Near-Successes of History

Near miss

[The blog has been quiet lately, because we’re in a crunch time at work, which will continue for the next month or so. I have a lot of articles I want to write, but no time to write them. Alas, most of those topics will grow stale before I can get to them.]

George Carlin had a routine where he questioned why we have the phrase “near miss”. After all, it didn’t nearly miss. It really did miss! It should be called a “near hit”!

I’ve been thinking of a couple of the near misses of history. In these cases, though, they should be called “near successes”.

The first involved that regressive Southern blight, Senator Jesse Helms and Korean Airlines flight 007, one of the worst catastrophes of the 1980s. The plane crash was a disaster too.

I remember that incident clearly. I was furious. How could this happen? There clearly is no God. No God that is all-loving could allow such a tragedy to occur.

Jesse Helms was supposed to be on KAL 007, but he missed his flight!

The ’80s wouldn’t have sucked quite so hard, if he’d only known how to get to places on time.

I discovered the second near-success just recently when I was reading up on the Jonestown Massacre.

Congressman Leo Ryan had traveled to Guyana in 1978 to investigate rumors of human rights abuses at Jonestown. Crazy cult leader Jim Jones assassinated most of the congressional delegation as they were trying to depart.

Wikipedia tells us this:

Ryan had also asked his friend Indiana Congressman Dan Quayle to accompany him… but Quayle was unable to go on the trip.

George H.W. Bush’s election campaign (and subsequent presidency? Who knows?) would have been different if his Vice Presidential candidate had been different.

I certainly would have been less nervous in those days. We all lived in fear that something bad would happen to GHW Bush, allowing his thoroughly unqualified Vice President to take over.

I certainly hope our country never gets into that situation again.

Hey, Sarah! There’s another “Congress on Your Corner” happening in Tucson soon! I think you need to investigate!

12 Responses to “Near-Successes of History”

  1. Bacopa Says:

    Thanks for the link to the KAL 007. I remember that as a very tense time, and it was good to read up on it again. I can see why the Russians were so tense as the US and Japan had been contucting military exercises in the area, including spy plane flights, but why did they have to be such assholes afterwords? They could have stuck to their story that KAL was entirely to blame and that they followed established protocols (which was true) while reducing tensions by not interfering with recovery efforts.

    BTW, I did not know that KAL 007 was part of the reason that they started making civilian GPS units.

  2. Parrotlover77 Says:

    I dunno. Quayle getting the presidency was a hell of a lot less stressful than Cheney getting the presidency. As dumb as Quayle was, he at least didn’t resemble Emperor Palpatine’s stunning good looks and caring demeanor. Maybe it’s because I was just a young whipper snapper during the Bush 1 years that I feel that way.

  3. Ron Britton Says:

    PL:

    Don’t forget that Cheney already had a lot of power. People used to think he was the president and Bush was the puppet. That wasn’t entirely true (or false). Things would not have changed much if Bush had died and Cheney took over.

    I was never worried. Every indication was that it was Cheney who would be the first to die (from a fatal heart attack) at any moment.

  4. Jeff Says:

    Frontline ran a fascinating and distressing installment last year in which they traced Cheney’s manipulations from his time on the board of Halliburton through his tenure as VP. The evidence indicates that he planned the war years in advance for monetary and political reasons. It was no afterthought that Halliburton has had the most lucrative contracts in Iraq.

    If they’re correct – and they seem to be – he’s probably one of the most evil men of the 20th century.

    Whether or not Bush is as stupid as we like to say he is, it’s undeniable that he isn’t the brightest bulb in the box. Also, it’s been made pretty apparent that he wanted to become president because of unresolved issues with his father. I came across an interesting blurb the other day. Bob Woodward interviewed him at one point, asked him if he’d consulted his father for advice before going to war. He replied that he hadn’t, then, Woodward said, he became defensive. He went on to tell Woodward that Bush, Sr. isn’t the type of father one goes to for advice, then said, “I have a higher father to whom I appeal.” This says a great deal about both his motivation and his faith.

    (The whole notion of God as parent is something with which psychiatrists, psychologists and cultural anthropologists can have – and have had – a field day. Naturally, you can’t explain this to evangelicals; as I keep saying, they are the least introspective people on the planet.)

    The bottom line is that I see Bush as someone who is easily manipulated.

  5. Lindsay Says:

    I too, had fond memories of Murphy Brown relentlessly making fun of Dan Quayle. And fond memories of him spelling “potato” wrong.

    The KAL 007 article was a good read, thanks for the link. I vaguely remember this as a kid, or at least it being on the news.

  6. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Ron – Maybe it’s just my naivete, but I always felt like W. was a filter on the True Wrath of Cheney. Keep in mind that they are not on good terms now and Bush did defy Cheney’s orders at times. It was unfiltered Cheney that scared me.

    Jeff – far be it from me to question Frontline’s analysis and investigative reporting, but I always felt like any and all neocons were just looking for any old excuse to invade Iraq. What I mean is that whether it be Cheney, Gingrich, McCain, or whomever, it was bound to happen. I think the Haliburton link is pretty obvious, but even without Cheney, they would have gotten plenty of lucrative contracts. They are just really in bed with the Pentagon.

    So while it was a complete profiteering clusterfuck under Bush/Cheney and I’m sure there’s plenty of strong links about Cheney planning things well in advance, I’m also reasonably sure Kill Sadam Hussein Boners would have been raging under any sufficiently wingnutty president (ie, the entire Republican field) during that time.

    I’ll have to watch that Frontline investigation to see what new stuff they found. Sounds interesting.

    And, yea, God as AlphaDad is weird, especially when Jesus, who is also God, is the bride of the church. The whole thing is quite incestuous.

  7. Jeff Says:

    I remember hearing that when he nominated that woman who worked for him – was it Katherine Harris? – for the Supreme Court, without Cheney’s permission, Cheney got angry. He said something along the lines of, “He didn’t have the guts to tell me to my face.”

    As for the rest – of course, but Cheney happens to be the one who masterminded it. I’m certainly not saying the Repubs opposed him. He reportedly told them, after 9/11, “This war is a horse we can ride through the next election.”

    Frontline episodes:

    Cheney’s Law
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/cheney/

    Bush’s War
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/bushswar/

    It’s enough to make you give up on the political process entirely, even if you aren’t as cynical and pessimistic as I am.

  8. Ron Britton Says:

    PL:

    I know Cheney’s influence over W waned a bit over the years, so I guess you’re right. Unfiltered Cheney would have been worse than Quayle.

    Iraq probably would have happened as long as the neocons had power. 9/11 was the biggest disaster for American democracy and civil rights ever, because (and I’ll say this again) most Americans are stupid. In this case, they couldn’t turn over total control to to the executive branch and surrender their civil rights fast enough.

    Jeff:

    Naturally, you can’t explain this to evangelicals; as I keep saying, they are the least introspective people on the planet.

    You say a lot of things about them! You’re right, though. Stupefyingly oblivious to their own internal motivations.

    It’s enough to make you give up on the political process entirely, even if you aren’t as cynical and pessimistic as I am.

    I was a fatalist about how this country is run long before the Bush Plague (thank you, Reagan!), but that just further cemented my beliefs (but somehow I keep voting, so I guess there’s some kernel of stupid optimism left inside somewhere).

  9. Parrotlover77 Says:

    As for the rest – of course, but Cheney happens to be the one who masterminded it…

    Cheney is evil enough to almost make me believe in the devil, but I always thought he was more just along for the ride to make as much money as possible — innocent people getting killed was just inconsequential to him. But to actually be the mastermind behind the effort, I always thought that was just hyperbole. I’m going to have to watch that frontline now.

    In this case, they couldn’t turn over total control to to the executive branch and surrender their civil rights fast enough.

    I don’t think most people had any idea what they were surrendering because it would only be used on “those people.” As much of a failure of intelligence it was to allow the Patriot Act to be widely supported by the citizenry, it was also a complete disaster of messaging on the part of civil liberties. I don’t know how you possibly combat power grabs like that in the climate of Patriotic Kumbaya and fear of terrrrism, but the way it was done was an Epic Fail.

    …kernel of stupid optimism…

    If you ever lose that kernel, keep voting at least just to slow down the destruction, even if you don’t believe stopping it is possible.

    I still live in my own little happy clappy world. As bad as things recently were / still are, I just don’t see it as being nearly as bad as the REALLY bad times in this country’s history. The Civil War? The Great Depression? WWII?

    And I still maintain that in ten to twenty years, after a sufficient amount of old white fucks die off, the momentum will abruptly shift and liberalism will not constantly be on the defensive.

  10. Jeff Says:

    I always thought he was more just along for the ride to make as much money as possible

    Certainly, it was all about money, but, according to the Frontline folks (I hope I gave you the correct links), he was proactive about it.

    And I still maintain that in ten to twenty years, after a sufficient amount of old white fucks die off, the momentum will abruptly shift and liberalism will not constantly be on the defensive.

    Yeah – we ain’t got twenty years. I don’t know that we have ten.

  11. Ron Britton Says:

    I don’t think most people had any idea what they were surrendering

    I told you. Americans are stupid. It’s not ignorance. Us lefties told them what would happen. They’re incapable of learning.

    It’s not just the fundies or the conservatives (and not all conservatives; just the mindless drones who swallow what they’re told). It’s also a majority of the independent voters. They waffle in the wind, unable to comprehend anything complex such as political misdirection or lies that feel good.

    (The left has its dummies too, but they manifest it differently.)

  12. Parrotlover77 Says:

    I told you. Americans are stupid. It’s not ignorance. Us lefties told them what would happen. They’re incapable of learning.

    I just don’t see it that way. The views of the “average” citizen just aligns far too closely with how the media is framing the issue. It’s possible that’s an effect and not cause, but I just don’t find it conclusive. That’s why I think it’s ignorance and not stupidity.

    That said, I will certainly, by far, agree that a significant enough amount of people are stupid to swing elections and drive policy, even if I fall short of thinking most are actually stupid and unable to be educated.

    (The left has its dummies too, but they manifest it differently.)

    Welcome, Huffington Post readers! ;-)