The Superpower As Super-Spreader, and Other Snippets

US Navy aircraft carrier
I need one of these to protect me from Covid-19.  And it will stimulate the economy!

W.J. Astore

Item: After reading an interesting story about Joseph McCarthy’s rise and fall in the 1950s, I came across this headline today at NBC News: “‘I’m not a communist’: Potential Biden running mate Rep. Bass reassures Cuban American voters.”

Explains Congresswoman Bass of California:  “I’m not a socialist. I’m not a communist. I’ve belonged to one party my entire life and that’s the Democratic Party and I’m a Christian,” Bass told NBC News.

Isn’t that reassuring?  She’s a Christian and a Democrat.  And she has to deny strongly that she’s a communist, as if 2020 was really 1952 at the height of McCarthyism.

Why today are we supposed to be so scared of the commie wolf?  I thought America won the Cold War thirty years ago.

Item: Speaking of the big bad commie wolf, a friend who’s privy to senior U.S. military thinking (ha!) tells me that this is the “New Era of Great Power Competition,” i.e. a new cold war.  How else can you justify rapidly expanding “defense” budgets?  Another concept — or opportunistic notion — being kicked around is “unbounded strategic uncertainty.”  For the military-industrial complex, this sounds like a very useful concept indeed.  In these unbounded, uncertain times, shouldn’t America’s “defense” budget also be unbounded?  Who knows what will be the next threat?  We must dominate everything!

This reminds me of the story of mask shortages among troops in the U.S. military.  The military’s solution, at least in the short-term, was to encourage troops and their families to make their own protective masks for the Covid-19 outbreak.  A trillion-dollar military complex can’t afford to outfit troops with protective masks that cost pennies on the dollar.  But of course we can fund more F-35s, more aircraft carriers … It’s like the satirical Onion said: Each American should get an aircraft carrier as a stimulus.  What better way to protect ourselves while stimulating the economy?

Item: Andrea Mazzarino, a Navy spouse, has a great new article at TomDispatch.com that brings together two subjects that are rarely connected: the U.S. has a global empire with bases in 80 countries, even as Covid-19 cases spike in the “homeland” and affect (and infect) U.S. troops.  It’s conceivable that infected U.S. troops, in their worldwide deployments, will emerge as super-spreaders of a sort, especially given the out-of-control nature of Covid-19 cases in the American South, where so many U.S. troops are stationed.

We Americans fancy ourselves as the world’s sole superpower.  Will we emerge as the world’s viral super-spreader as well?  Yet another example of full spectrum dominance!

And that’s enough items to ponder today.  Readers, what say you?

29 thoughts on “The Superpower As Super-Spreader, and Other Snippets

  1. A relevant excerpt from Transcript of Interview with Dmitry Orlov, Dmitri Orlov, Club Orlov (Monday, August 03, 2020):

    . . .

    Q: “Another question that’s raised then in the wake of a potential collapse of the US is that the US is a global hegemon at present. The end of this order would be the end of the order that we have had since the end of the Second World War. So the question is, what springs up in that vacuum of power? Could you envision a kind of multipolar world, lacking one hegemon, or do you think that China or Russia – or China and Russia combined – will just immediately fill that vacuum? ”

    A: “I don’t think that Russia and China are particularly interested in that. The mode in which Russia operates is building regional organizations with its Eurasian partners. It’s not so much multilateralism as bilateralism. They’re basically one-to-one deals with various countries. They are also frameworks that take time to take hold. There’s a strong relationship with China – with Russia and China – but definitely I don’t think anybody wants to step in and do what the United States has been pretending to do, which is in effect bankrupting itself by ineffectual military spending.

    The fact that the United States has troops stationed all over the place, and the fact that it outspends everyone in dollar terms is neither here nor there: it just doesn’t mean anything because [the US] is not really capable of it any more. Look what happened when the Iranians responded to the murder of one of their generals by the Americans by just blasting rockets at a couple of military bases in Iraq: nothing. There was no response. The Americans just took it.

    That’s been the pattern that’s been established for a long time. The Americans get into harm’s way but then they don’t do anything. They haven’t had a military success pretty much forever. The entire military establishment in the US is basically a money sponge: it’s very expensive but it’s not very good. Their planes don’t fly very well and there are a lot of issues with just about every part of it. The objective is not to defend the nation, because nobody is attacking the nation. The objective is to basically absorb as much money as possible and distribute it amongst a small group of insiders.

    So if you look at defense spending parity between, say, Russia and the United States, Russia gets ten times more for each dollar spent than the United States, so the Russian military has been growing stronger and Russia has been cutting its defense spending the entire time, while the United States has been growing weaker and keeps increasing its military spending. Those trends are unmistakable. So the idea that the US is still a global hegemon based on its military prowess is, I think, entirely misguided.

    I think the only thing that keeps the United States in the news around the world at this point is the Federal Reserve printing press and the US dollar. That’s it. Nothing else.” [emphasis added]

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  2. Another relevant excerpt from:”THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF OLIGARCHICAL COLLECTIVISM,” by Emmanuel Goldstein, the book-within-a-book from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four:
    . . .
    [Begin Quote]

    “>b>The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living [emphasis added]. . . .”

    “But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction — indeed, in some sense was the destruction — of a hierarchical society. In a world in which everyone worked short hours, had enough to eat, lived in a house with a bathroom and a refrigerator, and possessed a motor-car or even an aeroplane, the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of inequality would already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in which wealth, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while power remained in the hands of a small privileged caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance” [emphasis added].

    . . .

    The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed. A Floating Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labour that would build several hundred cargo-ships. Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete, never having brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further enormous labours another Floating Fortress is built. In principle the war effort is always so planned as to eat up any surplus that might exist after meeting the bare needs of the population. In practice the needs of the population are always underestimated, with the result that there is a chronic shortage of half the necessities of life; but this is looked on as an advantage. It is deliberate policy to keep even the favoured groups somewhere near the brink of hardship, because a general state of scarcity increases the importance of small privileges and thus magnifies the distinction between one group and another.” [emphasis added].

    [End Quote]

    Not exactly rocket science. The U.S. military exists to feed itself and impoverish the majority of the American population, thereby keeping the ONE PERCENT (and a small class of their plantation overseers (soldiers, cops, and prison guards) securely in their useless but predatory places.

    Orwell and Orlov, each in their own insightful fashion have laid this out in a manner that any moderately literate person can easily understand. What to do with that understanding, then, remains the overriding issue of our time.

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  3. “The centipede is dead, not stiff” — Chinese aphorism

    “In the old days you used to be able to tell who your rulers were because they’d sit on thrones and wear golden crowns and make you bow before them. Human consciousness eventually evolved beyond the acceptability of such brazen indignities, so it became necessary for rulers to take on more of a background role while the citizenry clap and cheer for the illusory puppet show of electoral politics.
    But the kings are still among us, just as cruel and tyrannical as ever. They’ve just figured out how to mask their tyranny behind the facade of freedom.” — Caitlin Johnstone

    Which thoughts lead me to ruminate in verse upon:

    Necrocide’s Restoration
    (after the style of John Donne’s “The Canonization”)

    For Hate’s sake, spit your final breath at Peace,
    Which has not ruined, maimed, or killed
    Unlike the wars which you have willed
    For venal profit, power, or caprice.
    Your adolescence you have shown:
    A teenage twerp testosterone
    (No hairs on chest or scrotum grown),
    Your playground shrieks, like honking geese,
    Demean yourself, not Peace.

    From Hell’s heart stab at what you most fear: Peace.
    Withdraw from endless quagmire? No!
    Decades of failure you can show,
    Yet still you claim the role of World Police.
    “Democracy,” that word-like noise
    (A myth your wealthy greed employs;
    A metaphor for what destroys)
    Means only fights whose skids you grease,
    But you slip-up, not Peace.

    So grapple to the last with dread of Peace.
    The ones who pay the costs, not you,
    Know fake from real, and false from true.
    They realize that them you plan to fleece.
    Your nest, their feathers: this they see.
    Their broken eggs, your omelets free.
    A warfare welfare just for thee.
    All else for sale or rent or lease,
    Except for priceless Peace.

    Give up the spear in one more lunge at Peace.
    The White Sardine you madly chase
    Has got away, and you’ve lost face.
    So you do what? You double-down, not cease.
    In chicken hawk and capon clipped
    You see a phoenix, not the gypped,
    Impoverished, and ill-equipped
    Upon whose lives you’ve grown obese.
    And them you blame on Peace?

    Roll on towards your obsession: loathsome Peace.
    Like Cromwell dug up from his grave
    By kings restored who would deprave
    His corpse as warning: “Don’t think ancient Greece
    Provides examples of self-rule;
    Democracy has died, you fool;
    OBEY! your one and only rule.
    Know (should you hope death brings release):
    We kill the dead. No Peace!”

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2020

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    1. Sorry for not closing that last damn HTML “italics” tag. Obviously the italics for emphasis should have applied to just the adjective “your” before “omelets.” Would the editor kindly fix this for me?

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  4. Context: The reassurances to Cuban-American voters is absolutely necessary, unfortunately. Cuban-Americans have long voted Republican solely because JFK “stabbed us in the back.” Growing up in Miami, voting Democrat was was unthinkable and it was necessary to publicly proclaim that you were both anti-communism and christian.

    As the community’s once monolithic support for the horror that is today’s Republican Party erodes, older Cuban refugees and their families struggle with these hard-wired attitudes. They understand that Republicans are a train wreck, but need the anti-commie reassurance for at least one more generation.

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  5. Lots of wild speculation in the corporate media with both of America’s “opposing” right-wing factions pre-emptively (prior to November 3, 2020) accusing the other of undermining the ludicrous myth of electoral “Democracy” in service to nefarious direction from foreign vampire unicorns like Russia and China. In my view, way too

    Late for the Insider Auction

    A coup d’état requires a state
    To “stroke,” but just consider:
    Which fails the slowest?
    A monarchy, inbred, whose genetics are its fate?
    A republic, whose citizens fail to see until too late
    Their legions crossing the Potomac/Rubicon and pitching a huge five-sided tent?
    Or a corporate monopoly:
    “Employers” whom the proles don’t see,
    The World’s One Percent,
    The lowest
    Bidder?

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2020

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Brief comments: Item One–In the national political bizarro world the extreme right has constructed, winning over the weak-minded (oh boy, that doesn’t sound “elitist,” right?!) and gullible, a.) “Liberals” are the new “Commies”; and b.) anyone calling for something beneficial like “Medicare for All” must be a Socialist….Item Two–The phrase “unbounded strategic uncertainty” made me laugh out loud! Now, can we revisit Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns”? The bill for this absolutely insane military spending will be presented to the taxpayer eventually, and it will bring unimaginable AUSTERITY imposed on those of who weren’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in oral cavity….Item Three–“American Exceptionalism,” with its unbounded willingness to kill people on foreign soil, is THE most deadly disease on the planet. I guess the only cure for it is the ultimate collapse of the US Empire. The sooner the better!

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    1. My concluding sentence re: Item Two should have read “…those of us who weren’t born…” So much for typing hurriedly before a tropical storm knocks down the power lines!

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    2. I noted that “unbounded strategic uncertainty” phrase, also. What does it even mean? Is it in a similar vein to having to destroy a village in order to save it? Evidently, the military is addicted to inherently contradictory concepts.

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      1. Yes. According to what passes for “thinking” at the five-sided black hole on the Potomac (busy eating the country alive from the inside): Our friends won’t respect us and our enemies won’t fear us if we stop acting so bloody stupid. This assumes that our friends respect our stupidity and our enemies fear it, precisely contrary to the way friends and enemies actually think. No self-awareness whatsoever. Pure Orwellian doublethink.

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          1. More like what British Admiral Lord Nelson said about the captains of his fleet’s ships before a great battle: “I can only hope that when the enemy reads the list of their names, that he trembles, as I do.”

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          2. Well, the US can always call in “Dr.” Kissinger as a special consultant! Yeah, old bastard’s still alive. THAT’LL make ’em cringe in fear and loathing! Whoever the “’em” of the moment is/are!

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          3. Well, certainly no one expected the US to assassinate a high-ranking Iranian military officer. And Iran’s response was amazingly tepid. Their “thanks” for that consisted of sabotage of one of their nuclear facilities, details of which are still vague to extent I’ve followed the story. Israel’s Mossad always the prime suspect.

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      2. [My response delayed by power outage.] The Pentagon has a Public Relations Office, certainly, which if named more honestly would be called the Propaganda and/or Marketing Department. Someone probably takes home many of our tax dollars annually for dreaming up idiotic phrases/concepts like “unbounded strategic uncertainty”!

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  7. “unbounded strategic uncertainty” So, the U.S. is confronted with insurmountable opportunities? It has certainly met the enemy and it turned out to be extremely familiar.

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    1. “insurmountable opportunities”!! Excellent concept! And man, look at the smashing success rate in numerous campaigns in Afghanistan! Success at FAILING, that is to say.

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    1. Actually, “1984” reportedly enjoyed a surge of interest/book-buying and library borrowing during Trump’s presidency. I still consider it one of the most astonishing and relevant novels of its century.

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  8. “the sound and the fury”… and all for naught, just like our pentagon/HLS-devouring tax dollars… all for naught.

    perhaps not in whatever exiguous time remains of my lifespan, but the US empire will inevitably fail, just as every past empire has ultimately fragmented and skulked into a suberranean lair.

    may the herbivore dinosaurs prevail and the carnivore dinos starve themselves into oblivion. the subauditum truth is, however, that the shameless 99% tatterdemalions in the power-lite of those empires invariably escape, putatively unscathed, their ill-gained billions safely sequestered in iron-clad bank vaults.

    …and that genocidal, bomb-blasting bastard kissinger roams free, w/ no strings attached.

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    1. The history of US intervention in Afghanistan: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” More accurately, it follows a “game plan” CONCOCTED by idiots. What would a President Biden do about it? I’ll predict right now–and double down on this if the National Security State viper Susan Rice is VP, as I’ve been predicting–the US will still be meddling in Afghanistan and a zillion other places where it’s not welcome at the end of a Biden presidency.

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      1. No doubt in my mind. Unless/until U.S. imperialism is squashed once and for all—not likely, given the MIC money trough—this country will continue to find reasons to send troops all over the globe. No change with Biden, as there wouldn’t have been with Hillary.

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        1. in the timely mid-20th-century words of anti-war hero and marine corps officer, smedley butler, “war is a racket”… butler would likely repine that today it is worse. were he alive [he died in june 1940 at 58, a month before his 59th bday] he would despair that the war racket has survived deep into the 21st century w/ an intractability beyond his most cacodemonic nightmares. even sage smedley would never have faticinated the war racket would become so embedded in the US’s economic zeitgeist.

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          1. Wow, I hadn’t realized Gen. Butler died so (relatively) young. I have always found him an admirable historical figure, but it’s a pity he–like so many others–only spoke out AFTER concluding his military career. He claimed he was unable to conjure an independent thought while he wore the uniform. Well, that’s the way the military likes it to be, but some of us pressed into service saw the light from the outset.

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          2. smedley putatively had his brain washed, twisted, rung-out, dried and deranged by his father, who was a presbyterian chaplain in the US military. smedley was a victim of a religious/warring nut-cracker, an assault by his father who deranged his progeny w/ nescient nonsense. smedley enlisted when he was just shy of 17, and was compelled to suffer thru the trauma of war after war after war before he finally understood how deleterious it was to his and others’ mental stability. wars’ ‘dis-service’ was the proverbial wakeup call for him but as you noted, greglaxer, it came too late in his truncated life to be wholly effective in transforming the frog-bog.

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