Our Billionaire Masters

You may be inclined to say, “Duh!  Where have you been?” to this but I have only recently begun to realize that the current state of things is being distorted by individuals, not institutions such as corporations or government or parties.  We tend to attribute to institutions obscuring the point that individuals with names and intentions are behind the institutional actions.  We need to personalize institutional actions so that we can know who is waging political and economic war on us.  I am not skilled at digging out such information but will, henceforth, work to improve my attention to it.

PERMANENT CLASS WARFARE:

Our democracy is under attack as never before.There has always been a struggle to keep the wealthy from tipping this democracy beyond recovery. The tendency of rich men (and few women) to control and manipulate this our government to their own ends at the expense of the majority of citizens is always a part of balancing freedom, commerce and democracy.  The wealthy, as a whole, usually want to bend government to their own selfish ends and to hell with the people.  There are now people so rich that they are virtually extra-national.  Their agenda is to shape the world governments and societies in such a way that they are never regulated, never taxed or in any way constrained by any obligations of citizenship.  In the past 20 years they have manipulated corporations to their individual benefits; they have generated institutions of think tanks, lobbyists, and “grass roots rabble rousers” to immobilize our democratic institutions and re-shape them into their minions.   Further, they have done this stealthily. 

In the past we have counted upon countervailing forces in the society to keep such runaway greed and billionaire totalitarianism in check.  However, never before has so much power become concentrated, even ceded, piece by piece but in ever larger chunks as in the past 20 years or so.  A class war has been waged against the people, successfully by subtle stages until most of the counter forces have been co-opted, bought and subverted in a continuous purposeful takeover of any institutions that might limit their extraordinary grasp.

There are the obvious elements: the purchase and near control of government at almost every level, the ownership and manipulation of the press and media and the attacks on every front of any capacity for individual citizens to organize themselves into any opposition by numbers (the only real power to save us from a total takeover).  

A THOUGHT EXERCISE ON WEALTH

 Let us consider a thought problem which should illustrate the vast differences among the power of the rich:  between a billionaire and a mere millionaire and between them and us. This exercise is intended to lend a sense of proportion to the vast amounts of power involved.

There are approximately 1, 011 billionaires in the word now (up from 793 in 2009) their total wealth is about 3.6 Trillion dollars.  There are about 403 Billionaires in the USA worth about 1.3 Trillion dollars (greater than the GDP of Canada). Several are extra-national, ultra-billionaires who regard themselves above nationality (consciously and subconsciously).  These ultra-rich men are interested in the United States as a convenience and the best chance to buffer their own interests and comfort (Rupert Murdoch is a good example).

There are about 10.3 million millionaires in the World who are worth about a total of 39 trillion dollars.  There are about 7.8 million millionaires.  In the USA (and about 980,000 million ultra-millionaires, people with >$5 million).

For this purposes of this exercise, let us count seconds as if they were dollars.  In a way using time is a good comparison as it is finite for individuals. Each person has a limited amount of time to live, provide, take care of our families, recreate a little and then, perhaps, have a little, but not much, left over for concerns and actions to take care of our interests in this democracy.

Starting at the bottom with a comfortable, middle class salary of $80,000, the available time resources to you, converting dollars to seconds in time, would give you about 22.2 hours worth of seconds (less than a day).   One could assume that any person, billionaire or not, could get by pretty comfortably on 22 hours with little left over to influence your world. I’m going to consider this a measure of basic subsistence (I realize it’s generous).

We imagine (at least I do) if we had the resources of a millionaire we could do a lot for our community or country.  Actually a million seconds is that much.  If a millionaire’s dollars were converted to seconds it would give him the equivalent of 11.5 days of power.  Take away 22 hours of basic subsistence, this guy has 10.5 more days free than we have.

Prepare to be stunned (as I was) by the proportional power of the super rich.  If you think you have a chance to counterbalance the influence of Koch brothers or of Rupert Murdoch, or of numerous other ultra-billionaires whose names we should but don’t know well enough, consider the following:

A billionaire with only one billion seconds ($), one billion seconds of  time  value equal to 35.7 years of resources to mold our world to his favor  It’s small wonder that we have any semblance of a free press , or a court that acts for the people, or a legislators at any level that pursues your interests.  Each institution is being co-opted from many directions for the ultra-rich.

We have compared a 1 billionaire (35.7 years) with a 1 millionaire (11.7 days or a week and a half) and with us, poor schmucks, with less than a day to our name.  This is a simple comparison but let’s look at some actualities.

Rupert Murdoch-controls greater than $6 billion (6 X 35 years or 210 years of resources available) mainly invested in an international network of propaganda outlets that overtly and subtly press a pro billionaire agenda (making his “journalists” into mere millionaires in the process).

The Koch brothers right wing manipulators and industrialists whose industries bring in an estimated $100 billion (350 years of power).  They fund think tanks, elections, so called “grass roots” groups like the Tea Baggers, not to mention lobbyists.  Add any number of other, less well known ultra-billionaires who are equally active and it is a powerful cabal, indeed.

I hasten to add that there are the many rich people who do try to contribute to society and behave as citizens of this country.  Their values go beyond mere moneyed interests:  Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and George Soros to name a few.

People who have any significant amount of money will necessarily see their political interests in line with other super rich.  Even if two billionaires were in competition with each other in business their interests coalesce when it comes to the overall agenda of no constraints and no democratic opposition.  Anyone approximating wealth will tend to support their agenda except perhaps Hollywood.   Rich people are not in competition with each other when subverting democracy. There they see their interest as joined.

 Anti-democracy is not too strong a term to describe their agenda.  Individual rights, the ability to organize, voter registration rights, unions, registration organizers (Acorn, e.g.) have all been successfully attacked.   Currently they see any grass roots people’s institution (unions) as bastions of resistance to them. They view the people much as the Masters in the South viewed any aspect of slave community as threatening their hegemony.  Southerners were terrified of the idea of slave rebellion.  It made their hot southern blood run cold (actually many still fear this today). 

The ultra-rich simply do not want you to have ability to oppose them.  The only power left to us is our vote and our ability to organize.   Numbers of voters is what they fear and despise the most. However, encroachments by the Billionaire agenda into our institutions (the courts, blocking legislation, mobilizing the Tea Baggers to neutralize the political process, to name a few) make it harder and harder and harder to mobilize public resistance.   Liberals grasp at straws hoping the crowds that came out when their unions were attacked will sustain.  But inertia resides like “The Undertoad” (thank you John Irving) ready to arise as soon as things seem better.   Keep in mind that if Wisconsin’s and Ohio’s public employees and liberals had gotten their asses out to vote in the first place they would not have had to fight these issues.  The Ultra-billionaire agenda is always ready to exploit these lapses.

The billionaire war is so successful that Democratic politicians have been co-opted by it, as well. They try to walk the tight wire of accommodation while offering a little, puny resistance but capitulating to the Billionaire Agenda more often than not. But they need the donations to get elected.

The Agenda continuously influences culture as well.  One can relatively rich by pandering to the Billionaire agenda.   Michelle Bachman, Glen Beck, John Stossel, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingram, Michelle Malkin, the repulsive, Andrew Breitbart and Ann Coulter actually are ‘media sluts” for the rich and should be viewed only as that by rational person.   They are interchangeable ciphers nobodies who are getting rich and famous as shills for the Billionaire Agenda. Sometimes I think about getting rich that way but am overcome by nausea pretty quickly.   These people have no real points of view they just speak to the Agenda and collect their orts (crosswords anyone) from under the tables of the ultra-rich. Their ideas shift with the gaseous winds of the ultra-rich.  Oddly, Michelle Bachman, Glen and the Tea Baggers are right about democracy under threat.   Our system is indeed under siege, the siege, however, is from their quarter;  not from so-called ‘rabid socialists.”  Indeed we are likely becoming a totalitarian state but not totalitarian government.  It will be a new totalitarianism of the rich (think that was called fascism, but we need less colloquial terms for these things).  They will be individuals hiding behind corporations, constantly attacking our institutions and the means for people to organize a society.  In the future they will enforce their oligarchy with either a co-opted military or with out-sourced mercenaries like of Xe (Blackwater now) to keep us in check.  They will maintain a superficial appearance of the democracy we expect but it will simple be a greater sham than it is becoming now.

Soon when our Ultra-rich Masters are fully in charge, our grand American experiment will be gone.  When it is done, nothing like it may ever exist again.

(also see: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/06/05-1      and    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/01/the-rise-of-the-new-global-elite/8343/

 

THE GENIUS OF THE FAR RIGHT VS THE NAIVITY OF THE LEFT

For over a year or whenever the teabaggers began, there has been a stunning demonstration on how to demagogue your enemy while labeling him the demagogue.

From the beginning they used the techniques of both the Fascists of

Italy (and I hate to say this: it’s so trite now) the Nazis to say that the left, the Democrats, and President Obama are fascists and Nazis and paradoxically Socialists.   In the decade before either Mussolini or Hitler came to power, they had their followers and thugs confronting, badgering and frightening their opposition by rude and coarse confrontations.  This gave a sense of greater strength than they actually had.  The result was that the civil forces in the society became afraid of the judgments of the right and their influence upon the electorate.  Loudly opposing Communists and lumping labor and liberalism with the communist movement lead to a general sense of foreboding.  This foreboding began to be picked up by the people at large, especially when the economies began to falter.  This ultimately led to the appointments of Mussolini and of Hitler as heads of government without protest while each only had 5% of the electorate (that’s only five percent).  All opposition seemed stifled by the success of the right wing propaganda.

For what has been happening in our country recently, I fault the left and the Democratic Party at least 80%.  Why?  Despite repeated demonstrations by the right lasting for 2 decades, the Democrats refuse to use the simplest, known propaganda tools to make their message effective.  One can use some universal principles of persuasion without becoming the enemy.  Why the Democratic party does not have a liberal Frank Lutz on the payroll is beyond me.  However, I would not be surprised if they do but don’t use him/her. Some issues need reframing into more simple and repeatable terms.  There needs to be a little work on talking point i.e., having some and using them. And simplest of all, Repetition. That’s right, repetition.  Even when Democrats succeed at something or make a great point, they say it once (usually in a dry, convoluted, non-emotion appealing way) assuming, I guess, that it should carry on face value.   The only thing the Democrats seem to repeat in this arena is the failure to accommodate event the simple principles.

I will not donate to the Democratic Party anymore unless I see them investing in getting the messages out effectively.  As long as they let the right continue to define the issues in their hateful ways, responding only and not learning to define the dialogue I think they are hopeless.  Power seekers without enough will to power.

We can have better transparency right now!

    We could improve transparency of corporate and governmental institutions right now.      Most reporting incidentally buries important information when referring to institutions. Whenever people in an agency or company or corporation make decisions or take actions that are worthy of being reported, the majority of the time the item is reported as, corporation x is closing several divisions. Subsequently the issue is depersonalized by the continued use of the abstract institution’s name.  Persons or spokespersons are sometimes referenced but that does not place a personal face upon the decision.  People decided things in corporations and in government, not agencies or companies.  People should be identified each time an agency is referenced for an action or mistake.  “General motors denied responsibility.”  No theydid not! Responsible people in General Motors have decided to deny responsibility.  People always do it and the sense that the decisions are abstracted changes the very nature of the information.  If the specific person responsible is not known (and I realize that there is collective action in institutions) then identify the head of the organization, every time.  “The president of General Motors is Smugly J. Lobby.” is an example.  “The Department of Blockheads issued an explanation for the decision to charge a fee for breathing.  The chairman of the department is Beau Recrat.”    The idea that the corporation is a legal person is anathema to me because it allows the cumulative actions and decisions to be melded into a form of non-responsibility by removing human identity from the reference.  Humans who do things can experience embarrassment or shame when faced with the opinions of others.  This does not happen when humans do things within agencies and relying upon investigation, the law or other tedious procedures cedes the powerful influences that come from having an identity within a culture.  The ability to remain obscured from day to day, by the blanket of the institution encourages a kind of – drift in that persons tend to make decisions independent of the immediate approval or dis approval of others except their fellows within the agency.  Then when a faulty product or a dumb decision results, the cover of the institution allows for obfuscation and denial of responsibility.    Right now clarity and a sense of accountability would improve if some responsible party were named each time an institutional identity were referenced.  CEOs and agency heads and Department Secretaries would be the face or their agencies outputs and might cause subsequent humanizing of their companies and agencies to avoid personal shame or embarrassment or perhaps to gain approval.  Unlike Pinocchio who became a “real boy” institutions will remain impassive, amoral entities.  Maybe with a little more expectation directed at the people within they might be just a little more human.

Why the Sexually Repressed Fear Gay Marriage

Caveat: The comments below may contain what some would call ‘Psychobabble”. I take issue with this term as it usually comes from someone who asserts that commonplace, intuitively constructed descriptions of behavior are somehow clearer and more valid than constructions based on scientific-like protocols, decades of systematic reasoning and theory development and serious scholarship. There is a certain amount of pop, opportunist and specious ‘psychobabble’ created for fame and money. however, equivalent superficial “econobabble,” “historico-babble” and “medico-babble” exists for the same reason. Valid psychological principles do explain human behavior better than religious or so called ‘common sense’ explanations. We just don’t want to face that they include ourselves. Any Fool Should Know that any interpretation of the motives and actions of another person involves projection. If I reason that your actions are due to an inordinate attachment to pudding, I am revealing that. I could be strongly moved by zest for pudding (chocolate). At some level I have to consider the possibility for myself before I can even consider it influences you. I could conjecture that you act because of carbonaceous macrocosmic crepitation but because I have no idea what that is and cannot even consider a concept that is not in my brain. If you act because of variables that I cannot conceive nor which have never occured to me, I cannot begin to understand you. I will only be able to guess what you’re about based upon what I know (or believe I know) not the actual reasons. Since i cannot conceive of the real basis of your motives, I would have to be wrong in any reasons I offer. THEREFORE, anyone who believes that homosexuality is a choice has to believe that it is a choice for himself or herself. it is no wonder that religious zealots and white supremacists alike react so strongly to homosexuality. They must outlaw and condemn the idea of gay existence and beat the up those whom they encounter lest their own gay impulses surface. It is, after all, a battle against their own fears and impulses because the see a choice. Is should not be any surprise that the smugly religious anti-gay zealot is so often caught in secret gay assignations.
This Crabbyoldman grew up in an era when any awareness of gay existence was suppressed. I was in seventh grade when one of my friends was saying something about homosexuals and I had no idea what he was talking about. When I asked and he explained (in adolescent terms, no doubt) I remember having difficulty understanding because it had simply never occurred to me as a possibility before. You cannot think about something you’ve never conceived of before. I’m not saying this to compensate for sexual self doubt (at least of this kind), unlike the anti-gay zealots it just had never occurred to me before. Further, i understood pretty quickly that sexual preference was predetermined because I had been salaciously interested in women as long as I could remember. I had been embarrassed by my older sister when she caught me ogling the women’s underwear section of the Sears catalogue when I was 5 and announced it to the family. I may have been scarred for life but no matter.
When I hear the rigidly religious right’s protestations and condemnations I always assume they are struggling against their own worries. Gay marriage is only a threat to hetero marriage if at some level you are afraid you might not stay hetero if there were a choice. Anyone else doesn’t give a damn. I’m not surprised that the Catholic clergy (wink,wink) and doctrine is so reactionary but I did not realize that Mormons who have to struggle so to resist marrying their little girls were so engaged in a struggle to maintain their heterosexuality. Is polygamy hetero overcompensation after all; part of a continuous battle against turning gay? Why else would the Mormon church (but I sure hope, not the Marriotts: we own timeshares) pour such money into ending gay marriage in California? If California maintains the right of gay marriage, how long will it take for the repressed Mormon secret gays burst into gay polyandry. Psychology has an awkward term for all this, ‘reaction formation': an important concept with a terrible name. “Me thinks thou doth protest too much” describes this defense the best. I am slightly sympathetic to denied personal struggles of all the Pro Prop 8 fanatics but keep them to your selves. I wish they’d just go home, visit their secret porn sites and work it out and leave decent self-aware hetero and gay Californians to continue to live their mature and adjusted lives. Way more adjusted than those pitifully sad lives of aggressive denial.

ANY FOOL KNOWS OR SHOULD KNOW BY NOW (AFSK)

oldman-draft.jpgWhile this old man was getting old, it became apparent time after time that people (“These…..people!” as Daniel Plainview says in ‘There Will Be Blood.’), usually people in high places, cannot seem to remember well established facts and concepts, blundering ahead with actions and policies as if there was no history. Beyond history there are simply many things that ANY FOOL SHOULD KNOW by now. This page is going to collect some of these items, over time, so that non-fools have a place to find many all together. How after all can you ask Lexus/Nexus about some AFSK fact if you do not know it. You cannot conceive it because you don’t know it 1. AFSKnow by now that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. An example: AFSK that past behavior is a better predictor of future behavior than tests, astrology, verbal statement (also behaviors of course), prayer, or promises. That is not to say people cannot change, but not a lot in a short time. Sometimes it seems that people can make significant change quickly; behave very differently after a mystical experience or a profound insight. Looking closer usually reveals that the behavior has merely changed its purpose not the way it comes out. Eric Hoffer, a brilliant self-educated, longshoreman wrote The True Believer in the 1950’s. Perhaps because of the non-linear nature of his self-education he was able to think more freely about things than we who followed the traditional paths. He observed that an extremist will remain an extremist, even when his beliefs change to the opposite. His example: St. Paul was a zealous and effective persecutor and slayer of early Christians. After his conversion he was a zealous and effective proselytizer of Christianity (I always suspected he would have been a very effective bureaucrat.) Hoffer’s ideas have been reinforced empirically by psychologists repeatedly.Most of the East German secret police establishment were made up of ex-Gestapo. If your angry at the world and believe you are treated wrongly, resenting the many who do not measure up for you, get saved! Your spirit (chronic mood) will be lifted and you can judge others freely and self righteously (while proclaiming love, keeping you virtuous) condemn them for their faults, beliefs and sexual orientation. You can even hope for ‘the rapture’ when you will be chosen and those same short-measure people, hopefully, will be tormented before your eyes. Conversion looks like a big change but it’s just the content and does give you permission to feel good.A raging, hostile irresponsible drunk genuinely gives it up. Like pulling the keystone from an arch, a narrow set of behaviors (drinking) that influenced all his other actions, is gone. Subsequently it may be like night and day but to Alcoholics Anonymous and others that is just the start of change.Because too many of us fools seem to keep disregarding this concept, we show ourselves to be very bad judges of character, especially when voting. 2. Generalized civilian bombing fortifies a people’s defiance. It makes them more determined not to surrender.At the beginning of Shock & Awe when many fools who should have known better, started the Iraq war, Donald Rumsfelt said something like, “I like to put myself in the shoes of my enemies and I think [sic shifting pronouns] that they might want to change their side to avoid such bombing.” Keeping #1 above in mind, he could not change his mind and would have been even more resistant were he bombed. During WWII, virtually every man served and many were researchers and thoughtful scholars and they studied peoples reactions to being bombed and the determination of both our enemies and allies (England:we will fight them ….etc.) and golly, they concluded this AFK fact. They wrote it in articles and texts. I even heard of it in seventh grade. “Hmm”, I thought, “that makes a lot of sense.” That was minutes before a protracted period of preoccupation with girls. Most of our generals these days have advanced degrees but somehow they cannot seem to remember this fact, making the bombing mistake again and again. 3. One, no you, cannot conceive of another’s motive without having the thought of that motive yourself. All our beliefs about others is necessarily Projection.We say as much, or more, about ourselves when we talk about others. I get such a kick out of Rush Limbaugh (in lieu of getting to give a kick “SEE”) when he and his Foxy friends make their high schoolish attributions about the motives of their straw enemies (liberals, I guess). Doesn’t Ann Coulter realize the very nature of her hostile attacks betray her internal preoccupations suggesting that it’s pretty scary and angry inside there. I know it’s pretty scary in here so I can imagine what she’s like inside. You see how it works? Every thing I say here reflects on me.A person cannot attribute a motive that has never occurred to him. If a student had never seen, been told of, nor thought of cheating, he will not understand what that kid that keeps looking over at his paper is doing. Of course, the next time he will.The fact that one by experience can surmise the mind of another with some predictive accuracy (keeping #1 in mind) does not necessarily mean that his motives are the same. An FBI profiler is not a killer rapist because his contacts give him understanding. However, his depth of understanding is likely better if he, like an actor, is able to allow himself to identify aspects of the other in himself. That’s why being good at that job can have effects on the agent that are as risky as getting shot. As Peewee Herman put it, “I know you are but what am I.” 4. Human beings are capable of conjecturing or conceiving of anything, anything! Doesn’t Hollywood make this obvious? AFSK this goes way beyond Hollywood (Bollywood, too). Virtually every abstract belief, and many not so abstract, is conjecture and is supported by the consensual conjecture of others. In other words, most beliefs are not supported empirically (so we don’t like to test them) and are arbitrary agreements about their basis. The law, democracy, morality are conjectures. Because these conjectures are easier to share and often have a salutary effect upon our comfort or survival we collectively concur in our preference for such principles. One could conceive (and many do) that killing and maiming as many as one chooses is actually a proper act and tie it to a rationale (suicide and kill bombs for God). Persons with inclinations and/or behaviors that are way out of the norm (David Koresh) can easily conceptualize a rational that becomes a life or death issue.We can murder in warfare, under the law, and a muerte code with fewer personal emotional consequence than conducting a random murder. Dead is dead, the idea that people sitting around doing ceremonies and conjecturing meaningful notions and thinking of abstractions like immortality and honor changes that never fails to bother me. Legitimate killing is just a preference that a group decides on, often for good concrete reasons, but it’s legitimacy is still pure conjecture and is not a law of nature. If you conceive of abortion as murder, the problem is in the concept. If you think of it as a clinical deletion of cells much as our body does by itself constantly, it is another matter. The concepts are opposed and cannot be reconciled empirically. We can try to use The Law, a systematic system of conjecture the purpose of which is to create, develop, and manage conjecture. If ever there were a conjecture machine it would be the law. It is a bit more systematic than its fellow system, religion. All this is not to say that conjectures do not have impact by influencing behavior and sometime becoming less conjectural through empirical examination. Some conjecture influences the behaviors of people significantly positively and negatively so it needs to be regarded. It might do us better to remind ourselves that we can imagine almost anything and act on it. Others do, we do so we need to keep a perspective on ourselves. Of course, a concept itself. Thanks to our growing knowledge of the brain we may be able to find the tangible physical representations of a concept. But that would not keep it from being a nutty idea.

The protection of privacy is is being lost, what can replace it? Maybe this.

PBS had an interesting panel discussing privacy.  Most operate under the premise that it can be managed or protected somehow. Possibly it cannot, ultimately, be saved.  It is already eroded to an extent that I for one cannot even begin to conceive.  In fact, I am amazed at the continued residual illusion of privacy that I and everyone I know, live under. I think most of us have no idea how extensively our information is disseminated.  If the NSA monitors us, it is a drop in the bucket from what I hear.  We, justifiably need to be outraged and fight such a thing but for reasons beyond the meaning of privacy.Given a premise that the continued loss of privacy cannot be stopped, what could be done to protect us from…whom?    To protect us from power and one of the fundamental elements of power is its ability to conceal information from us while intruding upon our lives.  That’s what the framers thought we needed protection from.  It is a singular characteristic of all tyrannies.  Thought control whether by the Christian church via The Inquisition or by Stalin and Hitler through intimate informants.  Now the tools they have are overwhelming.  We complain about the lack of transparency of the administration; that’s exactly it: secrecy confers and protects power.In my crabby opinion there is only one solution available to human society under the circumstances:  That is to go to the opposite extreme and develop a society of laws and mores that opposes secrecy of any kind by anybody.  If Dick Chaney can find out where I go on the internet, I should be able to know where he goes equally and he should be aware.  The Ultimate Accountability: Mandatory Transparency for everyone. (I hope Lynne Truss does not read this as I am too lazy to pick up Eats, shoots, and Leaves to correct the punctuation horrors I am likely committing here.).

It is said that you can tell our true character by what we do when no one else will know.  Omygod!  Who could stand the thought of that being known?   Yet, what if we grew up in a society, that from the beginning, had the expectation that there would be no secrets, legally or by social expectation?  I can’t imagine everything we would experience but we certainly would learn we would have to stand behind each of our choices publicly.  We would actually have to be responsible for ourselves instead of just talking about responsibility while hiding from much of it.  What if the greatest sin one could commit in the eyes of others was to refuse to disclose, have secrets.

I gotta go but more on this later.

Out national defense is too important to leave to the professionals

The majority of men from a little after my era, going back to WWII, served some time in the military. While we often reluctantly did so, most of us learned a lot about organizations, competence, duplicity and stupidity that was useful to us for the rest of our lives.  We also learned about doing stuff we neither wanted to do nor thought we could do.  Even those who would never have chosen the military for any other reason would admit that they got something useful from it.

One important experience the military gave was the mixing as an equal with all kinds of people.  If you were middle or upper middle class, you learned that there were smart and decent people in other classes and other groups.  You learned that you could serve with them and depend on them as well as they on you (hopefully).  They learned equally that education does not necessarily confer competence, humanity or morality.  It was a worthy democratizing process for all.

I heard many during the civil rights days say that they were not prejudiced until they were in the service.  Actually they were prejudiced but they just tested whether they wanted to change those prejudices (and many did) or commit to harboring them, that is commit to racism.  As everyone is prejudiced (that’s conditioned),  committing to holding on to those prejudices is racism.

Recently we have begun to idealize the military and from positions of ignorance imagine that it is a nearly foolproof organization that excels in all that it does.  Before you accuse me of hating the troops, you better have some service under you belt or shut up!  Because I am not just Crabby but an old man, I have learned that all institutions seem marvelous unless you have to use them e.g., go to or work for a hospital, use or get used by the law,  deal with or work for a police department.  For each effective and necessary accomplishment there are mediocre, human, flawed and idiosyncratic functions.

I was struck suddenly when watching the events resulting from the excellent reportage on the Walter Reed scandal that this kind of thing and these kind of people were familiar.  In watching the comments, attitude and behavior of the commanding General of the hospital, I recognized this guy and his brothers from the days I was in the Army.  The ego hiding behind the rank and uniform (this pudgy, entitled oaf had a marine haircut like he was combat boy) brought flooding memories.  In the interest of truth, I have to confess that although I was regular Army and intended to make a career, in the end I was a very mediocre leader and a disastrous tactician on the ground.  I may have saved many lives by not going on to lead men to their deaths in

Viet Nam.  I never got the knack in field exercises and our platoon was always getting flanked.  The military will put one in those positions to learn on the job whether one “has it” or “not.”   I can no longer imagine why anyone would want to become a general and accept the responsibility for the deaths of so many some of whom die because of shortcomings in one’s own fallible tactical and managerial sense.  I have come to think there is something wrong with a human who wants that.  I believe that the retirement of each general should be characterized by chronic guilt and depression, forever.  The retirement pay and perks are offsets.

Now to the main point.  When the professional military was started and the draft stopped, I thought it was a good idea.  We could cut back on defense costs and shift our emphasis to civilian enterprises the primary purpose of the country.  We could wag the military tail instead of seeming the reverse.  Later, I thought alternative but mandatory service would be good for our developing citizens to cause a bit greater participation in and sense of obligation to the country. I no longer believe that.  I think our citizens need to participate in the defense process so that they know what it is about and be willing to participate and make smarter decisions for our defense.  The military has been likened to a gated community.  When citizens had been in the military they knew what was inside.  Now they don’t.   Had they been there and their kids were going there they would watch and make sounder judgments about using the military.  They would be better able to judge if their commander in chief knew what he/she was doing and to influence his/her decisions.  They would have a vested interest in our wars and defense.  They might also be less afraid and less willing to give up our national values just to be protected.  “Oh save us, save us. We don’t care how.”

It is not a joke that the majority of the current and past leadership of this war were as they say, “chicken-hawks”.  It is crucial.  Dying in vain is serious business and nothing is more in vain than leadership based on vanity and pride and blindness of leaders.  Military service certainly does not inoculate against vain judgment but it is more likely to expose it an cause less tolerance for it.  There is no check on the leaders because blowhards and commentators who did not serve because they had pilonidal cysts (Chaney and Rush Limbaugh) feel they can advocate death with impunity and deride their betters.  I know I was not the only one with one of those cysts when I was in the Army.  I wonder how not sitting on their cysts in the service would have changed them.  Maybe not at all but I cannot help wondering.

If George Bush and actually gone on and served several things might have happened.  First, for the first time in his life he would have been equal to and his well being would have depended upon many people from walks of life he has never encountered.  He would have had to “take it” as well as give it out. He might have learned a little actual humility instead of the canned and superficial humility of his so called conversion and sobriety.  Second, he might actually have solved his life long father problem.  Had he actually risked himself in

Vietnam  like his father in WWII he might have come out finally feeling like a man.  I’m pretty sure he is still play acting at manhood by doing lots of commander in chief roll playing as a temporary day to day solution.  Third, he may have solved his self reliance problem.  It seems he cannot really accomplish anything without being bailed out by older or more competent people. In business, life, school and now warfare, he has to be bailed out by someone else.  Somewhere down deep when he is not moving so fast in distraction, I suspect he feels that old nagging failure feeling catching up once again.  His defensive posture requires him to resist inputs or his awareness of his real self would flood in upon him.  His defensiveness is killing people.

Well, if we had all been in the military and some of us and our children were at risk to go, we might have compelled better decisions about this war.  We might have been less passive. We would have known more about the bill of goods we were being sold.  We might have decided to fight terrorism and Al Qaeda effectively instead of just militarily. 

Bring back the draft!  Our national defense is way too important to be left just to professionals.