Twenty years of ill-advised and often vicious U.S. meddling in Vietnamese affairs ended with TV images of overloaded Hueys lifting off the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, of Vietnamese who worked for us stumbling down the runway after the C-130s taking off from Tan Son Nhut airbase without them, leaving them behind to face whatever suffering the North Vietnamese government intended to inflict on them.

Twenty years of ill-advised and often vicious U.S. meddling in Afghan affairs are now ending with Internet images of overloaded Chinooks and Blackhawks lifting off the roof of the U.S. embassy in Kabul, of Afghanis who worked for us clawing at the sealed doors of a C-17 taking off from Kabul airport without them, leaving them behind to face whatever suffering the Taliban intends to inflict on them.

Have our earnest media news and analysis teams really not understood the pattern at work here? Have the self-appointed custodians of our shriveled Pax Americana really learned nothing since 1975?

Bet on it.

Election Postscript: A Brief Note on Masculinity

Real Men™ shouldn’t need to:

1. Call themselves boys, even if they have fond memories of once having been one.
2. Take steroids, or cultivate patriarchal beards.
3. Own bulletproof vests or camouflage-patterned caps, hats, jackets, shirts, cargo pants, underwear, jock straps or socks.
4. Store 10,000 rounds of ammunition and a crate of hand grenades in their garages.
5. Buy or carry any device or appurtenance labeled tactical, including knives, flashlights, dog-tag holders, hip flasks, and roach clips.
6. Wear machine guns in public the way Donald Trump wears a tie.
7. Strike Rambo poses in front of fifty American flags.
8. Decorate themselves or any of their possessions, especially trucks, with Confederate battle flags, swastikas, or Nazi slogans.
9. Mistake mobs of vicious degenerates for patriots.
10. Bully their wives and beat their children (or vice-versa, or both.)
11. Go home at night and lick their AR-15s.

Brown Is the New Blue

The New York Police Benevolent Association’s bid to turn urban police departments into America’s Sturmabteilungen.

Now that Patrick Lynch, President of the New York Police Benevolent Association, has dreamt up a left-wing war on cops, and enthusiastically endorsed Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection bid, there’s no longer any reason to pretend that metropolitan police forces in the United States aspire to anything beyond remaining the largest and best-funded gangs in their respective cities.

Translated into plain English, the message from Lynch is clear enough:

If we feel like sodomizing Abner Louima with a broken broomstick, or pumping 19 bullets into an unarmed Amadou Diallo, or choking out Eric Garner, we’re just gonna do it, and if you know what’s good for you, you civilians are gonna keep your mouths shut about it. None of this shit about black lives matter, or defunding the police, you got it? Otherwise you can just call a fucking Democrat instead of 911 the next time you need protection. Finally, do we REALLY need to remind you that there’s 50,000 of us, and we’ve got body armor, tanks, helicopters, and automatic weapons? If you think Bill de Blasio runs this fucking city, think again. The Donald understands us, so we’re down with him. We’re gonna make sure he gets four more years, and after that, you can go fuck yourselves, all of you.

This is interest group politics transformed into something far more toxic to civil society, far more likely to qualify as fascism with American characteristics than anything we’ve seen so far in national politics. The question is, what happens now that Lynch and his boys have so openly crossed the Rubicon? Regardless of the outcome of the elections in November, the political class is unlikely to return unchallenged to the kind of neoliberal centrism touted by the DNC or Atlantic magazine. It seems far more likely that an ever-capricious Donald Trump will offer urban cops, white supremacist biker gangs, rural sheriff’s departments, Oath Keeper and Proud Boy militias, Christian Dominionists, and the rest of his proud deplorables whatever cover they need to attack people living happily in circumstances that their peculiar subcultures find unendurable.

Why would he not? There’s surely nothing more perfectly suited to Trump’s ego-driven triumphalism than starting a civil war, especially one that his very stable genius can’t imagine losing. The only thing stopping him, the only thing keeping his malignant meddling from turning a disorganized rabble of volunteer culture warriors into a full-blown fascist movement, is his own lack of character.

Whatever actually motivates him, Trump is clearly a narcissist, not an ideologue, a Perón rather than a Hitler. His followers are good at resenting anything they can’t understand, and threatening people who can’t defend themselves, but they’re not much good at anything else apart from bootlicking and delusional aphorisms. This might not matter if they had a halfway committed leader, but Trump himself is far too lazy and far too incompetent to take personal charge of forging their resentments into a set of principles robust enough to govern a country of 330 million people.

For those of us sane enough to want out of this whole demeaning Todestanz, the absence of anyone in Trumps’s entourage actually competent to seize state power might offer us exactly what we need, namely a little more time to get our affairs in order before the real apocalypse — climate change, famines, mass migrations, collapsing global economic interdependencies and real wars, with real armies — is upon us in earnest. We can only hope.

Spectator Sport

Watching President Trump try to beat the Congress into submission has been a uniquely gruesome experience, but also an edifying one. For decades now, the dysfunction of the federal government has been something sensed rather than seen, partly because it was in the interest of the political class to keep it hidden, and partly because the media, ever conscious of which side their bread was buttered on, shared that interest.

Today we’re told by Marc Short, the President’s director of legislative affairs, that the White House is simply “asking that the Congress do its job.” I wonder if he, or his boss, for that matter, has any idea just how big an ask that is. If the experience of the past 40 years or so is anything to go by, the problem isn’t that the Congress won’t do its job, it’s that it can’t. Our tolerance for venality, it seems, has drawn the veil over an alarmingly complete incompetence as well. What happens when you bully a moron? Nothing good, I’m thinking, but with the two-minute warning already being signaled, it looks as though we’re about to find out.

If We Can Somehow Bring Ourselves To Take the Long View, We Probably Should….

Revised from a recent comment of mine on this Crooked Timber thread:

A sort of Marxist point about our present distempers: the conditions of existence have changed, probably irrevocably, for the Scots-Irish coal miners of West Virginia, the libertarian ranchers of the West, and the industrial workers of Ohio and Pennsylvania, and they’re not happy about it. Should Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, or Elon Musk feel any more sympathy for them than their own ancestors felt for Chief Joseph, Sitting Bull, or Geronimo? A similar observation could be made about our lack of sympathy for the Taliban and the Salafists.

One difference is striking, though, about our current last-ditch defenders of traditions outmaneuvered by modernity. They’re more widely distributed, and they’re also much better armed. The consolations of Whatever happens — we have got — the Maxim gun — and they have not have succumbed in their own fashion to a modernity not even the Moderns themselves seem to understand. Not yet, anyway.

Marx thought that once the conditions of existence had changed sufficiently, the past would be, or could be, swept away by revolutionaries with their eyes on the future. Seen up close, from the vantage point of an individual life, the process is far uglier, no matter what subsequent theoretical revisions from the foundries of Marxist ideology, or cheerleading from neoliberal think tanks promise us. Somewhere between Faulkner’s The past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past, and Gibson’s The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed, there’s a place to stand that won’t offend either our conscience or our common sense. Maybe. One hopes. YMMV.

An Open Letter to Juan Cole

Today Juan Cole has written An Open Letter to the Left on Libya. In it, he urges …the Left to learn to chew gum and walk at the same time, meaning that it should support the UN Security Council/NATO/US bombing enterprise in Libya. (Among all these august agencies, it’s hard to know which is wearing the fig leaf — and which isn’t — but I suppose that rounding up all the usual suspects stands a decent chance of including the real actors in this latest morality play put on for us by the rulers of Oceania.)

Since my views make me more or less part of the Left, albeit not a very prominent part, I feel duty-bound to respond:

When I read of the The Responsibility to Protect, I’m reminded of the motto of the old Strategic Air Command: Peace Is Our Profession. There’s a sense in which that motto was perfectly true, and another in which it represented a ghastly moral inversion—Thanatos dressed up as Eros, complete with rouged cheeks and false eyelashes.

I remember too that the Pentagon found Dr. Strangelove insulting. Perhaps it was, but it was also a cry of desperation, which, now I come to think of it, had less to do with H-bombs per se than it did with the men who built and deployed them with such perfectly clear consciences.

I first wrote that elsewhere, for another audience, but it will do very nicely for Juan Cole today, or for anyone else overcome by such well-meaning delusions of grandeur in the future.

I Didn’t Vote for Binyamin Netanyahu

We — and the world — now have Israel’s answer to President Obama’s June 4th address in Cairo. Yesterday, November 3rd, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the non-binding resolution shown below. The vote was 344 Aye, 36 Nay, 22 Present, and 30 Not Voting. (For those who would like to see it, the complete roll call is here.)



Calling on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the ‘‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ in multilateral fora.


OCTOBER 23, 2009

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN (for herself, Mr. BERMAN, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, and Mr. ACKERMAN) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs


Calling on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the ‘‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ in multilateral fora.

Whereas, on January 12, 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed Resolution A/HRC/S–9/L.1, which authorized a ‘‘fact-finding mission’’ regarding Israel’s conduct of Operation Cast Lead against violent militants in the Gaza Strip between December 27, 2008, and January 18, 2009;


Whereas the resolution pre-judged the outcome of its investigation, by one-sidedly mandating the ‘‘fact-finding mission’’ to ‘‘investigate all violations of international human rights law and International Humanitarian Law by . . . Israel, against the Palestinian people . . . particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression’’;

Whereas the mandate of the ‘‘fact-finding mission’’ makes no mention of the relentless rocket and mortar attacks, which numbered in the thousands and spanned a period of eight years, by Hamas and other violent militant groups in Gaza against civilian targets in Israel, that necessitated Israel’s defensive measures;

Whereas the ‘‘fact-finding mission’’ included a member who, before joining the mission, had already declared Israel guilty of committing atrocities in Operation Cast Lead by signing a public letter on January 11, 2009, published in the Sunday Times, that called Israel’s actions ‘‘war crimes’’;

Whereas the mission’s flawed and biased mandate gave serious concern to many United Nations Human Rights Council Member States which refused to support it, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland;

Whereas the mission’s flawed and biased mandate troubled many distinguished individuals who refused invitations to head the mission;

Whereas Justice Richard Goldstone, who chaired the ‘‘United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’,


told the then-President of the UNHRC, Nigerian Ambassador Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, that he intended to broaden the mandate of the Mission to include ‘‘all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after’’, a phrase that, according to Justice Goldstone, was intended to allow him to investigate Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians;

Whereas Ambassador Uhomoibhi issued a statement on April 3, 2009, that endorsed part of Justice Goldstone’s proposed broadened mandate but deleted the phrase ‘‘before, during, and after’’, and added inflammatory anti-Israeli language;

Whereas a so-called broadened mandate was never officially endorsed by a plenary meeting of the UNHRC, neither in the form proposed by Justice Goldstone nor in the form proposed by Ambassador Uhomoibhi;

Whereas, on September 15, 2009, the ‘‘United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ released its report; Whereas the report repeatedly made sweeping and unsubstantiated determinations that the Israeli military had deliberately attacked civilians during Operation Cast Lead;

Whereas the authors of the report admit that ‘‘we did not deal with the issues . . . regarding the problems of conducting military operations in civilian areas and secondguessing decisions made by soldiers and their commanding officers ‘in the fog of war.’ ’’;


Whereas in the October 16th edition of the Jewish Daily Forward, Richard Goldstone, the head of the ‘‘United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’, is quoted as saying, with respect to the mission’s evidence collection methods, ‘‘If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.’’;

Whereas the report, in effect, denied the State of Israel the right to self-defense, and never noted the fact that Israel had the right to defend its citizens from the repeated violent attacks committed against civilian targets in southern Israel by Hamas and other Foreign Terrorist Organizations operating from Gaza;

Whereas the report largely ignored the culpability of the Government of Iran and the Government of Syria, both of whom sponsor Hamas and other Foreign Terrorist Organizations;

Whereas the report usually considered public statements made by Israeli officials not to be credible, while frequently giving uncritical credence to statements taken from what it called the ‘‘Gaza authorities’’, i.e. the Gaza leadership of Hamas;

Whereas, notwithstanding a great body of evidence that Hamas and other violent Islamist groups committed war crimes by using civilians and civilian institutions, such as mosques, schools, and hospitals, as shields, the report repeatedly downplayed or cast doubt upon that claim;

Whereas in one notable instance, the report stated that it did not consider the admission of a Hamas official that Hamas often ‘‘created a human shield of women, children, the elderly and the mujahideen, against [the Israeli military]’’ specifically to ‘‘constitute evidence that Hamas


forced Palestinian civilians to shield military objectives against attack.’’;

Whereas Hamas was able to significantly shape the findings of the investigation mission’s report by selecting and prescreening some of the witnesses and intimidating others, as the report acknowledges when it notes that ‘‘those interviewed in Gaza appeared reluctant to speak about the presence of or conduct of hostilities by the Palestinian armed groups . . . from a fear of reprisals’’;

Whereas even though Israel is a vibrant democracy with a vigorous and free press, the report of the ‘‘fact-finding mission’’ erroneously asserts that ‘‘actions of the Israeli government . . . have contributed significantly to a political climate in which dissent with the government and its actions . . . is not tolerated’’;

Whereas the report recommended that the United Nations Human Rights Council endorse its recommendations, implement them, review their implementation, and refer the report to the United Nations Security Council, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and the United Nations General Assembly for further action;

Whereas the report recommended that the United Nations Security Council—

(1) require the Government of Israel to launch further investigations of its conduct during Operation Cast Lead and report back to the Security Council within six months;

(2) simultaneously appoint an ‘‘independent committee of experts’’ to monitor and report on any domestic legal or other proceedings undertaken by the Government of Israel within that six-month period; and


(3) refer the case to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court after that six-month period;

Whereas the report recommended that the United Nations General Assembly consider further action on the report and establish an escrow fund, to be funded entirely by the State of Israel, to ‘‘pay adequate compensation to Palestinians who have suffered loss and damage’’ during Operation Cast Lead;

Whereas the report ignored the issue of compensation to Israelis who have been killed or wounded, or suffered other loss and damage, as a result of years of past and continuing rocket and mortar attacks by Hamas and other violent militant groups in Gaza against civilian targets in southern Israel;

Whereas the report recommended ‘‘that States Parties to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 start criminal investigations [of Operation Cast Lead] in national courts, using universal jurisdiction’’ and that ‘‘following investigation, alleged perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted’’;

Whereas the concept of ‘‘universal jurisdiction’’ has frequently been used in attempts to detain, charge, and prosecute Israeli and United States officials and former officials in connection with unfounded allegations of war crimes and has often unfairly impeded the travel of those individuals;

Whereas the State of Israel, like many other free democracies, has an independent judicial system with a robust investigatory capacity and has already launched numerous investigations, many of which remain ongoing, of Operation Cast Lead and individual incidents therein;


Whereas Libya and others have indicated that they intend to further pursue consideration of the report and implementation of its recommendations by the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and other multilateral fora;

Whereas the President instructed the United States Mission to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva to vote against resolution A–HRC–S–12–1, which endorsed the report and condemned Israel, at the special session of the Human Rights Council held on October 15–16, 2009;

Whereas, on September 30, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the mandate for the report as ‘‘onesided’’;

Whereas, on September 17, 2009, Ambassador Susan Rice, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, expressed the United States’ ‘‘very serious concern with the mandate’’ and noted that the United States views the mandate ‘‘as unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable’’;

Whereas the ‘‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ reflects the longstanding, historic bias at the United Nations against the democratic, Jewish State of Israel;

Whereas the ‘‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ is being exploited by Israel’s enemies to excuse the actions of violent militant groups and their state sponsors, and to justify isolation of and punitive measures against the democratic, Jewish State of Israel;


Whereas, on October 16, 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted 25–6 (with 11 states abstaining and 5 not voting) to adopt resolution A–HRC–S–12–1, which endorsed the ‘‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ and condemned Israel, without mentioning Hamas, other such violent militant groups, or their state sponsors; and

Whereas efforts to delegitimize the democratic State of Israel and deny it the right to defend its citizens and its existence can be used to delegitimize other democracies and deny them the same right: Now, therefore, be it

1 Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

2 (1) considers the ‘‘Report of the United Nations

3 Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ to be

4 irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consid

5 eration or legitimacy;

6 (2) supports the Administration’s efforts to

7 combat anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, its

8 characterization of the ‘‘Report of the United Na

9 tions Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’ as

10 ‘‘unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable’’,

11 and its opposition to the resolution on the report;

12 (3) calls on the President and the Secretary of

13 State to continue to strongly and unequivocally op

14 pose any endorsement of the ‘‘Report of the United

15 Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’

16 in multilateral fora, including through leading oppo

17 sition to any United Nations General Assembly reso-


1 lution and through vetoing, if necessary, any United

2 Nations Security Council resolution that endorses

3 the contents of this report, seeks to act upon the

4 recommendations contained in this report, or calls

5 on any other international body to take further ac

6 tion regarding this report;

7 (4) calls on the President and the Secretary of

8 State to strongly and unequivocally oppose any fur

9 ther consideration of the ‘‘Report of the United Na

10 tions Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’’

11 and any other measures stemming from this report

12 in multilateral fora; and

13 (5) reaffirms its support for the democratic,

14 Jewish State of Israel, for Israel’s security and right

15 to self-defense, and, specifically, for Israel’s right to

16 defend its citizens from violent militant groups and

17 their state sponsors.

I have two questions for President Obama: Now that Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Government of Israel have responded to your speechmaking, what will you do? What can you do?

The American Leviathan

For the laws of nature (as justice, equity, modesty, mercy, and, in sum, doing to others as we would be done to) of themselves, without the terror of some power, to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our natural passions, that carry us to partiality, pride, revenge and the like.

Without the terror of some power. Hobbes didn’t trust us. He didn’t, in fact, trust anyone not cowed by the rule of an elite. What neither he nor any other authoritarian has ever adequately explained, however, is what mysterious process or agency it is which invests this elite with virtues none of the rest of us possess, and therefore makes them fit agents to supplement the laws of nature with whatever temporal power is necessary to ensure that the rest of us obey them.

This is the essence of politics, the idea that the rule of one group over another has to be legitimized by something other than superior power. If it isn’t, war — whether metaphorical or real — becomes our natural state, as groups rely on power alone to justify their claim to rule. History suggests that even when there’s temporarily a clear victor in such wars, the result tends to be an oppressive and ultimately unstable society, and that sooner or later, the cycle of contention will begin again.

Back in the day — the 1960’s, for those who don’t remember them — activists on the American left were fond of quoting Mao Zedong’s famous maxim, political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, as the final word on political realism. My own thought at the time, hearing this from leather-jacketed scions of the bourgeoisie, was that we could do with fewer romantics in the movement. Mao wasn’t an idiot, and there was a good deal of truth in many of his truisms, but Mao, whether or not he or anyone else realized it, owed as much to Hobbes as he did to Marx.

The American political experiment has very different roots, which are perhaps best summarized in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

This, particularly the bolded part, is the ultimate expression of faith that the problem of political legitimacy can be solved without resort to tyranny. Despite its contradiction of Hobbes’ idea of the social contract, and the misgivings of tyrants everywhere, it is also, I would argue, the cornerstone of any political realism worthy of the name.

The founders of the American state were men of faith, certainly, but they weren’t stupid or ignorant men. They knew as well as the Pharoahs of Egypt or the Ch’in Emperor did that governments are instituted among men for all sorts of reasons, few of which have anything at all to do with securing the inalienable rights of a majority. Nevertheless, they were standing on a new continent, a tabula rasa, as it seemed to them. (This would surely have been news to the Cherokee, the Seminole, or the Lakota, of course, or to the slaves in Jefferson’s own back yard, but as conservatives are fond of pointing out, new principles, being new, often embrace even less of reality than do ancient ones.) If the members of the Continental Congress didn’t want to repeat the moribund and oppressive politics which had driven them from their European homeland, they really had no alternative but to experiment, to assume the responsibility for turning the abstract into the concrete without relying on established custom, or even, in many cases, on their own instincts.

And what of their American experiment, 230+ years on? Despite our best efforts, not a great deal remains of it. The Right to Life has become the label for a religious prohibition which a minority demands be enacted into law. The Right to Liberty has no force in the workplace, because the workplace is owned by people who view the liberty of workers as an administrative inconvenience, and the courts recognize few limits on the rights of ownership. In recent years, even those limits which the law and the courts do recognize have rarely been enforced by the executive branch of the government. Finally, the Right to the pursuit of Happiness has in large part been reduced to the sanction of a misguided quest for things — bigger things, and more of them. Why this quest should require our government to bomb wedding parties in Afghanistan, or construct military airbases in Uzbekistan; why it should require our corporations to force subsistence farmers off land in Mexico or Guatemala coveted for industrialized crop monocultures, or export manufacturing jobs to countries which offer the lowest wage structures and weakest labor laws, are questions which don’t seem to concern most Americans.

They should be concerned. In the first place, both happiness and liberty are indivisible; you can’t acquire more of either for yourself by taking it from someone else. In the second place, the consent of the governed becomes a mockery when it amounts to little more than the indifference of the governed.

Here, of course, is where authoritarians — Hobbes most especially — believe that they hold the trump card. You see, they say, even you democrats are forced to admit it. When the people aren’t wolves, who must be subdued, they are sheep, who must be herded. Only an elite can lead them in any case. Being a democrat, I would reply along with Jefferson that what distinguishes leaders from the led is interest. Not heredity, not intelligence or virtue, and most especially not the sanction of God, nor the outcome of a struggle for wealth or power.

A decent society, a democratic society, which offers as few impediments as possible to a broadly-defined public interest, is always well served, precisely because it facilitates the development of a legitimate source of leadership that is both broadly and deeply rooted in the society as a whole. The authoritarian society, regardless of its pretensions to the contrary, serves only one real interest, the preservation of the status and privileges of the elites which govern it. It does so by blocking the interests of the majority, only to discover, as it devotes more and more of its energies to the task of protecting those elites, that its efforts inevitably end by serving no one, not even the elites themselves.

This is where the United States finds itself today. It may be a nation conceived in liberty, as Lincoln famously put it, but is no longer dedicated — even in theory — to the proposition that all men are created equal.

If it were otherwise, it would be hard to explain, given both the statistical and anecdotal evidence of the suffering caused by the present state of our health care industry, why everyone who matters in Washington continues to insist that single-payer is off the table. When asked for a reason why this is so, given its obvious advantages over the corrupt and prohibitively expensive insurance system which we have today, the closest we get to a meaningful answer, from President Obama, is that our present system of insurers and providers employs thousands of people, and that single payer would threaten their livelihood. Considering that a large percentage of these people are employed in processing redundant paperwork, or finding ways to deny coverage to those who need it, is this really a reason which anyone who understands what’s at stake should be obliged to take seriously?

If ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people, why must schools, prisons, hospitals, and even libraries be outsourced and recast as profit centers? Why are we incessantly told that traditional civil institutions must now be run like businesses? What businesses should they be run like — Citigroup? General Motors? Wal*Mart? What happened to government-sponsored low interest college loans? Why are student loans, and the students who contract for them now in the hands of usurers? Why is it that no matter what question you ask, the answer from Washington is to cut taxes on the wealthy?

Can anyone who believes that the United States is still a representative democracy explain why the government finds it necessary to spy on citizens without a warrant, and why no ordinary citizen can find out what the information is being used for, or how long it’s being kept? Does anyone know why, when this illegal spying was discovered, the Congress passed laws to legalize it, and to retroactively immunize those who had taken taken part in it against prosecution for their illegal acts? Does this seem at all consistent with the Bill of Rights?

Given the present state of our country, questions like this could go on for many more paragraphs. Just in the realm of foreign affairs and the military, one might ask if there are any convincing reasons, as opposed to the reasons Fox News gives us, for bombing those wedding parties in Afghanistan, or torturing people to death, or building military bases in Uzbekistan, or Diego Garcia or over seven hundred other places, most of which few of us have ever heard of. One might even ask why the army now has a North American Command. If Thomas Jefferson were still around, you can be sure that he’d be interested in the answer to that.

The truth of the matter is that all these questions can be reduced to one single, very simple question: whose interests are being served by all of this? You don’t have to be Karl Marx, or even Noam Chomsky, to suspect that the answer isn’t the people’s interest. Hobbes’ answer is, in fact, more than sufficient. What we are witnessing is the terror of some power. Sadly, it isn’t being employed to enforce those benevolent laws of nature which were so dear to Hobbes in his own time of chaos. Far from it.

What are we to do about this? For myself, I prefer Jefferson’s answer, from the same passage of the Declaration of Independence which I’ve already quoted above:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Shall we begin?