A Citizen Soldier Stands Against the President

Is it time to take to the bunker yet? I do not think so.  Though, things are getting quite scary.  As a soldier and a citizen and a Christian, the President of the United States of America is an enemy of the people.  Not the press, not the Democrats, and not the Muslims of the world.  The President daily signs death warrants for soldiers he does not care a scrap for nor gives more than an afterthought over dinner.  The President has chosen his own power and prestige over truth and the good of the American people.  And it is our own President who incites violence (in violation of his own claimed faith) at home and around the world against Muslims, compared to the uncountable hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have taken up arms in our defense in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world… not to mention here at home in the USA.

As someone who risked his life daily for the American people, I resent the fact that the President has portrayed the US institutions of truth, science and the press, as enemies of the people, institutions without virtually any monetary reward and little notoriety who do their virtuous work in silence.  I deplore the fact that the President has deliberately undermined the Department of Justice and the FBI, organizations which have worked for decades and for over a century to work against the current of politics and protect every American’s rights.  And finally, I despise our President for putting his own politics above the integrity of our electoral system.  There is overwhelming evidence that members of his advisory team and cabinet were beholden to the Russians, and President Trump can do nothing but refuse to talk about the matter or lie.  He would rather repeat a lie than dig up the truth, a play fit only for the Mein Kampf.

Maybe I am exaggerating our situation, but I do not think I am.  There is not anywhere left for the Republican regime left to run except to crime.  This is not an evenly divided system between right and left.  The right has clearly gone off the rails.  They have their own networks of black ops that regularly and consistently distort the truth in a demonstrable and refutable manner.  They have constructed legislation behind closed doors without hearings.  If our Constitutional Republic can survive Trump’s assault intact, it will be a miracle.  We can only match this assault with an army of spirit-warriors.  Satyagraha is our weapon.  Only by peace, mercy and the truth will we find a foundation for a true government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

May our Republic survive by the way of love.  Amen.

 

Beyond the Threat of a Faithful Democracy

The idea that the United States is a nation of faith can at last be given up as a lie.  Trump represents neither faith nor works.  He has disproven any attempts to depict him as faithful to the truth.  There really can be only one non-ironic interpretation of Trump.  A power-monger plain and simple, he is willing to sell the American presidency to Vladimir Putin for pennies on the dollar, so long as Trump receives the position.

Given that it has been scientifically demonstrated that democracy tends toward suboptimal decision making, we have been begging for an end-time reckoning for some time.  American democratic politics have dragged us into a number of wars and military conflicts for which neither sound moral nor economic reasoning can be laid down.  In fact, a vast number of Americans apparently think medieval mercantilism and free market capitalism are interchangeable.  The medieval mercantilist strategy may prove beneficial for a businessman, but is clearly an inefficient, immoral and unscientific means of lifting the economy and distributing goods and services.

So how are we to confront democracy and mercantilist economics? Off the cuff, I would recommend saddling mercantilists with fines and punishments appropriate to the political system they are trying to undermine: where there is capital punishment, let them be executed; where there is leniency, let us be lenient.  (Why adopt such a rule? Because where the politics grow more harsh and conservative, the more dangerous grows the military, economic, and political weight.  The less dangerous the hold on power, the more likely power is to yield beneficial consequences.)  But these things should not be decided off the cuff.

What is clearly needed is deep, intellectual reflection on the structures of power and economics.  (Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck, if they recognized their inadequacy for such a task, would elect to sit out the debate.  Given the Dunning-Kruger effect, we will always have them with us.)  Despite a lot of crying, much of it from the more extreme left wing of literary theory and their ilk, there really is a great deal of factual knowledge on how to organize an economic system so as to benefit a great majority of the people.  And it starts with a good intellectual grounding in free market economics.  Nobel prize winners in economics such as Paul Krugman have shown us the way, to both reveal the obscene and pursue the praiseworthy.

The structures of power are more difficult to discern, as, in large part, political science is not altogether scientific.  (Nor, for that matter, is Business anything more than bad psychology.  The two disciplines go hand-in-hand.)  There is good work being done on optimizing decision making in groups that can show us the way.  And, of course, there is a solid foundation of material from economics.  How to fuse the optimization of group decision making with our economic needs as a people (that is, as a race or a nation rather than a political caste or party) may be murky, but it is not beyond imagining.

To move forward, though, requires breaking the hold of powerbrokers, and that, I am afraid, means breaking some arms.

Throw over the tables of the money changers…

Or remain cowards in your corners.

Democracy and Open Source Intelligence

As a republic, we long ago decided that we hold certain values as sacred. The opposition to cruelty toward prisoners is one of those values, which we enshrined in one of our most holy documents, the Bill of Rights. There can be no real question of whether torture in any form, psychological or physical, is an abomination. And yet the question has been raised.

 

Can we have dialogue with those who treat torture as an expedient and, therefore, morally justified means of gathering intelligence? The fact is that we have to engage in dialogue, regardless of our moral outrage at the practices of the CIA now coming to light. In other words, what choice do we have? Government bodies have a vested interest in protecting their members from prosecution. Those of us who wish to see justice served are, almost by definition, out of power. So our hope is to engage in a substantive dialogue.

 

The fact that we have multiple intelligence agencies working in the shadows is a primary source of the United States’ failure to live up to her values. And, overall, those agencies are not very good at what they do. Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA goes some way to exposing the Company’s failure as an agency. That same troubled history exposes the incompatibility of our values of openness, respect for human dignity and government by the people with the existence of a shadowy arm of the government.

 

The fact is that we get as good or better intelligence from careful investigative reporting than we do from clandestine operations.

 

So long as we maintain agencies that operate in the shadows, there will be shadowy operations. It is only a failure of imagination that sees no other option than a clandestine service. And if we do away with the clandestine services, we will do away with torture. At least, we will do away with secret torture. Even Abu Ghraib was a result of secrecy insofar as the inner workings of the prison system were not aired.

 

To speak symbolically, light dispels the darkness.

 

Open source intelligence is the primary alternative to clandestine operations, and it has proven itself. In the run up to the war in Iraq, you were much less likely to buy into the case that Iraq was hiding an operating WMD program if you used a solid, non-partisan news source such as NPR, PBS or print media. The same can be said for believing such fables as that the 9/11 terrorists were Iraqis, that there was clear evidence of a link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, or that world opinion supported our war in Iraq.

 

Open source intelligence is inherently self-correcting, if we can strip away the blinders of ideology. FOX News users performed horribly in the tests I mentioned above. Ideology does color the news. But not necessarily. Ideology, despite the post-modern claims to the contrary, is not built in to how we conceptualize the world. It does, however, take care and work to avoid falling into the trap of the easy hermeneutics of ideological thinking. Thankfully, there are always careful thinkers among us. In a democracy they also have a voice, however small it may be. And, therefore, we have a corrective to poor thinking and reporting.

 

Government decisions, by the people and by leaders, should only be made by the fully informed. This is only possible in the light of open source intelligence.