Black vs. black for president? Probably not, but Christie, Romney, Huntsman all could win…

September 28, 2011

At this juncture, it still seems to me that if the Republicans could just get their act together and nominate a middle of the road or moderate to right candidate with some reasonable stature, they would have a good to excellent chance of reclaiming the presidency. Not because Barack Obama is so bad, but more because the general mood of the public seems to be that things are not so good (and hope and change has become more of the same).

And with black man Herman Cain, the pizza magnate, winning the Florida Republican straw poll, how about this?: two black men running under the standard of the two main political parties opposing each other in the 2012 presidential race. I don’t think that is really going to happen. The straw polls seem to be skewed by a lopsided participation of the extreme right wing nuts.

There is the continuing cry for outspoken, tough talking, supposedly straight shooter  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to run. Meanwhile even though some of the far-right crowd would like to see him enter, from what I have read, many of his political stances would not make them happy — maybe they don’t follow the real news as closely as they should (don‘t tell them he thinks birthers and climate change deniers are nuts).

I think Mitt Romney or Christie could beat Obama. I think Jon Huntsman could too, but he would be even more anathema to the Republican hard right than Romney seems to be sometimes, and you have to get nominated before you can win in the general election.

Loyal Democrats, meanwhile, have to hope that the Republicans keep up their love affair with or fear of the nut cases (such as Bachman and Perry), letting them have their way to not offend them, and keep up their own civil war (united we stand, divided we fall and all).

P.s.

It would be fun to see Christie in the race. He harkens back to the era of rotund Republicans, such as William Howard Taft.

Also, I miss the smoke-filled rooms where the candidates used to be nominated. When I was a kid I used to love to watch the political conventions on TV. At that time candidates were actually nominated there rather than the multitude of state primaries. I’m not sure it was not a better system. It was thought the primary system would be more democratic (small d). But it’s all a money game anyway. And it has made it tough for the parties to remain united and then to have cohesion in the legislative process so things can move along. Sometimes no action is good. That is sometimes gridlock is good. But at times, when the nation is in a crisis, it is not so good.


High school administrators get cold feet over ‘In Cold Blood’…

September 26, 2011

If high school students are not ready for Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood”, then what are they ready for?

I write this in reaction to a story I just read in the LA Times online site that said administrators at Glendale High School turned down a request by English teachers to put the book on the reading list. The story was brief, with no real explanation of the ban.

I  saw the movie “In Cold Blood”, then much later, during a hospital stay, I read the book — much better than the movie.

To me it was far more than a murder story (a true story at that); it was a bit of Americana. It was a slice of American culture. It was literature in the best sense.

I think the news story about the ban said the book was thought to be a little too macabre.

I suppose it was macabre (but only briefly), but we’re talking about high school students, who these days see and hear (and do) about everything under the sun, and much of it for no purpose whatsoever.

Although the novel is about the true story of the murder of a Kansas farm family by two mentally unstable ex-cons, it is also about much more. It’s about good and evil. It’s about a way of life out on the great plains amid the wheat fields that a lot of high school students would not otherwise have a clue about. It is a true story. And that is another reason to read it. It’s a true account, albeit the interpretation of the author, based on interviews, written in the form of a novel. That provides another element to discover for the young mind — life as literature.

Not having “In Cold Blood” on their reading list won’t destroy the students’ education. And they could discover it and read it on their own — and that is where one really starts an education.

P.s.

Sometimes I am not terribly original. I think I used that same opening or lead (as we used to say in newspaper writing) for another post I did on book banning. Guess I was just thinking the same thing. Here we go again.


While the weeds grow in Solyndra lot, we need to revive basic industry, and unemployment is not a racial problem; it’s a problem of attitude…

September 23, 2011

In my job as an over-the-road truck driver I found myself sitting next door to the headquarters of the now bankrupt former jewel of the Obama green energy movement called Solyndra. There were a few cars there, but it looked empty and weeds were growing in the parking lot.

Ironically, while Solyndra the new hope for modern and green energy flopped, I was delivering newsprint next door, destined to become pages in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, part of a dying industry of the old order itself — both the Chronicle (a poor excuse for a  newspaper these days) and the newspaper industry as a whole, especially the conventional paper newspaper part of it. But delivering that newsprint keeps me in work and all those folks who were working at the so-called wave of the future are out of a job.

I have to wonder what the Obama administration has against basic industry or for the matter what any of our economic leaders have against it. We need all types of industry, to include the new green type, no doubt, but we have to have basic industries for our economic survival. Why we let them wither and die over these past many decades is pretty much a mystery to me. Part of it, of course, is the fact that the capitalists found that it was cheaper to produce products overseas, sell them there or even ship them back here too. Meanwhile they had the cover and protection, to include military and judicial, of the American taxpayer — as well as the American market.

American workers had enjoyed a higher and higher standard of living, thanks to a large part to unions. Most workers benefited in the end whether they were union or not. Years ago, I heard about a sawmill in my neck of the woods, so to speak, whose owner purposely paid high wages to keep his employees from going union — easier to pay more and not deal with arbitrary works rules and meddling of unions in management decisions. I even worked for a trucking company a few years ago and benefited from the union indirectly. While I worked at a then non-union terminal, I was paid as much as the union drivers were. But that terminal has since gone union, thanks to the card check system, in which if you get enough people to sign cards, the union can force a closed shop (union only). For the record, I am not in a union — my kind of trucking is not unionized (but I’m not complaining — I have job, a lot of union or former union people don’t (unions can do a lot of good things, but they can’t guarantee work).

But in this Solyndra thing where the government may be out more than half a billion dollars in a guaranteed loan, I wonder whether the government should be in the business of venture capital. It seems to me a better role of government in green energy would be in research and development, primarily through research grants.

Also there is nothing wrong with small business loans from the government, but they should have to compete by way of supporting business plans, not simply via lobbying and campaign contributions, as seems to have been the case in the Solyndra fiasco.

Tariffs or higher tariffs on incoming products would not hurt either. American industry and American workers, and their standard of living, needs to be protected.

And here is something somewhat unrelated to all of this, but when I was at the facility that was receiving may load of newsprint I encountered two young, clean cut black men on the dock who worked there. This was in Fremont, Ca,. So they have what are probably fairly well paid jobs and seemed quite efficient at them. Just up the road in Oakland so many of their black brothers (and others) engage in gangs and the illicit drug trade. Even when I am in Oakland (which has to be the murder capital of the West Coast) I note that black workers have good jobs in the warehouses (and of course in all kinds of work — I‘m just not in those other places).

Unemployment and hopelessness has little to do with race and a whole lot to do with attitude.

(Of course right now we are suffering from an economic recession.)

Some people prefer to or are willing to work for a living and follow societal rules and others cannot be bothered.


Obama get angry, Obama get mad, give those Republicans the biggest lecture they ever had!

September 19, 2011

Obama get angry (to the tune of Johnny Get Angry) at the end of this post:

——————–

UPDATE: late in the day 9-19-11

Caught a little of the president’s address on his deficit reduction proposal, but it was confusing because for fun I was listening to it on French radio and I don’t speak French, so I only heard him in bits and pieces between the ongoing translation into French. But I caught his new hard-hitting tone and I have read some more about it since I originally posted all this below. I don’t have to agree with him to agree that finally he is fighting back and dropping the hopeless compromise tactic. Maybe he has just been pacing himself all this time. Now he can sprint to the 2012 finish line and he can also say he gave the Republicans a chance for compromise — they just were not interested. And even though my post below criticizes the confining quality of  ideologies when it comes to critical thinking, maybe it will be nice to have a clear struggle between right and left in the next election and see what the mood of the public is by now or then.

——————–

The trouble with political ideologies, such as conservatism and liberalism, is that they are so confining. They force one to think only inside the box, not outside the box.

I mean although I am not a registered Republican and although I do not consider myself a political conservative I wholeheartedly endorse the concept of making one’s own way in life and not depending upon the government or munificence of my fellow taxpayers (and that is not to say I have not ever benefited from that — most of us have or do to some degree). And that is considered quite conservative, that is making one’s own way and all. But at the same time, I would favor socialized medicine (I am not afraid to use that term — I don’t have to hide behind another term, such as single-payer or whatever). But I have come to realize that socialized medicine seems to be something U.S. voters as a whole just can’t get their arms around. Instead it seems we are all in a muddle on the subject and in so being go on supporting our crazy inefficient and highly expensive patchwork system. Yes I know, we now have Obama Care —  it’s still early with various parts to phase in later (unless the GOP wins and abolishes it) — but so far the only result is that I pay the same as I have in the past for less coverage in my job-connected health insurance (the alternative being to pay more for still less coverage than I would have had in the past).

But I did not begin this blog post to talk about healthcare or socialized medicine.

More and more I am convinced that President Obama is heading for defeat in his bid for a second term. He is supposed to, as I understand it, announce details of a proposal to cut the deficit over many years by $3 trillion by closing tax loopholes (probably a good idea, unless it is your loophole) and, according to the headlines, taxing millionaires at a higher rate that they are currently.

The notion that we can simply tax the rich to balance our budget or pay off the national debt is absurd. At least it is my understanding that the reality of the math is that those in the middle income level (whatever that is) have the burden, by their sheer numbers, of  paying the largest percentage of taxes. Taxing the rich sounds nice and even fair, especially if you are not rich or if you are Warren Buffett and have so much money, well you don’t quite know what to do with it all, especially once you’ve wall papered your house. He says he is not taxed enough, but that’s him — other rich folks don’t agree.

A better idea than targeting the rich would be to greatly simplify the tax code and maybe even flatten it out — everyone paying the same percentage. I know that is supposed to be unfair to all of us at the lower income levels since we need a higher percentage of our total income just to get by, but if the percentage was not too high, we could afford it. And of course the high earners could more than afford it — and that is so bad?

I am not so sure but what the income tax should not be replaced or at least augmented by a national sales tax. And I know that is supposed to be particularly regressive since we “poor folk” would end up paying even more for our basic necessities. So maybe actual basic necessities should be exempt from that national sales tax (and there would be a lot of argument as to what constitutes a basic necessity). But at least a national sales tax would have the advantage of gauging the government intake to the health of the economy. That way taxes could not be strictly blamed for hampering the economy.

Obama also proposes to balance the books through projected savings in winding down our war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, which only serves to point out the absurdity of our foreign and war policy. I mean if we can afford to simply wind down wars, by what right or reason did we get into them in the first place? War should only be fought for true necessity and only end in complete victory, making it no longer a necessity. But of course we have gotten into hopeless causes that never promise any victory.

But I have to begin preparing for my real job now and can’t quite complete the thought here.

Gosh I wish we could get a viable third-party candidate — the party of open-minded reason.

P.s.

Who is rich?

It is often pointed out that many farmers and small business people are millionaires on the books. Several decades ago there was a headline in the Sacramento Bee newspaper about a Red Bluff, Ca. area ranching family that described them as millionaires. But they said they did not feel like millionaires. It seems that because they owned their land free and clear, probably thanks to the efforts  in of their forebears, and land values being what they were then, on the books they were millionaires. Now while I assure you no one need have felt sorry for them — they no doubt having plenty to get by, by all observation they lived a fairly simple, hardworking life. The wife of the rancher told a reporter on the local  newspaper for which I worked at the time that she did not feel like a millionaire, seeing as she had just got done rendering a hog. All I am trying to say is that whether they were wealthy or not, they were labeled by that headline (and it was actually meant to be ironic) as being in the same category as the idle rich (whom many of us envy but love to hate at the same time). Class warfare, as Mr. Obama proposes, does not turn me on. Nonetheless he has the hope that the Republicans will choose one of their crazies, who wallow in their own ignorance and bigotry, to run against him in an election that seems to be otherwise already handed to the GOP on a silver platter.

P.s. P.s.

Just heard a little of President Obama’s address on his proposal — his tone sounded tough; maybe he has taken James’s Carville’s advice and is getting mean. It reminds me of the 1960s Joanie Sommers song “Johnny Get Angry”. In my parody it goes like this:

Barack Obama get angry,

Barack Obama get mad,

Give those Republicans the biggest lecture they ever had,

We want a brave man,

We want a cave man,

Barack Obama show us that you care, really care for us…

——————

In case you did not recall the original tune: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pI_nk0L-cF4

As much as I enjoy political satire, I won’t quit my day (and night) job.


‘Stupid is good’ has replaced ‘greed is good’…

September 18, 2011

The mantra used to be: “Greed is good”. Today it seems it is: “Stupid is good”.

One of the most read posts I have ever submitted on the net was entitled  “Mass ignorance is the worst enemy of democracy”.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd says the same thing in her latest column. She says it is dangerous enough when there are ignorant voters (an occupational hazard of democracy), but worse yet when there are ignorant candidates and they seem so proud to be ignorant. The link to her column follows:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/opinion/sunday/dowd-egghead-and-blockheads.html?hp

She refers specifically to GOP presidential candidate and Texas governor Rick Perry and GOP presidential candidate and congresswoman Michele Bachman of Minnesota.

That these two could even be taken seriously on the national stage is a wonder to me.

While George W. Bush was an intellectual lightweight to say the least, he had the cover of  his family, most notably his father, who seemed to have a more refined persona.

But make no mistake about it, there is a strong sentiment out there on the hustings against anything that smacks of too much book learning and elitism. And when you look at what a mess some of the elitists have gotten all of us into or in some cases have gone along with, you can see why elitism has received such a bad rap.

Nonetheless, I would prefer candidates who value knowledge and science over superstition and who are egalitarian and who do not appeal to religious prejudices and racial and social enmities that exist and probably always will, as well as ones who prefer reason over ideological dogma.

The voters, the ones who are dissatisfied with the status quo at least, just want results and are ready to be swayed by the most shrill voices.

Democratic political activist James Carville may have been right, though, in his call for president Barack Obama to raise the volume a little himself for his own political survival. That’s how elections are won.

If the Republicans after their convention next year put up one of their modern-day know nothings, the voting decision will not be hard for me.

If they put up someone who comes off intelligent and can make a good case (and I don’t know who that would be (Romney, I am not at all sure about) it will be a much tougher decision.

I do fear, though, in all of this, that our society is getting dumb and dumber. Many jobs, ones that still exist, have been dumbed down so it is easier to obtain employees and so those employees have less leverage to demand higher compensation. Scores for college placement tests continue to decline. And we constantly get those stories about young people demonstrating complete ignorance as to history and geography. And why do we have to import workers for both low tech and high tech? Much of the population is not only ignorant, but perhaps a little lazy too.

Technology has made so many of us never have to figure out anything.

And we have all but lost any cultural values in our popular entertainment. Apparently stupid sells better.

But I am not depressed in all of this. I’m just an observer, and I am extremely thankful that my folks inspired me to be interested in life. I did not become rich, and yet I am still interested in so many things and am able to enjoy life because I have read and continue to read (not enough perhaps) and I have observed the things and people around me. And I take a certain social responsibility in that I keep up on local and national and world events and I vote.

Oh, and that post I did on ignorance being the enemy of democracy is at: https://tonywalther.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/mass-ignorance-is-the-worst-enemy-of-democracy/

P.s.

And maybe I am not smart enough myself to say exactly what I want at times. I am not saying that a presidential candidate has to come off as an elite snob or sound like the late PBS host Alistair Cooke, or a better example, the late William F. Buckely Jr. I am just saying I would like to feel that the candidate has had a well-rounded education and appreciated it and is able to express himself or herself well. There is always the danger to a candidate if the candidate comes off as so intelligent and articulate that the common person cannot understand him. I couldn’t find the quote, but the late 1950s losing Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson admitted as much.

P.s. P.s.

Unlike a lot of bloggers, I do worry about my own grammatical errors and typos and sometimes missing syntax, and I have the bad habit of posting and then going back over everything (it seems I only catch a lot of errors by reading the actual published post) so that sometimes I am embarrassed to see obvious goofs and know that someone has already read it — an occupational hazard, one might say (at least,unlike my days in print journalism, I can correct them).


So let the Palestinians have their own state already….

September 16, 2011

How can it be that there is not already an independent Palestinian state? The U.S. administration and Israel are all in a dither because the leader of Palestine is going to the UN General Assembly next week to demand Palestine be recognized as an independent nation.

From my knowledge of the history of this whole thing (recent history), which began about the time I was born, 62 years ago, neither side, Israel nor the Palestinians, have a lock on all that is good and right. Furthermore, Arab powers in the area, and even the Persians of Iran, have capitalized on the suffering of the Palestinians, but have not been of much help to them.

But the indisputable fact is that the Palestinians had their territory taken over in order to create the modern state of Israel. That state was created for the Jews by the Western powers, most notably the U.S. and Britain, to atone for all the suffering of the of Jews, who had long been persecuted in Europe and finally had lost millions of their own in Hitler’s Holocaust — they were shot or gassed to death and their bodies burned in giant ovens and maybe sometimes they were not killed before being thrown into the inferno.

So a new/old homeland for the Jews was created in the old biblical place where God’s “chosen people” once abided.

At the time previous to the creation of the modern state of Israel the British were in charge there, the area being  part of what was left of the old British Empire, upon which the sun never set.

There is disagreement as to how much legal claim the displaced Palestinians had over the land, they not being incorporated into a recognized state, and there are even claims by the Jews that the Palestinians were not chased off but rather left of their own accord — not wanting to share space with Jews. This is my admittedly limited understanding of the whole situation, but I think there are elements of truth from all who try to give an account of what happened, but their own prejudices and true motives get in the way of complete truth here.

But history is history. This is today. And there is no reason why what I believe are a relatively homogeneous group of people, the Palestinians, should not have complete autonomy.

While the Palestinians, as a group through the years, are guilty of grave acts of terrorism against the Jews, the Jews themselves engaged in terrorism, mainly against the British, in their original efforts at statehood. In addition, the Jews continue to build and maintain new settlements encroaching on what is considered Palestinian territory.

While the Palestinians have a responsibility to be peaceful neighbors and refrain from making war on Israel, Israel has to responsibility to quit denying freedom to so many inhabitants of the land who are not Jewish.

The United States has tried to be responsible through the years and be responsive to the needs of the Jewish people, who have historically been oppressed.

The U.S. has also responded through the years in various crises, such as Arab invasions, due not only to a sense of right but the power of the ultra-strong Jewish lobby and a strong voting block of U.S. Jews.

But it is time now for the U.S. to sit back and let the Palestinians declare their own state, making it plain that the U.S. still supports the defense of Israel.

There is no guarantee of peace and harmony is all of this, but to do otherwise after all this time is a guarantee of continued strife.


Obama in trouble; he could be a comeback kid maybe if he pushed wholeheartedly for revival of conventional domestic industry…

September 15, 2011

One of the things that makes the Solyndra scandal, where President Obama threw millions of dollars of taxpayer money away in a shady deal with campaign contributors — wittingly or not — so maddening is that people don’t need solar panels as much as they need jobs. And you won’t create nearly enough jobs via green energy schemes. Even if they are on the up and up, they would only provide ancillary benefits at this time to our economy. We need industry producing real everyday basic products people need to sustain life.

Eventually, some of these green things will catch on, but I do not see how in and of themselves they can produce the economic input we need to keep our economy healthy.

It appears that the Obama administration got taken on the Solyndra thing, funding the company $527 million and then seeing it go belly up — where was the due diligence the Obama administration accused (and rightly so) the Wall Street bankers of not using that started this whole mess in 2008?

—————-

ADD 1:

Reports indicate that it was feared inside the Obama administration that something might be wrong with Solyndra even as the president was touting it to the public. You know, this is not good.

—————

As Gene Burns said last night on his KGO, San Francisco, radio talk show: it’s things like this that have given rise to and have seen the rapid ascent of the Tea Party (and he is no fan of the Tea Party, but admires their political initiative and wonders why those of other persuasions are not so active, or at least that is my interpretation of what he has said).

Worse yet, the word is now that there are more Solyndra type scandals out there.

The public is fed up with on the one hand being told that the nation is trillions of dollars in debt and on the other hand being told it must go deeper into debt to deal with that problem. And it is aghast at such scandals as the Solyndra fraud.

I don’t know what really happened at Solyndra, but it does sound like some lobbying and some campaign contributions garnered a lot of government money and probably those in charge were not of the highest moral character — the greed is good type.

Also I heard that China has dumped a lot of solar panels on the market — free trade or most favored nation status for China and all — another thing that riles the public, and should.

And I think that those who cheered the other night at the GOP debate at the fact that Texas Gov. and presidential candidate Rick Perry has no qualms about the fact he has sent so many people to death row are just yahoos who wanted to take a swipe at the news media hosts who they see as liberal or progressive enemies, but are also emblematic of the public mood against seeing the molly coddling of criminals in general and of violent people being let go on technicalities.

Going off track here a little maybe, but although we certainly don’t want a police state, it was interesting to me that I heard a comment on radio from a citizen during the 9/11 commemoration this past weekend in which the person said how nice it was to see the high police presence and how safe it made one feel.

And I often wonder, why is there not more police presence in high crime areas?

Politically, Obama is in big trouble. The Democrats lost a nearly century-old safe seat in the congress over the Anthony Weiner scandal to a Republican over voter disgust. It is hard to see what with the mood of the country how Obama can possibly get reelected. He’d have to be a comeback kid, ala Bill Clinton, to turn the corner.

Why not concentrate on re-vitalizing our conventional industry and get moving on those infrastructure projects he talks about too? And domestic energy exploration to include natural gas (and I would exclude offshore drilling, except in areas where it is already  fact — but that is just me), would be of great help too. Maintaining our oil supply from the Middle East has become way too expensive in blood and treasure.

If Obama could or would go full force with that now, he just might get another term.

If the Democrats cannot beat the Republicans, who would throw out the baby (Social Security and other protections) with the bath water, they don’t deserve to be in power.

And God help us if the Republicans win (maybe Romney would be kinder and gentler than Perry).


It’s really shaping up to be Romney vs. Obama; you have to take these GOP candidates seriously, one could become president…

September 12, 2011

UPDATE (9-13-11)

Was not able to catch the most recent GOP debate after all, but a headline I read says that Perry is making Romney a “tougher” candidate. It’s almost like Perry is there as his foil.

———————

ADD 1:

Former Minnestota governor Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out of the presidential race, has now endorsed Romney. The correspondent I heard commented that it might be a signal that Romney is viewed by the establishment, so to speak, as the only GOP candidate with the stature to run for the top office. See bottom of this post for more on that (well, not much more).

————————–

I’ m certainly going to try to catch the Republican presidential candidate debate this evening on radio (while I’m driving my truck on my real job).

It should be interesting to see how they handle the Social Security questions, seeing as how they will be debating in the state of Florida, whose population is heavy on retirees.

As we all know, Republicans seem to be anti-Social Security even though they use and/or depend upon it — yes, this puzzles me too.

Some say they just want to revamp it so it can be saved from going bust.

The debate, as I understand it, is sponsored by something called the Tea Party Express. It is quite difficult to know what the so-called Tea Party is all about. Many, including me, think it is a front for big money interests who have duped regular citizens into joining the cause.

It would be more interesting if the Tea Party could field its own candidate who was neither pro-big government/liberal nor pro-business interests, but just pro-regular people. But maybe that is not what the Tea Party is all about.

And it does seem you have to run as either a Republican or a Democrat to win the presidency.

Don’t know if I will be able to catch the debate and don’t know when I will be able to comment on it due to my work schedule (and sleep schedule), but I am sure going to try — you have to take these folks seriously — one of them might become president!

My current prediction for the 2012 contest:

Romney vs. Obama, with the edge going to Romney, even though if he had been president he may well have handled things quite similar to Obama. One observation I read on the web suggested that the Pawlenty endorsement could help bring the Tea Party into the Romney fold — I know so little of the Tea Party or Pawlenty, I wouldn’t know, but if that is so, it really does look like President Romney (he’s sure been working at it for a long time and the Republicans do like to let everyone have their turn).

—————–

CORRECTION:

In the original version of my previous post I inadvertently or mistakenly used the acronym IUD instead of IED (ouch!).


Nine Eleven was not Pearl Harbor; we made some missteps; Bush may have had one thing right, though

September 11, 2011

Pearl Harbor, 9/11 was not. But it was a tragedy, and I have come to think, maybe just today on its tenth anniversary, that President George W. Bush was at least partially right in his reactions to the event — maybe. But first:

Well 9/11 or 9-11-11 is all but a done deal now and thank goodness, as I write this, nothing yet. (Well actually there was an attack by the Taliban in the ongoing Afghan War over the last 24 hours, with many Americans — at least 77 — injured, but nothing in the homeland, as it has been called, particularly since 9/11 ).

I also want to interject here before I go further that regardless of what I think of the War on Terror I felt sad and outraged when I heard an interview on NPR in which a National Guardsman who served in Afghanistan said he got into a fight in a bar here at home when someone said to him: “your war doesn’t count”. This soldier, according to the interview, had been involved in going out and searching for IEDs and had suffered the shock of blasts from them more than once.

Its kind of chicken…t that we have this all-volunteer military and we can stand by and let them be sent hither and yon and into harm’s way but not even consider the policies that send them there because it does not affect our own life. Besides, the soldier does what he or she is supposed to do and if he or she was not available, each one of us might be subject to the call. And the soldier is separate from the government policy that puts him or her in harm’s way.

(There is the Nuremberg, I was only following orders thing, but I think the guilt rests with the higher ups, generally.)

But back to what I wanted to say on this tenth anniversary before it is over:

There has been a lot of comparison of 9/11 to Pearl Harbor. In fact those neocons who wanted us to go to war in the Middle East (again since Desert Storm) even had the audacity to wish on paper for another Pearl Harbor in their Project for a New American Century treatise.

But while it is spooky and almost a little too convenient that indeed we had a Pearl Harbor-like attack (it did come from the air), there are not really a lot of similarities, except about the same number of lost lives.

Pearl Harbor was an act of war by an identifiable nation — Japan. I don’t know if the Japanese admiral really said it, but in a movie account he is heard saying: “I am afraid we have awakened a sleeping giant”. Indeed the Japanese did. There was a strong isolationist feeling in America, right up until the Japs attacked. At that point the isolationist movement  died.

We had a fairly unified reaction to 9/11 but as the response dragged on and got muddled I think the public turned indifferent for the most part.

On 9/11 we were attacked by a stateless group of folks. It was staged, though, from Afghanistan where the group who would claim responsibility and calls itself Al Qaeda was being harbored along with its then leader Osama Bin Laden by the Taliban who controlled that nation. We demanded they turn over Bin Laden and they refused and we attacked. But as everyone knows, almost inexplicably our former president, George W. Bush, seemed to become half-hearted at that and turned his sights on Iraq, successfully conflating events there with 9/11 (it is well known he wanted an excuse to attack Iraq even before 9/11). While certainly the then leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, was probably sympathetic with the aims of Al Qaeda, as far as them being against America, there is no evidence he had anything whatsoever to do with 9/11. Nonetheless we wound up attacking Iraq and making much more of a show of it there than Afghanistan until years later. We are still engaged in hostilities in both nations. And of course President Obama successfully ordered and got the killing of Bin Laden by our special military units, most notably the Navy SEALS.

But while the attack on Pearl Harbor was an act of clear aggression by an identifiable nation, and while Pearl Harbor pushed America into World War II against the Axis powers of Japan and Germany (and for a time Italy), and while congress officially declared war on the Axis powers, and while that war was budgeted and consumer goods became scarce and food was rationed in the war effort — none of those things took place for 9/11. And oh, yes, we, the U.S. and its allies, clearly won WWII. We went for complete victory to include unconditional surrender of the enemy.

Today we have no complete victory and no unconditional surrender and at times we don’t even know who the enemy is. Indeed the presidential authorizations to fight this war or wars seems to be against terrorism in general, as if you could declare war on a tactic or against evil itself.

Our constitution does not really tell us what to do in this instance. I don’t think the framers dreamed that one day we would have a president who would up and decide to wipe out all evil in the world by declaring war on it. And our wars in these modern times, especially since World War II, are just not fought in the same way.

In the end, we actually prospered from WWII and became the world’s leading economic and military power.

Today we are essentially going bankrupt due in large part to the War on Terror.

And we are no safer today, a trillion or more dollars and thousands of casualties later, after a decade, or at least it is hard to think we could be.

One of the more agonizing things about both Pearl Harbor and 9/11 is that in both cases we had warning. Pearl Harbor had actually been predicted back in the 1920s, even though it did not occur until 1941. A 9/11-type attack had also been predicted years ahead of time, despite the erroneous observation by Condoleezza Rice that no one ever thought such a thing might happen. We also had the very culprits who got on the airplanes and carried out the 9/11 attacks on a terrorist watch list, but it all got lost in the bureaucracy and interagency rivalry.

Some have even suggested that there was an inside conspiracy in both cases by people who wanted us to go to war. While I doubt that, I do think that the events handed them their cases on a silver platter and maybe some did look the other way at warnings hoping something might happen.

Twenty-twenty hindsight is easy, I admit. But we do need to reflect on what happened and how we handled it and see if we cannot come up with something better.

While I have always been critical of Bush for his actions, particularly his striking at Iraq, instead of concentrating on Afghanistan or even on just going after the actual perpetrators — the ones besides the ones that died in the attack of course — and their leader Bin Laden (it took another president to get that job done), I think he, Bush, had the right idea after all, maybe, in putting those who would attack America on notice that they could run, but they could not hide — we will get them.

We indeed did get Bin Laden (even if it took a decade), and we have killed scores of Al Qaeda leaders. I mean it has got to make some of these bad guys nervous that an unseen drone flying overhead could send a missile up their rear end at any moment.

I think we may have overdone things militarily, especially since we don’t seem to have the desire or stomach to actually defeat nations, occupy them for a time, and then make sure they fly right. We did so with Germany and Japan, but that was then and this is now.

I’m thinking drones, cloak and dagger, and keeping our mouths shut, and letting our actions speak louder than words, just might be the way to go.

But there still may come a time when it will be necessary to use our military in a more conventional sense. We have to have public support to make that effective. And we should not do so without it.

And although for much of today I was involved with my truck driving work, I did manage to catch some of the comments from folks who suffered on 9/11, who lost loved ones.

I felt terribly sad for them.

————

ADD 1:

I just now recall that I heard a story the other day I think on NPR that the ten-year anniversary of Pearl Harbor was not marked in any special way for the most part because we were all into having our former foe Japan be on our side and be an important base for our operations against North Korea at the time, the Korean War being in progress.

———–

P.s.

Looking back in a more personal way in my own life, I recall that fateful day. My now late wife was in the hospital suffering from a mysterious illness. It was touch and go and I had been up late with her. At the time we were living with my mother. I was on leave (using vacation time) from my work. That morning I was sleeping in, having been up late at the hospital. My mom woke me up and told me a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. News junkie that I am, normally I would have jumped up. But I was tired. But after I finally did get up, I saw the video of a jet crashing into one of the towers.  And I recall once the second plane hit, we instantly knew this was not a freak accident.

As it turned out, my wife would recover for the most part, but unfortunately she only had about nine years. She died just over a year ago.

Wished I could have made more of those nine years with her.

We should all make the best of things each day. Things like 9/11 happen, and even smaller every day tragedies occur too. None of us knows how long we have and how long we will share things with our loved ones.


What do the voters think of Obama jobs speech? Don’t know yet…

September 9, 2011

Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but while I see and read pundit and partisan reactions to President Barack Obama’s jobs speech to congress last night, I don’t see any polling results among voters or even any voter interviews.

But it was a strong speech, probably one he should have given some three-plus years ago.

I am concerned that he may have hinted about making cuts in Medicare and Social  Security as a bargain with Republicans to get more government economic stimulus money.

And here’s something I once mentioned in a blog post, but I think rather than raising the retirement age for Social Security it should be lowered. That would allow people to retire  early and get more enjoyment out of life — none of us really knows how long we have — and would conceivably open up jobs for younger workers.

I have to say that when the president claimed his $447 billion jobs proposal would not raise the deficit or debt (those two terms get mixed up in reporting — I probably should just use debt), I’m afraid, well heck I know, that is just so much smoke and mirrors and nonsense. You cannot spend money you don’t have, thus requiring borrowing, and not raise the debt. We all know this, it’s just something politicians have to claim to try to get us all to buy into some kind of alternate reality.

But if he can get the government to introduce a massive amount of money into the economy and things can get rolling, then perhaps economic activity will pick up and be able to sustain itself.

All the republicans offer is cutting benefits for everyone (except tax breaks for the super rich), abolishing safety regulations and other protections for general public, and gutting health care. All the GOP candidates are vowing to dismantle what they tag Obamacare.

While I am not a fan of Obamacare — too complicated and probably overdoing things — all the Republicans offer is some kind of free market free for all in which a whole lot of us would be priced out of the market.

Obama talked about restoring teacher jobs and made a swipe at the GOP for being more interested in preserving tax cuts for the wealthy than preserving the jobs of public school teachers. Personally I think public schools should be funded and operated at the local level and it is the responsibility of local taxpayers to fund them, probably with the help, but only help, of  the states.

And back to health care: Rick Perry is adamant that he would with the stroke of a pen abolish Obamacare as his first act as president. Today in the LA Times there is a story telling of the dismal state of healthcare in Texas, the state of which he is governor.

Mitt Romney also says he would abolish Obamacare, but he designed the Massachusetts health care law when he was governor there and it served as the model for Obamacare. Mitt is kind of everything to everyone He just wants to be president. And he just might get there, although a lot of the pundits seem to think the firebrand Perry has a better chance.

I’m wrapping this up for now because I have to make a living. But I’ll be back.