote — that was new to me. The unnamed speaker had nothing to worry about. In two short years the Supreme Court would solve his problem by ruling in Buckley v. Valeo that money was the functional equivalent of votes: the more of the former you had, the more of the latter you could buy.

If a few pricks and gangsters have occasionally seized power over the dignity of labor, countless more calculating, bloodless and malevolent pricks — the capitalist elites — have always held most of the cards — Gould could sneer, “I can always hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” And why a speaker at the U.S. Business Conference Board in 1974 could arrogantly declare, “One man, one vote has undermined the power of business in all capitalist countries since World War II.” And why that same year Business Week magazine said, “It will be a hard pill for many Americans to swallow — the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more. Nothing in modern economic history compares with the selling job that must now be done to make people accept this new reality.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:12 PM
June 18, 2009
The Washington Post Moves Even Further Right

Bad news from Steve Benen at Political Animal:

Update: I've spoken to Dan [Froomkin], who confirmed that he is, in fact, leaving the Post.

“I’m terribly disappointed,” Dan said. “I was told that it had been determined that my White House Watch blog wasn’t “working” anymore. Personally, I thought it was still working very well, and based on reader feedback, a lot of readers thought so, too... I also thought White House Watch was a great fit with The Washington Post brand, and what its readers reasonably expect from the Post online.

“As I’ve written elsewhere, I think that the future success of our business depends on journalists enthusiastically pursuing accountability and calling it like they see it. That’s what I tried to do every day. Now I guess I’ll have to try to do it someplace else.”

Indeed, far-right complaints notwithstanding, Froomkin has spent months scrutinizing the Obama White House, cutting the Democratic president no slack at all. Just over the past couple of days, Froomkin offered critical takes on the president’s proposed regulations of the financial industry, follow-through on gay rights, and foot-dragging on Bush-era torture revelations.

Froomkin was one of the media’s most important critics of the Bush White House, and conservative bashing notwithstanding, was poised to be just as valuable holding the Obama White House accountable for its decisions.

When I worked at the Washington Post myself, in the pre-Watergate days, it was considered a liberal paper. But it wasn’t. It merely, as Karl Marx once said of John Stuart Mill, drew its eminence from the general flatness of the terrain. The only truly liberal dailies I can remember from that period were the Madison Capital Times in Wisconsin, the York Gazette in Pennsylvania, and the New York Post. (Yes, you heard right.) The Washington Post owed its liberal reputation almost solely to its anti-McCarthy cartoonist, Herblock.

And then came Watergate.

Any paper willing to stand up to Nixon and take him down had to be liberal, Q.E.D. Right? Actually wrong. Ben Bradlee hated Nixon because Bradlee was in Kennedy’s inner circle. And Nixon was a parvenu, a sweaty striver. Left vs. right had little to do with it.

It would have taken a close observer to discern an ideological difference between Kennedy and Nixon. On questions of race, war and peace, and economic policy, both were slightly right of center in what had become, after World War II, a very frightened, aggressive, and conservative nation. On the most important issue of the day, the Post supported the Vietnam war so slavishly that President Johnson named its editorial page editor, J. Russell Wiggins, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

(Wiggins offers further proof of my theory that you can never trust a man who parts his name to one side; I knew I was in trouble when I arrived at our embassy in Laos at the height of the war to discover that the ambassador and my new boss was a gun-toting, draft-dodging old Yalie who called himself G. McMurtrie Godley III. You can’t make this shit up.)

But back to the Washington Post.

There were and are many fine reporters at the paper, and they have done immensely valuable work over the years. But though the leash was sometimes a long one, it was always present. Since Eugene Meyer bought the paper at a bankruptcy auction in 1933, that leash has always been held by conservative publishers from his family.

The surprise isn’t that Froomkin has been fired, but that he lasted as long as he did. And the beauty of the internet is that he will be able — if he so desires — to keep the audience the Post enabled him to assemble.

I hope he so desires.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:55 PM
June 09, 2009
If Not Now, When?

Who needs the Mafia when we’ve got Congress? Here’s a taste from William Greider. Go read it all in The Nation.

The much-celebrated “Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights” is a fresh example of how the Democratic Party tries to have it both ways — avoiding the tough votes while mollifying the folks. The credit card reform measure imposes new rules on the industry and does away with many of the most outrageous gimmicks bankers use to extract more money from debtors. Banks cannot raise interest rates retroactively on old credit card balances or pile on hidden fees or fail to give advance notice for rate increases. These and other changes are worthy.

The achievement seems less courageous if you know that Congress was largely ratifying the regulatory rules already adopted by the Federal Reserve last year. Or that the legislation gives the industry another nine months to gouge their customers before the new rules go into effect. Or that Visa and MasterCard, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase are free to raise future interest rates to the sky — without limit. That is the industry’s intention, as bank lobbyists reported after the bill was passed.

One of the fundamental issues that party managers wished to avoid was the scandal of American usury. Usury is the ancient sin of charging inflated interest rates sure to ruin the borrowers. It is considered immoral by Judaism, Christianity and Islam because usury involves the powerful using their wealth to ensnare weak and defenseless borrowers. The classic usurer offers an impossible choice that debtors cannot easily refuse. If they reject the terms of the loan, they will not be able to pay the rent or buy necessities. If they accept the usurious interest rates, their debts will accumulate until they are bankrupted (at which point the creditors claim their property). No civilized society can endure in such conditions.

Usury used to be illegal in the United States but it was “decriminalized” in 1980 — the dawn of financial deregulation. A Democratic president and Congress repealed all interest-rate controls and the federal law prohibiting usury. Thirty years later, American society is permeated with usurious practices — credit cards charging 30 percent and higher, subprime mortgages and other forms of predatory lending, the notorious “payday” loans that charge desperate working people an effective interest rate of 500 percent or more. Businesses, especially smaller firms, are also prey to usury in less direct ways…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:38 AM
June 03, 2009
Unfortunately You Can’t Castrate Sotomayor

Sparky Satori at Shorts and Pants reminds us of a former racist activist on the Supreme Court — Chief Justice William Rehnquist. A superior work of snark, found in its entirety here.

November of last year, it was assumed that the USofA had finally vanquished the lingering ghosts of racism and was poised on the cusp of a new post-racial dawn. The long dark night of lynching and discrimination was finally over. “Huzzah!” bleated the media, smugly self-congratulatory.

But that was then. This is worse. And leave it to the hyper-sensitive Republicans to sniff out whiffs of the new racism being foisted upon the nation by its first black President. GOP stalwarts Newt Gringrich and Rush Limbaugh were quick to alert the country to a leading practitioner of this new racism, Sonia “Maria” Sotomayor ["SoSo" to her non-friends]. But she’s not your average garden-variety racist, according to the GOP braintrust. Per Newt and Rush, she is a “reverse racist,” rarer than even the “Albino Negro.” This alone should disqualify her from sitting on the Supreme Court, which has never, ever had any benchers who suffered from an iota of racial insensitivity…

Here’s a snippet from the Nixon tapes to give you an idea of the vetting process from which Rehnquist emerged. Full transcript here. As always with Nixon, fascinating stuff. Sure he was evil, but nobody ever called him dumb.

RMN: Yeah, all right, call me back when you get it. But remember, let’s figure on the Rehnquist thing. The political mileage basically is the same kind of mileage if we were to go with Smith. The idea being that we are appointing a highly qualified man. That’s really what it gets down to.

[Attorney General] John Mitchell: Yeah.

RMN: And also he doesn’t smack of the corporate lawyer as much as Smith.

JM: No, he’s more of a general practitioner.

RMN: Incidentally, what is Rehnquist? I suppose he’s a damn Protestant?

JM: I’m sure of that. He’s just as WASPish as WASPish can be.

RMN: Yeah, well, that’s too damn bad. Tell him to change his religion.

JM: All right, I’ll get him baptized this afternoon.

RMN: Well, get him baptized and castrated, no, they don’t do that, I mean they circumcise— no, that’s the Jews. Well anyway, whatever he is, get him changed.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:52 AM
June 02, 2009

That rancid rust-bucket that is the Republican Party sits ever lower in the water and appears to be foundering. Should we attempt a rescue or let the wretched old tub sink to the bottom? The vote here is for the coup de grâce. Put a torpedo into her amidships and let her go down without further ado. Glub, glub, GOP; it’ll be a far better world without you.

There was a time when the Republican Party stood for something, or at least appeared to stand for something. It took its name and founding philosophy from the Jeffersonian republican ideal, although the party would soon enough make a mockery of its idealistic name by becoming the champion of short-sighted greed and selfishness, the party of business.

But it started out as the party of the antislavery activists in the 1850s and came to power with the election of Lincoln in 1860. It was the party of the Tafts, dull, toothy Ohioans, who championed a conservative philosophy of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility, a credo now honored mostly in the breach. For reckless economic policy, no party has ever come close to the modern GOP. And it started with Reagan and his supply-side shenanigans. You may recall that Bush Senior referred to this nonsense as “voodoo economics.”

It was the party of Teddy Roosevelt, who took on the big corporate monopolies and, when he wasn’t starting wars or shooting beautiful animals, upheld a certain maverick standard of governmental integrity. It was the party of Grant and Eisenhower, successful warriors, each of whom served two terms in the White House without ever quite getting the hang of the job or looking like they really wanted it.

Then there was handsome, hapless Warren Harding, another Ohioan, and his equally inspiring successor, Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge famously said, “The chief business of the American people is business.” He is remembered mostly for wearing an Indian headdress. And don’t forget Hoover, who said, after the great Wall Street crash, that the markets would restore financial order if given the chance.

And, of course, there was Nixon and his infamous Committee to Reelect the President, aptly shortened to CREEP. And Reagan, who played the part so well many people believed he actually knew what he was doing. And Bush Two. And Bush Two again.

Somehow the country survived two terms of W., but will his party? How can any self-respecting Republican even whisper words of fiscal integrity in the mountainous shadow of a Bush-incurred debt so high it blots out the sun? Well, silly question. Of course they can, have, and will again, but the difference is that now nobody takes them seriously. When Newt Gingrich emerges from under his troll’s bridge to test the presidential waters, is this not a sign that the party is in its death throes?

Meanwhile, all those Wall Street banks, those bastions of fiscal discipline and Republican virtue, have lined up for billion-dollar hand-outs from a Democratic administration. Whether or not the big bailouts were a good idea is debatable. What is not debatable is the spectacular hypocrisy of the big shots that flew down to Washington in private jets to beg Congress for public money. How many of them were not Republicans?



Posted by Paul Duffy at 07:25 PM
May 31, 2009
GOP Biggie Outed As Empathizer — With Turtles!

From Lincoln’s Virtues: an Ethical Biography, by William Lee Miller:

When the boys in the neighborhood put hot coals on the backs of turtles to entertain themselves by watching the turtles’ reaction, there are several courses of action open to you. As a good fellow, you can go along with the fun. As one who does feel the turtle’s pain, but is intimidated, you can keep your objections to yourself. As one who has more important business elsewhere, you could ignore the whole matter. As a budding representative of the relativisms of the century to come, you could shrug your shoulders and say: “They like to put hot coals on turtles, I don’t like to put hot coals on turtles — preferences differ. Who is to choose? Don’t be judgmental.”

Or you can do what the ten-year-old Abraham Lincoln did: You can tell your companions that what they are doing is wrong, and that they should not do what they are doing. And you may even, as young Lincoln did, draw out the larger moral principle, and write a composition — cruelty to animals is wrong — and argue publicly on its behalf in your one-room school.

Or on the other hand you could…

This is from a long campaign profile in the New York Times of May 21, 2000, to which we should have paid more attention than we did:

While playing Little League baseball, running for class president, or even sobbing in the principal’s office, George W. Bush absorbed West Texas values that many old friends say are central to understanding who he is today…

‘‘We were terrible to animals,’’ recalled Mr. Throckmorton, laughing. A dip behind the Bush home turned into a small lake after a good rain, and thousands of frogs would come out.

‘‘Everybody would get BB guns and shoot them,’’ Mr. Throckmorton said. ‘‘Or we’d put firecrackers in the frogs and throw them and blow them up.’’

When he was not blowing up frogs, young George — always restless and something of a natural leader — would lead neighborhood children on daredevil expeditions around town, seeing how close they could come to breaking their necks.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:50 PM
May 26, 2009
Opposite Day

Brady Bonk already wrote it, so I don’t have to. Read his full post here:

The timeline in my head: President Bill Clinton is pursued on a variety of trumped up charges by insane people who clinch their teeth whenever they speak his name, mostly probably because President Bill Clinton gets more pussy than any of them could ever imagine. I am just speculating. One ridiculous charge sticks: He lied about sex. On that one silly charge they can hang a million silly hats. To this day, say “Bill Clinton” in front of a conservative. I guarantee you he will not be able to resist joking about Clinton and women and cigars and the blue dress.

Based on Monigate, the newly-appointed Bush administration could declare it opposite day in America. They are warned by transition team officials that international terrorism might be their biggest dread. The warnings are largely ignored in favor of a general consensus to fight the Cold War all over again and, as was likely discussed though we’ll never know in Chaney’s super-duper top-secret energy meetin’s, to go get all of that frickin’ oil. But the Bush Administration could turn its back on the Israeli peace process, could abrogate treaties, could and should, according to their wisdom, do everything the opposite of how that dumb bubba did it, because, you know … he got a blow job…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:02 PM
May 22, 2009
Ho Chi Minh, Meet George W. Bush…

…you guys have got a lot to talk about. For instance, does this sound familiar?

[Rev. Robert G.] Certain remembers how easily his Vietnamese captors justified crossing the line with him. They said American prisoners weren’t covered by the Geneva Convention.

“They said we were not prisoners of war because there was no legal declaration of war,” Certain says. “Therefore we were air pirates and they could treat us anyway they felt."


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:06 PM
May 21, 2009
Torture Is As American As Apple Pie

Once again Noam Chomsky brings us back to reality in this essay. I’m posting this minutes before President Obama’s address on closing our prison at Guantánamo Bay. We will see what we will see.

None of this is to say that Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld et al. did not introduce important innovations. In ordinary American practice, torture was largely farmed out to subsidiaries, not carried out by Americans directly in their own government-established torture chambers.

As Allan Nairn, who has carried out some of the most revealing and courageous investigations of torture, points out: “What the Obama [ban on torture] ostensibly knocks off is that small percentage of torture now done by Americans while retaining the overwhelming bulk of the system’s torture, which is done by foreigners under U.S. patronage. Obama could stop backing foreign forces that torture, but he has chosen not to do so.”

Obama did not shut down the practice of torture, Nairn observes, but “merely repositioned it,” restoring it to the American norm, a matter of indifference to the victims. “[H]is is a return to the status quo ante,” writes Nairn, “the torture regime of Ford through Clinton, which, year by year, often produced more U.S.-backed strapped-down agony than was produced during the Bush/Cheney years…”

An argument can be made that implementation of the CIA’s “torture paradigm” never violated the 1984 Torture Convention, at least as Washington interpreted it. McCoy points out that the highly sophisticated CIA paradigm developed at enormous cost in the 1950s and 1960s, based on the “KGB’s most devastating torture technique,” kept primarily to mental torture, not crude physical torture, which was considered less effective in turning people into pliant vegetables.

McCoy writes that the Reagan administration then carefully revised the International Torture Convention “with four detailed diplomatic ‘reservations’ focused on just one word in the convention’s 26-printed pages,” the word “mental.” He continues: “These intricately-constructed diplomatic reservations re-defined torture, as interpreted by the United States, to exclude sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain — the very techniques the CIA had refined at such great cost.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:53 AM
May 19, 2009
Right Thinkers

From Paul Krugman’s blog:

So I see Richard Posner has decided that modern conservatism is intellectually bankrupt. And Bruce Bartlett has a new book saying it’s time to let go of Reagan.

At one level it’s good to see decent people showing some intellectual flexibility (Bartlett, in particular, has always come across as someone with whom one can have honest disagreements.) And yet — why, exactly, should we listen to people who by their own admission completely missed the story? I mean, anyone who actually listened to what Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey were saying in 1994, let alone what passed for thought in the Bush administration, should have realized long ago that if there ever was an intellectual basis for modern conservatism, it was long gone.

And the truth is that the Reaganauts were a pretty grotesque bunch too. Look for the golden age of conservative intellectualism in America, and you keep going back, and back, and back — and eventually you run up against William Buckley in the 1950s declaring that blacks weren’t advanced enough to vote, and that Franco was the savior of Spanish civilization.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:20 PM
May 13, 2009
Cold Warriors Never Die, They Just Hide Away

Until coming across this in the New York Review of Books, I knew essentially nothing about the tiny island in the Indian Ocean called Diego Garcia. I should have. We all should have.

After our squalid land grab and ethnic cleansing some 40 years ago, the tropical island has been purposely kept under wraps and out of bounds. Most recently it has served as a base for bombing Iraq and Afghanistan, as a way station on Bush’s rendition network and, despite our denials, as a “black site” for the imprisonment and torture of suspected terrorists. As you will see below.

Go here to read Jonathan Freedland’s entire review of David Vines’ Island of Shame.

Drained by World War II and rapidly retreating from empire, [London] could no longer afford to police the Indian Ocean the way it had since the Napoleonic Wars. Better to hand the island over to its richer, stronger ally and retain at least some involvement than to pull out altogether and watch the Communist enemy step in.

To sweeten the pill still further, Washington took $14 million off the bill Britain owed the US for its supposedly independent nuclear weapon, the Polaris missile. For that money, Britain was expected to leave the islands in the condition the US wanted to find them: pristinely empty of human habitation.

On this point Washington could not have been more explicit: a British official note of talks with US counterparts stated that the United States wanted the islands under its “exclusive control (without local inhabitants).” Later, in 1971, the US chief of naval operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, responded to a memo on the people of Diego Garcia with three clear words: “Absolutely must go.”

The British were told that they were to be responsible for the expulsion — thereby handing Washington an albeit thin form of deniability and the chance to avoid any unpleasant questions from the United Nations, then animated by postcolonial notions of the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination…

So it was that, too far away to be noticed, the people of the Chagos Islands saw their birthright sold. The Americans paid the British, who in turn paid the government-in-waiting of soon-to-be-independent Mauritius. The latter was given a choice: accept a $3 million bribe and the loss of the Chagos Islands — or there will be no independence. It took the money.

With the UK, Mauritius, and the US Congress all lined up, the path was now clear for building to begin. Vine describes how in March 1971 a tank landing ship and five others “descended on Diego with at least 820 soldiers … The Seabees brought in heavy equipment, setting up a rock crusher and a concrete block factory. They used Caterpillar bulldozers and chains to rip coconut trees from the ground. They blasted Diego’s reef with explosives to excavate coral rock for the runway. Diesel fuel sludge began fouling the water.”

Wasting no time, the British began ridding Chagos of its people. First those luckless enough to be away from home were told they could not return: their islands were now closed. Those still on the archipelago were then informed that it was a criminal offense to be living in Chagos —a place that most of them had never left — without a permit.

Next they were, in effect, starved out, as British officials deliberately ran down supplies of food and medicine. Salvage crews came to dismantle the plantations: there would be no work and no rations. Then, in a demonstration of US and UK resolve, the commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory, as it was now renamed, gave the order for the islanders’ pet dogs to be killed; after US soldiers armed with M16 rifles failed to shoot them all, the animals were gassed as their owners looked on.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:54 AM
May 11, 2009
Goldman Sachs=Gulf of Tonkin

Below is an excerpt from a Charles Hugh Smith essay. I’m terribly afraid that he’s right, that our best and brightest Ivy League fools are at it again. I played a small role in their last horror show, and the flashbacks just keep coming: Afghanistan = Cambodia; Goldman Sachs = Gulf of Tonkin. On and on. Once more we see that intelligence and wisdom are not at all the same thing.

When I see Treasury Secretary Geithner justifying the stupendous bailouts of Wall Street and the squandering of taxpayer funds, I conclude he knows he’s lying and deceiving the public — but he apparently thinks that is the only way to persuade the public to bail out Wall Street.

In other words, the U.S. public cannot be trusted with fixing the structural flaws in the U.S. economy and financial system (after all, the public might — gasp! — demand the destruction of the money-center and investment banks) so we have to manipulate them into going along with our plan to save Wall Street and the money-center banks.

Just like in Vietnam, the first step is to scare the bejabbers out of the public: the financial system was moments away from crashing, which would have impoverished every last one of you, not just now, but forever and ever.

There is also a domestic political motivation. President Johnson often obsessed over how his Democratic Party would suffer domestic defeat if he were perceived to have “lost Vietnam” to the Communists. (Never mind Vietnam was arbitrarily divided after World War Two.) Thus winning the war “in the hearts and minds” of the American public was Job One — the actual war could be lost, but it needed to be lost without appearing to be lost.

This is a process otherwise known as “peace with honor.”

Now we find ourselves swamped by relentless waves of financial propaganda, spin, manipulation and bogus statistical “proof” (a.k.a. body count redux) that the “war” on the bad old recession has been “won.”

What a domestic political catastrophe for the ascendant Democrats if they failed to “win the war on recession.” Thus creating the perception that the war has been won is absolutely more important than actually dismantling the Wall Street/money-center banks cabal which created the precarious debt/derivative machine and profited most handsomely from it.

I predict we will get our financial Tet Offensive in 2010. That’s when the propaganda that “the recession is over” will be revealed as a lie foisted on the public “for our own good.” And just as in the Vietnam Era, the American public will lose whatever trust and confidence they once had in their government and its leaders, elected and appointed.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:51 AM
May 08, 2009
Old Soldiers Never Die

From Al Jazeera:

Fifty-five years after masterminding a military victory that led to the end of French colonial rule in Indochina, Vietnam’s celebrated General Vo Nguyen Giap is still fighting.

The 98-year-old’s latest battle — with words rather than bullets — is to save the environment and his “enemy” is bauxite mining…

For Giap, the general who has triumphed in wars of resistance against French, and later US forces, the battle to protect the forests and rivers of the Central Highlands from the encroachments of Chinese economic [expansion] may prove to be his toughest yet.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:07 PM
April 28, 2009
The Perfect Man

Also sprach Hugo of St. Victor, a 12th-century monk from Saxony:

It is, therefore, a source of great virtue for the practiced mind to learn, bit by bit, first to change about invisible and transitory things, so that afterwards it may be able to leave them behind altogether. The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land. The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world; the strong man has extended his love to all places; the perfect man has extinguished his.
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:36 AM
April 23, 2009
She Broke the Pressmen's Union

I worked all my life as a reporter and an owner of newspapers, and a publisher of papers owned by others. David Simon (see the second post down) is correct in all respects. The owners called newspapers “franchises,” which should give you the idea.

Here’s a story: I was at a publishers’ convention when Katherine Graham entered the room to speak. I was standing beside the Knight brothers, of the old Knight Newspapers chain. They were very short and stood on their chairs to see her.

Hundreds of publishers rose cheering as Mrs.Graham went by. I heard one Knight brother say to the other, “They’re clapping because of Watergate aren’t they ?” The other answered, “Are you kidding? They’re clapping because she broke the pressmen’s union.”

I’ve heard publishers brag that they got a 40 percent profit from a few of their newspapers. Their newspapers were just horrid. The owners would talk a lot about “clean markets” meaning that the paper was a monopoly without unions. I could go on and on.

The point that I’ve been making for years is that the owners starved their papers big time. And when a strong competitor came along, they were so flustered, they decided the best defense was to give what was left of their product away.

Perhaps the newspaper, as we’ve known it, would have died anyway because of the web. But the owners’ overweening greed made the industry an easy mark. Even before the web, newspapers were going down hill fast, losing readership.

One newspaper circulation manager told me a few years ago that his department had to re-sell 25 percent of their circulation each year just to stay even. Now that same paper has a market penetration of only 35 percent of the households in its area.

Yet even today, as the papers cut and cut, the owners continue to demand 20 percent margins. They are eating themselves alive, screwing their readers, their advertisers, and their employees.

They have no answers. For instance, the chief executive of Lee Newspapers for the past decade decided to bury that otherwise strong company under a mountain of debt to buy the Pulitzer newspapers. Then it was trading at $36 a share; now it is 36 cents a share. She’s still the president, drawing a salary of millions.

The stories are endless.

But no longer is A. J. Liebling’s insightful remark —“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one” — true. Now local news websites are popping up, at a startup cost which is 4.5 percent of the capital needed to start a daily.

A thousand young voices will rise up to challenge the remaining dailies and the newspaper business will soon become what it was when the founders wrote the Constitution: lots of “papers” in each town and city.



Posted by Bill Doolittle at 11:02 AM
April 10, 2009
The Zombie Party

For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), John Batchelor is a conservative radio host whose show is heard in New York, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and many other markets. The sample below comes from an extended and astonishing rant he published today in The Daily Beast. If you could use a true Holy Shit moment, and who couldn’t, go read it all.

…What about the Republican Party right now? Isn’t it on radio and TV claiming to be the party of fiscal responsibility and American power? Bypassing the stupidity of these claims, I am on radio, on what is called right-wing radio, and it is easy for me to see that my loudest colleagues, who compulsively repeat the cant of Conservatism for Dummies, are not sincere students of the Republican Party but rather barkers, hookers, establishmentarian jesters, cultists, and, in the worst instance, just thatch-headed whiners.

Fox News is a parade of wet-eared Republican office holders, yet there is usually just one each allowed of the categories the Democrats own in multitudes: a Jewish-American, an Asian-American, an African-American, a Hispanic-American.

Then there is the beauty pageant of fast-talking, rude Fox blondes — if they are not all the same woman in mood swings — who stridently mock the Democrats, yet have almost nothing to say about the Republicans, as if the party was a disappointing ex or mother’s latest beau.

The party’s death 76 years ago was never more obvious than over the last six months of the financial crisis. The Democrats sensibly blamed the feckless, bootless Bush administration for the collapse of the markets. Tongue-tied Bush and dyspeptic Cheney defended themselves with grunts and sarcasm before they surrendered to Congress by sending out the plutocrat Hank Paulson with a plan called TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program).

A breathing Republican Party would have brought out the flintlocks, boarded the windows, and settled down for a defense of the republic. Instead, the Republican leadership in the House and Senate rushed to grab the pork bribery and vote with the Democrats. John Boehner, Roy Blunt, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, and Judd Gregg distinguished themselves as dhimmis and were later rewarded by the victorious Democrats by being granted parakeet cages for offices in the new Congress.

The House Republicans now boast that they voted a goose egg against the stimulus package, but this was just the twitching of the corpse. The truth about the House Republicans — cowards, sycophants, and snobs just like 1930s lot — is illustrated by the fact that 85 of them voted for the ludicrous AIG bonus-confiscation bill written on the back of a parking ticket.

The Republican Party’s death doesn’t really threaten anyone, and I puzzle why Democrats and independents who vote Democratic spend words and worry debating the look of the corpse. We few Republicans with long memories wander around the cemetery admiring the tombstones and enjoying the rain.

I can hear you doubting that this could truly be the end. The final stage of grief is acceptance.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:40 PM
April 04, 2009
The Big Muddy

Read this from Juan Cole. If Obama is playing a deep game in Afghanistan, it must be very deep indeed. Those of us who saw our Southeast Asia stupidity from the inside are living now in a perpetual state of déjà vu. Afghanistan, meet Cambodia.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:38 PM
March 28, 2009
Afghanistan’s Plains

President Barack Obama is adding America to a long list of powerful nations which have tried to conquer or pacify Afghanistan.

If history is any guide he will fail, but not until the blood of United States fighters has run through the rugged hills and valleys of this most treacherous of countries. Treacherous because of terrain, hatred of foreigners, double crosses between Afghan tribes, families and outsiders, and a culture in which boys are trained to be guerrilla fighters from childhood.

Alexander the Great conquered Afghanistan in 330 BC, but the Afghans soon triumphed by enfolding the conquerors and going back to their traditional ways. Alexander, like Obama, tried buying loyalty of the tribal chiefs. But their loyalty is a insubstantial as the morning mists.

It would do Obama good to read of Alexander’s campaign in Afghanistan. It was more costly and wretched than anything he had attempted before.

After Alexander a series of foreign invaders tried to overcome to Afghan people. All were beaten back.

In 1842 a beleaguered British garrison of 16,000 gained what they thought was safe passage for their retreat through the mountains. One man survived the slaughter to tell the tale and Rudyard Kipling gave this advice to anyone planning to invade Afghanistan:

“When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier.”


Posted by Bill Doolittle at 10:40 AM
March 26, 2009
When It Was Morning in America

George W. Bush came close to winning the 2000 presidential election by pretending to be a closet Democrat — this being the barely-coded message of his “compassionate conservative” nonsense.

And Reagan won the 1984 presidential election fair and square by doing the same thing, although this is less generally understood. A while back I went into the question in some depth. I’m dusting off that 1988 piece now not because it’s particularly relevant to anything in the news, but because I was reminded of it yesterday when I posted that old video from Ronzo’s pink period.

And because it’s my party and I’ll post if I want to. So here goes:

Now Ronald Reagan has beaten the Democrats twice — not because he was an elephant, but because he had done such a good job of looking like a donkey.

Most foreigners could no more tell a Democrat from a Republican than they could distinguish between the male and the female of the Galapagos tortoise. But just as the tortoises are able to sort themselves out, so can we Americans. In the narrow mainstream of our politics, ranging from kind-of-far right to pretty-far right, the Democrats are the liberals and the Republicans are the conservatives.

The normal way to tell a liberal from a conservative is that the liberal is an optimist, while the conservative is a pessimist. The liberal imagines that the world can be changed for the better. The conservative imagines that it can’t. He looks into his own heart, supposes that all hearts must be similar, and concludes that very little can be expected of mankind.

Others must be as ready to attack him as he is to attack them, and so praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. Government is bound to be organized theft, so that the only remaining question for the intelligent man is who gets robbed. Liberated woman would prove to be no better than liberated man has been, and thus, in the interest of reducing the general level of mischief, should be kept barefoot in the winter and pregnant in summer. Only a sucker would believe that faith could move mountains, but greed will do the job just fine. Look at Appalachia. The mark of Cain is on all of us, and we are none of us any better than we should be. “In Adam’s fall,” as the New England Primer said, “we sinnèd all.”

These things being so, the path of history must lead downward, and it would be useless to stand in the way of this general decline. About the best a conservative can hope for is to preserve the status quo; the absolute best is to turn back the clock for a few moments, so as briefly to recapture some status quo ante…

In his most usual guise, then, the conservative is full of gloom and pessimism. He knows our sloth will drive us to bankruptcy, our lust to license; our anger to war; our envy to civil unrest, our covetousness to crime; our gluttony to a triple by-pass; and our pride to a fall.

The point is not whether this view is correct. The point, politically, is whether such pessimism is appealing.

Someone with a more favorable view of mankind’s capacities — someone, in other words, more liberal — might indeed think that the voters were up to hearing a few unpleasant truths.

Carter and Mondale seemed to have thought the country was mature enough for a little castor oil, at any rate. In Carter’s world petroleum was running out and the American Century was in danger of ending before it was over. His was a complicated world that required careful planning to manage.

Nor was Mondale’s world a cheerful one. It, too, required planning and discipline if we were to cope with Reagan’s deficits while at the same time restoring fairness to American life. Carter’s and Mondale’s faith that the voters could grasp these concepts was essentially liberal in its optimism about the human condition. And it was essentially misplaced, as the country showed both men on election day.

Reagan didn’t seem to see the world this way at all. In Mondale’s America, as the Republican commercials said, it was always April 15; in Reagan’s it was always the Fourth of July. Whether by temperament or by design Reagan ran as an optimist, which is to say that he ran as a Democrat.

His issues may have been traditional Republican ones, but this misses the point. If you campaign in poetry but govern in prose, as Governor Cuomo likes to say, then Reagan’s poetry was Democratic.

In both campaigns, but especially in the 1984 one, Reagan went beyond poetic license and into outright theft. The bands at his rallies played “Happy Days Are Here Again.” He adopted Roosevelt and Truman as Republican saints, and it worked; he sounded more like a Democrat than Mondale or Carter did. He talked about tomorrow with the cheerful optimism of the Happy Warrior, Hubert Humphrey; he talked about America’s role in the world with the mindless, adolescent macho of the early Kennedy; he offered guns and butter with the fiscal abandon of Lyndon Johnson.

In fact he made Johnson and those other Democrats look like pikers. They wanted to tax and spend; by 1984 it was clear that all Reagan wanted to do was spend. He was the Peter Pan of politics, never growing up and settling down. He was the grasshopper and the Democrats were the ants. Never mind what he actually said; after four years, everybody knew he didn’t mean all that stuff anyway. What he actually was, in both races, was the Democrat.

But how could he be the Democrat when he opposed virtually every social measure the Democrats had passed, over the years and over his dead body? The trick was that he went the Democrats one better. He said we had once had all these good things for nothing, and we could have them again for the same attractive price.

Cut red tape and the mighty engine of American industry will provide jobs for all. Cut funds for libraries and some new Carnegie will build them once again. Cut taxes for the rich and revenues will go up. Cut Matilda off the Social Security rolls and her children will take her in. Cut funds to enforce environmental and safety laws, and voluntary compliance will go up. Cut forests and you cut air pollution.

Reagan offered no-fault government to the Me Generation and to their parents, who often enough were vagabonding around in their RVs with messages like “I’m Spending My Children’s Inheritance” on the bumpers. (The message on their children’s BMWs was likely to read, “The One Who Dies with the Most Toys Wins.” The apple, the French say, doesn’t fall far from the tree.)

The old folks liked it that Reagan, old folks himself, stood foursquare for God, the nuclear family, enforced pregnancy to term, creationism, prayer in schools, heterosexuality between married adults — none of which would cost a nickel in taxes.

The younger folks had grown up in a world of homosexuals and casual sex and abortion and divorce. They seldom went to church. They saw little of their kids. But they forgave their permissive and nicely naughty Grandpa Ron for all his preaching, because they knew his fingers were crossed. No way he could really mean all those terrible things he kept saying about what had been, after all, his own lifestyle.

Reagan sounded like an optimist because he was able to sell Americans the notion that to retreat to the past was to advance, that yesterday could become tomorrow. That this might not be such a good idea didn’t occur to people who had little knowledge of what yesterday had been like. Their memories were either too short or, like Reagan’s, too selective.

In his 1986 State of the Union message, Reagan gave Congress an unusually explicit (for poetry) statement of his view that progress is just a question of retracing our footsteps:

Never has there been a more exciting time to be alive a time of rousing wonder and heroic achievement. As they said in the film, Back to the Future: ‘Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.’ Well, today, physicists peering into the infinitely small realms of the subatomic particles find reaffirmations of religious faith; astronomers build a space telescope that can see to the edge of the universe and, possibly, back to the moment of creation …

We are going forward with our shuttle flights. We are going forward to build our space station, and we are going forward with research on a new Orient Express that could, by the end of the next decade, take off from Dulles Airport, accelerate up to 25 times the speed of sound, attaining low-earth orbit or flying to Tokyo within two hours. And the same technology transforming our lives can solve the greatest problem of the 20th Century. A security shield can one day render nuclear weapons obsolete and free mankind from the prison of nuclear terror.

It’s all there. Magical time machines to take us back to the 1950s. White-coated scientists ranging out in front of the rest of us and stumbling over, of all the darned things, proof of God and His creation of the world. Trips to the Exotic East with Sidney Greenstreet and the gang in a sure-enough time capsule, this one so fast that you arrive hours before you started out. And the same science that gave us the space shuttle will soon give us a warm and woolly security blanket to keep us safe from the Russian bogeyman.

Never mind that the space shuttle itself just blew up a few weeks ago and that the majority of graduate engineering and science students in America are foreign exchange students. Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

That all this stuff is nonsense doesn’t matter, any more than it matters that the poem “Xanadu” doesn’t make much sense, either. They both invite us not to think, but to dream.

And Reagan’s dreams are appealing. Where Carter and Mondale offered self-improvement, self-criticism, and self-discipline, like a couple of country club conservatives advising the lower classes to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, Reagan offered no-fault government. High-paid volunteers will take your place in the armed services. Never mind about all those dead marines in Lebanon: look at the way our boys rolled over those commies down in Grenada.

Don’t worry, mon. Be happy.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:36 PM
March 25, 2009
A Really Old, Really Golden Oldie

This video clip dates from the early dawn of human history, even before General Electric forced its new spokesman, Ronald Reagan, to submit to a brain transplant. (h/t to Ketchup is a Vegetable.)


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:52 PM
March 22, 2009
When Will They Ever Learn?

Thurman Arnold, a Yale law professor from Wyoming who became FDR’s trust-buster, in 1937 published a book called The Folklore of Capitalism. He knew a thing or two about depressions by then, and maybe we can learn from him. Not that we will. We still believe in the same mythology, and it has gotten us into the same mess. What the hell, though. Here’s an excerpt from his book:

In every field of industrial activity great organizations had built themselves into similar positions of power. They had done so under a mythology of private property which prevented those who were exploited from observing what was going on. The public saw the whole series of events as a series of horse trades by independent individuals. This mythology had become so completely misleading that men could not diagnose what was wrong when these corporate principalities failed to function, or why they injured so many people. The remedies proposed on the assumption that the corporations were individuals working for profit came out wrong because the corporations were not individuals. It was as if men assumed that an automobile was a horse and tried to run it on hay.

The class of people who could use these financial symbols realistically and unscrupulously rose to power, regardless of their efficiency as producers. They operated within a folklore which regarded the trading instinct as the salvation of the country. Traders are necessarily ruthless men. The ethics of trading is a series of ethical contradictions. Therefore, when everyone else had dropped the reins of power, this small group was in a position to seize them.

Thus the Van Sweringens, who had acquired their trading skill in real estate, obtained control of great railroad enterprises. Small blocks of stock representing an infinitesimal part of the so-called partnership gave them power over an empire. The power thus gained was without any responsibility because these blocks of stock were thought of as private property. Men skilled in the tricks which could be played with these cards could always dominate experts in transportation when the control of a railroad was at stake.

If one reads the careful investigation made by the Securities and Exchange Commission into the activities of protective committees in reorganization, one finds that those in control were almost always financiers and not technicians. A trading class was elevated to power who knew nothing of the techniques of the organizations which they led. Actual goods and services were dispensed by a great army of salaried technicians who were given neither power nor security. Economics and law assumed that everyone was acquiring private property under the impulsion of the ‘profit motive.’ “You can’t get efficiency in operation without a profit motive,” said the profound students of social organization.

When such organizations got into trouble, the remedies proposed were formulated on the assumption that they were to be applied to individuals who were exercising independent control of tangible things which they owned. Had there been a realization that these organizations were not dealing with
private property, it would have been obvious that the remedy
lay in giving the control to men with a different sense of responsibility.

The romantic legal and economic ritual of the time, however, was built up around the ideal that a trader without responsibility to the groups involved made the best general in an industrial army. In the situation which resulted only those could rise to power and rank who were more interested in the manipulation of financial symbols than in transportation, or housing, or the actual production and distribution of any sort of goods. Position and rank obtained in this fiscal world had carried no social obligation because they were subject to the rules which governed the accumulation of private property.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:21 PM
March 21, 2009
Chalk One up for Ronzo

My old paper the Washington Post, since fully evolved into Fox lite, today ran this wonderfully wacky paragraph about the election of leftist populist Mauricio Funes as President of El Salvador:

If Mr. Funes as well as the election’s losers now respect the rule of law, the result could be the consolidation of the political system the United States was aiming for when it intervened in El Salvador’s civil war during the 1980s. At the time, the goal of a successful Salvadoran democracy was dismissed as a mission impossible, just as some now say democracy is unattainable in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the right-wing ARENA party, whose leaders were linked to death squads in the 1980s, proved during the last few years that it could embrace democratic practices. Its presidential candidate, Rodrigo Ávila, acknowledged his defeat on election night.

For those very few of you who don’t follow the news from Central America that closely, I provide this link to BoRev, who does. His Onion-worthy headline: Reagan's Dream of A Leftist El Salvador Finally Realized. The post also has great art work, which I would steal if I knew how to do it.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:36 PM
March 19, 2009
The Chicago Boys Go to Iraq

In the 1970s and 1980s the tiny country of Uruguay was a military dictatorship ruled by sadists and murderers. Dissenters were tortured for years in military jails. Those who survived were next sent to a nightmare of a prison called Libertad, or Liberty.

The name was not a joke. Liberty Prison was a lab experiment in which words might mean their opposite, clocks kept different and constantly changing time, calendars were inaccurate, lights were manipulated so that days would shorten or lengthen unaccountably, meals would arrive at odd intervals or not at all, and behavior that was punished on Tuesday would be rewarded on Wednesday. If indeed it had been a Tuesday or a Wednesday.

This house of mirrors had been designed by behavioral psychologists, and was carried out under their direction. And the meaninglessness had meaning. From Lawrence Wechsler’s 1998 book, A Miracle, a Universe:

Major A. Maciel, who was a director of Libertad, observed at one point, regarding the prisoners under his charge, “We didn’t get rid of them when we had the chance, and one day we’ll have to let them go, so we’ll have to take advantage of the time we have left to drive them mad.”

No matter what creatures like Cheney and Rumsfeld and Yoo and Addington may say or even believe, the goal of torture is only incidentally to elicit information. What, then were the masters of Uruguay really after with their physical and psychological tortures? Lawrence Wechsler, again, writing in the New Yorker 20 years ago:

Eduardo Galeano, the noted Uruguayan writer, provided me with a characteristically terse, aphoristic reply: “In Uruguay, people were in prison so prices could be free.”

Several other people I spoke with in Montevideo concurred, explaining that one of the main reasons for the military’s repression was to enable the generals to hand the country’s economy over to their “Chicago boys” — neoliberal economic technocrats, many of them trained at the University of Chicago under the monetarist influence of Milton Friedman, who prescribe an unfettered marketplace, with a minimum of government interference, as the cure for most of the world’s economic ills.

These economists generally oppose protective tariffs, social entitlements, minimum-wage standards, government safety-and-health regulations — the kind of things on behalf of which unions, for example, might be expected to struggle.

So what were our own torturers and psychologists in Guantánamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib really after? Are there parallels? Divergences? What economic philosophy has been forced on Iraq, with what results? What is the point of “mosaic intelligence” as opposed to “actionable intelligence” of the Jack Bauer variety?

Contrast and compare.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:13 PM
March 11, 2009
Love in a Time of Bombast

Once, it was possible for people to have a conversation, to trade ideas, to express feelings, to talk. But that was a long time ago, before we entered the Age of Sounding Important While Saying Nothing.

Now, there are two modes of communication only and neither one of them allows for plain talk about things that matter. In the first mode, the one used for subjects of Import and Significance, which these days is just about everything, we engage in A Meaningful Dialogue. All else falls under a catch-all rubric known as A Frivolous Exchange.

Most of what passes for discourse in this Time of Bombast, especially as it issues from politicians and the puffed-up types who often run corporations and universities, from the TV talk-slingers, and even from sports natterers like Tim McCarver, the baseball bore, sounds something like this:

“Our people have been trying to establish a meaningful dialogue with their people, but their people don’t want to hear what our people are saying. Maybe after we have reduced their capital city to more manageable proportions and shown a firm hand to another several hundred thousand of their brethren they’ll start paying closer attention. Our people on the ground say it’s impossible to establish a meaningful dialogue with terrorist-types and everyone in that country is a terrorist-type or terrorist-like. At the end of the day we will only have done what was in their best interests, but meanwhile what passes for important communications has only been a frivolous exchange.”

The foregoing might have come from the State Department, the Pentagon, the White House, the Senate, the House or any number of Washington blathermouths. Under analysis, it will be found to be composed of an unidentifiable mushy material strung together in meaningless sentence-like structures, which when joined together in a bundle resembling a paragraph, gives an impression of coherence while it is, in fact, utter gibberish.

On a more personal level, we are likely to hear something quite different and yet sickeningly similar:

“I came down here with your vote of confidence to get a job done for you and all the American people who yearn to breathe free. I hope that you will join with me to carry forward with a program we can all get behind and push over the top and down the other side and up the next hill and over the mountains of attainment as we strive to go forward and not backward. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said, in his second inaugural, “Ask not what you can do for the average American, ask what the average American wants and then promise it to him.”

People who get elected saying things like this usually talk about having a ‘mandate,’ much as ordinary folk talk about having a job. A mandate, of course, exists on a much higher plane than a mere job and is akin to a holy calling. Mandate and destiny often ride in the same gilded linguistic carriage. Among American politicos there is a brisk trade in mandates, not unlike pork bellies and corn futures. “The people have given me a mandate and it is my destiny to carry it out.” The only verb arrangement that seems to go with mandate is ‘carry out,’ although ‘carry out’ when not coupled with ‘mandate’ has wide application including ‘carry out your plans’ and ‘carry out the garbage.’

Why anyone would want to go around burdened with a mandate is a question best left to those who seek our votes, but the question is certainly the stuff of A Meaningful Dialogue and would not result in A Frivolous Exchange. It is impossible to be frivolous about a mandate, just as it is impossible to talk of love in A Time of Bombast. Unless, of course, you’re talking about your country. In that case you can use the word ‘love’ as often as you can get it in, leaving room enough, needless to say, for ‘mandate’ and ‘destiny.’

That would look like this: ‘Ask not whether an American loves his country. Ask whether it is his destiny to carry out his mandate.’ And don’t ask what this might mean.


Posted by Paul Duffy at 12:42 AM
March 05, 2009
Dunno What Made Me Think of This…

In the following bit Gibbon is discussing the German emperors from Charlemagne for about four centuries, and their intent to expand southward. But it was also relevant to England’s situation in Gibbon’s time; Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was published between 1776 and 1789.

There is nothing perhaps more adverse to nature and reason than to hold in obedience remote countries and foreign nations, in opposition to their inclination and interest. A torrent of barbarians may pass over the earth, but an extensive empire must be supported by a refined system of policy and oppression; in the centre, an absolute power, prompt in action and rich in resources; a swift and easy communication with the extreme parts; fortifications to check the first effort of rebellion; a regular administration to protect and punish; and a well-disciplined army to inspire fear, without provoking discontent and despair.
Posted by Chuck Dupree at 03:50 AM
February 25, 2009
There’s Nothing New Under the Sun…

…when it comes to political jiu-jitsu. From medieval Saudi Arabia:

It would be bizarre in any country to find that its lingerie shops are staffed entirely by men. But in Saudi Arabia — an ultra-conservative nation where unmarried men and women cannot even be alone in a room together if they are not related — it is strange in the extreme…

“The way that underwear is being sold in Saudi Arabia is simply not acceptable to any population living anywhere in the modern world,” says Reem Asaad, a finance lecturer at Dar al-Hikma Women’s College in Jeddah, who is leading a campaign to get women working in lingerie shops rather than men…

Rana Jad is a 20-year-old student at Dar al-Hikma Women’s College, and one of Reem Asaad’s pupils and campaign supporters.

“Girls don’t feel very comfortable when males are selling them lingerie, telling them what size they need, and saying ‘I think this is small on you, I think this is large on you’,” she says. “He’s totally checking the girls out! It’s just not appropriate, especially here in our culture.”

Campaigners are calling for a boycott of all lingerie stores that are staffed by men.… “The concept is flawless,” says Ms Asaad. “The concept of women selling women’s underwear to other women is so natural that any other option is just invalid.”

And from medieval Louisiana, as reported by A.J. Liebling in The Earl of Louisiana, his 1961 biography of Governor Earl Long:

“Earl is like Huey on Negroes,” Tom said, “When the new Charity Hospital was built here, some Negro politicians came to Huey and said it was a shame there were no Negro nurses, when more than half the patients were colored. Huey said he’d fix it for them, but they wouldn’t like his method.

He went around to visit the hospital and pretended to be surprised when he found white nurses waiting on colored men. He blew high as a buzzard can fly, saying it wasn’t fit for white women to be so humiliated. It was the most racist talk you ever heard, but the result was he got the white nurses out and the colored nurses in, and they’ve had the jobs ever since.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:09 PM
February 21, 2009
Damn You, Sweden!

From Gail Collins today:

We are trying not to get too fixated on the fairness aspects of the bailout. However, this approach seems to resemble a plan in which you fix a classroom that’s distracted by one disruptive pupil by sending said troublemaker to a private school in Lucerne equipped with an on-campus ski lift while the rest of the kids stay at Millard Fillmore Elementary, sharing textbooks…

Instead of dancing around the problem, can’t we just have the government take over the impacted banks, hire all the unemployed bond traders to figure out how much the toxic assets are worth, dispose of them for whatever the market will bear and then sell the newly reconstituted banks back to private investors? That was Sweden’s approach, and it worked rather well.

The answer is that Americans will never do anything that Sweden does. Never have, never will. Don’t argue with me. It’s a rule.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:15 PM
“Facts Are Stupid Things”

The title above is a quote from Ronald Reagan at the 1988 Republican National Convention. He was trying to access a John Adams quote, “Facts are stubborn things,” but something more appropriate to the man and the occasion popped out.

The essay below is from my neighbor Jim, more of whose stuff can be seen here.

Compare and contrast:

1980 may seem kind of arbitrary as the jump off for the end of empire, but the economics bear it out. Under Reagan, government disbursements and revenues, as a share of GDP, jumped a full six percentage points. More, if you include his unfunded moral hygiene mandates.

All the Republicans talked Rand, Friedman, inter alia, but they acted like straightforward right wing military Keynesians. Military Keynesianism is of course nothing new in the US. But prior to 1980 there was a dominant Bismarckian consensus (have I dropped enough names yet?) that it had to be matched by social spending, otherwise the exercise of hard power would eventually become financially unsustainable.

You cannot extract surplus value — i.e. have capitalism — in great heaping bushel baskets unless you have a government willing to exercise single payer monopsony power over basic human needs, basic scientific research and renewable sources of the energy needed to drive all this. Lo and behold, the exercise of hard power is now done on credit, with only the threat of mutually assured destruction holding our creditors at bay.

I suppose one could point to a cultural shift in the eighties, as there certainly was one, but I prefer a bit more systemic determinism.

The political economy of capitalism is easiest to manage through psychological terrorism. It’s a cheap and effective way of outsourcing the quotidian enforcement of corporate feudalism to vigilante moral panic artists. There’s no shortage of people willing to enforce for free. Hell, they’ll even pay for the dubious privilege.

People become inured to this, querulous and rebellious, and the terrorism has to be stepped up. Red scares have to be coupled with ethnic scares, drug scares, satanic child care scares and so forth. Going against that, as Carter did in an achingly minuscule way, is a positive step for capitalism and a negative step for capitalists. Their enforcement costs look to climb. People who aren’t constantly depressed and frightened get a little feisty.

Under Reagan, the “clever” work-around was burgeoning unfunded mandates to make the states take on domestic psychological terrorism, and yanking the social safety net away, while the central government threw surplus value to the cretinous capitalists, hand over fist. It’s been down hill ever since.

I can’t see why anyone would want to be president after Bush. It’s not a sane thing to do. I thought, and still think, that the Democrats would have been better off throwing the election. McCain would probably not have lasted four years and right wing military Keynesianism would have been discredited for a good long time. Getting stuck with cradling the appalling, ghoulish offspring that are roving mindlessly over a dying empire would have ruined him, and the most cretinous of the cretinous capitalists.

The Democrats could have trotted out old social democratic wine in new bottles and enjoyed thirty or forty years of crowing from the top of the DC shit hill. So it goes, I guess. And my goodness, doesn’t Carter look like a saint in comparison to every asshole that’s come since.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:44 AM
February 19, 2009
A Stroll Down Gasoline Alley

For Jim Kunstler it’s all about the oil — and who am I to argue? I remember Jimmy Carter putting the solar panels on the White House roof and Ronald Reagan tearing them down as one of his first acts in office. I remember the Republicans laughing at “moral equivalent of war,” and pointing out — oh, clever, clever Republicans — that its acronym was MEOW. But why go on. You remember too.

…Then, in 1979, the Ayatollah tossed out the Shah of Iran, we got another dose of oil problems, and a year later, President Jimmy Carter’s clear-eyed view of the oil situation as “the moral equivalent of war” got overturned in favor of Ronald Reagan’s dreadful Hollywood nostalgia projector. As usual in times of severe social stress, the public got delusional. Mr. Reagan was very lucky. During his tenure, two of the last great non-OPEC oil discoveries came into full production — Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and the North Sea — and took the leverage away from the Islamic oil nations who had been making us miserable with their threats, embargos, price-jackings, and hostage-takings.

Americans drew the false conclusion that Ronald Reagan was an economic genius (a similar thing happened in Great Britain with Margaret Thatcherism). The price of oil went down steeply while they were in office. Britain could kick back and enjoy it’s last remaining industry, banking, on a majestic cushion of energy resources. The USA resumed its major post-war industry: suburban sprawl building. Reaganism got elevated to the status of a religion, though it was little more than a twisted version of Eisenhower-on-steroids. Under Reagan, WalMart embarked on its campaign to destroy every main street economy in the nation. The Baby Boomers came back from the land, clipped their pony tails, discovered venture capital, real estate investment trusts, securitization of “consumer” debt, and the Hamptons. Greed was good. (No, really....)


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:10 PM
February 12, 2009
Been There, Done That


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:39 PM
January 28, 2009
How to Solve the Subprime Mess

Turning to Pioneers of the San Juan Country, Out West Printing and Stationery Company (1942), a book of reminiscences gathered by the ladies of the Sarah Platt Decker chapter of the D.A.R., in Durango, Colorado…

…we find that every winter back in the 1880s, the town of Del Norte faced a liquidity problem of its own. To resolve it, the citizenry was presented with a stimulus plan built on deficit spending. The plan was considered by a local version of Congress and a food fight ensued.

Del Norte was a lively place, and a winter resort for the whole San Juan Country. A lot of these old miners from Silverton used to spend their winters there: Dempsey Reese, Tom Blair, Col. F.M. Snowden, Capt. Stanley, Henry Hensen of Lake City, Rasmus Hansen, Joe Taylor, and others.

When the heavy snows came on and they had to quit work in their mines they went to Del Norte, which was the nearest town, and they would sit around Cap Walker’s hotel and drink whiskey and play sluff all day long. Cap Walker was an old steamboat captain.

The miners usually had no money, they paid if they could; if they couldn’t Cap boarded them anyway. One winter he found his non-paying guests too expensive; he didn’t like to tell them to leave so he thought if he raised the board on them they would all leave; so he doubled the price of board.

The guests held a meeting and considered the raise, then sent him a formal note agreeing to it. They couldn’t pay, so it made no difference to them. They used to have high old times. Sometimes they would start throwing biscuits and wouldn’t quit until the dining room was covered with biscuits — and flour $15.00 a hundred at that.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:24 AM
January 26, 2009
War and Madness

From Paul Fussell’s wonderful book, Wartime:

In the Second World War the American military learned something very “modern” — modern because dramatically “psychological,” utilitarian, unchivalric, and un-heroic: it learned that men will inevitably go mad in battle and that no appeal to patriotism, manliness, or loyalty to the group will ultimately matter. Thus in later wars things were arranged differently. In Vietnam, it was understood that a man fulfilled his combat obligation and purchased his reprieve if he served a fixed term, 365 days, and not days in combat either but days in the theater of war. The infantry was now treated somewhat like the Air Corps in the Second War: performance of a stated number of missions guaranteed escape.

Bush and his neo-con cowards — chickenhawk draft-dodgers almost to a man — never bothered to learn this little lesson as they lied us into another Vietnam. And so they sent better men than themselves back and back and back into the battle. And so, perfectly predictably, those men and their families are now paying the price in joblessness, divorce, addiction, suicide and madness.

President Obama knows no more of war than Cheney or Bush. Let’s hope, though, that he goes for military advice not to the Perles and the Boltons and the Wolfowitzes, but rather to the Jim Webbs and the John Kerrys and the Chuck Hagels.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:59 PM
January 25, 2009
Not a Successful Conversation

For high-level political gossip, don’t miss the oral history of Bush’s administration in the current Vanity Fair. More tomorrow, but here’s a first taste from Kenneth Adelman, describing how he came to be a former member of Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board:

So he says, It might be best if you got off the Defense Policy Board. You’re very negative. I said, I am negative, Don. You’re absolutely right. I’m not negative about our friendship. But I think your decisions have been abysmal when it really counted.

Start out with, you know, when you stood up there and said things — “Stuff happens.” I said, That’s your entry in Bartlett’s. The only thing people will remember about you is “Stuff happens.” I mean, how could you say that? “This is what free people do.” This is not what free people do. This is what barbarians do. And I said, Do you realize what the looting did to us? It legitimized the idea that liberation comes with chaos rather than with freedom and a better life. And it demystified the potency of American forces. Plus, destroying, what, 30 percent of the infrastructure.

I said, You have 140,000 troops there, and they didn’t do jack shit. I said, There was no order to stop the looting. And he says, There was an order. I said, Well, did you give the order? He says, I didn’t give the order, but someone around here gave the order. I said, Who gave the order?

So he takes out his yellow pad of paper and he writes down — he says, I’m going to tell you. I’ll get back to you and tell you. And I said, I’d like to know who gave the order, and write down the second question on your yellow pad there. Tell me why 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq disobeyed the order. Write that down, too.

And so that was not a successful conversation.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:01 PM
January 23, 2009
The Old Rugged Mac

All right, now I feel old: “The Macintosh — the first Apple computer to bear the name — turns 25 on 24 January.” A quarter century since I retired my two Kaypros and moved up to that brand-new Mac with those unbelievably huge floppy disks? You could do a search-and-replace on an entire book manuscript with one of those 3.5-inch beauties.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:02 AM
January 21, 2009
Among Bush’s Parting Gifts

We owe George W. Bush a huge debt for making possible the election of our first African-American president — and, of somewhat lesser importance — for giving Jimmy Carter’s once-derided presidency a welcome and well-deserved boost.

The first excerpt comes from The Rude Pundit, embedded yesterday deep within the huge crowd shown in my last post. Read the rest of his description, too. Those familiar with his œuvre will see a new side of the man revealed.

The second passage is from The Atlantic’s Jim Fallows, like myself a former Carter speechwriter.

R.P. — Everyone released purgative, cathartic boos at George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The television coverage may have muted it, but it was there. A young woman half-heartedly said, “Oh, c’mon, ya’ll, that’s mean,” but she cracked up when the Rude Pundit said, “Sometimes a man deserves to be booed by a couple of million people.” The most touchingly surprising crowd reaction was the cheer that went up for Jimmy Carter.

J.F. — In keeping with earlier testimony to the basic good will of the crowd — as I witnessed it as one of the 2 million or so (my crowd here) — the “boos” when George Bush or Dick Cheney appeared on the screen seemed almost perfunctory. People felt they had to do it, but their hearts weren’t in it. To me, the most spontaneous-sounding and surprising cheers were for (a) Colin Powell, and (b) Jimmy Carter, and the most spontaneous surplus-hostility boos were for ... Joe Lieberman. Just reporting on my part of the crowd.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:32 PM
January 19, 2009
George W. Bush’s Real Legacy

The following piece ran May 17, 2006 under the heading, “Mission Almost Accomplished.” Now that Bush’s awful mission is completely accomplished, I put it up again. No updating seems necessary.


It’s been nearly four years since I first posted my analysis of the nasty psychopathology that has forced George W. Bush to fail all his life, and is causing him to fail so spectacularly now. Consider this from the Washington Post (emphasis added):

Bush’s job approval rating now stands at 33 percent, down five percentage points in barely a month and a new low for him in Post-ABC polls. His current standing with the public is identical to President George H.W. Bush’s worst showing in the Post-ABC poll before he lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton in 1992.
The younger Bush’s career can only be understood as a lifelong obsession with disappointing the father he so plainly hates.

He follows his father’s footsteps in school, as a pilot, as a businessman, and finally as a politician. Unable to fill those footprints, he makes each one seem unimportant by pretending contempt for it. He gets C’s where his father got A’s; he ducks the combat flying that made his father a hero; he burns through the seed money his father’s friends gave him, failing in the oil business which had made his father rich.

Then at last he was taken in hand by a sleazy political op who realized that the father’s name and money would be enough to elect the wayward son governor of Texas. (Polls at the time showed that a significant portion of the voters thought that W. actually was his father.)

Then Rove set out to hand-carry his meal ticket into the White House itself.

Take that, you old fart, junior must have thought as he took the oath of office. Any asshole can get to be president. But even that wasn’t enough. Deep inside, where the Oedipal snakes writhed in his subconscious, there was still work to do.

What better to way to humiliate his father than to degrade the supreme office the old man had spent his life to reach? What sweeter revenge than to slime, like a slug, the presidency itself? And so he enlisted Rumsfeld and Cheney, his father’s ancient enemies, to help in the work of patricide.

Outdoing his father as president, the junior Bush must have known in his heart, was beyond his limited capacities. But his whole life offered proof of his ability to fail, and so he took the only path remaining. He would become, God help the rest of us, the worst president in history.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:16 PM
January 14, 2009
“The Jellybeans of Steel”

Thomas Frank does it again.

… as Mark Leibovich pointed out in Sunday’s New York Times, transcending faction has been the filler-talk of inaugural addresses going back at least to Zachary Taylor’s in 1849. When you hear it today — bemoaning as it always does “the extremes of both parties” or “the divisive politics of the past” — it is virtually a foolproof indicator that you are in the presence of a well-funded, much-televised Beltway hack.

Centrism is something of a cult here in Washington, D.C., and a more specious superstition you never saw. Its adherents pretend to worship at the altar of the great American middle, but in fact they stick closely to a very particular view of events regardless of what the public says it wants.

And through it all, centrism bills itself as the most transgressive sort of exercise imaginable. Its partisans are “New Democrats,” “Radical Centrists,” clear-eyed believers in a “Third Way.” The red-hot tepids, we might call them — the jellybeans of steel.

He then points out that centrism is entirely a Democratic phenomenon, large D: the Republicans may be scummy but they’re not that dumb. It was Clinton, after all, who signed the repeal of Glass-Steagal, the single biggest reason we’re in the financial mess we’re in today.

The right wing, on the other hand, continues to stick to its idiotic and immoral principles through thick and thin. Sometimes ridiculed and sometimes accepted, they don’t change what they want, or how they’re going for it. They just wait for the Democrats to give up their principles, normally a short wait.

And what happens when a strong-minded movement encounters a politician who acts as though the truth always lies halfway between his own followers and the other side? The dolorous annals of Clinton suggest an answer, in particular the chapters on Government Shutdown and Impeachment.

That’s why it is so obviously preferable to be part of the movement that doesn’t compromise easily than to depend on the one that has developed a cult of the almighty center. Even a conservative as ham-handed as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay seems to understand this.

As he recounted in his 2007 memoirs, Republicans under his leadership learned “to start every policy initiative from as far to the political right as we could.” The effect was to “move the center farther to the right,” drawing the triangulating Clinton along with it.

President-elect Obama can learn something from Mr. DeLay’s confession: Centrism is a chump’s game.

If only the Democrats could learn that lesson. But then they wouldn’t be Democrats any more.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:27 PM
January 13, 2009
Bush Has Set the Republican Party Back a Generation

[ I started writing something about the end of the Bush presidency and found myself repeating what I said in 2004 and again in 2007. So I just reposted the latter. ]

I’ve said it before, and current events provoke me to restate it: it will turn out to be a good thing that Bush cheated his way into office twice.

For those that live through it, of course

That’s for those who aren’t directly hurt by the war, naturally. Obviously the dead Iraqis, which at this point must number nearly three-quarters of a million if The Lancet’s last estimate of 600,000 was more or less accurate, and their friends and families, are hurt. I would argue that all of Iraq has come out behind in the war except for those who took power, and even they rule a country greatly weakened by the loss of professionals and the ruin of much of the infrastructure. You don’t hear people asking, “Aren’t you happy that Saddam’s gone?” much any more. Iran, for one, would certainly answer that question in the affirmative.

Then there are the Americans who died or were maimed or will suffer from post-traumatic stress from now on. And their families and friends. Altogether, a staggering amount of tragedy, nearly all avoidable as far as I can see, and most of it not only predictable but predicted.

Am I losing it, or are the Republicans?

So what the hell am I talking about? Well, I once argued (at, I admit, excruciating length, but the idea was what provoked me to start blogging, so I beat that horse as long as I could) that progressives won the war, though we lost nearly all the battles. We couldn’t stop the war, but we won the battle for hearts and minds. We now have the American public listening to us, and moving closer to our positions.

For those of us still relatively unharmed from the war, there’s the general movement away from the Republican party in particular and so-called conservative values in general. The Pew poll, widely reported last week, showed the Republican party losing big time.

The current gap between Republican and Democratic identification — which Pew measured by counting people who said they leaned toward a party as well as those with firm allegiances — is the widest since the group began collecting data on party allegiance in 1990.


The survey found that the proportion of those expressing a positive view of Democrats has declined since January 2001 — when Bush took office — by 6 percentage points, to 54%. But the public’s regard for Republicans has cratered during the Bush years, with the proportion holding a favorable view of the GOP dropping 15 points, to 41%.

Even non-Bush-related issues, such as the number of people who expressed support for “old fashioned values about family and marriage” or who support allowing school boards to fire homosexual teachers, have moved left by about ten percentage points. If you haven’t seen the graphs, I recommend them, they’ll give your spirits a lift. From more support for government programs to less social conservatism to less religious intensity, the country is moving in a consistent direction, and it’s not one the Republicans would choose, at least not the Republicans of the recent past.

“One day this war’ll be over…”

Of course a lot of this is revulsion to the war. But it’s also become clear to most Americans what a small man George W. Bush is, and by extension how limited the ideas he represents are. He does well to invoke the images of Truman that still cloud the public mind; they’re the same sort of guy, and he can only hope he slips under the radar like Truman has.

It doesn’t seem likely to me; for one thing, this administration is thoroughly corrupt, and apparently considers the Constitution quaint along with the Geneva Convention against torture. My understanding is that historians generally end up as fans of stability. What originally made the US special was the establishment of a stable republican system. The system has remained pretty stable for a couple of centuries, if you leave out the Civil War, but even the seceding states set up a similar system of government. That system is stable because the country as a whole accepts the idea of the rule of law with the Constitution at the base. And the Constitution damn sure doesn’t include a unitary executive.

Madly and Passionately Screwing Up

So that’s what I mean about the results of the Bush presidency. A country that has been madly and destructively “intervening” in foreign countries since it came of age well over a century ago has again been brought up short at the sight of the destruction created by its putative elected officials. It’s ugly. Perhaps this is what Bush means when he says Americans suffer from the war because they have to see the images on TV. Apparently he doesn’t realize there’s an off switch; I suppose he always had someone to do that sort of thing for him. But it does hurt our self-image to realize that we’re now hated throughout much of the world, even in Britain and Canada. And you don’t hear much in defense of the Bush Doctrine any more. When McCain waxes bellicose, people roll their eyes: has this guy been on Mars for the last four years?

Overall, I think the biggest win to come out of the years of the Bush presidency, from a sort of people’s-history point of view, is the wide-spread realization that people everywhere are pretty much fed up with this imperialism crap. For a while Americans appeared to believe that an empire run through the banks would be more stable than one run by overt militarism. But the internal contradictions involved in a republic running an empire ended the Roman Republic. They combine now with the globalization effects that William Greider details in
One World, Ready or Not. We’re not the biggest and
baddest on the block any more in any way except military, and
that’s bogged down in a defeated country on the other side of
the world. If there were any military threats in the world,
they’d be hitting us now.

We’ve reached the stage of imperial decline where finance dwarfs manufacturing as the source of our wealth, and that bodes ill. Kevin Phillips, in American Theocracy, quotes a citizen of a previous empire:

A seventeenth-century Spaniard enthused: “Let London manufacture those fine fabrics, … Holland her chambrays; Florence her cloth; the Indies their beaver and vicuna; Milan her broaches; India and Flanders their linens … so long as our capital can enjoy them. The only thing it proves is that all nations train journeymen for Madrid and that Madrid is the queen of parliaments, for all the world serves her, and she serves nobody.”

By that time the glory days were already over, and what it really proved was that the empire was fading. You can’t maintain imperial-size power by moving money from one account to another. The Spanish, the Dutch, and the English all went through the financialization phase, and in every case it happened as the empire was losing its grip.

My point, and I do have one

But my point is more than that the country is turning away from all the things Bush claimed to represent. That might change once he and his henchmen are out of office and we get out of Iraq. If we do.

Emmanuel Todd describes in After the Empire some demographic shifts that are changing the world. The two biggies are the achievements of universal literacy and zero population growth. These have provoked reactions from traditionalists in every society they visit. As people become more aware of what’s going on, they begin to question it, which upsets power structures. And they stop generating cannon fodder. The power structure generally reacts violently.

I don’t think Todd has the US in mind when he’s describing the effects of literacy on a society, but I think his ideas apply here as well. We still have a huge section of American society that believes in a literal devil, that Moses parted the Red Sea, and so on. Many of them believe that Armageddon is devoutly to be wished for. Then there are the Christian Reconstructionists, who define democracy as heresy. In many ways the US is as fundamentalist as any of the Islamic countries.

Todd’s ideas seem to me to fit the culture wars that have kept Americans tuning in for the last several years. Parts of the US are being dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world. Some become violent, some wake up. And for those do wake, there’s a network of like-minded people around the world who now realize they’re not alone. We have the power to change the world.

In the end, the world will breathe a sigh of relief when George W. Bush leaves office. Assuming he doesn’t try to skip out on that responsibility with another signing statement.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:28 PM
January 12, 2009
You Ungrateful Curs!

This is by Ross Mackenzie, retired editor of the editorial page at the Richmond Times Dispatch. I know you will feel, as I did after reading it through, deeply ashamed:

The left and the media and the ever-expanding blogosphere, and of course the Democrats, never permitted George Bush to recover from the circumstances of his 2000 election.

They deemed him unacceptable, accidental, illegitimate, likely a conniver in the national outcome — and so took to lobbing their hateful commentaries one after another without end.

On issue after issue they rejected his appeals for bipartisanship, especially in his second term. In his 2004 victory speech, Bush said: “Today, I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent. To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support, and I will work to earn it. ... We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.”

Yet from Social Security and judges to the surge and terror and continuation of the tax cuts, malign leftists dug in and sought to foil him on every front — to deny him any victory, any success, anywhere.

“Malign” is too harsh? Consider: Television, blogospheric, and newspaper commentaries slammed President Bush 24/7. Nicholson Baker wrote Checkpoint, whose protagonists weigh whether to assassinate him. Twelve thousand San Franciscans signed a petition to rename an Oceanside sewage plant for him—


Hollywood went apoplectic, with Oliver Stone — director of the detestable October-released flick “W” — declaring: “We are a poorer and less secure nation for having elected (Bush) as our president. ... America finds itself fighting unnecessary and costly wars and engaging in dangerous and counterproductive efforts to fight extremism. Even more significant and troubling, I believe, is his legacy of immorality.”

Despite this vicious stream, George Bush persevered and prevailed. The events of 9/11 changed him. Mistakes abounded, but no subsequent domestic jihadist strike ensued. As he noted at the Army War College last month, this staggering security success was “not a matter of luck.” Against islamo-fascism pre-emption (described by the all-knowing as naive, idealistic and wrong) was — as it remains — the right policy for spreading liberty and democracy, particularly in a Middle East that boasts so little of either.

The enterprise in Iraq, following the surge, now approaches victory — the great Osama bin Laden himself having declared Iraq “the central front” in his war against the United States.

Barack Obama repeatedly pronounced Iraq a distraction and - from beginning to end — a mistake. Yet a resolute Bush was true to his values, to his nation, and to mankind’s ultimate cause. Last month he told The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel that liberty can be extended beyond Iraq as long as America continues to believe “in the universality of freedom.”

His early tax cuts helped the country out of the recession Bill Clinton left him. The budget exploded, as did deficits — largely a result of expanded defense spending for the war on terror. (Said Bush in the Strassel interview: “I refused to compromise on the military” — for which thank heaven, given that the first obligation of every administration is the people’s protection.)

Bush was correct about Social Security, despite a spineless, risk-averse Congress unwilling to get its game together. While vastly more nominations would have been better, he managed against obstructionist Senate Democrats to gain approval of 61 federal appellate judges (compare Clinton’s 65), now constituting majorities on 10 of the 13 appellate courts. And he gave us the estimable Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

Yes, spending blew out of control — albeit with congressional concurrence.

Problems plagued the war’s conduct in Iraq. Post-Katrina New Orleans was mishandled. Still, Bush can boast hefty tax cuts, major assistance for HIV-infected areas of Africa, significant gains in health care and in education accountability, a multi-ethnic Cabinet (including the first two black secretaries of state), and massive improvements from surveillance to strategic policy.

We invest our presidents with greatly too many expectations. It happened with George Bush and his predecessors, as it is happening with Barack Obama — the latest secular savior. Few mortals can deliver on more than a small percentage of their promises and hopes.

Yet Bush carried two added burdens: (1) difficulty in articulating his goals and (2) relentless hammering by leftists hostile to his values and his success. Then, perceiving him harmful to the Republican brand, many conservatives abandoned him as well. Still and all, his favorable ratings never descended to the ratings for Congress — particularly the Congress led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

George Bush a perfect president? Hardly. The worst president of the past half-century, as too many with ideological axes to grind would have us believe? Compare, oh, Carter and Clinton. A more prudent categorization: The most consequential president since Reagan.

To those cognoscenti who argue such an appraisal is preposterous, remind them of this: The most recent conventional wisdom — the consensus of the best minds and analysts — was (remember?) that because the fundamentals were so sound the stock market could not crash, the economy could not possibly collapse.

Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson — a man of laconic, perceptive humor — noted that “those who travel the high road of humility in Washington are not bothered by heavy traffic.”

George Bush concludes his presidency with abundant accomplishments, not least a safer nation — and still, despite a tsunami of hateful coverage, commendably humble. When the tumult and the shouting die, an appreciative people would escort him down to robust and lingering applause.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:49 AM
January 08, 2009
The Murder of Gaza

The artist Mark Wilson recommends this article in The Guardian by Oxford professor Avi Shlaim. Its conclusion is below. For some of the history supporting that conclusion, see Professor Shlaim’s full essay, and also read this, by Professor Saree Makdisi of UCLA and author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.

A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practices terrorism — the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfills all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination.

The first picture below (all are from The Guardian website) shows the crater made in an Israeli street by one of the homemade rockets from Gaza. To date they have killed four Israelis. For each casualty, Israeli bombs and bullets have so far killed more than a hundred Gazans. This number will rise hugely as the invasion continues. As with our own bombardment of cities in Iraq, most of the victims will be civilian noncombatants.

The second picture shows a relative weeping for the ten members of a family killed when Israelis bombed a school run by the United Nations in Gaza. The last picture shows mourners praying over the victims of that air strike. Click to enlarge images.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:02 AM
January 06, 2009
Small Shoes to Fill

From the New York Times:

Leon E. Panetta, a former congressman and White House chief of staff, has been selected by President-elect Barack Obama to head the Central Intelligence Agency. The choice, disclosed Monday by Democratic officials, immediately revealed divisions in the party as two senior lawmakers questioned why Mr. Obama would nominate a candidate with limited experience in intelligence matters.

Just guessing here, but could it be the lingering aftertaste of two CIA directors with many, many years of experience in intelligence matters — George Tenet and Porter Goss?


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:33 AM
Lost in Time

Years ago I went out with a woman for a while who had never heard of the Korean War. She was younger than I was but not that much younger. She was very good looking and I would sometimes admire her secretly until my reverie was shattered by the same old question: How can anyone not have heard of the Korean War?

Just the other day, while he was dilating my pupils, my eye doctor, a man well into his sixties, revealed a shocking ignorance of the Berlin crisis of 1961. “What crisis?” he said.

“What crisis? What crisis?” I said, trying to find the doctor’s face through the blur brought on by the eyedrops. “Khrushchev puts up a wall dividing Berlin. A belligerent challenge to the West. World War III seems to be at hand. Kennedy mobilizes 150,000 men of the army reserve and national guard. I am called back to active duty. I spend a year on a sand hill in North Carolina and you say What crisis?”

“I was in medical school,” he said. “I was busy.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear somebody was busy, because I sat on the godforsaken sandhill and did nothing — absolutely nothing, for a whole year — until they decided a wall wasn’t worth fighting about and let us go home. This was the same Berlin Wall, by the way, where Ronald Reagan gave his famous speech challenging Gorbachev to tear it down. ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’ I suppose you don’t remember that, either.”

“Look straight ahead,” the doctor said, “and try not to move your head.”

“This was the infamous wall that was torn down in 1989. Its demolition symbolized the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. Just like the wall, the Soviet Union was disintegrating. And George Bush Senior took credit for the whole thing. Hell, I had more to do with the wall coming down than he did.”

“Which is clearer? This? Or this?”

“The Berlin Wall cost me a year of my life — a year I wouldn’t mind having back at this point, by the way. The Berlin Wall and the international crisis that it occasioned was one of the most important — maybe the most important — political development in Europe in the postwar period. Historians will point to it as…”

“Now close the left eye and tell me which lens is sharper. This? Or this?”

“Why do I get the feeling you’re not all that interested in…”

“Now close the other eye and we’ll try again. This? Or this?”

“You know,” I said to the eye doctor, who is a very nice man, by the way, if not much of an historian, “I once went out with a very good-looking woman, a bit younger than I, although not all that much younger, who knew nothing of the Korean War. Never heard of it, she said. And then she said — I’m not kidding — she said, Where was this war? And I said, You want to know where the Korean War happened? Where the Korean War took place? Is that what you’re asking me? You must mean why did it happen, not where did it happen. And she said, I don’t care why it happened. My question was where it happened. Although to tell you the truth, I don’t care much about that, either.”


The eye doctor was finished with his exam and had moved away, but I thought I could tell, even with the drops in my eyes, that he was doing something at his desk. Probably looking up the Korean War on the Internet, I thought. Doesn’t want to seem as dumb as that old girlfriend. Maybe he’s looking up the Berlin Wall, too. Will probably try to redeem himself with a cogent remark as I stumble out into the street. Will probably say something like, Of course I remember the Berlin crisis. I was only kidding. Did you really know a woman who had never heard of the Korean War? Boy, that’s hard to believe.

But he didn’t say any of that. Instead, as he handed me out the door to his waiting room, he said, “You better wait out here until those eyedrops wear off. And take care on the steps when you do leave. You’re not as young as you used to be, you know.”


Posted by Paul Duffy at 10:57 AM
January 05, 2009
Bailing Out of GM

After selling my business in 1977, I tried buying a Cadillac from a dealer in Plattsburgh, NY. I picked out a car, tested it, liked it. I told the dealer I would take it with no trade, pay cash and pay his asking price — about $20,000.

I only asked one small thing: “I live in the mountains and can only get adequate reception with a Sony. So please take out the radio in it now and install the Sony that’s in my old wagon.”

He thought for a while and said, “I can’t do that. What would I do with the Delco that is in the Caddy?”

“I’ll take that one off your hands,” I said, “and give it to a friend.”

He said, “We can’t make that swap in our shop,” explaining that I’d have to have a specialty shop do it, and pay them for the swapping the radios.

I said, “Goodbye,” and departed.

Later I spent a year in Michigan and bought an expensive, new Oldsmobile wagon. It was a diesel — the newest thing in big Oldsmobiles, and, I was soon to learn, not quite the best thing. Popular Mechanics was later to brand it one of the 10 worst cars in GM history.

It could barely climb the Adirondack Mountains on the way home. Winter came and the car would not start, and when it did start it wheezed. An employee of mine joked, “You’ll need a tow truck to get around in that car.”

I kept taking it to the Oldsmobile dealer for warranty work, but it never ran correctly, and the dealer was not able to to fix it. Later I learned that GM had issued what the dealer called a “silent recall.” That is when a car is flagged with a problem and GM warns its dealers but fails to tell the customer and refuses to offer any remedy. The dealer told me the diesel motors never worked, but GM refused to take the car back. I traded it quickly and took a terrible bath.

When the foreign cars came in with the Volkswagen, I bought three in a row, and I bought a fleet of Datsun trucks for my business. Since my experience with GM I have done my best to avoid purchasing any domestic cars.

Popular Mechanics in a recent article contends GM is currently making several excellent cars, but the company cannot live down its past of making junk, palming it off on the customer, failing to tell the customer, and then refusing to make restitution.

My experience with the US automakers’ arrogance, stupidity, cheating and lousy quality resulted in their losing about 30 new auto sales to my business and family. Needless to say I oppose bailing the bastards out with my money until they refund the $22,000 in 1978 dollars GM stole from me.



Posted by Bill Doolittle at 11:12 AM
January 04, 2009
Chill Out, People

In re: Caroline Kennedy and Roland Burris, Dracomicron has said it for me at MyDD. So go over there and read it. Brief excerpt:

What I’m saying is, we need to stop being such outrage addicts. This election season was the most dramatic in modern memory, and there was a lot of stuff that we got outraged over, both legitimate and specious... I get that it will take some time for us to chill the hell out, but we need to do it. Barack Obama needs a functional legislative branch that can work on tackling the huge challenges he faces right away, and whether an appointee can effectively and honestly work at implementing his agenda is a bigger concern to me than if an appointee was selected in the dying throes of a corrupt governor’s career.

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:32 AM
January 03, 2009
I May Be Goin’ to Hell in a Bucket, Baby…

We begin the new year with

  • Wall Street and the banks, once again indistinguishable, once again reeling from a series of scams, the latest one impacting institutions around the world, and the entire operation threatening to take everyone else down with it
  • Israel slipping in one more attack under a departing President, hoping to express the old mojo after being embarrassed the last time, but, like its patron in Iraq, looking weak instead
  • The President-elect who ran on a message of change signaling continuity to the old guard
  • Friends of the Bushes, once again the new FOBs, once again absconding with significant portions of the public treasury and getting away with pleading national security
  • The American legal system seemingly helpless and impotent against the crimes its government has committed

If you’re old enough to remember any President other than George W. Bush, you might think you’re having a flashback. While I deny the existence of such phenomena, I agree that the natural question as we enter 2009 is whether the Republic is over.

The sainted founders looked to Rome for examples. But it’s not a happy prospect, so we change channels. Have we crossed the Rubicon? Or perhaps we’re not ready for Caesar, but we’ve just seen Marius, or more aptly Sulla, both critical figures in the conversion of the Republic to the Empire. And Gibbon begins his Decline and Fall with the first Emperor.


One of the ways we know such metaphors are exceedlingly imprecise is that we’re talking about mythical competence on the verso page and historic incompetence on the recto. But perhaps we’re not as far removed from the past as we like to think. As a very wise person once put it,

Men always, but