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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Hubris of Ignorance

Have  you been following this? All these airplane crashes? And everyone is so confused. Everyone is going, Gosh, how come there are so many airplane crashes? Well, um, I gotta theory here. You remember, what was it? Like, uh, four years ago? The air traffic controllers, they went on strike? And then, um, Ronald Reagan fired ‘em? So then they just hired anyone who was hanging out at the time. And now everyone is going, Geez, how come there are so many airplane crashes? How come there are so many airplane crashes?! I dunno, maybe Walt the janitor isn’t qualified to land a Boeing 707!”
 
-- Bobcat Goldthwait

 

Maybe Walt the Janitor isn’t qualified to land a Boeing 707.

But then again, in America we’d love to believe Old Wally could maybe pull it off.

Because we Americans, we sure love the heroic myth of the common man.

Oh we do. We prefer myth over reality every time.

We love to tell ourselves that one.

It’s the myth of our country’s birth. We love that myth more than all the others combined.

We tell ourselves with great pride how a bunch of raggedy assed, untrained colonists one day rose up against tyranny.  The Minutemen were roused from their beds in the middle of the night by Paul Revere and they rallied to the Stars and Stripes. They threw all the tea into Boston harbor and sent England a stiff upraised middle finger, up yours, we ain’t paying no taxes no more.  And then a bunch of farmers grabbed up their muskets and formed themselves into a militia under good old George Washington and this army of amateurs chased the Redcoats all the way back to England without any help from anybody except for Jesus.

Because Americans are special. Exceptional.

And when they’d thrown off the yoke of tyranny, well, then a bunch of common men gathered in Philadelphia to receive the Constitution directly from God. They wrote down the sacred words and everybody signed it, especially John Hancock, and America was born.

Amen. 

That’s the myth we tell ourselves, we Americans.

We’re special. Exceptional. We pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps and forged the Republic out of the mud with our own hands.

We’re a nation of amateurs. Bunch of Good Old Boys beat the best army on the planet. Bunch of farmers wrote the Constitution and laid down the foundation for the greatest country in the world. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people. In America, we’re not ruled over by kings. We don’t owe our allegiance to some hereditary weak-chinned inbred royalty.

No, Sir.

In America, why the people are the government and anybody can be president.

Anybody.

 

We are a nation of amateurs and damned proud of it, aren’t we?

 

That’s what this election was about.

Drain the swamp!  Throw the bums out!

That’s why we hated Hillary Clinton.

Sure. Crony capitalist. Career politician. Corruption. Business as usual. You heard it from the Right and you heard from the Left. Hell, go check out my Twitter feed, I’m still getting it full bore from both sides.

That’s why we elected Donald Trump, isn’t it?

Because he was an outsider. Because he’s not a member of the Washington elite. That’s what Trump’s supporters said. That’s what they say now. He’s not like other presidents. He’s not a politician. The normal rules don’t apply. He’s gonna do things different.

Because he’s not a politician.

That, that right there, is a very American belief.

This idea that anybody can be the president.

That’s what we tell our kids. Eat your broccoli, Sonny, and some day you might grow up to be president. 

Moreover, we Americans by and large tend to be suspicious of education and experience when it comes to government.

Anywhere else, brain surgeon, airline pilot, corporate CEO, dog trainer, we want the most experienced person we can get. But the President? Not so much. Power corrupts, right? You got to clean house every once in a while. Throw the bums out.

Except…

 

Except, in retrospect, perhaps ignorance and a suspicion of “elites” isn’t the best way to go about selecting a leader.

 

Once upon a time, I despised Jimmy Carter.

I mean, who didn’t, right?

President Jimmy Carter.  He was weak and cowardly I thought, and I certainly wasn’t the only one. Iranian revolutionaries had just overthrown the Shah, stormed the US embassy in Tehran and taken fifty-two American diplomats hostage.  And there was Carter, the hapless peanut farmer, and he wasn’t doing anything about it. We had the mightiest military in the world. Those were our people. Our embassy. Our soil, our property. A bunch of goddamned towelheads were touching our stuff, defying the United States of America.

And it just went on and on, four hundred and forty-four days.

It was infuriating.

It was embarrassing that a bunch of camel jockeys should have us – US – bent over a barrel like that.

I mean, how dare they? We were America, Goddamn it.

And Carter, well, Carter did nothing.

I was just out of high school. I worked in a restaurant then, taking classes at the local junior college. After work, over beers, the air thick with cigarette smoke, we smacked our fists on the tables and we cooks and dishwashers seethed in outrage. We hatched endless military campaigns, we mighty generals. It was simple and obvious. We’d send in an aircraft carrier, you see, and not one of those old rusty conventionally powered ones either. A nuclear warship, the very symbol of American military power, her decks bristling with fighter jets. One look – one look, by God – and those Ayatollahs would shit themselves in fear.

Oh, we would get our people back, you bet.

Eventually Carter did send in the military. Operation Eagle Claw. And it ended in horrifying failure. Eight Americans died in the desert, we lost millions in equipment. Iran mocked us from our TV screens. What a bumbling fool Carter was.

Anybody could have come up with a better plan, even a bunch of line cooks and dishwashers with no military background.

Eventually Carter lost the election, Reagan took his place, and the hostages came home.

Reagan, boy, those Iranians feared him, didn’t they? Ronald Reagan was strong, a genuine American cowboy. By God, he’d send in the fleet first thing, you bet. The minute that guy was in office, those sons of bitches let our people go rather than risk it, didn’t they?

Carter went back to his peanut farm in shame and defeat.

And me?

I joined the Navy.

And one day, many years later in the wake of 911, I was on the bridge of a cruiser as we steamed north through the Straits of Hormuz, past Iran, headed for Iraq and war. By then I was salty navy intelligence officer, an experienced war planner, with peculiar and unusual skills. It wasn’t the first time I’d been there and I had actually served with men who had been in the desert on that horrible day when Eagle Claw crashed and burned. I knew a little something of Iran, more than a little in point of fact. I knew a great deal about about the staggering complexity of the Arabian Gulf, its convoluted history and politics and the endlessly shifting powers of the region. And I knew more than a little about what it takes to stage a successful hostage rescue in hostile territory – or even an unsuccessful one. I was an expert in our capabilities (and the very, very real limits of those capabilities), in the astoundingly complicated intelligence problem spawned by a dozen impenetrable regimes (some willing allies, some less than willing, some openly hostile, some undetermined), mixed with a dozen shades of the same religion all mutually hostile, grudges going back a thousand years, the arbitrary interests of the Great Powers, the economics of oil and power and unimaginable amounts of money, the constraints and pressures of geography, and the complex ever shifting unknown and unguessable permutations of a dozen military forces, mercenaries, smugglers, pirates, and random criminal organizations mixed in with commerce from a hundred nations in unbelievable density. It was my job to know those things, and I was very, very good at it.

As we cruised past miles of Iranian coast, alert for danger, ready for action, hemmed in by the geography of the Straits, past lumbering vulnerable tankers laden with vast wealth, dogged by foreign warships, bathed in the electronic energy of hostile fire control radars, knowing we were in the crosshairs of dozens, hundreds, of shipkillers, well, let’s say I knew very, very well indeed how utterly naïve that 18-year-old dishwasher had been all those years ago.

There are few certainties in the Middle East, but one thing I knew for sure was that this was no place for amateurs.

It’s a funny thing though, isn’t it?

We want an amateur President, but when I sailed up that dangerous strait in 2003 on my way to Iraq, a significant percentage of Congress, both in the Senate and in the House, had been in their jobs since long before the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

Some of them are still in office.

Funny perverse, I mean.

And that Iranian Hostage Crisis? Funny thing about that too.  Carter had sent a nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, at that time one of the newest ships in the fleet. To this day, one of the most powerful warships in the world. Her decks had quite literally bristled with fighters. She was accompanied by USS Coral Sea, and a fleet of nuclear powered cruisers and a screen of destroyers. That fleet carried enough firepower to lay waste to a continent.  And the Iranians simply shrugged, they weren’t impressed and they certainly weren’t intimidated. Iran has been at the crossroads of war and empire since before the beginning of recorded history – a history so vast and so complex that an America barely 240 years old has nothing we can compare to it. The reasons for the Hostage Crisis were woven deeply into that history and included resentment over things most Americans still don’t know about their own past let alone Iran’s – such as the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953. In America, the Iranian Hostage Crisis was the birth of modern shallow mindless patriotism, of overdone flag displays and empty gestures of self-indulgent nationalism. USA! USA! In the end, the release of the hostages had very little to do with the election of Ronald Reagan and a great deal to do with the patient statesmanship of Jimmy Carter. Despite endless conspiracy theories ala Richard Nixon’s diddling the Paris Peace Accords to win his election, there is no evidence whatsoever that Reagan sent agents (supposedly William Casey and George H. W. Bush) to Paris to delay release of the hostages until he could win the election and take office. No, Iran’s decision to release the hostages was a complicated process that owed as much to the Iran-Iraq war and convoluted diplomacy via Algeria (a country most Americans couldn’t find on a map without Google and would be outraged if told they owed a debt of gratitude) as it did to American efforts.

What I’m saying here is that the situation was fantastically complicated and even to this day not all of the details are known. In point of fact, we are still arguing over the details, who owes who, who was at fault, who was involved, who was wrong, who was right, and all the infinite shades of gray in between. The Obama Administration’s release of frozen Iranian assets from that time, 30 years later, and the seething outrage it caused here in the US is a prime example – though few of the outraged could tell you where that money came from or why we ultimately paid it back. Ask those same righteous patriots about Canada’s involvement and what we owe them and before the Ben Affleck movie Argo came out, not one of them could have told you (and few can even now). The crisis was hideously complicated. It involved religion and politics and vast sums of money and power and war and ancient grievances and the wills of a dozen nations, and no mere display of strength back then, no matter how powerful or determined, would have simplified it. And in fact, every such display, every rattle of the sword, every threat of force, every waggle of dicks, only made matters worse. And Reagan? Hell, five years later Reagan was trading arms to Iran through Israel in exchange for hostages held by Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and funding a secret war in South America in direct violation of US law.

I watched the Iranian coast slide by, and in that moment, I knew the terrible choices President Carter must have faced and how unfair the judgement of the mob and history had been to him, the things few Americans will ever know – or care to know – or are even vaguely equipped to understand.

And why a nation run by blustering amateurs is a foolish and idiotic conceit.

 

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The world is a dangerous and complicated place.

Almost unimaginably so.

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And nothing is as simple or as straight forward as it seems and as the mob apparently believes.

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Foreign nations do not kowtow to the United States.

This is not something new.

This is no weakness of Carter or Clinton or Obama – or Reagan and Bush for that matter. These nations have never bent a knee to us. From Morocco during Roosevelt’s time, to Cuba and Vietnam during Kennedy, to Libya under Reagan to Haiti and Grenada and Panama and all the nations that fill your news feed today.

It is the nature of nations, large and small, to push back – and in fact, like dogs, the smaller a nation is, likely the more fierce and furious its bark.

 

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At home, we Americans face the same problems we’ve always faced, energy and resources, civil rights, race, age, religion, law and order, unrest, left and right, young and old, health care, education, infrastructure, jobs.

It’s complicated and difficult and always on the verge of failure.

 

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This is not a world for a government run by amateurs.

As the man said, Walt the Janitor isn’t qualified to land a Boeing 707.

 

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As we are right now finding out.

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Trump was going to repeal and replace Obamacare on his first day in office.

He was going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.

He was going to defeat ISIS in the first 30 days.

The Iranian deal was history.

He was going to get us out of NATO.

He was going to get rid of the Import-Export Bank.

Trump spend a decade or more railing about China. Oh it was simple. It was easy. It was so clear. Currency manipulation! We have to stop it!

The mob cheered. Of course the mob cheered. Mobs despise “the elites,” the educated, the experienced, and complexity.

The simpleminded demand simple causes for complex problems.

The simpleminded demand simple solutions.

To the howling mob it’s clear, it’s us and them. We’re right and they’re wrong and there’s no problem that can’t be solved with the correct application of high explosives. The big stick. Send in the fleet, that’ll scare ‘em. And if it doesn’t, drop enough bombs, kill enough people, sooner later, you win. Right? That’s America, we punched old King George right in the nose, created democracy, and popped open a cold one.  Back then all a man needed to forge freedom from the wilderness was a good horse, a sturdy woman, and his six shooter. That’s how America beat Hitler and the Japs, that’s how Reagan beat the Soviets, you bet.

Except…

Except it turns out it’s not simple and it’s not easy and it’s anything but clear and it didn’t happen that way.

It’s right there, in the news, in your face, obvious to all but the most obtuse.

Trump spent a decade telling everybody who would listen how easy it was. And he ought to know, right? He’s a billionaire. Billionaires got money. Right? That makes him smarter than the professionals. Sure it does. Just ask him.

Except that simplistic view was wrong – as evidenced by Trump’s own words, even if he doesn’t have the moral courage to admit it. 

And being wrong on this scale has consequences.

Trump was stunned by how difficult it was to come up with a better health care plan than Obamacare.

“Nobody knew health care could be this complicated,” he lamented.

Nobody.

But the thing is, the professionals did know. The people with the most experience knew.  And they said so, over and over and over again. It was only the ignorant and the foolish and the howling mob who didn’t know. Who didn’t want to know. 

Turns out Mexico isn’t going to pay for Trump’s wall, so we’re going to pay for it. Turns out defeating ISIS is going to take a hell of a lot more than the Mother of All Bombs. Turns out the deal with Iran is far better than anybody had any right to expect and Trump isn’t going to negotiate any better deal because there isn’t one – and man, don’t you wish we had that same deal with North Korea? Turns out NATO was a good idea after all. So is the Import-Export Bank. Turns out Moscow isn’t much of a friend. Turns out the FBI isn’t much of one either.

Turns out, Trump’s ideas of how to run a government aren’t much better than that of an 18-year-old dishwasher – though it should be noted: the ignorance of youth has an excuse, the President of the United States does not.

Foreign relations, international economics, the balance of powers, the art of diplomacy, it’s complicated and difficult and nothing is as it seems to the simpleminded mob. You can’t just bomb your way to peace and prosperity. You can’t just send in an aircraft carrier.

You can’t manage foreign policy via Tweets.

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“See what happens.” Literally, the foreign policy version of Come at me, Bro!

Meanwhile, the warships supposedly dispatched to show Kim Jong Un the Big Stick, well, that fleet was sailing in the opposite direction, blithely unaware that they were at the center of a threatened nuclear war.

Why?

Because the President of the United States of America has no idea whatsoever how to command the very military assets he’s threatening the rest of the world with.

And neither, apparently, does anybody else in his administration.

That’s how utterly unprepared this bunch of amateurs is.

And now they’re shoveling shit against the tide in an effort to dig their way out of it.

The bottom line is, in our effort to always be open about what we are doing we said that we were going to change the Vinson's upcoming schedule. We don't generally give out ships' schedules in advance, but I didn't want to play a game either and say we were not changing a schedule when in fact we had.”

That was Secretary of Defense James Mattis today in Saudi Arabia in a statement that is patent nonsense.

That’s what it looks like when a military man who’s used to speaking plainly tries to spin like a politician.

And he knows he’s sucking at it. He can’t help it. Because he knows that last week the Navy, for which he is personally responsible, announced the Carl Vinson strike group would divert from Australia and proceed to the western Pacific Ocean. Trump administration officials along with Trump himself were explicit about it.

And Secretary Mattis himself said on April 11th, the Vinson was “on her way up there.”

A day later, Trump himself said on Fox Business News, “We are sending an armada, very powerful.”

The danger here is even worse than most Americans imagine. It’s not that he might start a war via some belligerent ham-fisted Twitter accident, which would be bad enough, but he might start a war on purpose with no idea the status of American forces or how to deploy them in any coherent fashion. Nor does he have the focus or the intellectual curiosity necessary to find out.

And nobody else in his administration, including General James Mattis, apparently knows either.

Meanwhile, somebody in the Administration claiming to represent the US Central Command told the press,

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This was regarding the MOAB drop in Afghanistan last week. A strike apparently conducted by the military without Presidential authorization because according to Trump he prefers the generals to handle the details.

Except shortly thereafter, CENTCOM issued an official press release saying in essence, “We have no idea who that guy is.”

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And while the whole thing suddenly reeks of John Miller, more likely the Press got pawned by some over zealous mid-grade officer who wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

And it’s not just the military.

A month ago, Trump fired all the US Attorneys.

Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says aggressive law enforcement is the administration’s priority.  He’s going to crack down on everything from illegal drugs to illegal immigration.

Except that’s impossible without the 93 US Attorney positions currently vacant via his own President’s order.

Add to that the fact that all of the Justice Department’s top divisions are currently without permanent appointees.

This disarray is evident in every department of the Trump Administration, from Defense to Education to State to the Interior.

Just like in any other profession of any difficulty, education, training, practice, experience, advice, these things matter.

There are real world consequences, terrible consequences, for ignorance on this scale.

There is no position of comparable complexity – or even approaching such complexity as the office of President – anywhere else in America that we would trust to someone so utterly lacking in qualifications as is Donald Trump.

And nothing demonstrates the sheer staggering incompetence of this bumbling oaf than threatening North Korea with a fleet that didn’t even know it was involved.

 

The Founding Fathers weren’t amateurs

 

The men who freed this country from King George and then went on to forge a new nation were intellectual elites, the educated inheritors of The Renaissance and products of the Early Modern Age. They were able to create a new government because they were experts in government, educated in war and politics and science and religion and economics and social structures and all the hundreds of other things it takes to build a nation instead of tear one down.

Unlike their foolish descendants, the Founders knew that liberty and democracy and good government take far more than shallow patriotism.

Good government takes intellect, education, experience, curiosity, and a willingness to surround leadership with expert advice and support.

More than anything, it takes the cultivation of intelligence instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator. 

Myths are important to a nation, but a firm appreciation of actual history serves a free people to far greater effect.

There is no virtue in ignorance.

And amateurs make for a lousy republic.

If you want a better nation, if you want better leaders, you have to be better citizens.

 

The doctor turned to me and asked, “Mr. Goldthwait, would you like to cut the cord?” And I said, “Isn’t there anyone more qualified?!
--
Bobcat Goldthwait

280 comments:

  1. Ba Da Bing. Well done.

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    1. I think I need to start drinking bourbon. Nice job Jim Wright.

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    2. A very cogent read. As an "unfair Canadian" who gets to hear the screams from the asylum, I wish there were more of this thinking/writing in public and less...well, mostly everything of late. I can't solve the quality control issues of your democracy (which is largely token at this late stage). I can't, save by providing a different example, mentor any one who cannot comprehend the complexity of the tools in front of them. I can only agree with the direction of this analysis and hope, for the planet's sake, that prideful, willful ignorance does not burn us all.

      And thanks for the shout-out to Canada's role in the Iranian hostage situation. It's well-known here, of course (just as are all the dozens of American passenger jets we sheltered during 9/11 in undersized airports on our East Coast), but rarely do I hear an American reference it. Thanks.

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    3. I'm wondering though if it isn't "The ignorance of hubris"?

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    4. Rhys, some of us USA citizens do remember Canada taking care of all those people from all those airplanes in the wake of 9/11, and we are very grateful.

      Though I am still ignorant about Canada's role in that Iran debacle. I will attempt to educate myself.

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    5. Rhys, I will attempt to educate myself on Canada's role in the Iranian Hostage situation.

      I have been grateful to Canada regarding your country's taking care of all those people and planes during the aftermath of 9/11.

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    6. It can be, and usually is, both.

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  2. Replies
    1. Descendents? With this powerful a piece of rhetoric, you bet your silly little ass he spell checked and that he KNOWS which word to use...how trite of you. Look it up Melissa.

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    2. Actually, I did spell it wrong. Autocorrect and fatigue. Which is why I encourage readers to point out the errors so I can correct them. // Jim

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    3. Wow. This should be REQUIRED reading for everyone who votes. Or have read to them, in some cases. Powerful, insightful, concise and easy to grasp. For the first time I am genuinely afraid for our future. I hope we can get thru this debacle.
      Thanks, Jim
      jwm

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    4. Mary Elizabeth KingApril 20, 2017 at 5:01 AM

      And it's pwned. Not pawned.

      Otherwise excellent. I wish everyone in the amateur show aka Trump administration would read it. Although I don't think 45 has the capacity to read this much.

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    5. I can't believe concern over a word after reading this article.

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    6. Teresa Ungerer,

      Readers are encouraged to point out any mistakes so that they can be corrected. Seriously, free proof reading, why would I have a problem with that? // Jim

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    7. I would like to remind everyone here that eating your broccoli is well-advised.

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  3. "Except that simplistic view has wrong." should perhaps be is rather than has?
    And so now we're back to the late 50's with the bomb drills, except this time we're smart enough to know that the only thing we can do with our head between our knees is kiss our ass good-bye because we'll all be dead. That has been my biggest fear all along - that WWIII will happen because of this amateur, ignorant, blustering fool.

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    1. I was quite certain as a 2nd and 3rd grader that hiding under my desk or in the cloak room was not going to keep me safe from a nuclear attack in the 1950's. I watched the grownups around me stare in fear at the TV during the Cuban missile crisis. I haven't been this frightened of the possibility of a world war since the Cuban missile crisis. Beyond that, I'm afraid (not that it would matter in the end) that the idiots who may cause it will look around in the aftermath and say "how did this happen?" and "it's not my fault!"

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    2. In 1966 our entire family, including Grandad and Great Aunt and Uncle, emigrated from England to New Zealand as a direct result of the Cuban missile crisis. Even as a child the pervasive world terror had become part of my consciousness, and has never really left. We were one of the last ships through the Suez Canal and that in itself was frightening as the captain did not want to let us off to go touristing in Egypt and the passengers (us) rioted.

      So I have bile in my gut and I live in constant worry that just one moronic lunatic could finish off the lot of us.

      New Zealand MIGHT just survive a nuclear winter - which was the original idea behind emigrating here in the first place.

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    3. Hannah, if you want a bright spot out of this,
      It's that Trump delegates his military decisions, so it's still very unlikely that we're going to see a nuclear exchange.

      The time to worry is when Trump starts taking a more hands-on approach to military decisions. So far, he doesn't seem to want to really take a hands on approach to anything.

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    4. Timothy... it is a frail hope that in a time of crisis, a more intelligent, ethical military officer will break his oath and the chain of command to disobey a lawfully communicated command from a superior officer. It may make you feel better to envision it, but is highly unlikely and I for one would not like the future of the Human race to hinge upon such an occurence.

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    5. I understand from someone with better resources than mine that currently there are dialogs among the high military to define what constitutes an illegal order, and what to do in the face of one. Lawful? Depends on several things.

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    6. Cheers Timothy Troy, I hope you're right. Glen and Scorpio - I imagine there are many discussions like this amongst the high military. On a chat I frequent there is a US guy who was involved in bombing Germany very near the end of WW11. He has told the story, more than once, of the whole plane crew deciding it would not drop any bombs on their last run. I can't remember the name of the city but it started with 'A'.

      He said, when they landed back on American soil, that many of the other plane crews had said the same, that they just didn't have the stomach to carry on bombing.

      High up military do not tend to be stupid these days, I wonder if they have already found many paperwork and other subtle ways of managing to NOT hear orders in time. It's fascinating (to me) that the ships were going in the opposite direction to the one Trump imagined. It gave me a gleam of hope.

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  4. The same can be said for education, for science (like, climate change or whether particular insecticides or herbicides are safe), for healthcare, etc.

    What in the hell is WRONG with living in a Technocracy? WHY can't people realize the world is too complex for amateurs to run it?

    Oh, I answered that above, in #1.

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  5. "There is no virtue in ignorance."

    Unfortunately, the electorate disagrees. Too busy thumping their chests, shouting "MURIKA!! F YEAH!" to pay close enough attention to the nonsense.

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    1. I just wanted to kindly reply to your comment. I read this article. I voted for Trump,but listen this article makes sense in a lot of ways. The part that makes sense is the fact that Trump is not the most qualified for the job. I agree with that,but that's what happens when the ones that are qualified start taking us down the wrong road. Trump will get smarter, he will prevail, he won't be without mistake, but in my opinion, he was our best option. Y'all people started the war with us. Y'all people wanna flood our streets with illegals, and gang members, and refugees, and muslims. Let me tell you something, the road y'all were taking us down was gonna lead to the Muslim law taking over in America, convert or die. Satan is convincing, he is great with his words. The man that wrote this article likes to call his self Satans designated driver. So we will continue with what we got, and we will continue beating ourselves on the chest, and we will continue providing y'all with resistance. God Bless America.

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    2. Perhaps the most persistent quality of Trump supporters is their utter lack of humor and their perverse belief in some Christian mythos while at the same time embracing the Pussy Grabber in Chief.

      You've missed the entire point of this essay, Anonymous.

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    3. Thank you for providing a prime example of the "simpleminded" the author wrote of. It's always helpful to have proof.

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    4. Dunning-Kruger effect exemplified. Sadly.

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    5. "Satan is convincing…"

      Perhaps he is whispering in Donald Trump's ear.

      Sometimes the best road you can find looks like the wrong one.

      What would the right road be, Mr. Anon? That's a serious question. Look at the ACA. No, really, look at it. All the things you were told were wrong with it were lies. What it is is very nearly the most conservative health care system that could still provide something like universal coverage at a reasonable price. And, not very surprisingly, people don't want to be ill or die when they could be healed or saved, so – so far, at least – we still have the ACA.

      Half the things you are afraid of are not possible – seriously, where are these undocumented aliens and gang members you fear going to come from? And who is going to bring in the crops if you send the actual hard-working undocumented aliens away?

      The other half…well, a while back there were a million Syrian refugees. There are more, now. They are fleeing the tyrant Assad and the religious fanatics of Da'esh, what you probably know as ISIS. Now, the USA is within its rights in turning them away, as it was in the 1930s when the USA turned the Jews of Germany and Austria away. Would you care to defend that decision? So have a care when you speak of refugees as a threat. I do not want my country to participate in another genocide. If that means taking in refugees, so be it. Can you imagine any US Congress accepting Shari'a as law? Any state legislature? Really?

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    6. Anonymous, you are the epitome of the Trump voter, and when I see words like yours, I think of words like this:

      "There really are people and institutions made up of people, who respond with hatred in the presence of goodness and would destroy the good insofar as it is in their power to do so. They do this not with conscious malice but blindly, lacking awareness of their own evil -- indeed, seeking to avoid any such awareness.

      As has been described of the devil in religious literature, they hate the light and instinctively will do anything to avoid it, including attempting to extinguish it. They will destroy the light in their own children and in all other beings subject to their power.

      Evil people hate the light because it reveals themselves to themselves. They hate goodness because it reveals their badness; they hate love because it reveals their laziness. They will destroy the light, the goodness, the love in order to avoid the pain of such self-awareness. My second conclusion, then, is that evil is laziness carried to its ultimate, extraordinary extreme. As I have defined it, love is the antithesis of laziness. Ordinary laziness is a passive failure to love. Some ordinarily lazy people may not lift a finger to extend themselves unless they are compelled to do so. Their being is a manifestation of nonlove; still, they are not evil.

      Truly evil people, on the other hand, actively rather than passively avoid extending themselves. They will take any action in their power to protect their own laziness, to preserve the integrity of their sick self. Rather than nurturing others, they will actually destroy others in this cause. If necessary, they will even kill to escape the pain of their own spiritual growth. As the integrity of their sick self is threatened by the spiritual health of those around them, they will seek by all manner of means to crush and demolish the spiritual health that may exist near them.

      I define evil, then, as the exercise of political power -- that is, the imposition of one’s will upon others by overt or covert coercion -- in order to avoid extending one’s self for the purpose of nurturing spiritual growth. Ordinary laziness is nonlove; evil is antilove."

      -- M. Scott Peck 'The People of the Lie'

      You are a person of the lie, Anonymous.

      You believe lies, you spread lies, and you point at the 'devil' outside because you are not aware of the one inside you...and you do not want to be.

      Every time I read something like this, I feel the profound insanity that radiates from its author... that complete retreat from what is real into what is fantasy...

      Because Sanity is the Pursuit of Reality at All Costs...

      but you don't want to pay them, so you tell us Mexico will.
      Or China will.
      Or North Korea will.

      But the Reality is...
      We will all pay.

      And the sickest part about it is... deep down, you know that.
      And it gets you off.

      Words cannot express the sincere contempt I feel for you. I am not a good enough person to pity you, sick as you are.
      I am just not able to.
      My only consolation in this whole fucked up thing is... when the hammer does fall...

      You'll pay too.

      Delete
    7. Anonymous, Trump is only the better option if you believe the hysterical, utterly untrue claims he and the right have been making for years.

      Of course, they're also the ones you're repeating here. Do some research, on places that don't reference Fox News as a source. Meet people that aren't white and Christian. Learn what empathy means (hint: it's that whole second half of the Bible that conservatives tend to ignore because it's all about helping others and forgoing vengeance, and Lord knows that's no fun).

      Delete
    8. gang members and illegal aliens will be the least of trumpers worries when the war is brought our doorstep by this idiot in chief and his band of morons.

      Delete
    9. Anonymous: The part that makes sense is the fact that Trump is not the most qualified for the job.
      The problem is that he thinks he is the most qualified. Remember "I alone can fix it." He has no idea what a bafoon he is. He will not prevail. He will be impeached.

      Delete
    10. So, how's the weather under that bridge, A. Nony Mous? A bit damp?

      As for how persuasive Satan can be: http://www.christianpost.com/news/trumps-offer-to-christians-is-same-offer-devil-made-christ-168993/

      Delete
    11. First off: Shout out to Canth Decided-Baldwin for the quote of People of the Lie. This was to be M. Scott's first released book, before the Road Less Traveled, but he decided it was a little too heavy, and so release it after the best seller. It's amazing that you have cited, because this is the book that always sprang to mind as I witnessed that the trump voter wasn't engaged in a search from the truth, wherever it took him or her. That supporter was engaged is the defense of a position which often meant destroying the truth, mocking the truth, belittling the truth. Or, attacking the light. They very much are evil and I shudder to think of the dark designs that reign their heart. Lately you see their clever maneuvering so as to position themselves in another camp should expediency demand; providing strategic reassessments so as to salvage their original position against all odds. This is clearly what we see with anon. Now there is the begrudging concession that trump wasn't the most qualified (do you think??), but the qualified person was evil and would competently take us into an evil direction. As you no doubt recall from People of the Lie, M. Scott Peck informs us at great length as to the usual practice of the use of projection by the people of the lie. And clearly we see with anon, as he implicates good people trying to institute meaningful solutions to complex problems, that it is he, and not the many he would call out, that is deranged and evil. These people are incapable of meaningful reflection leading to redemption. But they are capable of theatrical but altogether insincere statements designed to lead people to think that they are capable of such virtuous activities. I too cannot claim a spiritual maturity necessary to muster the compassion when I consider people like anon. I share your contempt for his putrid heart and I'm not buying any of this attempts to appear in any way reasonable.

      Delete
    12. One thing that Trump has amply demonstrated is that he is absolutely NOT able, or willing, to learn or "get smarter". When something proves too much for his limited intellect, which so far is, well, everything..he says "Who knew it would be so complicated?" Um, yeah, everyone. We knew. We knew he wasn't smarter than the generals. We knew he wasn't really a businessman, just a thug in a suit. We knew he probably couldn't even do the job of the doorman at one of his hotels. Anybody in the race was more qualified. (Well, maybe not Ben Carson, I don't even think I'd want him doing brain surgery on me!)

      Delete
    13. Wow Canth Decided-Baldwin! That was amazing. I am looking up that book right now.

      Delete
  6. Well said, sir. Very well said.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jesus Jim, I think this is the best piece you've written!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Brilliant, as usual Sir.But it is referred to as "pwned" not "the Press got pawned". Please delete this comment.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Well put Jim, as usual and I have to put myself in that same boat back during the hostage crisis. I was young, uninformed, inexperienced and full of sh-t, but my friends and I had all the answers.

    It took joining the Air Force, fighting in the Gulf War, watching friends die, learning from mistakes that cost people's lives and fully accepting that I don't know everything and that I can always learn something from just about anyone. I'm thankful it happened at an early enough age and worried that it will be next to impossible for the idiot in charge to learn anything new at this point.

    Keep these coming and I will share this as widely as I can.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have friends from high school who like simple solutions to everything. One size fits all. This worked for me so it will work for everyone. There is only one motivation for all human beings. And they have psychophants who hang on their every word and tell them how intelligent they are and praise the brilliance of their arguments.
    These friends are not dumb, but their arguments are based on simplicity as the superior format. They get angry when I respond that life is complex and complicated and messy.
    I love reading your articles about how complex and difficult geopolitics are. I just wish we had better politicians.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Edit for spelling, "foolish descendants".

    ReplyDelete
  12. Once again you amaze me with your words. Every word rings true. It all seems so obvious coming from you. Then I'm depressed again because I know that 50% of my fellow citizens will never get it, never hear the truth and most importantly have no desire to hear it. But thanks for making me feel slightly less alone in sanity.

    ReplyDelete
  13. deep, long read and i am grateful to hear someone speak the same thoughts that have weighed so heavily on my mind. once again, thank you Jim.

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  14. wow. As always a thought provoking read. Thanks

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  15. "And one day, many years later in the wake of 911, I had was on the bridge of a cruiser..."

    Extraneous "had," methinks.

    Wonderfully cogent essay. It's a pity no one in the Administration will read it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. BZ, sailor! Well written and insightful as only could be done by someone with the requisite scar tissue. I'll share on my timeline (with attribution) but there are only a few that will actually read it all the way through.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I don't disagree with you at all, but now, from your prospective of experience and intelligence, can you tell us what, if anything, Carter could/should have done that might have produced a better result? (Asking with respect.)

    April

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You don't think the President should have knowledge of the job and situations he's going to be in?

      ~k

      Delete
    2. He could have read the signs and gotten the people in the embassy the hell out (or at least provide greater security) before they were taken hostage.

      The Iranian Revolution alone, much less the fanatical hatred against America and the results of that hatred that would follow, could be seen coming a mile off to anyone who was learned enough about Iranian matters.

      Carter could have been that guy and saved himself an Iranian Hostage Situation.

      Delete
    3. As just another average know-nothing who does read some history books, one wonders if pulling the embassy staff might have been seen as provocative in some way in the context of the Iran-Iraq situation or the overall situation that would have worked to our long-term detriment.

      Delete
    4. k- I don't know how you deduced your question from my comment. Of COURSE I want people to be qualified! My question was for Jim Wright, who now knows a lot more about military "stuff".

      April

      Delete
    5. One of the biggest messes of the Carter rescue failure had to do w/ using several different branches of the service unfamiliar w/ working together in addition to improper equipment choices.

      Delete
  18. The idea is a very sound one and I really preciated this piece.
    It really Needs quite a few edits.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Uh Bob, speaking of edits, I think you should probably reread what YOU typed.
      It should be 'appreciated' and 'Needs' shouldn't be capitalized.

      Delete
  19. Very well said, Chief. I'm trying to visualize the replies you'll get from the wingnuts, but even more, I'd love to be a fly on the wall in the warrens of the White House as this essay makes the rounds.
    Damn, you're good!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You don't really think that our president has the attention span to read this essay, do you? No pictures! No bullet points! He would likely scroll down, see his own tweets, and congratulate himself on gaining another follower.

      Delete
  20. This is an excellent piece of journalism. Congratulations on a job well done. I hope a few major newspapers will pick this up. The whole nation needs to read this.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Haven't finished reading it yet but wanted to beat everyone else recommending Tom Nichol's timely and enjoyable essay:
    http://amzn.to/2pE0ukn

    Although, you are MUCH funnier.

    ReplyDelete
  22. This essay qualifies as 18 year old cask strength.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Bravo. One of your best pieces so far this year.

    ReplyDelete
  24. TYPO: movie Argo, instead of move Argo. But that's minor. Another great essay sir!

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  25. Thank you for this heartfelt, well-written and so very informative fact-filled essay. We thinkers are fortunate you write our arguments so well.

    ReplyDelete
  26. So I guess I'd best stop dreaming of ruling the world then. Those thinking people worried over the Trump administration are exaggerating, might want to rethink that. Thanks for another great read Jim.
    P.S. I don't understand the list for Comment as: Sorry. Name is Patricia Tobin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patricia, I was confused as well, initially. In the dropdown, select 'Name/URL'. It allows you to enter a name alone for your post.

      Delete
    2. Thanks Marty. Thought I had tried that. Not sure what finally worked. Still thinking I'll remember things when I should know by now I won't.

      Delete
  27. I applaud you, sir, for every word of this piece. Can we make it required reading?

    ReplyDelete
  28. "shallow mindless patriotism"........words to remember - and perfectly describes so much of what we see today.

    ReplyDelete
  29. ("And one day, many years later in the wake of 911, I had was on the bridge of a cruiser" - extra "had" still in there.)
    I've been horrified by the thrilled trump supporters still beaming about him being a great businessman so he's got to be good at stuff. He wasn't even good at business. He is good at shafting small businesses who have no defense against his refusal to pay them. He's an amateur at anything else, and is supremely oblivious to that fact. This is so dangerous, I can only hope the administration's incompetence slows down the ability to do ultimate damage to the world.

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  30. And this is why I was eager to join Stonekettle. Your spot-on analysis of just about everything reminds me that there IS reason and sanity in the world. So many of my Pre-election conversations went like this: Me: I needed a root canal last week. I didn't ask the woman who cuts my hair to do it. Nor my excellent mechanic, nor the guy who rebuilt my porch. Why would you or anyone entrust the leadership of our precious country to someone completely unqualified for the job?" Them: "It's not that simple." Me: (sigh) "Actually, it is."

    ReplyDelete
  31. "Nothing is scarier than the people who try to find easy answers to complicated questions." I can't remember who said that, but it's been my mantra lately. I agree with those before me saying that this may be your finest piece ever. Succinct, and hits the old nail right on the head. For some reason, people in this country resent smart people, and reading and researching to better oneself seems to have become anathema. We all may well be heading to hell in a handbasket, but it's good to know we have some aware, thinking company on the ride. Thanks, once again, for being our spokesman.

    ReplyDelete
  32. The Democrats blew it. They were hell set on Hillary no matter what. Burney was screwed by the Democratic party. I really think he could have won. I think the media along with Hillary wanted Trump to be the Republican candidate. They thought he would be easy to beat. Their mistake was how much the average person hated Hillary. They saw the Clinton's private foundation and the way foreign governments donated money, they saw how she treated the police..secret service...with little respect, they saw how she reacted with "what does it matter now" attitude and how she called the mother of the dead solider a lier... Many people I have talked to said that they were following the ABC's...Anyone But Clinton. I am not a Trump supporter, BUT the pundits missed the point on how much the average person hates Clinton. Just look at the county voting maps... on most cases it was only in the large population areas that Clinton won. Again I blame the Democrats. They should have gone with Burney. I think he could have won. Think it just came done to that peoe hated Clinton more than they hated Trump. It is a very sorry situation. And I am very sad that our country has come down to this. I hope the Democrats put forth a better candidate in the next election.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My day isn't complete without a least one Clinton-hatin' BernieBro from Twitter.

      Forgive me, Polly, but I'm having a hard time believing you're actually an American or a Bernie supporter given that you can't even spell his name correctly.

      Delete
    2. Aren't we over this discussion yet? I voted for Bernie in the primary. What happened, happened. I voted for Hillary in the general. It was not the Dems' finest candidate or finest moment. Whatever.

      The problem is that somehow the Presidency has become a popularity context. People voted for Trump because they *liked* him or they *disliked* Hillary. Is that any way to run a goddamned job interview? Your compatriots have whittled the hiring pool down to two candidates, neither of whom impress you. One has baggage, but she's actually qualified to do the job. The other is an ignorant loose cannon with a history that would make him suspect anywhere. Even if you like what he wants to do with the job, he simply doesn't have the skills to do it.

      What's wrong with the US is that we have fostered a culture whereby people are proud of not having the hiring skills required to hold this job interview, which seems to be Jim's point.

      Delete
    3. Americans blew it actually.

      In the end, it was American voters, as a whole, who voted for Trump It wasn't Hillary, it wasn't the DNC, it wasn't Bernie. Hell it wasn't even Trump or Russia or Putin or Comey.

      AMERICANS voted. Registered American Citizens with the right to vote. Not the "millions of illegals" that Trump claimed but which he could never show proof of (as usual).

      So the average person hates Clinton so much? Okay, even if I accept that, why is that a reason for why Trump won? You said it yourself, you are not a Trump supporter, so why does hating Hillary mean voting for Trump? Why does hating someone mean voting for that other guy that you KNOW would be WAAAY worse just simply based on his character alone (and his ignorance too as the article shows)?

      Why did these people out there make that choice when they could just as easily have made another choice, to put aside their hatred and vote to NOT condemn their country into the arms of Trump? That's a choice that only those people could make.

      So "Burney" or no Bernie (I privately call him Bern E. Sanders actually, relation to Wile E. Coyote), it was guys like you who ultimately chose to vote according to your own petty hatreds and as a whole chose Trump.

      Don't go blaming anyone else before you blame yourselves.

      Delete
    4. It was like a high school student government election where everyone decided to vote for the class clown instead of the nerd girl because that was supposed to send some kind of message. Except, of course, the stakes are so much higher.

      Delete
    5. Dear Anonymous at 5:50 posting.

      Thank you so very much. You are dead on. Voters, third party and GOP, along with non voters alike are all responsible for electing DT--along with an archaic electoral system that allowed a minority candidate to win. And hating HRC is no excuse for not voting for her when the option was someone as dangerous as DT. Thank you thank you thank you.

      If Bernie people could not put their hatred and anger aside, and still harbor it now, then Bernie bros and third party voters need to take responsibility for their role in the election of DT. Doing the "Bernie would have won" thing is sheer speculation that serves only to factionalize and demoralize those on the left even more and ignores that we have have more in common with each other than we have differences.

      We should be allies instead of whining and blaming each other like 10 year old little league players who lost their game. In fact, we are probably worse than those little league players.

      I voted for HRC in the primary, but I also liked Bernie. Had he won, I would have voted for him. Had he lost the election, I hope I would not have played the "Hillary would have won" game. As Jim point out in this essay--the landscape of politics if very complicated, more complicated than we know, and we should avoid being that 18 year old know-it-all at the fast food job claiming we would have known better.

      We should all be willing to acknowledge our lack of expertise and the complexity of the human world in which we live.

      Delete
    6. The problem dear Polly is that too many Americans are easily reprogrammable meat puppets brainwashed by right wing lies and smears. Look in the mirror sometime.

      Delete
    7. More than anyone else, I blame the 90 or so million eligible people who couldn't even be bothered to vote.

      Delete
  33. "Ben Affleck's move" should be "movie"

    ReplyDelete
  34. If the Reagan era taught us anything is was that our Institutions of Governance were strong enough to cope with an Executive who was compromised by physical limitations (yes, he rode horses on the ranch but he also liked his afternoon naps, so much so that he was known to nod-off during cabinet meetings) as well as in his mental acuity, (given that he was in the early stages of the Alzheimer's that would eventually help kill him).
    Wilson too, after his stroke had "help" from his wife and staff to finish his term.

    Given that Trump has not released any REAL medical records, we are in the dark about what might being going on under that weave!

    "Crazy like a fox!" is still crazy, if the reality your fox-like mind has conjured is markedly different from the one the REST of us occupy!



    Great essay, loved the history, both personal and professional.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Well done Mr Wright and thank you for your efforts. Edit: Ben Affleck move (movie) Argo.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I was already in the Navy when the hostage crisis occurred. One of my friends from high school, one of the Marine embassy guards, was one of them. The ship I was on was diverted to the Indian Ocean to provide support (logistics and repair) for the upcoming battle. We were ready to kick ass and take names; every one of us. None of us knew ANYTHING about that part of the world, except that the Ayatollah was an evil "raghead" who needed to die. Most of us were just like you and your friends. In retrospect, thank goodness we did not enter a full shooting engagement.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Please delete the extra "the" in this sentence.

    Meanwhile, somebody in the Administration claiming to represent the the US Central Command told the press,

    This administration scares the hell outta me.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Excellent article You bring out numerous valid points. America is in danger and that danger comes from the vast amount of ignorance that is within. Ignorance that is so powerful that many wonder if America and or the world will survive.

    ReplyDelete
  39. The piece states what is supposed to be, in rational terms, the obvious: "ignorance and inexperience are not things that are good in a leader or in politics."

    Yet Trump ran on ignorance. Not only did he not HIDE his ignorance, he PARADED it as though it was an advantage, something to be proud of.

    And the American people lapped it all up eagerly.

    There are a great number of people who could tell Trump, or indeed, any of the Trumpians that simplicity and ignorance had no real place in politics. To these people, simple Slogans like "Make America Great Again" seem to matter significantly, winning is an end, not simply the beginning as it truly is in politics. Th real work begins AFTER you win an election, it's not like a reality TV show where you walk away with the Grand Prize and everyone cheers at you and waves.

    But that's exactly how the Trumpians took it, they give the defense of "he won" to simply any charge leveled against Trump as if though him winning means all is well and good with anything he does (and even this is simply because it was TRUMP that won, they definitely did not respond in the same way when Obama won....twice).

    Enough Americans subscribed to this simplistic view, so the country got exactly what its people on the whole voted for. A simplistic President that is ignorant and knows it, yet both denies his ignorance, or else plays it off as strength with no intention to change that.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. @ AnonymousApril 19, 2017 at 5:08 PM :

      Well writ, seconded and spot on in my view except for this one line :


      "Enough Americans subscribed to this simplistic view, so the country got exactly what its people on the whole voted for."

      Because the American people did NOT on the whole vote for Trump and his policies. Trump got in because of :

      1) The Electoral College which is a vastly undemocratic and unfair system which gives the voters of, for instance, Wyoming 3.6 times more power than the voters of California. Putting that the other way round, Californians have less than a third of the political power of Wyomingites. Something this shocked Aussie finds appallingly wrong for a nation supposedly so democratic and despite reading of this just after your election still finds it makes me think WTF.* How can you Americans really be okay with this unfair electoral atrocity and let it continue? I know it's hard to make political reforms but..!

      (Yeah, I know our nation's political system isn't perfect either - please note Australia like many other nations is very heavily influenced by what the United States does esp. in fighting wars. So this matters to us and really the rest of the planet too.)

      2) Actually, the American voters were very heavily split and three million or so more voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump. Far as I'm concerned, this makes her the rightful POTUS though, of course, not the case in practice or legal terms. But she won the election if you have count all votes cast equally..

      3) .. Even with voter suppression laws that disenfranchised many of the poorest and, lets not beat about the bush, certain ethnic and racial groups - Blacks and Hispanics - from voting. These voter suppression laws as well as gerrymandering and Third Party voters in a system without run-off elections or preferential voting again unfairly and corrosively warped the election in Trump's favour and against the Democratic party.

      4) The non-voters. The "Bernie Bros" who undermined Hillary Clinton from supposedly her own side of politics. Those who were uncaring or ignorant or biased enough to falsely claim that
      competent Clinton - probably the most qualified individual ever to run for office - was equally bad a prospect as the incompetent, blustering, bigoted and totally unqualified hereditary rich man, multiple bankrupt and deliberately trolling "reality" TV star Trump.

      5) The, at best, highly dubious and, at worst, outright criminal interventions by the FBI's James Comey plus the Russian hackers and facebook fake news spewers plus the effect of decades of smears, slanders and unjustified hatred thrown Hillary Clinton's way plus, let's be honest, the large serving of misogyny directed against her from both sides of the political spectrum.

      All of which resulted in Trump being "elected" despite having less than one in five** Americans vote for him. Trump seized office with the support of less than about 20% of the USA** so to say the people or country really voted for him here, I think is wrong.

      Far too many deplorable Americans did vote for him and not enough against him I'll grant but that isn't quite the same thing.


      * Source : "Voters In Wyoming Have 3.6 Times The Voting Power That I Have. It’s Time To End The Electoral College" by William Petrocelli

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-petrocelli/its-time-to-end-the-electoral-college_b_12891764.html

      ** Source : "If the Wind Will Not Serve, Take to the Oars" by Kevin Winker

      http://www.notesfromberingia.com/if-the-wind-will-not-serve-take-to-the-oars/

      Delete
    3. "the American people did NOT on the whole vote for Trump and his policies."

      Except ENOUGH of them did. Or he wouldn't be in the White House.

      Delete
    4. Yes, all those "other problems".

      Very convenient to blame them....except most of them are actually institutional problems that have been present as part of the electoral system or the political system for decades.

      Obama never had any problem with any of these things, he was elected with no ambiguity, how come it's so different this time? What could have changed?

      Could it be that AMERICANS as a whole simply decided to choose differently?

      Delete
  40. Remember that Carter was an Annapolis grad and one of Rickover's officers. That presents a prima facie case for competence.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Ya knocked it outta the park...keep up the good work...and thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Jim, your 18 year old self sounds an awful lot like mine... And a lot of my fellow AF ROTC cadets at the UW. Most of us, I think, grew out of the worst of it, but damn it's a painful process. One of your best essays, sir!

    ReplyDelete
  43. "before the Ben Affleck move Argo came out"

    New dance move, the Argo. Make like a ship and sail in your shoes!

    "dispatched to show Kim Jong Um the Big Stick"

    Ummmmm....something's not quite right here. But still better than "that gentleman" who ruled North Korea from the beginning of the Clinton Presidency till today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep. Its Kim Jong Un instead and you've beaten me to it.

      Also Trump hasn't got a Big Stick anyhow - look at the size of his tiny hands! ;-)

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. He is Much Too Loud, so why would he have a Big Stick?

      Delete
    4. His hands really are much smaller than they should be for a man his size, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/08/05/yes-donald-trumps-hands-are-actually-pretty-small/?utm_term=.2d82bbb6739f

      April

      Delete
  44. Great read. Thanks Jim for the article and the history lesson. I hope he is impeached before he kills us all.

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  45. Many years ago, I had a copy of the unclassified version of the official report on the Iranian hostage rescue mission. It doesn't use the word "clusterfuck", but it should. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong, including some things that *couldn't* go wrong.

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  46. An incredible commentary. And I'm terrified.

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  47. I always thought Jimmy Carter got a bad rap. Even now he's still working to help others; he has more intelligence and class in his pinkie than the current part-time occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
    Pam in PA

    ReplyDelete
  48. The Goldthwait quote about air traffic controllers reminds me of how many Republicans have moved to "fix" public education by allowing schools to hire "experts" to teach without earning a teaching certificate. So someone, say, with a math degree could be hired to teach math without ever taking any classes about, you know, TEACHING. Incidentally, these hires would be at a lower salary, so it would nominally ease their state budgets. Also, many of these same lawmakers are proponents of vouchers. I'm sure that's just a coincidence though.

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    Replies
    1. Yep, one of my key pet peeves--the idea that "anyone" can teach.

      Delete
    2. Oops--comment in wrong place. Forgive me.

      Delete
  49. Bush Jr without a doubt had his second presidency re-assured after 9-11. Since the country would not vote for a drastic change in politics while under attack. And also gave him enough room to go after after and eliminate the bastard that attempted to have his father killed. Who's to say #45 isn't attempting the same "stratigery", but obviously without the sense of finesse?

    ReplyDelete
  50. The bit about Walt the Janitor reminds me of Republican lawmakers who want "fix" public education by allowing "experts" to teach in public schools without having to earn a teaching certificate. So, anyone with, say, a math degree could teach without having to pass any courses about, you know, TEACHING.
    Coincidentally, these "experts" would be hired at a lower salary. Also, strangely, these same lawmakers tend to all be proponents of school vouchers.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Jim Wright, I believe you have exceeded yourself, and I really, really want to read the whole book. Magnificent!

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  52. Incredible piece that captures what I've believed all along, thank you for sharing your story and insight. I've never understood the hate towards intelligence. I can only guess that the by-and-large "simple folk" who elected Trump feel threatened by "elites" as they are a mirror to what they are not, to what they have failed to accomplish. So it's easier to make us the enemy than to recognize education and experience are ideals to aspire to. It's truly frightening how many people in this country feel this way.

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  53. As always I do enjoy your writing. Thank you.

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  54. Think you meant "In America, WE the people" not "WHY the people"

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  55. The beauty of the essay stands in stark and ironic contrast to the sick fear the essay subject gives me. It's as if the whole world has a stupid drug addled neighbor who inherited dad's money and gun collection. We all just wait for the day he just starts shooting up the neighborhood.

    Fuck. This is no way to live.

    As for our myth and its origins. Not only were the men who wrote the founding documents well educated but by the time they sat down to write they had been through a trial by fire. A crash course in leadership and understanding of the people for whom they were creating a new government.
    Neither were the British thrown out by a bunch of plucky amateurs.
    It would not have happened without the French navy. The French army. And the help of Von Steuben to turn Washington's men into something like a professional army.
    But fine. Let's ignore all that. Let's go with plucky farmers throw off the yoke of what was at that time the most powerful empire on earth. All because we just were not going to let a power no matter how great on the other side of the ocean tell us what to do.

    But... The expectation is that, that is exactly what anyone we rattle a saber at will do. Comply in awed obsequence.

    We are outraged when they don't.
    "Shock and awe you dumb mothers! You're supposed to be shocked and awed!"

    We can't even learn the lessons of the simplistic myth. What chance does complex truth have?

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    1. And most of the Founding Fathers were experienced politicians with long experience in various Houses of Burgesses or other Colonial Congressional bodies, as well as being highly educated social elites.
      And the Revolution worked as well as it did because we had clear functional goals regarding self-governance and control of commerce.
      because most of the wealthy elite landowners such as Jefferson and Adams and Washington were also prominent businessmen.

      Read the Declaration of Independance...
      It's not generalized goals for "democracy" and "liberty"
      It's a laundry list of commercial suppression.

      If the British has yielded on those matters, then the Revolution would have simply folded.

      The Founding fathers weren't mere jingoists with teabags hanging from their caps, that's for sure

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  56. Thinking of George Carlin now.

    ––––––––––

    Now, there's one thing you might have noticed I don't complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky. They don't pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It's what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you're going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain't going to do any good; you're just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it's not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here… like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There's a nice campaign slogan for somebody: "The Public Sucks. Fuck Hope."

    ––––––––––

    It's the ultimate consequence of an educational system meant to turn out human resources suitable for employment rather than human beings suitable for citizenship.

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    1. "It's the ultimate consequence of an educational system meant to turn out human resources suitable for employment rather than human beings suitable for citizenship."

      This! So much this! And for jobs that are either going by the wayside or long gone. The factories are shuttered or filled with robotics and transportation services are headed towards automation more rapidly than we want to admit. I'm roughly Jim's age and I recall my UAW father saying "they don't pay me to think". They didn't want him to think either. Neither do many conservatives, especially the religious ones. Thinking leads to doubts and doubt is the sign of a lack of faith, and they can't have that for obvious reasons. But this country was founded on the assumption of an educated, and frankly elite, electorate (white male property owners of a certain scale). They were huge promoters of education (and a little propaganda) for that very reason.

      Even a ditch digger had to think about his work somewhat, where to place the shovel, where to throw the dirt, take care not to clobber the man working next to him. Not hard tasks to be sure, but requiring one to be mindful of what one is doing. Compare that to the Industrial Revolution where worker were reduced to becoming an extension of the machine, doing only the tasks that did not yet have a machine sophisticated enough to do. Mindless tasks are better done without complaint by a mindless workforce. Don't think, just follow the procedures/program and all will be well.

      Except that it won't be. "Thinking" is what used to separate humans from animals. If we cease to think, what do you think we become?

      Edited to add: And of course I have to prove to the machines that I'm not a robot to post...

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  57. Thanks for this. It reminds me of a book I read a couple years ago by Charlie Pierce, "Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free". A quick quote, “In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a scientist, or a preacher, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.” You might find it interesting.

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  58. As always a great read. A scary commentary of the world we currently are living in, but well written all the same!

    Side note: "Trump SPEND a decade or more railing about China" think you meant spent!

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  59. I always feel so much better about our country after reading one of your essays. I see common sense and strait talking are not dead after all. Your essay sums up everything I feel about Donald Trump. The fact that you can back up your points with concrete facts and years of experience is what makes your voice so important now (Twitter feed be damned.) Thanks for this and for all your other essays. I'm so glad I found you on facebook.

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  60. Great, great piece. What I like most is the personal reflection I find myself going through when reading Mr. Wright. Today's insight was likely the most hurtful because, in a major way, I Am Trump.

    No, I know science and technology are the future; I care for others as well as myself; I work hard; I don't talk with my hands; I don't tweet that often. But that thing that makes me similar is that I'm a destroyer.

    Garden time? I'm the one you call when you want to dig things up and toss them away. Couldn't grow a plant if I had to. Build a house? Nope, but give me a sledgehammer and I'll tear down what's currently there. Design something? Write something? Not so much, but I'll be the first to point the wrongness of what you designed or wrote.

    I could go on; I don't create, I eliminate. But besides the catharsis of bringing this up, I think it serves a purpose in that this is the type of person we have as a President. A destroyer. He will do nothing in his current role to make America great; instead he will destroy our way of life, our economy, our foreign relations (except with Putin), our health, our environment.

    The one positive I take away from this happening is that there are Creators out there (like Mr. Wright) who can (and do) point out where we're heading, where we've been, and (thankfully) provide opportunities of self-reflection that will eventually make us better citizens.

    Or at least where to find good bourbon. That's important too.

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    1. Rick,

      Being an engineer, I have the unique perspective of being, simultaneously, a destroyer and a creator.

      Destroyers have their place in the world, and it is an essential function. It is not the antithesis of destruction, but the mechanism which allows for creation to grow and flourish.

      If left to its own devices, the world will naturally get clogged with all manner of detritus. Fields will be overcome with weeds; buildings and structures will fall into disrepair; language and ideas become stale and self-aggrandizing.

      True, destruction is unfair. It does not benefit all equally. However, without destruction there is no chance at improvement; without challenging and reviewing the status quo there can be no growth.

      In short, do not lament being a "destroyer of things". Know that your efforts are as essential to the cycle of creation as the gardener and the architect. Sometimes, what comes after is worse than what came before, but such is the risk of progress and creation. But without your efforts, then we as individuals, and as a world, will never have the potential to improve.

      Without darkness, light holds no hope.
      Without death, life loses all meaning.

      That isn't to say that all destruction is right and good. Destruction with malicious intent, without regard for consequences or an eye towards the future, quickly begets disaster. Destruction for the sake of destruction, similarly, results in misery and hardship. And unfortunately, these things are all too common. However, as you point out, those who acknowledge the past and its hard-won lessons will flourish, creators and destroyers both.

      As for the bourbon: thankfully, there seems to be enough that everyone can find one to their particular taste, even if nobody else agrees.

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  61. Another excellent essay. I read this the other day and it seems like it might be well at home here: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/problem-thinking-know-experts/

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  62. The Other Dr MastickApril 19, 2017 at 8:46 PM

    A powerful essay. Thank you for what you do! I am particularly grateful for your expertise and experience with the military issues we are confronted with right now. And your wicked sense of humor... helps to keep me calm. I also appreciate your level of analysis. You don't just state a conclusion, you provide the data that informs your view. You educate me and make me THINK. As a professor I can say that this is a gift and an art, and you are exceptional at it.

    Although it is hard to give up my favorite (only) conspiracy theory. I was certain Reagan negotiated the release, but also made the hostages stay captive for almost three months to increase the drama. I also thought I was the only one who realized this. Which is where my mind was at 17. I did go to school with the Iranian ambassador's daughter. They knew the hostages had been taken days before it was announced to the general public.

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  63. Excellent read and what truly startles me how the "experienced" members of the Republican party are jumping on the tRump train trying to normalize his ignorance.

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  64. Reading "Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind". The thing that Homo sapiens had over the other humans contemporaneous, in the 30k to 60k BC, was ability to plan/work/execute in groups larger than 150. This was based upon "tales" held by by the larger group (e.g. my college is better than yours). The Bullshitter in Chief has shown that the big "tale" can give provide the big group. The group "tale" can be very resistant to reality (facts). People can continue to believe the bullshit, until it suddenly falls apart. Then the greater group is over run and survivors change the "tale".

    The question is, what happens to those other "tales". I need to finish the book, but I understand why the Bullshitter in Chief won; and why that "tribe" continues to support and believe his, not lies, but bullshit.

    But bullshit does not deliver. Bullshit will not deliver. Fact based teams must support this country and its challenges. In this country (USA) these fact based workers have been chopped off at the knees. It is not just Trump, but the systematic attack on knowledge/fact based professional. The country will survive, but the USA will never be trusted by the rest of the world. Military may suffer. I am not sure any left or right wants that; but the right set this up. Expert need not apply. Why could the right not keep experts in State and Defense, at least?

    Alternately: Consider in the US, it seems that some think that having evangelical beliefs equals opposition to science. Maybe only in US after the "Southern Strategy" of the political right do Christians vote for those who are not christian in their actions.

    Listen to this: http://www.wnyc.org/story/evangelical-climate-scientist-wins-over-skeptics . Canadian Christians do not owe votes to the Republican Party. They can look to facts.

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  65. Was listening to NPR and they were talking about the ban on muslims. They were talking about how other people from other muslim countries may not want to enter the US due to all the hassle. So, Berlin, Canada, France, etc, etc. where all advertising for grad students to come to their country, they didn't have a ban. They want a piece of the pie for innovation, the leaders, the smartest people they can get to come and build their society. They will take all the PHD candidates they can get. While America will take all the unemployed coal miners that won't have jobs... To Make America Great Again. Our society is built on the smartest people, not the dumbest. Elections have consequences. Great essay Jim.

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  66. Yes, this current administration is lacking in skill and experience in diplomacy and it shows. However, the alternative was just so corrupt it was rejected by all but those that would vote democrat if a steaming pile of shit was the nominee. It is the dems that brought you Mr. Trump, thank them. As for this fear of a nuclear war, that is unfounded and is simply the latest in the never ending bullshit the media is feeding the public. We are at no risk of engaging in a nuclear war with anyone. china has been brought to the table to deal with North Korea, Russia will come on board to solve the issue in Syria and all will eventually return to the norm. In short, your diatribe lacks any real substance and is based in conjecture and fear.

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    1. Anonymous, I admire your ability believe the media when it comes to Clinton's supposed corruption, but not when it's actually quoting the US Presidednt or leader of North Korea.

      Thank you for proving my point. // Jim

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    2. A majority of the public voted for Hillary Clinton so, no, this is not so.

      And, seriously, Trump? The man whose business made a policy of stiffing small contractors? (I personally am one handshake away from 10 people who got this treatment.) The sexual harasser and likely rapist? Who "had and continues to have extensive and deep ties and business dependence on organized crime figures in the US, Russia, Ukraine and a host of other countries?" (Josh Marshall.) What corruption could Hillary Clinton have had could possibly compare with that?

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    3. So the people who voted for Trump were Democrats? Not you Trumpians?

      You might want to put up on that a bit.

      "We are at no risk of engaging in a nuclear war with anyone."

      Trump has however, talked about being ok with escalating nuclear proliferation and is currently trying to provoke a country that is not shy about its nuclear ambitions.

      But faith in Trump still wins in the end I guess.

      "china has been brought to the table to deal with North Korea."

      Actually no, China hasn't said how it will deal with North Korea other than whatever it has been doing with regards to "that gentleman" ever since the time of Bill Clinton. The only thing we know from Trump's meeting with Xi Jinping is that Trump had to backpedal on calling China a currency manipulator. In other words he caved, but China made no new promises other than their already long established stance that they would not want North Korea to start anything nuclear (because it would harm THEM too).

      "Russia will come on board to solve the issue in Syria and all will eventually return to the norm"

      Except Trump's recent actions in Syria are pretty much a middle finger towards Russia. How they will "step in" in Syria to right the process after America stirred things up there is beyond me, but you seem to believe.

      Trumpian faith, once again on display in the clearest ever way.

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  67. I loved Carter when he was elected (we're the same age, Jim), and all I knew was that things were more complicated than people wanted to admit. A couple of years ago a friend of mine, a former nuclear sub navy man, told me that Carter went through the same nuclear energy training that my friend would go through a couple of decades later--a very demanding course of study, apparently. (Forgive me--I just don't keep track of the military designations for these things). That's one of the reasons my friend admired Carter. Ya know, I don't recall Carter playing up his naval experience that much, but then, as a teenager, I didn't pay that much attention to politics, not as much as I do now. I was, in my own way, just as naive as every other teenager at the time.

    How the years change our minds.

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  68. Excellent! Thank you for your insight.

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  69. Good one Jim! One minor correction, I don't believe Trump said he would defeat ISIS in 30 days, he said that he would give his generals 30 days to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS. At any rate that plan is way overdue.

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    1. But during the campaign he repeatedly claimed that only he, Trump, *knew* how to defeat ISIS. At the time, my attitude was (a) bullshit, and (b) if that's true and you consider defeating ISIS to be so very urgent, you should be sharing that knowledge not hoarding it.

      The bottom line is that Trump was lying about that as he was so many other things. But people wanted to believe.

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  70. I am a bit older and remember the hostage situation quite well and had worked with a number of Iranians and just to show the complexity of the situation and different factions active in Iran before and after the hostage situation, although there was hostility to Americans and telling them to go home and chanting death to America in the streets and, there were many others who told Americans working in Iran at that time to please don't leave. Also during most of the time that the hostages were being held, Iran was making payments on their military equipment, fighter airplanes, etc. on time. There were many complicated players as there are now, not to mention vast distances involved including separating the hostages and so quite a few of them would be been killed. Iran is not a small country.

    I am approaching being as frightened as I was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was a young adult working in a hospital at that time and I heard several years later that the missile crisis was responsible for more young Americans losing their virginity in such a short period of time because they didn't want to die keeping their virginity for nothing. I don't have to worry about that any more but the anxiety is building because we know so little about what is going on inside North Korea. Of course we really didn't know that much about Cuba at the time considering we didn't know that Cuba had tactical nukes already deployed and ready and Kennedy was holding back on giving his okay for invasion despite the advice of so many who didn't want to look weak. I am afraid mostly because Trump thinks negotiations is about winning and losing, forcing the other person or country to back down, negotiating a "great deal." Negotiating a real good deal is win win, not win lose. Even in business, he is about getting goodies for him, then stopping payment.

    You are a good man, Jim Wright, and a good writer. You express so many of my thoughts so well. You help me keep what is left of my sanity.

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  71. If only Americans loved history liked they do legends and myths. Sure the men that fought in the Revolutionary War started out as farmers and craftsmen that picked up muskets. But they had to learn very quickly to become actual soldiers. Because of this myth of the amateur soldier, there's a misconception that most of the war was fought as guerilla warfare. The reality is that most of the fighting was done conventionally, and the Americans were getting their sixes reamed at the beginning. Only with the help of foreigners, some unexpected victories, and British unwillingness to fully commit were we able to squeak out a victory.

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  72. Excellent essay!

    I'm afraid Europe is going down the same drain of ignorance and hubris as well :(

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  73. Excellent post, thanks.

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  74. Wonderful essay as always, and nice to see Carter get some context, respect and acknowledgement as the selfless statesman he was. I mean, the Camp David (Egypt/Israeli) Accords, an actual Mideast peace deal!! Go ahead, show me all the others. Yet certain, ahem, forces will only dwell on those Eagle Claw 'copters crashing and burning. Seems like the model conservative media has followed ever since, incessantly hammer that failure until it gaslights everything else.

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  75. My friends just shared this post with me on our Slack forum group. Read the whole thing and Loved it. Summed up my own thoughts about the ignorance that I have seen so much of online.

    I always thought that things regarding politics are complex and that our simple ideas and personalities (mine included) are not well suited for the task of leading and building a nation from the positions of power.

    I have spent the last two hours reading some of your other essays. I have just about fallen in love with your logic and eloquence.

    Keep up the good work and I will be waiting for more while reading the rest. :)

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  76. Eventually, Jim, you'll write something that I disagree with. But not today.

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  77. I'll give playing Devil's Advocate a go if I may.

    I prefer a rational and informed opponent rather than one so uninformed that he's utterly unpredictable. That's been an issue ever since the Rand studies on MAD back in the 60s, an opponent that is insane or ignorant isn't amenable to the usual operant conditioning, stimulus/response. See NK.

    One so completely psychotic, or terminally ignorant, that he's not competent enough to even press a button unleashing Armageddon is perhaps a good thing for the country he leads. Foreign powers don't have any idea how to deal with him, but neither can he do much harm.

    Having an only marginally competent plumber as chief of neurosurgery would be a disaster for the hospital, unless he was so incompetent he didn't realise that the surgical theatre had nothing to do with entertainment, and so never entered it as he didn't have tickets.

    As regards Trump's electoral victory - even discounting his narrow loss of the popular vote, all the shennanigans, voter suppression, DNC venal incompetence etc... There's no doubt that he would have gotten at least 40% of the vote, and probably 45% regardless. You can fool rather more people all of the time than I'm comfy with, and the generalised and very successful attack on technical competence and factual accuracy is a long term issue that predates Trump, and has only grown worse. That's the big issue, provided we survive this interesting time.

    Reality wins in the end, but if we're lucky, even the Gods of the Copybook Headings will be stymied. Gegen Dumheit, die Goetter selbst kampf vergebens. Once it gets past a certain point, against stupidity, the Gods themselves strive in vain. With luck, the Trump regime will be so incompetent in the execution of their plans that their incompetent intentions can't be implemented.

    Maybe a hiatus where nothing much of anything can get accomplished might be, if not a good thing, not appreciably worse than the government of competent professionals with policies based on ideology not reality.

    Bottom line: the longer Trump spends on the golf course, and the longer the regime doesn't fill vacancies that would give Sessions and others the ability to do more harm, the better.

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  78. I do believe this is your best essay yet Chief. Well done sir.

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  79. Is a minimal pre-requisite of leadership having at least some slight idea and expertise in what you are talking about?

    I would've thought this had a blindingly obvious answer until Trump became POTUS.

    (Despite him losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by around three million people & that despite voter suppression, gerrymandering, Third Party voters, non-voters and decades of smears and slanders vomited over Hillary Clinton with either no or sod-all factual basis. Plus the no expletives will suffice electoral college.)

    This might not be Jim Wright's best essay ever - there are after all so many epic and classic ones to choose from - but its certainly up there with his very best. In my opinion.

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  80. For all 40 years of my adult life, Republicans have been in the business of convincing people that up is down and that only "business" and the military can be competent. Business is good.

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  81. This is so good I want to cry. Thank you for it. I was raised by middle-class (by way of working-class) parents who had an aversion to knowing too much. Even though I was expected to do well in school, if I displayed too much of that knowledge at home I was shot down for "trying to be smart" or "trying to show people up." I actually became even more educated simply because when I asked my father a question--any question--he would just say: "Go look it up". I got very good at "looking it up". But I learned to keep my head down and not show off too much of what I knew, and that feeling, that learning was somehow like admitting to owning pornography, never went away. These people who complain that they don't like "elites" and "know-it-alls" and want to elect a president they can just have a beer with or "who tells it like it is", I know them. They were my people.

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  82. Damn. Spot on. Again. My only frustration is that the people who need to read and consider this the most are least likely to read it, particularly all the way to the end.

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  83. Isaac Asimov would agree with you. You have brilliantly and clearly expressed the folly and dangers inherent in the cult of ignorance which Asimov described below:

    "It’s hard to quarrel with that ancient justification of the free press: “America’s right to know.” It seems almost cruel to ask, ingenuously, ”America’s right to know what, please? Science? Mathematics? Economics? Foreign languages?”

    None of those things, of course. In fact, one might well suppose that the popular feeling is that Americans are a lot better off without any of that tripe.

    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

    Isaac Asimov, Newsweek. January 1980

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  84. Damn. Spot on. Again. My only frustration is that the people who need to read and consider this the most are least likely to read it, particularly all the way to the end.

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  85. I'm reminded of an old statement: "We stumble from day to day, step by step into a world that we do not know, nor do we fully comprehend the outcome. For we stumble into the unknown future."

    This is still true, and I would prefer to have people with great knowledge and the wisdom of how and when to apply that knowledge than give over to a fool claiming to know, but knows nothing, and does not comprehend it until it is too late for all.

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  86. At the very least, can we have IQ tests for political candidates?

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  87. Actually, without having any expertise in the assorted areas mentioned, I was still able to realize that Trump was a clown in a business suit, and profoundly unfit to boss a country. What he is, is a mistake by the moneyed power mongers who shot themselves in the foot by buying him his job. I sincerely hope they have bought themselves a problem that will cost them more than it costs you and I. My biggest disappointment in the election was the fact that there were so many in this country who couldn't see him for what he is. I strongly feel that he would not have been elected had the DNC not been so openly disrespectful of the majority opinion. Many held their vote from Hillary just because the DNC took Sanders away from them, sure in their hearts that a tragicomedy like Trump would never be elected. What a cluster fuck.

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  88. I don't usually jump up or shout things when I read, however the following passage resulted in me doing just that.

    "Turns out, Trump’s ideas of how to run a government aren’t much better than that of an 18-year-old dishwasher – though it should be noted: the ignorance of youth has an excuse, the President of the United States does not."

    I found myself standing and actually shouted a big hearty "Damn right!"

    Great essay. My stupid phone kept flipping back to one of your previous posts whenever I tried to enlarge the Twitter images, but that glitch may just be me.

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  89. Do you mean to tell me that Vice President Pence's Resolute Face might not have had the desired strategic effect?

    https://www.axios.com/pence-on-his-dmz-staredown-2369115754.html
    "There has been much discussion in Washington about Pence’s short visit to the demilitarized zone, where he stood outside the Freedom House on the South Korean side of the border and stared into North Korea. Pence wasn’t supposed to walk outside, according to the schedule, but he decided in the moment he wanted to send a message directly to the North Koreans.

    “I thought it was important that we went outside,” he said. “I thought it was important that people on the other side of the DMZ see our resolve in my face.”

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  90. This is the most well articulated history lesson I have ever read. The power of your words is just breathtaking to me. How I wish every American would see this essay and read it all the way to the end. Maybe enough people would come to their senses and realize what we have done in electing Donald Trump.
    Thank you for this.

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  91. Great post! I wholeheartedly agree with the earlier comment that this should be required reading for all those of voting age.

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  92. That was an outstanding essay, Jim. I've followed you for some time at the suggestion of a friend, and I find you to be a voice of reason, experience, and humor in a political environment that has little of any of those. Thanks, and keep up the good work.
    On a separate note, I look forward to reading something from you besides your essays, tweets and Facebook posts, can't wait to see some fiction, hope the writing is going well. Now, heading off to buy P.J. O'Rourke's latest: "How The Hell Did This Happen?", even though I think you've already covered that in depth.

    Mike

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  93. Excellent article, Jim. As a Belgian citize living in Brazil, I've always been shocked and appalled at the way ignorance is considered a virtue in the US, especially among Republican candidates.
    I guess you must thank the rabid right-wing media for this sorry state of affairs.

    BTW, one typo: "Because the President of the United States of American has no idea whatsoever" ; I believe it should be United States of America.

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  94. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and those who wish to govern themselves must arm themselves with the power that knowledge provides - James Madison

    The father of the US Constitution. He was no amateur - he was well studied in government, in history, political philosophy, and constitutions of other governments.

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  95. Good points but spoken as a full blown squidly for sure.

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  96. A good read on the Carter administration's policy and actions is Zbigniew Brzezinski's "Power and Principle - Memoirs of the National Security Advisor."

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  97. Brought tears to my eyes. I am terrified that the damage this idiot creates will last generations. God bless you for your service and this terrific, insightful essay.

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  98. I believe you have written the quintessential State of the Union Address for this moment in time.

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  99. I think this is the best essay you have published on Stonekettle. Thank you!

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  100. The fact that an unqualified candidate like Donald Trump got elected shows what a terrible candiate Hilliary Clinton was to get beaten by him. They were the worst choices ever for President of the United States. I couldn't and didn't vote for either one of them.

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  101. Wow!!! Very well written. Thank you Jim, for that in-depth look at our history and the politics that played out. Now if we could just get another leader that has the know how and courage, unlike current admin, to lead us out of this mess.

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  102. Finally, a place to reply! I've been following you on Facebook, recommending your page to others, itching to reply in some way (but I get it). Anyway, thank you, first of all for your service, and secondly, for being a sound, respectful, intelligent, sensible mind in this current world of crazy. I respect your opinions tremendously and thoroughly enjoy your eloquent writing. Also of note are the many intelligent, respectful commenters to your site. It is refreshing to be able to disagree in a more respectful way. You make so much sense that it is painful to me that I cannot share your words with my Trump supporter friends(?) because if they manage to read through your lengthy essays at all, they would have none of it. Believe me, I have tried and received 0 comments. But for me, you are a port in the storm. And if you are able to get through to just one Trump supporter, well then that's one less vote for him in 2020. Thank you for putting in the time, the research, and the dedication. And as I have written so many times during my own government career, "Thank you for a JOB WELL DONE!"

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  103. Finally, a place to reply! I've been following you on Facebook, recommending your page to others, itching to reply in some way (but I get it). Anyway, thank you, first of all for your service, and secondly, for being a sound, respectful, intelligent, sensible mind in this current world of crazy. I respect your opinions tremendously and thoroughly enjoy your eloquent writing. Also of note are the many intelligent, respectful commenters to your site. It is refreshing to be able to disagree in a more respectful way. You make so much sense that it is painful to me that I cannot share your words with my Trump supporter friends(?) because if they manage to read through your lengthy essays at all, they would have none of it. Believe me, I have tried and received 0 comments. But for me, you are a port in the storm. And if you are able to get through to just one Trump supporter, well then that's one less vote for him in 2020. Thank you for putting in the time, the research, and the dedication. And as I have written so many times during my own government career, "Thank you for a JOB WELL DONE!"

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  104. Excellent essay and I agree with everything you've said.

    What saddens and vexes me deeply, is that it even has to be said at all.

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  105. Fantastic article. Shared with my network.

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  106. About Knowledge, and how to obtain sustainable knowledge (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology):

    There's the March For Science, on Saturday 22nd of April:

    https://www.marchforscience.com/

    Amsterdam's March will be on the "Museumplein" ("square of museums") - capacity 400,000 (see https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikernwapendemonstratie_van_21_november_1981).

    We Will Not Be Silenced.

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  107. Yes - Rod Serling, Harlan Ellison and Christopher Hitchens, sitting at a table together, couldn't have, in their finest fever-dreams, imagined that as a nation, we would so quickly get to a point in our history and evolution where intelligence; intellectual acuity and curiosity; seasoned experience; and regard for verifiable facts would be so blithely scorned and disparaged, even held in contempt. It's a whole new take on Theater of the Absurd.

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  108. Great read, but horrifying to see the incompetence at all levels of this administration laid bare. Dark times ahead, friends, brace yourselves.

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  109. Wowee! This is the greatest article I have read in ages. Seriously helpful and insightful. Thank you Thank you!

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  110. Great article. But if you're still looking for corrections, I think you were referring to the Declaration of Independence, rather than the Constitution. Hancock signed the former but not the latter.

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  111. Great article. If you're still looking for corrections-- I think you meant the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. Hancock signed the former but not the latter.

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    1. So you're saying I was too subtle with the sarcasm, is that it?

      Delete
  112. Well done, as usual, sir. Thank you.

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  113. A good read...

    Dennis Smith
    1SG, US Army Retired

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  114. We ARE exceptional! Let me and my untrained buddies carry guns and we'll show you how all the theater and school shootings end raight away. We'll be there at every shooting, no matter how far or or how unlikely. We will seek out the gunman through the darkness, the smoke, the panic and confusion. My friends and I will use our six senses to filter out good guys with guns, like ourselves (who are wearing similar body armor and garb as the shooter), and the bad guy, and we'll drop him with no collateral damage. And when law enforcement gets there and see a bunch of gunmen in camo, they'll cheer and pat our backs for doing their job better than they! Why? America!!! More guns in untrained hands must mean a safer country. The NRA told me.
    And don't tell me I have a hero complex. (Have I told you how I can probably land a plane with disabled pilots and save the day? I've seen planes flown on TV; it's simple!)

    _______

    Our society does tend to oversimplify everything and undervalue education, experience and expertise. Sadly, we don't always trust the most medically trained with medical decisions either; people are self-prescribing unneeded antibiotics, or prematurely stopping doctor-prescribed treatment, or avoiding vaccinations. I know it's fun to think about being a hero, that Santa's real, or that God will answer your prayers, but the real world requires fact-based action from trained and experienced people. Otherwise you keep doubling-down on the same mistakes decade after decade and then you have to find some group to blame when you continue getting the same negative results.

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  115. Incredibly well said and insightful. It's a shame that most of the people who most need to "get" this message are incapable of understanding it. Somehow, we need to figure out how to get inside the heads of these brainwashed fools.

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  116. Damn, I wish that I had said that. Ignorance is bliss, but it does not fix the computer nor land a plane.
    Thanks for the concise, on point article.

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  117. We were young. And 10 feet tall. And bullet proof. I just knew President Carter hated the military. And then years later I learned part of the real truth. President Carter IIRC learned a valuable lesson from the fiasco trying to rescue the Iran hostages. He authorized the creation of the joint special forces command. Which is one of the reasons why these days when we do a special op that requires the coordination of the Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marines they all have radios that can talk to each other. And equipment that they all know how to use. And 9 times out of 10 the teams have all rehearsed the mission together. Amazing what can happen when folks really work together. :)

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  118. Excellent post and well-written. This should be required reading.

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  119. A very good article, as far as it goes. But further comment is needed re the Iran Revolution. The impression is that the revolution occurred in order to get rid of the Shah and bring in Khomeini. If looked at through the lens of American/British and other interests this is true. However, that was not how the Iranian people saw it. They wanted their country to be modernized and Westernized. They had rights and were becoming quite progressive. However, the Shah, for all his modernizing programs, was still a dictator; and the people didn't want a dictatorship. They wanted a democracy. The revolution was instigated by and hijacked by Western interests. They had interests and control in Iran and they felt that the Shah wanted to make Iran more independent from Western control. The West let the Shah fall. They hijacked the revolution, and installed Khomeini. They were basically replacing one puppet with another. From their perspective, it was and is easier to maintain control over an unstable regime. Thousands of people lost their lives under the Shah's regime, during the revolution, and under the regime of the IRI. The people of Iran are portrayed on Western TV and in other media as Islamic fundamentalist savages, when, in fact, most Iranians don't support the regime, and live under constant fear and stress. There are Iranians in Iran with whom I am very close, and I have been to Iran. It is a stunningly beautiful country, with wonderful people; and I pity them immensely. They just want peace, freedom, and a decent life; just like all of us. Jimmy Carter played a role in what happened in Iran, so don't put him on a pedestal.

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    1. The West installed Khomeini?

      That's a new one.

      Delete
    2. Now this is revisionist history if I ever saw one.

      The West let the Shah fall......despite the fact that they deliberately deposed of popular and democratically elected leader Mohammad Mosaddegh because of how he handled Iranian oil? (nationalizing it).

      Both America and Britain worked together to depose Mosaddegh, who was trying to limit the powers of the Shah as well and to get the west-friendly Shah back into total power. The result was that Mosaddegh was deposed and the Shah became the harsh authoritarian leader that you admitted to above. This in turn resulted in widespread anti-western sentiments to grow in Iran, eventually resulting in the support for the successful Iranian revolution of 1979 which overthrew the Shah and installed the anti-western revolutionary leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as the first leader of post revolution Iran.

      This is how it REALLY happened as history recorded it. Now you try to explain how the west let the Shah fall and instated Khomeini if you will.

      Delete
  120. Some additional background on The Carter Years: I'm 5 years beyond a 45 year career in military aerospace engineering. My proudest project was the F-117 Nighthawk stealth precision attack aircraft. Small numbers of these aircraft, with no casualties, twice destroyed Saddam's air defense and command and control systems, allowing conventional aircraft and ground forces to operate with relative impunity. The development of that aircraft, done in total secrecy, was personally authorized - with the highest possible priority - by Jimmy Carter. He also authorized the initial design studies for the Stealth Bomber (B-2), which was the prime reason he cancelled the B-1, as he knew it was obsolete. It is reasonable (though an oversimplification) to argue that the expense of attempting to counter the stealth technology Carter initiated, along with the collapse of oil and gas prices, is what caused the collapse of the USSR, not action by Reagan. Carter is, IMHO, very underrated as a strong defense President.

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  121. A common theme in several of your posts is that we need to be better citizens. Maybe what "We the People" need is a taste of reality and the chance to get away from home and see the world first hand instead of through electronic media. Maybe what the people of this country need is the chance to serve their country for a designated period of time, say 2 or 4 years service away from home, learning a new skill and meeting new people. Perhaps not in the five branches of military service but perhaps as a Border Patrol Officer, maybe as a paramedic working the inner cities providing medical service to the needy. Maybe as a Fireman/person or Smoke Jumper fighting wildfires out west. Maybe the chance to get away from home and work with people of other races/religions and beliefs would help to make us all better citizens and people. Maybe if people are required to give something back to their country then we wouldn't have those lame displays of patriotism that you write about. Yeah, I'll say it, Maybe it's time we bring back the draft. I know, it will never happen in our lifetime, but if you want better citizens you're going to have to figure out a way to show them that there is a great big old world out there full of all kinds of people and that learning to compromise is easier than bombs and bullets.

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  122. Wow, well done Jim, as usual.

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  123. I'm hesitant to say that everything needs to be run by experts. As someone well on the road to diabetes who's been struggling with her weight over half her life, and with all the informal research I've done, I've come to understand that experts can get too full of themselves and ignore *their own data* because they think their own *opinions* matter more. I figure that if that can happen in dietetics and nutrition, that can happen in other fields too. I'm sure it's happened in politics, if the BS going on in the Senate is any indication (as you've pointed out, some of those guys have been there a LONG time). An "expert" blinded by hubris is every bit as ignorant as an amateur, by default.

    The difference with SOME amateurs is they're aware there are things they don't know and may be amenable to inviting well-meaning experts to advise them should they find themselves in a leadership position. They haven't got anything to be egotistical about because the whole thing's new to them.

    I'm not sure you could exactly call DT an amateur at leadership. I mean, he's been a CEO for a long damn time now. The problem is that when all you've got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. He only knows what being head of a corporation--and not a very good head at that--looks like. He thinks leading any other organization ought to be exactly the same.

    So I think we have the same problem with him that we have with stupid fucking dietitians who feed diabetics 300g of carbs a day and tell them to chase it with insulin: wrapped up in his own ego, afraid of looking stupid if it turns out he's wrong, but using the power of government to back up his claims and stifle dissent. (Just try advising people face-to-face about nutrition without a license in most states and see how long you get away with it--even if you're right, even if you can back it up with stacks of fully-carried-out research studies. About as long as you can get away with yelling at Trump to pull his head out of his ass at one of his rallies.) And you know what? I'm tired of my entire life being held at gunpoint by the Cult of the Ossified Ego-Driven Expert who refuses to ever learn anything new--or pay attention to the *already existing data* that indicate they're full of shit.

    So yeah, put some people up there who have some idea what's going on. But don't get too hung up on how much experience they have. All those Founding Fathers you call experts because they got an education? They still hadn't served as national leaders. They still hadn't put in the OJT. So there's something to the amateur worship. A little something. Not much.

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