Friday, May 20, 2011

A Nation of Men

Noted in passing: today is the "60th day" since the formal announcement that U.S. armed forces were involved in the civil war in Libya. Other than a handful of GOP senators neither the Congress nor the White House appears to be concerned about missing the deadline for a Congressional approval of the escapade required under 50 U.S.C. 1541-1548.

The U.S. right has always scorned the "War Powers Resolution". Now the circle is complete, and the U.S. "left" (whatever there is of it represented in the corridors of power) shows its disregard that the People in Congress have any business interfering in foreign military policy.

What was that? A nation of laws?

Where ever did you hear THAT nonsense..?


  1. Chief,

    It's not a war, it's a time-limited, scope-limited military action.

  2. Chief,
    My guess is that the reasoning is --THIS IS A NATO mission ergo WAR PWRS DO NOT APPLY.
    Words are easy to manipulate, easier than people, and of course the people swallow the hook.

  3. Andy: Ah! My bad, then. I keep getting the cruise-missile-and-bomb war thingies confused with the cruise-missile-and-bomb TLSLMA thingies.

    jim: I'm sure that it will be something like that. But my larger point is that this seems fairly simple:

    1. U.S. military units are expending ordnance somewhere.
    2. The law, as written, says that unless this is in direct response to an attack then the Pres. has 60 days to quit or get a thumbs-up from Congress.
    3. And we're not even pretending anymore.

    Bill James once wrote a hell of a good essay on "the evolution of blocking the plate in baseball" where he pointed out that it is against the rules of the game for a field player to occupy the basepath unless in possession of the ball. That if you tried to do this anywhere else on the field you'd get called for interference and the runner would take the base. But that through a long series of non-calls by the umpire we have the situation we have now; the catcher camps out halfway up the third baseline waiting for the throw and the runner has to either go all the way around him or crash into him. And that this is not good, either for the players, who risk injury, or the game, which now has a rule on the books that is not enforced BUT COULD BE at any time.

  4. (con't)

    So he pointed out that this is a problem in any legal system where laws are simply ignored. That the problem is that at some point in the future they MIGHT be invoked, and that at that point it suddenly becomes an immense explosion, with one side pointing out (quite correctly) the huge body of practice that had gone before while the other side (also correctly) points out that the rule is still there, still valid, and should never have been ignored in the first place.

    So beyond the larger, legal and moral issue of obeying the law, this business sets up a practical issue of burying this mine for future presidents and Congresses to step on.

    Lose-lose all around, IMO. But what the hell do I know?

  5. For fixing such issues, you need:

    A) A law that empowers a proper reaction.
    B) The ability to go to court as citizen against the government (and then a process system that allows for a quick decision without too high barriers) OR an institution that's 100% watchdog and fiery enough.
    C) State power that's able to remove the offenders from power and NOT under influence by the offenders (think: a heavily armed battalion under SCOTUS command).

    It's a common problem that governments violate laws if nobody can sanction them in court for it (because normal court action is only possible if the accuser suffered obvious damage).

  6. Sven: Instead, we've been digging the moat between governed and the governing wider and deeper. Our popular media seldom, if ever, moves to "offend" the government - you will not find any of the major newspapers, or the nets, or the cable news, making this an issue tomorrow, or ever. Our judiciary is nearly impenetrable to an ordinary citizen, and is nearly immobile when the other branches are concerned. So a police organization under the SCOTUS would almost never act against the executive or legislative branches.

    And, sadly, perhaps the worst offenders are We, the U.S. public. We could shake the foundations of the state if we chose. We do not so choose.

    We have mad'st our daughters our mother, gav'st them the rod, and put'st down our own breeches.

  7. Correction, at least 3 Representatives (that I know of) are concerned as well: Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul and Justin Amash. There is also the fact that Bruce Fein has drawn up Articles of Impeachment already.

    A prominent libertarian constitutional lawyer and civil libertarian has drafted an article of impeachment against President Obama over his attack on Libya, throwing down a legal gauntlet that could be picked up by some Congressional Republicans

    Bruce Fein, a former Reagan administration official in the Department of Justice and chairman of American Freedom Agenda writes in his 15-page argument of Obama's course that "Barack Hussein Obama has mocked the rule of law, endangered the very existence of the Republic and the liberties of the people, and perpetrated an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor."

  8. Fine... but where were they when Bush did this and more?

  9. Ummm...lets see....

    Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul were quite outspoken about Bush. Justin Amash was not in Congress at the time.

  10. Chief,
    I was reading CRUISE MISSILES FOR DUMMIES and the following jumped out at me. Cruise missiles are only a weapon of war IF THEY HAVE A BAYONET STUD ATTACHED.
    Thought you should be read in.

  11. jim: You know as well as I do that cruise missiles and any other SSMs that have a bayonet lug and other "assault weapon" type features are already illegal to own and operate under 27 CFR 478.39. I suggest that you file yours off before going to the range the next time, or you might be in trouble with the rurales

  12. BRL: What, they couldn't find a blowjob to include on the charge sheet?

    Gimme a break. Impeachment has been a joke ever since the Ninties. The Newtster and his merry pranksters managed to take that off the table as a legitimate weapon against executive misbehavior for a generation. How come you think a Bush impeachment never got further than the talking stage; it was and will be seen as a partisan scam until the last U.S. citizen who remembers the words "semen-stained dress" has been diagnosed with terminal Alzheimer's.

    A bunch of grandstanders doesn't change the larger reality that the nation and the Congress could care less what the law says. If we had more mojitos and a plantain or two we'd be laughable as a banana republic.

    In fact, that's what I'm gonna call these guys; banana Republicans. Impeachment? How about they do their jobs instead and force a floor vote? Cut off the budget? Filibuster all business until the Senate either approves or ends this thing?

    Bah. We can't even bother to do our own work correctly...

  13. Chief,
    I have a personal shooting facility on my land.
    I have actually ground bayo studs off black rifles in the past. I presently have post ban rifles with faux muzzle / flash suppressors to make them less assaultive. These are welded to the barrel to comply w. BATF guidelines.

    But back to reality. The news has reported that 750 mil$ is the current cost of the Libyan goat screw, and both of us know that figure is bullshit.
    Is Andy an atturnee?

  14. Jim,

    No, I'm not an attorney, I only play one on the internet :)

  15. What I think it boils down to, Chief, is that no one is interested in governing, they just want to be part of the government. The former carries responsibility for one's actions, which is truly anti-American.

  16. @aviator -- well said sir! Well said!


  17. Al: I suspect you've gotten to the crux of the biscuit. I recall a time when Americans had the rep as sort of hairy-assed gomers who had no tact or style but DID things. I'm not saying that we don't anymore, but it does seem like the public face of the U.S. is increasingly that of a slick PR guy, all puffery and image, whose "accomplishments" turn out under close examination to be done with smoke, mirrors, Ponzi schemes, and sly nepotism. The Donald and The Sperminator seem like perfect examples of the sort of person who now dominates American public life; interested in power but not the responsible uses of it, interested not in what does the best for the most people but whatever their facile policy notions happen to be.

    One has to wonder; how long can a nation continue to excel - or even exist - when it's "leaders" are selected from such people? And whose citizens seem to prefer this glossy sham to bitter truth?

    My guess is quite a long while, given the descending branch of most great empires. But it's still unpleasant to watch for anyone with either hope or ambition...

  18. A boat docked on a tiny Greek island.

    A tourist complimented the local fishermen on the quality of their fish and asked how long it took them to catch.

    "Not very long." they answered in unison.

    "Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?"

    The fishermen explained that their small catches were sufficient to meet their needs and those of their families.

    "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

    "We sleep late, fish a little, play with our children, and take siestas with our wives. In the afternoons we have a snack at the beach

    Or go into the village to see our friends at the Kafeneon(cafe)have a few drinks and play tavli. (backgammon)

    In the evenings we go to a taverna play the bouzouki and sing a few songs, maybe break a plate or two.

    We have a full life."

    The tourist interrupted,

    "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you!

    You should start by fishing longer every day.
    You can then sell the extra fish you catch.
    With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."

    " And after that?"

    "With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.

    Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants
    and maybe even open your own plant.
    You can then leave this little village and move to Athens or even London!

    From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."

    "How long would that take?"

    "Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years." replied the tourist.

    " And after that?"

    " Afterwards? Well my friend, that's when it gets really interesting, "
    answered the tourist, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!"

    "Millions? Really? And after that?" asked the fishermen.

    " After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."

    "With all due respect, that's exactly what we are doing now. So what's the point wasting twenty-five years?"
    asked the Greek fishermen?

    Sadly, the above is "The American Way"!

  19. I have to disagree with you, Chief. You're obviously working from an historical perspective but technology and gross incompetence has accellerated the process quite a bit.

    I think, based on several massive time-bombs currently embedded in the system as "features," that we are looking at no more than 10 years, perhaps as few as 2.

    You can see the main fracture points already; lots of financial time-bombs (social security, healthcare, under-funded pensions, under-funded education, under-funded infrastructure, poor financial planning by most boomers, just to name a few), permanent politicians viewing gridlock as their only viable strategy, major issues with privacy vs. surveilance, Washington's increasing inability to separate fantasy from reality... I could go on for a while longer but there's no need.

    We are in the end-game of empire and aren't playing it very well. The only real question is whether the last moment of the Empire will be a bang or a whimper. I'm leaning toward whimper at the moment.

  20. Pluto-

    There are nights I go to sleep thinking exactly what you posted above.

    On one point, for example, I am convinced that we will let our medical industry (it stopped being a "healthcare system" decades ago) collapse before we will do anything to make it responsive to our whole society.

  21. Dunno, Pluto. Big structures - empires, economies, societies - have a hell of a lot of inertia. They tend to be pretty resilient, even when they're far gone into senesence.

    Add to that the lack of any real existential threat. The U.S. will be able to slide a LONG way into Third World levels of crony capitalism, incompetence, income inequality, and general desuetude before things become visibly "desperate". And at that point, well...

    Jared Diamond wrote an interesting little book called "Collapse" where he talked about how different societies respond to crises. Some have the wherewithal to either be proactive and head these off to some degree, while many do not. Some manage to adapt and respond when the crisis DOES come, others fragment.

    I think that there's a lot of vitality at the community level in the U.S. - we're not 18th Century Spain - but the fish IS rotting from the head. What may happen is Al's health industry collapse...or another massive financial collapse...or even the development of a local or regional seperatist movement. But in some ways I wonder if what will eventually happen is that we will, in some ways, return to the Articles days, where the states or regions that are more willing and capable of adapting will surge ahead of those that won't.

    My bet would be on this happening in the "blue" states". But I'm Oregonian, and prejudiced.

  22. Chief-

    One psychologist posited that an individual's "values" do not change dramatically unless confronted by a Significant Emotional Event. I offer that societies are similar. To wit, the social change in the US as a result of The Great Depression. It was not an event that could be simply "muddled through", as it profoundly impacted most of society, or at least enough of it to be an assault on the whole organism.

    At present, we are not experiencing such an event. Instead, we are creeping toward one, and I use medical costs as an example. When they become far too high to be afforded by enough of the population, the industry will collapse. There simply won't be enough paying customers to sustain the enormous beast. When the medical business can't generate the revenues, then the suppliers themselves will suffer a Significant Emotional Event, as well as the 10s of millions who cannot afford health care, and we will collectively, in the wake of the collapse, consider another dramatically different approach.

    However, right now, the collective intellect is, for lack of a better term, stupid. When a congresscritter told his constituents that employers should provide medical insurance to retirees as part of their retirement plans, he got a standing ovation. Of course, those applauding are oblivious to the facts (1) that fewer and fewer employers offer pension plans, no less medical insurance and (2) what the costs of goods and services would be if every employer did so. But then, I would offer that 90% of the US population haven't a clue about the costs of running a business. It's all PFM (Pure Freakin Magic).

  23. Chief, I agree with all of your basic points but come to a different conclusion for two reasons:

    1) We've already been doing this for a long time, at least since Johnson played his little games with "Guns and Butter." We enjoyed a bit of good government during the late 80's and mid 90's but have generally had government that was amnesiac, incompetent, or actively psychotic since Johnson left office. Those few years of good government cannot make up for the wasteland of poor choices and missed opportunities that surround them.

    2) Al touched on this next one; you're wrong about the lack of an existential enemy. We've got one and it's got us by the throat and is determined to choke the life out of us. The enemy is our own fantasy life that we (particularly in Washington) prefer to reality.

    Obama is the latest incarnation of this. He assumes that going to a troubled location, making a few obviously true statements and leaving will solve the problem. Or as he puts it "start a dialog that will make us better people in the long run." Admittedly this a lot cheaper than Bush's fondness for bombing problems regardless of their nature, but it doesn't actually solve the problem or even show much leadership.

    Our government's assumption that throwing trillions of dollars at the financial system without reforming it will prevent a recurrence of the 2008 meltdown is laughable to the point of agony.

    Congress' assumption that we can cut spending on Medicare (for example) without hurting the recipients is absurd.

    Waging wars on multiple fronts, sometimes without declaring war, does not make us stronger. Quite the opposite, it sets us up for overstretch and multiple disasters. There's now muttering in Washington that we need to intervene in Syria and Yemen like we did in Libya. Sorry, that doesn't sound like a winner in any way.

    The boomers, who spend every dime of every paycheck and expect to retire comfortably in the next few years are just one more example.

    Even our courts are beginning to indulge in magic thinking simply because failure to do so leads to horrible thoughts. And those can't happen in America because we're, like, *SPECIAL*.

    I stand by my estimate of 2 to 10 years for the republic. The USA may stand longer, at least in name, but the serfs will not be allowed to vote.