Sunday, September 27, 2009

Feeling Sorry for the Foolish

A few years ago got this email:

"You are a coward. If you have a problem with this call me at ..." then he listed his name, his position (supposedly) in the Special Forces, and his phone number.

His email was in response to my article, A Rush to War

Of course, I didn't call him. He's not going to change my mind, because I'm right. And I'm not going to change his, because he doesn't know he's wrong.

The only feeling I have when I get emails like his is sorrow. I feel sorry for the guy, because he is foolish. I suspect he is about 23 years old, and I know what he thinks before he tells me, even before he knows what he thinks.

The first thing he would want to know is if I was in the military. If I say it's none of his business, he'll assume I wasn't. If I say I was, he assume I didn't learn anything in it. He'll claim I'm a leftist, because he doesn't know the difference between left and right.

He's the kind of guy who really believes Saddam Hussein was going to attack the US, even though Iraq had an economy about the size of South Carolina, and we could have nuked the place so that it glowed for the next thousand years. He probably believes Hussein was behind 9/11, and was also involved in the Oklahoma City blast.

He believes we had the right to blockade Iraq for ten years, even though hundreds of thousands of people died, many of them babies and the elderly. He thinks we were attacked on 9/11 because we are Good, and those who attacked us are Evil, not because of our support of Israel no matter what it did to the Palestinians, or the genocidal blockade of Iraq, or because we had troops in Saudi Arabia, or because we for 50 years meddled in the Middle East and supported every dictator there no matter what horrible things they did to their citizens.

He's the kind of guy who believes the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary to get the Japanese to surrender, because he doesn't know Japan had been trying to surrender for months, but their overtures were rejected. He's also for the fire-bombing of Dresden, even though he doesn't know why it was bombed.

This is the kind of guy who joined the military because he believes he is a patriot, and because he wants to defend his country. That's fine; I don't have any problems with that. But he does not know the US has some 750 military bases in three-quarters of the world, making us an empire. And all empires, without exception, have fallen. But he does not know that, and if he did, believes America will be the exception. It won't.

He's also the kind of guy who believes that America is the greatest force for good in the world today. And it is sad that he believes that, because it is not true. I wish it was, but it's not.

He was no idea that in the 20th century the US attacked and bombed:

China 1945-46
Korea 1950-53
China 1950-53
Guatemala 1954
Indonesia 1958
Cuba 1959-60
Guatemala 1960
Congo 1964
Peru 1965
Laos 1964-73
Vietnam 1961-73
Cambodia 1969-70
Guatemala 1967-69
Grenada 1983
Libya 1986
El Salvador 1980s
Nicaragua 1980s
Panama 1989
Iraq 1991-99
Sudan 1998
Afghanistan 1998
Yugoslavia 1999

I'm not including the 200,000 Filipinos and Filipinas whom the US murdered in the late 1800s when we invaded the Philippines.

How many of those countries attacked the US?

He does not know that Saddam Hussein was originally placed in power by the US, and was our ally, which is why we armed him in his war with Iran. The US did not give a damn how many Iraqis or Iranians were killed. In fact, the administration encouraged the deaths of both. The booger-eating Henry Kissinger commented, "Too bad they both can't lose."

World War I? He does not know that the US administration purposely got us into it by loading the passenger liner Lusitania with munitions. That's why it went down so fast when the Germans torpedoed it. He also does not know the German government ran full-page ads in the Eastern newspapers telling people to stay off of passenger ships. There was no reason whatsoever for the US to get involved in WWI.

World War II? WWII was a direct result of WWI. World War II would never have happened if the US hadn't gone along with the crushing reparations against Germany, allowing Hitler to rise to power. And the Great Depression - caused by State interference in the economy, not "capitalism" - also helped Hitler's rise. The Japanese wouldn't have attacked Pearl Harbor if the US hadn't cut off their oil and other imports, and sent the Flying Tigers against them in China, egging them into a pre-emptive strike against us. And the evidence is overwhelming that the Communist FDR--who called Stalin "Uncle Joe"--knew the Japanese were going to attack, and let it happen so Russia wouldn't have to fight a two-front war against the Germans and Japanese.

Korea? I don't remember Korea attacking us. I don't remember North Vietnam attacking us, either. And I certainly don't remember Panama attacking us.

Of course, he does not know any of these facts. Instead, he believes those attacks by the United States were for the Good of the World. They weren't.

The only thing that can change the mind of a man like this is what is called the School of Hard Knocks. It's what happened to so many soldiers in Vietnam, who went over there to Free the Oppressed and Impose Democracy, then later came back and realized the whole war was a scam, and all of those 58,000 Americans and 2.5 million to three million Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians died for nothing.

Maybe when he grows up he might change his mind. But right now--no, not a chance.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Resistance is Futile, Under-People!

"Under-People" is the English translation of the German word "Untermenschen," made famous by Hitler in Mein Kampf. And of course, if you've got Untermenschen, you've got to have Ubermenschen, too. At least in fantasy.

And fantasy indeed is what we're dealing with in Thomas P.M. Barnett's book, The Pentagon's New Map: Peace and War in the Twenty-First Century. Only, the Over-People are what he calls "the Core," and the Under-People he refers to as "the Gap."

If you've watched Star Trek: the Next Generation, you'll realize the Over-People Core are the Borg, and the Under-People Gap are all those unassimilated races who puzzled the Borg Queen so much. "Why do you resist us?" she complained. "We only wish to improve the quality of your lives."

Unfortunately, her idea of an improved quality of life meant everyone belonging to a hive-mind, never questioning orders (because they couldn't, having been transmogrified into unconscious Borg drones), and engaging in an Orwellian perpetual war for perpetual peace, to protect the Borg from all those war-mongering aliens who were plotting to attack the Borg Cubes, but somehow never did, except in self-defense. Obviously, a little dab'll of pre-emptive war will do ya, not only for the Borg, but the US .

The Core refers to the West, with Japan tossed in. The Gap is what Richard Maybury calls Chaostan, that section of the world--about one-third of it--that never developed Western values. It's everything that isn't the West.

Maybury, much more realistic and clear-headed than Barnett, subscribes to the views of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington: Stay out of the world's political problems and just trade with them, understanding that only the free market will improve their lot. Barnett, an unwitting believer in the old saying, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions," thinks we should Borgify the non-West, using the Big Giant Fist against their recalcitrant Gap heads. That'll drag them into the 20th Century, all right, he tells everyone.

He considers it bringing "freedom" to them, but I prefer the much older and wiser views of Aesop and Jesus: All tyrants call themselves benefactors.

Barnett uses non-Borgian terms, but it's still the same tune, just different lyrics. He thinks the Core should invade and conquer the Gap, and force it to conform to the West's--or rather his--values.

Barnett's ideas are what Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, in Leftism Revisited, called "false but clear," like Marxism. And like Marxism, Barnett's Core/Gap ideas can be taught to a ten-year-old in about five minutes. They're about as valid as Marxism, too.

For some reason I can't quite fathom, many people fall for the simplistic view of splitting things into either good or bad, with nothing in between. Of course, they always consider themselves good (Core) and other people bad (Gap). Since they consider themselves "good," all badness must lie elsewhere, with others. Then the "bad" must be eradicated or changed. In Barnett's world, the Core must assimilate the Gap, otherwise the Gap will destroy the Core, just the way all those wogs of the galaxy (say, humans), have to be Borgified, even if it's unnecessary.

This either-good-or-bad, either Hero or Villain view of things is bad enough when an individual perceives the world that way, but it's a catastrophe when it afflicts groups. While individuals can think, groups cannot. They can only feel, and given the chance, they will invariably engage in Dionysian orgies. Watch Triumph of the Will sometime.

Of course, in Barnett's mind, the Western Core is the good group, and the Gap, populated by all the Fuzzy Wuzzes of the world, is the bad group. This is a modern-day version of Kipling's "the white man's burden," jazzed up a bit with some pop-culture terminology. It didn't work in his time, either.

Since individuals can think, but groups cannot, it is one of the reasons why Kuehnelt-Leddihn said, "'I' is from God, and 'We' is from the Devil." The hive-mind "group" is the basis of fascism in all its forms, whether you call it fascism, Communism, or Nazism.

As Mussolini wrote in 1932: "The State not only is authority which governs and molds individual wills with laws and values of spiritual life, but it is also power which makes its will prevail abroad . . . For the Fascist, everything is within the State and . . . neither individuals or groups are outside the State . . . . For Fascism, the State is an absolute, before which individuals or groups are only relative . . . everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State."

Barnett must have read Mussolini. I hope he has. If he has, does he think the definition of fascism does not apply to his ideas? Apparently not. He also appears to disbelieve that "War is Peace" applies to his writings. Or "Lies are Truth."

In Barnett's cheerful little fantasy, the idea of the wogs fighting back doesn't really count for very much. I suspect he's as puzzled as the Borg Queen, wondering why they don't welcome us with open arms and flowers strewn in the path of our tanks. If we have to, he tells us, we can whup 'em but good with our advanced technology. We sure whupped the Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians good, to the tune of 2.5 million to three million dead. Afterward, we and our technology went home.

Perhaps Barnett is just today's version of Robert McNamara, the megalomaniacal high-IQ idiot who was the architect of the Vietnam Non-War. Only in this iteration, he wants to extend war to the entire world.

Perhaps the main problem with all empires is that they are invariably welfare/warfare. They're two sides of the same coin; the first can't exist without the second, no matter how many people would like to see the former without the latter. You can't have the fascist Borg Cube/Womb without wanting to protect it, even if the threat is non-existent.

So what we're stuck with in Barnett's confabulations is bringing welfare to the world through warfare. In essence, "We're going to kill you to save you," is what he's saying. I'm sure I'm not the only one going, "Huh?" It's exactly what people are accusing those "Islamofascists" of doing: murdering us to convert (and therefore "save") us.

Of course, we're going to kill about 10,000 of them for every one of us they kill. Not that our soldiers' deaths really count, since they're drones sacrificed for the good of the Hive. I suppose that's why George Bush pays no attention to the deaths of American soldiers. As for the "enemy," they're just Under-People, so who counts how many of them we rub out?

I have for a few years thought the main problem of the human race--the main sin, if you will--is hubris, thinking one is god-like, believing one has the power to move millions of people around like pieces on a cosmic chessboard. Barnett's book has not disabused me of that notion, only confirmed it.

Barnett obviously believes he is a prophet, maybe even a messiah. But how do you tell the difference between a false prophet and a true one? Maybe true ones don't support mass murder, destruction and theft, even if it's for the "good" of those on the receiving end. Whatever happened to "Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called children of God"?

The book reminds me of Pinky and the Brain. Brain is the charismatic but slightly daft--or maybe just insane--leader who wants to conquer the world, although he never said he wanted to conquer it for its own good. Then we have Pinky, his essentially brainless follower, who worships Brain. Pinky, who in my opinion represents Mass Man, is ruled by his feelings, too.

Scary to imagine a cartoon about two escaped, mutated lab mice applies so neatly to the real world. Like Barnett, Brain is eternally optimistic, always thinking that if he didn't conquer the world today because he conked his head, well, there is always tomorrow.

Or, as it was best said by Terrill, the murderous idealist Redleg in Clint Eastwood's great The Outlaw Josey Wales: "There ain't no end to doin' right."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Delusions of the Conspiracist

A conspiracist is someone who believes every problsm in the world is a result of a (non-existent) conspiracy - and most of them are impossibly complex, i.e., remote-controlled airplanes, explosives in the WTC, thousands of traitors planning it and pulling it off perfectly, disappearing, and none of them ever saying a word for the rest of their lives.

Among the many problems of the conspiracist is that all unwittingly engage in the fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc: because possible conspiracies do exist (a few people getting together to kill Jimmy Hoffa), therefore impossible ones exist (the 9-11 Truthers).

Another problem none of them realize they have is that conspiracies are determined by whether or not the politician is Republican or Democrat.

An example: if it had been Richard Nixon in that limousine instead of John Kennedy, there would no belief in a conspiracy to kill him. Only Democrats are the victims of conspiracies, while Republicans are the perpetrators.

If it had been Nixon killed, many people would have cheered, making jokes about why it took Oswald three shots to kill him. Never mind the fact Nixon was a far better man than Kennedy -- both just happened to be lousy Presidents. Nixon was an unattrative man with a ski-jump nose and a sweaty upper lip. Kennedy, on the other hand, was a handsome, charismatic, popular man.

Need more proof? When Squeaky Fromme tried to kill Ford, not a word about conspiracy. Why? Republican. When John Hickley did shoot Reagan, again, not a word about conspiracies. Why? Again, Republican.

Had 9-11 happened on Clinton's watch, there would be no Truther movement, because no one would believe that Clinton, even though he is a cracker white-trash serial rapist who should have gotten life in prison, would do such a terrible thing to the U.S. -- because he is a handsome, charismatic, popular man.

Bush, on the other hand, is an unpleasant, unattractive, psychologically fragile dry drunk with beady little eyes...and a Republican. And there is not one word (and there never will be) that Clinton ws part of the 9-11 "conspiracy." But Bush? Of course.

In the last 50 years, one Democrat killed -- he was the victim of a conpiracy! Two attempts on Republicans -- not a word. 9-11 happened on a Republican's watch -- he was the perpetrator.

Just watch -- if anything happens on Obama's watch, there will be not one word about a conspiracy, because Obama is a charismatic, popular man.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Plague of Incompetent Demons

Pity poor Wormwood. As Screwtape's wannabe-demon nephew in C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, he aspired to the depths of depravity to which Screwtape had sunk. Unfortunately, Wormwood was incompetent. So Screwtape had him for a snack.

There's a lesson here, somewhere. Incompetent demons always get done in, maybe? I hope so. It's always happened in the past, with wannabe demons like Herod, Nero, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung and Pol Pot.

We have our own wannabes right here in the US. I can even give you some of their names (obviously, this list is not necessarily in order of demonic-wannabe incompetence.):

Max Boot
Paul Wolfowitz
Richard Perle
Douglas Feith
David Frum
William Kristol
Norman Podhoretz
Lewis "Scooter" Libby (What kind of grown man calls himself "Scooter," anyway? It reminds me of a dog I had that used to scoot around on a brand-new carpet.)

John Bolton
Elliot Abrams
Robert Kagan
Bill Bennett
Michael Ledeen
Frank Gaffney, Jr.
These incompetent wannabe-demons (currently known by the name "neocons") are the ones stumbling into war in the Middle East, and dragging the US with them. The blind leading the blind? Yep. What's that over there? A ditch? You bet.

If I had a large enough hand-basket, I'd stuff all of them in it and toss it straight to Hell. Have a nice trip. Don't write. Speaking of Hell, Lewis defined it as a bureaucracy in which "everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment."

And why do these plagues of incompetent demons always come in groups? The demon that Jesus kicked out said, "My name is Legion, for there are many of us." Why could he have not said, "My name is Joe, for there's just one of us in here"?

And then Legion got stuffed into some pigs and sent over a cliff. A fitting end to all demons, I'd say. Ditches and cliffs and falling into them and over them sure do seem to figure prominently in the lives of the stupid and evil. I think I'll write that on my palm so I don't forget it. I will look at it often. Every day, in fact.

I know these neocons supporters of the "Let's conquer the Middle East" wars are blindly self-righteous to the point of fanaticism, but the truth, unbeknowst to them, is that they are a legion of incompetent (and therefore minor, and annoying) demons who are bollixing up everything they touch.

Not only are these guys not wise, they're not even knowledgeable. "My people perish for want of knowledge!" moans Hosea. Not even wisdom, just simple knowledge. "False swearing, lying, murder, stealing and adultery! In their lawlessness, bloodshed follows bloodshed." Hosea's remonstrations are directed at the local kings. Uh oh.

Something I'll write on my other palm is the fact that so many of the preachers today criticize the common people, telling them they're going to Hell unless they believe as the preachers do. Yet, these same preachers rarely say anything about the depravations of those with political power, instead apparently believing they are going to be instrumental in bringing Jesus back. But, in the past, the prophets' ire was directed almost exclusively at the really naughty guys, the rulers. And, boy, if Jesus does come back, I suspect there are going to be some really surprised people! One of which will not be me.

Let's put it this way: when's the last time Jerry Fallwell said, "Hey, George, God didn't choose you to be President and doesn't talk to you no matter how much your booze-damaged brain tells you He does. And, I might add, I think you'd better buy some flame-proof underwear come Judgment Day."

The people who are the real prophets are ignored and insulted, just as they were in the past. They are without honor in their hometowns. However, in 200 years, people won't be calling them traitors anymore. By then they'll be respecting them as the real (although dead) prophets, and the names of the real traitors will be used as insults, the way "Pharisee" is, even after 2000 years.

Although, to be totally honest about it, even in 200 years there's never going to be a quote in the Bible that reads, "And the people listeneth not to Bob the Prophet, for their heads cleaveth to their butts." (Considering "cleave" has a dual meaning, I know there's a pun in there somewhere.)

Hosea may have been around a few thousand years ago, but he knew what he was talking about, just as the true prophets today do. And what kind of knowledge was Hosea talking about? The same that is true now as it was then: false swearing, lying, murder and stealing. Hmmm . . . sure sounds like some of the Ten Commandments, doesn't it?

Obviously, in the past (as now, and in the future) the local rulers always exempted themselves from the prohibitions contained in the Ten Commandments (actually, "Commandments" is a completely incorrect translation – it's "Ten Words" or "Ten Utterances").

Notice that Hosea says "lawlessness." He's talking about Natural Law, the law of the universe, of human nature. If these are laws of human nature he's talking about, then they are imprinted right on our DNA. Some of those people on the Human Genome Project going to be surprised when they find morality at the genetic level! Ancient wisdom and modern science, shaking hands over a chromosome.

I used to wonder how these old guys got to be prophets. No more! It's easy. They tell people to follow the Ten Words. And even better, they had no exemptions for those in political power. If the local ox/cab driver couldn't/can't murder, steal and bear false witness against his neighbor, then neither could/can kings/presidents. Or their advisors. It doesn't matter how much they believe in that false god known as their own Monstrous Egos, which, as Russell Kirk accurately pointed out, is the source of all evil. (That source ain't out there, by the way. It's inside us.)

Of course, kings and their advisors never believed what the prophets said, then, or now. No matter. The Law is the Law. When the Bobby Fuller Four sang that old song, "I Fought the Law, and the Law Won," even though they didn't know it, they were singing about something far beyond all the local Barney Fifes deluding themselves they are enforcing real Law by ticketing speeders on the interstate.

All of recorded history (what, maybe 4000 years?) has shown that murder and stealing and bearing false witness and worshipping false idols has never worked. If they had worked, then we wouldn't still be having wars. It almost seems we've involved in a war a few thousand years old, with a few intermissions every once in a while.

All of this is just pretty nuts, which reminds me of the best definition of insanity I've ever heard: trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. "Hey guys! Let's murder and steal and bear false witness . . . what? We'll still be doing the same things 4000 years in the future? But it's for a good cause! And I'm the king, too. Are you really sure about that?" Oh, yes, very sure.

These guys certainly need to call "Mr. Obvious" and get a little advice. Although they won't listen, even if he told them to take the sun shields out of their car's front windows while driving. Which, for all practical purposes, is exactly what they're doing with the USA.

Demon wannabes . . . ugh. If they were lawyers, they'd belong to the firm of Stupid, Arrogant, Blind and Insane. And if anyone founded that firm, it'd be Screwtape.

Incompetent World Conquerors

Part of me looks at the world as a tragedy. Another part looks at it as a comedy. The part that sees it as a tragedy believes 90% of the problems are caused by not following Natural Law. Specifically, two of them: "Don't murder" and "Don't steal." States may think they don't have to follow those laws, but I think they do. (As an aside, several hundred years ago, a writer whose name escapes me completely made the comment that one-quarter of all the misery in the world was caused by tooth ache, a problem now essentially fixed by the misnamed "capitalism.")

The part of me that sees the world as a comedy perceives everything as a comic book. Let me explain.

There is an archetype I call "the would-be world conqueror." In cartoons it's Brain of Pinky and the Brain, or Simon bar Sinister of the old Underdog show, or Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies, or Lex Luthor, or any of James Bond's villains. All of them are representations of the same archetype.

All of them suffer from hubris, and all of them are ultimately incompetent. Dr. Evil is a perfect example of both traits. The earliest representation I am familiar with of the incompetent, hubristic would-be world conqueror is the story of Satan.

Some of the more strict-minded fundamentalist Christians I know run around thinking Satan is chasing them day and night, whereas if I believed in him literally I would laugh at him.

All of these would-be world conquerors have a problem with taking their internal personal problems, projecting them onto the world, then trying to change the world in order to fix what's wrong with them on the inside. The story of Satan is a perfect example of this. The guy's goofy. "I can't be God, so I'll try to destroy everything and everybody."

In real life, Hitler was another perfect example. Obviously he was anti-Semitic, which is a problem on the inside, so when he gained control of the State, all the sheeple went along with him trying to fix the problem "out there" so Hitler so could fix what's wrong "in here." Mao Tse-Tung, Stalin, Pol Pot, Marx...all the same. They had problems on the inside. Instead of fixing themselves inside, they tried to fix the outside.

In modern psychology, the designation for such people is Anti-Social Personality Disorder, or what used to be called a psychopath/sociopath. They're destructive people, without a conscience, who blame their problems on everyone else. This label falls under what is called a "personality disorder," which are people who blame their problems on other people. Unfortunately, to a degree, all of us have it.

Unfortunately, this "let's fix the outside because I can't fix the inside" is, to understate it, a huge problem with humanity. Stated another way, it's the same as saying, "I'm not the one with the problem; you are." You can see this one illustrated in the story of the Garden of Eden, where Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent.

The best example in the news recently of this "I'll fix you because I can't fix me" is William Bennett, an addict who seems to think everyone else in the world but him is an addict.

When you take the archetype of the incompetent, hubristic would-be world conqueror and apply it to empires, you find it explains why all empires collapse. All empires suffer from hubris, which is followed by nemesis. Therefore, all collapse. All the empires of the past – the Mongol, Alexander the Great's, the Roman – poof, all gone, completely.

Currently the United States is busy turning itself into an empire. The leftist neocons, who unfortunately have Dubya's jug ear, have apparently convinced him to conquer a large chunk of the world, in order to drag them into the 21st century and "civilize" them.

My response to all of this? BWHAHAHA! Why? Because what I see happening is a cartoon. Whenever I see William Kristol, or Norman Podhoretz, or listen to Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, I see Brain and Dr. Evil!

These morons are hubristic, incompetent would-be world conquerors who don't have a clue as to what they're really doing. I know they think they're doing good things, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

What's happening is a case of "let's fix the outside because we can't fix the inside." At home we have crushing taxes, massive regulation, an expanding State, an influx of uneducated immigrants, destruction of the value of the dollar through inflation, falling wages...and the administration thinks we can fix our problems by conquering other countries. Obviously, they're ignoring the wisdom of "Take the log out of your own eye before worrying about the speck in someone else's."

The administration is completely ignoring the wisdom inherent in children's comic books! This doesn't say much for all those Ph.Ds from Harvard and Yale, does it? These blind-leading-the-blind buffoons have wasted their lives studying Leo Strauss; even they could have gotten a far better education reading Superman comics.

What should be stunning, but isn't because of the sheeple-brained imperfection of the human race, is how many people are supporting all the mutant mouse Brains in the administration. Dr. Evil is marching off to war, to conquer the world, and a lot of people are cheering him on. It's a tragedy, but it's also funny: the Brain is leading Pinky off to war and empire, and Pinky is going right along with it. But it's Pinky who's going to die, not the Brain, which is an illustration of the old saying, "He who works with the head, rules; he who works with the hands, is ruled." This doesn't mean that he who works with the head is right, or even smart.

All the neocons need a little bit of repentance ("to turn around and go the other way"), or the word repentance is based on, metanoia ("to change the heart and mind").

Criky! What we really need is Austin Powers to show up and fix the neocons' clocks. Better yet, Superman! At least he really knew what "truth, justice and the American way" meant. And it doesn't mean invading other countries and conquering them.

I take comfort that in the long run the neocons will be exposed for what they are. Right now they are trying to hide from the light by claiming there are no "neocons," but it won't work. They'll be dragged out for the American people to see. It'll take a while, but it'll happen.

After all, Brain and Dr. Evil always got conked on the head sooner or later. It's a law of nature, one that always makes me smile.

Killer Ants from Space

The Greeks had a myth about what the State considered the perfect soldier – an ant. These ant soldiers were called Myrmidons. They didn't question orders, they didn't think, they just fought and died.

Every portrayal of soldiers I have read in all those dystopian science-fiction novels I read all the time are just updated versions of that old myth. Portrayals of the military didn't used to be this way.

We can use as an example Robert Heinlein's novel, Starship Troopers, which was made into a movie that, although it has the same name, has little in common with the novel. In fact, it is a degenerated version of the book.

The late Heinlein was strongly libertarian in his writings, although his support of the military has caused some to label him fascist. They're wrong. Heinlein was far from a pure libertarian, but he was in no way a fascist.

In his novel he supported a purely voluntary military, easy to get out of, but very hard to stay in. Why? He only wanted the most motivated soldiers. The book supports the old military virtues of honor, pride, loyalty and patriotism.

In some ways it is a silly book, with depictions of terribly wounded soldiers who aren't supposed to make a sound, but overall, Heinlein's world is one in which I could live.

Then there's the movie. It shows the difference between Heinlein's 1950's idealized view of the military, and Paul Verhoeven's mocking, satirical 1990's one. The society in the movie is what I call "soft" fascist – the world is starting to become politicized and militarized. As a result, the military has started to degenerate.

I suspect the more politicized and militarized a society, the more fascistic it becomes, and the more its military will degenerate, because of the loss of the true military virtues, which are contrary to fascism. Heinlein's strongly libertarian novel was some 40 years later turned into a fascistic movie. Such is the change in the view of artists toward the military, in a short time.

Most artists are, in a way, prophets. They have a sensitivity, and an imagination, that oftentimes allows them to predict the future, not specifically, but in a general way. Science fiction is specifically about predicting the future. In its history it's done a pretty good job. It's usually about 50 years ahead of society.

I think another reason is that most writers, and especially science fiction writers, are somewhat anarchistic. The imagination, the sensitivity, and the anarchism together gives them a leg up on everyone else, because they have a pretty clear view of the State and the damage it causes to whatever it gets its tentacles into.

Currently, science fiction's depiction of the military is very disturbing. There are three trends in modern science fiction that all should pay attention to: nanotechnology, designer drugs, and genetic engineering. Especially when the military-industrial complex gets its paws on them, because it will try to use them to produce Myrmidon supersoldiers – killer ants from space.

The first example that comes to my mind is the movie Blade Runner, which was about artificial, genetically engineered humans called replicants. The movie, which is very subtle in many ways, suggests the replicants have animal DNA inserted into them. One is part turtle, one raccoon, one wolf, one snake, and one fish, probably shark.

Could such DNA insertions be done? I have no idea. I do know that unholy mutant that is the marriage of Big Business and the State will try, in order to create supersoldiers. You can take that one to the bank.

What comes after Verhoeven's view? The Borg, a futuristic group of Myrmidons that use genetic engineering, nanotechnology and probably designer drugs. I consider them to be the scariest soldiers ever.

The Borg comprises humans (and aliens) who are kidnapped and, through nanotechnology and genetic engineering (and I suspect drugs), turned into Borg soldiers. The soldiers are true Myrmidons – they are without fear of anything (including death), without anxiety, without mercy or conscience, indeed without self-consciousness. They follow orders without questions and die without hesitation. They have no honor, no pride, no dignity. They don't even really have loyalty or patriotism, because they have no choice in the matter, no more than an ant does.

Any degenerated military in the world would love them. They'll all trying to create them. And the essence of a degenerated military culture is to treat soldiers as expendable things – although the upper echelons are always taken care of.

As a personal example, my last year in college a smirking Army officer tried to get us to join, telling the class we would be made officers and "taken care of." The enlisted men, on the hand other, he said, "We don't care about." I didn't join.

I also received offers through the mail from every branch. All of them, except the Marines, were interested in certain degrees such as computer science or engineering. Every other degree was listed as "other," except for the Marines, which only wanted to know if I had a degree. And from what I've been able to gather, it is only the Marines that still have some understanding of a true military culture. The other branches, obviously, are starting to degenerate.

The Borg also show something rare in fiction, but which always exists in the real world – the welfare/warfare state. Writers in general are very good at protraying warfare. Few understand the other side of that coin is welfare. One never exists, in the long run, without the other.

The Borg are on perfect welfare. They're literally babies in the Borg cube. Every need is taken care of. Unfortunately, to protect that welfare, they are always at war with whatever comes their way. Welfare at home, warfare abroad. It's a law of fascism, no matter what name fascism is called.

The Borg are also always trying to absorb whatever race they encounter. Obviously, they consider themselves so superior to all other races they believe it gives them the right to "civilize" them by force. They certainly do sound familiar.

Good fiction is always a cautionary tale, usually jammed right up the reader's nose. It says, "This is what can happen unless you stop it." Currently it's saying, "A fascist society can be recognized by the attempts of its degenerated military, along with State-supported degenerated Big Business, to use science and technology to create expendable Myrmidon supersoldiers, even if it costs them their humanity."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Guns and the Dumb

Since I was raised with firearms, I've never been afraid of them. They're just tools to me, not much different than a hammer or a saw. I do, however, to use a phrase told to me by an electrician about electricity, respect the hell out of them.

I'm more afraid of a power saw or a nail gun than I am of any firearm. Actually, I'm quite a lot afraid of power saws. Actually, I dislike them a lot and never use them. I used to be a carpenter and have seen people run power saws over their hands. One guy accidentally nail-gunned his boot to a plywood deck. Twice. Each time the nail went in between his toes, which greatly relieved him after we pried his shoe from the deck with a crowbar and he developed the courage to take off his boot and look at his foot.

I got very good at putting Band-Aids on wounded carpenters.

When I was 12, my neighbor next door took me skeet-shooting, which was the first time I fired a shotgun. It wasn't a big one, just a 20-gauge that I used to blow up a bunch of clay pigeons. None of the men there gave a thought to a 12-year-old blasting away with a shotgun. At that age, I thought it was about the coolest thing I had ever done, even if the kick did hurt my shoulder.

When I was 13, my father bought me a single-shot .22 rifle with a telescopic sight. I would have preferred a semi-automatic with high-capacity magazine, but he wouldn't spring for one because of the cost, which would have been a lot more than the $15 for that boring bolt-action tifle he did buy me.

One of my friends and I used to walk across the field near my house, carrying the rifle, a box of ammo, and a bunch of empty milk jugs. We'd fill the jugs with scummy green water from a pond, then sight in on them from 100 feet away, and blow them with up with .22 hollow-point slugs.

We didn't shoot each other, or anyone else. We just blew up a lot of water-filled jugs that probably had some innocent bugs in them. There were no accidents with the rifle, or anything close to an accident. We didn't shoot ourselves in the feet or hands. That rifle was a lot safer than the power saws and nail guns I came to despise a few years later.

My friend and I were very, very careful. We respected that rifle. And we never thought a thing about carrying it in public. The police never bothered us, either.

I've known exactly one person wounded by a firearm, unlike the 20 I've known hurt by flying nails that bounced off hammer heads. I saw one guy get a flying nail stuck in his chest. When he pulled it out, a thin stream of blood jetted out about a foot every time his heart beat. My father stuck the tip of his index finger on the hole for a minute, until it clotted.

Another time I found the tip of guy's finger, when he fell off of a ladder and grabbed some metal flashing. I buried it in the back yard of house we were working on.

I've never personally known anyone killed by a firearm. That one guy I know who was wounded was what I will politely refer to as a "career security guard." He had a drunk in a headlock and was beating him over the head with the butt of his .38 pistol when it fired, sending the bullet into his forearm (the fight instantly stopped). He has a heck of a scar, about six inches long, on the inside of his left forearm. I'm sure he learned that pistols are not billy clubs. He was a dumb guy, one who is now a little smarter.

I have known two people killed when they fell off of tractors, one who drowned when he waded into a lake wearing heavy boots which filled with water and pulled him under, and one who got hit by a car while changing a tire on an interstate. Each one of them died because they did something stupid, just like the security guard did something stupid. Fortunately, he lived. The others weren't so lucky.

Those uninitiated into human nature think the way to stop accidents with guns is to remove guns from people's possession. Since guns will never be gotten rid of (everything you need to make a machine-gun can be stored on a closet shelf), it'd be better to teach people, as children, to use firearms properly. Just the way I was taught. It's a lot easier to minimize stupidity (possible) than ban firearms (impossible).

I've known several adults who were not raised with firearms as children. When they became adults and bought guns, some of them didn't understand how dangerous they were. Their ignorance caused problems that were scary at the time, but can be laughed at in retrospect. At least most of the time.

I remember one of my friends showed me a 9mm pistol that was given to him to clear a debt that he was owed. He was in his 40s, and it was the first pistol he had ever owned. He informed me that he was told it was worth $600. I was skeptical that anyone would give him a $600 pistol for a $100 debt. I wondered what it was. A high-quality pistol like a Glock or a Sig Sauer?

What he showed me was one of the cheaply-made, beat-up pistols I've ever seen. Even from across the room I could see that it had been banged around a lot.

I asked him to do what I always ask people to do when I'm around firearms: take the magazine out and rack the slide back so I would know the pistol was empty It was, but I wasn't going to trust his word. I never trust anyone's word about a gun being empty until I see it with my eyes. People have been killed by guns the shooters were convinced were empty.

I had a woman tell me one of his son's friends was killed when a grown man bought a pistol, took the magazine out, pointed it at a teenager's head, and pulled the trigger. He later told police he didn't know there was a round in the chamber. I'm sure this was no consolation whatsoever to the boy's brother, who was in the room when the shooting occurred. This man had never handled a gun before in his life. That one wasn't funny in retrospect. It never will be.

When my friend handed the pistol to me, I looked at the manufacturer's name stamped on the side. It was one of the worst guns manufactured in the US, and possibly the worst in the world – a Lorcin. I've read cases where they blew up in people's hands. Brand-new, they cost $125. Used, they're worthless.

Once I saw a brand-new one at a gun shop. When I asked the owner why he was selling such a piece of junk, he answered that he knew only 100 rounds would go through the barrel before the pistol was worthless, but "poor people need self-defense."

I've seen Glocks that had 100,000 rounds put through them, and this guy was selling a shiny chrome-plated piece of garbage that you probably couldn't put a magazine through it without it jamming.

If anyone tried to give me one, I wouldn't take it. Even brand-new.

When I told my naïve friend that his $600 pistol was worth exactly nothing, that he couldn't pawn it even for $5, and that worst of all it was a very dangerous gun, he got mad at me. He didn't believe me.

When I saw him a few weeks later, he sheepishly told me he had gotten rid of it. He said when he put the magazine in, the pistol fired. In his apartment. He didn't pull the trigger; the pistol fired when he gently inserted the magazine. It blasted a neat little hole in his wall, which we spackled. The round is still in the wall. He told me he had no idea there was a bullet in the chamber.

Dumb? Dumb. Very, very dumb.

Later, I met another man, in his 30s, who knew exactly nothing about firearms. I saw him raise a .44 Magnum over his head, cock it, and when he was lowering it the weight of the pistol moved it slightly forward in his hand, causing the trigger to pull against his finger. The pistol fired upward at a 45-degree angle. Since we were in the woods, the bullet landed harmlessly, unless it plonked down on some poor unsuspecting rabbit or squirrel.

The look of shock on his guy's face was priceless. Too bad I didn't have a camera. He swore he didn't pull the trigger. I knew he didn't. But in his ignorance he made one of the cardinal mistakes: he cocked the pistol when it was over his head, then lowered it.

At least none of the guys out there were a whoopin' and a hollerin' and guzzling beer. I would have been gone in a second.

None of these people were raised with firearms. They didn't encounter them until they were adults. As a result, they made mistakes that could have been tragic.

I will, guaranteed, trust a 13-year-old raised with firearms over a 40-year-old who wasn't.

From the Government, Here to Help You

From conversations, from emails, and from articles I've written, I encounter people in whose opinion my continued existence is solely dependent on the military protecting me from the big bad world out there, a world which in their view is full of slavering homicidal tyrants. It's as if I'm a naïve and helpless puppy being guarded by wise, noble and heroic attack dogs. Ones who are much smarter and more worldly than I am.

I don't think it would be too far off the mark to call such a view "the Nathan R. Jessup Delusion," after Jack Nicholson's character in A Few Good Men. Jessup's courtroom explanation captures this view accurately:

"Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have more responsibility here than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. I know deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you don't want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I prefer you said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand to post."

Jessup's opinion is a variation of what everyone dreads to hear: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." It's a modern version of an old observation, one that runs back to Aesop and Jesus: tyrants always present themselves to the oppressed as benefactors.

And there's the rub: when people suggest to me my (to them) soft, foolish life is solely dependent on the protection of hard men making hard choices, they are supporting, whether they know it or not, the view that tyranny is acceptable if it "benefits" the public.

Is this not fascism, the utilitarian view that the individual can be involuntarily sacrificed to the group? Is that not exactly what Jessup did in the movie, and what many self-defined patriots believe they have the right to do with other's lives?

What these people are doing is making excuses for bad behavior, which is one of the main traits of criminals. As Robert Heinlein pointed out, people are not so much rational as rationalizing. And they will rationalize anything, no matter how bad it is, to make it look good and pure and noble.

When exactly was the last time the military actually defended the United States? The last time the U.S. was invaded was the War of 1812, which happened when the U.S. tried to grab Canada while England was at war with France. It was an unnecessary war.

The War Between the States, caused more than anything else by the North's attempts to economically exploit the South? The Philippines Insurrection, in which the U.S. invaded the Philippines and killed up to 200,000 Filipino civilians? All those Filipinos were going to swim the Pacific and hop that wall that Jessup spoke about?

How about the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the war against the Serbs, the war in Afghanistan and the Iraqi wars? In all of those, we were attacked only once by another country, at Pearl Harbor, after FDR tricked the Japanese into attacking us. 9-11 was not an attack by a country, but a group. And that was blowback, caused by U.S. meddling in the affairs of other countries.

In Vietnam we claimed the Vietnamese attacked our warships in the Gulf of Tonkin (which they didn't), then invaded their country and essentially destroyed it. Robert McNamara, who is now in a very warm place indeed, estimated the U.S. killed 3.4 million Southeast Asians. Even today, the Vietnamese are suffering greatly from birth defects from the millions of tons of Agent Orange we dumped on their jungles. And all of it was to defend America?

In over 200 years as a country, we've been invaded once, attacked twice. All were avoidable. Otherwise, it's been us attacking other countries. Some of those "others" have included China, Lebanon, Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, Grenada, Libya, and Somalia. I probably missed some.

Our bad behavior throughout the world is either ignored in our history books or white-washed as an attempt to bring freedom to benighted and backward savages. The victors write the textbooks, as always. I wonder how our current attempts to impose "democracy" on recalcitrant wogs will be portrayed in the future in our schools?

Don't get me wrong: I'm not anti-military. Some men, the Kshatriyas, are natural-born warriors. The late Col. David Hackworth was one. They're identifiable by seeing war as a last resort, unlike the sofa samurai who see it as the first choice. As long as they don't have to make their way to the front lines, of course.

I am not so naïve and foolish as to believe that the U.S. having troops in over 140 countries has anything to do with defending America. More than anything else, it'll breed resentment and hate, leading to more blowback against us.

From the American Revolution through the War of 1812, through the Indian Wars, the Mexican War, the War Between the States, the Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf, the U.S. has suffered over 652,000 battle deaths and 1,430,000 non-mortal woundings. The count now climbs daily. How many were unnecessary? Almost all? All?

Although the Col. Jessups of the world will continue to believe they are defending me, I disagree with them. I'd be happy if they really did defend the U.S., and stay out of the rest of the world. It would save more trouble than they can possibly fathom.