Sunday, August 28, 2011

Battles Long Ago: First Manila 1898

...over at GFT:Dusky Spanish damsels, plucky Yankee adventurers, sly foreigners (twirling their mustaches, no doubt...) and a rousing tale of planting the Grand Old Flag!Civilize 'em with a Krag!

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Why I Fight" - Sgt Raab's Post

Since I don't wish to color his declaration in any way, I'll not provide a selected quote, rather read the whole thing for yourselves . . .

There's also this . . .

As to my perspective, consider that I volunteered at 18 for the USMCR in April 1975 the same month that Saigon fell. I served into the mid 1990s in various capacities - reserve, active duty, civilian US Army. I'm a small town Southern conservative who left the GOP in disgust due to Iran-Contra in the mid 1980s. I think the country would have been far better off had George W. Bush remained an obnoxious drunk and not found religion or a political "calling".

Never fired a shot in anger, never really, physically risked my life, or maybe, but hard to tell. Still, if you consider I was in Berlin in the late 1980s . . . with my family. And we wouldn't have given up. Whatever the Cold War's worth in the pecking order of US wars . . .

World War II's definitely on top, but there are not too many of those vets left anymore. Korea? Nobody asks. Cold War's not even on the list.

Vietnam looks a lot better than it did 40 years ago . . . What exactly that's due to I'd ask Publius to go into . . .

Iraq, Afghanistan, the whole Global War on Terror? I just wish they would all end. That maybe some politician might say, "It's time to come home America and fix the country!" Don't hear anybody saying that!

Still, given the right point in time, maybe, a soldier might say . . . something different and unlike all the times in the past, it might make a difference . . .

Finally, simply, I don't really recognized what this gentleman - Jonathan Raab - is talking about.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What is Empire?

Emperor Napoleon I

EMPIRE is a term which is often used today to describe US policies, or rather specifically reactive US domestic and foreign policies since September 11, 2001.

To analyze this properly we need a clear ideal type as to what "Empire" is, what makes it distinct from say "the State", which is the usual apparatus of control for political communities. In 2005, Dr. Herfried Münkler published a book entitled Imperien, which was published two years later in English as Empires. I will refer to the English translation in order to present Münkler's ideal type of Empire. Münkler's a professor of political theory which is a broad discipline which would include not only Clausewitzian strategic theory but the political theories providing context to it. He has been described as a "one man thinktank" and deserves a wide dissemination of his ideas.

Once we have an ideal type as a yardstick, we can then compare it to what we see in reality and present those views for discussion. My goal here is to create a dialectic whereby through presentation, question and response we all attain a higher appreciation and understanding of this current political phenomenon which affects the entire world. Since we have had whatever varying success with this type of discussion numerous times here on MilPub in the past, I have every reason to assume that we will do so again this time around.

Everyone reading is welcome to comment, in fact I would specifically encourage some of the great number of silent readers we have to express their views . . . Such comments/questions could be about the strengths or weaknesses of Münkler's ideal type, or how effectively it describes specific political entities today . . .

Now to Münkler's ideal type. The elements should be clear and well-defined, expressing extremes of various sorts. Ideal types are not found in reality, but contain exaggerated characteristics found in reality. There is also no morality associated with the "ideal" in ideal type, one could describe an ideal type whorehouse or political machine. I refer here to pages 5-8 in Empires:

Quotes from the book are within "--".

--

First, an empire must be distinguished from a state, or more precisely, from an institutional territorial state, which operates according to completely different imperatives and a completely different action logic. This begins with the way the population is internally integrated and extends to how boundaries are conceived. the boundary line typical of states is sharp and clearly demarcated; it indicates the transition from one state to another. Such precise dividing lines are exceptional in the case of empires. To be sure, the boundaries of an empire are no longer lost in those wide expanses in which tribes and nomadic peoples sometimes obeyed imperial requirement and sometimes resisted them, but even since the disappearance of those unruled spaces into which the classical empires were able to expand, imperial boundaries have remained different from state borders. Imperial boundaries do not divide political units possessing equal rights; instead they involve gradations of power and influence. Moreover, in contrast to state boundaries, they are not equally permeable in both directions; those who wish to enter an imperial space must satisfy different conditions from those who leave it. This is connected to the economic as well as the cultural attraction of imperial powers; more want to enter than to leave, and this has consequences for the border regime. --

Or in a nutshell -- Empires have no neighbors which they recognize as equals, that is as possessing equal rights; with states, by contrast, this is the rule. In other words, states are always in the plural, empires mostly in the singular.--

Second, but related -- States integrate their populations equally, above all, grant them equal rights whether they live at the core of the state or in its border regions - this is not the case with empires: there is almost always a scale of integration descending from center to periphery, which usually corresponds to decreasing right and an increasingly limited capacity to determine the politics of the center.

Third, empires must be delineated in contrast to hegemonic structures of dominance. The line between hegemonic supremacy and imperial dominance may be fluid, but it is still meaningful to distinguish the two. Hegemony is supremacy within a group of formally equal political players; imperiality, by contrast, dissolves this - at least formal - equality and reduces subordinates to the status of client states or satellites. They stand in a more or less recognized dependence in relation to the center.

Fourth, empires may be delineated in contrast to what has since the 19th Century been called imperialism. A distinction between theories of empire and theories of imperialism makes it possible to disregard the normative perspective of nearly all theories of imperialism and to sharpen our descriptive-analytic focus on the imperatives of empire. The concept of imperialism also includes theories of empire-formation as a unilateral process running from center to periphery; which proves to be rather a hindrance in the observation of real empires. Imperialism means that there is a will to empire. Whether from political or economic motives, this is seen as decisive, if not the only, cause of world empire-building. . . [However] most empires have owed their existence to a mixture of chance and contingency, often taken up by individuals who were in no way legitimately authorized to do so. In that sense, almost all empires have been created 'in a fit of absence of mind'. A focus on the center, characteristic of imperialism theory, must be supplemented with a focus on the periphery - on power vacuums and economic dynamics, requests for intervention by losers in regional conflicts and decisions made by local authorities. --

I'm adding a fifth characteristic, which Münkler does not place here, but describes later (page 84 & 96). Fifth, -- All empires that have lasted any length of time have chosen as their self-justifying objective a world-historical task or mission that confers cosmological or redemptive meaning on their activity. Hegemonic powers do not need a mission, but empires cannot do without one. . . The persausiveness of an imperial mission depends to a large extent on the discursive construction of what it is directed against, or which forces it is meant to keep from becoming politically dominant. This will here be considered under the generic term of the barbarian of the barbaric . . . Imperial frontiers are thus also frontiers between cosmos and chaos.

--

So, that's my initial ideal type based on Münkler's Empires.

Let's dance!

Postscript:

We really seem to be at something of a crossroads. There is in general a resistance to taking on board the significant, even fundamental changes that have take place in the country since 2000. It's always easier to simply tell ourselves that this has "all happened before", but does that really stand up to any serious scrutiny? I find it more the need to find some commonality, some sense of bearings that could indicate where the country will go from here.

It's scary to think, as I do, that we are in essentially "uncharted waters". More to follow.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How I Lost the War

I'm a loser
I'm a loser
And I'm not what I appear to be

--I'm a Loser
, The Beatles

Some day, yeah

We'll put it together and we'll get it all done

Some day

When your head is much lighter

Some day, yeah

--Ooh, Child
, Nina Simone

Maybe I, I tried too hard

to find someone to blame
And maybe it's me who changed
And now I'm left with nothing again
--Failure, Unloco
_________________

[*This is a true story. No sh*t.]


There are some things to which a man cannot admit. We cannot countenance the thought that our peckers are small and short-fused, nor admit that we have reluctant bladders, or that we really were not heroes.


The following admission goes way beyond these foolish psychosexual fripparies. It has been Ranger's secret cross to bear for decades. You see, he is the reason the U.S. lost the Vietnam War.


Forget all of the armchair quarterbacking you've heard over the years, blaming everything from hippies to the U.S. running like scalded dog. I am here to tell you the real deal: The weight of the nation rested upon the fitness of U.S. Army personnel, and Ranger let the sacred honor of the nation down on this front

He knows because CPT Willoughby told him so. It was OH Dark Thirty and the universe was clipping through the month of September in the year 1968. Tet '68 had just delivered a humbling, and Ranger was a young shave-tail wearing infantry brass on collar if not in his heart.

The revelation occurred during Physical Training, specifically, the jumping jacks portion. Ranger was dogging it because he was tired, hungover and just did not give a flip about the exercise regimen of the Army at that moment. His mien was dour; Richard Simmons he was not (nor is he.) He needed some serious tightening up.


My bad attitude was infecting the Army, or so said Captain Frank
"Fucking" Willoughby, our class training monitor. Frank called me all sorts of sorry motherfucker and said in no uncertain terms that it was guys like me that were losing the war. Incidentally, it was Ranger's first exposure to motherfucker as non-hyphenated noun versus verb. Motherfucker as an entity in and of itself, and not the description of an unsavory action.

That encounter started my thinking about alternate recompense for being a soldier. If the Army paid a quarter for every time someone called me a motherfucker, I would be a rich mother-fucker. Sadly, this initiative was never adopted.
(I'd like to kick the ass of the motherfucker who nixed my proposition.)

In retrospect it is clear the National Liberation Front and VC had a rarefied intel apparatus to be able to divine my dogging it during PT and learn that all they need do is wait for me and my ilk to make our way forward.


After a lifetime of forced denial, I bare my soul and individual culpability in this colossal failure. This is why I shun most fraternal military gatherings: I know we lost before I even got on station, and that the loss was my doing.
My crossed rifles may as well be scarlet.

This is my most important confession.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'Cause the Bible Tells Me So

One thing my rock-ribbed agnosticism has always helped me with is soldiering.

Knowing that I don't have to agonize over how an omniscient, omnipotent, loving Father God can sit on his holy ass in the sky whilst humans inflict all sorts of horrors on each other has made doing whatever fucked-up military thing I was told to turn my hand to so much simpler.

But I did get a certain amount of unholy (as it were) amusement out of watching my Christian comrades try and work through the notion that the Christ that called them to love one another as he had loved them - and died for them - could also ask them to rip apart tiny children and helpless civilians as part of their mission.And - just my opinion, mind you - "nuclear war" has always seemed like the LEAST defensible of the "just war" notions. There's not really any sort of "defense" argument there, is there? Seeing as how you're either cold-bloodedly first-striking a helpless population, or, with missiles already inbound and your own civilization doomed, merely scourging that helpless population in a vengeful reflex, a reptile tail-whip of dying fury.

So I got a cynical chuckle our of Chaplain (Capt) Soh's little Powerpoint for missile officers that lead (naturally) to the conclusion that a good Chrstian CAN, indeed, incinerate millions of innocents and still go to church - whatever's left of it - the next day with the stainless heart of a child.

How about this?

How about just accepting that warfare in ALL its aspects is the Devil's Work and, like most things we do in our lives, there are times when the Devil sings loud and sweet, and we gleefully jump up and dance antic hay on the ruins of others' lives......and always will?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Backside to the Future

(Being A Mere Diversion, And a Personal Rumination on The State of the Nation and the Upcoming Election Year)

With the ludicrous Ames Iowa "straw poll" it appears that the 2012 campaign season has officially begin...15 months before the actual election.I can't begin to express how this irritates me.

Glenn Greenwald explains better than I can how the combination of endless "election" coverage combined with the rapacious cable news 24/7/365 cycle hammered down into the simpleminded "tell the masses what they want not what they need" paradigm of the corporate news (and, of course, sprinkled with some commercial gottasellsomeads! pixie dust) goes in one end and emerges a Möbius band of idiocy that ties misinformation into disinformation with plain, good old fatuousness for a sort of fractal stupidity; refracted infinitely to where any hope of extracting simple, sane understanding of the people and their ideas has vanished.

But at least on one hand the tale told by one of the idiots - while set about with sound and fury signifying nothing (that is, the usual folderol involving gays, guns, and God - fodder for the gossip columns and the prayer breakfasts but nothing more than a magnetic sticker on the bumper of the People Who Matter in our electoral "process") - is simple enough.

No new taxes. In fact, no taxes at all, or as close as possible.

Small government. Teeny, tiny, eensy-weensy leetle government (except the part that blows up Scary Brown People, but that's the cool part, anyway).

Freedom for the Job Creators! Deregulate everything regulatable!

Free Markets! (meaning; deregulate even MORE stuff!)

Plus some other truly crazy shit; abolishing the Fed, returning to the gold standard, protection for precious rapist-babies...but you know the drill - that's just to give the loonies a shiny pretty to play with.

Here's the thing; this is nothing new. Nothing. We've already been there, done that, and got the crinoline and the Arrow t-shirt.

Low taxes? Freedom for the magnates? Utter deregulation and a complete lack of federal anything?The Gilded Age.

Seriously.

And, if I have to be scrupulously honest, if I was in Forbes 400, if I was one of the rich and the powerful...why not?Hell, the pre-Depression United States was a paradise for a rich man (woman? enh...not quite so much). Mansions? Servants? Senators appointed at your whim? Entire federal administrations in your pocket? Ask the Doles how that Hawaii thing worked out for them, the Rockefellers how the Standard Oil gig payed off before those meddlesome Progressive trustbusters elbowed in.

And let me be honest about this, too; the United States works perfectly well as an open oligarchy. It did from about 1870 to 1930, and don't kid yourself; some pigs are still more equal than others and always have been. Tell me that you get the same meal ticket emerging from the Oregon Episcopal School versus Jefferson High School here in Portland.

Henh. Right.

But I'm not here to argue equality of outcomes.

I'm here to talk about next year.

It's becoming painfully clear that the GOP is going to nominate someone whose positions on things like federal regulations and spending are closer to those of John D. Rockefeller than his grandson. And if they win - and the continuing Great Recession makes such a win highly plausible - they will do their very best to return this country to the Gilded Age they by their words and deeds so seem to yearn for.

I consider this a very Bad Thing, largely because me and mine are unlikely to be among those included in the Four Hundred. We will not be robber barons; more likely we will be among the robbed. Mojo and I had a lovely saunter about our graceful Pittock Mansion this sunny Sunday, and I observed that had we been alive then our only glimpse of the beautiful appointments and spectacular vistas would have been as we carried the dirty linen down the stairs or brought master his cigars.But I have to accept that it would not necessarily be a Bad Thing for the nation. More nations have thrived and grown in wealth and power as oligarchies than as democracies, simply because of the late arrival of popular democracy on the historical scene. The nation as a nation might do quite well.

And it is unlikely that even the most teabaggiest Republican government would be able to go full public-be-damned on us. The welfare state is deeply ingrained in U.S. society, and there would come a point where even the most Galtian overlord would draw back from reintroducing a world of match girls and breaker boys even if it helped bring back the Gibson Girl and the Arrow Shirt guy.Make no mistake; "reforming" the entitlement systems now in place mean simply throwing people out of them. Some of those people will find ways to live without their dole money; the American people had all sorts of ways of coping with poor, sick, old parents and injured relatives before 1933 and they can reinvent those ways again. Families will return to the multigenerational homes of the past, where retired grandma cares for the grandkids while mom and dad work, in return for food and a bed. There are ways, there are ways.But.

And this is a big "but"...

Two things have changed enormously since the last time we tried to live this way, assuming that the GOP experiment goes forward. And I'm not sure whether they've really thought this out.

First, in 1911 the U.S. was a burgeoning industrial power; work was there - not always good work, often dirty, hard, low-paying, dangerous work - but it was there. And it was work that needed people; vastly manual, even when skilled. The factories of the Gilded Age needed lots of poor people to work them.Second, there was still a hell of a lot of "open" land, and "open" places, for people to go to try and start again. The frontier only officially closed in 1890, and even in the Fifties there were lots of places that were still booming and enjoyed a boomtown's need for people.And both of of those "safety valves" are gone.

If the Great Recession and the thirty years of deregulation, outsourcing, offshoring, downsizing, and deunionization have proved anything to the people Who Matter in business and politics, it's that Henry Ford's old paradigm - pay the workers better so they will buy more stuff - has been broken. The "old economy" here in the U.S. - the economy that depended on American working people working to make stuff that other American working people bought - is tanking, HAS tanked, and I don't think anyone knows how to put all those people back to work in any sort of work that pays a living wage.And there's nowhere to "go". The frontier really IS closed, and there's no hope for people to take up forty acres and try and make a go of it. Oh, sure, you can try an start-up a little company, make cute glass cups or design webpages or invent a new application for a cell phone...but working for yourself is a backbreaking task, and especially in the corporatist U.S. of 2011 there are so many ways that a bigger, more powerful competitor can dry-gulch you. My wife is a "contractor" and I've seen the sausage-making up close. They're right - it's not pretty. And it's not going to get you into the parlor at Pittock Mansion, either.

So assuming that the Gilded Age Project largely succeeds, we can assume that it will result in a fairly large group - larger than we have dealt with in living history - of relatively permanently unemployed or under-employed people, people who not only don't have work but for whom the IS no work, no work that can't and won't be done by someone in Bangladesh or Uruguay for a fraction of what that American would need to make to live even at poverty levels in this country. That among this group will be many old, sick, and old sick people. And that if there IS a way out of that throwback to the future it is something that not only is unapparent to us now, but even potential precursors are not apparent.

The old economy is failing. The new economy - whatever that may be - has not yet emerged, if it ever will emerge in any form that will help those knocked down by the fall of the old economy to their feet again.

And one major political group in U.S. politics believes that the best response to this is to return as closely to the conditions of 1889 as possible.

So.

I'm not sure what is in store for me, for my family, for you and yours. But I suspect that even if we don't end up turning back down the road towards the past we're in for some hard years ahead.

And if we do...well...

If the U.S. Army taught me one thing, I learned how to mop a fucking floor.Hopefully when I get laid off I won't be too old to get a job cleaning up at the Big House.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Couple of Things in August


Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, 1961

On vacation, at home, trying to achieve that balance between relaxation/necessary work/creative endeavor. A couple of things have come to mind in the last few days.

First off, we have the 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961, which took the Western Allies in Berlin by surprise at the time, although it shouldn't have. The situation was very tense 50 years ago in Berlin and this tension lasted, if in a lesser degree, to the time 28 years later when the people brought that wall down. So, what was initiated by a state with with limited popular support (based mostly on a grotesque view of the "other") lasted only as long as the people it was meant to control submitted themselves to that control (that is Weberian social action theory). It took 28 years, but it happened which is the point to remember.

There are also those who argue that the whole thing was overblown, that the Soviet Army would never have attacked, that "all they wanted was peace", or "their economy was going down the tubes" ,or amazingly, that it was our military budgets (spending) which drove the USSR over the edge. It's amazing how so many people see these arguments as believable and at the same time today believe in a Global Jihadist Threat. That is the full spectrum of views in regards to the USSR unite in one simplistic view regarding the Global War on Terror.

So to make it even clearer, the USSR as a qualified threat (actually a potentially existential threat) which required certain changes in our government structure (the establishment of the National Security State after 1947) but virtually none in our Constitutional or legal systems, whereas Al Qaida's actions since 2001 have initiated a whole series of drastic (and sometimes illegal) changes in virtually every aspect of our society? Yet in what way is Al Qaida any sort of threat in the way the USSR was?

Recently a documentary was aired in Germany which addressed the Warsaw Pact plans for the conquest of West Berlin which was in turn the subject of a large East German Army field exercise in 1988, that is a year before the wall came down. It's actually a common element in corrupt elites which are on the verge of collapse, that is the consideration of the use of military power to some how remedy the situation, turn things around, remove the pressure to "reform", that is respond to public pressure. Obviously the government of the German Democratic Republic felt secure enough in 1988 to have this as an option, the people were "manageable" enough in terms of propaganda, fear, incentives and what ever other elements of power/inducement the state could muster.

What made a difference at the end of the Cold War, was of course the top man on their side, M. Gorbachev, who was a great human being, but a lousy Communist. "Communist" defined in terms of perpetuating the interests and power of the Communist elite, much as we would define our own leadership/elite today.

Consider how Eastern Europe with a worn out and discredited social/economic system in 1989 compares to the West - and especially the US - today?

So that's one thing.

The other is a response I got on one of FDChief's threads. I commented this to Andy:

"I think most serving in the armed forces today would disagree with your characterization that they are "imperials." "

Agree, but what is the actual effect of what these American "warriors" are doing? Some would argue this is all about empire, or would you argue that there actually exists a "global threat" which requires our military actions on such a scale as a response?

Are we on the defensive or the offensive? Is the enemy a threat to our "freedom" or simply responding to our depredations? A very basic question from a strategic theory perspective; I suppose it comes down to that . . .


Andy was kind enough to respond:

That's a good point, but these wars aren't "imperial" simply because they are strategically incoherent. If we were installing Viceroy's in Iraq and/or Afghanistan and granting US corporations exclusive rights to territorial resources, then I'd think these would be "imperial" wars. We would have a clear purpose that would, theoretically at least, provide us a clear and material benefit.

What have we gained? What is the purpose? IMO, as I've said before, I think these are now wars of national honor and the reason we are still there is that our politicians think they can't leave without a clear "win" and the American people don't want to suffer the perceived psychological consequences of a Vietnam-like "failure." The sunk-cost fallacy is also at work.

After a bit more thinking, I'll add this to my earlier thoughts: Maybe it's an artifact of the AVF, but for me and most people I know, service is in large part about "serving the nation" and the deal is that if you want to serve the nation, you don't get to pick and choose your wars. Almost everyone today, including me, continue to serve by choice despite misgivings about our current conflicts (obviously, my misgivings are not everyone's). Each individual, therefore, has to balance whether service is worth the downsides, whatever those downsides may be. For most people, continued service is not worth the cost and they either choose not to join at all or serve one or two hitches.

So I guess it strikes me as - not sure how to put this - "unfair" to suggest that the sacrifice these men made is somehow diminished because the campaign they fought and died in didn't rise to someone else's arbitrary level of righteousness. I have a hard time entertaining the notion that the sacrifice of a soldier in WWII who was accidentally killed by by his own troops is somehow greater or more honorable than those guys in the 47, or the soldier in Iraq who dies to save his men. Everyone has their own opinion and I'm not claiming any moral high ground here, but for me personally I feel completely unqualified to make such judgments.


I think Andy's comment very articulate and informative, but communicating something else then what he intended, possibly. I assume no agendas/political views beyond the content of this single comment, rather simply separate and develop the points made.

First, my questions were addressed to a citizen/the citizenry of the political community called the USA, not to the troops who go where they are sent. If these military members serve the nation, then it is the responsibility of the citizenry that the political leadership (in theory our elected representatives) ensure that they are actually operating in the interests of the US. An elite that arbitrarily uses the powers of the state for their own narrow interests is by definition a tyranny.

Second, while the US political purpose is "incoherent" it is not blatantly so - no "Viceroys" ruling in our name - and the series of wars seemingly provide no benefit to the nation at all. That is where this consideration ends, though without considering that the wars in question might actually support the interests of the elite, while providing the nation with no benefit, are in fact contrary to our political community's interests. This of course within a context of constant government deception and propaganda, in effect selling this necessarily ambiguous threat as "existential". This in turn would indicate a very serious state of affairs, the collapse of the concept of citizenship, accountability of elected officials, consideration of the long-term effects of what is carried out in our name, how our policies might actually bring about the "war of civilizations" hornets nest we insist on beating . . . the questions only become more serious as you follow this line of thought . . .

Third, it seems that this view argues that as long as the military assumes the war passes whatever their own subjective smell test is, it will continue, since by continuing the military "serves the nation" and upholds its own "honor". For those military members unable to deal with this, they get out after "one or two tours". That is it is only those career military who actually count.

Finally, arguing against these wars is simply exercising an "arbitrary level of righteousness" against, not the political leadership, they enter into this discussion not at all, but against the military: that is "attacking the troops".

In all I would label his view, "21st Century US militarism" which indicates for me a collapse of all our traditional ideals of the citizen, the political leadership, the military and even the use of state force itself.

Postscript (from one of my comments below):

--We're talking a lot about symptoms, but not much about causes. If we go to the actual root causes then I think we get an idea of the extent of the crisis facing not only the US, but also the West (but to a lesser degree).

Systemic failure due to elites who simply cannot divorce themselves from the Weltanschauung which educated, formed and conditioned them and has been shown to be dysfunctional, incapable of reform or even acknowledging the extent of the crisis.

Obama is a product of the same elite system of education and indoctrination. He vacations on Martha's Vineyard since that is where the East Coast elite go and he wishes very much to signal that he is one with that elite. It's not based on race or ethnic background, but on class and sharing the same background which is the glue that holds the whole thing together.

The same Ivy League idiots who ran the economy off a cliff are retained and rewarded since there are no others to replace them with. This crop would be replaced with the same systems managers who caused the last big crack up.

Ditto with every major institution we have - the military included - the same thinking but from the service academies.

Our elite cannot deal with systemic failure because simply they are NOT even aware they are dealing with a failed system, rather for them this is the one and only "reality" and scary brown people who "hate our freedom" are definitely part of it.

Consider the group reading these words. How many of us are autodidacts, who have been fundamental to our own individual educations? How many of us are by nature critical thinkers? How many of us see the world, not in binary black/white, but in infinite shades of gray? How many of us see that in America today there are no actual conservative or progressive political alternatives?

And there's something else . . .

I think those who see this disaster more clearly also have a coherent system of values. I know that word has been debased for decades, but consider what I'm talking about is not "right" and "wrong" but a coherent structure. This was common in the past, btw, in all healthy societies. Values are not what make us "feel good about ourselves", but give meaning to our world. Many times we have found ourselves not living up to our own values, which is the opposite of the sanctimonious buffoonery (actually narrow self-centered interest) common today. These values reflect in turn our belonging to a larger community, and it is in many cases this poor reflection which discourages us perhaps the most.

The country has changed or rather has been changed, but we have not, nor will we. Imo the growing conflict in the US today is not between "Left" and "Right", or "Liberal" and "Conservative", but between the elite and their stooges (both Obamaites and Right Wing Nihilists), and the anti-elite, which is a diffuse and reactionary movement. Given the disparity of power, the best strategy - as we have spoken about before - is one similar to that taken by the peoples of Eastern Europe prior to 1989 . . .

Essentially we are the anti-elite . . .

--

We need to start with simple definitions. First "Empire" . . .

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Lament of the Frontier Guard

By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand,
Lonely from the beginning of time until now!
Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.
I climb the towers and towers
to watch out the barbarous land:


My friend jim recently posted an extended rumination about the combat loss of a CH-47 and the embarked team of Navy SEALs. In this post he uses President Obama's term "sacrifice" to compare the way these men died to the offerings presented to the gods; in this case, the twin gods of War and Hubris that have ruled lately in the East. He asks "How can a nation sacrifice the best that we have to offer in such a blithe manner?" and suggests that these dead men were sacrifices for our national sins of arrogance and foolishness.Now I have no end of respect for jim's opinions on things military. He's been there and done that and got the O.D. T-shirt. He's probably forgotten more about soldiering than I'll ever know.

But in this case, I think he's looking at this as an American and a citizen-soldier, and that's the wrong way to look at this.

Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert.
There is no wall left to this village.
Bones white with a thousand frosts,
High heaps, covered with trees and grass;
Who brought this to pass?
Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?
Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?
Barbarous kings.


For most of these guys the Saturday in Wardak Province was just another day at work. They are long-service professionals - imperial troops in all but name - and they are doing what imperial troops have done since Augustus' day; carrying our imperial policy in the far reaches of the imperial frontiers.

This was no army of liberation storming ashore on the beaches of Normandy or Italy, no army of vengeance pouring gasoline into the caves of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. This wasn't even "Lafayette, we are here" or "Remember the Maine". While I'm sure that one or two of the guys who augered in somewhere in the Tangi Valley comforted themselves with the fiction that they were avenging 9/11 I'll bet most of them thought about their mission as imperials have always thought about the mission of civilizing the savages with a rifle.Long, tiring work, typically boring, occasionally terrifying, often fruitless. Pitied and ignored by the civilians safe at home, feared or swindled by the natives nearby, tasked by the uninformed higher-ups to perform everything from the pointless to the dangerous, taking successes wherever and however possible, accepting failures as part of the game.

A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,
A turmoil of wars - men, spread over the middle kingdom,
Three hundred and sixty thousand,
And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning,
Desolate, desolate fields,
And no children of warfare upon them,
No longer the men for offence and defence.


And I believe we do them a disservice when we use the language of popular mass wars for what they do and how they die. The President, of course, well, it's his job to drape the charred bits of meat and bone - all that remain after JP-4 and airframe aluminum combine to combust human bodies - in patriotic bunting. He is, after all, both our national mourner and national cheerleader, saying the correct and solemn words over the caskets filled with sand, fanning the fire in the faint hearts to continue the fight that will bring more dead men home to more bereft hearts.

But we should be big enough to overlook these public platitudes and see these men for what they are; imperial legionaries of a most unimperial empire, manning the milecastles we build for them with our taxes, our reflexive rage, our incurious sloth, and our ignorance of the world and the people in it.

Those dead men, could they reassemble themselves, could they pull the poncho-liner of whole flesh back on so as not to frighten us with the gibbering horror of their deaths in a rage of fire and metal, might tell us of the people in those far places who killed them and whom they killed, the broken places and the broken tribes within them, whose ferocities and griefs they and we will never understand. They might tell us about the meaningless strobing of parachute flares in the night sky, of little villages with yesterday's bulletholes in walls that Alexander's troops passed by, of walking over the same ground they walked yesterday and finding new death buried by the roadside.

But, then again, they might not.

Because there is no way we in the soft lands and the quiet places could understand what it means to try and defeat the 14th Century with the weapons of the 20th.

Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate,
With Rihoku's name forgotten,
And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.


Because they are atop the milecastles, peering out to the barbarous lands, and we are peacefully asleep in the fat lands within the walls. Because they know war and we do not. Because they are not our sacrifices; they are our proxies. Because, although we have never seen a tiger or know what it does...

...we feed them to the tigers.And then go home to our dinners.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Queen's Peace

I used this picture to close the preceding post.Because it's rather a powerful image and let me explain why I think so.

The police officer has all the accoutrements of First World riot control circa 2011; helmet, facemask, radio, riot shield, baton, all in police blue, all very modern and urban down to her mascara.

But look at her.

Take the club out of her hand and shove a sword in it and she's 1211, not 2011, facing down Welsh rebels for King John. Or 711, fighting the Moors at Tours. Or 511BC, chasing helots out of Sparta. All our complex learning hasn't changed the simple understanding of one human standing ready to deal out brutal force against another.

For all our inventiveness, and gadgets, and indoor plumbing, for all our "civilization" and "wisdom" and "learning"...Constable Nameless with her club and shield reminds us that we haven't come all THAT far from when we were some damn pithecanthropus scratching our ass wondering whether that thing under that bush is something to eat or something that's going to eat us.

The Red Flag

The recent failure of the U.S. governing class to understand that the immediate (i.e. next decade's) problems are not those of debts and deficits but of jobs and joblessness make the recent news from London something of a nasty reminder of what happens when a substantial portion of your working-age population ends up jobless for long periods of time.I think we need to remember that we are not Japan. Young American men (and women) without a job are not going to behave well for long. Why bother? What is there to lose? In the U.S. you ARE your job. And if you have no job, how much do you have? Freedom? You have the freedom to lay about, eat junk food, and do squat. As much as that might have appealed to me at age 14 for about three weeks, spending the bulk of my twenties or thirties...or fifties...doing that?

I'd probably go out and loot a 7-11, too.No question that we will have to grapple with the question of how much the U.S. governments need to take in and how much they need to spend. But before we do that we need to get through the next stage of the Great Recession (can we start calling it a Depression yet?) without finding a sizeable chunk of our population out of work and on the dole. Because that's not a good thing for them, it's not a good thing for us, and it's not a good thing for the country.There's a reason that that crafty old patrician FDR and his New Deal pals didn't just push through stuff like Social Security and unemployment insurance but created a bunch of make-work agencies; things like the CCC and WPA and the big government construction projects were a smart reaction from people who were watching what the Soviets and Italian Fascists were doing with their young people - stuffing them into armies and "labor corps" and other make-work jobs. Things like the Bonneville Dam and the CCC kept idle hands from becoming devils' playgrounds...and idle brains from getting stuffed with fascist or communist ideas. Those New Deal guys knew that having a bunch of working - i.e. military - age guys just hanging around with nothing to do was a hell of a good way to start trouble.

I'm not sure if we need a new CCC. But I'm hella sure that we don't need a bunch of stuffed hairbags in DC gassing on about the Terror of Deficits when 10% and probably more of the U.S. public is out of work and stands to be for a long, long time, at this rate.

Because despite what they tell you on TV; were not that much smarter, or better behaved, than we were in 1932. And now, as then, as the London Council is finding out...if we don't figure out how to get those guys back to work or find something for them to do, they'll find it themselves, and the rest of us might not like it."I'm out of work and on the dole,
You can stuff the red flag up your hole."

Exciting Times in Wisconsin

The previous 2 posts below this have produced comments about the capability of our fellow citizens to govern themselves, their intelligence and quality of character. As I wrote in my last post about propaganda down below in the basement, our citizens do not have consistently honest media and there is no strong consistent push to investigate and set the record straight.

I was particularly struck by Ranger's story of his encounter with a gun-owner recently. He attempted to set the record straight about the history of gun control to a fellow he met by chance in a shop, who revealed his weapon and growled "I don't speak to liberals!"

The answer to the obvious question here, how did this fine patriotic fellow get to the point where he feels he needs at least one weapon to carry around in public and where he has closed his ears to clear-as-crystal historical, factual truth, is without a doubt the constant drumbeat from the NRA and Fox that the government wants to take weapons from Americans, to deprive us of our rights.

It is curious, that this one amendment to the Constitution, about citizens and weapons, seems supreme above all in some circles.

The people of Wisconsin have found out the true nature of the people they elected to state office last November, they have learned how the people they voted for, or didn't vote for, for all intents and purposes, flat-out lied about their plans for the state and its people.

Wisdom comes to us from 2 sources: Actual Experience and Communicated Experience.

I hope this election tomorrow shows the rest of us how to take back our society from elements among us who do not have the best interests of our country at heart.

Go Wisconsin!


The End of the Road

I was reading Seydlitz's post below, thinking about what Standard and Poor's said about legislative dysfunction and realized that this Summer, the United States had ceased to be a permanent sovereign entity, and had become just another flash in the pan. All at the hands of the extreme wing of the Republican Party, prodded on by the Tea Party.

For the purpose of domestic political ends, the Right stated, very clearly, that there is no continuity in the Government of the United States. Not only did they threaten to disavow the legally made obligations of previous Sessions of Congress to the American People, but they threatened to welsh out on debts to the entire world. Not because the government is unable to meet it's current debts, but because they wanted to force the government to default on our debts in punishment for not accepting their programs of social engineering. In short, the world has been told that there is a major element in our elected government that sees the "full faith and credit" United States as only from one session of Congress to the next. There is no longer "history", just immediate gratification.

For more than 222 years, Since Rhode Island ratified the Constitution, the Government of the United States has enjoyed continuity in meeting its financial obligations. Indeed, following the Civil War, the 14th Amendment included a provision stating that any and all legally established debts of the US Government ARE NOT TO BE QUESTIONED. Those who wrote the amendment were ensuring that the debt assumed in the conduct of the Civil War would not be disavowed by a subsequent Congress, either through a change on "political winds" or procedural shenanigans (i.e. filibuster and other house rules). In short, the US was and would be an honorable borrower. Back then, of course, they were basically thinking about a political attempt to avoid honoring specific debts. I am willing to bet there was no notion that a general, voluntary default to achieve political aims would ever be considered.

So, S&P, along with the rest of the world that has invested in US debt instruments, now realize that the US has the potential, and in some quarters the desire, to be a deadbeat. Not because the money isn't there, but because the Far Right has no sense of ethics, honor, obligation or duty in regard to the legal debt of previous Congresses. Persons like John Boehner can disavow the debt he supported in the Bush Tax Cuts and Iraq War at will in order to gain political clout, and expect the world at large to carry the burden.

In short, S&P is telling us the obvious. The United States of America is no longer a continuing entity. It is simply the expression of the current power brokers, with no regard for the lawful decisions of the previous power brokers, nor the next. As with so many nations ruled by petty dictators, we now exist in two year intervals. No investment in the US is legitimate for greater than two years, regardless of the nation's ability to technically honor those debts. Rather, your investment will be subject to the whims and fancy of successive governments.

How S&P had the patience to only lower us one notch is beyond me. It's not a matter of whether our debt is sustainable. It's a matter of a proud proclamation that existing debt simply and voluntarily may not be honored at all, regardless of the ability to do so.

We have become an economic rogue nation. S&P was just being polite in how they described it.

Narratives . . . Or the Lack There of


Discourse is the beginning of a society, a conversation between members of that group. Founding stories or narratives of how that discourse began and what was said make up a "founding narrative" which we as a group build on from there. America has a founding narrative and a series of narratives that have been added on since. Stories of course are not actual factual accounts, since nobody remembers an event exactly the same way, each has his own perspective and what they thought most important and least important and rarely do those points all match across a group.

Still a common narrative holds a political community together, gives it a past and a current purpose.

When narratives begin to get confused, drowned out by the massive Wurlitzer of propaganda, or when language takes on new meanings to obscure narrow interest (as Thucydides showed us in his classic history) society starts to break down. If this is not arrested, if a coherent narrative is not able to gain ground, then perhaps dissolution is the unavoidable result.

I came across this which ya'll may find interesting . . .

In that context, Americans needed their president to tell them a story that made sense of what they had just been through, what caused it, and how it was going to end. They needed to hear that he understood what they were feeling, that he would track down those responsible for their pain and suffering, and that he would restore order and safety. What they were waiting for, in broad strokes, was a story something like this:

“I know you’re scared and angry. Many of you have lost your jobs, your homes, your hope. This was a disaster, but it was not a natural disaster. It was made by Wall Street gamblers who speculated with your lives and futures. It was made by conservative extremists who told us that if we just eliminated regulations and rewarded greed and recklessness, it would all work out. But it didn’t work out. And it didn’t work out 80 years ago, when the same people sold our grandparents the same bill of goods, with the same results. But we learned something from our grandparents about how to fix it, and we will draw on their wisdom. We will restore business confidence the old-fashioned way: by putting money back in the pockets of working Americans by putting them back to work, and by restoring integrity to our financial markets and demanding it of those who want to run them. I can’t promise that we won’t make mistakes along the way. But I can promise you that they will be honest mistakes, and that your government has your back again.” A story isn’t a policy. But that simple narrative — and the policies that would naturally have flowed from it — would have inoculated against much of what was to come in the intervening two and a half years of failed government, idled factories and idled hands. That story would have made clear that the president understood that the American people had given Democrats the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress to fix the mess the Republicans and Wall Street had made of the country, and that this would not be a power-sharing arrangement. It would have made clear that the problem wasn’t tax-and-spend liberalism or the deficit — a deficit that didn’t exist until George W. Bush gave nearly $2 trillion in tax breaks largely to the wealthiest Americans and squandered $1 trillion in two wars.

And perhaps most important, it would have offered a clear, compelling alternative to the dominant narrative of the right, that our problem is not due to spending on things like the pensions of firefighters, but to the fact that those who can afford to buy influence are rewriting the rules so they can cut themselves progressively larger slices of the American pie while paying less of their fair share for it.

But there was no story — and there has been none since. . .


Read the whole article, even if you don't agree with it. It's an attempt at something we could all use, perhaps.

I'm currently working on a strategic theory paper about Martin Luther King's strategy of non-violent direct action. In his book, Stride Toward Freedom, he wrote in 1958:

The racial issue we confront in America is not a sectional but a national problem. The citizenship rights of Negroes cannot be flouted anywhere without impairing the rights of every other American. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. A breakdown of law in Alabama weakens the very foundation of lawful government in the other forty-seven states. The mere fact that we live in the United States means that we are caught in a network of inescapable mutuality. Therefore, no American can afford to be apathetic about the problem of racial justice. It is a problem that meets every man at his front door. The racial problem will be solved in America in the degree that every American considers himself personally confronted with it. Whether one lives in the heart of the Deep South or on the periphery of the North, the problem of injustice is his problem; it is his problem because it is America's problem . . .

Today in all too many Northern communities a sort of quasi-liberalism prevails, so bent on seeing all sides that it fails to become dedicated to any side. It is so objectively analytical that it is not subjectively committed. A true liberal will not be deterred by the propaganda and subtle words of those who say, 'Slow up for a while; you are pushing things too fast.' I am not calling for an end to sympathetic understanding and abiding patience; but neither sympathy nor patience should be used as excuses for indecisiveness. They must be guiding principles for all of our actions, rather than substitutes for action itself. pp 193-4


It's time we got back to basics imo, basic political questions as to how we wish our government and our society to be . . . or not be.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Befehlstaktik

As an afterhought to jim's posts about the lack of strategic thinking in our civil government (i.e. the fairly clear evidence that if our political "leaders" were to be drafted less than a handful of them would have the mental horsepower to make a corporal competent enough to lead four privates to a whorehouse and issue instructions on the tasks, conditions, and standards expected of them once they got there) I thought I'd point you towards this interesting essay from John Robb. Here's his money graf:
"...an extreme concentration of wealth at the center of our market economy has led to a form of central planning. The concentration of wealth is now in so few hands and is so extreme in degree, that the combined liquid financial power of all of those not in this small group is inconsequential to determining the direction of the economy. As a result, we now have the equivalent of centralized planning in global marketplaces. A few thousand extremely wealthy people making decisions on the allocation of our collective wealth. The result was inevitable: gross misallocation across all facets of the private economy."
Gosplan, Comrade Koch?I don't always agree with Robb, but he may be on to something here. Certainly the mess we're making in our response to the Great Recession - with the experience of the original Great Depression right before out faces - suggests more than just incompetence. You'd almost have to suspect deliberate ignorance, arrogance, and ideological purity as culprits.

Although perhaps we really ARE that stupid. It's SO hard to tell...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Static Display of Impotence


--Dollar Operation, Arend van Dam

How can I bear unaided the trouble of you,

and the burden, and the bickering!

--Deuteronomy 1:12


It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy

that our country is now geared to an arms economy
which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis
of war hysteria and nurtured upon
an incessant propaganda of fear
--Gen. Douglas MacArthur


There can be economy
only where there is efficiency
--Benjamin Disraeli
___________________


The recent debt ceiling debate and budget cut proposals led Ranger to think about the Principles of War and how they were violated in the last several weeks.

Ticking off the list:


MASS:
This fight could not place the combat power at the decisive place and time; it was an exercise in futility. The decisive battle should not be about caps and cuts but rather, how do we stem the economic assault on our defensive position? We are re-acting when we should be acting. The entire debt limit discussion was an admission of defeat.

OBJECTIVE:
There was not a clearly-defined, decisive or attainable objective. Just as with the present U.S. Counterinsurgency (COIN) policy, the negotiation gave more credence to politics than to attainable objectives. The objective was not reached because it was obscured by smoke.

OFFENSIVE:
Neither political party maintained or achieved the initiative.

SURPRISE:
Both parties put all their assets forward, leaving them with nothing in reserve (which also affected their maneuver plan.)

ECONOMY OF FORCE:
Ditto above regarding surprise. Additionally secondary efforts were ignored and never prioritized. Not discussed were balance of trade, loss of jobs, balance of dollars leaving our shores, loss of industry and weak economic white papers. Nope -- we just focused on borrowing more, slashing and burning more.

MANEUVER
:
Both sides were totally dug-in defending in zone with no demonstrable mobile warfare. Neither side possessed the combat power essential to overrun the opposing side. It was a static display of impotence.

UNITY OF COMMAND:
One would assume the President would be the responsible commander, but this oversimplifies the situation. Obama should have stated his commander's guidance, but allowed the maneuver commanders to formulate their respective Operations orders. By placing himself on the battlefield he ignored the subordinate chain of command. In addition, his presence stiffened the opposition to an unacceptable intransigence.


SECURITY:
There can be no unexpected advantages in this altercation because we had already lost our freedom of movement and would win or lose with the forces committed. This hardly describes the concept of security.

SIMPLICITY:
Simplicity was violated because the principle of objective was ignored. The leaders preferred to ignore this principle to the detriment of the goals of the operation.

In a recent Time essay, "How Today's Conservatism Lost Touch with Reality," Fareed Zakaria bemoans the intransigence of today's conservatives, saying they have lost their touchstone of "reality" in exchange for reactive policies which ignore the truths on the ground. For instance, they failed to recognize that, "(t)axes — federal and state combined — as a percentage of GDP are at their lowest level since 1950":

"The U.S. is among the lowest taxed of the big industrial economies. So the case that America is grinding to a halt because of high taxation is not based on facts but is simply a theoretical assertion. The rich countries that are in the best shape right now, with strong growth and low unemployment, are ones like Germany and Denmark, neither one characterized by low taxes."

So the can has been kicked down the road; Ranger hasn't any faith that the next group of mutton-heads will apply the simple and infallible Principles to their effort.

Everyone says they love the military, yet they cannot apply some simple procedures to their policy-making processes.

Politics Requires People (My Guest Post at Zenpundit)


Theodore Roosevelt, Osawatomie, Kansas, August 1910

Zenpundit has been kind enough to allow me to guest blog on his site. My post deals with zen's military theory concept of the superempowered individual which contrary to him I do not see as a potentially new "form of warfare", but rather a possible weapon in this age of ambiguous political purpose.

Let us hope that such a thing never leaves the realm of theory and remains simply theoretical.

Why this particular picture? Because the big idea behind all the crap we see today is the vaunted image of the individual triumphant over the "state", or "government", but actually the community. That's what it's all about, it's everybody out for themselves and grab what ya can. What they don't tell ya is that the "individuals" who count are all corporations, the real individuals with power. But then power, and the constant gross abuses of it, is something we choose to ignore.

TR's speech from August 1910 had his priorities straight imo . . .

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Turkish Delight

Whilst we were preoccupied with our domestic political stupidity, something interesting happened in the Bosphorus: all of Turkey's senior military leaders resigned. Apparently this stems largely from an investigation and arrest of a number of senior military men who were involved in something that supposedly came close to a fifth military junta back in 2003 when the kinda-sorta-Islamist AK Party took political control. The Army says no-such-thing; that the planning was purely military and that the arrests - which include up to 200 people from the military, journos, academics, and various pundits - are a political witch hunt by the AKP.

The modern Turkish state pretty much begins in 1923 when the military, led by Kemal Ataturk, defenstrated the Sultanate. The Turkish armed forces are still probably the single most powerful faction in the country...but has the stress of the fight over Euro membership, the late corruption of the Army, and its conflict with the Islamists finally knocked the Army out of Turkish politics, or, at least, reduced it back to subordination to the Sublime Porte?

A non-secular Turkey is a big change in the politics of the Middle East...IF this is what this suggests. Feel free to speculate, discuss, or disparage.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Banana Republicans

I cannot express how depressing the "debt ceiling" deal is.

Not because of the substance.

We knew the wingnuts were going to kill the hostage. We knew that Obama would cave rather than let his financial interest cronies take a bath when Standard & Poors downgraded U.S. bonds. We pretty much knew how this was going to play out because we've watched Obama and the Teatards play this game for the past couple of years. The Nobel-Prize-Winner-In-Chief would make some good speeches, there would be some posturing and scuffling, like third-graders in a playground, and then the GOP would man up and Obama would roll on his back like a Gresham hootchie mama with six mojitos in her in a waterfront bar on Fleet Week.

No, the depressing part is that process has exposed us as the banana republic we are.

"Banana republic" is defined in Wiki as "...a pejorative term that refers to a politically unstable country dependent upon limited primary productions (e.g. bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, corrupt politico-economic plutocracy or oligarchy"

Accepting that we at least are not yet dependent on bananas - although video entertainment may be the New Yellow - but the rest seems to fit us pretty well. The bulk of the nation doesn't want the "shared sacrifice" to be shared between those making $7,000 a year and those making $70,000. The majority of U.S. citizens doesn't want to face an uncertain future without reliable food inspections, safe bridges, clean air and water, and some hope of dying outside of poverty and desperation.

But the GOP minority and the oligarchs who love them would accept all that and more rather than accept taxes on those oligarchs. And, to echo the Rude Pundit, the thing I keep coming back to is that through all this the wars continue. That we prefer war to roads and health care and education here is unfathomably depressing.

Well, I give up. It appears that the U.S. is going to get the squalid little dictatorship of the conservatives it seems to either want, or not care about. So I'm going to open my campaign for the GOP in 2012 with the slogan "Vote Republican; Let's Just Get It The Fuck Over With". Let's elect all these batshit fuckers and open the cage doors and let them rampage amongst the populace, flinging their teabag monkey shit, hooting and leaping, tearing down the remnants of the New Deal.

A New Deal, let's not forget, that wasn't built from a cloud of eleemosynary fluffiness of FDR but from that cold-hearted old patrician's savage political calculation that his own class had to pay up in order to prevent a destitute and despairing U.S. public from making the choice that the Russian people had in 1917, the Italian in 1922, and the Spanish and German people would in years to come; the choice between the freedom to starve and want and be forced to fight, and the peace-work-and-bread slavery of fascism or communism.

Well, all right, let's have it, then.

Perhaps when enough people have watched their parents sink into destitution, when we have returned to Gilded Age levels of inequality, to Hoovervilles and bread lines, when the gated communities of the few stand like proud beacons above the decaying suburbs of the many...perhaps then the two-thirds of those in this country who describe themselves as "conservative" or "moderate" will see what their moderation and conservatism has brought them.I only hope that I am long dead by then.

(Cross-posted to GFT)

A Fine Kessel of Fish

--American Economy, Osama Hajjaj

It's a tragedy

It's a strategy

To prey on contrast

To not indulge fact

Divide, conquer, subcontract

--Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington D.C.,

Anti-Flag


Strange days have found us

Strange days have tracked us down

They're going to destroy

Our casual joys

We shall go on playing

Or find a new town

--Strange Days
, The Doors

Everybody's talking

and no one says a word

Everybody's making love

and no one really cares

--Nobody Told M
e, John Lennon
________________

In World War II, the German Army fought battles called kessels, or "cauldron battles" -- not the greatest fighting position.


Kessels were characterized by a loss of movement and maneuver after decisive commitment, Stalingrad being a prime example: The troops would fight to the last round, then fix bayonets for the final, glorious, assault. We all know how that worked out -- heckuva job, Heinie!


But lo, it looks like our Executive and Legislative branches in Washington are fighting their own cauldron battle after being bypassed and surrounded by economic forces that are whipping them and us just as badly as the Russians whipped the Nazis in 1943-45.


The Battle of the Cauldron 2011
will not solve any of our problems or add to our ability to maneuver back to a position within a secure battle line. Our leaders are aiming friendly fire at divergent elements within the
kessel. The enemy is romping and stomping past them in columns of hordes, yet they prefer to direct their fire inwards, a stance so contrary to soldierly behavior as to defy the imagination.

The kessel that we call the budget cap talks is as irrelevant to the daily lives of Americans as is the memory of Stalingrad. It doesn't matter if we raised the debt cap; that is collateral to the primary issue. It doesn't matter if we tax the rich to the benefit
of the lower classes or vice versa. The U.S. debt ceiling does not limit debt.

The budget cap does not address that which affects our daily lives, which is the diminution of our freedoms and our economic well-being. Leaving the debt ceiling in place does not get us out of the cauldron -- it just pushes the day of reckoning down the line. The debt has risen exponentially since the George Bush administration; it will still balloon, simply at a slower pace . . . to a time past the 2012 elections, when another
"cast of characters is sent back to Sodom to do the people’s business." (The Debt Deal: Disaster Averted, Decline Straight Ahead).

The issues are so immense that we ignore them while entertaining ourselves with meaningless diversions. The U.S. is like the German Army of 1943 on the Russian Front: We are about to be forced on the strategic defensive, while our leaders prefer to fight battles that cannot be won or stem the tide.