Thursday, March 31, 2011

Calvin Explains It All For You

Taking a break from Libyan Hi-jinks, a brief visual summary of U.S. economic policies and the interaction between the public, government, and private commerce.What's kind of sad is that Watterson drew this, what, a dozen years ago?

And, if anything, the corporatist nature of the U.S. political/industrial complex has become even more pronounced since then.

I like to call this; "Bitchslapped By The Invisible Hand, or, If We Did This With Our Pants Off We'd Go To Jail For Rape".

Monday, March 28, 2011

4 Dead in Ohio

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

--The Hollow Men
, T.S. Eliot

What you do speaks so loudly

that I cannot hear what you say

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

All the stories have been told

Of kings and days of old,

But there's no England now.

All the wars that were won and lost

Somehow don't seem to matter

very much anymore

--Living on a Thin Line
The Kinks

If I listened long enough to you

I'd find a way to believe that it's all true
--A Reason to Believe, Tim Hardin

While U.S. warplanes are supporting Libyan rebels, democracy is shriveling to a husk on Pennsylvania Avenue:

"More than 100 anti-war protesters, including the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers {Daniel Ellsberg], were arrested outside the White House in demonstrations marking the eighth anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq."

"Hundreds of protesters attended the rally and marched around the White House, but the crowd — which included many military veterans — thinned considerably as the U.S. Park Police warned that they’d be arrested if they didn’t move. As officers moved in with handcuffs, one protester who clutched the gates outside the White House shouted, 'Don’t arrest them! Arrest Obama!” and “You’re arresting veterans, not war criminals!'"
(Anti-war activists arrested near White House as they mark 8th anniversary of start of Iraq War.)

Ellsberg, former military analyst who leaked what became the Pentagon Papers in 1971, participated in a similar protest last year, but the MSM decided it was not important enough to cover, and the story was covered only by foreign press, NPR and blogs.

U.S. taxpayers are buying bombs which support Libyan rebels defying their government via armed rebellion -- a fact alone which betrays democracy in action.
The rebels are part of the violence equation, and the U.S. is amping up that violence, hardly a definition of peacekeeping.

The hypocrisy is deafening.
The U.S. became involved in airstrikes over Libya ostensibly to protect innocent civilians. This has now morphed into possibly providing these rebels munitions with which they may kill members of their sovereign government. What sense is that? Killing is killing.

We support a revolution abroad, while arresting U.S. citizens at home for exercising the rights of free citizens. The right is that of peaceful assembly to express a legitimate viewpoint -- that of anti-war sentiment. Peaceful protest is punished, but damn the torpedoes for violent protest.

Why do we commingle with the violence of the Libyan rebellion while denying rights to our own citizens?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Libyan Intervention after the First Week, or a Nation Bushed?

A week ago on FDChief's Desert Rats post I commented:

This intervention is the opposite of Iraq, which I never supported. This one I do support. There is no need for any occupation and we can most likely do it mostly with air power and let the French, Italians or preferably allied Arabs send in a limited number of ground troops to mop up whatever the locals can't. Once MQ's gone, we drop it in the Libyans' lap and it's "see ya'll around" . . .

What is required is speed and right now MQ's on the run. Within a week he might be gone and we'll already be in the stand down phase . . .

I supported then and continue to support the Libyan intervention, in fact it is the first time in ten years that I do support US foreign policy in regards to the use of military force. I am also pleased with the way the situation on the ground is shaping up there. While it would be nice if we could gloat over the fall of MQ today, the fact that he is showing significant signs of wear at this point indicates that things could still fold up relatively quickly, this is the nature of the type of conflict we are involved in, consisting of sub-state groupings, or rather tribes and moral rather than material cohesion.

I also understand that my arguments have been very polemic in nature. I am not relying on strategic theory for this argument for the most part since while some concepts are useful in military planning (such as center of gravity) the overall application is retrospectively analytical, which means it can tell you what went wrong after the fact, but is a poor guide for what will happen in the future, the nature of war being simply too complex.

This post is intended to cover several specific aspects.

First, it seems unquestioningly obvious at this point in time that the US is still somehow traumatized by what happened during the George W Bush administration, we see military intervention/the use of force in exclusively "Bushist" terms, as either supporting or countering Bush policies. That is policy decisions which have nothing to do with GWB are seen solely in his terms, whether supporting his policies or not. It seems that in retrospect we are very much in the George W Bush era and will continue to be for some time, which includes the simple fact that his policies were essentially a series of strategic disasters for this country. We seem to be unable to break the mindset that he has imposed on us. Which is that any additional use of military power is inherently corrupt and done for unsavory reasons and will end up in disaster, thus we have become a Nation, bushed.

Professor Juan Cole, who supports the Libyan intervention (in fact his blog is a good source of information on the campaign) dismisses any similarity with Bush's Iraq war. This notion of a Nation Bushed, of course leads us to the simple fact that we are unable and unwilling to hold GWB or any members of his administration accountable for any of their corrupt and possibly criminal actions. Not to mention it has become politically impossible to put an end to either of his lost wars (Af-Pak or Iraq) and even those who would support an end find themselves supporting the status quo in order to "support the troops". So despite the fact that Americans are scarred by GWB's corrupt polices we lack at the same time any will to confront that reality. Instead we simply abstract those feelings to cover any military action done as part of US policy.

Second, I would like to address the Libyan rebellion itself. It seems that President Obama "turned on a dime" in deciding on intervention in Libya. Both VP Biden and Sec of Defense Gates were against, while Sec of State Clinton was for intervention. The reason?

"This is the greatest opportunity to realign our interests and our values," a senior administration official said at the meeting, telling the experts this sentence came from Obama himself. The president was referring to the broader change going on in the Middle East and the need to rebalance U.S. foreign policy toward a greater focus on democracy and human rights.

The opportunity for a new direction in US Middle East policy is well taken, this sends a "mixed signal" - as I commented on FDChief's Desert Rats post - to the various Arab autocrats now dealing with domestic protest. Essentially it tells them we can go the other way, and if you go beyond a certain point in using force, our support is unlikely, at the least.

So why intervene in Libya and not elsewhere? Continued turmoil in Libya destabilizes the entire Mediterranean and exposes our NATO Allies to the backlash of this instability. We have had a significant presence in the Med for a long time and stability in the region is of prime US interest. This in addition to the UNSC resolution, statements from the Arab League and requests directly for support from our ally France. Military intervention rests on specifics and not all cases bring the same result, to expect that would be to expect too much. What is required is a specific constellation of interests/events/contingencies which set the stage for a specific intervention to take place. To argue that we cannot intervene here because we have not intervened someplace else assumes that all conditions are exactly alike which is obviously not the case and precludes intervention at all.

While many rightfully have problems with military operations in support of "humanitarian goals", this intervention has been conducted also to prevent a bloodbath, or "Srbrenica on steroids" as it has been described. MQ's tanks were on the verge of turning Benghazi into a slaughter house with tens of thousands of people killed - a whole different level of repression and done with heavy weapons which we have yet to see even talked about elsewhere in the current Arab countries undergoing protest. The Rebels estimate that MQ has killed 8,000 in Tripoli alone in the areas he has retaken in the capital city. To have sat by and allowed this to happen - while the people in the rebel cities were begging for our help - would have been something I personally and I think many other Americans would not have tolerated. There are times when military intervention becomes a necessity.

So a political decision made "on the turn of a dime" and under tremendous time pressures required quick action. That the command arrangements were chaotic reflects this reality, along with the conflicting interests of the various Allies involved. The Turks for instance had a good relationship with MQ and were not happy about the prospect of France expanding her influence in the region. The Norwegians were willing to participate, but only under NATO command, whereas the French and the Arabs saw NATO has too implicated in the policy disaster of Afghanistan and saw a Franco-British command as preferable. While these conditions have influenced the command structure, the air operations have been adequate to support the main center of gravity which is taking place on the ground.

Third, and following on this, I would like to address the nature of this intervention. Our goal is the neutralization of MQ's regime. The best way to do this would be the removal - either voluntary of forced of MQ and his family. What comes next is not up to us and should be left to the various Libyan interest groups to decide for themselves. Concern about "what happens next" is part of our current "bushed" attitude. We could not positively influence to any significant degree what has happened in Af-Pak or Iraq, and in fact many of the outcomes there have been counter to our interests, so why should we suppose that we can or should enjoy this influence in Libya where our level of commitment is much less extensive? Instead our goals should reflect the purpose of this operation, that is to allow the Libyan people to decide their own future without the mortal threat of a tyrant using the weapons of war against his own people.

In my comments on the earlier thread, I mentioned that the French most likely had a plan of operations for this intervention and we should see how it works out. Surprisingly the French were assumed by many to be incompetent, which is simply another aspect of our "bushed" reality? It would fit that pattern.

The French have a long history of military intervention in Africa, have conducted at least 37 major military interventions there (not counting Algeria) since 1960. The vast majority of these have been successful in terms of supporting French national policy, that is they do know something about the use of the military instrument in support of policy, something that the US has been unable achieve consistently since 1965 (the Dominican Republic). The French are avid students of strategic theory and have their own school of Clausewitzian thought based on the approach of the great theorist Raymond Aron. It is also interesting to note that the most successful foreign commander in North Africa, that is in dealing with the North Africans with a combination of limited military action supported by well-thought out policy is a Frenchman, Marshall Lyautey who pacified Morocco for France from 1912-1925. His influence on French military thinking is great and his approach is still studied by thoughtful military officers, although perhaps not in the US.

The French are thus assumed competent in terms of linking military action to their policy objectives. They are aware of what a center gravity is and is not, and also of the limits and/or lack of applicability of the military instrument, which is why they did not support Bush's war in Iraq in 2003, but did support Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1991. They also see this intervention as being all about MQ's political base and dissolving that. This, not the destruction of his military, is the center of gravity of French policy in this intervention imo. Success here will decide the success of the intervention and given the nature of tribal loyalties MQ's support could collapse rapidly given the right set of conditions.

Fourth, and finally, there seems to be a good bit of confusion over my claim that the president could reap "political capital" from a successful military intervention and then use this capital to make some necessary policy changes:

Obama has to win back his base. Ending both of Bush's wars would not only save needed funds, but end two strategic setbacks/disasters (however you wish to describe them). This could be possible given the prestige, political capital such a triumph would bring. This is after all how our republic is expected to function, the mass popular leader waging successful and righteous war in our name and claiming democratic support. This was afterall the message of 2003 when George W Bush went into Iraq.

Why so different now? Could it have anything to do with that big propaganda machine?

So you get a feel for our situation. Currently strategic paralysis, caused in part by two lost wars we're stuck in. We need to get out and to do that we need a shock, or metaphorically another throw of the international and domestic political dice. War does that. (my last comment on the Desert Rats thread)

This view is based on Weberian political theory. I am a strategic theorist after all so it should come as no surprise. Still a more extensive explanation is clearly necessary.

Max Weber sees all states as being based on the monopoly of legitimate violence within a specific territory. This is the basis of the state, everything else rests on this. Now, the key word here is "legitimate". If the people see the state (actually simply the administrative apparatus of rule) as legitimate they will accept this monopoly. As we see in Libya a significant number of its people - probably the majority - do not accept MQ's legitimacy and are acting accordingly and he is forced to use raw violence to subdue them. His lack of legitimacy in turn encourages intervention.

But what of the other end of the equation? Instead of little of no legitimacy, what of increasing legitimacy and what would that achieve?

As Randal Collins writes in his classic Weberian Sociological Theory:
"The most important factor is the interests of political leaders in stirring up domestic legitimacy through success in the external military competition with other states. Internal legitimation is the good to be sought though engaging in the prestige game in the international arena; the prize for the rulers of the 'Great Power' is paid in the coin of internal politics." page 162.

In other words political leaders gain prestige at home by conducting military action abroad. This is nothing new and as old as civilization and states themselves. Bush was well aware of it, but then today, our nation being "bushed" is unable to conceive it, instead see all such things as potential disasters no matter what the specifics?

To conclude this point then, a successful military action in the Libyan intervention (which is of very limited objectives as described above) would provide the president with domestic political capital which he could then use for domestic policy choices. The withdrawal from Af-Pak and Iraq are both domestic political decisions since the strategic rationale for both wars ended some time ago.

Part II is here . . .

Friday, March 25, 2011

Just kind of sad...

Not much to add to the Joe Klein (and yes, I know...Joe fucking Klein! Whooda thunkit..!) piece in Slime other than a rueful shake of the head over this:
"There has been all sorts of consternation about the confusion at NATO headquarters as well. In the future, there should be none: we are NATO. Only we have the experience, equipment and logistical capability to lead a military action, even one that seems a nominally simple as a no-fly zone."
This isn't the freaking Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia we're talking about here. This is Great Britain and France; two of history's biggest military hosebeasts, for cryin'outloud. Two of the three global military monsters of the past five centuries; Godzilla and King Kong - throw in the Spanish and you've got King Ghidorah there, too.These guys wrote the damn book on bitchslapping little countries and native tribes. The appearance of a Union Jack or a Tricolor on the horizon was the first sniffle that let you know that about half your people were going to come down with a bullet-hole-shaped headachey cold.

And now this D.C. talking fathead says they can't even put together a simple punitive expedition anymore.

Klein could just be talking out his ass, mind you; the British did just fine in the Falklands thirty years ago (well, except for the whole Exocet-ship-sink-y thing), and the French...well, they don't really have any real need to do this stuff anymore, fun as it is. And I know that being the toughest of military tough guys isn't crucial to a Western nation's existence anymore.


The British and French getting slagged off on because they can't send a bunch of wing-wipers over the Third World? Even with these cool bikinis?Think of it; British grenadiers and the fierce legions of Napoleon reduced to carrying the golf-bag for the upstart Yanks. What is the world coming to?




On the 100th year afterwards, some reflections on the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire,1911, and the state of labor and capital in the United States, 2011.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Operation Random Name

James Wolcott finds the name of our Wings Over Libya adventure pretty funny:
"Isn't Odyssey Dawn part of the fab Carnival Cruises fleet?" tweets Tom Watson.

To me, Odyssey Dawn suggests the name of a Seventies porn star, one of those spacier ones who made a couple of films until the prospect of working again with Ron Jeremy sent her back into the soap bubble from whence she came, and off she floated.

Yes, I can almost hear it now, the voice of coming attractions announcing: "Odyssey Dawn in Harold Lime's Hot Dog Girls II, starring Leslee Bovee, Desiree Cousteau, and introducing Sandy Melons as the Surfer Chick..."
Other talking heads had other ideas, including "a Carnival cruise ship", "a Yes album", "a stripper", "a Stephenie Meyer novel", "a Tom Clancy novel", "a Philip K Dick novel", (that's a lot of novels!), "a Cabbage Patch kid", "The name of one of Frank Zappa's kids", and "a straight-to-video movie with Jean-Claude Van Damme".

Personally, I kind of like the idea that the name the DoD has tagged this thing with is just two random words. The fakey "code names" that had been ginned up to make the little wars they designated sound cooler and funn-er than they really were, like "Just Cause", "Desert Storm", "Iraqi Freedom" were making me throw up a little in the back of my mouth.

But either way, we've come a long way from the days of "Operation Killer" and "Operation Ripper".

I'm still not sure whether that's good, bad, or just...different.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Men at Work

While the world watches Japan and Libya, the daily business of war in central Asia grinds on. Good glimpse of it here, from David Axe at Danger Room.Every day I'm amazed and humbled that we have young men and women ready to do our country's bidding in the hard and unforgiving places without protest or demur. Regardless of what you believe about their mission, there is no mistaking their quality.

First Flowers of Spring

Taken just a few minutes ago, 8 PM CDT, March 23, 2011. A reminder that all in our world is not violent, ugly, pointless and vain.

King Solomon was not arrayed so.

I'm hoping too that the barkeeps and anyone else that wants to do so will post a picture from where he or she is, something that catches the eye.

More than occasionally.

For me, flowers remind me of many things, depending of course what I'm thinking about at the moment. Right now, the old Pete Seeger song, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone".

Actually, nowhere. They were here before me and and will be long after, too. Just a song.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

LIBYA! (A Dialect Dramedy in Probably-more-than-one-Act)

Act 1, Scene 1. The Western Desert outside Tripoli.

(Enter GADDAFI in Hawaiian shirt and baggies.)GADDAFI: “Behold, my people! I just don't want to live like I used to. And at some point, I'm going to put a gag order on myself in terms of talking about the past. I've got to slam the door and deal with the present and the future!”

(Enter right LIBYAN REBELS; a dozen or so midgets with banners and signs.)

REBELS: "Boo! Down With the despot! Power to the People!"
GADDAFI: “I'm dealing with fools and trolls and soft targets. It's just strafing runs in my underwear before my first cup of coffee. I don't have time for these clowns.”
(produces a comically immense scimitar and begins smiting the REBELS)

REBELS: "Aieee! You bastard! Take that, and that!" (etc)

(FIGHT ensues, with GADDAFI driven upstage.)REBELS: “Hurrah! Freedom! Victory!”

(Enter left FRANCE, ENGLAND, the UNITED STATES, and the ARAB LEAGUE, who watch the battle with concern. GADDAFI appears to be cornered until he leaps forward, roaring;)

GADDAFI: “I have a different constitution. I have a different brain; I have a different heart; I got tiger blood, man!”

(REBELS are driven back in panic, shrieking. GADDAFI follows, laying about him and bellowing.)

GADDAFI: “I have defeated this earthworm with my words! Imagine what I would have done with my fire breathing fists! I've got magic. I've got poetry in my fingertips! Most of the time - and this includes naps - I'm an F-18, bro! And I will destroy you in the air. I will deploy my ordinance to the ground!(GADDAFI continues to drive the REBELS back, killing several in the process.)

ARAB LEAGUE: “Oh, my, how terrible! The poor people! Won’t someone do something?
FRANCE: “Ah, zut alors! Yes, we should do something, Albert.
ENGLAND: “Yes, indeed, Gaston. Shall we ask the UN?
UNITED STATES: “Go right ahead, I won’t stop you, but I’m not so sure this is a good idea.”

(Enter left the UN, garbed as a diplomat)

UN: “Ahem. By the power vested in my by the Great Powers, I hereby authorize the Member States that have notified the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures to enforce compliance with the ban on flights imposed by paragraph 6 above, as necessary, and request the States concerned in cooperation with the League of Arab States to coordinate closely with the Secretary General on the measures they are taking to implement this ban, including by establishing an appropriate mechanism for implementing the provisions of paragraphs 6 and 7 above.”(bows, exits left)
(GADDAFI is still beating the REBELS as other NATO MEMBERS crowd onstage left, garbed for war.)

ENGLAND: Alright, lads, who’s up for some war!”
GERMANY: “Ach, ve don’t sink zis is zuch a goot idea. Maybe ve’ll zit zis vun out.
FRANCE: “Tais-toi, Heinz, you didn’t used to be such une pussy. Allons, avec le battaille! Go on, Pietro, you hit him”
ITALY: “Eh, I dunno, Gaston. We useta be-a paisanos but now, not-a so much. I think these-a rebels, they don’ wan’ me aroun’ so much. Maybe-a you hit-a him first, eh?”
UNITED STATES: “Well, go on, now that you’re all here, SOMEbody go take a whack at him…”
FRANCE: “Helas, I would love to, but I don’t seem to have ze resources, me. How about you, Albert?”
ENGLAND: “I say, I don’t know what happened to it, but I seem to have misplaced my aircraft carrier. Could you lend me one, Sam, old boy?”
UNITED STATES: “Well, fuck. What the hell do I hang around with you people for? Can’t you do anything by yourselves?”
REBELS: "You da Big Man! Hit him! Hit him!" (scurry about randomly)UNITED STATES: "Well. OK. Fuck."

(The UNITED STATES, followed by FRANCE, ENGLAND, SPAIN, ITALY, CANADA, BELGIUM, and DENMARK, trudges over and attacks GADDAFI, beating him with a large rubber cruise missile.)

GADDAFI: A sneak attack! Curse you, Western dogs! You have the right to kill me, but you don't have the right to judge me! That's life. There's nobility in that. There's focus. It's genuine. It's crystal and it's pure and it's available to everybody, so just shut your traps and put down your McDonalds, your vaccines, your Us Weekly, your TMZ and the rest of it!”

(The REBELS mill about smartly but on the opposite side of the stage. The Western powers knock GADDAFI down.

UNITED STATES: “C’mon, you little bastards, he’s at your mercy!”

(The REBELS advance towards GADDAFI, who lashes out from the ground with his scimitar, bellowing;)

GADDAFI: “Boom, crush! Night, losers! Winning, duh!”

(The REBELS shriek and flee. The UNITED STATES continues to thrash GADDAFI, who struggles. The other WESTERN NATIONS add their blows, but have started to look around hesitantly.)UNITED STATES: “Well, fuck me sideways. Hey, I’m ready to let you guys finish this beating. Who’s got me?”
FRANCE: “Oh, la’ la’, after you, my dear Albert.”
ENGLAND: “Oh, no, I insist, after you, my dear Gaston!”
ARAB LEAGUE: “Oh! My! Dear! MUST you hit him so…so…hitally? I think you might hurt him!”
UNITED STATES: “That’s the idea, dumbfuck.”
GADDAFI: (still fighting) “From my big beautiful warlock brain, welcome to 'Kaddafi’s Korner'! You're either in my corner, or you're with the trolls!”
TURKEY: “I don’t want us to take over. It would be wrong!”
ENGLAND: “Really, I insist. After you, Gaston.”
FRANCE: “No, no. You must precede, I insist. After YOU, my dear Albert!”
GADDAFI: “What they're not ready for is guys like you and I and Nails and all the other gnarly gnarlingtons in my life, that we are high priests, Vatican assassin warlocks. Boom! Print that, people. See where that goes!”(As the lights fade signaling the end of Act 1, the confusion on stage continues noisily)


King Obama deals with French intransigence and gets them to take charge of the air war over Libya!"On Monday US President Barack Obama said the US would soon cede control of operations in Libya - "in a matter of days and not in a matter of weeks". Mr Gates has said the mission could come under French-British or Nato control.

But divisions have emerged within Nato over taking command, with France and Turkey in particular offering objections. France has indicated Arab countries would not want Nato to lead and that the organisation should support US, French and British political control. Ajdabiya, west of Benghazi, is now the frontline for rebel and Gaddafi forces. Turkey wants limits on Nato involvement and says the air strikes have already gone beyond the UN resolution.

Italy said it could withdraw its bases without a co-ordinated Nato structure and Norway said its jets would not take part in the action as long as it was unclear who was in overall command.

Nato officials say they do not expect a decision for several days."


Run awaaaaaay!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Desert Rats

It appears that the Allies are fighting for Tobruk again.The interventionists - neocons and liberal "humanitarians" - have won the internal debate that has United States airpower now fighting the Gaddafi regime on the ground in Libya.

What first thing I want to emphasize is the degree that the U.S. really does not, and will not, have a dog in this fight.Libya is really strategically insignificant to the U.S. No matter who runs it, it controls no transportation choke point needed for U.S. trade or movement. Its petroleum, what there is of it, goes almost entirely to Europe. It has not presented a military threat to the United States since O'Bannion's day. It is a geopolitical nullity.

Yes, Gaddafi is a madman, but we have backed madmen and dictators before when they served our purposes. The "rebels" in eastern Libya are, many of them, strongmen who not long ago were doing the government's dirty work. There is no evidence that the rebel cabal, whatever and whoever they represent, are any long-term improvement on the Libyan government that is headed by Gaddafi.

Yes, there are harmless people at risk, but there are harmless people being beaten and killed in the Gulf States and the Ivory Coast without so much as a pilotless drone with USAF markings flying overhead.

And the second is that the real problem with sending American military power into Libya, just as there was in Afghanistan and Iraq (and Kosovo, Somali, Panama, and most of the other late 20th Century U.S. military expeditions) is the problem illustrated by a look back at our own First Civil War.

In 1781 the nascent U.S. field forces were led by Washington, a man who regardless of his other qualities was supremely aware of the realities of power.

He knew perfectly well that France was providing a massive infusion of land and sea power, and cash, without which the rebellion would have probably been driven to the brink of defeat. But he also knew that allowing the French to take over field operations was opening the door to a destructively powerful French influence over Continental politics. He never allowed Rochambeau, or de Grasse, to forget that he was the coalition commander. He insisted on equality (at least on land; he was smart enough not to pretend that the United States had any seapower at all) in tactical operations between the Continental and French troops.I have no idea what the hell the Libyan rebels are fielding on the ground. They appear to have been unable to produce any significant success against the ragged mess of thug-"soldiers" and mercenaries the Gaddafi regime has fielded up to this point. They do not appear to really have any sort of central command and control at all, instead consisting of a tattered congeries of warlord-militias fighting every which way. The air attacks do not seem to have been coordinated with whoever is "commanding" the rebel forces on the ground, instead concentrating on Gaddafi troops in bivouac and on SEAD. We will see whether this changes in the coming days. But given the recent trends of "coalition" warfare in which U.S. forces have taken a part I would be shocked as hell to see a Libyan commander in the role of Washington, directing the U.S. and European warplanes where and when to attack.

The outcome of the Franco-American alliance of 1781 was successful for the U.S. because the U.S. had a powerful influence on, and in parts and at times actually controlled, the military actions of their allies. The modern Libyans do not appear to have any such control, or even influence, and they do not seem likely to.When you invite someone to help you defend your home and determine what he does and how much force he employs, you are still the master of your house.

If a stranger breaks in your door and starts attacking your enemies you aren't the master of anything. You are at the mercy, literally, of that stranger. If he chooses to outstay his welcome, if he chooses to push you around, you are in no position to demand anything. You are not Washington, leading your country's defense; you are just another sad-sack Italian count whose condottiere have the power to unseat you any time they choose.

They hold the whip hand. You are their bitch, regardless of what you think, or how much you pretend otherwise.

Because you can make your throne on others' bayonets.

But in the long run you will probably not like the way your ass feels about it.

And as for the U.S., I see no point in our becoming the leather queen of the Gulf of Sidra. As with most of these sorts of unequal relationships, the pleasure is transient, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable.

The commander of the coalition of 1781 had the word for us; nations that expend treasure for things not in their interests risk gaining nothing but trouble for their expense. Why we seem to persist in believing otherwise I have no idea. But it seems to me to say something very scathing about the state of political discourse and geopolitical thinking in my country.

Update 3/23: The single biggest question I have about this adventure is the degree to which it is the result of actual strategic and geopolitical thought, rather than just a sort of huggy-wuffy desire to stop Gaddafi making Libyan babies sad.

Let me first emphasize that I like babies, and I don't like it when they're sad. But the point behind military force isn't keeping people from making a specific baby or ten sad; it's to cut them off at the neck so they can't make babies sad over the long term.

The final Sri Lankan offensive that crushed the LTTE killed lots of babies. And women, kids, innocent civilians, monkeys, roebucks, and everything else. Sherman's actions in Georgia killed, directly or indirectly, hundreds or thousands of innocents. But those operations successfully concluded civil wars so that in the long run less babies were sad.

The first rule in any war is, or should be, what my old medical sergeants drummed into me with fist and boot at Ft. Sam back in the day; primum non nocere. First, Do No Harm. The bloodletting should end up with a political situation that is MORE stable, less conducive to continued bloodletting, than before the first grenadier stepped off.

Here's one analysis that concludes that this operation, to include what seems like comedic levels of political hot-potato-tossing about who gets to run this thing, are really part of a Cunning Plan, and that the eventualities such as a Gaddafi-supporter insurgency are being thought out. If so, this is likely to produce a Gaddafi-free Libya where the babies can grow up happy and free. Or at least that's the theory.

Mmmm...I'm not so sure. The Libyan rebels seem to be a shambolic mess. The reasons that Kosovo and the Kurdish NFZ worked out as well as they did was because both the KLA and the Kurdish peshmerga were tough, capable bastards well versed in cutting a throat. We don't seem to have anyone like that on the ground in Libya, and I think that will become increasingly problematic in the future. I think that a hell of a lot of this "planning" has been premised not on what is likely to happen but what we hope will happen if every bomb falls on target AND the locals suddenly develop into the 2nd SS Panzer. And my reservation is that I feel very sure that neither of those will happen.

But...alia jacta est. At this point all I can hope for is that hope IS a strategy, that things work out well, and that the babies are happy in the end.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bradley Manning

To this point, no military organization that I'm aware of has stepped up to address this shocking treatment of one of their members.

Please do correct me if I'm in error here.

King Aragorn has expressed his concern.

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

March 18, 2011

Dear President Obama:

We are writing today to ask for immediate action to address the inhumane and unjustified treatment of PFC Bradley Manning at Quantico Marine Base. Despite the recommendations of three forensic military psychiatrists, the Brig Commander at Quantico refuses to lift the POI (Prevention of Injury) status and change his confinement classification from MAX to Medium Custody In (MDI). As a result, PFC Manning has been kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for the past eight months.

On the evening of March 2, 2011 PFC Manning was stripped of all his clothing by the Quantico Brig and left naked in his cell for the next seven hours. His clothes were returned to him the following morning only after he stood to attention in front of the rest of the clothed inmates, still naked. The same thing occurred the following night and morning.

There can be no conceivable justification for this type of degrading treatment. It brings back memories of the abuses committed in Abu-Ghraib, which blackened the reputation of America’s armed forces.

Pfc. Manning is already being monitored at all times, both by direct observation and by video. No other detainee at the Brig is forced to endure this type of isolation and humiliation.

We, the undersigned, demand an immediate investigation into the conditions of Pfc. Manning’s detention and urge you to order a stop to the cruel treatment of an American soldier entitled to the same human rights and constitutional protections afforded to all citizens. Every human being deserves to be treated with respect. Every human being deserves due process. Pfc. Manning is receiving neither.


Rosanne Cash
Daniel Ellsberg
Shepard Fairey
Danny Glover
Jane Hamsher
Tom Morello
Viggo Mortensen
Michael Rattner, Center for Constitutional Rights
Michael Stipe
Vince Warren, Center for Constitutional Rights
Angela Wright, Amnesty International

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

10,000 Maniacs

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts

--As You Like It
, Shakespeare

If I could change the world,

I would be the sunlight in your universe

You would think my love was really something good

Baby, if I could change the world

--If I Could
, Eric Clapton

In bitter defiance

she's spitting the corps

she's wet a brood short league for combat

my mother the war

Well acquainted with sorrow,
well with grief

--My Mother the War
, 10,000 Maniacs

Yellow journalism is alive and well, and MSM is a willing tool for politicians to incite the masses.

Witness The Week (3.18.11) cover featuring Muammer Qaddafi as a maniac on the loose, his keffiyah fashioned into sort of a baseball cap turned backwards, making the sparsely-mustaschioed Qaddafi look like a renegade punk in a Tonka truck (with Latino overtones.)

The thing is, while Muammer has always been a maniac, he is not on the loose -- he IS exercising his sovereign right to deal with rebels in a civil war. Is this not exactly what Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Army did in the U.S. Civil War? Did we not rain brutality down upon the rebels?

Bringing U.S. actions up to today, our Counterinsurgency policy (COIN) has established two new governments following our invasions which resulted in Civil Wars. The U.S. response was to brutally suppress the rebels in both countries
-- so how does the U.S. condemn Qaddafi for exercising his own legitimate response to quell an uprising?

Muammer Qaddafi is in his own country and not rampaging half a world away. Even were there 2,000 rebel deaths, this is irrelevant when weighing Qaddafi's against U.S. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, campaigns far more brutal and lacking in legitimacy.

Like Qaddafi, we killed rebels in Iraq and Afghanistan,
after our actions created them. Libya and Qaddafi has a more legitimate basis for military intervention than do the corrupt, manufactured governments of Iraq and Afghanistan.

If Qaddafi is a madman for seeking to suppress a rebellion, then we must apply the same descriptor to U.S. presidents. At least Muammer Qadaffi is contained, while U.S. powers roams the world like a hungry beast.

U.S. policy in the Middle East reminds Ranger of the Southern saying, "When you yell "fart", everyone comes running to get a whiff." We run to the fart every time one is loosed anywhere in the region. That's not being a smart feller, as Dad would say, but a fart smeller.

Why does the U.S. concern itself with every scenario blossoming on the world's stage while ignoring the stark realities within our own borders? I do not care if Libyans are killing Libyans or if the Shias or Sunnis rule Iraq. What need I care who rules Afghanistan since all of these problem areas are far from my hometown?

Let these countries fight their own Civil Wars as we did, the chips falling where they may; we fought a Civil War without a No-Fly zone.
Simply, the U.S. should not be in the Civil War business.

COIN and Civil War are sides of the same coin.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I‘la’ al-a‘là fī sabīl al-magd!

The recent mister-and-missus in Washington about intervening in Libya has me wondering:

What the hell did we sell all those F-16s to Egypt for?I mean, think: if you were a Libyan rebel and you wanted a "no-fly" zone over Libya, who would be the most logical candidate to appeal to? The Great Satan, arch-pal of the Israelis, wog-basher of Iraq? Or your Arab pals next door?

This is why I am always suspicious that much of what goes on in D.C. has a pantsload less to do with commonsense and national interests and more to do with Andy Bachevich's "Washington Rules". Here you have the Arab League saying that "someone" suppressing Gadaffi's air assets would be a lovely notion, you have the Egyptians right next door with all those pretty warplanes, and you now have an "official" rebel government ready to act the Continental Congress to Air Marshal Mohamad's de Grasse. Who the hell needs those Yankee bandits when there are stalwart Believers ready to fight for Allah and Country?

WTF, over? Am I missing something?Chocks away, Rafiq! It's wild blue yonder time!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Where's Blinky?

The ongoing emergency at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant raise some interesting questions about the current state of nuclear power generation.Specifically; why is there no "go-to-hell" plan in place for these facilities?

From what I can figure out (being, as a nuclear engineer, a hell of a former paratroop sergeant...) the issue with most of these pile-meltdown incidents is cooling.

Unlike a coal or gas plant, or a hydroelectric dam, a nuke plant can't be "turned off" by sluicing the fires or opening the spillway. Even with the control rods fully inserted a typical 460 Megawatt (MW) reactor like the Fukushima plant retains about 3% of its operating heat immediately after shutdown. Three percent of 460MW is about 14MW at SCRAM, or about 14 million Joules (1 Watt = 1 Joule/second). 4200 Joules will heat 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree C. So 14 million joules would heat 1 kg of water to ~3300 degrees C in a second.

So the problem is that even after you flick the "off" switch the damn thing has to be cooled, and cooled a LOT.

But almost all of the cooling schemes rely on some sort of power; steam generators, electric pumps...and as the Sendai earthquake showed us, in power stations built near large seismogenic faults, power is almost always lost.

You'd think that there would be a "last-ditch" cooling plan that did not depend on external power, but so far as I can tell there was no such plan in place for the Fukushima plant, and that such plans are nearly unthought of. But it seems to me, a natural pessimist, unthinkable to not-think of such a contingency. What would throw a nuclear plant off-line if not a major accident, and what would be more likely - where in the case of a fire, a storm, an earthquake, an internal control element failure - than losing electrical power?

Count me as someone who doesn't reflexively fear nuclear power. Nuclear seems like something that should be considered in our technologic society as an option, with positives and negatives much like other power production schemes.

But the active-cooling requirement seems like a real potential deal-killer. It seems to me that if you can't figure out a way to flood coolant through the core - without power, without pumps - then you have a significant roadblock to keeping these things safe. And safe with nukes is a problem, too. When the floodwaters from the failed hydropower dam recede, or the fire from the gas-power plant is extinguished, people can move back in and start to rebuild. But a core-containment failure has the potential to poison the surrounding area for years, even generations.Nuclear engineers are among the smartest, best trained people in the entire engineering profession. There has got to be an answer to this cooling problem; why haven't they found it?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Soldier Citizens


The topic of Soldier's freedom of speech is a major concern of Ranger's. The Army recently released a 37-page handbook covering online social networkinging communications for Army personnel.

Much of it is common sense, like not using the geo-tagging feature to betray troop location.
It is a given that Soldiers should not release sensitive information, but what about the restriction that they may not speak negatively about Commanders or the chain of command? The muzzling of Soldier's opinions on their leadership still sticks in Ranger's craw.

"Soldiers are also cautioned to watch that what they say doesn’t violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice. While social media encourages soldiers to speak freely, soldiers may not speak negatively about commanders or release sensitive information" (Handbook to guide GIs on social media usage).

Historically, U.S. soldiers have always enjoyed the right to criticize their commanders; this was a reflection of the egalitarian nature of U.S. society. If a unit elects their officers, then unit members obviously were free to comment on both the positive and negative attributes of those officers. Officers in today's Army are still elected by the men, albeit in a different manner.

Any leader that lacks the faith of those under him will end up under the bus; this is a negative election of officers. A popular example is that of Captain Sobel in Stephen Ambrose's The Band of Brothers. The unit, to include the Company's 1st Sergeant, did not accept Sobel as a combat leader and so cast a no-confidence vote which reverberated up to Regiment. When it bounced back down the chain the result was Sobel's transfer.
The unit NCO's selected their next leader by cutting Sobel off at the knees.

Examples of soldiers criticizing higher ups abound in history. LTC George Custer's officers actually wrote letters to newspapers criticizing his leadership. With such a history of free expression how have we come to restrict the speech of our soldiers? When did criticism become an illegal activity?

Since we are a nation of laws, what constitutional authority restricts military free speech? Military law is based upon the Constitution, and the basis of that document is that all citizens have the right of free speech. The strength of a democratic Army is that the men know how to think, improvise and act when officers are not present.

Unlike totalitarian armies, we are flexible and individualistic -- a positive feature -- yet now we are telling Soldiers to put a cork in it. We say that we train them to think but then punish them if they do so in written or oral expression.

Why was there only one Lieutenant Watada in opposition to an illegal war? Why did not one other officer refuse to participate in a war of aggression against two nations? If free speech is a guaranteed right of citizens, then it cannot be taken away; if it can be stripped, then it was not a right. If soldier's free speech can be curtailed, why not that of civilians?
If the argument is to maintain order in the ranks, then why not the same argument for maintaining a disciplined civilian society?

If a soldier is sworn to uphold and defend The Constitution, it follows that same Constitution would insure a soldier's right to free speech. The U.S. does not have two separate Constitutions - one for soldiers and one for civilians.

When did our leaders become tin gods exempt from human interaction and criticism? Soldiers become second-class citizens when they are denied the rights of free speech, perhaps the most precious right which they are charged with defending.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Half a word

Every so often the Earth likes to remind us that for all our hubris we're still just hairless monkeys with homicidal tendencies. And that for REAL destruction, Mother Earth is one BAD motherfucker.And the quote of the day so far (from Nancy Nall): "I wept because I had three inches of new, wet snow in my driveway, and then I met a man who had 12 feet of Pacific Ocean in his."

Second best quote: Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr (CNN): “Our military doesn’t intervene in foreign countries unless they’re asked for help.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pink slip

"After learning they were laid off, about a dozen workers attacked a vehicle carrying Radhey Shyam Roy as he was leaving the factory in eastern Orissa state Thursday, dousing the Jeep with gasoline and setting it on fire, said Police Superintendent Ajay Kumar Sarangi.""Two other people in the vehicle were allowed to flee but Roy, 59, was trapped inside and later died of severe burns, he said"

What was it we were saying about the economic prospects of working-class Americans and the political troubles that might result?

Bet when the senior staff hosts a "roast" for the VP for Management at U.S. Steel this is NOT what they have in mind.

Trust me: he'll do to the U.S. what he does to Callista

The Man Who Would Be King, Newt Gingrich, has decided that the REAL problem in the Middle East is that we just aren't warry enough.So he wants to
"Exercise a no-fly zone this evening. It’s also an ideological problem. The United States doesn’t need anybody’s permission. We don’t need to have NATO, who frankly, won’t bring much to the fight. We don’t need to have the United Nations. All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening. And we don’t have to send troops. All we have to do is suppress his air force, which we could do in minutes."
All of which is true, and all of which means less than a zero in the calculus of national interests of which Mister Gingrich seems to care not a whit.

Does this idiot recall that, craptacular little Third World shithole that it is, Libya is still a Wesphalian state? That the very definition of national existence is the ability to prevent other people from flying around over your territory "without anyone's permission"?

Right now the Libyans are in the middle of a civil war. The opposing sides in civil wars are notoriously touchy about foreign meddling.We would have gone crackers if the British had openly intervened in ours, as was the Confederate intent (see "Trent Affair, The") or even attempted to "mediate" between the Federal government and the rebels. Why does Gingrich believe that the Libyans, rebel or government, would behave any differently?

This gormless wretch Gingrich is only one of the several right-flank characters who seem to be all excited about killin' them - no, wait, getting OTHER Americans to kill - some Libyans, and you know who these people are; the usual suspects - Hitchens, Krauthammer, and no, I won't link to those dopes. And the biggest single commonality between them is that they none of them suggest the simple expedient of asking the friggin' Libyans if they want help.

I'm all in favor of slotting some dictators. Ask my pals; I practically had to be sedated when the Ceauşescus got their 7.39mm pink slip. Gadaffi would look great dangling tastefully a la Benito, or in the dock alongside Charles Taylor.

But if I want to do that I'll have to wait until this knucklehead Gingrich siezes power; a Libyan dictator is a Libyan problem...until the Libyans ask for my help. So Gadaffi is still a Libyan problem, and if we expect and demand the rights of a soveriegn state we owe it to the rest of the world to behave like one. Even before we were a formally a nation we expected the French to go through channels and sign a treaty of alliance before taking a slap at the Brits on our soil; WTF, Newt? You're supposed to be all historical n' shit (at least you and your ghostwriters seem to pick American history to make up stories about); you don't remember this? Has Callista's botox done something to your brain?So, yes, dummy, we DO "need anyone's permission". We need the permission of the very fucking people you're so anxious to "help", if that's really what this is about and knowing you I doubt very much that it is. To even suggest that we just fly around over someone else's country uninvited reminds the rest of us why your skeevy ass only lasted two terms in the House; because you showed that you had no compunction about bullshitting, lying, shuckin' and jiving if it helped you or your political party.

So if you have something sensible to say about Libya I'd love to hear it.

(sound of crickets chirping)

Okay, fine. You now have my permission to put on your little hat and tool off to do something useful. Like shoving a sock in your pie-hole before you say more dumb stuff like this.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Great Leap Sideways

Interesting article here about the otherwise difficult-to-understand swivet that certain elements of the U.S. political establishment (hint; mostly the same folks who were all het up to invade the not-quite-yet-failed-state-that-rhymes-with-"buttcrack") seem to have about China.Don't agree with all Barnett's points, but certainly worth wondering; what ELSE is there to gain by ginning up a pan-Pacific superpower competition with a polity that has historically proven to have confined its ambitions to continental Asia and its near abroad?

(The image, BTW, is from the world's wierdest cartoon baby, Pobaby. He's...well, he's Chinese, and that's all I can figure out. Though you might watch the "Zorro" cartoon for what may possibly be the fucking oddest interpretation of that meme ever.

Monday, March 7, 2011

America's Education Crisis

The NY Times has a great piece on one element of the education equation. Are our country's falling education achievements principally due to "teachers"?

Diane Ratvich's opening piece coincides with one my concerns (I have many, but this is one) with GWB's "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) The program involves punitive measures in greater measure than reward. If your student performance is not acceptable (both at the teacher and school level), your job is in peril, without regard to any analysis of the causative factors. The teacher/school is the de facto guilty party, not the population undergoing the schooling, the state imposed curriculum, or other factors. The a priori assumption in NCLB is that every child is capable of a defined level of achievement, and it's the teacher/school's responsibility to raise that child to that level. Yet this yardstick of universal aptitude is applied to virtually no other performance based endeavor in our society.

As I have posted before, not every child is willing and/or able to meet the standards of a reasonable high school level of achievement. We all know how "Zero Defects" mentalities create sub-par results. Call me an elitist, but I firmly hold that there is a significant segment of our population, for many reasons beyond their immediate control, that is just not equipped to meet reasonable high school graduation standards, and until we face up to that, and address the reasons why, we are simply going to bounce from one jingoistic fad to the next.

For one, there are socio-economic factors that can limit a child's ability. And, as more and more of our population struggles for basic existence, more and more of their offspring are going to be behind the power curve. "Poverty" is more of a threat to an educated society than teacher tenure or pension plans. 30 years ago or so, a Berkley prof offered a wildly unpopular thought about the pervasiveness of the culture of poverty. If there is a genetic component to intelligence, what if cultural masking (or repression) of native (genetic) intelligence could "breed down" the gene pool in poor populations? If intelligent people do tend to seek people of similar displayed intelligence, would the cultural masking or repression of displayed intelligence reduce the odds of genetically bright people find each other as mates? Now, he wasn't opining that certain groups were genetically inferior. All he was trying to do was point out another possible social horror of blindly accepting a permanent "underclass". Even the "Free Speech" culture of Berkley shouted the man down as a racist.

Today, as the Times piece addresses, the movement on policy circles is to scapegoat teachers as both an educational ill as well as a budgetary one. I would be willing to bet that the concurrent moves to reduce aid to the poor will have more negative impact on overall aggregate academic performance that all the incompetent teachers in the the US combined. We have got to accept that some students will never make the grade. How many is hard to say, but experience has demonstrated that 100% graduation becomes the goal, it's the standards and measuring tools that tend to change more than the ability of the student population.

As governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton hit it head on. His state's problem wasn't the graduation rate. It was that a very high percentage of the graduates were functionally illiterate and couldn't handle simple math. His goal was that not only should a better job be done educating the students, but that a HS diploma must regain its stature as evidence of proven ability. And, he said that the standards for graduation had to be enforced before any other issues could be addressed. He admitted that not everyone was willing and/or able to meet that standard. His choice was to keep the standard and make the people do their best to meet it. The standard would guide the people, not the people guide the standard. Radical concept.

Sadly, America is an adversarial culture. For me to win, someone else has to lose or at least not win. We are not really concerned with the long term common or collective good, except in way in which it serves individual gain. As long as "Winning is the only thing", we will continue to search for scapegoats rather than solutions. Ron Paul captured it when he said recently, "No one has a right to an education or health care. That is something that must be earned." Were I a teacher in a school where a child of his family was a student, how tempted I would be to ignore that kid until he or she got a job and paid their own school taxes, rather than freeloading on daddy's tax payments. No child can "earn" his or her education. Paul is visiting the sins or virtues of the fathers onto the children, and his rabid minions are too stupid to see it.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Give me your tired, your poor, but especially your landscapers, maids, and nannies.

Texas state representative Debbie Riddle (R-Buttrump) has a great idea.You remember those scary, dangerous Mexicans sneaking into our country to speak Spanish, collect welfare, and generally de-caucasianize our great land? And remember how Real Americans (like Republicans) want to make sure we Defend our Borders and other valuable things, like our precious bodily fluids?

Well, Debbie wants to make sure that those Meskins don't sneak in here flouridating our water n' stuff, so she's proposing that hiring one of these sneaky invaders is a "state jail felony" under Title 8 of the Texas Penal Code.


...the "actor" (person) hiring said beaner did so "for the purpose of obtaining labor or other work to be performed exclusively or primarily at a single-family residence in which the actor resides..."

Texans, rejoice!As our Founders would wish it, your lawns, babies, clean floors, and cooked meals remain Free...and cheap!

Is there a fucking brain cell left in the Republican Party?What the idiot there said: get a brain, morans. Fuck me sideways! Can't anyone here play this game?

What is an Economy?

Taking another look at fDChief's thread Arc of a Diver, I think that something basic is missing that has come up at the end of that thread, especially in comments by Publius, jim and Al.

Exactly what the economy is hasn't been defined. Chief talks about "securing needs" at the beginning of his post, but that's more human focus and motivation than economy. If I'm dying of thirst, I'm not going to be looking for entertainment, but water, which doesn't necessarily require an economy at all, let alone $$$.

So how do we define "economy"? The distribution of goods and services within and between communities? But it's more than that imo, it also involves providing "gainful" and "meaningful" employment/activity for the members of said community. This would not require commerce at all, could be based instead on reciprocity, which would also not require money. These of course would be relatively limited and not very complex communities, but the basic tie in with economy still holds imo since we still have the same basic requirements which the economy is expected to meet.

Where does "money" come in? Notice I say money and not property which are two different things, although today we see them as one in the same. Money is an abstract concept based on shared assumptions and trust. I assume that my $100 note will be accepted by the check-out counter attendant because it is "legal tender". The attendant assumes that my note is genuine, but the note has no actual value in and of itself, unlike property. Money acts as more the lubricant for the economy, the easing of commercial transaction than as the focus and/or purpose of the economy. The more lubricant the better the system functions, but also the lubricant acts as a measure as to how successful certain parts of the apparatus are operating. Still, the purpose of the overall system is actually much broader and all encompassing than what the money would indicate, and in order to be adequate requires a certain amount of social/communal stability.

Now what happens when we radically redefine "economy" to "making a profit" or more simply as "cashing in"? Instead of a market/sharing of trade and reciprocal/meaningful action we have a gambling table where only the richest can play. The majority are simply pawns in the much larger game of high stakes bets, wagers, and swindles, in fact deception is considered a necessary and highly-valued skill. There is no thought of meaning or distribution, rather of "winner take all" and the loser gets perhaps another chance as long as his money holds up.

But even this doesn't quite capture the reality of the great transformation we have experienced imo. Soooo consider this fable:

There were once two river steamboats. One was new and gleaming, state of the art for the time, well-managed and prosperous. Being steamboats, we of course have riverboat gambling. The other was old and dilapidated, patched up with old worn-out parts and wired together with baling wire, but still functioning more or less. The two steamboat captains decided to have a race. As long as there was no race the inherent weaknesses/strengths of both boats were not apparent.

So on the first boat we have the machinery working well, the crew operating as expected, the gaming tables operating in the best interests of the boat, raking in big profits from the gamblers on board.

On the second we have the machinery barely holding together, the crew semi-mutinous or drunk and disinterested. The gamblers have bought off all the dealers who allow them to win big at the cost of the house, while the uninitiated are fleeced mercilessly. The captain (not the president) is drunk on the bridge but with great delusions of grandeur and considers his boat simply "too big to fail" and orders yet more steam as the first boat is lengthening its lead. The smokestacks are glowing redhot by this point and everyone paying any attention to the reality of the situation knows the boiler is about to go which will blow the whole thing sky high, but the gamblers at the tables are totally focused on their crooked game and ignore the rumbling until it is too late . . .



One of the constitutive components of the modern capitalist spirit and, moreover, generally of modern capitalism, was the rational organization of the life on the basis of the idea of a calling. It was born out of the spirit of Christian asceticism. Our analysis should have demonstrated this point. If we read again the passage from Benjamin Franklin cited at the beginning of this essay, we will see that the essential elements of the frame of mind he described as the "spirit of capitalism" are just that we have conveyed above as the content of Puritan vocational asceticism. In Franklin, however, this 'spirit' exists without the religious foundation, which had already died out.

The idea that modern work in a vocational calling supposedly carries with it an ascetic imprint is, of course, also not new. The limitation of the Faustian multi-dimensionality of the human species, is in our world today the precondition for doing anything of value at all. This is a lesson that already Goethe, at the peak of his wisdom in his Wilhelm Meister's Years of Travel [1829] and in his depiction of the final stage of life thought his most famous character Faust [1808], wished to teach us. He instructs us tht this basic component of asceticism in the middle-class style of life - if it wishes to be a style at all - involves today an inescapable interaction in which the conduct of 'specialized activity', on the one hand, and 'renunciation', on the other, mutually condition each other. For Goethe this acknowledgment implied a farewell to an era of full and beautiful humanity - and a renunciation of it. For such an era will repeat itself, in the course of our civilizational development, with as little likelihood as a reappearance of the epoch in which Athens bloomed.

The Puritan wanted to be a person with a vocational calling; today we are forced to be. For to the extend that asceticism moved out of the monastic cell, was transferred to the life of work in a vocational calling, and then commenced to rule over this - worldly morality, it helped to construct the powerful cosmos of the modern economic order. Tied to the technical and economic conditions at the foundation of mechanical and machine production, this cosmos today determines the style of life of all individuals born into it, not only those directly engaged in earning a living. This pulsating mechanism does so with overwhelming force. Perhaps it will continue to do so until the last ton of fossil fuel has burnt to ashes. According to Baxter, the concern for material goods should lie upon the shoulders of this saints like "a lightweight cloak that could be thrown away at any time". Yet fate allowed a steel-hard casing (stahlhartes Gehäüse) to be forged from this cloak. To the extent that asceticism attempted to transform and influence the world, the world's material goods acquired an increasing and, in the end, inescapable power over people - as never before in history.

Today the spirit of asceticism has fled from this casing, whether with finality, who knows? Victorious capitalism, in any case, ever since it came to rest on a mechanical foundation, no longer needs asceticism as a supporting pillar. Even the rosy temperament of asceticism's joyful heir, the Enlightenment, appears finally to be fading. And the idea of an 'obligation to search for and then accept a vocational calling' now wanders around in our lives as the ghost of beliefs no longer anchored in the substance of religion. Whenever the conduct of a vocation cannot be explicitly connected to the highest cultural values of a spiritual nature, or wherever conversely, individuals are not forced to experience it simply as economic coercion - in both situations persons today usually abandon any attempt to make sense of the notion of a vocational calling altogether. The pursuit of gain, in the region where it has become most completely unchained and stripped of its religous-ethical meaning, the United States, tends to be associated with purely competitive passions. Not infrequently, these passions directly imprint this pursuit with the character of a sporting contest.

No one any longer knows who will live in this steel-hard casing and whether entirely new prophets or a mighty rebirth of ancient ideas and ideals will stand at the end of this prodigious development. Or, however, if neither, whether a mechanized ossification, embellished with a sort of rigidly compelled sense of self-importance, will arise. Then, indeed, if ossification appears, the say might be true for the 'last humans' in this long civilizational development:

-Narrow specialists without mind, pleasure-seekers without heart; in its conceit, this nothingness imagines it has climbed to a level of humanity never before attained.-

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 1920