An old Soviet-era joke:

Svetlana works at a factory that makes the finest beds in the Soviet Union, more comfortable than any bed in the world. But neither she nor any of the workers have a bed. At the end of a long shift they return home and sleep on the floor.
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The correct application of socialist principles dictates that the beds first go to the hospitals, then to the army, then to the universities, then to the collective farms, and so on. The workers understand that they must wait their turn and none are bitter.

One day Svetlana's sister Olga visits and is stunned to see that she sleeps on the floor. "Svetlana," she said, "you work in a bed factory!
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How can it be that you have no bed?" After hearing the explanation, Olga says, "But you are missing the obvious answer. You're strong and good with your hands. Steal one small part from the factory every day and smuggle it home. In a few weeks, assemble them and you will have a bed.
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"We tried that several times," Svetlana said, "and every time when we finish we find that instead of a bed we have an AK-47."

I don't expect much out of a guy like Joe Lieberman. Watching him take the Senate floor to tout his legislation (cosponsored by Tom Coburn) proposing to reallocate money from Social Security and Medicare to prevent the Pentagon budget from seeing any cuts, the ignorance of history is a little stunning even for him. When a nation is at the point of liquidating its domestic infrastructure to maintain its grotesque, bloated war machine, some historical parallels should be apparent.

When the USSR was doddering through its twilight years, it poured money and resources into a pointless war because saber-rattling and military hubris were futile efforts to stay the irreversible decline of an unsustainable system. The Roman Empire rotted from the inside and collapsed under the weight of the barbarian horde it paid to enforce Pax Romana long after it ceased to be able to afford it. That the U.S. could be in the terminal stages of empire, blindly shoveling money into an outsized military to combat boogeymen both real and imagined, seems impossible for our political class to comprehend let alone consider. Sure, analogies are fun. But people like Lieberman understand that there's a difference here: Muslims are scary and America is goddamn awesome.

31 thoughts on “IT COULD (NEVER) HAPPEN HERE”

  • Richard Fucking Nixon was to the left of the entire Washington establishment today. He ended an unpopular war, created the EPA, and tax rates were higher in those days.

  • Jesus Ed, you manage to sum up what the rest of us illiterate saps wish we could. Thanks for capturing a moment of clarity in these times of irrational teatardom.

  • There must be something in the kool-aid in DC, this is just crazy and spreading.

    Perhaps the unions are right about finding new candidates to support. Then again… the country is now in the throws of its decline.

    That's what I thought when I read that military was bolstering its forces by promising citizenship to Latino enlistees.

  • I dislike the Rome analogy, which doesn't really work. But the Soviet analogy seems to be spot on.

  • anotherbozo says:

    As usual, nice place to start the day, Ed, with some truth–however sad—to open up the logjam between the ears.

    But "an outsized military to combat boogeymen both real and imagined", which is oft repeated, makes me want to say, imagined, yeah, but "real?" I was persuaded by sane minds that thought Al Qeda should have been dealt with by a police force-cum-intelligence operation, not an army. No bigger a "bogeyman" than drug cartels, pirates, etc. Take away the mental scare of "they want to destroy us!" and how numerous were they, after all, and how much a massive threat? Requiring a mobilization of hundreds of thousands of troops, ya think?

    "War on terror," my ass. You can't defeat an abstraction: just the point, ala Gore Vidal.

    Not that I'm telling anybody anything. But we shouldn't concede even a "real" bogeyman to justifiy our bloated military.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    I don't see why everyone's complaining. This makes perfect sense.

    We can't get the money from the super-duper rich for defense, or anything else, because if there's real trouble they'll get the fuck out of Dodge ASAP on the first private helicopter and jet the can get to, and settle down in their mansions on the Riviera, or in the Bahama's.

    So the money for defense should come from SS, Medicare, Education, the poor and the handful of people left in the middle class.

    Because who's going to be stuck here in case of real trouble?
    The old, the sick, children, the poor, and the handful of people left in the middle class.
    So why SHOULDN'T they pay for it? Everyone else will be gone.

    At least Rome could blame lead in the water? What's our excuse?
    You know what I think?
    Maybe the flouride that was supposed to harden our teeth, hardened our hearts and heads as well.

    My biggest regret regarding that Quisling Joe Lieberman is that decided not the try for reelection next year. I would have paid money to see his Droopy Dog puss when he found out the only people who voted for him in CT were all members of his family, or lobbyists – those that weren't already from his family I mean.

  • What really pisses me off about defense spending is the soldiers are the last to see it. Better pay for soldiers is usually the last thing the pentagon wants to spend money on, equipment that won't participate in killing them being next to last.

  • The Rome analogy does work in one way- military spending contributed to the Western Empire's decline ( The Eastern Empire kept right on truckin' ) but then the Romans were actually fighting real enemies. Lieberman and his ilk are trying to convince us that " terr'ists" are going to sweep dowm on us all Attila The Hun like.

  • @anotherbozo "War on terror," my ass.

    Indeed. Terror is a tactic. We might as well declare a war on flanking maneuvers.

  • Monkey Business says:

    I was thinking about this last night. There is not a single Republican candidate elected for President in the history of the United States that could make it through the 2012 Republican Primary.

    Let's pick a couple of the best, and see why.
    Lincoln: Really obviously supported federalism over states rights. Waged a war to reform the Union.
    Theodore Roosevelt: Curbed the power of major corporations. Known as a trust-breaker.
    Eisenhower: Warned against the military-industrial complex.
    Reagan: Raised taxes, compromised with Democrats.

    And that's the top half of the order. After that, you get guys like Nixon, W., Ford, Hoover, etc.

    I do find it fascinating that the top half of greatest US Presidents is mostly Democrats, and the bottom half is mostly Republicans.

  • Robbing the treasury to offer kickbacks to the MIC that funds their campaigns? Who could have expected this from American politicians?!

  • Elder Futhark says:

    Hey, you know what, ED? FUCK YOU!

    As long as every goddamn Hadji in places like Bangistan and Pakladesh can threaten us with the magic words "Sim Sim Salabim!", then we ought not even to comprehend the entertainment of the questioning of a solid patriot like Lieberman.

    Thermonuclear warheads are the only thing Evil Genies understand – and fear!

  • Not only that Aslan, but Nixon was also responsible for extending Sovereignty to America's native Tribes and establishing the modern legal protections for those tribes.

    He actually liked native Americans. How many teahadists today can say that?

  • Nixon said:

    It is long past time that the Indian policies of the Federal government began to recognize and build upon the capacities and insights of the Indian people. Both as a matter of Justice and as a matter of enlightened social policy, we must begin to act on the basis of what the Indians themselves have long been telling us. The time has come to break decisively with the past and to create the conditions for a new era in which the Indian future is determined by Indian acts and Indian decisions.

    Congress then enacted the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975.

    Holy shit. Nixon was a fucking socialist dirty fucking hippy!!!

  • Wow Elder – just the typical enlightened red meat response I'd expect from a *real* conservative. Methinks you captured it a little too well, in fact.

  • @ Monkey Business: Harding. Harding could be elected today. He'd just have to be repackaged to the voters as a dry drunk who only fucks his Stepford Wife. And maybe a fake Texan accent…

  • @deep: In other words he was actually turned out by his own party.

    From a historical perspective though it makes sense. Should it surprise anyone that a name like Republican would be about a Federal *Republic*? Or that name like Democrat the Democrats were all about 1 man 1 vote?

    While LBJ may have lost the D's the South. Obama has lost the nation. After this week's fiasco the only thing that will most likely save him (and more importantly us – I say us because what the monkey boys in DC do has impacts overseas at least for now), is to see a plane go tumbling end over end because the airlines were cutting corners and hadn't been properly inspected by the FAA.

    But providence is never that kind.

  • Holy Joe is / has been/ will be just a whore for Big Phrma & the military industrial complex- esp if that spending supports Israel/

  • Been a while since I posted here….been busy with a lot of personal scheit. Anyways, as some of you may know, I live and work in DC. Grew up here too. I interact and have interacted with a lot of non-Americans here my entire life. It's interesting to see our country through "their" eyes.

    During the latter stages of the cold war, we could do no fucking wrong…from Rio to Dublin to Sydney to Istanbul we were the fucking shit. Then, the Berlin Wall fell. The relationship changed in the 90s, not necessarily for the worse but it changed. It was tinged more with, "Oh no, the Soviets are gone. Does this mean that the Americans are going to disengage?" Back then, the relationship was characterized more by a realization that they were too dependent on us and when the internet revolution hit, it was "How can we replicate what the Americans have done in our country? How can we imitate that can do attitude and knowledge back home?" Then 9/11 hit and for a few months there was a revisiting of the Cold War attitudes. "Americans are the shit; we can't lose these guys. Please don't isolate yourselves folks. Please stay engaged." Then we invaded Iraq and the feeling turned from surprise, to disappointment, to anger, to resentment, to "Wow, these guys are actually completely fucking crazy." And, then Obama got elected. For a few months, the Cold War feelings were back. "Hooray, the old school self-correcting Americans are back. We missed ya." Then came the T-baggers and the debt ceiling nonsense. Now, the feeling is this: "How can we disengage from you ASAP so you crazy fuckers don't destroy us all."

    We are entering a period of political uncertainty that the oldest on this board have never seen. Of this I have no doubt. Let's enjoy it. Pull up a chair. Who's got the popcorn?

  • Joe is like the old one horn, one nut bull. Makes a big noise but he's too old to fuck and too old to fight. He just bleets out his tired old bleet.

  • @Da Moose

    I have to call you on an opinion basis, of course…

    "We are entering a period of political uncertainty that the oldest on this board have never seen. Of this I have no doubt."

    I remember the Cuban missle crisis ( I was 15.) The Pucker factor was about 9.5 on a 0 – 10 scale. We thought that was gonna let loose WW3.

    Anybody who was military reserve back then remembers many people being called up, mobilized, put on ships that left port hurriedly during those 15 days.


  • Real spending, when you add it all up, by the U.S. on defense is around 900 billion plus annually. It can be easily argued that anywhere from a third to half of this amount goes towards subsidizing the defense of other nations.

    We spend 4.7% of GDP on defense. Japan, the world's third largest economy, spends about 1% of GDP on defense. Germany spends 1.4%, Italy, 1.8%, France, 2.2% – and the list goes on.

    How can these countries spend so much less on defense than we do, when they are allies who face precisely the same potential enemies? It is because we provide the lion's share of the cost for their national security. They can then turn around and plow the savings into things like universal health care – which benefits private industry – which makes their industies incrementally more competetive on the world market than the U.S. Talk about entitlement programs!

    Another thing. No matter how expensive domestic programs like Social Security and Medicare are, at least the bulk of the money spent makes its way back into the U.S. economy. This isn't true with defense spending. The money paid to maintain military personel, contractors and bases overseas for the most part transfers directly into the economies of the nations in which the bases are located.

    What amazes me is how all these right wing, tea party blowhards can go on and on about government entitlements – yet not only ignore, but passionately defend the bigest rip-off entitlement program of all. And to boot, one which benefits foreign nationals instead of our own people!

  • @ChrisR: Wow! They really did you a disservice in your education. At least where Japan is concerned. By paying 1% of GDP in military they're literally paying all they can. This was part of their terms of surrender at the end of WW-2. This gave us naval bases in Okinawa, and extend our influence into the E. Pacific region. So it looks as though the basics of history are being neglected.

    To understand Europe/NATO it's a lot more complex. For a better understanding I suggest:
    (sorry it's a wiki link but it was the best synopsis). Kagan's essay is very informative.

    Many of the points you raised are fundamental to the debates we've been having, and have their origins in the US seeing itself as "the World's Policeman". Some how we became too indispensable in this role. Such was the problems w Bosnia and Kosovo. The Europeans on the one hand have issue w the US throwing its weight around, yet while Clinton tried to stay out of those countries *every* plan called for US involvement. I'm fairly sure there were domestic reasons that the Euro's lacked the will to solve it themselves. Ultimately, Clinton stepped up problem solved, but not w/o the US being called the bully on the block once again.

  • @bb in GA.

    Good point and, yes, I was thinking of Cuban missile crisis when I wrote that line but I still wrote it because the distinction between that event and our current crisis is that that crisis was exogenic where this one is endogenic. So, what we are on the verge of now is the first real endogenic political crisis in this nation's modern history.

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