Friday, June 25, 2010

Channelling Charles

Andy his accused me of an unseemly vindictiveness regarding the former ISAF commander. And that took me aback, because I like to think of myself as a thoughtful kind of guy, not the sort of streetcorner shouter who hectors passersby about conspiracy theories and the Club of Rome. And, frankly, I know nothing about the officer relieved except what I have read, and the Ghost of Judith Miller should have if nothing else cured me of believing what I read in the I losing my perspective? Am I ready for my tinfoil hat?

So I took lunch break, went outside in the sunshine, and thought about it for a while.

And I realized that, goddamn it, I AM becoming vindictive, cynical and sour.

I'm feeling vindictive that my country continues to spend bagfuls of money on Great Power games in the global hustings while its economy falters at home.

I'm feeling vindictive that the people who got us in to many of these quixotic (at best) or criminal (at worst) misadventures, who blew smoke up our collective ass, who were proved wrong again and again, are still there, still at it, still trying to convince us that dark is light and down is up.

I'm feeling vindictive that judges are sending poor people to prison for debt while showering the gentle rain from heaven on the oil majors "right" to drill in offshore deepwater despite the ongoing proof that they have neither the experience nor the capability to deal with the inevitable well problems that will result.

I'm feeling vindictive that money and influence make it harder for you to get out from under a $10,000 debt but easier for a Goldman Sachs bankster to slip out from under a cool couple of billion he lost on a bad margin call.

I'm feeling vindictive that my newspaper and television news are virtually content free, that I try and contact my "elected representative" and I get at best a form letter, that my countrymen seem determined to remain clueless and uninvolved while my Army is sent to fight badly thought out and problematic wars.

I'm feeling pretty vindictive towards all those people who seemed determined to keep things that way: from media conglomerates to editors to reporters to op-ed writers. From city councilmen to mayors to governors to congresscritters to lobbyists to Presidents. From admirals to generals to national security advisers to cabinet secretaries.

I'm not one to pretend that my country has EVER been perfect, or that even its recent past was "better" or "brighter" than the present. But it's frustrating and meddening to write and phone and pester my supposed-representative, the one that we theoretically elected after kicking the crony-capitalists and the foreign-adventurers out of office after eight years...and watch the same damn things happening, the same people spouting the same rubbish about the same damn garbage.

Back in the old Intel Dump days I used to get a little patronizing to Charles Gittings because he would lose it with people like MSR or Dionysus. I'm sorry, Charles, I admit it. I would think to myself, damn, Charles, chill, man. We're all here for the discussion.

But I'm starting to find myself coming to agree with Mister Gittings more and more; I think he'd just been staring into the same political and intellectual test-pattern for longer than I had and got angrier sooner.

I thought I was resigned; We Are So Fucked, right? But I find myself becoming, instead of more philosophical, less tolerant and more angry with the powerful fools and the fools in power. Like Charles, I'm having a harder and harder time pretending that everything's going nice and sleek and happy.


  1. Sign of the times, Chief. Ya ain't the only one feelin' it. You have two little ones that you'd like to have a little more than you did growing up. You have Mrs. Chief that you vowed to take care of. You have a house to hold together, a car that's destined to break down sooner or later and a job that's not paying quite enough.
    Ya might be a little stressed.
    I have found that it helps to ignore the news for a while. Sure the Dow keeps bouncing up and down. The Chinese keep mucking with the rest of the world. The Bush family may try to shove Jeb into the White House. BP and the rest of the corporate world can't see the big picture and realize what their greed turns into. There's a lot of shit going on.
    Friday night, I have a beer, read the last posts on MilPub and turn the PC off. It doesn't come on again until Sunday night. Fuck the world, the only thing that exists are the people in this house with me. I'll get back to everyone else on Monday.
    As far as channeling Charles, hell, I wish I had his tenacity, his drive. We all know there's something screwed up in DC. He's the one who stepped up and did something about it. Channeling him ain't all bad.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Well, Screw blogger. I can't get the trash can to show up, so forget my comment above, it's a bit confusing as to who wrote what.

    Hope this is better.


    I have found that it helps to ignore the news for a while.

    wourm, that's great, and I'm not at any stretch of the imagination begrudging your good fortune. I sincerely wish the best for us all.

    But for a growing number of us, that news is on our doorstep, and for all too many us, it has come in through that door uninvited to destroy lives.

    For the very first time ever in my working life, and I turn 60 next month, I'm looking at being unemployed. As long as Kansas can send me my pension, I can make my house payments and utilities and not starve. No health insurance and not much of a safety net.

    It also can depend upon where you live. God help those Americans who live along the Gulf Coast. Some boat captain killed himself down there and there are reports of a couple thousand, and counting I'd assume, referrals for depression. The boat people down there who relied upon the sea for their livelihood are royally screwed, the seafood industry is most assuredly dead for decades.

    I read Digby's blog fairly regularly, she's been an apologist for Obama and what he's trying to do. But I've noticed some cracks in that position she's held, and then today I read this:

    I'm getting very depressed and frustrated about the state of the world. Only cute animals can pull me out of it. I'm sorry, you'll just have to bear with me.

    . . . and this, quoting from another site, but you should read the whole post at this link:

    Today I receive my last unemployment check. I've used up all available extensions. My position was eliminated on Feb. 1, 2009. Since then I've diligently searched for work. I have a MA and 23 years experience. I've had three interviews and no offers. My savings, including retirement, is gone. I had to sell my house. I've moved from Michigan to Massachusetts into the home of my parents, who at 81 and 71 live on their investments (which have been dwindling in this economy.) At a time when I should be getting ready for my retirement and taking care of my parents, I'm back at square one.

    This is certainly not where I had planned to be. This is certainly not the American dream I was raised to believe in, one whose premise is that if you work hard, get a good education, you will succeed.

    I feel I've been cheated and lied to, and I'm looking right at president Obama. You gave me all these reasons to not just vote for you, but to call, walk the streets, send in money, work to get you elected. And what did I get in return? A president who seemed to want to make some of the most worthless scum and dreck ever to walk the halls of our government happy. I voted for someone to struggle as the rest of us struggle to make things work, but what we got instead is an appeaser.

    It is true that politics can break your heart, but these days, it's breaking our lives. Like hell I'm going to roll over and die, I want to see some filthy shitsacks crash and burn.

    In my dreams, most likely though. :)

    More to write tomorrow.


  4. Ok, then. Write a post, then sign in, and don't get a trash can. Sign in, then post, and trash can appears.

    Fuck blogger.

    I feel better now.



  5. Hmm, maybe people will remember a "11ers" generation just like we remember a "68ers" generation?

  6. Chief and all,

    I think we have every g-damned right to be royally pissed off! Personally, its a wonder that people haven't already taken to torching gated communities and using the tar & feather treatment on some banksters and oh-so-obviously crooked politicians (which is pretty near every damn one of them). We're into blatant theft from the middle and poorer by the richer, yet all I heard last night on the gnews was Michael Jackson is dead (no sh*t)!

    What is it about our times that people are not in the streets yet? Are they too busy trying to make ends meet? Not hungry enough? Too resigned (or trained) that this is the way it is supposed to be? Too full of their "prosperity bible" and convinced that the gay guys next door or the hispanic day laborers are the reason their family is broke and without health care?

    I just don't get it. Every citizen, except the millionaires and above who apparently got even richer in the past year (imagine that!), should be "vindictive." I guess it must not hurt enough yet, or people are too scared to organize, or maybe we are in terminal lazyness and decline (here lies the remains of a once great, vibrant and dynamic nation, killed by its failure to work and eating too many cheesy fries...).

    Our elites have all made a nice lifeboat for themselves and are crowding in to them. And they have simply no conscience about leaving the rest of us on the sinking ship. Sadly, I see hardly a glimmer of recognition among the saved - nary a whiff of regret from them.

    Its all pretty g-damn depressing. I thank the fates that at least we still have Stewart and Colbert to make it taste slightly less bad. And the freedom (at the moment) to check out of the rat race and concentrate for a while on the intensely local, building up relationships that will last, and preparing skills for a bleaker future.


  7. Chief,

    Thank you for this post. It may surprise you to know I find myself in a similar state of mind. I immediately had second thoughts after leaving my comment. I also went out, spent some quality time with the family (something I haven't done enough of lately) and did some thinking. I've become more cynical and vindictive too, though I express it differently than you. I concluded that it would probably be best for me to disconnect, take a break, and forget the news, blogs, politics, the war, etc. for a while. After some family time and a particularly good night's rest I feel a lot better now. It's amazing what sleep can sometimes do for the soul.

    I'm still cynical. I'm still fearful for the future. I'm still frustrated by all the things that continually frustrate me and to be honest the Charles Gittings argumentative style is one of those things that does get under my skin.

    So, I don't think you and I are so far apart, Chief. I think we broadly agree on most of the big issues. So if your post on McChrystal was vindictive, my comment probably was as well. As least I think it was, but at least it made us both sit down and think for a while, which is usually a good thing.

  8. I also disliked Charles Gitting's style but I've come to realize that he truly was a man ahead of his time and the amount of trouble and BS on his plate would make the best of us a bit crotchety.

    I've slowly come to realize that far too many of his nightmare scenarios for the future (the things we said would never happen here) have become our past.

    I've been doing some forecasting of my own and the skies ahead are very dark indeed. This country is going to be shaken to its core in the next 10 years and it would not surprise me to see it break apart.

    Andy, SP, and the Chief mentioned taking care of families first. I agree with your choice, gentlemen, please think about threats from different directions than the normal fears. I expect we will all be here in 10 years but the rest of the country may well be a very foreign landscape.

  9. SP,

    "What is it about our times that people are not in the streets yet?"

    What will be the good in marching in the streets? How do you define the problem? There are so many of them, which one do you tackle first? I know what our forefathers would say:

    "A revolution, every now and then, is a good thing."

    When you say take to the streets, in my mind, it would have to be a revolution to to have any impact. But our society doesn't have the revolutionary culture. We are a people who would prefer to complain about it a little, and then move on with our lives and tough it out. Sure, there are those who are willing to accept hand outs, but I don't care about them because they will never affect change instead they just feed the status quo There are many Americans who will act, but those actions will be restrained by our own set of values (you won't see college kids blowing themselves up or planting bombs in cafes). Those actions will come in form of protests, legal actions and passionate diatribes and blogs.

    I am not saying that our country has lost its ability to reinvent itself, I think it is still possible. But it won't happen this time with people rising up in the streets because we can't identify a single problem (like equal rights). Changes happens with leaders and lawyers (more lawyers than leaders). It takes guys like Charley who take a legal stand, and then it takes a responsible member of government to set right what was wrong through laws or enforcement there of.

    So my question isn't why aren't people taking to the streets, I know they won't (barring some national catastrophe). My question is who will clearly define the problem first, provide the solution and the influence to implement it. Who will be the Martin Luther King of our time? If Chief is getting cynical and vindictive, perhaps I am just getting religious and praying for a messiah.

    Thanks God for Palin. :)

  10. "What this town needs is an enema!"
    Joker, Batman 1989

    After thinking more about my post, I am convinced, what America is waiting for is a messiah figure. I think a lot of people thought Obama was that messiah, and I fully believe he played that up in his campaign (if you look at his marketing and campaign, you can see Eric Hoffer's "the True Believer" throughout).

    Yep Chief, you have the right to be vindictive. It may not help the discussion, it is probably more cathartic. But I ask you this, is it? Is it cathartic or does it just get your blood boiling even more as you carefully compose your thoughts? My bet, it boils your blood more. I think most Americans simply try not to think about it, try not to analyze it. It is just too frustrating to fret over things you have no control over. That too, is why we don't see people taking to the streets.

  11. Don't get mad. Get even.

    How do you get even?
    1) live a good life.
    2) when you encounter dishonesty, or general fucktardedness, point it out. Loudly.
    Eventually, other people might notice and also start to point it out.
    3) if people start listening to you, lower the volume and start showing them the differences between what our leaders do, and what they say.
    4) Since the internet has broken the media monopoly, use it to reach out to like minded individuals.

  12. I've contacted Charly and told him he needs to check out the last couple of posts. I'm sure he'll get a kick out of his rehabilitation.

    The last thing this country needs is a messiah.

    Cynical is justified. Vindictive is understandable. But smart is always best.

  13. Well said, AEL. I agree completely.

    BG and AEL's comments fit in with my earlier cryptic warnings of doom. I don't have a specific overwhelming concern, I'd let you know about them if I did. I just have dozens of smaller concerns that fit together into a blanket that smothers this country's hopes and asperations.

    Somebody in the blogosphere suggested last week that all laws should include an expiration date. I'm not endorsing the idea but I do note that most of our problems come from the ways people have adapted to the legal and governmental environment.

    They have certain expectations based on old laws and prior experiences and the fact that these laws and experiences aren't sustainable, even in the short-run, doesn't mean anything to three quarters of the people. The only way their expectations will be changed is when their expectations run hard into reality and reality wins.

    At that point I expect them to mostly do unpredictable but stupid things that will have an unfortunate impact on their neighbors. Only when most of the country has been beaten several times this way will we finally mature to the point where we can move beyond our broken dreams. But that is going to be one truly unpleasant experience.

    The Minneapolis Star Tribune carried a hard-hitting article on debt prisons last week. This week they've got something similar on debt purchasing companies that collect on debts that never existed.

    As with the previous article; most of the problems come from the victims not enough attention to financial issues, not having sufficient financial education to settle these issues in a timely fashion, and/or ignoring the problems until they blow up in their faces.

    I don't blame anybody for this (especially the victims), it's just one more aspect of our current squeezing-blood-from-a-turnip society and a lot of people are getting crushed.

    I've been in their shoes and it is SO tempting to assume that everything will be all right if you just ignore it. Your friends and family will counsel you to do so for your financial and mental health. Unfortunately that is the absolutely WRONG thing to do.

    Charlie would probably point out that you need to guard your legal rights and responsibilities as much as you need to guard your financial rights. I've learned that he would be right again.

    P.S. - I strongly agree with Publius that a Messiah is the last thing we need.

  14. Pluto, Publius,

    I find it interesting to hear strong remarks from both of you about "a messiah in the last thing we need."

    While I in no way was implying that is what I am waiting for, I believe many people are because a messiah is someone who will solve their problems for them and all they have to do is "believe and follow". With that said, why the strong positions?


  15. Bg, I've lived long enough to know that I've got to do it for myself. It would be nice to have a politician help out by actually doing the right thing for the great unwashed, but the unfortunate reality is that there ain't no politicians out there like that. This is reality. This is why we have this blog. Reality is you'd better take care of yourself because your "leaders" aren't going to do it. And you don't know how much it hurts me to type these words. I've fundamentally given up on whoever it is that purports to be a "leader," which means, I guess, I've pretty well given up on the nation. That's a fair statement.

    Bg, you're probably very upset about your man McChrystal being shown the door. I'm not. It actually gives me some hope. What is clear to me—but may not be clear to some military folks, who viewed McChrystal as their personal messiah—is just how bizarre this man's selection for command in Afghanistan actually was. First, from a military standpoint, he had absolutely no background for the job. Why would we be surprised that he fucked up? That's par for the course. And then there is the background of Tillman and the leaks last year.

    McChrystal should have been retired years ago. He should have never been promoted to the point where he could do serious damage in an entire theater of war. Good colonel in SOF, maybe, but not much else. Too bad his ambition and the desperation on the part of politicians made him the 21st Century exemplar of the Peter principle. Poor McChrystal. A man's got to know his limitations.

    Another messiah bites the dust.

  16. basilbeast,
    I've been hit by the same ill fortune. Last August, the corporation that I was working for decided to close the office that I was working in to 'consolidate' operations elsewhere. I was 'consolidated' out of a job. I managed to find a job doing something that I am capable of doing but it's outside my training and experience as well as being not what I want to do until I retire. The pay cut doesn't help either.
    Since August, I've interviewed for two positions that were perfect only to be turned down because of the 'tough competition' out there right now. Back in '92 I was out of work for nearly a year, doing part time work and odd jobs to make ends meet. Believe me, I do understand what's going on out there.
    I wish you good luck with your employment situation, whether it's searching for something new or Kansas finding budget money to keep you working.

  17. Me thinks a lot of people projected their hopes on Obama, like many did with McC, and will again with King David. Obama wasn't at all cryptic about how "absolutely essential" victory in Afghanistan was, and while McC was all emotive about how bad wedding party slaughters would be to the Nation Building cause, you only had to look at the newspapers to read about the latest wedding party slaughter.

    Short of a Madison Avenue designed "victory," we will all get to see how wanting King David's theories are. A lot of voodoo, but no more than the voodoo that drives our energy, national security or economic decision making.

    You can't have the intellectual equivalents of witch doctors running America for the last few decades and expect daisies.

    What George Carlin said:

  18. bg,

    You may be right about the small likelihood that we'll see people hit the streets over the cascade of failure that each of them are suffering through (and no, I'm not talking about the pensioned seniors who have time to drive the winnebagos across country to decry government hands on their government medicare!). I agree we are far from a revolutionary state and have little historical memory left of the last time we were in such a sad state of affairs (IMHO, that was in 1933-1940). Nonetheless, our nation DOES have a history of revolution in its own way (Glorious Revolution, Independence Revolution, Civil War, Depression/New Deal); they seem to arrive about every 80 yrs and we seem on the cusp of the next one. It may not be violent, but I do think we are headed through such a period where everything will change and we'll look at 2010 from the vantage point of 2020 and wonder how we EVER could have lived like that.

    Good or bad endings? It depends on us. All of us. And Ael gives some of the best "live-bys" i've ever read on the internets (thank you Ael). Those are rules I will try to really live in my new phase of life. And I think they actually can make the difference between a future we would want to live in (you know, like the "great American Dream(tm)") and the future many of us fear (something akin to Lewis' nightmare).

    Thanks all for at least being a place where we can scream, think, write and speak up for a future we all (collectively) want to see. Despite the cynicism, problems, catastrophes and even Palins of our times!


  19. BG,

    Publius and Serving Patriot summed up much of my position so I'll briefly describe the rest.

    In order to get a Messiah:
    1. You've got to have somebody who BELIEVES(!!!) in something big.
    2. They've got to be smart enough (and ruthless enough) to overcome (or bury) the opposition.
    3. They've got to be smart enough (OR ruthless enough) to impose their belief on everybody around them.
    4. They've got to have enough self-discipline to admit mistakes and fix problems they cause (or be ruthless enough to suppress/kill all witnesses).
    5. They've got to figure out how to pass on the particular genius that made them king of the anthill to the next generation or they'll be a one hit wonder and their system will collapse and we'll be back where we started (or worse).
    6. If they actually succeed on all of the above counts there is a high probability that they will strip the people of their ability to think independently and we will all become infantile wards of the state.

    When you consider the long history of people who have presented themselves as messiahs the three stand-outs are:
    a) the people who ran the American Revolution (very successful for 200 years, not so much after that because of issues 4, 5, and 6)
    b) Castro (qualified success for the first 35 years, system is failing badly now due to points 5 and 6)
    c) Hugo Chavez (modest disaster from the beginning leavened by some social successes, now begining to fail because of point 4)
    d) Ho Chi Minh (freed his people, couldn't control his subordinates)
    e) Mohammad (did okay while he was alive but his disciples screwed the pooch)

    At the other end of the spectrum: Pol Pot, Hitler, Lenin, both of North Korea's whackjob leaders, the whole corrupt government of modern Iran, etc., etc., and endless etc.

    So on the bright side, if we're very, very lucky we get a few decades of good government. On the negative (and much more numerous) side we invite some sort of catastrophe. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, "Life is like a box of chocolates and sometimes you're best off not trying any of them."

  20. We are like those people who took refuge in the Superdome after Katrina, no place to go, provisions running out, thugs becoming bolder, hot, tired and dirty. Waiting for help that won't come.
    IMHO about all we can do is roll up our sleeves and go to work. Now that sounds stupid, working without external direction, without hope. And to what end? But that's what the military has known since time immemorial. Better to dig in, to clean your rifle than to sit and simmer. And that's what Gandhi proscribed when he directed his followers to spend two hours a day at the spinning wheel. The putative aim of homemade fabrics was to displace British textile imports. The real intent was empowerment of the helpless, the weak and the dispirited.
    Grand actions – saving the republic, restoring the middle class, educating our rulers – seem out of the question now. But we can try to preserve the small things that define who we and our families are. In the process we make ourselves more formidable opponents. The first symptom of victimhood is acceptance.

  21. Yes, Paul, we could readily become a self sufficient nation of weavers and gardeners, but all too many people own no land nor have access to it. We are victims of our own "success". No one wanted to toil, and now there is no toil left for anyone to do. Unless they immigrate to China.

  22. For what its worth, it appears that "Stan the Man" was already on the way out before the Rolling Stone article appeared. It seems he said some unpopular things to the Obama administration in a classified report.

    I'm very curious what will happen next summer when Obama tries to draw down troop levels when there has been no success. Will he back down and let the army keep all of its soldiers there? Will he acknowledge defeat and retreat anyway? Will he declare victory and bring the troops home to parades?

    So many options and so few of them are very good. I imagine he keeps trying to remember why he worked so hard to get elected.

  23. . . . this reminds me of the story of Liddell Hart . . .

    The British military theorist and writer, the Tom Ricks of his day, retelling his own story in the 1950s . . . how he had actually experienced the opposite of his actual history in the 1930s-40s . . . essentially rescripted his contribution to military thought . . . complete with the sworn oaths of WWII German generals . . .

    Clausewitz was the bad boy after 1918 for Hart, responsible for leading all those generals and staff officers astray . . . from all those different armies. Clausewitz was responsible for all the slaughter: Hart's own contribution to the subject of German guilt for WWI, but it was more than that. By "constructing" however flimsily, the "great wrong military thinker" he paved the way for the next . . . himself, the new Clausewitz, the "right" Clausewitz. The next "great man".

    We are conditioned to look for great men and thus always do. We think of history in terms of "great men". "Ronald Reagan won the Cold War!" . . . well of course, it couldn't have been the peoples of East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland . . . Think also of the popular eruption in Spain that kicked out Aznar's hand-picked successor . . .

    No, there must have been someone lurking in the shadows. Who would have led them?

    In the future, our next real leader, and we will have one - I would never venture to say whether he will be for good or evil - will lead by getting out in front of the crowd and taking it where it wants to go . . . where the impulses drive it.

  24. Well, yes, we are always looking to the President to save us and solve problems. Furthermore, when looking at recent history (and even not-so-recent) we attach policy to the Presidential score card but not the Congressional score card. In reality it takes two to tango, but most people don't seem to realize that campaign rhetoric doesn't match the power of the office. Campaigns raise expectations and then can't deliver the goods.

    Getting back to the original post though, exactly what do you think Charlie is right on now that you thought he was wrong on before?

  25. Seydlitz: In the future, our next real leader, and we will have one - I would never venture to say whether he will be for good or evil - will lead by getting out in front of the crowd and taking it where it wants to go . . . where the impulses drive it.

    I would hope that we can get a "real leader" that can take us where we need to go, not just want to go.

  26. Al-

    It would I suppose it depends on what exactly it is that holds the crowd together . . . instrumental rationality and shared traditional values (including self-education/enlightenment) or fear, associated prejudices and scapegoating . . . imo "success" for the leader given our current conditions will not be in mobilizing and leading the crowd, but in staying in front of it . . .