Monday Wake Up Call – Extremists in the Military Edition, February 22, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Lake Willoughby VT – February 2021 photo by John Rowe Photography

For decades, domestic extremists have flaunted their ties to the US military, seeking to attach themselves both to the military’s credibility, and their tactical skills.

The January attack on the US Capitol showed us that the ties between US military members and the extreme right are deeper and more pervasive than we thought. Among the Capitol crowd were many military emblems: Some waved Marine Corps flags, many wore military gear, or specific unit patches signifying their time in service.

The AP found that at least 21 active-duty US Army and law enforcement personnel were present at the riot. We know that about 207 people have been arrested so far. The Military Times reported that 32 of the participants in the US Capitol coup had previously served in the military. If you want to get a current reading on the attitudes of the military to the Capitol coup, read the 640 comments on the article. It’s chilling.

How big is the problem? Last year, the FBI told the Pentagon that it had opened criminal investigations that involved 143 current or former service members. Sixty-eight of those involved domestic extremism and the vast majority involved veterans, not active-duty troops. Importantly, the Defense Department has no central database for tracking the allegations or disciplinary actions related to extremism.

Also, military regulations allow service members to have extremist affiliations and use extremist rhetoric if a service member doesn’t act upon them. In fact, the Pentagon reported in 2020 that only 21 service members had been disciplined or discharged over the previous five years for extremist activities. It’s doubtful that reflects the true scope of the problem.

According to a Pentagon report delivered to Congress last October:

“Despite a low number of cases in absolute terms, individuals with extremist affiliations and military experience are a concern to US national security because of their proven ability to execute high-impact events….Access to service members with combat training and technical weapons expertise can also increase both the probability of success and the potency of planned violent attacks.”

Military leaders say tackling the problem is difficult because the Constitution protects freedom of speech, and the law prohibits criminalizing affiliations that are deemed fundamentally political in nature, rather than a threat to harm the public. New defense secretary, Gen. Lloyd Austin, vowed at his confirmation hearing in January to:

“…rid our ranks of racists and extremists, and to create a climate where everyone fit and willing has the opportunity to serve this country with dignity.”

And Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Feb. 3:

“Extremism has risen to a top priority as the new secretary called in the service secretaries and Joint Chiefs of Staff…directing them to conduct a 60-day stand-down for leaders to speak with troops about the problem….”

Monitoring the potential extremist activities of 1.3 million active-duty service members is challenging. It’s difficult to distinguish between the casual gestures of some troops and the real warning signs of potentially illegal extremist activity by others.

Another concern is that 35 US Capitol Police officers are being investigated for their actions during the Capitol riot, and six have been suspended. In addition, the NYT reports that at least 30 police from around the country took part in the rally before the Capitol riot. Many are being investigated, and three have been arrested on federal charges related to breaching the Capitol.

The military appears to be less politically representative of society, with a long-term downward trend in the number of officers identifying as Democrats. Instead, identification with the Republican Party has become the norm. The junior officer corps, apart from its female and minority members, appears to be overwhelmingly hard-right Republican. And military personnel have for the past decade been voting in greater percentages than the general population.

In many ways, the military and civilian police seem to have, as Samuel Huntington wrote in 1957, “the outlook of an estranged minority.”

Time to wake up America! We can’t bury our heads in the sand, hoping that the linkage between the military, our police, and groups like QAnon and the fringe of the GOP won’t grow stronger. We need to call out the problem whenever and wherever we see it.

To help you wake up, listen to the group Kiwi Jr.’s “Maid Marian’s Toast” from their brand-new album “Cooler Returns”:

Sample Lyric:

now you’ve got something we want

it’s the Twenties and you’ve got something we want

so you’ve made the decision to make the decision

now spare us all from these half-assed revisions

you’ve got something we’ve always wanted

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Myanmar Coup Parallels Trump’s Coup

The Daily Escape:

Last light on Mt. St. John, MT – 2021 photo by vincentledvina

Tuesday was the deadline for Trump’s brand-new legal team to present their briefs to the Senate for the impeachment trial that is due to start next Monday. The House impeachment managers have delivered their trial brief to the Senate.

And Trump’s lawyers filed their answer, arguing his incitement was protected by the First Amendment, that the House moved too quickly to impeach, and although he was impeached while still President, the Senate can’t constitutionally try him now that he’s out of office.

As we head into next week’s impeachment circus, there are parallels between the attempted Trump coup in DC and the military coup that just took place in Myanmar. First, an update: Troops there are patrolling the streets and a night-time curfew is in force. A one-year state of emergency was declared with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in control. Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader of the government, along with several other leaders of her National League for Democracy party (NLD) were arrested in a series of raids. Later, the military announced that 24 ministers and deputies had been removed, and 11 replacements had been named, including in finance, health, and the interior and foreign affairs.

It’s unclear what will happen next.

But, check out the similarities between what has happened there, compared to what happened here three weeks ago in Washington:

  • The military coup follows weeks of tensions between the armed forces and the government following parliamentary elections lost by the army-backed opposition party.
  • The opposition had demanded a re-run of the election, raising allegations of widespread fraud that were not confirmed by Myanmar’s electoral commission.
  • The coup occurred on the week that the first session of Parliament since the election was due to start. That session would have certified the election result by seating the next government.

What differentiates Myanmar from the Jan. 6 coup in America is that in Myanmar, there was an “army-backed opposition.” When the opposition lost the election, the military claimed fraud, demanded a do-over, and then intervened before the new Parliament could legitimize the results.

Apparently in Myanmar, there has been an ongoing power struggle between the head of the military and Aung San Suu Kyi. The two have rarely met since 2015, often only at public events. Suu Kyi’s party wasn’t simply a victim in this coup. Last November, her government barred huge numbers of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, who typically support their own political parties, from participating in national elections. Her party then won in a landslide.

And last year, Suu Kyi attempted to push through constitutional amendments that would have gradually shrunk the military’s share of Parliament from 25% to 5%. It failed, but this may have been what turned the military against her.

One lesson to take from Myanmar as we head into next week’s impeachment trial is that Trump’s coup may have failed because he didn’t have the support of the US military.

All of our institutions matter, they need to be strong. While they can be bureaucratic, inefficient, and boring, they always matter. Trump tried to use the courts to overturn the election, and failed. He tried to use the state-level electoral vote certification process to overturn the election, and failed. He tried to use his base to invade the US Capitol to block the certification of the Electoral College Vote on Jan. 6, and it failed.

Trump couldn’t use the US military to overturn the election despite a significant number of military supporting him, and believing that the election was rigged. That’s because the US military has never been a political tool, and it wasn’t going to change that by being a tool for Trump.

America isn’t Myanmar. In many less developed countries the military has an important political role. We’re in an entirely different situation, at least for the present, and hopefully, forever.

The fight for American democracy cannot be left to election officials, judges, or corporations like Twitter. It must first be fought by the Republican Party, many of whom still say the presidential election was a fraud, and who still refuse to acknowledge Biden as president. They have to reject their Sedition Caucus. Then Democrats and Republicans together can reset the terms of the political battle in America.

Democracy is a contest of ideas; it isn’t simply a propaganda war. It must start from a shared reality, one that Trump and his followers fail to see.

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The Demonstrations Get Complicated

The Daily Escape:

Summit Lake with view of Mt. Rainier WA – 2020 photo by monzar

 “I feel like a survivor from an age that people no longer understand.”Olivia de Havilland

So true for Wrongo. The video below shows one of Trump’s paramilitaries pepper spraying a Vietnam Vet. Not for anything he’s doing, or for anything he is saying, but simply because they can. The video was shot by Andrew Kimmel, who is at the Portland protests every night. Wrongo urges you to follow him:

pic.twitter.com/WDwOKem2he

The vet’s name is Mark Hastie. He was a medic in Vietnam. He’s pleading with federal agents to heed the warnings of history, and respect the oath they took to defend the people of their country. Hastie says that he has mental scars from his time in Vietnam, and that these paramilitaries will have them too, if they continue their authoritarian ways.

It’s worth noting that in Portland most nights after midnight, a few protesters escalate the confrontation which, to that point have been largely peaceful. Bottles, cans and fireworks are thrown, some try to rush the temporary fencing installed around the courthouse. That’s when the paramilitaries move in and harm the protesters.

The AP had reporters with the paramilitaries last night. Here’s some of what they saw from inside the courthouse: (brackets by Wrongo)

“[at around 11pm]…someone fired a commercial-grade firework inside the fence. Next came a flare and then protesters began using an angle grinder to eat away at the [temporary courthouse] fence. A barrage of items came whizzing into the courthouse: rocks, cans of beans, water bottles, potatoes and rubber bouncy balls….

Within minutes, the federal agents at the fence perimeter fired the first tear gas of the night.”

Ultimately, by dawn the next day, the paramilitaries had cleared the protesters away from the courthouse, and both sides retreated to lick their wounds.

Yesterday, the WaPo had an opinion piece by E.D. Mondainé, president of the Portland branch of the NAACP, saying that the message of the protests about the murder of George Floyd and the response by the Black Lives Matter movement is getting lost in the ongoing confrontations with Trump’s paramilitaries: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“….we need to remember: What is happening in Portland is the fuse of a great, racist backlash that the Trump administration is baiting us to light…..If we engage them now, we do so on their terms, where they have created the conditions for a war without rules, without accountability and without the protection of our Constitution.”

Trump’s plan of escalation seems to be working. The original protesters wanted less police violence and more accountability. But the protest now is against anonymous armed agents sent to suppress protest.

Another thing lost in the Portland protests is that Trump officials admit off the record that they are sending federal troops into cities in order to create “viral content”:

“One of the officials said the White House had long wanted to amplify strife in cities, encouraging DHS officials to talk about arrests of violent criminals in sanctuary cities and repeatedly urging ICE to disclose more details of raids than some in the agency were comfortable doing. “It was about getting viral online content,” one of the officials said.”

This takes us back to the Spanish-American War in 1898. Before the destruction of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor, the New York Journal sent Frederic Remington, the distinguished artist, to Cuba. He was instructed to remain there until the war began. Remington sent this to William Randolph Hearst:

“W.R. Hearst, New York Journal, NY:
Everything is quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. I wish to return. Remington.”

This was the reply:

“REMINGTON, HAVANA:
Please remain. You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war. W.R. HEARST.”

“You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war”. You doubt it? Look at this:

Trump is now apparently sending more Federales to Portland. So what’s the endgame? Having set the fire, Trump will now try to make it a raging inferno.

And, protests are growing across America:

We no longer know who is demonstrating, there are too many “false flag” operators everywhere in America, as shown by who was behind the arson in Richmond, VA.

What will bring us out of our current free fall?

If Biden wins in November, he’ll inherit an America with 15%+ unemployment, tens of millions more homeless people than we have currently. Hunger will be widespread, and COVID will still be working its way through our population.

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 20, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Alpine lake, High Uintas Wilderness, UT- 2020 photo by anteaterpinkytoe.

Which is better: Gorbachev’s Chernobyl response, or Trump’s COVID response? It’s a high bar for Trump’s response to be worse than Gorbachev’s.

The Chernobyl disaster exposed the Soviet government’s ineptitude to both the Soviet people and the international community. The reactor’s core meltdown and its aftermath drained the Soviet Union of $billions in clean-up costs. It led to the loss of a primary energy source and dealt a serious blow to national pride. Thirty-four years later, the site remains a waste land.

Gorbachev would later say that he thought the Chernobyl meltdown, “even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later.”

But Trump is up for the challenge! From Umair Haque at Medium:

“America’s in free fall. It’s having a public health crisis, an economic crisis, a social implosion, and a political implosion all at once. And all those things have been brought to you by Donald Trump, whose negligence, irresponsibility, recklessness have allowed them to flourish.”

Nobody in the world is in free fall like America. America has the highest number of new cases in the world, higher than Brazil’s 50K, or India’s 30K. Even individual Red States have worse outbreaks than many of the world’s poorest countries with far higher populations.

The EU has about 5,000 new cases. America has more than fifteen times the number of cases Europe has. Texas alone had more than twice the number of cases, (more than 10K) and the population of Texas is 7% of the EU’s.

Trump nails the win over Gorbachev with his most egregious action, putting armed secret police on the streets of Portland, OR. Dozens of federal agents in full camouflage seized protesters, threw them into unmarked cars, and took them for interrogation without specifying a reason for arrest.

It appears that at least some of the agents involved belonged to the US Customs and Border Protection (the Border Patrol), a US government organization that has no business conducting actions against Americans in Portland.

Both the mayor of Portland and the governor of Oregon have asked them to leave. A US Attorney for the State of Oregon is calling for an investigation into the arrests.

Now, the acting head of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, is vowing to ramp up these actions both in Portland and elsewhere. This is Wolf on the DHS website:

“Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it. A federal courthouse is a symbol of justice – to attack it is to attack America.”

We’ve seemingly reached a point where Trump’s brown shirt police force is reality.

Could it be that Trump is trying to foment unrest? His campaign can’t be happy that protests and urban unrest have quieted down across America in the last few weeks. Is Trump hoping this action will spark a revival of what we were seeing in June?

The calculation would be that an upsurge in protest will divert the country’s attention from the ongoing COVID-19 disaster while scaring moderate voters. It allows Trump to keep playing the law and order president, someone who will protect white suburbanites from scary black/brown anarchists.

This is the same week when Trump claimed Biden wants to abolish suburbs.

We’ve heard this Republican tune before during earlier presidential elections. It’s a mash up of Nixon’s law and order strategy, and Bush I’s Willie Horton strategy. It’s important to point out that both won their elections.

Trump is using Executive Branch agencies that he controls. AG Barr knows there is nothing “Constitutionally” Congress can do about this. They’re trying out various actions to see what they can get away with: for now, it’s the dreaded ANTIFA. Before that it was immigrants and asylum seekers. Later, it could be any opposition.

Time to wake up America! This is who and what we have become. The only question remaining is whether enough non-authoritarian Americans will vote in November to stop the madness.

To help you wake up, here is Big Country’s “We’re not in Kansas” performed live in 1991 in Bonn Germany:

Sample lyrics:

What did you learn in school today
Did you learn to run when the teachers pray
Did they teach you enough to know the state you’re in
Not enough to get out, not enough to win

What did you learn at home today
Did you learn to hate in the proper way
Did your liberated parents patronize your friends
Cos they had enough money cos they had the right skin

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Saturday Soother – D-Day Edition, June 6, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Normandy – 2016 photo by Wrongo

Today, let’s tie a few things together. D-Day was 76 years ago. Less than three months later, by the end of August, the allies had entered Paris, and the rout was on. Germany would surrender in May of 1945. That was the original Antifa war.

What’s going on today, with Trump and Barr trying to gin up a domestic Antifa enemy is bullshit.

First, a bad experience for a multi-racial family of four in Washington State that was accused of being members of Antifa. They were followed and prevented from leaving their campsite when the bad guys cut down trees to block the roadway out. From the article: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“The family had shopped for camping supplies at Forks Outfitters and were confronted by seven or eight carloads of people in the grocery store parking lot….The people in the parking lot repeatedly asked them if they were Antifa protesters. The family told deputies that at least four vehicles followed them as they drove northbound out of Forks. They said that two of the vehicles had people in them carrying what appeared to be semi-automatic rifles.”

Not dangerous, and no connection to Barr and Trump, just a coincidence, right?

Next, HuffPo reports that a shipment of hundreds of cloth masks that read “Stop killing Black people” and “Defund police” that an Oakland, CA Black Lives Matter-affiliated organization was sending to cities around the country was seized by law enforcement. The group’s objective was to protect demonstrators against the spread of COVID-19:

“The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) spent tens of thousands of dollars on the masks they had planned to send all over the country. The first four boxes, each containing 500 masks, were mailed from Oakland, California, and were destined for Washington, St. Louis, New York City and Minneapolis, where on May 25 a white police officer killed George Floyd, a 46-year-old handcuffed Black man, setting off a wave of protests across the country.”

The items never left the state. The US Postal Service tracking numbers indicate they were “Seized by Law Enforcement”. Again, what is behind Barr’s and Trump’s thinking here? The government has been urging independent groups to make masks to help protect against COVID-19. The difference here is that the government objects to the message on these masks?

Finally, Trump is now living behind a tall and imposing fence wall that was hastily erected around the White House:

The fencing is intended to provide security for the White House. Trump may have thought that the show of force in Lafayette Square made him seem more powerful, but the more he closes in—physically and figuratively—the more isolated and small he seems.

Don’t you wonder how carefully the White House has thought out their strategy?

  • Do they have an exit strategy for how their daily undermining of people’s Constitutional rights will play out?
  • Do they intend to have troops on our streets indefinitely?
  • Do they plan to make protesting so dangerous that there will be ever increasing violent incidents that, in the administration’s eyes, justify the continuing use of force?

On this D-Day weekend, things aren’t looking good for the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free.

It is hard to write this stuff, and it’s certainly hard to read about all the new insults to democracy that are now occurring daily by this president.

So, let’s take a break from the news, and find a little bit of time to forget the ominous place where all this seems to be heading. Time for a Saturday Soother.

First, we brew up a cup of Mocha Java ($14.50/12oz.) from Fort Bragg, CA’s Thanksgiving Coffee. They call it Mocha Java, but this version replaces the original Java with a wet-hulled Sumatra, and replaces the Yemen Mocha with a similar coffee from Ethiopia. You be the judge.

Today, partially to mourn George Floyd and all the others who died before, including those who died on D-Day, let’s listen to Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, played in its original version by the Dover Quartet.

This is the second time Wrongo has chosen this recording, primarily for the deep sadness in the music. Usually played by a string orchestra, here it feels raw and vulnerable, and much more intimate and powerful than with an orchestra:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Trump’s Authoritarian Impulses

The Daily Escape:

Lake Superior from Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Ontario CN – photo by crazytravel4

If you want to know where Trump is headed on civil disobedience in 2020, consider this about China’s Tiananmen Square demonstrations. Nicholas Kristof reminded NYT readers what Trump had to say about it in 1989:

“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it, Trump told Playboy Magazine….Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”

Overwhelming force is Trump’s plan, just like the Chinese. Here’s a list of the military, government police units and militia-like components of the US Government that are walking the streets in Washington DC:

That’s 14 discrete police and military groups patrolling DC. And it didn’t stop there. The Trump campaign just changed his MAGA hats from red to camouflage, and is calling supporters the “Trump Army“:

Yep, Trump wants an army to fight off the liberal mob.

The Daily Beast reported that Trump and Barr have come up with a possibly legal way to bring troops into America’s cities:

“The idea was to…rely on the FBI’s regional counterterrorism hubs to share information with local law enforcement about, in Barr’s own words, ‘extremists’.”

More from the Beast:

“That’s when Barr turned to an existing counterterrorism network—Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs)— led by the FBI that unite federal, state and local law enforcement to monitor and pursue suspected terrorists….The construction we are going to use is the JTTF. It’s a tried and true system. It worked for domestic homegrown terrorists. We’re going to apply that model….It already integrates your state and local people. It’s intelligence driven. We want to lean forward and charge… anyone who violates a federal law in connection with this rioting.

We need to have people in control of the streets so we can go out and work with law enforcement…identify these people in the crowd, pull them out and prosecute them…”

See any reason to be concerned?

According to multiple current and former Justice Department and law enforcement officials, Barr is misusing the Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) in support of Trump’s insistence that antifascists are “terrorists” exploiting the nationwide protests. Using the JTTF against the protesters is a political ploy to make being anti-Trump look like terrorism.

Authoritarians world-wide call domestic demonstrators “terrorists”. Saddam did it in Iraq, so does al-Assad in Syria. Duterte does it in the Philippines, as does Erdogan in Turkey. Xi does it in China.

And now, it’s happening here.

On Wednesday, Trump again violated the First Amendment by authorizing federal police to block clergy’s access to St. John’s Episcopal Church (the one he used for his photo-op), effectively “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.

That, from the holy defender of religious rights.

Monday wasn’t the worst day in American civilian-military relations. But the use of force to create a photo-op, including ordering military helicopters to fly low, scattering protesters with the rotor downwash, broke many established norms.

Trump followed that by deploying many different groups of uniformed “peace-keepers” to the streets of DC. So Monday became the worst day for American civilian-military relations since the military attacked the veterans march on Washington when Herbert Hoover was president.

Political Violence at a Glance asks a few questions:

  • If Trump insists on sending troops to states where governors don’t want them, will they go? On Monday, elements left their bases for operations in DC, which has a special status that Trump could legally exploit. That’s different from sending regular US forces into states without an invitation. That would cross a red line.
  • What would Congress do in response? The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, vowed to bring the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to testify. Would they even show up to the invitation?
  • How will the public react? The US military is one of America’s most popular institutions. In part, because it is seen as non-partisan, whereas most other government institutions are viewed as partisan. If the US military enters American cities, public support of the armed forces will surely drop.

Trump’s rhetoric continues to support white supremacists and far-right militias, while encouraging violence by his followers.

His effort to label the demonstrators as outsiders is meant to justify an increasingly aggressive police/military response. In the past few days, we saw them attack regular people on the streets, along with the journalists reporting on what was happening.

Former high-ranking military officers are finally calling out Trump, but his authoritarian instincts combined with Barr’s right-leaning reflexes pose a clear and present danger to our democracy.

Let’s hope the republic is still here for us to defend by overwhelmingly voting him out on November 3d.

They’re already telegraphing how they might respond if they lose.

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America’s Military Moves Rightward

The Daily Escape:

Bruarfoss, (Bridge Falls) Iceland – 2018 photo by ParticleEngine

There was some controversy on Memorial Day when Trump visited the USS Wasp before returning to the US from Japan. He was greeted by service members wearing unofficial uniform patches with the words “Make Aircrew Great Again”. Here is a photo of the patch:

Military personnel often wear unofficial unit patches as part of an effort to build unit cohesion and morale. Such patches are officially barred by uniform regulations, but may be approved by the service members’ chains of command, who are responsible for ensuring that the unofficial patches do not violate military regulations. Those regulations say:

“…active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DOD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.”

This means that service members are prohibited from exhibiting political messages while in uniform.

This is the second controversy involving a visit by a member of the administration to a Navy vessel in the past month. At the end of April, a TV reporter overheard the USS Harry S. Truman’s senior enlisted sailor instructing crewmen to “clap like we’re at a strip club” during a visit from Vice President Pence. He later resigned from his post.

So, to be clear: twice in four weeks Navy personnel have gotten themselves in hot water during public events in easily-avoidable ways. In sports, we call these screw-ups “unforced errors.” And in what universe does it make for our military to venerate a commander-in-chief who faked a medical condition to avoid serving?

Naturally, the Navy is reviewing whether service members on the USS Wasp violated Defense Department policy by wearing the patches.

So let’s think about a couple of things: The prohibition against political advocacy while in uniform isn’t about denying service members their 1st Amendment rights; it’s about maintaining good order and discipline. Imagine the chaos and conflict which could potentially result from men and women in uniform actively engaging in divisive political activity? Could we count on our military defending each other, or the homeland, if they’re fighting with one another?

Second, these two incidents remind us that there is a decided tilt in the military toward conservatism, and in some cases, the far-right. The US military, particularly its officer corps, leans Republican, and its younger, more recent veterans, are even more so.

There have also been plenty of problems from far-right military members: In February, a Coast Guard officer was arrested after an investigation discovered he was stockpiling weapons and preparing to attack liberal politicians in Washington, DC.

In the 1990s a white supremacist gang formed in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Brigade, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In 1995, two members murdered a black couple. In 2012, a member of the Missouri National Guard was arrested for providing weapons for and running a neo-Nazi paramilitary training camp in Florida.

In Georgia, two soldiers were arrested after murdering a former soldier and his girlfriend in an attempt to cover up their assassination plot against then-President Obama. A 2014 Vice News segment showed the KKK was actively seeking to recruit US military veterans, and some were answering their call.

Andrew Exum, former Army Ranger and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East policy during the Obama administration, wrote about the US military becoming a political-economic entity focused mainly on its own interests.

An apolitical military has been a bulwark of our democracy, but that is under pressure.

It’s been made more difficult by Trump actively working to weaken the apolitical nature of the military. He talks about “My generals”, but has given the military a freer hand on the rules of engagement and targeting decisions. He suggested that service-members lobby Congress for a military budget increase.

The demographics of the military has changed since we ended the draft in 1973. It skews southern, western and rural, all conservative-leaning parts of America. One study at the National Interest shows that over the last generation, the percentage of officers that identifies itself as independent (or specifies no party affiliation) has gone from a plurality (46%) to a minority (27%). The percentage that identifies itself as Republican has nearly doubled (from 33% to 64%).

This shift is dangerous for our democracy. Sadly, it is unclear what might reverse the trend.

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Saturday Soother – June 23, 2018

Apologies for the lack of posts, but it wasn’t a good week at the Mansion of Wrong. We said goodbye to Ms. Right’s favorite dog, the 15 year-old Havanese, Tuxedo. Tux lost his two-year battle with congestive heart failure. He was a brave little boy right to the very end. I think sometime in the future it might be a good idea to surprise Ms. Right with a new Havanese puppy, I might do some research into other crosses such as the bichon havanese or others that Ms. Right will instantly fall in love with.

Here is a picture of Tux when he was young, with his favorite yellow ball:

Tuxedo in California – 2007 photo by Wrongo

All in all, another week filled with big issues: Toddler care by government contractors, a real trade war, and the World Cup without a US team. But let’s focus on small, but significant indignities. From Thursday’s Bangor Daily News:

US Customs and Border Protection agents set up a checkpoint Wednesday on Interstate 95, stopping drivers and asking them questions about their citizenship before letting them proceed.

Agents set up cones narrowing the highway to one southbound lane, and then asked vehicle occupants about their citizenship. One agent was quoted as saying:

If you want to continue down the road, then yes ma’am. We need to know what citizen – what country you’re a citizen of…

When questioned about what would happen if a driver declined to answer, he said the car would only be able to keep going if, after further questioning and in the agent’s judgment, “the agent is pretty sure that you’re US citizens.”

These same border agents perform immigrant checks at Maine bus stops, where agents have been captured on video asking riders about their citizenship. More from the Bangor News:

In recent months, the bus stop checks have come under fire from the Maine American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the federal agency for records to learn more about the practice. Lawyers for the Maine ACLU said they have questions concerning “the intrusive operation,” and whether it infringes on the Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights of bus passengers.

The Bangor Daily News quoted attorney Emma Bond:

People have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, whether at a bus station or on the road.

Bill of Rights? We have no stinkin’ rights where Homeland Security is concerned. The tradeoff is to accept that immigrants, or possibly, terrorists, could make their way into the US from the enemy outpost of Canada. They could be infiltrating America.

For that, we are giving away the Constitution.

This isn’t some abstract abuse of internet privacy rights, these are uniformed federal government agents rousting people to produce their papers. Americans shouldn’t be required to answer questions about their comings or goings, unless law enforcement has probable cause to believe a violation of the law has occurred.

Stopping people for no reason is against the Constitution. It must be called out, and should be stopped immediately. We should not have to answer to anyone while driving down the roads our taxes pay for.

These are shock troops, exercising government power in a direct, one-on-one way. Let’s close with a cartoon that can’t wait until Sunday to be seen:

Another tough week. Unplug from the web and social media, it’s a time to cherish those closest to us, and to spend a little time away from the world.

Start by brewing a vente cup of Nicaragua Jinotega (Dark Roast) coffee ($13/12 oz.) with its bold and toasty notes, from Connecticut’s own Sacred Grounds Roasters.

Take your hot steaming cup outside, where you can hear the birds singing, maybe hear a distant lawn mower, and get comfortable. Now, listen to Aaron Copland’s “Quiet City” with solo trumpet by Winton Marsalis, backed by the Eastman Wind Ensemble. It is from the album, “Works by Copland, Vaughan Williams, and Hindemith“:

Now, let go of another pretty difficult week.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Monday Wake Up Call – October 23, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Autumn at Nictaux Falls, Nova Scotia – photo by Keith Doucet

Wrongo can’t let go of Gen. Kelly, or his comments in the White House Briefing Room.

Kelly said during his briefing that most Americans didn’t even know anyone who was in the US military. He then told the press corps that only those who knew someone in the military could ask questions. As if on cue, the first reporter who spoke started with the phrase “Semper Fi”— the motto of the US Marines in his question to the four-star Marine General.

So here, Kelly required a form of loyalty oath by reporters in order to answer their questions.

Does this concern any of you? There are risks in both our reliance on an all-volunteer military, and on our veneration of them as warrior-kings.

The all-volunteer military creates many different problems. Most important, a volunteer military has dangerously skewed the demographics of the military compared to the country. There are now big demographic differences between the professional military and America at large. Charles J. Dunlap Jr., a retired Air Force major general at the Duke Law Schools says: (emphasis and brackets by the Wrongologist)

I think there is a strong sense in the military that it is…a better society than the one it serves…[The military is] becoming increasingly tribal…in the sense that more and more people in the military are coming from smaller and smaller groups. It’s become a family tradition, in a way that’s at odds with how we want to think a democracy spreads the burden.

Danielle Allen, of the Institute for Advanced Studies on Military Service wrote about the geographical implications of a professional military in the WaPo:

By the end of the draft in 1973, military service was distributed pretty evenly across regions. But that is no longer true.

Changes to the home towns of people in the military since 1973 align closely with today’s red states. The uneven pattern of military service is part of the cultural differences that characterize different regions of our country. This has broad ramifications for our democracy.

Heidi A. Urben, a Colonel, studied the attitudes of military officers, and found that about 60% said they identify with the Republican Party.

So, having a professional military exacerbates both our geographical and our political differences.

But it gets worse. The authoritarian strain in the military and the citizenry is growing. A YouGov poll  found that 29% of US citizens would support a military coup d’état. Moreover, a plurality of Republicans, (43%) say they would support a coup by the military. Republicans were the only group with a plurality in favor of a coup:

In other words, many Republicans believe a military coup might be necessary, and they can see themselves supporting it. This is a dangerous disconnect. A fascinating poll question was: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

Should active duty members of the US military always follow orders from their civilian superiors, even if they feel that those orders are unconstitutional?
Should . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18%
Should not . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33%

The answer implies that Republicans at least, think that our members of the military are Constitutional scholars.

The weakening of support for many of our institutions is clear: Every year Gallup asks Americans about their confidence with 15 major segments of American society. The police and the military routinely top the list with overwhelming support, while no other government institution inspires confidence among the majority of voters, including the presidency, the Supreme Court, public schools, the justice system, and Congress.

We all want to believe that those at the top of our military are too principled to launch a coup against the civilian government. But it’s clear that there is a current of thought running through the GOP and a significant minority of the military that believes there may be a better way to run the government.

And a highly persuasive General might easily find political support for a coup.

Time to wake up, America! The role of an all-volunteer military must be debated, as well as our veneration of them as warrior-kings.

The possibility of surrendering our democracy has rarely seemed as close as it is today. To help you wake up, here is The Who with “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, the last cut on “Who’s Next?” released in 1971.

Takeaway Lyrics:

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 22, 2017

We have entered a new Dark Age. Wrongo is reminded of the famous quote from the movie, “Blade Runner” where the replicant Roy Batty says just before he dies: “all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

Is it all over for the America that walked on the Moon? That explored the planets, and funded basic science? That passed Social Security in 1935, and Medicare and the Civil Rights Act in the 1960’s?

Elections have consequences. Trump gave his supporters “their country back,” and his idea of making America great again is a resurgence and normalization of base comments, ignorance, and hatred of the “other”. Think about what actually happened with the Trump/General Kelly grieving widow moment:

A soldier died in combat. His widow, stricken with grief, gets a call from the President. The call upsets her.

That’s what happened. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, both Trump and Kelly should swallow their pride, and put the feelings of a war widow above their own. In Kelly’s talk in the White House Briefing Room, there was no apology to the wife, not an ounce of “we’re sorry she took it the wrong way, we of course meant to comfort her“. It’s all about: “That black congresswoman, what a fraud. Why was she there anyway”?

Wrongo served in the Army. He knows that generals are well-educated people, a part of whose job description causes other people to die. Kelly isn’t the worse person in the world; he had a kid killed in combat. That should lead him to take a hard look at what he did in the briefing room. He stood in front of the nation and told us all how sympathy for the next of kin has historically been done, how Trump did it correctly, and how unfair it is to criticize how Trump did it.

And that showed us EXACTLY what not to do.

And we didn’t need a lecture about how our professional military are the best people on earth. Kelly apparently believes that the professional military have higher citizenship status than citizens who haven’t served. Kelly stated the apparent orthodoxy among the top echelons of our military: That soldiers are the best part of America, and that they look down on the rest of us who are not soldiers.

Could anything be more depressing and scary?

Yes. It is WH Press Secretary Sarah Sanders telling the press corps: “Do not challenge the Generals” when it turned out that some of what Kelly said about Rep. Frederica S. Wilson was wrong. That theme will be repeated frequently during the Trump presidency.

Democracy has started its downward slide. It’s the start of our Dark Age. On to cartoons, assuming you feel you can smile today.

This is what the White House and Kelly are really telling us:

Maybe Next of Kin would rather just get a form letter instead of a call from the Donald-in-Chief:

Is this what we signed up for?

Kelly’s recruiting message isn’t real strong:

 

 

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