Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Home of the Brave

One thing you can always count on driving Southeast Portland's McLoughlin Boulevard is bumper stickers.

All sorts, from the usual cowboy and redneck slogans that dominate life in the southeast through the twelve-steppers' "One Day At A Time" all the way to the "Keep Portland Weird" and the outre' band stickers of the hipsters.

But among the most common are the military. These range from my own 82nd Airborne patch decal (stuck down in the corner next to the Rose City Rollers and the literary mudflap girl that represents Mojo) through the very visible USMC propaganda, the yellow-ribbon and pray-for-our-troops painless patriotism tokens. It's pretty amazing, when you think about it, for a nation that supposedly began with a stern rejection of all things standing-army-ish, how infested we are with militaria of a rather denatured and cartoonish sort.

I caught this one as I was still laughing at the one I'd passed several miles back that stated that the driver's other ride was my mother. This kind of statement is actually pretty witty for southeast Portland, the land of the rubber trailer-hitch scrotum.

But I'm not sure the driver got the sort of sexual-dominance result he was looking for (I'm doing yo momma, bitchez!); the mental picture of my mother, 86 and in need of adult diapers, getting sexed up by this Lents Lothario struck me as powerfully ridiculous. Hey, I thought, it doesn't really work for me but you go for what you need, stud, and I was still laughing about that when I ran up behind the pickup flying another of the fairly common southeast Portland automotive messages;

"Land of the Free/Because of the Brave".Normally I shine this sort of silly shit on. I usually find it offensive but harmless, like obese twenty-somethings waddling around with SWAT team t-shirts or screaming eagle ballcaps, the sad ejecta of an American culture that says if you say you want to do something (or worse, say you merely like something) it's almost practically the exact same as actually doing the thing.

But this week I caught a little bit of the old Ridley Scott film "Blackhawk Down" and was struck hard by the bitter, bitter sorrow buried deep within the movie's over-ripe version of the vicious, futile Battle of Mogadishu.

Scott didn't mean it that way, of course; his Beyond Thunderdome battle flick is intended to make you all misty eyed about the young American heroes fighting for each other in comradely love. It's a beautiful, elegiac piece of utter crap war porn.

The American troopers are all gutsy heroes fighting for each other while the cynical politicians wheedle and betray them, of course. The hordes of Skinnies aren't really people; they are there just to be fuckdolls, to give the war porn its money shot. And like good porn, the hot pounding battle action just keeps coming; wave after wave of nameless Somali freaks seem to rise from the dead and attack like horrible real-life Negro zombies armed with AKs and RPGs, their fearsome inhumanity insuring that you will love our fighting men because you fear the dusky legions they are killing.

The reality behind the film - that this meaningless horseshit mission, the bastard product of a midnight union of eleemosynary television and credulous national greatness politics, managed to get 19 men killed and almost 100 wounded for absolutely no fucking purpose - was as invisible to the viewer as the larger context in which these men fought and died. If you took the film at its face value, as it intended you to take it, you saw only all those lovely young American men fighting and dying for the love of their country and each other. You saw the brave defending the free.

And - mind you, I'm still driving along McLoughlin, past the seedy payday loan storefronts and the chrome and neon blare of the car lots, the many newly-vacant windows where the small businesses and mom-and-pop stores have failed under the weight of the Great Recession - as I'm thinking about this I started to get angry, really angry, about the lies that our "leaders", civil and military, that our press, that our punditry, told about Somalia, about war, about the politics of Puntland, that led up to "Maalintii Rangers" - the Day of the Rangers - that left young American and Somali men dead in the dirty streets, and are still being told, told to send more young men to their meaningless deaths in the dirty streets of similarly worthless Third World cities, and told to inflate the "patriotism" of the sort of fool that drives around with a "Land of the Free Because of the Brave" bumper sticker.

And I started wondering.

What freedoms have we Brave been defending lately? Who are these Brave, and what the hell have they been doing to earn their bumper sticker praise?

Were these the brave that stopped the Grenadian armored spearheads cold in the bloody snows around Bastogne and Houfflaize and defended the Arsenal of Democracy from Caribbean aggression?

Perhaps these were the brave whose rifles shredded the Panamanian grenadiers in the fields of Freeman's Farm as we beat back Noreiga's bold bid for continental dominance at Saratoga?

Could these brave have been the brave that caused the astounded Lebanese general to cry "Those are regulars, by God!" as we repelled the Hezbollah invasion of the Midwest at the Battle of Beirut Airport?

Could these brave warriors have been the ones which sank the Al Qaeda carriers at Midway, sweeping the Pacific clean of The Pan-Islamic Co-Prosperity Sphere, and saving the West Coast from invasion?

Or the brave that rolled over the remnants of the evil Ba'ath legions on their way to Berlin and the end of the global Ba'athist threat?


I'm really sick of our sunshine patriotism, of the painless public worship of soldiers and soldiering, our yellow ribbons, our "War on Terror" and the same fucking self-deluding horseshit used to build it that ended seventeen years ago with good men face down in the dust in a dump of a town by the Red Sea. Men whose deaths are now meaningless and forgotten, wasted lives thrown away for a tissue of deceptions and mistakes.

If we were an honest nation we would admit that for most of the past sixty years and certainly for all of the past twenty years our armies and navies have done little but exercise the prerogatives of global power. That's what the armed forces of Great Powers do, and that's much of what we have done since the defeat of Japan, nearly all of what we've done since the defeat of the Soviets.

If we still are the land of the Free - and although I believe we still are, more or less, there are some legitimate grounds to be skeptical of this - I would say that the "brave" have had little to do with it since Tojo went to the gallows or Gorbachev on permanent vacation. It is, rather, because of the Rude, the Skeptical, the Free-thinking, the Morally Outraged, the Watchdogs of Government, the Gadflies, and the Critics.

Yes, we have sometimes served freedom, we soldiers, in our way, when we could, when it served the purposes of our political masters. But that's not our primary mission, and you forget that at your peril.

The Land of the Free isn't free because of a soldier with a gun, you idiot, it's because you, a civilian, force that man to obey you and that soldier submits willingly or faces the weight of the law.

Only a fool places blind trust in the powerful. The business of soldiering is the business of power, as the business of dealing fear and death always is and always has been, and to pretend otherwise is to place your freedom in the hands of that "brave" soldier.

Think, man!

Who, then, will guard your freedoms from him?


  1. "Could these brave have been the brave that caused the astounded Lebanese general to cry "Those are regulars, by God!" as we repelled the Hezbollah invasion of the Midwest at the Battle of Beirut Airport?"

    I'm not sure which battle you think of, but if you think of any early 80's battle: That wasn't Hezbollah, but other Lebanese groups (and a sect iirc).

  2. Amen Brother! Not really anything to add to what said, except for maybe a couple of observations from deep in the Piney Woods . . .

    My father passed away on the 16th, so I'm back down home for the funeral and a quick visit.

    Saw my first trailer-hitch scrotum in Dallas the other day . . . really requires a certain mentality, that.

    We are so divided, as a nation, a people, a culture. I suppose it's the "moderns" and the "post-moderns", if you will. The moderns attempt to survive in a sea of cheap crap and disposables, attempting to live by a set of values that their parents (and especially grandparents) would have recognized. The post-moderns on the other hand incessently calculate their own material interest down to the penny and are all about "what's in it for me?", "how can I maximize my return?".

    The bumper sticker patriotism you talk about is a band-aide to keep the two extremes together, something they can both "believe in", or rather include symbols which can be manipulated to appeal to both groups.

    The moderns know that we can't go on this way, that we are approaching a point of extreme and severe change. The postmoderns fear that they will not get everything they want and are in the process of writing more and more of those around them off . . .

    I love this country. There are so many good people here (the moderns) but they are losing ground constantly and their future looks dark.

  3. @Chief, Amen and good post, brother. Mogadishu was just a prelude to the fiascoes of "protecting freedoms" that are Iraq and Afghanistan.

    At least Clinton learned his lesson after Oct 1993 and used only safe, secure airpower to deliver his global beatdowns. (not that airpower is at all the end all be all; but, at least we are not sacrificing any troopers for the futility of delivering beat downs). Would that W been as satisfied....

    Instead, we're down some 4500 patriots in the Iraqi wasteland, to achieve what? A slowly rising Islamic republic that will side with Iran when it is not tearing itself apart. And another 1000+ dead in the graveyard of empires where we protect China's freedom to extract minerals and rare-earths while not placing a single boot on the ground!

    @seydiltz, nice analogy but clearly the "post-moderns" are winning. And how exactly did they come to rise in numbers? Because the "moderns" made them this way. Sadly.


  4. SP-

    Agree, the moderns don't really have a chance, but was the rise of the post-moderns due to modern indulgence, or something else primarily?

    I see the corporate angle here. A couple of days ago I was in the new bigbox medical center, which looks like a shopping mall, in my hometown (4,500 pop!). This is the ONLY industry of note providing middle-class salaries in the area since Pilgrim's Pride (the big chicken producer) went bust and was bought out by a Brazilian outfit. The place looks like where you go to book your Hawaiian holiday, not where you go to get your prostate poked.

    Inside were people eating cheeseburgers and fries waiting for their doctor's visit. It occurred to me how we as a people are simply handed over from one type of corporate manipulation to the next, until, well either the money runs out or we die. The processed food and processed lifestyle (you have to drive EVERYWHERE) leads to all sorts of health problems (another big business). Along the way we get all sorts of scam offers of "fulfillment" and "comfort" along with a good dose of tits and azz . . . everything cateering to the most self-centered instincts . . .

  5. Sven: In that I was pretty much free-associating in that segment of the post I am willing to be corrected, but, from just a quick websearch, here is a section from the Wiki entry for the Beirut bombing, 1983:

    "At the time of the bombing, several Shia militant groups claimed responsibility for the attacks, and one, the Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement, identified the two suicide bombers as Abu Mazen and Abu Sijaan.

    After some years of investigation the bombing was thought to have been committed by the Lebanese Shia militant militia and political party Hezbollah while it was still "underground," though opinion is not unanimous. The U.S. government believes that elements that would eventually become Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, were responsible for this bombing, as well as the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut earlier in April. Hezbollah, Iran and Syria have denied any involvement."

    So you are correct in that it would be more correct to say "...the Islamic-factions-that-would-eventually-coalesce-into-Hezbollah invasion of the Midwest at the Battle of Beirut Airport". I allowed my poetic license, and the lateness of the hour, to get away from me.

  6. SP, seydlitz: I've been thinking about this whole "postmodern U.S." questions, too, and what seems to me to be happening isn't so much a change in the nature of the public but a change in the nature of the REpublic.

    The U.S. public seems to be what it always is; a mixture of wise and foolish, skeptical and credulous, brave and fearful, cautious and reckless.

    For the first hundred years, say from 1790 to 1890, it didn't matter - we were a small nation caught up in our own domestic growth. So the public could be what it was and it had no real larger consequences.

    For the next fifty years, from 1890 to 1940, the reality of American politics - that the monied and properties elites pretty much ruled with some minor course correction from the "public" - prevented the nation from doing much other than what was in the direct national interest of those elites.

    But over the past sixty years we've seen an increasingly cynical use of the public's failings to steer the nation into these sort of foolish geopolitical cul-de-sacs. Just when the U.S. has become a global power - so the vagarities of U.S. public opinion have a global effect - the public has been ever-more-effectively manipulated by cynical men and women for their own purposes. Mind you, much of this public is perfectly willing to BE manipulated, in that the places these people are taking them are often places they want to go.

    So I think that some of what is happening isn't so much a coarsening or dumbing of the American public, but rather a deliberate use of the natural reservoir of dumb to obtain the goals of smart people who know that these same people would rebel if they truly understood what they were being used for.

    I'm not sure if there is a way out of this, either. I worry that the gyre becomes self-widening.

  7. FDChief: "So I think that some of what is happening isn't so much a coarsening or dumbing of the American public, but rather a deliberate use of the natural reservoir of dumb to obtain the goals of smart people who know that these same people would rebel if they truly understood what they were being used for."

    Wow, talk about capturing it in a nutshell!

  8. A picture for your post, a blog quoting from the WSJ:

    Marine Corp General: Obama "giving our enemy sustenance" (UPDATED)
    Posted by Rick

    Published: August 24, 2010 - 4:19 PM

    I call it aiding and abetting... but he's been doing that since his election:

    The top U.S. Marine general said President Barack Obama's announced July 2011 deadline to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan had given "sustenance" to the Taliban.

    "We know the president was talking to several audiences at the same time when he made his comments on July 2011," Gen. James Conway told reporters on Tuesday. "In some ways, we think right now it's probably giving our enemy sustenance....In fact, we've intercepted communications that say, 'Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.'"

    I don't see how our troops can be holding any confidence in the Commander-in-Chief... and Conway seems to be confirming it for us.

    Complete weakness. And the Marines are calling him on it.

    It's reported that Conway is about to retire, but is this a trend, Generals stopping just short of calling their CiC a traitor to the country and Generals force-feeding their troops Christianity?

    And we MUST support those brave Fighting Men and Women manning the barricades against the Islamic hordes of 9/11 desecrators in the Hallowed Canyons of New York City.

    That is, if you pay attention to the Liars at Fox.


  9. s89:

    The place looks like where you go to book your Hawaiian holiday, not where you go to get your prostate poked.

    Inside were people eating cheeseburgers and fries waiting for their doctor's visit.

    Crying and laughing at the same time, right?


    Also, my condolences for your loss.


  10. FDChief-

    I look at it a bit differently - it's hard to get it down to one tendency or trend, but rather I see it as a whole group of trends/tendencies coming together.

    For instance the timeframes you mention were ones of abundance, we had so much that we could waste a lot and still have enough for everyone, at least potentially. I think that no longer the case. People's expectations have risen and it simply is not possible to maintain those expectations as they are now simply by going more into debt.

    "these same people would rebel if they truly understood . . ."

    Would they? I don't think so. They would have in 1870, or 1890, or in 1930, but today? To rebel you have to feel yourself as part of a larger whole, part of a community. What I see are groups of individuals with shared prejudices, but no real sense of community interests, let alone class/economic interests. Notice how quickly any potential opposition is channeled into supporting the status quo.

    TV has played a large role in this. We have everyone born since the mid 1950s with TV as the dominate medium, which influences how we process information and even to an extent how we think. Image is more important than argument for the majority.

    This in turn influences how the elite reacts, since they are loathe to ignore the potential of these forms of manipulation. In the past they had real reason to fear a united citizenry, but how could they today fear a atomized mass seemingly so easily controlled?

  11. basil-

    It's amazing how much the place has changed. We also have a large hispanic population now, I call it the "revenge of the Caddos", who were the dominate tribe in the area before the whites arrived with their slaves.

  12. So I think that some of what is happening isn't so much a coarsening or dumbing of the American public, but rather a deliberate use of the natural reservoir of dumb to obtain the goals of smart people who know that these same people would rebel if they truly understood what they were being used for.

    Superb point. I do think they would/will rebel and this scares the crap out of today's elites. Scares them so much that they've used extraordinary manipulations and all the dark powers of Madison Avenue to "buy off" any opposition, compromising on the least important while demogauging off the stage any and all who try to broaden the discussion (to wit, Kucinich, Bacevich, Paul, Zinn, Carlin, etc.). And they should be frightened. Let's recall who quickly and violently American mobs can get, eh? Anyone remember LA '92? How about Watts, Detroit, Newark et al in the '60s? Or any of the hundreds of lynch mobs that administered (white) "justice" in Jim Crow South. Or even that biggest of all mob actions - the Civil War?

    Yes, the elites fear the masses - even when they pretend to lord over and ignore them, poo-pooing their NASCAR, their trashy hip hop or their (legitimate) rights to a decent way of life and opportunity.

    I think the biggest change fromt he past is that the elites could always be depended upon to deliver a few "class traitors;" those of the elites who could see that elite status is secured by a happy (or at least mollified) mass public. FDR was one of these, as was TR. Elite schools used to be proud of producing such persons; now, they are proudest of their "alumni networks." Elite ethics used to teach humility and modesty while disdaining "new money" and the crass nature of opulent wealth it often displayed. I suppose such ethics went out the window with the "age of I;" maybe the elites decided that since the government (legitimately) mandated broadened opportunities for the lesser citizens of our shared Republic, they no longer had to live up to their responsibilities towards the rest of us.

    Personally, I think elite attitudes and actions would change quick rapidly when a few heads are placed on the pike poles.


    PS - @seydiltz, also my condolences. And yes, America is the land of the corpulent corporate slave peoples... something almost shocking when one comes back home after a stint in more svelte societies.

  13. @BB,

    Conway may be retiring, but his mouth should remain shut. He deserves to be sacked for this kind of commentary.

    And I like him. But this kind of commentary should remain in the realm of private military advice up the chain of command, and not in the public sphere by a service chief.

    Let's also not forget his commentary re: DADT. Yet another reason for sacking. Conway should man up and go out in a flame of glory, if he feels so strongly. Instead, he obliquely snipes. Its bad for discipline and bad for our civic society.


    PS -- I wonder how Conway would handle a colonel or gunnery sargent who was badmouthing the USMC chain of command or policies? I suspect not well....

  14. SP-

    I agree with what you say, but would only point out that a riot is different from a rebellion. Which means the elite may fear violence from the masses, but not really any organized political threat to the status quo . . . This would also be reflected in the recent moves towards a police state via the stalking horse of torture.

    Agree also on Conway.

    Btw, tried to edit out the extra posts, but it seems that full bartender/internet service does not reach the Piney Woods of Northeast Texas . . .

  15. I'd hazard a guess, SP, that your posts are triply extra good!

    I wonder if Conway's retiring at the end of this year has anything to do with his motor mouth?


  16. Conway is retiring because his term as CMC ends around November. His replacement has already been picked. More on that shit eating scumbag later!

  17. If Conway cannot keep his mouth shut now, then he should speed up that change of command. Simple as that. Until he wears mufti full time, he's still the service chief and the kind of trash he's talking simply should not fly.

    Then again, Pres O seems to have the same problem with military chiefs that Clinton and Bush had. They put up with their crap when they should be firing people because they are insecure about their own lack of glorious uniformed service. (Yes, this includes glory boy W who served in the champagne ANG unit with all the other children of elites. Might I remind that Al Gore had to go out of his way to be a grunt... and even then the best he could do given his "son of a senator" status was as a REMF reporter?) You think Ike would let Conway talk that way without any public comeuppance? I think not.


  18. Very, very fine post, Chief.

    SP, you're on a roll. Great comments, even better reading them over and over and over.

    Conway is a dick. Yet another coward who won't come out and really say it. He should be fired right now rather than being allowed to just kind of gracefully fade away. No difference in retirement, etc., but maybe a difference in legacy. Frankly, I think it would be cool to see a service chief fired. Many have deserved it; none have gotten it. Bright side: maybe the junior enlisted folks won't have to sweat their asses off doing a parade.

    Seydlitz: Sorry for your loss. That's always tough. Thanks for sharing. And my best, always.

  19. The other group of bastards we need to remember to keep pinned to the mat for this sort of thing are the news outlets.

    And I'm not talking about the openly lying shitehawks like Faux "News". The bulk of what passes for "discussion" of foreign policy and military affairs goes no deeper than the embarrassing Tom Ricks/Fred Kagan/Max Boot sort of semiliterate crap.

    I can't say it better than Greenwald did today: "...the reason the Obama administration can so easily expand our War to yet another Muslim nation, and escalate in Afghanistan with an indefinite commitment notwithstanding our ever-worsening economic crisis, is because the discussion never really advances beyond this: there are Bad Guys there, and we have to get them!!

    That, of course, is the same thought which dominates the mindset of six-year-olds as they watch adventure films or cartoons, and the fact that our discourse never advances beyond that -- courtesy of outlets such as Time -- is the reason these blatantly counterproductive policies can be pursued with so little trouble, despite how illogical and obviously contradictory is the offered rationale.

    So while the American public often chooses to be stupid rather than work to learn things that would force them to make hard choices, the American corporations that deliver us the "news" are, IMO, a huge part of the problem.

    I'm not sure if this is just the nature of the beast or whether it's part of seydlitz's theory of controlling the mob through the application of infotainment and propaganda. Either way, however, it cannot be good for the Republic.

  20. Seydlitz: First of all, our sincere condolences. Memory Eternal!!

    You wrote: "I agree with what you say, but would only point out that a riot is different from a rebellion."

    Very important point. I am not convinced there is enough focus, understanding nor clarity in the population for rebellion. Charlatans, such as the Bushies may be able to temporarily direct the population to achieve certain goals, but in the final analysis, the masses sense (as compared to know) something is amiss, and then we have the inevitable change in the party in power, not as a true move towards something clearly understood and defined, but rather a move away from, for lack of a better term, a "feeling".

    I am amazed at the discourse in the public domain, from elected officials to talking heads to internet babble. People really do not know the difference between facts, principles, conclusions, assumptions, presumptions, beliefs and opinions. Statements are made as if they are facts. When challenged, the defense is often either that the statement is a "reasonable assumption", "safe presumption" or "opinion", all of which have risen to some level of sanctity that precludes them from being challenged, no matter how much real facts refute them. It is truly amazing to me that we have reached the point where arbitrarily defining a falsehood or unsupportable conclusion as an "opinion" elevates it to unassailable "fact".

    I have wrestled with how this can happen. One, since knowing and understanding the differences between facts, principles and the rest was part of my high school education, I can only assume that such intellectual "rigor" is gone from the typical education. I saw no evidence of it during the 5 years (2000 to 2005) I was a substitute high school teacher. And this explains similar manifestations when I was university faculty in the 80's.

    Second, I have come to the conclusion that the misuse or misrepresentation given above is rooted in basic feelings of inferiority. To begin by stating that your pronouncement is opinion, conclusion or belief, for example, is to take ownership of same. But facts and principles are external to the individual. You can't blame me if it's a "fact". Only when the "fact" is challenged, do I then shift it to the unassailable category of "opinion", and, of course, "everybody is entitled to one". Therefore, my cloaking opinion in the mantle of fact is not only defensible, but my basic right. Thus, we see the notion that respecting someone's "right to an opinion" must include respecting that opinion as well, no matter how ludicrous. Does that mean that if I have the right to fart on a crowded room, everyone must agree that it really smells good?

    And, to add to the mess, people have no idea that when conferring "rights" on the population, there are resulting responsibilities and consequences. If everyone has the "right" to a public education, then somebody has the responsibility to pay for that education. Should that responsibility only fall on the shoulders of the parents, or society in general? I had a significant number of retiree neighbors who felt that their responsibility for school funding has long since ended, yet they were still amongst the first in line to bewail the "poor quality of education" in the area.

    So, we well see more "riots" at the polls. Unfortunately, I have low expectation of any "revolutions". The population, in the main, just doesn't get it.

  21. Seydlitz-

    First of all, our sincere condolences. Memory Eternal!

    You wrote: I agree with what you say, but would only point out that a riot is different from a rebellion.

    Could not agree more. The populace is "aware" that something is wrong, but due to ignorance or the like, cannot focus on problems and therefore solutions. The easy road out is sloganeering and the like.

    In my view, part of the problem lies in people really not knowing the difference between fact, principle, conclusion, assumption, presumption, belief and opinion. From elected "leaders" to the person on the street, these fundamentals are interchanged. It is far too common that conclusion, assumption, presumption, belief and opinion are stated cloaked as fact, and people swallow that. And, as has become so common, when conclusion, assumption, presumption, belief and opinion that are falsely presented as fact are challenged, the defense is that "everyone has a right to their opinion", and this a "right" becomes the foundation for elevating such opinion to the higher plane of "fact". Absolute bull crap.

    If the course of our nation is going to be built on a foundation of false premises, then it is no wonder that we regularly and routinely run aground on well identified rocks.

  22. @Al,

    The populace is "aware" that something is wrong, but due to ignorance or the like, cannot focus on problems and therefore solutions.

    You're probably describing the zeitgeist better than I am. Like Seydiltz says, a riot is not a rebellion. But what happens when there is nothing but riot? That way leads to rebellion of a sort, that is, the emergence of a more sinister and dangerous threat - one of downright dictatorship(s) and totalitarianism.

    (And thanks for the link to Egan's op-ed. What a great read! Now, will the NYT make the editorial decision to consistently describe Fox News as "Fox News, a propaganda arm of the GOP" in every story? I think not...)

    And Chief, the corporations love it when people are stupid. It's just so much easier to feed them the Madison Ave crap and keep them hooked on the "good things in life." Corporate sponsored "virtuous circles" abound: "Walmartization" that leads to less disposable income and fewer shopping choices; cheap industrial food that ruins your health; wide highways that require motorized transport to have any semblance of lifestyle. All fed by relatively few corporations who, instead of actually competing with each other, simply buy out competitors (or get them squashed) and form sub-rosa monopolies carving up territories, markets, suppliers and customers (on a global scale). Despite the "more you know" PSAs, there's no doubt in my mind that NBC (GE) absolutely, positively does not want you to know more. They want you stupid! Stupid people are sheeple -- more easily manipulated and controllable. "Smart" people might actually remember enough history to say something like "Sherman Anti-trust Act" or "the Bull Moose Party"!!!

    So, "riot" or "rebellion"? I can see a path towards the later if/when enough people wise up to the world as it actually is, not the one they watch on TV. For many, when they lose their job and/or their home (and that TV), they wise up... and then they get mad. Yet apparently today, with even 15+% un/underemployment, there's still not enough of a mass of newly wizened folks to really foment rebellion. There are, however, plenty enough scared folks to riot. And that's exactly what the corporate-sponsored, media (propagandist) driven tea baggery is all about. These are "moderns" (to borrow from Seydiltz above), narcissists all who cloak their own love of self inside a patriot's "love for country" (or should I say the love of "their" country).

    Somehow, someway, we need to reverse the trends or direct the rage into something more akin to the ideals upon which our Republic was founded. I'm still figuring our how best to do that. At the minimum, it means me really teaching my kids to look deeper than what they see and read in the media, to ask the next level of questions, and to think for themselves. Maybe that's all I can do to prepare them for what's coming?


  23. Wow lots of emotion here. Hey, I agree with your view on the tendency of our "leadership" to use patriotism as a false flag for their political purposes, and very often they do all fall flat because of piss-poor planning and the lack of long-term vision. Trying to interpret your post as a commentary on those who laud the troops in public but really don't give a shit. You know our military troops are all right, it's not their fault they get put in shitty situations.

    Good post by Spencer Ackerman in the Danger Room - troops puzzled by the failure of people able to explain how their actions actually support the success of political objectives. That is to say, our brave troops do know they're being played, but they salute and drive on anyway. Think they're getting tired of the game though.

  24. SP- From another NYT piece:

    But the Tea Parties like to think of themselves as leaderless organizations, and are suspicious of attempts to co-opt their energy.

    And this is what "riots" are all about. Unrest, but lack of clear direction, focus or leadership. The Tea Partiers have lots of things they want the nation to do without, but no idea of what the people truly need, other than "freedom" and "liberty". Ideas are great, but will "freedom and liberty", no governance and unfettered markets provide for the collective well being? They sure as hell didn't provide a healthy, sustained economy.

    I think that when history looks back on the US, what will be found is that it really didn't differ from monarchies and dictatorships in what the populace enjoyed or suffered. The difference was simply the method by which the self serving or the beneficent came to power in the various twists and turns over the years.

  25. To all,
    I just toured my old neighborhoods in Cleveland , and they are now the hood.
    Nada-it's a wasteland that once prospered,and now it's worse than crap.
    Where do we go next??
    In New England we /i were amazed at the small town death memorials to the war dead from their little towns. I frankly found it hard to believe the numbers involved, and from such small towns. It was staggering, and it is the same in all the towns.
    What's it all mean?

  26. Here's another view to ad to the mix. From Naked Capitalism:

    The conversation turned to whether the US was going towards revolution or fascism. One argued for the a continuation of trends underway: that the continuing weakness of the Obama Administration (and the discrediting of other members of the elite) meant there was a power vacuum. The obvious group to exploit it is the most strident, uncompromising opportunists, an area where the extreme right has a monopoly. The other, who has ben reading up on the French Revolutions. took issue with the conventional idea that a revolution is impossible in America: “In France, the trigger was that people were hungry. We are close to that point than most think.” He stressed the desensitization to violence (video games, more and more violence) plus widespread gun ownership.

    I concur on the observation of a power vacuum in DC. In a prior life (just ended), that was up close and very obvious.

    There is most definitely a "disturbance int he force" in the USA today.


  27. Jason: "Trying to interpret your post as a commentary on those who laud the troops in public but really don't give a shit."

    My intent was actually meaner and more condemnatory than that; I am growing increasingly contemptuous of a pretty damn big portion of our country, from the leaders (political, social, military, and journalist) who use their positions to lie, bullshit, and deceive the public about the conditions, actions, and effects of our foreign policy all the way down to We the People, who seem to both want and tolerate to be treated like intellectual six-year-olds.

    The bottom line is that we have no critical national interests in the Middle East that demand the committment of large maneuver elements there, and that, in fact, the presence of American and other Western troops is marginally effective in the short run and probably harmful in the long. The fact that a huge portion of the country cannot accept that as the starting point for this entire debate argues a massive, largely willful self-deception.

    "You know our military troops are all right, it's not their fault they get put in shitty situations."

    Our troops are troops, like any other troops, which is to say that they are the jocks, stoners, goths, studs, fucktards, assholes, goofballs, cool kids, cynics, optimists, pessimists, cowards, and heroes we all knew in high school, in college, on our football or baseball or soccer teams, in the crowd we hung out with. The difference is that they have the ability to use lethal force and, since they are soldiers and not cops, are effectively outside civil law.

    So it's not a question of whether the Kids are Alright. Or who or why they get shoved up to their necks in the shit. It's the reality that when you turn soldiers loose you are declaring that the situation is so bad that legal means of resolving arguments, civil discourse to settle disputes, has failed. That the only way to resolve problems to your, the military power's, liking is to kill or threaten to kill the people who disagree with you.

    (con't below)

  28. So it is fairly critical for soldiers to ensure that - in our case, anyway - their civilian masters understand what you can do with bullets and missiles and what you can't. You can rule, sure as hell; the Europeans smashed their way into 3/4 of the rest of the world and kept it for a couple of centuries that way. What you CAN'T do is kill people into cooperating with you if you're not willing to kill pantsloads of them.

    Look at Iraq. All the bombs and bullets we spent there can't change the fact that a lot of the Kurds just want out, a lot of the Sunni and Shia can't find accomodation, a hell of a lot of people are crooks because being a crook is the only kind of job there is, the entire place is massively broken physically and politically.

    A smart Army would have jumped on the State Department report that told everyone who read it about this. But, no - we just saluted and moved out smartly. To a hell of a bit extent, we put ourselves in the shitty situation.

    And, really, that method only works if you're killing your own (think the Sri Lankans smashing the Tamils; a foreigner doesn't have the same legitimacy to kill locals that other locals do) or if you're going to take over and just run the place.

    The alternative is to do it through a military "aid to the civil power" sort of thing; think what the Brits did in Northern Ireland, where the cops went out to arrest people just like in peacetime, but with a Saracen-full of paras to back them up. But there are limits to that method. A ruthless and disciplined guerrilla enemy can fight it out a long time; the Brits, IMO, got lucky that the Provos got lazy and sloppy. And, you'll note, that the Catholics and Prods STILL are having problems agreeing on governing, just like the Iraqis, tho the situation in Baghdad is not surprisingly worse.

    This stuff isn't rocket science. A lot of smart officers knew it, and know it. But the people who wanted the public NOT to know it were and are running the show, and the shame of my Army is that rather than make the case for either doing this another way or NOT doing it we kept our collective mouths shut.

    Or worse - people like Ray Odierno are working actively to keep U.S. troop units in the damn place for years.

    So in many ways it is by our own feathers, and not by others' shafts, are we now stricken.

  29. Thanks for the kind words in regards to my father, he was a small town doctor who delivered hundreds of babies and stiched up hundreds of wounds over a long career. He lived a long and active live and when he could no longer function as a doctor was ready to go. RIP.

    Went out for catfish with the parents of my best friend here, people who have known me since I was a little kid. Their talking about the lives they lived and their hardships only brought home to me how much we have lost in terms of community, how important it was before to work together and how nobody took anything for granted. Also old-line Democrats who know who is on top and why. Speaking to them was like breathing fresh air. Their view was that when crisis does come it will be nasty . . .

  30. Chief,

    Well written and solid analysis. That is a slight problem, I think you over analyzed the situation. "Land of the Free Because of the Brave". There are two parties to be concerned with.

    1. Those who proudly display this bumper sticker. I doubt any of them are making an argument. They don't even think it is an argument, it is a fact. They are simply spouting out what they believe. They aren't burdening their judgement with facts (such as the evidence you stated). These people have very simple views on life, and those views are based on primal fear. The fear that if you are weak, someone will take what you feel is rightly yours. I really don't think these people commit much grey matter to the topic beyond that.

    2. Those who made and sell the bumper sticker. I see no corporate master, no evil IO campaign to keep down the masses, I just see a marketing team who knows there enough people in the above category to turn a profit.

    I know we've had this argument before, but I still consider this country to be middle aged. The teen years are over (Civil War), we finished our formal education in WWII and the Cold War was our first venture into the real world as adults. Our first career ended (World Freedom Police), as first careers always do, and now we are trying to figure out what to do with our lives. Our impulse is to seek a job in our old, comfortable career path, but those days are over. Now, for the for the first time we are beginning to see that we squandered our youth, failed to save up for retirement, ran up a big debt and didn't quite become the country we hoped we would be when we grew up. We are definitely at a cross road, will we grow up and learn from our past, or will we try to relive it without ever recognizing that you never can turn back the clock, and you can never go home again.

  31. bg-

    What you are describing metaphorically would be by definition a fairly united political community, but I see little evidence of that. What I see is extensive and growingly bitter division . . .

  32. bg: I agree that the sticker itself isn't evidence of some sort of Evil Plot. I don't think that the manufacturer of the sticker is part of some Right-Wing Conspiracy to fool the American public.

    But I think there is a group, or rather a group of groups, let's say, that have a vested interest in keeping this yay-hoo fearful and incurious and stuck on his belief in Free and Brave. I'm not sure if this is an Evil Conspiracy, either - I think it has a LOT more to do with whatever cheap and easily expedient thing they can do to hold on to power. What I think of is what happened to the Roman Republic in IT'S middle age: basically the powerful and wealthy coalesced into a faction that began acting in their own short-term interests rather than that of the general welfare of the Republic. A series of crises allowed them to take actions that, while beneficial to them, eroded the republican system. Combined with internal political and economic factors and external influence you ended up with a disenfranchised populace and a powerful ruling clique with the Emperor at the center.

    We are starting out with a much larger enfranchised group - the Roman "Republic" was always less republican than advertised - but I would argue that our mass media makes us capable of manipulating larger groups than Cicero or Marius or Augustus ever dreamed of.

    So while I don't see this as some sort of nefarious long-term plan to push the U.S. into a state of a sort of low-key, permanent, overseas entanglement, I see the combination of the fearful fool with the bumber sticker and the unscrupulous opportunist who is puching his buttons to get elected as a possible perfect combination to keep getting us into the idiotic foreign adventures.

    And yet we can't find the cash to fix bridges or repair power lines.


  33. seydlitz: One thing that I think affects our perception is our lack of perception of the unique political conditions most of us grew up in. For much of its history the U.S. has been riven with factional and sectarian differences. Most of us here, tho, were babies of the 40s and 50s, children of the 50s and 60s and young adults of the 60s and 70s. That period - for all the furor over things like Vietnam and hippies, etc., was one of exceptional political harmony. Both the parties had political divisions all over the map, from the hardest core Southern Democrats to the squishiest liberal Republicans. "Bipartisanship" in D.C. was probably at it's all-time high since Washington's Administration.

    Since then the factions have re-polarized; the right-wing nuts moving Red, the people who used to be "moderate" Republicans being marginalized or even moving Blue. It seems apalling to us but in the totality of U.S. history is much more the norm than what most of us grew up with.

  34. But I think there is a group, or rather a group of groups, let's say, that have a vested interest in keeping this yay-hoo fearful and incurious and stuck on his belief in Free and Brave.

    You bet. But there are a lot of yahoo groups out there that are trying to get people to believe all kinds of nonsense. I mean just read any comment thread on a major left, right or media blog or website. The crazies seem to be all over the interwebs. And there's a ton of polls that show some of the crazy shit people believe (Obama is a Muslim, Bush knew about 9/11 beforehand, the "Da Vinci code" is nonfiction, belief in pseudoscience, etc.). Is that something unique to our time or part of the human condition? I think the latter.

    As far as the media doing it's job - it is. It's just that the media is so diverse that people have the ability to consume whatever confirms their own biases. The days where a media elite determine what news is important and determined how that news is framed are over. People are free to choose their own brand of nonsense and find media that will happily confirm whatever nonsense they happen to believe. It's become apparent that trying to be fair, or provide nuance to complex issues is a loser in today's media environment. Most people want simple narratives that conform to their existing beliefs. That's not just Americans.


    I agree there is a lot of division, but I think that's normal considering the circumstances. The US is facing some major changes and change always brings dissent and division. There's no national consensus and neither wing (the Right vs the Progressives) have enough influence to really alter things. Hence we see them locked in this vicious ideological battle to win out and implement their particular vision.

    Neither seems to be getting any enduring traction and I think that's an indictment of their agendas more than anything else. Neither party nor political wing has much vision in my opinion - in a sense they are both conservative in that they pine away and try to replicate the policies from their respective glory days - policies which are mostly irrelevant or counterproductive for dealing with today's problems.

    Anyway, I think we'll muddle through somehow - If Americans are good at anything, it's muddling through.

    One thing I'd like to share, though, is this. I agree with almost all of and it explains better than I could many of the reasons why I don't buy into the narratives either party is selling.

  35. Jeez guys! I go on vacation for a few days and you do this! Am I going to have to stay wired 24/7 just to keep up with your awesome thoughts? If so, it would be a small price to pay.

    Great thoughts all the way around and I don't have time to add much to the discussion but this caught my eye from Seydlitz:

    Would they? I don't think so. They would have in 1870, or 1890, or in 1930, but today? To rebel you have to feel yourself as part of a larger whole, part of a community. What I see are groups of individuals with shared prejudices, but no real sense of community interests, let alone class/economic interests. Notice how quickly any potential opposition is channeled into supporting the status quo.

    Great analysis, but I think your history is a little flawed. There was a great deal of social unrest during the 1870's, 1890's, and 1930's. Part of the reason the FBI was formed was to stop Bolshevik bomb-throwers who were trying to turn New York City into modern downtown Mogadishu. Mostly they failed but their few successes were spectacular in a gory way.

    I think part of the problem is that America is reverting back to the historical norm after 60 years of living a modernist fable of what this country could and should be.

    The people who lived through the Great Depression and WWII were tired of conflict and they raised their children to believe that America was and had always been unified (admittedly with a lot of exceptions). This, sadly, isn't true.

    There has always been a tremendous amount of us vs. them in this country. Washington's army nearly fell apart several times because of regional rivalries and that tradition has carried through to this day.

    Furthermore, with few nice shining discrepancies, US education has never been what you'd call brilliant. It was usually good enough to get the job done at the time and nothing more. Getting anything beyond the bare minimum was left up to the individual or his family.

    Carl Sanford celebrated Chicago as a big brawny hard-working city in his poem. So what happens to Chicago when reality starts favoring smaller, smarter, more agile communities? Lots of things, all of them natural, none of them pretty.

    Wish I had time to say more but I don't.

  36. Now that I've got a little more time to finish my thought...

    The two big differences between today and the 1930's in terms of social cohesion are:
    1. Our population is roughly 3x bigger and much more urban
    2. Our technologies allow us to communicate more quickly (this is both good and bad)

    Let's look at a situation where a worker loses his job:
    1930's: He is the sole income earner and frequently hides the fact that he's lost his job from his wife and kids. If he gets frustrated and goes on a binge to relieve stress, the local cop is likely to be understanding and help him sober up without publicity.

    2010's: He has to tell his wife he lost his job but there is a good chance she is still employed so they aren't sunk yet, just sinking fast. If he gets frustrated and gets high to relieve stress, he may well hop on the Internet and flame his ex-employer and the government. This gets him blacklisted with potential future employers and the government may decide that he's part of a plot against it, causing all sorts of new problems.

    If he gets caught with some illegal substance, all of his possessions will get siezed by the government under the RICO act.

    The key factors here are distance (they had much more back then) and the ability to shoot yourself in the foot (which is much larger today). The next leg of this economic downturn (just starting now) is going to stress people even further.


    Beck’s newfound commitment to “absolutely no politics” is not just rhetoric, but a contractual matter for the non-profit foundation co-sponsoring the event, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF). Founded in 1980, SOWF is a successful charity that provides college scholarships for children of special operations personnel killed in action or in training. Any fundraiser, including the Restoring Honor Rally, cannot be political and SOWF has required that speakers at the rally, including Palin, sign an agreement to that effect. SOWF guidelines also insist that “money needed for expenses (space rental, deposits, etc) must be supplied by the party” sponsoring the event. While the costs of such the rally, slated to approximate $2 million, were initially daunting, Beck found an easy answer: pay for it with the donations.

    According to Beck’s rally website, “all contributions made” to SOWF “will first be applied to the costs of the Restoring Honor Rally taking place on August 28, 2010. All contributions in excess of these costs will then be retained by the SOWF.” As Mother Jones first reported, this arrangement was enough to irk ABC’s George Stephanopoulos to pull his donation to Beck’s rally earlier this month:

    Cathie Levine, vice president for media relations at ABC News explained, “We get hundreds of these solicitations from charities every year and try as much as possible to fulfill them as long as they are meet our standards including that the proceeds go to charity.” A few days later, she reported back that, “We sought assurance that the auction money would go directly to charity and while we were told the rally costs were covered and that funds raised from our specific item would go to Special Operations Warrior Foundation, it didn’t sufficiently meet our standards. So we withdrew our auction item and George will make a personal donation directly to the SOWF.”

    As SOWF spokeswoman Edie Rosenthal told Time’s Kate Pickeret, they have “never had an event that cost this much.” While Beck’s promotion brought in more than enough to pay for the “non-political” rally, he raised the money by auctioning off distinctly political prizes last month, including an autographed copy of tea party leader Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) book “Saving Freedom,” a lunch with Karl Rove for $7,500, or a Capitol tour with Bachmann for up to $13,000. When asked whether SOWF is concerned that associating with such right-wing politicos like the “divisive Beck” will tarnish their non-political reputation, Rosenthal said Beck is doing “something for the fallen” despite “whatever else he does” and “as crazy as he gets.”