Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Birth of Infamy

I've held off commenting on the events in Newtown, Connecticut because I wanted to see if anything new under the sun presented itself in the way of reactions. But it seems that it's, by and large, the usual litanies by the usual people, albeit with some variations here and there. The overall theme – again, as usual – is helplessness and mystification, and the eternal question “why”? Now, a cynic, or a strict existentialist, might say that if there's no solution, there's no problem – in other words, since there is no answer to the “why” question we ought to just quit asking it every time these things come up. But what is the alternative? The same parties will say that one just has to accept the absurdity and randomness of life; this is the “life sucks, then you die” point of view. In former times, this attitude was identified as fatalism – and Fate, with a capital F, was considered -- along with Fortune, also with a capital F -- to be a major determinant of existence, for weal or woe. (Interestingly enough, this attitude seems to have reached its highest development at the same time the Catholic Church was in its intellectual glory – in the late Middle Ages. It would be great if someone would come up with an analysis of this apparent paradox.)

So yes, we have the absurdity/fatalistic argument, which certainly reflects a mind set common among the lower ranks. “What can you do?” with a shrug. So it's an answer that's a non-answer, if you will... but it does seem to satisfy some people. Most everyone else, however, is not satisfied with that level of metaphysical anarchy, and they search desperately for cause and effect. We have the police tinkering with Adam Lanza's computer, as if somewhere in that magic box is a gleaming gem that will provide the answer. His mother is being psychoanalyzed, post-mortem – a job no respectable psychiatrist will undertake, but the press is eager to rush in. His entire life is being scanned and searched for clues – but as to what? Some connection between the existence of one solitary human being and an outbreak of random violence? We think we know what motivates people – the advertising industry certainly does, as do political parties – but when it comes to cases like this we are as strange and inscrutable to one another as aliens from another planet would be. The mental health industry claims to understand insanity – which they kind of do, but only in retrospect. I challenge any psychiatrist in the land to go out and find the next Adam Lanza before he cracks; it can't be done. Even the normal human mind is a deep, dark secret from all others – to say nothing of a mind that was, apparently, highly warped, disturbed, and gap-filled.

With that introduction, let's have a look at some of the common themes that have emerged from all this, as reflected in the press and on the Internet. The one I've already discussed, the absurdity/fatalistic theme, is actually not much in evidence; possibly those who adopt this model are also too apathetic to broadcast it. Or – maybe the implication that they should apply it more consistently to their own lives is too troubling. There are many forms of aloofness from the human condition, but in the long run they violate so many basic instincts that the person either comes back to earth or retreats into even more intense coldness and sterility.

Gun Control?

The most predictable theme – and the one that took the least time to appear – was, of course, the gun control theme – with all the obligatory comparisons of the “gun-loving, violent” U.S. with peaceful, humanistic Europe, etc. Well... aside from the tendency to forget that Europe has been in a state of war throughout most of its history, at least in some places... these comparisons are tiresome, because they assume that the U.S. is just like Europe, or ought to be, when in fact everyone who came here did so because they thought this was better than Europe in some way – more adventure, more opportunity, more freedom, a chance to escape the hangman... whatever. This country was settled by adventurers, opportunists, religious fanatics, ne'er-do-wells looking for a new start, convicts (escaped and otherwise), pirates, gangsters, sociopaths, Utopians, outright lunatics, refugees from war, famine, persecution, and pogroms... and so on. And we are their descendants; it's in our blood. So let's have no more idle talk about why we're not like Europe; I say praise be (in most instances)! Heaven knows, the Europeans have done themselves enough damage with their respective culturally-coherent, smug, complacent societies – what do they expect of us, being a crazy-quilt of wild and incompatible beliefs, habits, customs, races, ethnic groups, cuisines, languages, etc.? It's amazing we get along with each other as well as we do (the plus side of what I usually criticize as an “ideational” society).

I think the question that needs to be asked (and is, once in a while) when things like this happen is, would any level of gun control short of the most radical have prevented it? In this case, these were legal guns owned by a law-abiding person who happened to have a demented son, who stole the guns, and what followed followed. So in this case, only outright confiscation of all guns would have made a difference – and even then, when you confiscate all guns from all law-abiding (and sane) citizens, is that going to include all guns from criminals and crazies? Um... I think not. They could smuggle guns in from other countries. They could make guns.  (You can even print guns now -- how messed up is that?)  An underground gun manufacturing, distribution, and sales network would spring up. And so on. A disarmed populace is not really disarmed; only the people who can be trusted with guns are. The rest aren't. 


So yes, we are a violent society – it comes with the territory. It comes from the fact that we had to evict an entire race (the Native Americans) from most of the continent so that we could settle here. It comes from the phenomenon of slavery. Don't you think we're still paying for all of this, in the karmic sense? I certainly do. And our internal violence pales in comparison to what we inflict on other countries – in the name of ideas, as usual. What kind of debt, what kind of karma, do we build up by doing that? Did the attacks of 9/11 wipe the slate clean? I doubt it very much, and it only made our bad habits worse by launching us into a new era of empire-building. How many months did it take us to use up any – what I'll call -- “karmic credit” that we earned on 9/11? Not too many, thanks to George W. Bush & Co.

So no, we are far from innocent, as much as we fancy ourselves to be above reproach as a nation and a society. The neocon foreign policy program can be characterized as “Ideas Gone Wild” -- and I hardly need to mention that people elsewhere on the globe are unimpressed with those ideas and the way in which they are presented (via drone attacks, e.g.). So if 9/11 was push-back in the direct sense (which it may well not have been, but let that go for now), then Newtown may have been push-back in the karmic sense.

There, I said it. I'm not saying it's the only explanation, but that it might be a factor. After all, no less a personage than Michael Moore juxtaposed the Columbine shootings with the fact that a major piece of the economic base in Littleton, Colorado is a defense plant. To quote from the IMDb summary of “Bowling for Columbine” -- “Moore links the violent behavior of the Columbine shooters to the presence in Littleton of a large defense establishment, manufacturing rocket technology. It is implied that the presence of this facility within the community, and the acceptance of institutionalized violence as a solution to conflict, contributed to the mindset that led to the massacre. Moore conducts an interview with Evan McCollum, Director of Communications at a Lockheed Martin plant near Columbine, and asks him: 'So you don't think our kids say to themselves, “Dad goes off to the factory every day, he builds missiles of mass destruction. What's the difference between that mass destruction and the mass destruction over at Columbine High School?"' McCollum responded: 'I guess I don't see that specific connection because the missiles that you're talking about were built and designed to defend us from somebody else who would be aggressors against us.'”

But we don't believe in “karma” over here, do we? It's a foreign concept – mystical... weird... spooky. The American way is that everyone stands on their own two feet, and everyone is responsible for their own actions and not for those of anyone else. Individualism! That's the key. Except... we still blame the South (today's South) for slavery, we still blame Germany (today's Germany) for the Holocaust, we still blame each other for racism and the plight of Native Americans and Hispanics, we blame the middle class for the plight of the lower class, we blame men for the plight of women, parents for the plight of children, capital for the plight of labor, everyone for the plight of Mother Earth, the Church for the plight of... pretty much everyone, and so on. So collective guilt is alive and well, and is the most popular theme in political discussions and campaigns. Whether it's about payback, revenge, reparations, getting mine, getting a piece of the pie, “it's our turn”... whatever, it's all about one portion of the collective having its way with another portion of the collective, in return for past offenses and insults. So what is “karma” but simply a less-direct, more metaphysical, non-political version of the same idea? Do we really know what laws rule the universe? We pretend to, but do we – really?


But! -- you'll say – certainly the guilty should be tracked down, tried, and punished, and made to pay their debt to society. But these children were innocent! And yes, it is curious that they were all of an age, and grade, just prior to the usual age for First Confession and First Communion. I'm not claiming that any of them were Catholic; I don't know. But in God's eyes they were true innocents – lambs without blemish, not unlike the Holy Innocents whose martyrdom we commemorate on Friday.  And if you're going to make a sacrifice, what is required, according to the Bible? A lamb without blemish. So were these children sacrificed? And if so, to what god, and upon what altar?

And that brings us to another theme, which, in short, was: “When you push God out of the (public) schools, something, or someone, else will move in to take His place. Walk up to a public school and it's the Devil who opens the door. So why are we surprised when things like this happen – as they often do, in public schools? They are temples of godless liberalism and secular humanism – they are occupied territory. And the Devil presents himself as an angel of light (or enlightenment) but quickly reverts to chaos, death, and destruction.” And why, in particular, do deranged maniacs of all sorts gravitate to public schools when they set about to do their dirty deeds? What's the attraction? Innocence, children – yes. But something more? Do we not already sacrifice our children's minds and souls on the altar of secular humanism on a daily basis? Are there not abominations occurring at all times behind those bland brick facades? Is not bonafide education being sacrificed in the interests of turning out robot-like, unthinking citizens of a regimented, socialized world? And let's remember, every mass murderer was once a school student – and most likely a public school student. (When's the last time an incident of this sort happened in a private or parochial school? I can't think of even one.) What happened to them there? What are they pushing back against? Why all the rage? (We actually know the answers in at least one case, that of Columbine.)

Better Off?

There's another theme which I'll call (in, I guess, a crabby way) the “they're better off” theme. And it's not unrelated to the “innocent” theme. The idea is that these children were snatched out of life before their time (bad), but are now in the hands of a loving God (good). And since they were all innocent, they are all saved – not a one of them had to be tempted, or to take a chance on going down the wrong path and living a life of sin. Well... it's a comforting thought, no doubt, but I can't help thinking that it's a bit off base. The off-base part is that God put us here, on earth, in time and space, for a reason – that salvation is not automatic – i.e. it's not an entitlement – but we each have to work it out for ourselves. I did say “work it out”, not “earn it”, because that would imply that the day will come when we will fully deserve salvation through our own efforts – which is not true. That day will never come. But it cannot, for that reason, be a reason for despair or apathy. So yes, these children have gone to God, but at the same time they've been deprived of one of the core human experiences, namely that of applying their free will to the discernment of good vs. evil, choosing the good, helping others to choose the good, and thereby being able to respond in a fitting manner to God's grace.

Who hasn't read of some deranged parent (usually a mother) who chooses to kill her children because she doesn't want them growing up in this sinful and difficult world? (In which case, why did she have them in the first place – yeah, I know, that's a quibble.) Who hasn't heard of any number of people (typically liberals and secular humanists) who refuse to even bear children (or who abort the ones they conceive) for similar reasons? But this is a refusal to grapple with the reality that we do, indeed, live in a fallen world... that temptations and pitfalls are everywhere... and that salvation is far from guaranteed... but that we are, nonetheless, expected to go forth, be fruitful, and multiply. It sounds absurd, unreasonable... even cruel. And yes, it takes faith. But evidence is not lacking. There are always good people, and good deeds, to be found even in humanity's darkest hours – any Holocaust narrative will confirm that. I often think that evil is easy to explain; what's tough to explain is the good. Why doesn't the human race, and the planet it lives on, go down the drain once and for all? Isn't this the consummation so devoutly wished by many of these “end times” or “chastisement” or “end of the Mayan calendar” buffs? Just wipe the slate clean and start over – or maybe not. So if God keeps the world going, “warts and all”, for the sake of the righteous (both living and unborn), we have to assume there's a reason. Either that, or we're smarter than God – and what are the chances of that being the case?

Consequences of Being Human

Another objection – and a popular one – to any faith-based argument is, “OK, so if we're all a part of God's creation, and even if there is such a thing as Original Sin and we live in a fallen world, why doesn't God do something about all these terrible events? Why doesn't He step in and prevent them from happening? Don't these events cause scandal, in that they make some people question their very belief in God? Isn't that what happened during the Holocaust – that so many lost their faith because they couldn't believe that a loving God would allow such things... but they happened anyway, therefore God must not exist, or must not be a loving God?”

Now, I don't know the answers to all this, and books have been written on the subject (starting with the Book of Job)... but I think that in some way it hinges on free will. If we have free will, but never have to take the consequences of our actions, then we might as well not have free will at all. We might as well be God's pet animals, or robots of some kind. But in that case, would we even have souls? Aren't the soul and free will inextricably linked? And if we had no souls, then we would not be the hybrid spiritual/material creatures that we are. We'd be animals, with no need for morals or any sense of responsibility. Then, in the natural order of things, God would have to create real human beings, with souls and a spiritual nature and free will. So there's no escape. Either we're fully human or we're not, and people who choose not to be fully human are not only defying God but violating their own nature.

So because we're spiritual creatures with souls and, therefore, with free will, we have to be allowed to take (if not always accept) the consequences of our actions – the good as well as the bad. And this includes, again, not only person-to-person actions, but actions against society and against God. And because it's a fallen world, the consequences of bad actions will radiate out and the innocent will suffer. The world will be contaminated. And we can, if we have any sense at all, quite readily look upon our works and see that, although some are good, many are bad. For every “random act of human kindness” there are multiple beatings, muggings, shootings, bombings, thefts, and so on. Even if all the good people in the world completely cleaned up their act and became perfect, there would still be plenty of sin, and thus an abundance of consequences of sin. And the good would suffer, perhaps more than the guilty (at least in this life).

It is apparently more important to God to keep our free will free, come what may, than to swoop down every time anything goes wrong and fix it. It's almost as if He were saying, “This is the effect of your sin, for which Christ died.” If we fail to be impressed, or are impressed for the wrong reasons, that's a sign of our lack of discernment at best, and of outright rebellion at worst.           

Mental Health?

Moving on to another theme – and this has gotten more press than I would have expected – namely “mental health”, and here it gets tricky because, as far as I know, Adam Lanza was never diagnosed as being mentally ill, nor was he ever referred for treatment. It seems that his mother was about to undertake something along those lines, but it's too late now. But here we have a distinction, because if Lanza was autistic or somewhere on the Asperger's spectrum, then he had a “condition”, and was not officially mentally ill – at least not as far as anyone knew. Now, truly autistic people tend, as far as I know, to be non-violent and somewhat passive, because they are mentally, psychologically, and emotionally aloof and removed from reality. So it sounds like Lanza was an extreme Asperger's type – with a lot of pent-up rage added on... a deadly combination, as it turns out. And where did the rage come from? Possibly from the very fact of his social and emotional isolation – he was perceptive enough to know he was missing something, and wasn't happy about it. And wow, what better place than a public school to aggravate that sort of thing – a place where everyone has to be fully engaged, and popular, and conforming to the popular norm, or be labeled a geek/nerd/dweeb/spaz/loser/whatever? As it was then (in my day), so it is now and ever shall be, amen. Still another reason why public schools are part of the problem, and why they tend to get targeted.

So... assuming that whatever was wrong with Lanza was unfixable (likely), could it have been managed better? And if so, whose job was it to get the ball rolling? His parents? His teachers? Social workers? Barack Obama? I mean, you know, if government is going to be everybody's nanny, and everybody's source of jobs, income, and health care, than it should certainly be able to manage situations like this and take care of these people before something bad happens. So yes – another theme, or sub-theme, is “Why didn't someone do something before it was too late?” Or, what happened to the social safety net (not quite as in demand in an upscale place like Newtown)?

Well... what do you propose? Spotting asocial, or antisocial, elements early on and nipping them in the bud? How? Forced therapy? Private schools? Sanatoriums? Camps? The Nazis would have taken the Lanza types and treated them to a good dose of exhaust fumes before they ever started making trouble. We allow abortions for any and all discernible pre-natal conditions; are we smart enough to spot Lanzas in utero? Does their DNA look any different? See... we're very big on “mental health”, and fall all over ourselves when it comes to people – especially children – with “conditions” or “syndromes”... but there is still apparently something wrong with our model when things go wrong to this extent.

(And I find it grotesquely ironic that one of the adult victims, Rachel D'Avino, was a “behavioral therapist” who had, at one point, been assigned to an autistic boy in a public school. I could be wrong, but I suspect that this was an example of what is called “mainstreaming”. Now... make no mistake, I fully sympathize with anyone who has a “special needs” child... but I've also heard horror stories about the disruption and chaos that can result when one of these kids is “mainstreamed” into a regular classroom – with or without a full-time tutor/adult companion. (And one can only imagine the cost of this sort of program. Any questions about why public education is so expensive these days?) I talked, a while back, to a former public school teacher who quit the profession because of this; she just found it impossible as a “learning environment”. Did Adam Lanza have a full-time tutor/adult companion? Was he mainstreamed? Who else is even asking these questions?)

Gun Rights?

Then we have the other side of the gun argument, with all of its many variations, including the one the NRA offered. If everyone has a gun, are we all safer than if only a few people have guns and some of them are crazy? You might think so, but the arguments go far into the night with no resolution. One thing is for certain – the Obama administration is going to “make hay” of all of this for whatever reasons, and we will be closer than ever to that inevitable showdown between the government and the “cold, dead hands” crowd who populate our rural areas. I have no idea how it's going to come out. All I can guarantee is that with every new instance of this sort (and there have been a few just in the last week) there will be another hue and cry from the anti-gun forces and another rebuff from the pro-gun forces.

And as far as the Second Amendment goes – regardless of how one interprets “a well-regulated militia”, a muzzle-loading musket hanging from a nail above the door was, basically, all anyone had in mind at that point. But that was back when our enemies had muzzle-loading muskets too... or bows, arrows, and tomahawks. And as to our own government? More muskets. And a few cannons. What we have now – another theme – is the citizenry, no matter how heavily-armed, against an oppressive government that has the most powerful and destructive weapons on earth. I mean, what are you going to do, take out a tank with a minnie ball? So that argument has been overtaken by events. Self-defense of a citizen against other citizens, however, is alive and well – and this area (Southwestern Pennsylvania) in particular seems to offer regular examples of homeowners repelling home invasions with deadly force. So in that sense, it works. But this “militia” business? I think that was more about the need for citizens, and not only the professional military, to bear arms in order to fight off foreign invaders or insurrectionists. It's hard to see a direct application of that idea in these times, unless you're talking about the Reserves – but hey, I'm no expert.

So, to sum up – I don't think Newtown is a conclusive argument either for or against gun control. It may be an argument in favor of a new mental health model, or at least new methods of implementation. And no, it's not about spending a lot more money on the schools, or on mental health – just spending it differently.


But that's just on the material side; we're not finished with karma yet. Another very popular Internet theme (totally avoided by the mainstream media, of course) was: What towering hypocrisy for Obama to shed a tear about Newtown when he happily sends out drones every day to rain down death and destruction on the people of Afghanistan, including children. And a similar point goes as follows – what towering hypocrisy for Obama, and other liberals, to shed tears about Newtown when they happily support the killing of unborn children by the millions. But is it really hypocrisy? Aren't Obama and liberals, and many others besides, simply showing another of the signs of living in a fallen world – the refusal to see other people as fully human, and part of Creation, and loved by God? Aren't we engaged in the same old process of “thinging” other people – seeing them as less than whole, less than human... as lower life forms... vermin... cartoons... wallpaper? Isn't this the attitude behind all ethnic cleansing, genocide, pogroms, concentration camps? We claim that we're not guilty of such things, but, again, look at our heritage when it comes to Indians, blacks, Hispanics... and so on. Even Japanese-Americans. “But those kids in Newtown were innocent!” Yeah, well... so are the kids in Iraq and Afghanistan. So were the Indian and black kids, and so on. (But at least Adam Lanza was not a racist! Or a sexist! Or a homophobe! He was an equal-opportunity mass murderer. Yeah... that's small consolation.)

The point is this. How many of us see all human lives, and I mean ALL, as being of equal value? I don't. I wish I did, and I'm working on it, but I have to admit that I'm like most people when it comes to preferring “my own kind”, and devaluing everyone else. And the farther off they live, and the more strangely they dress, and the funkier their diet, and the weirder their language sounds, the easier it is to see them as accidents... annoyances... lower life forms. So Obama and the liberals are not hypocrites – they're just sadly typical human beings, despite all their pretenses. They're no more humane then General Custer and his men; they just have more firepower at their disposal. And it's only when someone like Adam Lanza “brings the war home” (by which I mean the spiritual war between light and darkness) that their complacency is disturbed. It is only then that they venture to utter that otherwise-forbidden word “evil”. But the strange thing about that is that they don't believe in Evil, any more than they believe in the Good. For these are moral concepts, and godless people cannot have morality. All they can have is custom, and – at best -- “ethics”. But ethics ultimately boils down to politics – at least in our time. What are the criteria, except for “the will of the people” (as interpreted by their betters)? And can politics yield up any objective ideas of good and evil? No, only expediency. And you wait – this flirtation with “evil” will soon pass, and we'll be back to the same old litany: “Who's to say?” “It's all relative.” “It depends.” And the usual flurry of objections to “dogmatism”, “superstition”, and “legislating morality”.

So these endless cries of “why” don't reflect the fact that there are no answers, but that the answers that are available are unacceptable. People would rather be groping in the dark than turn on a light. They make the public schools serve their political and philosophical ends, then wonder why those schools turn into killing fields. One can argue for gun ownership just based on the doctrine of Original Sin – but if you don't accept that doctrine you won't understand that we live in a fallen world, and that it's the lot of man to be at odds with other men and to have a need for self-protection.

And it's not that they don't have their own doctrine of the nature of man. To liberals and secular humanists, the human race is a cosmic mistake... a mutation... a festering boil on the face of an otherwise pristine world. To people of faith, it's just the opposite – Earth was created, in time and space, as a temporary home and as a platform upon which we can work out our salvation – as individuals and as a species. Our failures in this regard redound not only on us as individuals, but also on us in the aggregate... and that includes the innocents. The only way to prevent, or help alleviate, suffering, is not to cause it – and even if most of us do not actively oppress, persecute, or attack other people, we are part of a system that does. So when the consequences wind up on our doorstep, we can scarcely be surprised. And even if we were each “an island, entire of itself” we are still part of the human race, which is fallen – and our best efforts cannot make it whole, but can at least serve as reparation. We can, at the very least, offer up these lives in reparation... but then we must make ourselves worthy of their sacrifice.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nine is the Loneliest Number

The U.N. vote on Palestine three weeks ago is memorable owing primarily (in my opinion) to that map – you know, the one that shows who voted for, who abstained, and who voted against. And what do you see? Well, there were 9 “against” votes – the U.S. of course, also Canada (our “mini-me” when it comes to foreign policy)... Israel, natch... the Czech Republic, for some unfathomable reason (Are they the only ones in Europe still on a guilt trip over the Holocaust? Seems unlikely... )... Panama (which, I guess, doesn't dare contradict us after we did that number on Noriega)... and that's about all you can see from looking at the world map. So where are the other four members of this loony-tunes coalition of the willing? Oh, right – those global powerhouses the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau. Wow, I'm quaking in my boots. (Must be something in the coconuts.)

And the rest of the world? Well... there were 41 abstentions, which I guess is the U.N. equivalent of “undecided” voters. Don't they have an opinion? What I think is that they don't want to offend either us or the Palestinians, figuring... well, they could get in hot water either way. I mean, we've attacked other countries for lesser offenses, and the Palestinians are no slouches when it comes to “bringing the war home”. So better to just cool it, be quiet, and stay safe. 

On the winning side (for the Palestinians) we have 138 votes, which, in a U.S. presidential election, would be called a crushing landslide, and a mandate – especially if it were a Democrat victory. But in the U.N., which we had everything to do with setting up, it's obviously just a bunch of short-sighted fools who are afraid of the terrorists, or anti-Semitic. Or something. It can't possibly have anything to do with a real concern for human rights, in other words. And of course, Susan Rice – that very exemplar of idealism, virtue, and competence – immediately launched into a tirade, louder and longer than anything Israel could come up with. It was, in short, a humiliating performance (for us) – but catch anyone in the administration seeing it as anything other than an annoyance. We're all for “democracy”, but when it gets down to cases, might makes right – and those clowns in the U.N. are deluded if they fancy otherwise (as George W. Bush established with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq). 

As is usual in foreign affairs these days, ironies abound. The U.N. was set up, as we all know, after World War II as a place where the nations could sit down and reason together – and hopefully avoid World War III. And at least to that extent, it succeeded where the League of Nations failed. Or, if it did not clearly succeed, it at least didn't obviously fail. But the main point of the U.N., as with any international political/diplomatic organization, was to suppress, if not eliminate, the baleful influences of nationalism, religion, ethnicity, tribe, race, etc. -- all of those things, in short, that gave rise to nearly all armed conflicts throughout history. It was supposed to be the high temple of globalism... of that process of deracination which was supposedly the key to achieving, and maintaining, peace on Earth. So even if some of the delegates did show up in burnooses, dashikis, and turbans, they were expected to, eventually, all start to think alike about the same things. And thus peace and harmony would be achieved! And America's obsession with Utopia would extend beyond its own shores and encircle the globe! Because it was assumed – as a secular humanist axiom – that the things that made human beings different were also the things that caused them to fight with one another. So – eliminate, or at least neutralize, the differences, and there would be no more reason to fight. And this was not just about nation, religion, ethnicity, tribe, and race – it was also about social and economic leveling. No more class or caste systems, no more rich and poor... just all the peoples of the world, holding hands in a really big circle. The world of UNICEF greeting cards, in other words. The cornerstone of every U.N. agency should read “That all may be alike in every way”.

But a funny thing happened on the way to U.N. Utopia. Well, for starters, it was never about radical democracy; there was the Security Council, after all – AKA “the big dogs”. And guess what, a lot of those members were not independent states at all, but still colonies at that time – or parts of larger political entities. So yes, they were in the room and at the table, but still seated far below the salt.

Over time, these second-class world citizens became politically independent (at least officially), and started to develop not only their political structure, infrastructure, and economies, but – gasp! -- a sense of pride. Not pride based on that “It's a Small World After All” ride at Disney World, but nationalistic pride, based on things like – you guessed it – religion, ethnicity, tribe, and race. And funny thing, the farther they moved along from being colonies, second-class, third-world... the stronger these nationalistic urges became – even in cases where the “nations” were a complete fabrication on the part of the colonial powers, as was the case for most of Africa and the Middle East.

So there was a kind of general “oops!” heard among the first- and second-world powers, like – this isn't exactly what we hand in mind (kind of like the way the liberals reacted when they found that conservatives and libertarians had taken over big chunks of the Internet). These places were supposed to be homogenized by now, simply existing for administrative convenience (like states in the U.S.) -- they weren't supposed to have any identity, let alone pride, let alone nationalism! And then you combine this unfortunate trend with things like radical Islam, and you have a real mess on your hands... and the next thing you know, they're voting to recognize Palestine! Oy vey!

So, in sum, the organization that was supposed to be an extension of U.S. foreign policy... an instrument of globalism... a way to the triumph of secular humanism... has turned out to be anything but. It is, in a sense, a circus – and in the center ring are the 138 countries that, for whatever reason, are willing to stand up to the U.S. and Israel on the Palestine question. And, getting back to that map, the U.S. and Canada, as big as they are, look awfully lonely with just a few small specks elsewhere on the globe in the same color. And this feeling can only become more acute over time. It has apparently become obvious to most of the world that the establishment of the State of Israel, although it seemed like a good (or at least humane) idea at the time, was a political and diplomatic blunder of historic proportions. Looked at objectively – to establish a small, religion- and race-based state in the midst of its moral enemies... a state that would have to be defended forever (that's where the “eternal” comes in whenever our politicians are talking about Israel)... is this not the height of folly? And you can say what you like about Israel's “ancestral homeland” claims, but plenty of people claim plenty of places as their homeland, but that doesn't entitle them to anything. I mean, good grief, is there a racial, ethnic, or tribal group anywhere on the planet that doesn't claim they have a “homeland” somewhere besides where they are now? Migration, displacement, exile, ethnic cleansing – these are the human lot. They are part of the ebb and flow of history. Whoever wins any given war gets to tell the losers where they're permitted to live. I mean, if we're so convinced that Israel should exist based on the “homeland” argument, hadn't we all better hop on the next boat back to Europe and leave this country to the Indians, oops, I mean Native Americans? Yeah -- you get the picture. There are some arguments that only make sense when used in a political context, and it's the politics that make them make sense. Otherwise, it's nonsense.

And believe me, Israel was one of the places that was supposed to benefit the most from the world view that the U.N. was established to promote. You know, things like tolerance, anti-anti-Semitism, etc. So it's doubly ironic that its enemies have taken it over, or at least seem to have the upper hand in many of the debates. As usual, we have sown the wind and are reaping a whirlwind – but hey, we're used to that by now. The only question remaining is, what's the outcome of the next vote going to be? If 9 is a lonely number, how about 2? And what would happen if the rest of the world decided to become “eternal allies” with the Palestinians? Then we'd start to feel really lonely.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Pentagon Makes Its Move

As you may recall, around 3 weeks ago I put up a post dealing with the CIA's takeover of a major piece of the Army's mission (CIA 1, Army 0 – Nov. 28). More recently we received news that the Army is not just going to take this sort of thing lying down. An article entitled “Pentagon plans spy service to rival CIA's” from Dec. 3 makes this clear. Now... one could say that this proposal has nothing to do with the CIA's growing private (and secret) army... nothing to do with “turf wars” or push-back. But one would be wrong. Of course, it has everything to do with turf battles, and is obviously a case of major push-back. “Oh, so you want to take away the cream of the Army's military mission? Fine, then – we'll start pecking away at your spy mission.”

Let me self-quote from the previous post: “... the article quotes an Obama advisor: 'Should the [CIA] be looking to be the principal player in a global drone war versus its more traditional role as the principal collector and analyst of foreign intelligence?' Well – I think that question's already been answered. While the Army sits all alone and feeling blue, the CIA moves in and takes the best people and the best missions. I'm sure they'll continue to collect intelligence – but only enough to support their own military operations. And the Army will be left alone to do nation building, social and humanitarian work, and to continue being a lab for social experimentation.”

So yeah, the Army could have rolled over and played dead. But instead they played a card described as “an ambitious plan to assemble an espionage network that rivals the CIA in size”. The key player in all this would, naturally enough, be the Defense Intelligence Agency, which – now get this – would become “more closely aligned with the CIA and elite military commando units”. In other words, they would move in on the CIA's turf and take away a chunk of their mission, but remain friends, just like the farmer and the cowman in “Oklahoma”. Right. The CIA's really going to go for that. And as to elite military commando units – isn't military intelligence already closely aligned with them? Don't they talk? Apparently not, judging by some of what has happened over the last few years.

And what is the CIA supposedly going to get out of all this? I can tell you from direct experience that many Army personnel consider “Army intelligence” to be a contradiction in terms. This may not be a fair assessment, but there it is – and I don't think it's any different from any other age-old communications gap between fighters and thinkers. The fighters think the intel guys are all nerdy eggheads who never get their hands dirty and subsist mostly on guesswork... and the intellectoids in the military consider the fighters to be violent (duh), impulsive, no-neck jugheads. And the friendly rivalries that result – oh, my! Especially when it comes to “resourcing” -- another word for money. The point is that if this is what the Army thinks of its own intel types, you can only imagine what the “real, professional” intel types think of them. Are they just misunderstood, square pegs in round holes? No – what's more likely is that they're amateurs – and now they want to send out their own “surge” to do... what? Things the CIA can't, or won't, do? Surely that can't be allowed to stand. What is more likely is that in any given instance, the military intel guys will be second-class citizens and will have to subsist on scraps while the CIA feasts. That's just the way the dominant group treats its inferiors. Nothing personal, it's just about status and hierarchy.

Ah, but hope springs eternal. Some of these military intel types will be “clandestine operatives” and “will be trained by the CIA”. Sounds like someone never got over being non-selected for Boys State.  And get this: “Unlike the CIA, the Pentagon's spy agency is not authorized to conduct covert operations that go beyond intelligence gathering, such as drone strikes, political sabotage or arming militants.” In other words, the military intel types are not allowed to undertake military operations; that will still be left to the civilian intel types.

If this all sounds completely topsy-turvy and like something out of Lewis Carroll, that's because it is. Here's another gem: “Because of differences in legal authorities, the military isn't subject to the same congressional notification requirements as the CIA, leading to potential oversight gaps.” So the CIA is subject to “congressional notification requirements”? That's the first I've heard of it. As far as I know, they present their top-secret annual budget, get it rubber-stamped by Congress, and go on their merry way, enjoying maximum authority and zero accountability. I've never seen, or heard of, anything that would contradict this, and yet it's presented as a major consideration.

But wait! There's more! (as they say in Veg-o-Matic ads) – a week or so after the Pentagon played that card, the Senate – certainly no opponent of military expansionism – said “Whoa, there, pardner!” It seems they are concerned with costs (for once!) and with “management failures” in defense intelligence (as the CIA sits up in its tree with a Cheshire Cat grin – undoubtedly having furnished some of the evidence for said management failures). So... the Pentagon gambit seems to have been declined – at least for the time being. But it is fascinating to see this struggle acted out in such an overt manner. It's paradoxical, to say the least.

Hillary Tells Truth; Panic Ensues

Our sources tell us that the recent concussion suffered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has had some unexpected consequences. Apparently, upon regaining consciousness, she -- according to her inner circle of medical personnel -- showed signs of having a lesion in the – as they euphemistically put it -- “portion of the verbal cortex that is in charge of editing”.  (I would prefer to call it "the spin zone".)  “We knew something was up when she sat up in bed and said 'Hey, I was never dodging sniper bullets in Bosnia!'”, a spokesman said. “It was at that point that we went into lock-down mode, and everything she's said from that point on has been preemptively classified top secret, on the chance that it too could be the truth.”

One commentator who has long-standing connections at the State Department offers this observation: “Imagine anyone in the diplomatic corps who cannot tell a lie. Imagine a secretary of state who cannot tell a lie. This is obviously a catastrophe of major proportions, not to mention which it violates one of the most hallowed principles of statecraft. Clearly, she is no longer qualified for that position, and, in fact, she cannot be allowed to remain in it for one more day, even though she has announced that she's leaving the post in the near future. National security is at stake.” The most immediate consequence was that she was unable to testify before Congress regarding the Benghazi attacks – but these developments make it quite certain that she never will.

And the problem extends far beyond the environs of Foggy Bottom. Panic has broken out among the “Arkansas Mafia” that populated her husband's administration, and rumor has it that Bill Clinton has gone into hiding with a bevy of lawyers. In the meantime, there are reports that hundreds of Bill Clinton's employees and associates when he was governor of Arkansas have purchased one-way tickets and flown out of Little Rock to parts unknown (suspected to be largely destinations in Central and South America). Surviving participants in the “Whitewater” scandal have also shown signs of heading out of town, as have some individuals involved with the failed "HillaryCare" program, which featured top-secret meetings. 

This is clearly a political event with far-reaching consequences, many of which, it may be assumed, are not yet imagined. Further updates will be provided as information becomes available.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

CIA 1, Army 0

Two very much related stories appeared in Sunday's paper, one entitled “Soldiers worried about Army future” and the other “Obama's choice of CIA director to signal course”. What makes them “very much related”, you ask? Well, it's simply that the CIA has, of late, taken on a military role that rivals that of the special operations forces, the Army's included, and also takes a big chunk out of the Air Force mission. Time was when the Air Force would strike first (remember "shock and awe"?), then the Marines would go in to soften things up, then the Army would come in like a human wave, and once things were settled down a bit the special ops guys would fan out into the jungle (desert, whatever) to start fighting insurgents and guerrillas on their own terms. Problem is, while this model was still supposedly alive and well the regular Army was gradually reduced to doing, much of the time, things they were never trained to do – things like “nation building” (which can include everything from supervising elections to building schools to supplying food, water and medical supplies to conducting focus groups to – for all I know – changing diapers). In other words, in many parts of the world where we are occupiers, the Army has been turned into a bunch of social workers – not that the work is not important or useful, but you don't need combat-trained people in fatigues to do it. And at the same time, the CIA has its own army, made up largely of mercenaries (AKA “contractors”) to do the really important stuff – not just security but also special ops-type stuff, which makes me wonder, do we even need the uniformed special ops guys anymore? (And – does this have something to do with Petraeus' downfall?)

See, the gradual evolution (or devolution, depending on one's point of view) of the U.S. military model, or “vision”, has been away from set-piece battles (the last of which, arguably, occurred in Europe and North Africa during World War II) and toward relatively autonomous, small-unit operations requiring a significantly different kind of training. This made perfect sense, given that the nature of the enemy had changed; we were no longer facing armies, but small groups of rebels/insurgents/guerrillas who knew the terrain (both in the literal and cultural sense), and who were, in most respects, indistinguishable from the general populace (because, in fact, they were the general populace – at least some of the time). And it's not as if we'd never fought other people on their own turf before; consider Germany in the last days of World War II. (The atomic bomb kept us from having to fight the Japanese on their home turf – which, in fact, probably saved more Japanese lives than were lost in the bombings. But I digress.) But again, it was the old model with armies in uniform, weapons that looked like weapons (vs. IEDs, e.g.), and, yes, “rules of war”. (Both sides used gas in World War I. Neither side used it in World War II. That's right – the Nazis did not choose to regress to gas warfare. This is never pointed out, of course. They also treated our POWs much better than the Japanese did; there will never be a “Hogan's Heroes” about a Japanese prison camp.)

What we are faced with now is summed up in the article as follows: “Soldiers who were trained to fight tank battles shifted to a style of combat that emphasized politics, cultural awareness, and protecting the local population from insurgent attacks.” In other words, changing diapers (figuratively speaking, at least). This began in Vietnam (remember "hearts and minds"?) but has really come to a head in the post-9/11 world. Actually, I would say that the transition, on our side, was prefigured in the war in the Pacific, but it came to a head in Vietnam, where we went over there expecting to fight a nice clean, crisp, European-style war and wound up nostril-deep in swamps and jungles. That took some getting used to, and in fact we never got used to it. The lean little monkey-like creatures who lived there, and who ran around without having to carry 50-pound packs, finally managed to get rid of us... and you can say what you want about “politics”, but, in my opinion, we lost largely because we didn't know how to fight that kind of war, and refused to learn. You'd think carpet bombing, Agent Orange, and Napalm would have done the trick, right? Good old American know-how. And yet, mysteriously, we had to leave and the communists and the “Cong” got to stay. They had home field advantage, certainly – but then so did Germany, and they wound up buried in ashes.

I think the difference may have to do with styles of warfare – and the fact that we can win when we're fighting a war our way, as long as the other side is also fighting the war our way. But if they choose some radically alternative method, and are on their home turf besides, we're at a decided disadvantage and are likely to lose (as in Vietnam) or be stalemated (as in Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan). I'll take this one step further – I think we might well have wound up stalemated in Japan, and forced to sign a treaty rather than their having to unconditionally surrender, if it hadn't been for the A-bomb. This can never be proven, but subsequent events do provide plenty of room for speculation. Land wars in Asia just don't seem to be our forte, and no amount of training or “readiness” can make them so. I guess we could pretend to fight the way they do (that's one thing special ops forces are supposed to be able to do), but I'm not sure how far that would go. I think you really have to have their mindset – their brains – for it to work. (To cite an extreme case – do we have any defense against suicide bombers? Not really – and one reason is that we simply don't understand them. Since we don't “get” what it would take for someone to do that, we have a hard time coming up with any answers – defensive or otherwise. Knowing “the mind of the enemy” is always Job One, and if that is unknowable, everything else can fall by the wayside.)

So with that as background, what are soldiers worried about these days? (And note that some of them are so worried they are committing suicide – in record numbers.) “Some officers worry that the service is reverting to a more comfortable, rigid and predictable past.” Translation – go back to the old models, scenarios, and “war games” that have been outdated for decades. But hey, at least it's familiar... it's understandable... and it's “American”, rather than the “dirty fighting” that we encounter so often in third-world pestholes. So – no clear, future-oriented sense of direction. But hasn't the experience of the Middle East over the past ten years provided a new model? Apparently not. And why is this? Simply that we've been fighting (or not fighting) unwinnable wars over there – not only unwinnable in the strategic sense but unwinnable because that was the plan all along. (This is me talking now – and I've made the argument more than once on this site, so won't elaborate on it again at this time. But I suspect that a gradually-increasing sense of this is taking place within the military – along with all the resentment and frustration one would expect. In this sense, it's a psychological recapitulation of Vietnam, except that Vietnam was not designed to be unwinnable, it just turned out that way.) So a sense of futility and absurdity develops, and when soldiers, who feel these things on a deep level even if they are unable to articulate them, look to the future, all they can see is more of what we have now – at best. No clear mission, no victories, no “exit criteria”, no nothing – just go somewhere, make loud noises and kill things, and go home (if you're lucky). How is anyone supposed to tie this to patriotism, home, family, human values? Heaven knows, they try hard enough – but the attempts are in themselves absurd, and speak more of desperation than of discovering any real links. Soldiers can mouth all the words they like about “fighting [halfway around the world] to preserve our freedoms” but deep down I suspect they know it's a hoax. 

And then there is the very real, human nature-type question, who to blame? Vietnam boiled down to LBJ and “the best and the brightest”, with JFK getting off scot-free. Iraq and Afghanistan are, of course, all about “terrorism”, which the other side calls “defense of the homeland”. OK – those are two world views not readily reconciled. But is “terrorism” to blame? All it is is a word that someone in Washington made up and then defined in order to serve their own ends. Or is it the people who think terrorism can be defeated? Or, more likely, the people who say terrorism can be defeated, even though they know full well it can't? Or, also likely, the people who use terrorism as an excuse for pursuing other agendas – things like power, money, “immanentizing the eschaton”, etc. (OK – for that last, you can start by checking out It refers, in this case, to Evangelicals and Christian Zionists trying to accelerate the End Times by fulfilling Biblical prophesies (mostly from Revelations) using (and abusing) our military, national wealth, politicians, personal freedoms, and reputation on the world stage. Do I have to say any more about how well this has worked out so far?)

It's actually fortunate (for the power elite) that so much of the military is drawn from the working (or non-working) classes, since they tend to be more fatalistic and less questioning of authority or events. “Shit happens” is their watchword... and they seldom sit down and analyze precisely where that shit that happens comes from. If they did, we might have a real proletarian revolution on our hands – you know, the kind Obama was supposedly leading before he actually became president and developed a new respect for perpetual war.

But back to the Army for a moment. The article also refers to “a Pentagon defense [read “war”] strategy that emphasizes air and naval power over ground forces.” Well – maybe, but how many Navy guys are wandering around Afghanistan in boots and fatigues carrying a rifle? And as to the Air Force – don't all of those drones belong to the CIA? I mean, honestly – when I look at our recent and current conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa I see more of a CIA “footprint” than all of the military services combined. This is, in fact, the elephant in the NCO club, but it's apparently too big for anyone to actually see. The Army is quickly being rendered obsolete – not by the other branches as much as by the so-called “intelligence” agencies. They can blame it on the other services if they like, but that's just about age-old rivalries, not reality. 

And what about those budget cuts (which have yet to kick in, you'll notice)? Well, as I've said before, if you took our “defense” budget and reduced it to just what is actually needed for defense, as opposed to war, you could probably cut out about 80% or so. As it is, these “draconian” cuts are more or less the equivalent of one less mocha latte per week for the average metrosexual – painful yes, but hardly fatal. (And wasn't it clever, by the way, of Congress to hold “defense” hostage when they were designing the “fiscal cliff”? They picked the one thing that they knew would never actually be cut – at least not by enough to make any difference. This tactic is called (in government circles) “gold watching it”.)

Here's another quote from the article: “(T)he Army has not been able to articulate a clear mission that will enable it to hold on to its shrinking share of the Pentagon budget.” Well... actually, “articulating a mission” is not the Army's job, but the job of its civilian overseers – you know, guys like the secretary of the army, the secretary of defense, and the president. Expecting the Army to articulate its own mission gets things precisely backwards. Oh, I'm sure plenty of senior leaders in the Army would just love to get a chance to articulate their mission – but it might not have a whole lot to do with the best interests of the country as a whole. (I'm envisioning things like “nuke every Islamic city in the world” -- you know, level-headed stuff like that. Senior Army officers are smart, but their elevators don't ever go quite to the top floor – as witness Gen. Petraeus. And besides, if we'd wanted a country where the military was in charge, we would have designed it that way.)

Plus, you have to understand that pitting the services against one another is a game politicians play. They already know how much in the way of resources is going to each service, and which major programs are going to be supported, but they just enjoy the spectacle. And yes, it's all terribly wasteful – but since when has anyone in Washington been concerned with that?

So – while the Army dithers, and wrings its hands, and feels like a wallflower – what's going on a few miles up the Potomac, at CIA HQ? There, all is groovy and smurfy, thanks to a virtually unlimited, and top secret, budget... and the advantage of being above the law at all times and in all places (a privilege the Army might envy now and then, but seldom gets to enjoy). And yet, they seem to have things to deal with as well – and I'm not talking about the precipitous departure of Gen. Petraeus, who was only the most recent to cross over that great divide between the military and the “intel” community – which is like being promoted from field hand to butler in the Old South.

What's on the CIA's mind, according to the article, is – will they get to keep their new favorite toy, namely armed drones? Gone are the days of secret codes, trench coats, and messages hidden under park benches; now the CIA has major firepower, and no intention of giving it up. The article refers to “the agency's pronounced shift toward paramilitary operations” -- the question being, will that trend continue or be reversed somehow? (And if so, by whom? Oh, right, the president. You know – that same guy who knew absolutely nothing about Benghazi and Petraeus, and had to catch up by watching CNN?) Yes, apparently there is some concern that the CIA has become another branch of the military, albeit not in the same chain of command (or any other, for that matter). It's one thing to have an agency that knows everything about everyone – we went through that with the FBI in Hoover's day – but to have one that, in addition, has its own army and its own high-tech weaponry.... why, that's... that's... almost like the places we've always fought against! Who can forget the way the Gestapo rode roughshod over the German military... or the way the KGB intimidated the Russian military? The article cites Petraeus as having “sought to cement the agency's ties with the military...”. Well, right -- “cement” is also another word for “dominate”. And by the way, guess who the CIA recruits for its private army? By and large, veterans of the uniformed special ops forces. Yes, the “best and the brightest” (and probably the most merciless) from the military are being skimmed off the top, offered sky-high pay and the chance to see the world and meet (i.e. kill) people. Who could resist?

The final paragraph of the article quotes an Obama advisor: “Should the agency be looking to be the principal player in a global drone war versus its more traditional role as the principal collector and analyst of foreign intelligence?” Well – I think that question's already been answered. While the Army sits all alone and feeling blue, the CIA moves in and takes the best people and the best missions. I'm sure they'll continue to collect intelligence – but only enough to support their own military operations. And the Army will be left alone to do nation building, social and humanitarian work, and to continue being a lab for social experimentation. (We wouldn't want to give those guys guns and trust them with an actual mission, would we?) Sounds like “win-win” all around.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bin Laden's Body

I'm not sure why this particular, um, corpse is being disinterred. You'd think the Obama people would have gotten bruised enough the first time around, with that chaotic and fanciful bin Laden story. You remember – no one could get the story straight for weeks, even though there was only a handful of witnesses and they all belonged to the same military unit. My interpretation is that the Obama people, Democrats, and liberals in general are all so eager to put the most positive political “spin” on things that their very anxiety turns them into gibbering idiots. So any given story is spun, first, one way and then another way – with plenty of fine tuning, revisions, updates, and adjustments – and then still another way, and never mind the gaps that become more blatant as time goes on, or the obvious contradictions between the various stories. For the liberal, there is no such thing as history, and no such concept as consistency – it's all about the best spin for that particular day, or hour, and the fact that they consistently get away with it is less a comment on them than it is a comment on the electorate. We can accept that, for whatever reason, liberals have no internalized concept of truth; the truth is, quite literally, not in them. So whatever they say, or do, is based on relativism, political expediency, and the impulses of the moment. They would prefer never to hear the word “truth” -- it's such an alien concept, like “morality”. But if they must use it, then they use it in a totally political way – there is no truth aside from politics... aside from the will of the people (or their rulers) at any given time. Thus, the truth can change as rapidly as the weather, or the stock market, or one's blood sugar level. It's not an absolute, and since it does not differ in any way from politics, we'd be better off getting rid of the term altogether.

So with all of that in mind, consider the latest “news” concerning the disposal of the mortal remains of the late, unlamented “terrorist”. Well, to begin with, they haven't changed their story that burial at sea is a “traditional” mode of Islamic burial. Right – a race that lives, almost entirely, in deserts has a hallowed tradition of burial at sea. Which Marx Brothers movie did that come out of? Then there's the highly-suspect whisking of bin Laden's body from utter Pakistan to some place in the Indian Ocean in less time than it would take a short-wave signal to make the journey. Right. And then there's the utter chaos as to who was or was not killed, were they or were they not armed, who pointed a gun at whom, who shot first, what did they say while all this was going on... as if any of it matters, but the administration seems to feel that it has to say something – anything – even on the most mundane matters, in order to bolster the overall narrative.

So what tidbits are we now being treated to – all supposedly in order to really and truly, and for keeps, cement this story and eliminate all doubt?  Hold that thought for a moment, because first I want to ask, what is the evidence?  --  “Internal emails... obtained by the Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act”. OK... do I have to mention that the AP is a mainstay of the running dog media, and that they wouldn't bust Obama's chops on any issue for all the tea in China? And as for the hallowed Freedom of Information Act, well... I was on the other end of plenty of those requests during my time in the government, and even though we were very conscientious about the matter, it was easy enough to see how the system could be gamed. To begin with – unless something has changed, which I doubt it has – an FOI request cannot be couched in “anything you have” terms; i.e. it can't be used to support a fishing expedition. You have to already know what you're looking for – not to the extent of being able to name it precisely, but at least to make it searchable and verifiable.  In other words, in order to get these emails via an FOI request, AP had to have had a pretty good idea they existed and what they were about.   

That's one thing. But the real flaw in the system is that it's still the agency in question that determines what (if anything) the FOI request applies to, whether it can supply said documents, and whether said documents can be withheld for some reason, e.g. one having to do with “national security” (which can mean anything). Not only that, but... well, I'm sure this would never happen, but... an agency could, in theory, provide fake documentation in lieu of the real stuff, and how is the requester supposed to know the difference? The bottom line is that, in response to an FOI request, an agency simply has to provide documents along with the assurance that they are, indeed, what was requested and that it's all there, or provide reasons why not. And if you think there's a third party that goes in and checks, well...

So – having said all that, let's see what these alleged “internal emails” have to say, according to the AP. For starters, “no sailors watched Osama bin Laden's burial at sea”. So... no witnesses, right? Or very few. Also, “traditional Islamic procedures were followed” -- and we all know that U.S. Navy vessels all have experts in Islamic burial procedures on board at all times, right? As if we cared! I mean, who are we even trying to impress, or placate, by making this claim?

And, oh yes, the emails are “heavily blacked out”, which means that the most interesting information (or non-information) is still unavailable – so we're talking about crumbs here.

To go on -- “only a small group of the ship's leadership was informed of the burial”. In other words, not only few, if any, direct witnesses, but no “hearsay” witnesses either. All very convenient.

Now, get this. Remember, this is all supposedly happening on board a U.S. warship. “A military officer read prepared [by whom?] religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic [for whom?] by a native speaker [who just happened to be on board].”  (And BTW, what are "religious remarks"?  Wouldn't you love to have a transcript?) 

But hey, there was a reason for all this secrecy and weirdness. A quote from one of the emails: “The paucity of documentary evidence in our possession is a reflection of the emphasis placed on operational security during the execution of this phase of the operation.” So... “operational security” was foremost in everyone's mind. This is on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean. No – the real message is that it was kept secret because it was kept secret.  Which may mean that the real secret is that there was nothing to be kept secret.  But we'll get back to that.   

And then there are some folksy, spy story-type tidbits, like the use of the term “FEDEX” (and I can't wait for the lawsuit), “package” (i.e. corpse), “trucks” (i.e. helicopters)... you know, the kind of thing kids in the backyard will make up when playing in that tree house with the sign saying “No Gurls Allowed”. No reason for it – it's just what we do.

And then – despite this veritable cornucopia of information – it's also mentioned that “the Obama administration... is keeping a tight hold on materials related to the bin Laden raid.” For example, there are no “photographs or video taken during the raid or showing bin Laden's body”. And “no images of his body on the (ship).” Really. The operation that was Obama's sole argument for being re-elected, and no photos or videos?  This from the king of photo-ops, whose narcissism rivals that of Donald Trump or Madonna?

And! No “death certificate, autopsy report, or results of DNA identification... or any pre-raid materials discussing how the government planned to dispose of bin Laden's body if he were killed.” So – no advance planning, and yet they managed to, in the twinkling of an eye, come up with a traditional Islamic burial at sea, with prepared religious remarks and a native translator. Wow, these guys are good.

And finally – no helicopter maintenance logs, and no reports about the performance of military gear used in the raid (although we do have anecdotal evidence gathered by bin Laden's neighbors on cell phones). 

Now – if you're not already doubled over with laughter at all this, there is something seriously wrong with your funny bone. (Maybe someone ate it by mistake on Thanksgiving.) This is farce of the highest order – and, as I've pointed out before, it's just possible that the administration prefers to present this image and look like a bunch of idiots, rather than present the real truth. But what is the real truth? There's no sense picking this pile of do-do apart to try and salvage something real. The simplest theory – and one that has been kicking around ever since the supposed raid – is that bin Laden was not killed at that time or at that place, therefore there was no body, and therefore there was no burial... and that the narrative that the administration finally settled on after the raid was a myth, and that these recent revelations are simply elaborations on the same myth.  Kind of like telling a kid who doesn't believe in Santa Claus that you have Santa's Social Security number.   

The problem with this administration, as with many others, is that they aren't content to just let one lame-ass story that's full of holes out, and hang tough when the critics start bellowing. No – they have to make things worse by coming out with something even more absurd and improbable. And just you wait – if they have any more to say on the matter, it will be even more absurd and improbable than what we have now. But see, it's like their truth problem – they don't recognize absurdity either. And the most wildly improbable story seems no more far-fetched to them than any other, simply because they are dealing with truth as a function of politics, not as a function of probability or reality.

The people I really feel sorry for are the military types who have to put up with all this. They have, in most cases, a certain small amount of reality-testing capability left. In a military environment, especially when combat is involved, it helps to have a concept of “ground truth” -- you know, stuff like where the bad guys are, which way their guns are pointed, etc. But politicians, including our commander-in-chief, have the luxury of ignoring all that. Recall that back in the Vietnam era, truth was not what was actually going on in Vietnam, but what LBJ said it was (and Walter Cronkite too, before he wandered off the reservation). I think the military took notice – but what could they do? And isn't the same thing happening on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan? Don't we have the Ministry of Propaganda saying one thing, and the troops experiencing something a bit different? (I recall also that American citizens were never able to access Voice of America broadcasts. I always found that quite significant.)

Well... frankly, I don't give a rat's ass whether bin Laden is dead or alive, or who killed him, or when, or how. I just find it amazing that one man – one man! -- is supposedly the cause of our starting two major wars (and any number of minor ones), squandering trillions of our wealth, passing oppressive laws and regulations for the “security” of our citizenry, and mounting a program of deception that is, I believe, unmatched in our history. If Hitler or Stalin were able to look on in envy, they would. By almost any measure aside from the one of who's still alive (and even that is shrouded in ambiguity), Osama has won, and he continues to win. A tall, skinny raghead has a lumbering, bumbling giant on the ropes. I mean... our society might actually fall – economically, militarily, and in terms of personal freedoms – as a result of Osama's exertions. If so, he will be the most important personage in our history, even though we buried him (or so we claim).

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Betray-Us" Betrayed

I’m trying to get a grip on this whole Petraeus thing, and I have to admit that it’s a tangled web.  While it’s too early to draw any obvious conclusions (since there aren’t any), a few preliminary comments can at least be offered.

First of all, it’s not about sex.  Never was, never will be.  I mean… can you imagine, a Democratic administration letting someone go for sexual dalliance?  Please.

Second, it’s not about keeping Petraeus from testifying before Congress about Benghazi.  They can call up anyone they want at any time to testify on any subject, no matter if the person is on active duty, retired, a convicted felon, etc.  Surely even the Obama people know that.

Now that that’s settled (and 90% of the commentariat have been answered in the negative), some thoughts about the ever-expanding cast of characters:

Senior generals in the military don’t have delusions of grandeur and omnipotence -- they really are grand and omnipotent.  At least that’s what everyone tells them many times each day.  So is it any wonder they fall prey to the delusions of power, the foremost of which is, invariably, that they can do anything at any time and get away with it?  Plus, military officers tend to have a Puritan streak, mediated by a Southern upbringing and Evangelical faith, so when they fall on their face sex usually has something to do with it.

Another thing to remember is that the military officer corps is a profoundly middle-class institution. Rich men no longer send their sons to war; that stopped with the Kennedys. So we're talking about, if you will, the bourgeoisie in uniform – with all the values that implies, as well as the guilt when those values are violated. (By contrast, the enlisted ranks are a working-class institution, which means they are more fatalistic and have less impulse control, and little or no guilt... but, paradoxically, are more likely to wind up with post-traumatic stress disorder. This is something that invites research.)

Senior generals in the military also tend to attract groupies -- both in and outside the service.  Power is an attractor -- didn’t Henry Kissinger say that?  Power, masculinity, medals… ability to outdo much younger men in push-ups… these qualities have impressed women ever since civilization began.  Consider the outright leanness of guys like Petraeus and Allen -- nothing at all like the pink, squishy appearance of guys like Dick Cheney or, for heaven’s sake, Karl Rove.  When a woman is looking for a real man, as opposed to one with just temporary power, who’s she gonna call?  The nearest 4-star general, o’course.  And, needless to say, the fact of the guy being already married only adds to the savor. To the predatory female, the ultimate game is to get a desirable man away from another woman, not just to get him in the, um, general sense.

So what this means is that even a senior general who is totally faithful to his spouse is going to be probed, on a regular basis, by women who think they’re the ones to make him stray from the righteous path.  And these women will, of course, be in competition with one another, so jealousy and cat fights (including ones via e-mail) will soon follow.

So far I’m explaining, partially at least, the behavior of some of the people involved -- but not all.  And this is where it gets interesting.  For starters, what’s the FBI doing investigating the CIA?  Haven’t they been briefed on the pecking order?  Don’t they realize that the CIA could send in a team of mercenaries and take out FBI headquarters in about ten minutes?  Are these people crazy?

Well… maybe.  But it’s also true -- or so I believe -- that the office of CIA director has become a largely political position, and all the real power in that organization is wielded by the “lifers” -- the unelected, unappointed, anonymous types who have dug deep into the organization.  And in a situation like that, if the lifers don’t like your style, they have ways of getting you to leave -- by persuasion or, if need be, by force.  So when the FBI started knocking on the door, rather than pulling rank I’ll bet the underlings made a deal to hang Petraeus out to dry.  But still -- it was a daring move by the FBI.  I mean, imagine some government agency in Nazi Germany outing the chief of the Gestapo.  Touchy business, to say the least.

So clearly, #1, just being head of the CIA was not enough to protect the general.  But that has less to do with a decline of CIA power than with a lack of Petraeus power.  On any given day, the FBI wouldn’t touch the CIA with a ten-foot pole… and in this case as well, I’m sure that plenty of people were “coordinated with” before things got serious.  If the gang at Langley had told the guys from downtown to cool it, they would have cooled it.

So if Petraeus was hung out to dry, why? -- assuming that the insiders didn’t feel they owed him any loyalty, and he could easily be replaced with another figurehead, and life would go on as always.  But what was the FBI’s interest in hanging him high?  To hurt the CIA?  That’s always possible when it comes to rival intel agencies; everybody wants to be the baddest of the bad.  But, again, they should have known that it wouldn’t work -- that it would cause barely a ripple.  So clearly, Petraeus must have done something that someone didn’t like.

But before we start speculating on that, we need to discuss a few other characters in the cast, the foremost being President Obama.  The line so far is that he knew nothing, and no one should have expected him to know anything.  (Compare, if you will, Nixon vis-a-vis Watergate, or Reagan vis-à-vis Iran Contra.  In each case, their enemies expected them to be omniscient and didn’t accept any other possibility.)  Now… either Obama really and truly knew nothing, as he claims -- or he knew plenty.  If he knew nothing, it only supports my model whereby the president is nothing more than a department store dummy, who has no real “need to know” anything, since he has no real power.  But if he did know, then he had to have given the attack dogs the go-ahead to chase Petraeus up a tree, and then the question returns to “why”?

At this point, we have to entertain a brief diversion called “what liberals think of the military”.  Number one, they hate it.  And they hate guns, and uniforms, and masculinity, and testosterone, and any and all traditional male/warrior traits.  And they especially hate the military when there’s a Republican president, for obvious reasons.  But when there’s a Democrat president, well… then things change a bit.  They become more “nuanced”.  Then the liberals discover that they can use the military for their various schemes -- especially the “wag the dog”-type operations that were so popular in Clinton’s time.  But when a Democrat president is handed a war, or a cluster of wars, on a silver platter, the way Obama was, it becomes an even more different story.  Then there is a flexing of almost-vestigial muscles, and liberals discover that, by gosh, they can fight wars too.  Or send other people to fight them, whatever.

But things get a bit awkward when a Democrat inherits a military “hero” -- like Petraeus -- from a Republican administration.  They have to do something with him, but it’s awkward; he sticks in their craw.  Better to have someone who came up through the ranks in a properly politically-vetted environment – which means, for the Democrats, a totally political animal for whom military victory is an outmoded idea.  So the challenge is to get rid of the offending person without making it look like a blatant case of clash of personalities or philosophy.  And what better means than to use some tacky sexual episode, which will always appeal to Republicans -- guaranteed!  Republicans are nothing if not Puritanical and neurotic about sex.  When they have it (which is rare) they feel guilty and dirty somehow -- totally unlike Democrats, who swim in seas of flesh at every opportunity.  (Didja ever notice that if a sex scandal involves a Republican, there’s always something kind of weird and kinky about it, whereas if it’s a Democrat, it’s just good, clean fun?  At least that‘s what the media always claim.)

But again -- all this trouble just because Petraeus had a bit of residual contamination from the Bush administration?  No sale.  It must have had something to do with his performance (or non-performance) of duty -- and it’s not as if the CIA has been made of Teflon of late.  It’s hard to hide an agency that has its own army with operations in scores of countries around the world; word has to leak out eventually.  And even if he was basically a figurehead, the general had to have had something to do with their current menu of mayhem -- think drone strikes on weddings, schools, picnics, etc.  Or -- maybe the problem is that he was trying to bring the CIA to heel somehow; that would certainly be a fatal error.  Benghazi was certainly a spectacular failure, but surely…

Hold on a minute.  The administration line on Benghazi is not unlike the line on Petraeus -- Obama didn’t know anything, no one knew anything, but they came out with explanations that had nothing to do with reality.  Doesn’t it all have the same flavor -- one of total chaos or incompetence?  But sometimes the appearance of incompetence can be used to hide an agenda that is working perfectly well -- but looking incompetent is preferable to having to reveal what is really going on.  So… what was Benghazi really all about?  It was clearly a CIA operation that got, first, detected and second, neutralized by insurgent forces.  Whose fault was that?  Those kinds of operations are going on all the time; why did this one get singled out?  Is there any chance that it was exposed in some way, and that the attack was, at least in part, a false-flag operation, not unlike 9-11?  By this I mean that it was really done by insurgents, but they were aided and abetted in some way, and for some reason, by others.  And why would that happen?  Anyone notice that, within days of the Benghazi incident, we were sending troops into West Africa in order to, supposedly, chase down those responsible? Oh, you didn't see that story? Not surprising, since it was out for about five minutes before it was suppressed. But take a look at a map of Africa. Between Libya and West Africa is a whole lot of nothing – namely the Sahara Desert. Not exactly the kind of place “terrorists” would be galivanting back and forth across on a daily basis. So no, Benghazi was just an excuse for our getting involved in who knows how many new wars, this time in Africa as opposed to the Middle East. (Obama: “Home at last.”)

So what this implies is that the Benghazi victims may have been set up as sacrificial lambs – through “benign neglect” at the very least. And if so, what would a CIA director's role in all of that have been? Would he have been in on it, or opposed (and yet overridden by others)? Was the conflict, in any case, between him and his subordinates or between him and people elsewhere, e.g. the State Department? Let's face it, there ain't too many people higher up in the pecking order in Washington, D.C. than the head of the CIA – at least on paper. So for someone to be able to bust him down to private for real or imagined offenses... well, that someone has to be even higher up (either on paper or in reality).

So the most immediate question for Congress, should they choose to get involved (since they have nothing better to do), would be – what did Petraeus do wrong, or what did he do right, to reap the wrath of somebody in the administration... and no, developing a zipper problem is not the answer.  And yes, I know that he has made a public confession along those lines -- but when you see that, you can pretty much assume that it was either that or taking the blame for something even worse.  In other words, he was given a choice -- either look like a harmless fool or be nailed as a war criminal, or something.  The tawdry affair thus becomes a cover story; marvelous are the ways of Washington, especially when a criminal cartel is in charge.  And fact that the CIA itself is apparently starting their own investigation provides a clue as to how well he got along with his underlings in Langley, so I suspect that he stepped on some toes there and elsewhere as well. The question remains – whose, and for what reason? It's gonna be interesting.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The End of the Beginning of the End

Well, it was a clean kill, I must say.  No muss, no fuss… no hanging chads… no Supreme Court… very cut and dried.  Obama gets two ears and a tail.  And if you look at the electoral map, it couldn’t be more clear -- “middle America”, “flyover country”, the land of ordinary people -- that’s dead, on the national level, as is the Republican Party.  And yes, I know, news of the Republicans’ death has been premature a number of times before -- as has news of the Democrats’ death.  Every time the presidency changes hands, and sometimes when it doesn’t, the standard response is, well, so much for the opposing party -- they are no longer relevant, they don’t share the values of the majority of the American people, etc.  But those occasions are usually based on specific factors -- wars, economic struggles, scandals, etc.  What we see in this case is a systemic issue, namely that the Democratic base -- a coalition of minorities (formerly known as the “rainbow coalition”) has become the majority, not just in theory but in fact.  And the old “moral majority”, which was never a real majority, finds itself in the position of a permanent minority.  And it’s not as if this hasn’t happened countless times throughout history.  War and conquest dominate all historical narratives.  This time, part of the country has been conquered by another part -- not unlike the Civil War.  In our own history, the Anglo-Saxon Puritan dominance was eventually threatened by immigrants from such lawless places as Ireland, Italy, Poland, etc.  And yet the Anglo power structure held on -- as I expect it to do this time around, but only on the deepest level.  (Which means that even though Romney lost the election, people like him will still be in charge, and people like Obama will be working for them… but never in a visible or obvious way.)

On the level that matters to most people, the inmates have demonstrably taken over the asylum, and it’s time for Atlas to shrug -- but shrug he won’t, because the people who should be doing the shrugging have, instead, sold out to the Regime.  Or rather, they are the Regime.  See, what Ayn Rand failed to anticipate was that “capitalists” would eventually no longer stand in opposition to collectivism, but would move in and take over, the way one mob will take over another mob’s territory.  And the transformation that would result would be from a dysfunctional democracy/republic to a fascist state -- not communist (which was the more typical bogeyman of conservatives).  In straining to avoid falling to communism we have become fascist instead, in other words -- even though politicians, including Obama, never tire of mouthing communist-style, or at least socialist-style, words. 

But let’s get down to more specific issues for a moment.  Number one, what’s to become of the Republican Party?  Will it sink into well-deserved obscurity, followed by oblivion?  This is what the media types were rubbing their hands with glee about all day Wednesday.  No, what is more likely is that the Republicans will retain some relevance on the state and local level, and continue winning some elections at those levels -- but only in parts of the country where a majority share their values and priorities… their “vision”.  On the national level, no one who voted for Obama is going to go back to voting Republican, assuming they ever did.  In other words, Obama’s base is, basically, set in concrete at this point.  The fact, for example, that he was held perfectly non-responsible for anything bad that happened in the last four years is one indicator.  People are still willing to blame Bush for all our ills -- not an entirely mistaken premise, I must admit, but still… 

And as for the Democratic coalition, it can only get bigger -- and the Republican one can only get smaller.  These are demographic and social trends; they don’t have anything directly to do with politics, but they have political consequences.  Now, the media types kept repeating, like some kind of mantra, that the Republicans have to start taking minorities “into account”, and showing some understanding and sympathy, etc., if they’re going to “retain national relevance”.  Well, this is a tease, of course, because what they’re saying is that if the Republicans become more like Democrats they might have a chance of survival.  In fact, if they become Democrats, they’ll have an even better chance of survival -- as Democrats.  A Catch-22, in other words.  The Republicans can’t survive unless they become indistinguishable from Democrats -- which means that the Democrats have won, along with their worldview.  And it’s true that one of the main Republican arguments ever since, say, the Reagan years is that we should vote for them because they’re almost as compassionate, humane, and caring as the Democrats.  But in that case, why not vote for the real thing rather than a pale (and hypocritical) imitation?  If we were talking about real Republicans -- from the Robert Taft days, or the Goldwater days, or even the Reagan days, it might make some sense -- but they have been doing so much compromising of late, and have lost sight of whatever they might have had in the way of principles, and have given up all respectability, that they have become, basically, pathetic and a laughingstock.  (Of course, one of their least respectable traits is their love affair with war and the American Empire -- but the Democrats do not disagree with them on this, so it’s a non-issue.)

I mean, what do they have left to offer?  They talk endlessly about “the middle class”, but so does Obama (not that he means it).  They talk about the national debt, which most people don’t even understand… about deficit spending (ditto -- most Americans think that as long as they have checks, they have money in the bank)… about balance of payments (hey, Chinese schlock is cheaper, who’s complaining?)… about moral issues (hey, I’m OK on that count, and those pre-verts can just go to hell)… and so on.  And really, I understand about Romney.  Obama may be a failure on most counts, but Romney was scary.  He’s just too doggone white.  And too wholesome.  And too “American”.  And not at all apologetic -- clearly out of touch with the spirit of the times.  He represents, basically, the fading minority… and I don’t care what the reproductive rate of Mormons is, they can’t catch up to the Democrat coalition (even with free abortion taken into account). 

So people who grew up never dreaming they would someday be on the outside looking in when it comes to American society are finding themselves doing just that.  This, I guess, is what Obama meant by “Revenge”.  Knock all those gun- and Bible-clingers off their high horse… make them stop making fun of rootless cosmopolitans, academicians, eggheads, the East Coast, the West Coast, and so on.  Show them what minorities can do when given a chance.  Truly, it’s “our turn”, and I guess it took Obama’s re-election to make that clear.  There was always, in the back of many people’s minds, the idea that if Obama screwed up enough things often enough he would be easy pickings once this election rolled around.  Problem is, even if he did his part (which I submit that he did) not everyone agrees that it constituted a screw-up.  The 47%, and then some, think he’s doing a splendid job… that he’s still He Who Is To Come… and that everything that’s wrong is Bush’s fault, after four years.  This is, truly, a triumph for the propaganda apparatus that we call “the mainstream media”. 

And by the way, whatever happened to that business about Romney’s son owning all the voting machines… or the Israelis supplying all the software?  What happened to Bibi Netanyahu’s campaign to get us all to vote for Romney because Obama was starting to wander off the reservation?  Whatever happened to all that money from Sheldon Adelson?  Just goes to show -- Americans are a cranky lot, and can still manage to foil the plots and schemes of the rich and powerful (some of them, at least). 

So if the Republicans are dead meat nationally, which they appear to be, what will this change when it comes to the Democrats’ behavior?  How will they act now that they have the presidency for life?  And more immediately, what will Obama do in his second term?  Double down on all the most radical socialistic/collectivistic/totalitarian schemes, now that what little opposition he’s had has been neutralized?  Will he, for example, stage a final showdown with the Catholic Church over the contraception and abortion funding question (via health insurance)?  It would be tempting to say yes, because what’s stopping him?  Problem is, many members of his party are still at least nominal Catholics -- and they might shrink a bit from wholesale persecution of their church (although “the spirit of Vatican II” didn’t seem to bother them, and that was about as destructive as anything since the Reformation).  Plus, even a dominant majority has something to gain from keeping the minority happy… or at least not engaging in open persecution.  A happy slave is a good slave, and the colonials never relish being confronted by restless natives. 

See, it’s always assumed that a president will get more “radical” (in whichever direction) in his second term, but I’m not sure history bears this out.  What’s more likely is that he feels an obligation to pave the way for his successor, and for the party in general to remain in power.  And again, even if the Republicans are permanent second-class citizens, it wouldn’t do to just assume that and engage in blatant triumphalism for the next four years.  There is still room for a Democrat to screw up so badly that he’s forced out of office -- as witness Carter.  So yes, it’s a delicate balance -- and liberal paranoia, always a factor, will also have an influence.  Along with the fetish for apologizing to everyone for everything, there is also a hypersensitivity to criticism -- even from unworthy sources.  Liberals may hate you and everything you stand for, but they will still pay attention to what you say and react to it.  This is because they are not firmly grounded in anything but impulse and carnal motives; all of their marvelous ideals are simply covers for infantile greed, rage, and resentment.  And yeah, I know this is a bit of an oversimplification, but I’ve known enough liberals to feel that it’s true in most cases.  The most I’ve ever been able to say by way of giving a liberal the benefit of the doubt is that they are naïve or deluded; but that is rare.  It is found among the foot soldiers, but hardly ever among the leadership.  Most have simply never grown up -- or if they have, they have grown up to be cynics and exploiters.  Take a look at Obama and his cronies, for example -- people at the very pinnacle of the liberal aristocracy.  How many genuinely “good” people are there among them?  Really.  I can’t think of a single one.  They are, to a man (or woman), frauds, con artists, deceivers, and master manipulators.  But -- I hasten to add -- so were Bush and all of his crew.  So I am at least an equal opportunity critic of political types.  The difference, for what it’s worth, is that at least the Republicans don’t pretend to be egalitarian; they are elitists and proud of it.  Whereas the Democrats are towering hypocrites, pretending to be for the little guy while lording it over the peasantry and making sure that their core minority constituents stay firmly in place -- like blacks, for example.

Another way of putting it is that, as the result of this election, a lot of evil people get to keep their jobs and a lot of other evil people don't get to have new jobs.  That's about as simple as I can make it.  And I don't pity any of those fools, on either side.

For many of the media types on Wednesday, this election added up to not even a bump in the road.  For all the money that was spent -- and I laugh every time I think of the money that was blown on Romney -- things post-election will be pretty much the same.  One can only hope!  Surely things won’t improve; that’s not in the cards.  But we might be able to avoid some of the worst aspects of collectivism and totalitarianism -- for four more years, at least… until Hillary takes over (just kidding -- I hope).