Thursday, November 11, 2021

Into the Darkness

 Our longtime friend-of-the-blog Sven (from Defence and Freedom) dropped by to ask what the hell was wrong with us? Why hadn't we had any content here for so long? And it took me a while to consider that, yes, I should say something, rather than let this place just drift along into the darkness.


First, we've taken massive casualties. Look at the right-hand column. There, under "bar staff"? Seven names.

Well, here I am.

Lisa and jim, from Ranger Against War) left us after the 2016 election. Lisa, largely because (so far as I can tell) she went headfirst down the Trumpkin rabbit hole. She had been Trump-curious during the runup to the 2016 election and by that autumn had completely bought into the idea of Trump as a "rulebreaker" and "iconoclast" that was what was needed to shatter the corruption and oligarchy that had and has overtaken the United States.

She's right about the problem...but there was a massive dustup over her choice of solution, and we "parted brass rags" as theBrits used to say, and she decamped.

Jim, sadly, seems to have just given up in disgust. If you go to the RAW site and go to the comments on the last post, the second comment is jim's, and he says: "I cannot take fire from inside the perimeter.
If Lisa wants to write about Trump then i'd respectfully request that she start a new blog and not use up the RAW that we built so artfully."

And that's it. Radio silence since then.

We lost PF Khans some time shortly after that. He was already getting quiet, and I have to reach our to him and say how grieved I am for him. The ending of the Umpteenth Afghan War is hard for those who gave their youth and their strength in fighting it. I'm still certain that it had to end and that the ending we got was as good as ever possible...but that doesn't change the grief and loss that comes from seeing that end. I'm sorry, PFK, and I hope you and yours are bearing up.

Mike has just got too much else going on, and has largely (as so many others have) moved over to Twitter and the other short-form social media.

Seydlitz (of the immortal memory!) had moved on long before 2016. I miss his insightful wisdom and should be better about looking for him where the runs these days.

Sheerahkhan was a very rare poster and is evident (when he is) only in the comment section these days.

So it's just me.

I've - as everyone does - got a lot going on, too. Work. Home. Family. Other interests outside geopolitics. Knee surgery - I had both knees replaced at the end of the summer and I'm still achy and tottery on the new parts.

And I'm also sick and sad at what I'm seeing here in the Land of the Big PX.

But to explain that I have to go back a bit and give you some dreaded backstory.

I was born in Whittier, Califormia, in 1957 - yep, Dick Nixon and I are homeboys - to a chemical engineer of the 1951 postwar Cornell crop and his buxom redheaded HomeEc major wife. I was raised in what was a stereotypical Father Knows Best Fifties and Sixties middle-class white Protestant household in Chicago and outside Philadelphia as his big company moved my father around in classical Mid-Century Big Company fashion.

The old man was a poster child for Mid-century Middle Class White Guydom. Golfed. Smoked a pipe - an actual no-shit serious pipe (I still remember the smell of his favorite bowl, something called "Heine's Blend" that came in a big blue-and-white faux Delft tin...).

And was Republican because...of course he was.

So I was.

We stood for all things that Mid-century Republicans stood for. Prosperity. National greatness. Low (but fair) taxes. "Personal Responsibility" - sure, we accepted the New Deal, because nobody wants their granny to die in poverty, but you had to pull yourselves up by the bootstraps, goddammit!

We were "Rockefeller Republicans"; "liberal" on social issues - we didn't care who you screwed or what you did so long as your fist stayed away from our noses - but "conservative" on fiscal and geopoltical ones.

I think the beginning of the end came in the Civil Rights era and Vietnam.

 One thing that my parents, lovely complacent white folks that they were, couldn't deny was that the Land of the Free was kind of a tough place if you weren't...well, what they were. And they wanted to see that change.

They were also pretty smart people, and as such refused to fall for the classic blunder of supporting a land war in Asia.

And so it hurt them - my father most - to see the Dixicrats peel off and become Republicans, and to see Nixon cynically manipulating the war for political gain. While no fan of LBJ and the Democrats...these were the first cracks in the marriage.

Then came Reagan - who my father had seen and distrusted in the embryonic stage back in California - and his "voodoo economics" and his magical thinking and the goofy foreign policy adventures (Iran-Contra disgusted him and GHW Bush's pardons made him furiously angry; treason was treason and should be punished, the public be damned...).

And then came Newt Gingrich and the movement that metastasized first into the "Tea Party" and then into the real lunatic fringe, the QANuts and Three Percenters and the whole freakish shitpile of imbeciles and bigots that we have today running the rest of the GOP scared.

Thank God he died before Trump. That alone would have killed him, seeing that we both knew Trump from his shenanigans in the Tri-State area back in the Eightes and knew him as the ridiculous, egomaniac, corrupt buffoon he is...

And that's not even to take into consideration the mad rush on the American Right to return to the economic ways of the Gilded Age and Lochnerism. Tom Jefferson had some pretty goofy political ideas, but he was right about this - a democratic republic cannot be governed by a polity of wage-slaves. If your livelihood depends on the largesse of your patron - whether that patron is the Duke of Sandringham or Jeff Bezos - you cannot act against the patron's interests. 

You can have a concentration of great wealth, or democracy. Not both. We Rocky Republicans were totally jake with the 90 percent top marginal rate, remember? 

Today's GOP does not.

Anyway...that was my road to Santiago de Compostella - through my father's eyes, watching his beloved GOP become the party of Critical Race Theory and January 6th and the Bundys and Taylor Green and - even more terrifying - Tom Cotton, who has all the right Falangist genes and none of Trump's insane emotional problems.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I see this country as poised on the edge of desuetude.

We have 30-40% of the U.S. public who, in the face of a pandemic, insists in fantasy "treatments" like equine dewormer while spurning effective vaccinations.

That insists that perfectly normal elections have been "stolen".

That is willing to believe, and act with violence to support, in the craziest things that their "leaders" say.

That supports a Supreme Court that appears poised to throw out not just the most sensible firearms regulation but the legal concept of "nondelegation" that will undo the Twentieth Century. 

And I despair.

The U.S. needs a "conservative" political party (and the electoral reality of the US means that there will be only two large parties, one "liberal/left" and one "conservative/right").

But it needs a sane conservative party.

And it doesn't have one.

Right now we - all of us - are confronted with perhaps the single most massive issue we will face over the next century; the way we are heating up the Earth's atmosphere.

It's not a mystery. C'mon! About 200 years ago we the human race started burning stuff - first wood, then coal, then oil - and all that smoke had to go somewhere. The receipts are impossible to ignore. It's going to push us close to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum if we don't do something, LOTS of somethings, and that is a world unlike anything we know.

And the mantra of one of the two political parties we allow ourselves in the US is "Crisis? What crisis?"

Confronted with that...well, spending three or four hours writing a post about field artillery seems...louche, at best.

I'm sitting here as almost half my country becomes something I don't even recognize. Or, worse, that I recognize as a bad dream from earlier times; No-Knothings, Klansmen, Birchers. All the whackaloon things that I thought that We the People had outgrown.

Is the Left a treat?

Christ, no. Idiotic things like "Defund the Police" ensure that my impatience with the American Left has not grown any lesser.

(Mind you, the Portland Police Bureau is still an incompetent shitpile of ignorance and arrogance just as it always has been; we'd be better off to replace it with a troop of sentient raccoons...)

But what the hell is a democratic republic going to do when damn near a third of it's citizens think - and act - like wearing a piece of fabric over your nose and mouth is an intolerable assault on Freedom?

That's just not supportable.

Look at the Congress this past summer?

A bill to fix all the things we know are breaking or broken - bridges, electric lines, roadways - and to help people and to bring some change to the warming climate - has been deadlocked despite massive support from the public largely because a handful of the notional "Left" - Manchin and Sinema - have been bought by big money - and the Right would rather own the libs than help out (although 13 of them finally did - good on you, Baker's Dozen! - and are getting pilloried all over the conservative airwaves for doing it).

We can't even fucking govern ourselves anymore. Geopolitics? How the hell can we hope to do that when we can't even rule ourselves?

So I'm looking around me and seeing an end to the nation and the people I thought I lived among and grown up in .

And I feel like Smokey the Bear standing helpless, with my dungarees and shovel and hat, watching all the trees in the world burn down around me.

Because watching a politically-indigestible minority of my supposed-fellow-Americans cheer enthusiastically for a New Gilded Age and home-grown Franco- or Peronism? 

The only response I can come up with is an inarticulate roar of rage and anguish.   

And who wants to read that?

Which is why I've been so silent.


  1. Part 1

    It is still good to hear from you, Chief. I wish you a speedy recovery from your knee operations. I've been fighting to avoid similar surgery for 40 years and am still winning. With considerable luck I will die with the knees I was born with (which were not good from the beginning).

  2. Part 2 (caused by a very serious limitation in posting comments length)

    Regarding the current political situation, I share your pain, but see the situation somewhat differently. The problem seems to stem from social media. Too many people in the US (and potentially the world) get their information about the rest of the world primarily from networks of self-reinforcing "news sources" that pretend to be accurate and objective but are not.

    Some of these sources attempt to offer a rational view of the world but most do not. Some, to use your words, are "an inarticulate roar of rage and anguish" over the loss of biased or partial worldviews used to exist (and died for good reason) or never existed.

    Some are based on religious perspectives, some on either naïve or jaded perspectives. Some are created solely for personal gain and I find those to be the most destructive of all. Trump is a symptom, not a cause, of this self-isolation from reality by an increasing percentage of Americans.

    But reality, as COVID has shown, doesn't care if people understand it. It just continues to exist and change in response to natural events and people's behavior, regardless of whether people are wise or self-destructive.

    The key challenge Democracy faces these days is that it relies on a majority of people to agree on a basic set of facts. Democracy is lost when one candidate says the sky is green and the other says that it is red and the media ignores that it is blue and state that both side’s arguments have merit.

  3. Part 3

    The major problem with the Democratic party today is that it defines itself as the big tent for everybody who is not Republican. While it is a great recruiting slogan, that statement is not a basis for effective political policy. Biden's economic plan, flawed from the start, suffered a stillbirth in Congress because of the lack of agreement on a national agenda.

    To give the Republicans their due, they've recognized this problem but their "solution" is to let either an oligarchy or a monarchy effectively rule the country while its citizens chase rainbows and the leaders steal every last penny from them. This not a solution, it is capitulation, and will doom the country and likely the planet. Fortunately the thieves are already falling out (Trump vs. a bunch of wannabees vs. the McConnell-led oligarchists) and the knives are already coming out. It is likely that none of them are going to be able to build any sort of a consensus around a single leader in 2024 and the Democrats will, once again, win the presidency be default but will be even less able to govern effectively than they are currently.

  4. Part 4

    My sole hope, which is slowly growing, is that reality is going to rear its ugly head again in a way that cannot be ignored (it has a habit of doing so in times like this) and people will have to abandon their foolish dreams and unite or die.

    My personal best guess is that it will be rooted in our increasingly crazed economics, a natural disaster of epic proportions (climate change and/or super COVID are the most likely), or a political event on the order of magnitude of the rise of the Nazi party (probably in the US), or a combination of all three, like the 1930's.

    Humans are astonishingly capable when presented with this stark choice and I have faith that we will survive once more but the casualty count will be staggering and I cannot predict that what comes out of this struggle to survive will resemble the America we once knew and loved.

    Forums like the Milpub can have a surprisingly large but subtle impact on how we lead ourselves in the future. As an example, the letters written between the founding fathers had a huge impact on the American Revolution and the drafting of the US Constitution. The same can be said for the French and Russian revolutions, albeit with less good results. I suspect Al Qaeda and the Islamic State were generated in similar (but more private) conversations.

    Is the Milpub played out? That is for you guys to decide but I urge you to find new barkeeps, if possible, and keep the discussion rolling as events play out.

    1. I'll go into this a bit more in my reply to Andy...but the thing that I think it's hard for us older people born between the 1930s and the 1960s to understand what a historically unique and weird period we grew up in.

      For most of the history of the US - and now, again - the nation was bitterly divided politically and socially, beginning with Whigs vs Tories in the Revolutionary War.

      From there you had the old money/aristos of the Jefferson-Hamilton breed versus the hardscrabble poor and lower-middle-class that culminated in Jacksonianism. From there? Slavery vs abolition plus throw in Know-Nothingism/nativism vs The Goddamn Irish.

      Labor vs Capital in the postwar Gilded Age, culminating in the Socialist Party and the "anarchist" and "red" scares of the turn of the 20th Century.

      Rich Republicans vs New Deal Democrats in the Thirties (with the impetus to the Left of genuine Commies and to the Right of Fascism in Italy and Germany)

      But then...suddenly there's post-WW2. Unless you were darker than a sheet of foolscap there was a sort of massive political peace as the two parties both had a wide range of components; the Dixiecrats brought raw racism into the tent alongside the New Dealers and political liberals, while the GOP had both Taft and Rockefeller wings (and the Birchers for the real nutbags, a sort of counterweight to the remnants of the Pinks on the Left).


    2. (con't)

      During those earlier times those contending factions had their own versions of "self-reinforcing news sources". Every major city had a Republican (or Whig, or Know-Nothing, or Socialist) and Democratic newspaper. You had your Father Coughlin or Kingfish on the radio. There was little agreement on the basic "facts" of the Homestead Strike, or the Haymarket, or the New Deal...

      Now the two big parties have sorted themselves out again; the Dixicrats - racist AF as always - are now Republicans, the Rockefeller Republicans, RINOs!, are conservative Democrats of the Manchin variety.

      But the problem is that in the sorting the two poles are asymmetrical.

      The Sanders Wing of the Democratic Party has a voice, but - as you note - it's just one of many "not-Republicans" under the big Democratic Tent. The American Left is a panorama from Defund The Police and Tax the Rich to "let's just do some nice Medicare and hope Elon Musk gives us some money".

      The Right?

      It's almost completely taken over by the Birchers. Look at Tubby, spouting off about how his buddies the Q Shaman and the other jolly partiers of the Capitol Rebellion were TOTALLY on-point with wanting to hang his own lickspittle Vice President and nobody - not even he who was supposed to be hung! - is telling the bloated orange fool to STFU.

      THAT's where I see the problem.

      The Left is what it's always been (what was that Will Rogers joke about not belonging to an organized political party because he was a Democrat..?)

      The Right is locked into a lunatic spiral driven by it's worst elements; anti-democracy, anti-labor, anti-inclusion, anti-science, anti-vaxx. The remaining sane Republicans are terrified of the monsters forty years of nonstop lying about government and liberal democracy have created.

      THAT is what a democracy can't survive; one political faction that will rule, or ruin. THAT's what I fear and hate, and see no exit from at the moment...

  5. Thanks for the post Chief.

    Things change, and unfortunately not all for the better.

    Like you and Pluto, I'm fighting knee problems too, but so far have been able to avoid surgery.

    I'd also like to mention Al - I still think of him tooling around his Greek island on a moped.

    And thanks for giving some background on what's going on with some of the barkeeps that I didn't know about.

    While I enjoyed reading all of them, I probably miss Seydlitz the most. I think a lot of what he wrote was prescient at the time, although he was completely wrong in his support for the Libya war IMO.

    I still have this bookmarked which I see is now almost exactly 11 years old.

    His comment in part:

    "The second set concerns specific American problems which are closely tied with changes in American society and especially imo with the collapse of both Liberalism/Progressivism and Conservativism as political ideologies. From the "Left", a lot of the good intentions of mass education or more broadly, the Square, New and Fair "Deals" as well as the "Great Society" coupled with modern notions of "progress" have eroded traditional authority - be it parents, churches, teachers and communities, and replaced it with . . . well nothing really. The state as in bureaucratic control, be it education or social services or whatever, has been unable to fill the void.

    The less said about what has become of Conservativism in America the better. Any practical view of politics or of state responsibility has been sunk in a morass of corruption, self-interest, racism and blind ideology which sees the state as simply the steel fist of the elite to enforce their version of "order" or as a milk cow for their narrow interests.

    Consider how the collapse of language as a means of communication and sharing ideas fits in with the growing polarization in America, it is as if we are operating in different dimensions since the ability for rational thought seems to have been lost.

    As the rest of the world stumbles forward, the US sinks in its own little swamp of delusional self-interest and money-drenched corruption. We have become our own worst enemies, our own dynamic for self-destruction . . ."

    I still think that has aged very well and the result is that we are now a society of factions - factions in the sense of how Madison viewed them.

    Seydlitz also greatly improved my thinking about strategy generally.

    1. I'm sorry about the knees. Hope for a better outcome than the one I got. And I miss that old rotorhead Al so much it hurts sometimes. Why do the good men seem to go so quickly and shitheels hang on forever?

      I love seydlitz and miss his insight, too.


      His statement you quote seems to me to hinge in a critical unreality; that liberalism has replaced "traditional authority" with nothing.

      Churches? Christ (excuse the noun...), they're all over hell. Indeed, a strong component of movement Conservatism is a strain of militant Christianity that insists that its "faith" allows it to negate things like equal rights for minorities it despises and public requirements that it follow civil law! Far from eroding its authority, this strain of politics demands that we unchurched must bow to its faith rather than stand firm on the separation of church and state.

      Parents? Last time I checked, the New Deal did nothing to prevent me from cussing my layabout son out for gaming into the wee small hours of the morning.

      Teachers and Communities? Who's invading the school board meetings and demanding teachers throw out "controversial" books and not teach "critical race theory"? Sounds like those institutions are alive and well and under siege not from the New Dealers but from the old guard of 1929...

      I don't see this as a "problem of the Deals". I see it, rather, as a problem that the Deals didn't go far enough; they left the browner Americans out, and left the wealthy far too much influence in our politics.

      So I will agree massively with him on the problem of corruption. Citizens United removed the brakes from what was already a hugely corrupt system of funding elections. When something like the BBB bill - that's supported by an overwhelming majority, even Republicans (when you tell them of the policies and leave off the sponsors...) - can be sunk by a tiny handful of bought-and-paid-for ConservaDems?

      That's a problem

      Frankly, I think the single biggest issue we're looking at are the structural problems baked into our Constitution; specifically the Senate, the Electoral College, and the Supreme Court.

      The Senate is insane as a republican institution. I get two Senators for my tiny Oregon, the same as monster California or Texas? Something like 70% of the Senate is going to represent something like 30% of the population by 2050 as the rural parts of the country hollow out.

      Electoral College? 'Nuff said.

      The Supremes? Look back at the post and consider the possibility that six of these nimrods are entirely likely to legislate "nondelegation" from the bench, undoing the lessons we've learned painfully - literally, in blood at agencies like OSHA and the EPA - through the 20th Century.

      Then consider the absolute monkeyhouse we'd get if was convened a Second Constitutional Convention. Christ, you'd have every lunatic Sovereign Citizen demanding that the 10th Amendment become the ultimate law of the land and that their lunatic version of the 2nd trump (see what I did there...) every law, rule, and regulation.

      Again...this stuff all comes back to the imbalance of extremes; the mild milquetoast version of "liberalism" on one side, and a cult of authoritarian personality on the other. I'm even more depressed...

  6. Sorry for your depression, Chief, the only hope I offered was cataclysm, which is pretty sad when you think about it.

    But to quote Andy, "Things change, and unfortunately not all for the better." But the universal constant IS change. This is a moment in time that will serve as lesson for generations to come.

    What happens to us? It seems to be beyond the wisdom of the very smart people who comment on the Milpub but it is going to happen. All we can do is to capitulate (like the Republican party, pray, or steer ourselves to the best landing possible. I'm still aiming for the third option since the others just don't work for me.

    1. The problem is that when "things change" into an authoritarian government they don't change back 1) until things suck pretty hard for "those" people, and 2) for quite some time. The Nazis did a lot of damage in 12 years, and the Fascisti in twenty. You could make a valid argument that Russia has NEVER been anything but a dictatorial shithole going back hundreds of years.

      Here's the thing, tho; unless I take to the streets with a Molitov and a rifle, living under a right-wing oligarchy is pretty easy for me, an elderly white guy. My Chinese-american daughter? Not so much...but in general, I am unlikely to lose half a slug if the Trumpkins take over again in '24.

      But my country..?

  7. Ironically, I improved my knees through squatting, stabilising them to the point of no issues whatsoever,

    A society's prime obligation is to keep dangerous idiots away from positions of extraordinary power. To fail at this obligation leads to extreme harm to the society itself and in case of powerful countries also to extreme harm to other societies.

    Certain societal illnesses such as blaming the one who points fingers at a liar rather than blaming the liar itself only build up to failing the prime obligation. False balance in political news reporting is another such illness.

    The finer points like whether workers get ripped off at work and in stores don't matter nearly as much, especially from a foreigner's position. I couldn't care much less about whether the U.S. gets its inrastructure done, maternal care, paid sick leave et cetera. Keeping warmongers, Fascists and idiots from achieving control of Congress or White House on the other hand is all-important.

    1. Sadly, Sven, something like 25-40% of the public likes those dangerous idiots because they see them as dangerous to "those people", the darks and the feminazis and the libs and the homos and everyone else they don't like. And given the ridiculous way our government is set up the levers of power are skewed towards that minority.

      Our political press is a disaster, and doesn't help.

      Most people don't pay attention or understand "politics". But they understand getting ripped off at work and in stores, and will vote for the liar who says that "I alone can fix it". IF you can't fix those problems, you will always lose to the huckster who claims they can, does nothing, and then says they did...

    2. Actually, phycological studies have shown very consistently that about 20-25 percent of people prefer totalitarian systems, where they are told how to think. In the past they have been isolated, kept hidden under their rocks. The Internet has allowed them to unite with racist people and the Republicans have decided that this is where their future lies.

    3. Research also points at about 9% people with personality disorders in the U.S..
      The share of psychopaths/sociopaths is allegedly 20% among CEOs - I suppose it may be similar among executive branch politicians.

    4. The knees, unfortunately, were trashed. I was born with something called "patellar subluxation" - my kneecaps were misaligned, tilted outwards, and rubbed against the ends of both the distal end of the femurs as well as the tib/fib. By 55 I'd rubbed off most of the meniscus as well as much of the bursae on the long bones. There was nothing for it but to replace the broken bits with new parts.

      As far as people go...well, there's a lot of broken people on all parts of the political spectrum. That's not helpful, but it only becomes a problem when you let them, or one of them - let's say just for example a narcissistic sociopathic real estate grifter and con man - dictate what your political group is allowed to say and do.

      I won't pretend that the Left is perfect. But the problem is that the Right has gone utterly bugnuts crazy. QANut crazy. Three Percenter crazy.

      Unless we can be rescued from that...I won't say "we're doomed"...but we're in damned bad shape

  8. I feel your pain. I am about 6 years older than you, with only one really bad knee. Broke it in 50+ places 10 years ago. 7 operations later it is still crap with less than 90 degrees range of motion. I was in the Navy and served aboard nuclear subs. I retired a few years ago and then unretired to work for the military. Tring to change things from the inside, teach them how to think, but not having as much luck as I would like. I have influenced a few of them but no one with any power. I am happy to say I have not run into any Trumpers, although I am sure they exist, hey, I have one in my family. Six kids all raised the same, 5 very anti-trump and everything he stands for and one fully down the rabbit hole. Was disappointed she did not have a chance to go to Washington for Jan 6th. I cannot do much politics at work (for obvious reasons) but I am concerned. While the young people I work with at not Trumpers, at least half of them do not understand why he/they are such a problem. They understand Global Warming, but don't understand if the US goes down this road, no problems will be solved. As a software engineer I am always looking for ways to help, but as I said I can barely walk and I am in my 70's so taking to the street is not a good option for me. Never the less while I can, I will do what I can. My parents (long dead) would be very disappointed in the current situation.

  9. I saw some new names among the comments here this year, including some known from comments at my place.

    Maybe you would consider opening MilPub for guest contributors?

    As mentioned before, I'm concerned that there are almost no reliably anti-warmonger anglophone mil blogs.

    1. Actually...I no longer have administrative rights here; I gave them up when I tried to step away several years ago. That'd be up to mike, then.

      Mike...that doesn't sound like an awful idea to me, provided we knew something about these people and had editorial control. Any thoughts?