For quite a while, I’ve wondered how a constitutional law professor could feel comfortable with the dangerous powers acquired by the presidency during the Bush regime. Yesterday, I found out he hasn’t been all that comfortable.
I’m talking about President Obama, of course.
In a historic speech to National Defense University students at Fort McNair in Washington DC, the president renounced his right to wage war anywhere in the world at any time without approval from any other branch of government. This dangerous power was ceded to the presidency after Nine Eleven by a panicked Congress, and has never been revoked. The result is that the president has the legal right to wage an endless war without the people’s permission.
President Obama obviously is uneasy with this kind of power, even when he is the one wielding it. While he justified the execution of Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders by citing that power, he conceded that summary justice “cannot be the norm.” There are moral questions to be considered, he explained.
Here’s what he said:
Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war – a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.
But he is obviously more than willing to share the authority to pursue that war. He said :
I’ve insisted on strong oversight of all lethal action. After I took office, my Administration began briefing all strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan to the appropriate committees of Congress. Let me repeat that – not only did Congress authorize the use of force, it is briefed on every strike that America takes. That includes the one instance when we targeted an American citizen: Anwar Awlaki, the chief of external operations for AQAP.
President Obama said he is eager to bring Congress into the picture before ordering any attack on the terrorists who threaten American lives and he outlined a series of checkpoints to limit the use of drone strikes on individuals. One of the key restrictions is that no attack – whether “with a drone or a shot gun” – must be directed against an American citizen on American soil.
He vowed his administration would not overstep its constitutional role in its zeal to protect the country from terrorists.
And he revealed he was already taking steps toward that end:
I have asked my Administration to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of war zones that go beyond our reporting to Congress. Each option has virtues in theory, but poses difficulties in practice. For example, the establishment of a special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action has the benefit of bringing a third branch of government into the process, but raises serious constitutional issues about presidential and judicial authority. Another idea that’s been suggested – the establishment of an independent oversight board in the executive branch – avoids those problems, but may introduce a layer of bureaucracy into national-security decision-making, without inspiring additional public confidence in the process. Despite these challenges, I look forward to actively engaging Congress to explore these – and other – options for increased oversight.
Also, under the new guidelines, the U.S. will not strike a suspect who can be captured, and attacks may only target an “imminent” threat.
It was a wide-ranging and thoughtful speech, and it revealed the troubling questions that must have been causing the president many sleepless nights. As he surveyed the pros and cons of policies designed to keep America safe while maintaining the principles that have made this country an example to the world, he acknowledged the folly and expense of war and the need for more humane solutions to the evils of terrorism.
In an observation that I especially welcomed, he declared:
I believe, however, that the use of force must be seen as part of a larger discussion about a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. Because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the well-spring of extremism, a perpetual war – through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments – will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.
So the next element of our strategy involves addressing the underlying grievances and conflicts that feed extremism, from North Africa to South Asia. As we’ve learned this past decade, this is a vast and complex undertaking. We must be humble in our expectation that we can quickly resolve deep rooted problems like poverty and sectarian hatred. Moreover, no two countries are alike, and some will undergo chaotic change before things get better. But our security and values demand that we make the effort.
Yes, Mr. President, it’s time – past time – to stop relying on bombs, bullets and boots on the ground as a solution to all of America’s foreign policy problems. And it’s reassuring to hear you address issues that have been troubling supporters like me.
Your speech offered a much-needed respite from the polemics pervading American politics.And it renewed my optimism for your legacy.
There are special interests – the military-industrial complex and its foot-soldiers in Congress, for example – who will oppose your common-sense solutions to the complex problems of a bitterly divided world. But as long as you hang on to the high moral ground, you will have the people’s support. And, in the end, that’s what really counts.
May 24, 2013 2 Comments
It’s a small world, after all – as today’s global stock market sell-off demonstrates. News emerged that manufacturing in China is contracting and investors dumped their stocks in Japan, which sent Asian stocks plummeting around the world.
It’s a classic example of how the global economy works.
Economies are now so interdependent that the health of each country depends on the health of other countries. When the Federal Reserve floods the market with US dollars, for example, commerce thrives and stock markets bloom. When the Fed pulls in its horns, commerce slows and investors pull back. As an Associated Press analysis of today’s stock market slump explains:
Much of the recovery in global stock markets over the past few years has had its roots in the extra money that’s been recycled through financial markets. This extra liquidity has come from the stimulus initiatives by a number of the world’s leading central banks. The withdrawal of some of the Fed’s stimulus measures has been seen as the greatest threat to stocks for some time.
AP noted that:
Mixed messages from the U.S. Federal Reserve about when it may start easing the amount of financial assets it purchases each month have also contributed to Thursday’s retreat.
Of course there’s more to the stock market slump than the Fed’s ambivalence. For one thing, China’s leaders are making a conscious effort to slow that country’s growth. But I’m sure that the underlying causes include shrinking consumer spending in America – and most of the world. With European and American politicians inflicting “austerity” on the poor and middle class, while lavishing tax breaks on corporations and the rich, more and more people have less and less money to spend.
That might be why Walmart’s sales declined 1.4 percent last quarter. And, as I’m sure you know, Walmart is responsible for a hefty chunk of China’s manufacturing output.
When a small sliver of the global population gobbles up more and more of the world’s wealth, they leave the rest of us with too little for us to sustain the economy. We can’t buy the stuff their investment dollars are producing, sales dry up, profits plummet and stock markets collapse.
Today’s stock market slump will probably be just another bump in the road. The gnomes who push the market’s buttons have ways to fix this sort of thing. (Indeed, while I was writing this blog, the New York Stock Exchange was beginning to recover.)
But even if this is just a passing phase, it should serve as a warning to the austerity hawks who pander to the super-rich.
It might seem like a good idea for the elite to put the squeeze on the poor and middle class. They will prosper for a while. But, inevitably, the shock waves will reach the top of the pyramid.
Perhaps not today. Perhaps not tomorrow. But one day.
May 23, 2013 4 Comments
Oklahoma Senators James Inhofe and Tom Coburn are shining examples of the shameless hypocrisy that so many Republican politicians exhibit. They can look into the TV camera and say the most contradictory things without blinking or fidgeting. They must think that their listeners are idiots.
In her column today, Salon.com editor at large Joan Walsh takes the pair to task for their slippery positions on federal aid. Inhofe insists his state deserves unconditional help from Washington in the wake of Monday’s disaster, even though he vehemently argued against aid to Hurricane Sandy victims. Coburn argues that Oklahoma’s disaster relief should be “offset” by budget cuts in the ongoing “sequester.”
Ms. Walsh wonders what cuts Coburn has in mind. Would he like to see “more kids thrown out of Head Start? More seniors losing Meals on Wheels?”
Of course he would. That’s exactly what Republicans want – destruction of the country’s social safety net and “survival of the fittest.” Unless, of course, it’s their own – or their supporters’ – interests that are involved. Then roll out the federal pork barrel.
The Republican dominated House is already slashing food stamps, school lunches and every other form of help for America’s poor. And they’re obviously not done yet.
Ms. Walsh points out:
The federal deficit is shrinking faster than at any time since just after World War II, but Coburn is going to insist that someone, somewhere, must lose their federal help so Oklahoma can get it instead.
Fortunately, President Obama is paying no attention to these outrageous arguments. He views the people of Oklahoma not as Republicans or Democrats but as Americans – Americans in need. And in the way we used to expect of Americans, he has come to their aid. No offsets. No conditions. No whining about cuts to federal aid programs – cuts that included a billion dollars from the FEMA budget, cuts the Republicans insisted on.
The tornado victims desperately need help, and the president vows they will get all the help they need.
This is America, after all. In America, we’re there for each other. And it doesn’t matter whether we live in a blue state or a red state. Not to Barack Obama, anyway.
May 22, 2013 1 Comment
Sandra and I watched in horror all through the evening and into the night as the carnage of the Oklahoma tornado strike unfolded… CNN showed aerial views of total devastation, and gradually followed with the chilling details…winds exceeding 200 mph…few basements or cellars in which families could seek refuge…a school demolished …
A school demolished! With third-graders inside the building!
We could only wonder how the parents of those children were reacting to the ominous news. We waited for the other shoe to fall, fearing the worst.
And the worst came as we watched and waited.
“People are pulling children from the rubble,” we heard one man tell a TV reporter who had arrived by helicopter. And then the news got worse. And worse.
The Associated Press reported this morning:
The hell he saw was harrowing, but it’s the sounds at Plaza Towers Elementary that Stuart Earnest Jr. says will haunt him forever.
“All you could hear were screams,” Earnest said. “The people screaming for help. And the people trying to help were also screaming.”
Plaza Towers, a pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade school, took a direct hit when a titanic tornado chewed a deadly and destructive 20-mile path through Newcastle, Moore and parts of southern Oklahoma City for 40 minutes Monday afternoon.
And here’s how Reuters described the disaster:
Pre-dawn emergency workers searched feverishly for survivors in the rubble of homes, primary schools and an hospital in an Oklahoma City suburb ravaged by a massive Monday afternoon tornado feared to have killed up to 91 people and injured well over 200 residents.
The 2-mile (3-km) wide tornado tore through the town of Moore outside Oklahoma City, trapping victims beneath the rubble as one elementary school took a direct hit and another was destroyed.
Reporters were cleared back from Plaza Towers Elementary School, which sustained a direct hit Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb told CNN. But television pictures showed firefighters from more than a dozen fire departments working under bright spotlights to find survivors.
The full extent of the tragedy is yet to emerge. Rescue teams are still desperately searching through the wreckage. And news is difficult to obtain. Roads leading to the area are choked with traffic as local families try in vain to return to what’s left of their homes.
May God give them the strength to endure the horrors many will find.
The residents of Oklahoma are probably used to tornadoes. The state gets several of them a year. But, as stunned residents told TV reporters, this one was different. Nobody could remember anything like this. It was the kind of tornado that could only be survived by going underground, and the rocky land makes basements prohibitively expensive.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Do you suspect climate change might be responsible – as it surely was for Hurricane Sandy and so many other unprecedented natural disasters in recent months?
Or do you share the skepticism of America’s radical right?
Do you honestly think that scientists’ global warming warnings are a hoax?
Photo shows a child being pulled from the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School (AP/Sue Ogrocki).
May 21, 2013 2 Comments
Of all the obviously crazy kooks on America’s far right, Michele Bachmann (above) gets my vote for craziest. The Minnesota congresswoman looks crazy, acts crazy and comes up with the craziest conspiracy theories you could imagine. So it doesn’t surprise me that she’s right out in front of the current media crusade against President Obama. Especially since the FBI has been investigating her campaign spending. It’s no secret that cornered rats will fight back.
Bachmann has always been a wild-eyed foe of Obamacare, conjuring up such false threats as death panels and an epidemic of tax-funded abortions, but she is outdoing herself in the prevailing anti-Obama feeding frenzy. (Isn’t it discouraging how even liberals like Robert Reich and Maureen Dowd have joined the pack yapping at the president’s heels?)
In a recent interview with the arch-conservative site World Net Daily, Bachmann managed to bundle the IRS, Benghazi and Obamacare into one omnibus “scandal.” Here’s her theory, as reported in The Atlantic Wire:
The House Oversight Committee’s hearings on Benghazi spooked the White House so much that they decided to take advantage of “a Friday dump day” (Bachmann’s words) to “confess to such a flagrant misuse of politics and power” (World Net Daily’s) as the IRS investigation of Tea Party groups. But what really worries Bachmann is that the IRS, which is largely responsible for administration of Obamacare, will use its new-found partisanship to “deny or delay access to health care” for conservatives.
This kind of nonsense is a stretch even for the imaginative leader of the House Tea Party Caucus, but it’s what you might expect with the Federal Election Commission, the Office of Congressional Ethics, the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee, the Urbandale Police Department – and now the FBI – scrutinizing her campaign spending.
And it’s one of the infuriating tactics that Republican politicians have become notorious for – spreading lies attacking opponents for committing the “dirty tricks” that they, themselves, are guilty of.
Bachmann is among the most blatant offender, incessantly making up stories and repeating lies concocted by other right-wing scandal mongers. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in March, for example, she came up with this whopper:
A new book is out talking about the perks and the excess of the $1.4-billion-a-year presidency that we’re paying for. And this is a lifestyle that is one of excess. Now we find out that there are five chefs on Air Force One.
Of course, the book was wrong – as reviewers were quick to point out. But that didn’t deter the crazy congresswoman.
Bachmann is also helping to distract Congress from the country’s real problems by introducing time-wasting bills in the House. And, to nobody’s surprise, her fellow-Republicans are delightedly joining the masquerade. For example, the House recently passed her bill to repeal Obamacare. It was the 37th such bill passed by the House, and like its predecessors, there’s no chance it will become law. It’s sure to be blocked in the Democrat-controlled Senate. And if it miraculously survived the Senate, the White House would veto it.
Bachmann illustrates one of the sad flaws in America’s democratic system. The most despicable people can run for Congress, and – because they will stoop to anything – they often get elected. But there is also a remedy, and we can only hope that Minnesota voters will use this remedy to address the Bachmann situation in November 2014.
May 20, 2013 2 Comments
The war against Big Government is having unintended consequences, and the way things are going, the situation is sure to get worse. Much worse. One development that makes me sick to my stomach is the trend toward self-regulation in the food industry. It’s one of the side effects of the “austerity” that Republicans are imposing on us.
I read an article in Salon.com this morning that’s really scary. Written by Martha Rosenberg, it originally appeared in AlterNet. Here’s an excerpt:
The federal government is increasingly washing its hands, pun intended, of slaughterhouse inspection and encouraging industry “self-regulation,” which is cheaper for both sides. Thanks to the new era of food industry laissez-faire, assembly lines are moving even more quickly–if that’s possible–and more aggressive chemicals are being employed. “Pink Slime” treated with puffs of ammonia to kill E. coli, was only one example of extreme chemicals routinely used to kill germs, often under the public’s radar.
There is also an ongoing battle between US trade officials and the European Union and Russia over US poultry because it is dipped in chlorine bleach to kill germs. Who knew?
We don’t eat much meat at our house, anyway, as Sandra is sorry for the animals – not only because they’re cold-bloodedly slaughtered but also because of the horrible conditions in which most of them are raised. I can’t remember the last time we had a juicy steak, for example. And when she reads this, chicken will probably disappear from our menu. Pork, too. And turkey. Consider this passage in Ms. Rosenberg’s article:
Despite the routine use of antibiotics in livestock operations, bacteria and resistant bacteria are rampant in the food supply. Almost half of US beef, chicken, pork and turkey contained staph bacteria when they were tested, reported the Los Angeles Times in 2011–including the resistant MRSA bacterium (methicillin-resistant S. aureus). Two serious strains of antibiotic-resistant salmonella, Salmonella Heidelberg and Salmonella Hadar, forced recalls in recent years of turkey products from Jennie-O Turkey and Cargill. The resistant salmonella strains were so deadly, officials warned that disposed meat should be placed in sealed garbage cans to protect wildlife.
Bad as they are, these horrors pale beside the nightmare that would undoubtedly come if the small-government activists win their battle for America’s hearts and minds. There would be no independent policing of the food that reaches our tables, no attempt to ameliorate the suffering of livestock and poultry, no shield against the dangers of genetically modified vegetables and animals…
There would also be no public school system, no subsidized health care, drastically reduced police and fire protection, no libraries or museums, no safe water supply, no safeguards against loan-sharking credit card companies … Everything would be governed by the global corporations’ bottom line, and when profit is the only consideration, people get the short end of the stick.
As for me, I am grateful for the protection that Big Government provides in this dog-eat-dog world. And I don’t begrudge the taxes I’ve had to pay over the years. It’s mystifying to me that so many Americans, including those with far more money than they could ever need, are fighting so fiercely against paying taxes.
I am also grateful for the roads and bridges, schools and clinics, power grids and reservoirs - all of the amenities that civilization provides. We didn’t have much of that in the mountains of Jamaica when I was growing up and – trust me – we missed it.
May 18, 2013 2 Comments
Among the most precious resources reporters have are their sources. Without “reliable sources,” we end up rewriting press releases and transcribing notes from banal – and usually self-serving – interviews. Our stories would rarely be worth reading. But our research shouldn’t end with a source’s tip; that’s where our research should start.
Responsible reporters try to confirm the tips they get before rushing into print or onto the TV set. At least, that’s what they did in my day. Now, not so much.
Take the sad story of ABC’s Benghazi “scoop.”
ABC’s Jonathan Karl (above) got hold of information about a series of emails discussing the tragic Benghazi attack in September. The information seemed to show that the White House had removed references to terrorism from “talking points” on the attack. (The “talking points” were reiterated on TV by UN Ambassador Susan Rice and torpedoed her chances of being Secretary of State – remember?)
In Karl’s place, I would have tried to make sure the tip was accurate before passing it on to the public. But in his euphoria over the “scoop,” Karl not only took his source’s word concerning the content of the emails but also acted as if he had read them himself.
But he hadn’t read the emails. And the summaries he was given turned out to be doctored.
Among the emails Karl “quoted” was one by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes that seemed to implicate the White House in a “cover up.”
Here’s the “damning” passage:
We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.
As all the world could see when the White House later released the Benghazi emails, the Rhodes message did not mention the State Department. Here’s what the real email said:
Sorry to be late to this discussion. We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation. There is a ton of wrong information getting out into the public domain from Congress and people who are not particularly informed. Insofar as we have firmed up assessments that don’t compromise intel or the investigation, we need to have the capability to correct the record, as there are significant policy and messaging ramifications that would flow from a hardened mis-impression. We can take this up tomorrow morning at deputies.
As Karl admitted later, he didn’t have the emails in hand, after all; he was quoting from notes his source had made while reading them. And – as sources often do - Karl’s source obviously had an ax to grind.
Karl was not the only reporter to spread the “spin” added to Rhodes’ email. Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard was taken in, too.
If you watch TV or read the newspapers, you must have heard about the Benghazi “scandal.” Republicans in Congress have been screaming their heads off in an attempt to implicate President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a “cover up.” And the media have been only too willing to chase after the canard.
Without a shred of evidence to implicate the president or Ms. Clinton, the pundits have reveled in this “scandal,” fueled by “spin” masters like ABC’s source. Now that the emails have been made public – and minutely scrutinized - I can only hope that we’ve heard the last of the Great Benghazi Scandal. It’s time to move on to some other concocted “outrage” supposedly committed by the most unfairly maligned president in America’s history.
May 17, 2013 2 Comments
If only the American media could get over Benghazi, the IRS and the other fabricated ”scandals” that fuel 24-hour news channels, they might notice that the country is sinking into a Third World society. Sinking fast.
Growing up in Jamaica when the island was just emerging from its colonial status, I saw first-hand how dire conditions can be in such a society.
Back in 1951, when I was not quite 17, I won a scholarship to go to school in England for a couple of terms (known as “semesters” in America). As part of the deal I, and the other 25 World Youth Forum delegates, participated in various forums all over that country. At one forum, I was asked to describe the “lowest standard of living” in my country. I had no trouble figuring out what that was.
A shanty town (like the one pictured above) was spreading through Western Kingston, and the “standard of living” there was not only the lowest in Jamaica but also among the lowest in the world. I knew it as “The Dungle” (from dung hill?), but I think it was later called Back o’ Wall. No sanitary facilities, of course. No running water. Just a jumble of foul-smelling shacks with an occasional “mauger dawg” trotting furtively along a garbage choked alleyway. Chickens foraged amongst the trash, and you might have heard a goat’s plaintive cry. In the midst of this germ-infested rubble, naked toddlers scavenged, ragged children scurried about and somber mothers with babes in arms waited … and waited … for something to feed their families with.
At the time, no government programs existed to ameliorate their misery. The bottom line: no jobs, no money, no food, no hope.
In contrast, privileged Jamaicans (as well as British and American expatriates) could enjoy cocktails at one of the island’s yacht clubs and build mansions on the hills overlooking the city.
I don’t know whether The Dungle still exists. I doubt it. Slums still persist, of course, but I imagine Jamaica – as a proud, independent nation - has progressed beyond the abominable conditions I spoke about in 1951. I know the Jamaican people – most of them, anyway – are striving (despite the hostility of global institutions) to build a more benign society, in which the island’s bounty is accessible to all who are prepared to work for it.
In other words, Jamaica is struggling to emerge from the Third World.
Meanwhile, in America – the land of plenty, the self-proclaimed beacon of freedom and compassion – I see an ominous trend in the opposite direction. With a brutal “sequester” in place, Congress is taking advantage of the mandatory budget cuts to slash aid to the needy. Today comes news (from reporter Thom Hartmann, via Truthout) that the Senate Agricultural Committee has cut $4 billion of food aid from the Farm Bill, for example – and that’s just a tiny part of the planned deprivation for the most vulnerable members of society.
The House Agricultural Committee is about to cut the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program by $21 billion! That money feeds nearly two million low-income Americans, including seniors and working families with children.
Overall, GOP House members have proposed almost $40 billion of cuts to the farm bill.
That’s par for the course in today’s America. The Republican “austerity” program has already brought massive cuts to unemployment insurance, meals on wheels, public housing, and public education.
In short, America’s social safety net is under attack. At the same time, America’s rich are getting obscenely richer. The New York Times reported last July that a new study had shown just how skewed income distribution had become. Here’s an excerpt:
Compared to the last generation, wealth has been become more concentrated in the hands (and bank accounts and houses) of the richest Americans. Exactly why is debatable. The global markets for labor and capital have changed, of course. And the lower tax rate on capital gains — which disproportionately helps richer people, who have more capital to invest — has helped the richest amass ever higher net worths.
A recent article in Mother Jones Magazine puts it this way:
A huge share of the nation’s economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent, who now make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us? $31,244.
The Republicans must be celebrating. The society they are working so hard to create is taking shape.
It’s a Third World society.
May 16, 2013 3 Comments
If I hear the word “Benghazi” one more time I shall go stark, raving mad. And as for that IRS “scandal,” all I have to say is: “Phooey!” The Republicans have got the media screaming as if their hair was on fire – but over what?
Could the Republicans be whipping up a frenzy so they can impeach the president – as they’ve been yearning to do for so long?
Are they full of you-know-what?
If there’s anything crystal clear about the Benghazi tragedy, it’s that President Obama had nothing to do with it. It all went down without his knowledge or consent. That’s hardly a “high crime or misdemeanor” as impeachment would require. It’s horrible that four American diplomats died, and it looks as if typical bureaucratic bungling could be to blame. But it wasn’t Barack Obama who did the bungling (it wasn’t Hillary, either).
The Republicans in Congress would be better employed trying to catch the terrorists responsible and figuring out how to prevent anything like that from happening again instead of trying to implicate the White House.
Now, about the IRS. Of course it looks bad when the tax man goes after one political party and not the other. Shame on the IRS for that!
But, tell the truth, if you were checking out applications for tax exemption from organizations with “Tea Party” in their names, wouldn’t you be skeptical? Nobody could possibly believe a Tea Party group is designed”exclusively for the promotion of social welfare,” as the tax-free designation in question demands.
Surely, the president wouldn’t have to get involved to make you question those guys?
Of course, the same is true of political activists on the Democratic side, but they don’t tend to give the game away so nakedly right in the name of their group.
Sadly, none of the above matters in today’s Washington.
The only thing that matters is scoring points against political opponents. Meanwhile, the country drifts perilously close to a shipwreck with nobody at the helm. The Republicans have succeeded in blocking the president’s efforts to govern, and they have no intention of governing themselves. All they want to do is yell at the president while the country’s business remains in limbo.
And, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the real scandal in Washington.
May 15, 2013 2 Comments
This could be a short blog, as I can’t use my right hand very well. I just want to tell you that I won’t be writing blogs for a while. It could be a few days. It could be a few weeks. We will have to see.
I have just come from the dermatologists’ office, where I had a cancer cut out of my right hand. It’s not the worst kind of cancer – it’s a kind with the whimsical name of squamous cell carcinoma. But the operation was a lot more than the usual freezing that the doctor employs to get rid of those pre-cancers that pop up from time to time.
This time there was a whole lot or cutting and sewing going on.
Still, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I heard it wasn’t one of the more aggressive varieties of skin cancer – a Merkel cell carcinoma, for example or the dreaded melanoma. In the wee hours of the morning, waiting for the biopsy results, I had fears of really bad news… I even wondered if the age spot on my hand that had suddenly begun to erupt and itch was a secondary cancer, a signal that something far more sinister was lurking in my body.
I didn’t know how well I could handle that.
My brother Bill was so brave when they found the cancer in his throat and one of his tonsils. He endured hour upon hour of radiation, and to this day has to battle the after-effects. He has trouble swallowing, for example, and must be very careful taking care of his teeth. Still, he is always cheerful, and introduces himself as “a proud cancer survivor.”
But he is an old soldier and he survived polio to become a boxing champion. I spent my working life at the typewriter -and later the computer - writing and editing. He is made of sterner stuff than I.
My sister Elizabeth and our youngest sibling, Peter, have both had skin cancers cut from their faces – right next to one eye in both cases. They shrug off the experience, saying these were mere basal cell carcinomas, but the surgery to remove the cancers was long and deep.
Imagine shrugging off any kind of cancer! In my day, we called it “the Big C.” We’ve come a long way, baby.
My Uncle Harry died of cancer. My father died of cancer…
Cancer is among my darkest fears.
But after all these years of research and study, the terrifying scourge is losing some of its menace. Who knows? We might be nearing the day when it is defeated – like small pox and polio and so many other once-deadly diseases.
I see this blog turned out to be longer than I thought, and my hand is hurting. But what’s a little pain when we’re talking about something so important?
May 6, 2013 8 Comments