Once a Marine...

Once a Marine...
Every year or so, I get together with my Marine Officer buddies. We're not as lean, not as mean, but we're still Marines. That's me, with the long hair.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Will to Win Wars

Somewhere in the Berzerkistan Province of Iraq, an awards ceremony is taking place:

General: Well, Captain, what did you do?

Captain: I’m a fighter pilot, General. I dropped flaming gasoline on a group of men.

General: Hmm, they looked suspicious, eh?

Captain: Roger that, General.

General: Very good. You get, uh, these three ribbons, and… this medal.

General’s Aide: Next!

Sergeant: General, I engaged in house-to-house fighting, and when I ran out of ammo I commenced to bashin’ heads in with my shovel. By the time the battle was done, I was down to gouging out the eyes of the enemy using my MRE spoon.

General: Nicely done, Sergeant. You’re a killer, and a man for the enemy to fear. You get you get two ribbons, a badge, and this medal.

General’s Aide: Next!

General: Ah! A young lady! What did you do?

Private: Sir, I made a guy wear my underwear on his head. Oh, and one time I watched while another MP had a dog bark really loud at a prisoner. Want to see the pictures?

General: Are you kidding me? Absolutely! That is so freakin’—

General’s Aide: Pssst. There’s a reporter watching, Sir.

General: …so… so freakin’ bad! Bad Private. No ribbons. You go to jail.

General’s Aide: Next!

Lieutenant: General, my platoon was ambushed, and we wiped out the enemy.

General: Well done, Lieutenant. Four ribbons, and medal.

General’s Aide: Next!

Staff-Sergeant: General, my squad was ambushed, and we wiped out the enemy.

General: Well, that’s the sort of thing—

General’s Aide: Sir, there’s a reporter here from the New York Times, and he says he talked to one of the enemy and the enemy says that the Staff Sergeant wiped them out.

General: Yes, well, uh, isn’t that the point?

General’s Aide: The enemy says they didn’t deserve it.

General: And?

General’s Aide: And the reporter is from the N-e-w Y-o-r-k T-i-m-e-s.

General: As I was saying, Staff Sergeant, that’s the sort of thing that results in murder charges. You go to jail.

Staff-Sergeant: Murder? In a combat zone? In a fire fight?

General: Get a photographer over here. I’m ready to do my concerned and disappointed look.

Somewhere in Charleston, a former Marine boils:

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time for a brief, educational break: War is what our military does, and as is the case with all war-making units, they hurt people, and break things. The hurting and the breaking continues until the other side is so broken and so hurt they’ll do anything to make it stop, even listen to American politicians tell them what to do. Sometimes achieving this is very hard, because listening to American politicians is an awful fate indeed: Clear thinking folks that the Japanese are, they resisted long and hard. Finally, we had to nuke a couple of civilian cities.

But, that’s the way it goes. The man in charge of the mission made the call, and the atom bombs flew. FYI, here is the total number of people who went to jail for nuking two civilian cities: Zero. Here’s the total number of guards who went to jail for teasing Japanese POWs: Zero.

But… times have changed. America today is a kinder, gentler America than back in the 1940’s. These days, the press has virtually unlimited access to our wars, and those brave war correspondents have kept us on that path of kindness and gentleness. Only once have we strayed from this new recipe: During Gulf I in 1990, the military put all the reporters in a room and spoke to them only during daily briefings. In unrelated news, Gulf I is also the only war we’ve actually won since WWII.

So, how did we reach this point? When did we as a nation begin accepting the second hand testimony of the enemy as a reason to charge our military men with murder? When did we sink so low as to make a public spectacle of a little girl named Lindy England?

It began the day John F. Kennedy took two for the team. In covering JFK’s funeral, the American media discovered that they could not only report the news, they could shape the way we feel about the news. I have painstakingly charted the media’s emotionalizing of stories, and found that when that chart intersected the chart tracking politicians who govern by poles, the result was, uh, America today.

The formula is now thus:

Politician- This Abu Ghraib thingee is problematic. The networks are screaming bloody murder. What do the polls say?

Handler- Well, the CNN poll says the American public is outraged. The MSNBC poll says the American public demands action. ABC, CBS, and NBC all report that America’s standing as the world’s moral compass has been shattered.

Politician- How about Fox? What do their polls say?

Handler- Their polls indicate the American people think it’s kinda cool, so they’re launching a bumper sticker slogan contest.

Politician- Well, how do I play it?

Handler- It’s a tough call, Big Guy. Those are our soldiers, and it’s their lives were discussing here. We need more facts.

Politician- Ha! Good one! You can always make me laugh when I’m down!

Handler- Just go with the polls, Boss. Demand an investigation, sound angry, and throw the military under the bus. The press loves that indignant routine.

Somewhere in Charleston, a former Marine asks some questions:

Should we, America, ever go to war again? Do we have the will to inflict the violence necessary to utterly break another people, like Sherman broke the South? Is there any cause so great that the press would agree not to publish information about secret missions before they happen? Is it possible in today’s world of live-feed news and Twitter to allow the commanders on the ground the do their jobs? Can we forgive our troops when they lose control and wreak havoc on bystanders? If the answers are what I think they are, should we become isolationists?

Food for thought--

Monday, March 8, 2010

Can America Defy the Laws of Math?

If you are a thinking person, you’ve been feeling the stress of cognitive dissonance regarding America’s economy. Even with no training in economics, you know something is very, very wrong. Perhaps you can’t quite lay your finger on it, but you know there’s a bad moon rising, and something’s got to give.

Thus far, you’ve likely rationalized that gut feeling away, and you’ve accomplished this by listening to dozens of experts give dozens of conflicting opinions, and it all swirls together into one big lump of economic-theory nonsense. In the end, you assume “the best and the brightest” are working on the issue, and the problem will ultimately get solved.

It won’t.

The best and the brightest aren’t working on the problem—life-long politicians and bureaucrats are. The people in charge of getting us out of this meltdown are the same people who got us into it. There’s no brilliant guy in the background offering sage advice. In fact, no one in charge has any idea whatsoever what they are doing. No one. But the emperor isn’t the only one who has no clothes—his advisors are naked, too.

If you will take the time to research the decisions made by the President and Congress during the past two years, you will quickly come to the conclusion that America of 2010 is unrecognizable to the America of 2007. Can you even keep track of what’s been nationalized, subsidized, and socialized? Wall Street, Banking, Insurance, the Auto Industry, now Hedge Funds—what’s next? Airlines? Credit Card Companies? Newspapers? Pandora’s Box is open, and the folks in charge seem unwilling to close it, no matter the cost.

Ah, the cost. It’s another area where you’ve been experiencing cognitive dissonance, because you keep wondering how the taxpayer is going to pay down this debt. How can we pay off hundreds of billions of dollars? Well, we could if that was all it was… but there’s more. A lot more: As reported on Bloomberg, the Federal Reserve pledged to create, out of thin air, 7.4 Trillion dollars to bail out the economy. It is one of the biggest financial stories in the history of the world, and… well, did you even know about it? As an added nugget of intrigue, the Fed has stated they won’t reveal who gets that money, or what the Fed gets in return. That’s 7.4 Trillion of your dollars being spent in secret. True to their word, in 2009 the Fed recently placed the initial two trillion, and they aren’t saying where it went.

Question: How can a government in as much debt as ours come up with 7.4 Trillion dollars? Answer: They own the printing presses.

Yes, they will try to “borrow” (and thus “create”) the 7.4 Trillion by selling Treasury Bonds, but it appears that the world is, well, kinda tired of American dollars. They have enough, thanks—and they’re starting to wonder if those dollars are actually worth what they paid for them. Hell, if China owned anymore T-Bills, they would need to invade Taiwan—if for no other reason than a place to store all the paper.

Now, if common sense (and sanity) prevents the rest of the world from buying 7.4 Trillion dollars in T-Bills, plus the 1 Trillion-plus Congress has spent on bailouts, how do we explain where all this paper money is coming from?

Look! Over there! It’s Bigfoot!

That’s right, we can’t. When we run out ways to legitimately “create” money we will simply resort to printing money. And when we begin blatantly and publicly ignoring the very basic laws of economics, China and Japan and Europe and India are going to look at their mountain of T-Bills and say, “These have got to go.”

And then? Game over. The ensuing “run on the dollar” will cause it to collapse, and our consumer economy will fall into a depression. This is a mathematical certainty.

President Bush handled the economic crisis like a moron. President Obama has simply done more of the same, as his “big idea” is to spend a Trillion dollars hiring a few million folks to dig holes, and an equal number to fill them back in. If you’re following the math, that now brings us to 9.4 trillion dollars of “bailout” money. 9.4 Trillion dollars that didn’t exist on the planet earth even six months ago. And that doesn’t even include the budget deficits the White House has seen fit to propose.

Do I have a solution? You bet: What would happen to our economy if the government announced, “We are eliminating all income tax and capitol gains tax until we’ve reached the point of 9.4 trillion in lost tax revenue”? If you guessed the recession would soon be over, step up and collect your prize!

But why won’t they do this? It makes so much sense, right? Instead of taking money out of the economy and inefficiently funneling it back in, just leave it with the American people. We’d then have the money to get our credit cards and cars paid-off, buy a flat-screen, and maybe even have enough available salary to make those pesky mortgage payments. Right?

Wrong. Tax revenues equal money, and money equals power, and you’ll die of old age waiting for a politician to give up power. It is their drug. It is their sex. It is their god.

Prior to discovering Peter Schiff’s website (www.europac.net) and then beginning to research the economy myself, I assumed our leaders would work the situation out. This is America, after all. We’re the greatest nation on the earth. What I now believe is that the foxes are in charge of the henhouse, and foxes eat chickens. It is their nature. And they will continue to eat the chickens until the chickens are gone, even if it means they starve to death later.

So what should you do? First, do your own research. Decide for yourself what you think will happen. If you think nothing is going to happen, then you don’t need to do a thing. But if you think something bad might happen—something life-changing like hyperinflation—then it only stands to reason you should get prepared.

Is it urgent? I cannot say. But consider this: All of America went home for the weekend on a Friday, and Lehman Brothers was a AA-rated investment bank. When business began on Monday, Lehman no longer existed.

Humans are the only species that ignores gut instinct. What is your gut telling you?