Monday Military Musings

W.J. Astore

A few items I’ve been saving up for quick comments:

Remember when civilians were supposed to control the military?  Not in Trump’s White House.  Besides putting retired generals in charge (e.g. Defense Secretary James Mattis), Trump is throwing money at the Pentagon while empowering “his” generals to do what they wish.  As FP:Foreign Policy put it today:  

Frustrated by lack of influence and disheartened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, Department of Defense civilians are heading for the door, leaving key positions unfilled in a Pentagon increasingly run by active-duty or retired military officers, Foreign Policy’s Lara Seligman writes.

Described in interviews with a dozen former and current DOD officials, the exodus has insiders and observers worried that civilian control of the military is being undercut.

“The Joint Staff and the [combatant commanders] are having a field day,” said one Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They don’t answer any requests, they feel emboldened, and Policy is really struggling.”

As commander-in-chief, Trump has largely been AWOL.  When things go bad (like the Yemen raid early in 2017), he blames his generals.  Instead of “The buck stops here,” the motto of Harry S Truman, who knew how to serve as commander-in-chief, Trump’s motto is “The buck never stops here — unless it’s a literal buck I can add to the Trump empire’s balance sheet.”  

The U.S. military’s commander-in-chief has deserted his post, but the Pentagon doesn’t seem to mind.

Meanwhile, even with roughly $700 billion in yearly budgetary authority, with more billions on the way, the Pentagon is warning it may not be able to win a war against China or Russia unless it gets even more money!  Here’s a quick report from CNN:

Could the US lose a war against China or Russia? It might, according to a new report from a bipartisan panel of military experts. The report warns that the Trump administration’s new National Defense Strategy doesn’t have enough resources, which puts the country at greater risk of losing a military conflict with the Chinese or the Russians.  

I’m shocked, shocked, the U.S. might lose a war against China or Russia!  When the U.S. can’t even win a war against the lowly Taliban in Afghanistan after 17+ years. 

The “solution” is always more money and resources for the Pentagon. How about this instead: Don’t fight a war against China or Russia … period.  Or for that matter against any other country that doesn’t pose a real and pressing threat to the United States.

You have to hand it to the Pentagon: the generals know how to launch preemptive attacks.  Not against foreign armies, mind you, but against what is perceived as “the enemy within.”  The military-industrial complex knows the Pentagon budget could conceivably shrink in 2020, so they’re already claiming “the world’s finest military” is in danger of slipping a notch … unless it gets more money.

The only “war” the Pentagon is clearly winning is the war for money and influence in the American “Homeland.”

Finally, there’s the grim news the Trump administration is pulling out of the INF Treaty with Russia that eliminated intermediate range nuclear weapons in 1987.  That treaty was a remarkable achievement by the Reagan administration: it got rid of nuclear weapons such as the SS-20 on the Soviet side and the Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) on the American side, weapons which were considered “first-strike” and therefore destabilizing to nuclear deterrence.  The Trump administration wants to “invest” in more nukes, including intermediate-range ones, supposedly to deter the Russians, who can already be destroyed dozens of times over by America’s current crop of nuclear weapons.

Cost of nuclear modernization to the U.S.?  At least $1.2 trillion (yes–trillion) over the next thirty years.  Weapons that, if they’re used, will only make the radioactive rubble bounce a little bit higher.  More MADness indeed.

An unchecked Pentagon promises ill not just for America but for the world.  Ike knew this.  So did many other U.S. presidents.  Trump is too busy tweeting and making a buck to care.

28 thoughts on “Monday Military Musings

  1. I’ve been reading a wonderful biography of Napoleon. His career is full of victories in which the spoils are sent back to Paris, there is phenomenal esprit de corps, his military genius is astounding, there are innumerable acts of heroism on the battlefields, monuments are built…it is the story of what war has meant since written history began.

    But one particular passage caught my eye. It told of the strategy Napoleon used at Jena and how “it is still being taught in military academies”

    There’s only one problem. We can’t have another world war because it is impossible. We can’t go up against the Chinese or the Russians. Yet for all the bluster from Washington, you’d think nothing had changed, that another war could come and it would result in showing the glory of American arms. It can’t happen yet it appears that people such as John Bolton believe it could.

    What nonsense to propose modernization of nuclear weapons and to unilaterally jump out of any treaty with a power that we cannot fight, giving us a false sense of freedom to use weapons we cannot use.

    What we can do and are doing with our military is keeping the world in turmoil, maintaining it in small countries, wasting hundreds of billions in the process that those very same countries could put to use for peaceful purposes. What we should be doing is reaching agreements with the Russians and the Chinese to give those smaller nations relief; to tamp down confrontations, to stop places like Syria from escalating, to ramp down supplying proxy forces with weaponry and to agree among the three great powers to stop wasting money on such archaic things as battle fleets that would be toast in any war among us. All our carrier groups do is allow us to meddle at will worldwide.

    The glory days of Napoleon, of the thrill of national military triumph and the glorious deeds of massed armies are gone, never to return, but you’d never know it hearing the talk of our “leadership” or watching flag mania at a football game. We must, to survive, fact the fact that our technology has checkmated our emotions, a very good thing, if it could only be recognized as the wall it is, the invisible barrier that we cannot go beyond.

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    1. Well said. I just worry that our leaders don’t recognize that “barrier that we cannot go beyond.”

      Even a “limited” nuclear exchange will be catastrophic to world health: the fires, the soot, the radiation, and (of course) all the dead and wounded, including not just humans but all forms of life. Nuclear winter may require only 20 or so nuclear explosions … just look at the fires in California and the air pollution there …

      We have to move beyond the idea that high military spending = safety and prosperity. And also move beyond the notion wars are glorious and decisive. Even Napoleon’s “glory” only lasted for about 20 years — and he was a military genius. And perhaps two million people paid for that “glory” and genius with their lives.

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    2. Hi Clif,
      You note:
      “What nonsense to propose modernization of nuclear weapons…
      …keeping the world in turmoil,… wasting hundreds of billions in the process that those very same countries could put to use for peaceful purposes.”

      The above is the only part of your good comment that bothers me. That is because it appears you believe we have “leaders” who are simply wrong and misreading the world. I.e. “If they just stopped, and looked at it, they would see that, and use that money “for peaceful purposes.”

      I see it differently.
      1. This country (and as much of the world as can be at the moment) is not ruled by our elected officials, as we believe. It is controlled by the power elites with the money, behind them. Nothing happens, in my view, without their approval. Presidents of both parties, and their administrations, including the military, are there to do as they are told. Those that don’t… meet a nasty fate.
      2. These elite rulers are not stupid, and they don’t personally want to die. They are not “that” insane. Their insanity is in their lack of caring about anyone but themselves. All people (and resources) are commodities, (not human,) to be used for their benefit in the short term.
      3. The question for them, then becomes; “How can we make lots more money without hurting ourselves.” And, of course, money is the tool to obtain power, not to mention ego.
      4. Perpetual war “over there” and the bullshit fear of war happening “here,” creates the constant “need,” justifying the demand for more bullets, missiles and the hardware to deliver them. How convenient that they own the means of producing all this stuff. Talk about a smart program! Government subsidies, corruption, collusion… why the opportunities are endless!

      So what they are doing isn’t “nonsense.” It makes total sense. There is nothing “wasted,” from their view. Only we think like that. Everything is working perfectly…exactly as intended! Commodities are being smartly used up to produce what they want. Their actions are the result of a well planned Machiavellian money and power grab. Destruction, be it the result of war, austerity or the climate crisis, is just “the cost of doing business.” Punishment? No more than a slap on the wrist, so no big deal.

      Conflating these elite owners with Mafia Dons is a pretty accurate way of understanding who we are dealing with. Because that is who I believe they are. It is a fool’s errand to try and deal with them in a humanistic, logical or reasonable way. Bitching about “how they are hurting people by breaking their legs” has no effect. There is no convincing them of anything. In fact, doing it plays their game…they expect it and know exactly how to deal with it.

      Our course must be in a mass nonviolent revolution, that destroys the neoliberal fascist system they have created…completely. There is no “tweaking” the “Mafia” system that will make any real change happen, IMHO.

      Paul 🙂

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  2. Paul, you make good points. I was about to ask if you think those who are pulling the strings and drawing a benefit from the way things are, fully understand what they are doing…or are they delusional, believing that they really are working for a better world that be definition would play only America’s tune? Are these hidden actors merely riding the prestige of an America they have thoroughly corrupted for their own benefit?

    This put me in mind of those in power in the church at the time of the Reformation. They were in the same position of reaping great rewards while clothing themselves in the legitimacy that the church had attained over the centuries. History says that they knew exactly what they were doing and the church be damned…milk the believers for all they are worth. I think we have a similar situation regarding the corruption of power today.

    The question is then – where is a secular Martin Luther for our time that will rally the woke, and are there enough woke to succeed in such a rally?

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  3. Hi Clif,
    Thanks for your thoughts.

    You note:
    “This put me in mind of those in power in the church at the time of the Reformation. They were in the same position of reaping great rewards while clothing themselves in the legitimacy that the church had attained over the centuries. History says that they knew exactly what they were doing and the church be damned…milk the believers for all they are worth. I think we have a similar situation regarding the corruption of power today.”

    Yes, I agree. Authoritarianism, is always ripe for abuse and corruption, in whatever form it takes. It shows up in the family structure, religion, University setting, or politics etc. As you note history is replete with examples. This is the downside of the tabula rasa. History does not exist for the new born, and every generation has to learn the same lessons their parents learned.

    You ask:
    “The question is then – where is a secular Martin Luther for our time that will rally the woke, and are there enough woke to succeed in such a rally?”

    Good question as it gets to the heart of the issue, in my view. Are we, all of us, going to look for a “good” authoritarian savior (like MLK or Bernie or Nader) to rescue us and solve our problems? Or are we going to take responsibility for ourselves and our community, and take charge?

    In my view, we have a huge number of people looking for that savior. (Lots of woke.) And very few good saviors. We have always had an authoritarian structure. Today, that structure is more powerful than it has ever been in this country. The People are fractured, isolated and weak. Depression and despair are rampant. There are no movements or unions to gain strength from. They are struggling just to survive, and that is exactly where the oligarchs have purposefully put us. Low wages, credit card debt, student loan debt, and more, are no accident of the cycle. They produce a confused, hurting and docile population that has no will to resist.

    Interestingly, however, when the situation gets bad enough, and The People have nothing more to lose, revolution can easily result as has happened throughout history. Lots of heads can roll.

    Paul 🙂

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    1. The authoritarianism on both sides of America’s political equation worries me, as does the apparent desire for some kind of progressive political hero coming to save us all.

      Coming from a social systems theory perspective, which emphasizes figuring out how to ‘map’ out interactions between groups to better understand the bigger movements emerging from their collective actions, I can’t help but see what is happening right now as a result of long-suppressed pressures bursting through a system that set Washington D.C. up as a tremendous political choke point.

      Whatever our personal politics or ideologies, the fact that D.C. has so much power and so little accountability is the fundamental problem with America. The connection between representative and represented has been colonized by elites who continue to ‘win’ under the status quo. Any time someone tries to solve a local problem, D.C. gets in the way, because the whole system is now so tightly wound that *any* change threatens too many established interests, so the one and only thing that mobilizes elite action is fear of it.

      It isn’t really that different than monopolistic rent-seeking in economics. You establish some valuable node controlling a flow of resources, and someone will try to colonize the thing. It’s what people do. It’s part of our cognitive makeup. It’s why the Founders embraced checks-and-balances in America’s political design, to prevent any would-be kings from colonizing the thing.

      There’s an extremely interesting (to me) concept from ecological systems theory, called the “Adaptive Cycle”. It posits that if you fix your bounds and look at a system over time, you can often find a regular pattern where, taken as a whole, the various parts of the system go through certain ‘phases’ that structure their interaction. Briefly, these are:

      – Rapid (exponential) growth, where within the system there’s lots of ‘loose’ resources that groups of people figure out how to combine in order to improve their material conditions.

      – Slowing (linear) growth, where most of the ‘easy’ resources are locked up and groups are forced to invest in efficiency, niche-targeting, and other similar means of continuing growth.

      – Stagnation and collapse, where the internal efficiency-seeking and growth orientation founders on the shoals of resource limitations, whether ‘real’ (external) or perceived (internal). Many less-efficient parts of the system collapse, more-efficient agents compete with one another to secure their accustomed flow of resources, and things get, in short, chaotic.

      – Muddle and reform, where the collapse reaches a settling point that lasts long enough for new ideas, new configurations of resources and relationships, to come together to spark a new rapid growth cycle.

      This is obviously a huge summarization, but I suggest reading (for starters) Panarchy by Gunderson and Holling, if you are interested. They (and many other contemporary theorists, especially ecologists) demonstrate that this basic systemic arrangement of parts and the cycle produced applies to nature (forest cycles and bark beetles are a classic example) as well as the human economy and (I argue) politics and society as well.

      The essential takeaway is that this cycle is inevitable, but the magnitude of collapses/reformation can be affected by human action. Humans have the unique ability to estimate viable futures, and choose reforms that can mitigate the damage.

      But, of course, not all will agree on what reforms to make. Costs of reform are not evenly distributed, so many groups will naturally oppose what they see as harming their short-run interests. Rather than collectively reform, they will tend to double down on existing investments, and take opportunistic actions to try and preserve the growth phase well past the point where it can be sustained. This leads to a ‘rigidity trap’, where those with resources hang on to what they’ve got and/or target other groups to get more, which worsens the situation for those who don’t have power/resources/reserves.

      This, I believe, is what is underway right now. Everyone knows that the system is headed towards a collapse phase of some sort, but no one can agree on how to reform a system that functions very much like tectonic plates locked together, building strain over time. Those groups with power and resource access continue to maintain the status quo, effectively consuming society’s collective resources as they struggle over who will end up losing/winning in the next round of reform.

      To me, the solution is obvious: D.C. is the Ring, and we’ve gotta collectively figure out how to toss it into the Fire. The power channelled through D.C. is the fundamental source of corruption in America. The only viable long-term path forward that I see is to break D.C., and allow America’s actual diversity (there isn’t One America, as the liberals have it, or even two, as the media likes us to believe) to drive a political reformation. Which can only be achieved (without a revolution, which frightens me because after the revolution comes the counter-revolution, and then the Terror) by a mass movement demanding that we Amend the Constitution, and alter the political structure of America to match our actual geographic diversity – which heavily impacts the kind of economic and social policy locals need and will demand.

      I don’t actually think the red/blue divide is that meaningful, and I’d like to see us split into six distinct regional Americas united by a weak and limited D.C. infrastructure, where each region has a solid red or blue majority, and the right to alter its own domestic political system to suit the demands of its local population.

      You achieve that, and the whole corrupt corporate 2-party system gets a kick straight to the teeth. The parties will fragment (as they must) and neither they nor the corporations will be able to buy their way into a position of power over the rest of America. And if the Rust Belt and Appalachia want to stick with Trumpism – let them. See how their economies fare without California and New York subsidizing them, and other countries choose where to do business.

      Fail to achieve an orderly dissolution and reconfiguration, and I suspect division happens anyway by 2030, driven by the fact that the elites won’t act to change anything until things are already beyond the point of no return. Only, this one becomes the balkanization nightmare, with even states fragmenting – because, after all, once you get past the Mississippi, state borders were apparently drawn up by colonialist idiots.

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    2. “Low wages, credit card debt, student loan debt, and more, are no accident of the cycle. They produce a confused, hurting and docile population that has no will to resist.” Indeed and I’d add the mentally debilitating TV, video games and social media-mobile phones to keep that tired population occupied with gratifying illusions rather than independent thinking and acting. A surplus of games to make up for the lack of bread.

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  4. Great discussion, Clif and Paul. You’ve probably heard the saying, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Some kind of reformation/revolution is coming; whether it’s rightist, leftist, conservatives, etc. remains to be seen.

    I do think people are being kept divided, distracted, and downtrodden, as I wrote about here: https://bracingviews.com/2015/06/22/divided-distracted-downtrodden-the-social-and-political-reality-in-america-today/

    I wrote that article before Trump, who’s only making matters worse. Trump is a master at dividing people, keeping them distracted, and also keeping them downtrodden. He doesn’t elevate their spirits: he elevates their anger. He’s taking the energy of people who are rightfully pissed and directing at “the Other”: Muslims, immigrants, Blacks, even women. Divide and rule is his strategy, and so far it’s working.

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    1. Hi Bill,
      Thanks for the link (and the links within that article. Where does the good in depth understanding stop?) Excellent comments there as well. There are many aware, sharp thinking folks around. Your blog draws them and that is a compliment to you.

      What impresses me these days is the general awareness of The People, to the fact that they have been lied to and screwed for a long time. We see that in the huge acceptance of Bernie (before he campaigned for the sHill.) Trump’s acceptance (on the right) is compared to Bernie’s but it is different. His base is not traditional folks but extremists; the violence promoting alt-right and the phony christian, evangelical fascist cult.

      That deception began with Reagan-remember the “laugher” curve? Ah yes, the dedication of the “Reagan Democrats” that drove me nuts. But the real deceiver was Clinton who continued to mouth the words and ideals of the old Democratic party, while completely selling its soul to the moneyed elites. He was the most vicious politician of modern times, for that deception in my view. His 8 years as President did more to destroy this country than any President up till that time. We no longer had an opposition party from the time of the formation of the DLC in 1985. But still the Public was fooled. Lost in their fantasy of magical thinking, they saw and understood nothing that he was actually doing. They just cheered whatever he did. How they loved his surplus. (Glass Steagall? What is that? Never mind. Just look at that surplus. Wow!)

      The first inkling that something was not right was “W” admitting he lied about Iraq, the WMDs and the failure that war it was evidently becoming. “Mission Impossible” was a serious joke, and fooled very few. By 2006 the people were pissed and showed it at the polls. All the built up frustrations were screaming out for a “good” savior. Enter one of the smoothest talking con men ever to run for office. Obama, thoroughly groomed by the Pritzkers from Chicago, blew away the People everywhere he spoke. That he was a total phony was evident immediately upon his inauguration, when he disbanded the political structure that got him elected. But The People, as unhappy and frustrated as they were, and having committed themselves to him, emotionally, and to the fantasy of this “good savior,” continued to believe in him. Even as he bailed out the banks at their expense, they loved him. His war mongering, anti people, (remember the Cat Food commission?) 8 year long, terrible Presidency, finally set up the scene for the ridiculous kabuki theater called the 2016 primaries and election.

      Trump has been so blatantly bad The People have finally had enough, and are now willing to question their beliefs. In a recent “Update” with Richard Wolff, he said that 5 years ago he was not listened to favorably, and was hardly ever asked to speak. Today he travels the country and can’t keep up with the demand for appearances. People are actually asking about that “dirty word” Socialism!

      The road to awareness and understanding is long and hard. I hope with this new found awareness, The People will band up and seriously begin to act. We need to frighten the shit out of the ruling elites!

      Thanks for all you have done to bring this awareness about!

      Paul
      🙂

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  5. It is interesting that two of the most outspoken Generals against Imperialistic Wars, were Marine Corp Generals and both Medal of Honor winners, Smedley Butler and David Shoup.

    Shoup on 14 May 1966 said, “I believe that if we had and would keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-soaked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own—and if unfortunately their revolution must be of the violent type because the “haves” refuse to share with the “have-nots” by any peaceful method, at least what they get will be their own, and not the American style, which they don’t want and above all don’t want crammed down their throats by Americans.”

    General David Shoup does not have nearly as many medals and decorations that our Modern Generals have. There must be a section in the Pentagon that thinks up new medals to be awarded to our Modern Generals.

    I cannot think of any of our Modern Generals post Vietnam who would dare to say what General Shoup said long ago May 1966. No elected politician would have the nerve to repeat General Shoup’s words today, it would be unthinkable in this Age of the Warrior Cult.

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    1. Hi Monotonous,
      Good post!
      “General David Shoup does not have nearly as many medals and decorations that our Modern Generals have. There must be a section in the Pentagon that thinks up new medals to be awarded to our Modern Generals.”

      Ah! You must have noticed “Betrayus” leaning sharply to the left in a recent picture, weighed down as he was, by all the medals on his chest that he has been feted with. It really is pretty easy, you know! You fly in, shake a few hands. Fly out, and get a combat medal. What’s wrong with that? That is what sHillary did, but she didn’t get a medal. Just bragging rights…until…

      Not to be outdone we have “W” receiving the Liberty Medal, proudly hung around his neck by none other than that Republican Joe Biden. It was so bad a show that Biden had to justify his doing it. The rehabilitation of “W” is in full swing. Next up; Chainy receiving a marksmanship medal for his hunting trip with his buddy.

      Paul
      🙂

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    2. You get a medal/ribbon these days for serving one single day on active duty. When I was attached to an Army S1 (personnel) unit 10 or so years ago, half my work was setting up a system for the squadron (cavalry) could keep track of all the awards and medals personnel constantly received. Even sergeants get a ton of bling after a long enough career.

      For regular soldiers, the only medals that actually mattered (beyond the high-order stuff you only get by dying or getting injured, of course) were the combat patch signifying which unit you deployed with, and the combat infantry badge, awarded to anyone who had actually been engaged in combat.

      And that’s the only stuff I’d ever want to see the brass wearing. Frankly, we ought to be moving past the enlisted/officer distinction anyway – another relic of the 19th century.

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    1. I’m glad to see military professionals reminding folks that orders have to be legal.

      Unfortunately, it isn’t clear what the brass will consider legal or not. Remember Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq with his unit arguing that the war was illegal (as it was) – he got prosecuted and forced out of the service. Because the Pentagon brass decides what ‘legal’ orders mean.

      I’m sure that if Trump orders a nuclear strike, he’ll get pushback, because that kind of escalation would seriously threaten the Pentagon’s interests. But if he orders soldiers to go die in Niger, Somalia, or wherever else we’re losing people right now, I doubt they’ll bring up the issue of legality. They certainly didn’t when they executed Bin Laden without a trial.

      Basically, while I’m happy to see the issue being raised, I don’t really trust the military bureaucracy to act when it really matters. And maybe it shouldn’t – that’s supposed to be Congress’ role. And as much as the Executive Branch (with the Judiciary sliding that way) is a mess, the Legislative Branch betrayed American long, long ago. Which is why both Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi are less popular among Americans than Trump himself.

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  6. And all the dismantling of the balance that made our system work…the unions, the progressive income tax, the regulations on business…has taken place in plain sight and we see the result in the departure of the 1% from the rest of us on the income scale. The agenda could not be more clearly displayed and on it goes. The emptiness of the Obama presidency has been properly noted. GWB gave us the Iraq disaster and was to my great dismay re-elected in 2004 after the facts were known.

    To me the marker for it all is private funding of election campaigns, that we all know is rampant and that breaks new records with every election cycle. Yet, AFAIK there is nobody in Congress championing public financing of election campaigns and we know that every single lobby would oppose such a move. This is the issue I watch of evidence of progress and it isn’t ground for optimism. Propaganda is powerful and the 1% have a clinch on it, framing issues any way that suits their purpose while remaining anonymous and it is all legal, with the Supreme Court helping out.

    All of the above could not be more clear if there were a neon sign flashing in every living room with “THE SYSTEM IS CORRUPT.” How foolish it is for people to be shouting “make America great again” oblivious to the best way to do that: to reverse the agenda of the 1% that has been destroying it, an agenda personified by Donald Trump, hero of the little guy.

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      1. Perhaps it is the protection of property that is the fatal flaw in our system. Wealth is power and if the wealthy can convince John Q. Public that to touch any of that wealth is a crime then the wealthy will inevitably rule and their power will inevitably increase. This isn’t to say all must have an equal income. It is to say that progressive taxation is a must and that unrestricted capitalism will destroy the society that supports it. We see it happening.

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        1. The wealthy have been clever in denouncing “confiscatory” taxation and “the death tax” on inheritance and so forth. The idea of “common wealth,” of a shared community, is denounced as pie-in-the-sky socialism.

          As Don Henley sang in “Gimme What You Got”:

          Now it’s take and take and takeover, takeover
          It’s all take and never give
          All these trumped up towers
          They’re just golden showers
          Where are people supposed to live?

          You can arm yourself, alarm yourself
          But there’s nowhere you can run
          ‘Cause a man with a briefcase
          can steal more money
          Than any man with a gun

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          1. In other words:

            Optional Orthodoxy

            What can you say? It doesn’t matter.
            The words don’t slay, but they can flatter
            Those who’ll see the killing done;
            First, for profit; then, for fun.

            Sure the bullshit sounds opaque;
            Hard to fathom, hard to take.
            Sense of it, one cannot make.
            That’s the point: sell Fear with Fake.

            Disbelief you must suspend
            From the start until the end.
            Just imagine that you see
            What’s not there and cannot be.

            Then suppose the noise you hear
            Makes you think of words unclear.
            Sounds suggestive of a thought,
            Vague and strange but cheaply bought.

            Black and white at first, just movement.
            Next, add sound, a real improvement.
            Color, then, completes the scheme:
            TV “real” and life a dream.

            Just absorb the staged impression.
            Then come back for one more session.
            Then another, then one more …
            See? For you, that’s what’s in store.

            Love Big Brother? Well, you should.
            Just don’t look beneath the hood.
            Take on faith our lies? A plus!
            Soon we’ll turn you into us.

            Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2018

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  7. The case and spin on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi has the McMega-Media, elected politicians and the “pundits” circling around in all directions. Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman has had to change his story a few times. Since Saudi Arabia has the cash to spend, and American Imperialism is always eager to make a few bucks, I doubt if there will be any inconvenience to the Royal Family.

    President Agent Orange without the slightest knowledge of how to spin the story, simply shows the ugly face of Imperialism and needs of the 1%. The price of forgiveness for Murder is a few billion dollars and lower oil prices.

    What I do find funny in a black humor way, are all the “pundits” and a few elected officials bemoaning the fact that ignoring premeditated murder by the Saudi’s by President Agent Orange will damage our reputation. The USA has assassinated, instigated coups, torture, supported dictators and supplied them weapons. I have to ask, What Reputation???

    The McMega-Media has to spin the story out that the USA is a model of moral values for the world. Meanwhile, the rest of the world knows we are an Imperialist Whore with a nasty case of VD.

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    1. Yes, ML. Trump makes it all so obvious. I remember a Tom Tomorrow comic strip that noted Trump’s blatantly racist appeals, with other Republicans in the background saying something like, real Republicans use dog whistles.

      Caught this snippet (see below) yesterday about how Trump “sells” ambassadorships. Again, nothing unusual about rewarding donors with positions like this. It’s the venal and vulgar way Trump does it that upsets the establishment.

      From the Guardian: As Donald Trump heads for his Mar-a-Lago club for Thanksgiving, a former White House ethics lawyer called the Florida club “a place where, for sky-high admissions fees, business executives who have strong interests before the government can literally engage in purchasing access to the president. Those fees also seem to be down payments on ambassadorships.”

      “His visits to Mar-a-Lago are part of the original sins of his presidency, and the fact that he’s returning there shows that he has not learned his lesson,” Norman Eisen, the lawyer and chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told the AP.

      The comment is not hyperbole: Trump recently appointed Lana Marks, a Palm Beach handbag designer and Mar-a-Lago member, as US ambassador to South Africa, and she’s the fourth club member to get an ambassadorship, according to Eisen’s group.

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  8. Interesting commentary by Gary Leupp in a Counterpunch article:

    I expected this, actually. I just didn’t think it would be so crude, so buttheadedly amoral.

    Trump’s view of the Saudis, in a nutshell, was announced last week: “They’re a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development.” Okay, ’nuff said.

    Trump was briefed on the Khashoggi matter last Friday. He knows that the CIA has concluded, with a “high degree of confidence” that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin-Salman is “personally responsible” for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Istanbul consulate Oct. 5 But Trump said after the meeting that it was “premature” to assess responsibility.

    I suspect it wasn’t premature at all. An announcement was merely timed to give the appearance of a decision after a formal procedure. The moral decision had been made. Billions in arms sales, billions from cheap oil, the priceless gift of Saudi help in destroying Iran (to help Israel assert hegemony over the region in tandem with the U.S.), the invaluable retention of the Jared-MbS blood brotherhood bond made the decision easy.
    https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/11/21/maybe-he-did-and-maybe-he-didnt-reflections-on-morality-in-2018/
    ==========================
    The default position is always Profits over Human Rights and Morality.

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  9. Ran across this wonderful bit of Clinton-madness in the UK Guardian:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/22/hillary-clinton-europe-must-curb-immigration-stop-populists-trump-brexit

    So Clinton is once again advocating triangulation – Democrats, move right, because then the left has no choice but to vote for you! If blaming immigrants for the right-wingers going nuts works, go for it! Nothing matters but staying in power so you can deliver $ benefits to the people you’ve sold your soul to.

    The irony ought to be particularly cutting as it was Clinton’s tenure as SecState that saw the pointless overthrow of Libya’s regime, triggering a flood of migrants. And there’s, of course, the mess in Syria, that the US only ever made worse, sending more migrants to Europe seeking safety.

    But forget that, blame the brown people for all your problems. Put up walls around the nice places, and console yourself with your neoliberal ideology that says you are superior to other humans if you can successfully amass enough wealth, so it’s really totally morally okay for you to live in luxury while millions starve.

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    1. She’s consistent, I’ll give her that. A different kind of narcissist than Trump; Trump just loves to celebrate himself; Hillary sees herself as the smartest person in the room. Incredibly calculating.

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      1. Clinton gets a pass from CNN and MSDNC for her comments. When President Agent Orange tweets or has a similar, message CNN and MSDNC go into an apocalyptic rage showing migrants trudging along roads or clinging precariously to a boat or bus.

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  10. This is a good article from The Intercept: > There’s no question that Donald Trump is the most flagrantly, compulsively, and voluminously dishonest president in American history — which is saying something, given the competition. He’s probably told 27 more lies during the time it took you to read this one sentence.

    But as preposterous as it sounds, there’s a case to be made that he’s simultaneously America’s most honest president. Every now and then, in the midst of his unending eruption of prevarication, Trump will blurt out the truth about the United States in a way that no normal politician ever has.

    Most recently, when asked whether he would consider sanctioning Saudi Arabia for its Mafia-like murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump was hesitant. Why? “Because they are ordering military equipment. Everybody in the world wanted that order. Russia wanted it, China wanted it, we wanted it. We got it. … Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon … I don’t wanna lose an order like that.”

    Trump has even been honest about America’s overall history. When Bill O’Reilly demanded to know what Trump thought about Vladimir Putin being a killer, Trump responded: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” On an earlier occasion when asked about Putin, Trump similarly remarked that “I think our country does plenty of killing also.”

    In a 2015 speech about Jeb Bush’s Super PAC, Trump explained, “He raises 100 million, so what does 100 million mean? A hundred million means he’s doing favors for so many people. It means lobbyists. It means special interests. It means donors. Who knows it better than me? I give to everybody. They do whatever I want.”
    https://theintercept.com/2018/11/21/thanksgiving-donald-trump-lies-honest-president/
    ==========================================
    President Agent Orange has laid it all out, for all to understand: Profits before Human Rights, State sanctioned killing by the USA, and the quid quo pro between Campaign Contributions and the control over elected politicians.

    Like

    1. Spot on. Thanks, ML.

      This is why I occasionally enjoyed Trump during the many debates I watched. He’d blurt out the truth about campaign contributions as legalized bribery, or he’d denounce our wars as disasters and major money-wasters, etc. And his base came to respect him for telling these truths.

      Of course, mixed in with these truths were a whole lot of lies, race-baiting …

      Like

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