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Monday, February 12, 2018

Caveat Emptor


Whether the mask is labeled fascism, democracy, or dictatorship of the proletariat, our great adversary remains the apparatus – the bureaucracy, the police, the military. Not the one facing us across the frontier of the battle lines, which is not so much our enemy as our brothers' enemy, but the one that calls itself our protector and makes us its slaves. No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this apparatus and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others.
Simone Weil



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"We will have a military like we've never had before."

What does that mean?

No. No. Stop. Don't wave your hands and make vague noises.

Don't roll your eyes and sigh.

Stop and think about it.

Answer the question.

I mean, it sounds good. Make American Great Again. We'll have a military like we’ve never had before. Sure. Sure. Who wouldn’t want that? What patriotic American wouldn’t want a … um, well, whatever kind of military he’s talking about? It must be better than the one we have now. Right? Must be. Sure. Let’s get us some of that. Got to be better. Bigger. More powerful. Shinier. Yeah! USA! USA!

Right?

I mean, right?

But, well, not to be unpatriotic and all, but better … how, exactly?

You did notice that Trump never actually tells you this. Ever.

There’s a reason for that.

You see, the Long Con is based on simple human nature. A confidence game that plays on greed, pride, desperation, fear, hope. Which is why religion is often so very successful at it. It takes skill and commitment to pull off a long-con, weeks, months, years even, to groom the suckers, until the mark finally hands over his money of his own free will. And the most skilled confidence man can fool a mark over and over, convincing him again and again to hand over his money. And the best part is that once, if, the mark ever twigs to the fact that he’s been fooled, robbed by his own greed and gullibility, well, he’s often too embarrassed to do anything about it.

As General Smedley Butler once said, war is a racket.

And the military industrial complex and their shills have been playing this game for a very long time.

The key to this con is greed, pride, desperation, and fear. Or in simpler terms: the refuge of the scoundrel, patriotism.

"We will have a military like we've never had before."

The key to a successful con is letting the mark convince himself. Ohhhhh, yes, like we’ve never had before! You bet. We gotta get us some of that, America!

Never give him too many details, too much information. Let him create those things in his head. Let him build it up in his mind, let him imagine how for just a few dollars down he’ll make a fortune. How many of those Spanish Prisoner scams have you seen? The Nigerian Banker with the fortune in British Pounds Sterling sitting in an African bank and all you need do is hand over a small processing fee for your share of the fortune. Crude and clumsy, and yet thousands fall for such cons every year. You laugh at the suckers, meanwhile the CEOs of Northrup-Grumman and General Dynamics, the politicians, and the media pundits tell you that you need a shiny new warship and a fleet of brand new invisible planes. Pride, you want to be proud of your military don’t you? You don’t want another country to have a better military, do you? No, of course not! Our prestige is on the line. And what about all those threats? ISIS for example! Yes, ISIS. If we don’t fight them over there, we’ll have to fight them over here! You’re gonna need a fleet of shiny new warships to defeat ISIS, folks. How much is freedom worth, they’re cheap at that price. What are you, a liberal fool? Do you want them to murder your children? Don’t you love your children? We’ve got to have this new military! One like we’ve never seen before! Yes, yes!

But what does that mean in detail?

Trump never explains anything, any of his genius ideas, in any detail.

He constantly makes vague pronouncements like this one. And no one ever calls him on it.  Not the press. Not the people. Certainly not Congress.

Trump says we need a big beautiful Wall.

And the masses nod or rage depending on their inclination, but what does that mean?

Big! Yes! Yes! Beautiful! Oh, God yes!

Big and beautiful. Beautiful and big.

But what's the goal? Stop illegal immigration? Stop terrorism? Stop drugs? How? What terrorists? What drugs? Which immigrants? What's the plan? What studies and hard data is the plan based on? What are the counter arguments? What other options do we have? Have we looked for any other solution? Where are the studies weighing those options against each other? Where is the cost benefit analysis of each one? The environment impact statements? What are the objectives of this wall? How will you measure if the objectives are being met and what's the backup plan if they aren't? How much will it cost? To build? To maintain over its lifespan? How long is that lifespan? How will we pay for it? Who will build it? How long will it take? Will construction stretch into the next administration? What happens if that administration elects not to continue? Do we get our money back? Who will maintain it? Who will patrol it? How long will it be? How high? How is it better than what we have now?

Etcetera.

Etcetera.

And etcetera.

He never answers any of these questions. He never explains anything. Not only because he doesn’t know, but because he’s conning us. 

Trump claims to be a genius. Of course we have only his word for that and he’s a little short on the details of who certified his intellect. We’re just supposed to take him at his word. Stable genius. Sure.

But have you ever actually listened to a real genius?

Stephen Hawking is one of the most brilliant minds who has ever existed. He studies time itself. Time. Try to define that. Go ahead. Try to explain time. Time is … what? Hawking studies things that most mundanes can't even put into words in even a general sense, let alone comprehend in any detail. And yet – and yet – what Hawking is most noted for is his ability to patiently explain that very complexity to ordinary people. He wrote a famous best selling book on it. He gives sellout lectures on it, like some kind of rock star. Even though doing something as ordinary as speaking is horribly difficult for him.

Ever watch Elon Musk describing his plans for the future of humankind? This guy is so many steps ahead of the human race that there is legitimate reason to wonder if he's maybe an alien in disguise, sent here from some advanced civilization out there beyond the stars. Musk can describe the most complex machines – like his Falcon Heavy – the most complex ideas, and why they are so very important for our future, in terms that anyone can understand. All while cracking sly jokes and sending his own car into orbit around the sun.

Trump?

Trump claims similar genius, yet he can never describe his plans in even the vaguest of terms.

"We will have a military like we've never had before."

What does that mean?

What the hell does that mean?

The United States spends on average 20% of its entire federal budget on the military – and that does NOT include the Veterans Administration or money spent on veterans after they leave the service.

54% of federal discretionary spending is on the military.

4.5% of the Gross Domestic Product is spent on the military, that’s 700 BILLION dollars as of this year.

And Trump and conservatives in Congress tell us that we must increase that expenditure.

We have to.

We have to, right? Don’t you want a military like we’ve never seen before? Sure you do.

But … why?

Why do we need to spend more on the military?

No. NO. That's not a rhetorical question. Why do we need to spend more on the military?


Why? The answer to that question, the ability to answer that question in any detail, is the whole goddamned point here.


We spend on average right now a bit over 4% of the Gross Domestic Product on ... well, I was going to say Defense, but that's not really accurate, is it? War. Military hardware. Weapons. Invasion. Power projection. Occupation of foreign nations. Empire building. Whatever the hell you call it, it's not really defense anymore. Department of Preemptive Mayhem and Wanton Destruction maybe. War, Inc.

Whatever we call it, we spend roughly 4% of our GDP on it.

For comparison, during the height of WWII, spending on the military peaked at 41% of GDP.

Forty-one percent.

That’s a lot. We had to give up a lot of other things to fund the military at 41% of the GDP. But that's back when we were literally fighting for survival, fighting a total war, globally, against two different enemies -- enemies that were a vast alliance of nation states -- simultaneously over literally millions of square miles of the planet. We were fighting in the air, on every sea, and over the land on six continents. Nearly every ship, every plane, every base, entire armies, new technologies, doctrine, plans, alliances, all of it, had to be built from scratch. All of America had to sacrifice, they gave up consumer goods, they rationed food and essentials such as gasoline – hell, it was illegal to own a spare tire for your car, that rubber went to the war. They scrounged for metals, they went to work in the factories, they volunteered for the military, they instituted a draft, they bought war bonds. That’s what it took, and more, to fund the military to 41% of the GDP. They could never have sustained it, if the war went on as long as the current one has.

During the Cold War we spent on average about 10% of the GDP on the military. That was to maintain a global presence and go toe-to-toe with the Soviet Union, with the literal end of the world hanging in the balance every day.

During World War II, during the Cold War, our enemies could have wiped us out. Taken us over, destroyed civilization in a dozen different ways. Now? We face some pissant terrorists and a handful of Third World dictators. They can harm us, certainly. Some of them might even have the power to destroy a city. I won't argue that. They might certainly wreak terrible damage.

But they can't destroy the United States.

They can't end the world.

They can’t topple civilization.

Meanwhile, Between 2001 and 2014, 440,095 Americans died from gun violence on US soil.

Four-hundred thousand.

You know how many Americans died in World War II? 416,500. 

For comparison and lest you think I’m picking on gun violence unfairly, between 2001 and 2014, 534,601 Americans died in car accidents.

Again, for comparison, in the same amount of time, 13 years or so, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam.

Between 2001 and 2014, the total number of Americans killed overseas by terrorism (as the government defines it) was 369.

Three-hundred and sixty-nine. Total. That’s it. Killed by terrorist overseas.

Inside the US, the number of Americans killed by terrorism during that same period was 3,043 – a tenth of the guns deaths in America that year.

Three-thousand and forty-three. That’s a lot right? Yes it is. But that figure includes the attacks of September 11th, 2001. With the exception of that extraordinary and terrible event, the annual deaths from domestic terrorism (as the government officially defines it) is much, much lower, averaging <10 per year. 

Note: as the government defines terrorism. You can't have it both ways. If the government doesn't define a white Christian man with a modified semi-auto assault rifle firing from a hotel window into the crowd as terrorism for the purposes of gun violence, then they can't count it as terrorism for national defense purposes either. Make your bed and lie in it.

That's the threat we face today. Opioid abuse. Gun violence. Car accidents. These things are what kill Americans today. And while, certainly, terrorist states and rogue nations are a threat, comparatively speaking they’re fairly minor when plotted against the things that are actually killing Americans in large numbers right now.

Quick, what percentage of the federal budget is spent on gun violence?

What percentage on car accidents?

What percentage on drug deaths?

We spend 4% and more of our GDP, 20% of the federal budget, on our military and almost nothing on the actual threats that are actually killing Americans. 

The politicians and the pundits and the defense industry would have you convinced that our enemies are massed outside the gate and tunneling under the walls. But, fear not, America, for the low, low price of $700 Billion, we can defend you! And most of America is too damned scared to stop and question anything. $700 Billion? What a bargain for our safety, plus, super cool military! USA! USA!

Let me give you an example, one of many: 4,486 American service personnel died in the most recent Iraq War. 2,345 American military personnel have so far died in Afghanistan. More than a million have been wounded.

Now, how many of those deaths were due to enemy airpower?

How many of those 6,831 dead Americans were killed as a direct result of enemy airpower?

Need a hint? It’s none.

Over 17 years of war, no American in that conflict was killed or wounded by enemy aircraft. They were killed by IEDS in infinite variation, RPGs, mortar fire, snipers, small arms fire, suicide bombers, but not one was killed by enemy air superiority.

In fact, how many Americans have been killed by enemy air power since Vietnam?

And yet, we’re spending $1.5 Trillion to build the F-35, because we just gotta have it. And this was the cheap one, the single seater, compared to the F-22, the air superiority fighter, which we also just had to have. Now, sure, technological superiority is great and all, but again, it’s not technological superiority that’s killing our people or threatening our country. Hell, 19 shitheads with boxcutters killed 2,996 of us on 911. All the super invisible fighter jets in the world couldn’t have stopped it. Just as they can’t stop a fanatic with a suicide vest. But, the generals, the defense contractors, the politicians and the pundits have convinced you that the real threat is enemy airpower. Or enemy ships on the high seas. Or enemy tanks. So we’ve got to have new planes and new ships and new tanks.

And yet, ISIS can’t destroy us. North Korea can’t destroy us. They can bring down a building. Blow up a city. Sure, and we need to deal with that threat, I’m not saying we don’t. I’m certainly not saying that any building, any city, is expendable. But they can’t destroy us.

And the things we need to fight ISIS, or even North Korea, well, those things aren’t sexy and they don’t keep multi-billion dollar defense contractors in business. So we buy trillion dollar fighter jets to fight terrorists.

It’s a racket. That’s why you never hear about the details.

The generals, the defense contractors, the pundits, the politicians, they never spell it out. They don’t want you thinking about it, asking questions, getting suspicious that you’re being conned.

Ask yourself something: Where's the upper limit?

At what point do we max out, percentage wise? 10% of GDP? 41% like WWII? And what are we willing to give up to achieve that level of military spending? Nylons and spare tires? Will you buy war bonds and ration gasoline and butter? Will you send your children off to fight a preemptive war somewhere in the world?

How is this military Trump plans to create unlike any we've seen before? What will it do that the current one can’t? How will it be better? Who decided that? What did they base that decision on? How much will it cost? How much will it cost to maintain? How long will it last? What do we have to give up? What are the long term consequences? Ronald Reagan created a massive military, unlike any we'd seen in recent history. We activated WWII battleships and built nuclear cruisers and bought new fighter jets and new tanks. We recruited new soldiers and marched out smartly to show the world our might.

It put us into massive debt and couldn't be maintained.

We had to cut back.

Meanwhile, there was the Soviet Union. They too built a massive military at the expense of everything else in their society. They loved to parade it through Red Square to show the world. Their mighty ships patrolled the high seas and their bombers cruised the skies.

And combined with endless war, eventually that military bankrupted the USSR.

The entire country collapsed overnight without so much as a whimper, and disappeared into history.

Right now, North Korea is building bombs and rockets while their people go hungry. We mock them for this, just as we laughed at Soviets standing in endless lines for bread and toilet paper while their government churned out tanks and nuclear cruisers that they couldn’t afford.


These things should be cautionary tales, not examples to emulate.


"We will have a military like we've never had before."

How come conservatives like Trump never say, “We will have an education system like we’ve never had before.”

We’re going to have healthcare coverage like we’ve never had before.

We’re going to advance science like we’ve never done before.

We’re going to help people we’ve never helped before, feed people we’ve never fed before, spread civil rights to those who’ve never had them before, bring freedom and equality and justice to all like we’ve never done before, give a leg up to every member of our society like we’ve never done, work towards making war less likely and work on lasting peace and prosperity like we’ve never done before.

We’re going to see that everybody has a boat and that the tide raises all of those boats together! Goddamned right, that’s what we’re going to do.

They don’t say it, because they don’t believe it.

Because they are amoral bastards who don’t believe in anything but enriching themselves. They’ve been running this con for a long time. They’ll take your last dime and they don’t give a damn what happens to you.

But here’s the thing: the con doesn’t work unless the victim plays along.

Greed. Pride. Envy. Fear. These are the human traits that make this con profitable.

As such, the countermeasure should then be obvious.

You must ask the questions and demand the answers. You must look past fear and greed and pride and mindless unthinking patriotism.

You must hold this administration, every administration, accountable. Every Congressman. Every Senator. Every general. Every CEO who takes taxpayer money. Every political party. Every media outlet. Every journalist. Ask the questions and demand the answers. Never stop. Show up for every election, no matter how minor. Educate yourself on the candidates and the issues before the election.

When government is of the people, by the people, and for the people, the people – you – are the weakest link.

In the end, as always, if you want a better nation, you have to be better citizens.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

86 comments:

  1. The numbers you gave us are astonishing. Barely logical. I'm even more afraid for myself & our country during this illegitimate presidency.

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  2. This may well be one of the best essays you've ever written, and I've been reading your stuff for a long time. Well done, sir.

    Also, quick typo: But here’s the thing": the con doesn’t work unless the victim plays along. I'm guessing you didn't mean for there to be an extra quotation mark in there. :)

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  3. ISIS can’t destroy our country, but we can if we simply give up and don’t demand the details of what this guy is proposing. Don’t demand answers, don’t press down when he and his followers evade. And definitely need to hold accountable those who don’t care for anything but their own pocketbooks.

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  4. An excellent essay. It has given me a great deal to think about. Thank you.

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  5. You wrote etcetera, not eksetera. I love you.

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  6. I often think about Trump's remarks on Iraq, why, he wanted to know, didn't we take the oil? Why didn't we take the riches? Or, why didn't we take over the country and force submission.

    Looking at what trump has attempted thus far in his administration one can easily see that he wants retribution from those who did not support him and his goals. He's attacking the old, the disabled, POC, women, Hispanics- those groups that typically vote democratic.

    In another day we would call trump's aspirations those of Imperialism. Today that word has a negative connotation but only to those with morals, not Trump. And if one had all the military at one's command could he not take over countries? Would Trump take over a "shithole" as he put it? A shithole country that has rich veins of precious metals, minerals, and diamonds.

    Trump will never stop his greed, his need to acquire things. He is empty, soulless, simply seeking that thing that will satisfy and satiate but nothing will ever fulfill his desires. Nothing, not battleships or missiles can ever be enough. Power is a state of mind and Trump's mind is wildly twisted. What he wants isn't something that can be bought or sold. He's made a deal with the devil and that's too good for him.

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    1. Jim's essay puts it all out there. Your response really lays it on the line. Kudos to both of you for expressing, far more eloquently than I can (and I'm a pretty good wordsmith) what I'm both feeling and thinking right now. I cry for my child and his potential progeny. What is happening right now is absolutely not in the best interests of the "America" I have loved for 50+ years and served for, without conditions, in the USAF for 26+ of them.

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    2. Trump's greatest failure is that he thinks that the business of America is to be as greedy, dishonest, and inconsistent as he is. With no belief whatsoever that his character flaws aren't actually virtues, there's no hope that he'll ever reform.

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  7. Your writing resonates with simple truth, encouraging even those most in favour of military spending to pause - thoughtfully, quietly, in a darkened room where no one else might see. May the light of your words reach those most in need of them. Thank you.

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  8. Nailed it again, Jim. My friends probably tire of my reposts, but you echo our feelings so eloquently! Thank you.

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  9. Geez Jim, well written. I love it, great write!!!

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  10. "We’re going to have healthcare coverage like we’ve never had before."

    I have often cited the example of our military spending relative to the risks addressed as an example of how our response to threats is altogether instinctive. It is not at all rational
    The single biggest killer of Americans is heart disease

    This from the CDC
    Nearly 800,000 Americans die each year from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, accounting for one in every three deaths.
    Annually, about one in every six U.S. healthcare dollars is spent on cardiovascular disease.
    By 2030, annual direct medical costs associated with cardiovascular diseases are projected to rise to more than $818 billion, while lost productivity costs could exceed $275 billion.

    But then I guess men and women in lab coats and scrubs don’t make for a tremendous great unbelievable parade

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    1. Now there's a concept!! A parade for science!

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  11. Sure would love to hear a politician make a speech of that. I know, dream on...

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  12. Thank you Jim. As always, your insight and eloquence are refreshing.

    These are some of the points and topics I hope will spread like a wind across the nation. I used to think that perhaps the only way to change a nation was through a bloody revolution. I no longer think that. The only way really is like you have said over and over - it will be for all of us to be better citizens.

    Fear is a great motivator. It moves people predictably. Those in positions of great power have no want for anything but more, many many more iterations than anyone could ever actually need in one hundred lifetimes. And it's still not enough. There is nothing and no one more important, there is no empathy, compassion, remorse or conscience in the pursuit of More.

    How does our country switch to a population of people who will be better citizens? How do we make our neighbors see beyond the green screen, the smoke and mirrors and more so, the fear? All it would really take is an ounce of compassion and the realization that there are some seven plus billion people here just trying to live and get by.

    Thanks again Jim.

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  13. I don't know how you do it, Jim; how you hit the right notes; the right data; the proper pointing of the finger at the citizenry. Unfortunately, as much glow as I get reading this and other essays, I sit here with little hope. The key statement for me was, “We will have an education system like we’ve never had before.” That's true but in the direction opposite from which we hope. Our schools worsen yearly, the citizenry is less educated, less literate, less active...less a citizenry. So not only does the con go on, but they're creating new suckers every minute. How does this message - this essay - transform those that the essay addresses, the marks? Those running the con aren't going to change; grifters is what grifters is. How do we transform the marks?

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  14. Excellent commentary, Jim. I knew this, but every time I read those numbers I am rendered speechless - again. The "re-education" has been so long and so complete that people are caught in a net of lies they have lost the ability and motivation to untangle. God help us.

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  15. Very nice. Small typo. "It takes it takes skill and commitment to "

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  16. Don't forget, the 2012 raid on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan was the largest single-day loss of aircraft for the US since the Vietnam war. Eight Harriers destroyed by guys with RPGs and satchel charges, I don't think F-22s would fair any better.

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  17. I've been reading your stuff a long time, Jim. You know you're right because of your experience. I know you're right because of my experience and the fact I've studied and written about World War II, the last war we fought that we won, and the idiot wars since (one of which I was in - the place where I learned you are right).

    This is definitely in your top 10, more likely in the top 5, and in the upper part of that. Thanks much.

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  18. Superb essay, one of the best you've ever written (and that's saying something). Well said!

    P.S. Minor typo: "It takes it takes skill and commitment to pull off a long-con".

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  19. Jim, Drive on, Brother. I'm a stickler for full citations of sources of quotations. The citation for President Eisenhower's quotation I obtained from the Eisenhower archives.gov site:
    Dwight D. Eisenhower, Address "The Chance for Peace" Delivered Before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, 4/16/53

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  20. Do those figures take in department of Homeland security? Border patrol, drug enforcement agency, and any agency that is used to protect the u.s.? Cia, FBI, NSA and the other 17 agencies. So how much do we really spend ?

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  21. Masterful.

    Typos:
    - Paragraph starting "But, well, not to unpatriotic ..." Missing "be."
    - Paragraph starting "You see, the Long Con ..." Fourth sentence begins "It takes it takes ..."
    - Paragraph starting "But what's the goal ..." "What's plan?" Missing "the" Also, same paragraph, "The environment impact statements?" "environmental" (?)
    - Paragraph starting "Trump claims to be a genius." The next sentence starts with "Of course ..." and also ends with "... of course." Apologies if this is simply a style versus typo issue.
    - Paragraph starting "For comparison and least you think ..." "lest" instead of "least."
    - Paragraph starting "Again, for comparison, in same amount of time ..." Missing "the."
    - Paragraph starting "And yet, we're spending 1.5 Trillion ... " Sentence reading "Just as they can't stop a fanatic with an suicide vest." Should be "a suicide vest."
    - Sentence starting "How is this military Trump plans ..." Sentence reading "Ronald Reagan created ... unlike any we'd seem ..." Should be "seen."
    - Paragraph starting "But here's the thing": ..." Quotation marks appear before the colon.

    Yes, I am a pedant. I admit it freely.

    Thank you for your voice of reason and for the brilliant way you express it. I'm so glad I found your Facebook group.

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    1. All fixed. Thanks for that detailed list, I appreciate it // Jim

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    2. If only all writers were as honest and interested in correctness as you.

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  22. Brilliant. Insightful. Typo: Third word dictators.

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  23. "Department of Preemptive Mayhem and Wanton Destruction maybe. War, Inc." Great new, more fitting name for the Dept. of 'Defense.' Love it!

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  24. If our national defense strategy is to make people money and to play on the fears of the gullible for political purposes it is a huge success. It is far less successful at assessing our national security needs in a balanced, limited way and addressing those needs at reasonable cost.
    One other comment. I would recommend not lionizing people like Musk too much. Titans of industry can be innovators and often have the power to reinvent the world (or parts of it) to match with their vision. Yet people like Musk, Jobs and other like them can often miss the less than beneficial side effects of execution of their vision. As one of my professors once put it, "there are no side effects, just effects."

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  25. No, the terrorists and third world dictators can't destroy us. They'll let us destroy ourselves, bankrupting the country into oblivion, just like the USSR. And the oligarchs will divide the spoils, just they did to the former USSR. This is one of your best, Jim, and needs to be required reading by everyone who claims to love this country.

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  26. That was an excellent quote from Eisenhower.

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    1. The last GOP president who was more interested in the welfare of the nation over the power of the party.

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  27. Holy COW, Jim. This is AMAZING. It should run on the front page of every single paper in this country. WHY are YOU not running our country?

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  28. Bravo, Jim. Bravo.

    This may be your best essay. Thank you.

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  29. I'm so glad you said it. He NEVER explains what he means. He reminds me of the kid in elementary school tasked with writing a 200 word essay and writes "very,very,very" as many times as possible hoping to get the passing grade with very very very little effort. Thank you

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  30. It's relentless, this macho chest thumping of politicians who will never actually ever put their lives on the line but demand our sons and daughters do. They know how to wear us down to the point we just give up. Don't give up. Great piece, Jim.

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  31. Outstanding essay. Thank you.
    Lucile Hester

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  32. In WW II my mother was at home, living with her parents with a small boy. Food was rationed and she got three gallons of gas a week.

    My father was in North Africa, food wasn't rationed and they washed clothing in gasoline because water was scarce.

    Catch-22 is not fiction.

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  33. Excellent article as usual. The amount of money we spend on war and the possibility of war makes me sick to my stomach. If our next president spent a tiny fraction of the military budget on peacekeepers, and diplomats, and negotiators, we may be able to sharply curtail the endless war machine. I have to believe that will happen one day in my lifetime; otherwise I would have no hope.

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  34. Shinier. Also, there's this really cool march type we intend to teach all our troops. It's called the "goosestep." You're gonna love it.

    EMH

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  35. YES!!!! A thousand times yes. You can control people with fear. This is why FOX news is one continual rolling feed of fear. If they have nothing political to make you afraid of they will tell you about that freak accident or superbug that killed someone in the most horrific way and yes, it could happen to you right now, if you don't take these very clever steps. Control, control, control. It makes people afraid and suspicious of one another. Most people are good and kind. Most people will help a stranger. But in conservative circles no way. They will steal your money and take your chldren. It's bullshit.
    We must continue to do good Ask questions. Demand answers. Yes! The media is slack now. I remember when journalists would confront with difficult, uncomfortable questions to a politician's face. Can anyone ever forget Dick Cavette's outstanding interview with ousted President Richard Nixon? We need more of that and less of the acceptance of endless lies from the current Press Secretary. We need more spine. We need to ask each other when a Trump supporter says we need a wall, we need to deport them all or we need a bigger better military. Ask how that looks. Ask them. They do not know.
    We're all sheep now. We have the government we have because we, for the most part have been apathetic. It's on us to fix it.

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  36. You can see form his "health care" signing just what he means -- destruction, chaos, and death to the little people.

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  37. I keep repeating myself, saying that an essay of yours is the best. But this is. So many points, eloquently stated, that I've struggled to express. Thank you.

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  38. This was the article I would have written if I was smart enough or knowledgeable enough. Thanks, Jim. Again.

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  39. Jim,

    This is probably one the best (if not the best) essays you've ever written.

    (and I have been following you on Facebook and Stonekettle for four years now)

    This essay mirrors exactly what I have been saying for over a year now, since Donald Trump got "elected" in 2016.

    The biggest problem in our country right now (among many, many problems) is that as a country, we believe in fairy tales.

    We believe in fairy tales about our history, what our country is, our place in the world, and who we are as a people.

    It is so, so much easier to believe in fairy tales than to believe in and accept the truth.

    The biggest fairy tale of them all? American Exceptionalism. "'Murka is the Greatest Nation in the World and don't you forget it!"

    No, we are not the "greatest country in the world" or the "best country in the world" but millions, indeed tens of millions of our fellow Americans believe that fairy tale with every fiber of their being.

    The truth is, we are far, far from the "greatest country in the world" but try and tell that to other Americans. You don't get very far, to say the least.

    And, since we're the "greatest country in the world" we obviously must have (and must spend huge sums of money) on the "greatest military in the world" to the exclusion of other, rather more pressing needs in our society.

    Our education system is failing us. Our country's infrastructure is falling apart. Our country is lagging behind other countries because we don't want to accept the truth.

    We will not be able to move forward as a country until we stop believing in fairy tales.

    (like, for instance, the many, many fairy tales Donald Trump told in 2016)

    As a country, we need to grow up and stop believing in fairy tales.

    Until that happens, we will continue to fall further and further behind.

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  40. Excellent essay. Thank you for your writing. If you don't mind, Jim, I am going to make paper copies and pass them around to be read by the "citizenry" in hopes that people will vote wisely, by asking questions, in the upcoming elections in 2018 and beyond.

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  41. Was it the War in Korea, the War in Viet Nam, the War in Iraq, the War in Afghanistan? It is as you say, a War department. As a first step our current regime should follow you and reinstate the War Department. Might change a few loyal citizens view of where their dollars are spent, not on defense but on War. Paint our own fences first, then if there's some left over offer it at a bargain price to those whose fences far away always seem to need painting first. Fine work, Jim.

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  42. Even for us in Britain, WWII was a war of choice with no particular existential threat. Even without the RAF the Nazis could only mug their jailer. By the time you lot came in, they'd got bored with that that and lost in front of Moscow. Japan? 80-90% forces bogged down in China and totally incapable of treatening Britain let alone USA even freeing that up. Absent the idiot Churchill, most of our debacles wouldn't have happened. From this end of history your "Good War" and "Greatest Generation" are just more imperialist bullshit. Nice quote from Ike, shame asbout the tanks in his inauguration parade and his actual presidency. Simone Weil, have you seen how she came to die? The woman was more than a little bit cracked. Examine Elon Musk's ideas a little more closely; yet another snake oil salesman knee deep in bullshit. Stephen Hawking is a great scientist but all you, I, or anyone else needs to know about time is how to tell it. Without Gorbachev's arse backwards 'reforms' the USSR would still be with us; see the PRC. Great post otherwise; but do tell, considerdering the Democratic Party is not a lot better (Obarmpot didn't bring the troops home or shut Guantanamo; but doubled down on the drone strikes and started new wars. 'Prism' anybody?)how you will actually get within a mile of any of the problems you point out. Eight years of a Trump wrecking ball may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the US: the sane amongst you might wake up to your country being completely borked and set to creating something better than the faux "republic" you have now. I won't hold my breathe though.

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  43. Both brilliant and infuriating, as always. I can't help but think that Putin knows his history and is chuckling as he watches us do the same thing that broke the USSR.

    Typos: "Personal" rather than personnel, twice in the paragraph beginning, "Let me give you an example".

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  44. OMG Jim, thank you. As usual your essays are not only educational but engaging and enlightening. So proud to be a friend ( even though we have never met) so proud of your work.

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  45. Pretzelogic in Philly, PAFebruary 13, 2018 at 8:47 PM

    Another powerful & thought provoking essay. I've come to expect no less from you. One minor grammar correction to offer:

    "4,486 American service personal died in the most recent Iraq War. 2,345 American military personal have so far died in Afghanistan."

    In each instance, that should be "personnel", yes? Although for those impacted, I imagine it could hardly have been more personal as well.

    Thank you for all your good work.

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  46. I hope maybe now in this Trump era people will understand why displays of blind patriotism and reverent thanks for my service don't just cause me embarrassment but in many ways despair that, that (in my case minor) sacrifice in service was all for nothing.
    You hit it on the head again Jim.

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  47. The greatest cause of misery in the USA is poverty. Endless war ensures an endless supply of the poor.

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  48. Don't like the politicians you have? Ask yourself when was the last election you missed voting for. If your answer was many years ago, that's okay because the politicians elected are likely out of office. If it was sooner, then what's your complaint? If you don't vote, then you have effectively voted for the winner.

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    1. here's a complaint . . . I was given the choice between HRC and Donald Trump . . . that means I was given NO choice at all. both parties opted for the lowest common denomonater and we are suffering the consequence.

      That 'vote' argument only holds water when there are two fine human beings on the various tickets. so . . .

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    2. I'm going to assume that this nonsense is either your excuse for voting for Trump or for not voting at all. In either case you are to blame for this presidency. You were conned by Trump, the GOP, Fox news, Breitbart, etc & the Russians. You bought the snake oil they were selling so don't come crying now about lack of choice.

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    3. wow man you are assuming a whole lot there . . .

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  49. Cogent and stunning. As I tell my writing students, When a guy tries to sell his assertions by saying "Buh-LEEVE me," don't.

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  50. Your opening quote immediately brought to mind Frank Herbert. Now I'm going to read the rest of the essay. Tomorrow, I have a long day ahead. You startled me, I'm not used to such frequent posts. : )

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  51. Not sure where you get your information. Making the military great again just means spending enough to actually have all our planes ready to fly. Ships ready to sail. Etc. The last 8 years has hollowed out the military. If you want a world where you can have commerce world wide you are going to need a "world policeman". We got that honor right after WWII. If you want to give that up and save some money, then it's time to bring all our manufacturing home. Just in case ISIS or NK or China decides they like spending money on war machines and take what they want. All those non military things you think the feds should pay for actually are the responsibility of the state governments. That is if you read the contract the states agreed to back in 1787. They called it the Constitution. Nice con. Everybody thinks the problem is Trump, when it is the bureaucracy. The 'Deep State'. We have some major problems in this country and one of them is that we are conducting a 'cold' civil war. The future is bleak. We need to figure out how not to be dependent on the govt. and survive.

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    1. In what was is the US miltary not "great"? As Jim says, there is no power in the world that could defeat the US toe to toe on the battlefield - the US is not going to be invaded. ISIS are indeed pissants, as is the NK dictator. China is probably returning back to its usual place in the world in the last 2000 years.

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  52. I didn't have time to read the whole essay but in just skimming it I got the gist. Bravo. I'm 74 years old so the quotation of Ike struck a chord with me. I believe he also coined the term "Military Industrial Complex".

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  53. Damn, now I have nothing to add. I mean, I could, but anything I write wouldn't add anything except to make your point.

    Simmering rage becomes you. And I'm sharing this fer shure. Thanks Jim.

    Leroy

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  54. A big beautiful military is the centerpiece of the Great American Welfare System. There are many citizens, big and small, who depend on it.

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  55. Brilliant...opening with Simone Weil and closing with Pres. Eisenhower

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  56. "We will have a military like we've never had before."

    A military unit is only viable until their supply line is cut . . . then all those fancy guns that quickly expended all the ammo become billy clubs, and after all the grenades get tossed all that is left is the same old K bar knife our fathers used . . . until finally, just like fighters of old, it's all samo samo fists and fingernails. . . .and exactly the same stench that the Romans and the Greeks and everybody that ever lifted a weapon against his brother knows by heart.

    Now that silly asshole wants a parade? I fear for this country.

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  57. A great essay Jim. One of your best & certainly one of your boldest.

    Of course the CON didn't start with Trump. He exacerbates it & uses it for his own ends & glorification. Not a single president (at least since Ike) would dare say what you have said. Even those who maybe sympathize with these ideas (Obama, Carter ?) would have been called un-American. But American allies get it. You know, all those NATO countries (like mine, Canada) who aren't pulling their weight. They've all figured it out. Of course they can't say so anymore than past presidents can.

    Well maybe now's the time. Dammit, something good ought to come from this presidency!

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  58. "Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?
    Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason"
    -- Sir John Harrington (1561–1612)

    https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/02/intelligence-chiefs-trump-has-not-directed-us-to-stop-russian-meddling/

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  59. Wow! Excellently written. Kudos 😎😎😎

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  60. I'm paraphrasing here because I'm trapped by the cat and can't go look it up, but somewhere Stephen King said he never describes his monsters in detail because our minds to most of the work for him. He never says it's a 10 foot twenty-eyed bug at the door because then you'll relax, thinking "At least is wasn't 15 feet tall with 30 eyes!" Most people have active imaginations. All it takes is a taut phrase to rev those engines.

    Okay, my metaphors are getting out of hand, but I hope the idea came through, anyway.

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  61. Great essay, and I fully agree that the US military is ridiculously overblown. That said, isn't the supposed justification for the invisible fighters for use against the Chinese or Russians, rather than terrorists?

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  62. Hello Jim,
    I have been reading and enjoying your essays for a while but have yet to comment. I do have a question tough. Do you think, if ordered by the president, the US military would act against US citizens? I was having this debate with someone recently and we honestly could not decide (neither of us have been in the military). Since your last couple essays have dealt with service and its obligations I was hoping you could give me your perspective.
    Thank you.

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  63. Another great blog. You need to be out there on talk shows giving Americans a kick in the butt. Your points are reasonable and you use facts to back them up - something Trumpo and his cronies have never done. Keep it up!

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  64. you wrote"Trump claims to be a genius. Of course we have only his word for that and he’s a little short on the details of who certified his intellect."
    I nearly choked laughing.
    But $700 Billion? Dear god.That's an obscene amount to spend on armaments et cetera when,as you say,he never mentions making healthcare ,education or the easing of monetary problems a priority.
    Had to reach for the tissues then-and I thought I could discern a rage in your voice.I can see the gradual acceptance of such things as dental care that is paid for by "plans" and zero-hours contracts creeping into the UK and I'm fearful for our NHS.
    Keep on writing like this please and let no-one deter you.I try to educate the young people I meet with your wisdom.
    X Beth

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  65. On a similar note, just a few weeks ago, 44 Argentine sailors were lost on a submarine, an extremely dangerous vessel that so far as my two South American coworkers and I can tell (you might correct us on this), Argentine had no use for. So far as we could see, Argentina's adversaries are easily deterred and defeated with just a surface fleet, except for Britain, which can only be credibly deterred with a nuclear subs, not a diesel that has to raise snorkels at regular interval.

    So 44 sailors went down on board a prestige weapon. How many US servicemen would lose their lives as a result of bad priorities driven by a demand for escalated showmanship?

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  66. Off-topic: Have you previously written about gerrymandering?

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  67. I have it on background that Trump's IQ Test, his tax returns, and the Pentagon's audit ready budget are all on deposit in Trump's Gastroenterolgist's fireproof safe. If you dig way to the bottom, you will find Reagan's plans for the invasion of Grenada. Where are the Plumbers when we really need them?

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  68. Jim,

    I know you're probably writing an essay dealing with this, but I had to comment on Putin's message and Trump's reaction

    Since we both live in Florida, the image of ballistic weapons over our state was disturbing. Putin is sending notification that he is back on stage and is the biggist dog in the world.

    What is even more disturbing is that the best the President could do this morning was to tweet about Alex Baldwin's performance on SNL. WTF??

    It almost makes me believe that Putin has something on Trump. Perhaps one of those visits to Moscow has put Trump under his thumb. Think of Putin having a video of Trump enjoying both a hummer and a golden shower in a Moscow hotel. Why would an ex KGB guy pass up the chance.

    I know, I sould like a conspiracy theorist, but maybe, just maybe, this is what is in play.

    CS in Fla.

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  69. I always like to read your analysis, but with this one you have outdone yourself, IMHO.

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