Arc of the Moral Universe or Wormhole?

For years I believed my fate was tethered to Theodore Parker’s arc of the

The Arc of the Moral Universe (Public Domain)

The Arc of the Moral Universe (Public Domain)

Moral universe bending toward justice. However, objective, empirical evidence indicates that I am condemned to wander in a wormhole with its ends fixed between the 1960s and 2010s. In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King concluded an address to the graduating class at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University stating “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” in quotation marks. President Obama and Time Magazine attributed the quote to Dr. King, but the provenance moves the date back to before the Civil War and a series of sermons given by Theodore Parker.

The 1960s. hoto by Albert R. Simpson, Department of Defense. Public domain

Photo by Albert R. Simpson, Department of Defense. Public domain

The 1960s

What a time it was. Baby boomers came of age. For the first time in history over 50 percent of Americans were under the age of 25 and looking for a cause to fight for (it’s what people under 25 do). Revolutions of many colors were in the air, anti-anything was good. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll took the country by storm. The Cold War was at its zenith. The Bay of Pigs, the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam, and assassinations filled the headlines. Technology was ascending and science became the new religion. Space travel was no longer the domain of Buck Rogers or science fiction authors. Check out some of the U.S. headlines:

1960: Russia shot Gary Power’s American U-2 spy plane downed over the motherland * An irritated Khrushchev canceled the Paris summit conference * The Israelis invaded Argentina to capture Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi noted for the extermination of Jews (The Israelis executed Eichmann in 1962) * Mao’s Communist China and the Soviet Union split in conflict over Communist ideology * Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Madagascar, and Zaire (Belgian Congo) gained independence * Cuba confiscated $770 million of U.S. property * 900 U.S. military advisers were in South Vietnam * 1961: U.S. and Cuba severed diplomatic relationship * Robert Frost recited “The Gift Outright” at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration * Moscow’s Yuri Gagarin became first man in orbit around Earth * Cuba routed the U.S./exiles Bay of Pigs invasion *The U.S.’s astronauts, Alan Shepard and Virgil Grissom, made it into space * Russia’s Titov went one better by orbiting the earth over seventeen times in the Vostok II * East Germans erected the Berlin Wall to keep the East Berliners home * The U.S. detonated a really nasty 50-megaton hydrogen bomb * 2,000 U.S. military advisers were in South Vietnam * 1962: Lt. Col. John Glenn, Jr. was the first American to orbit Earth * Algeria gained independence from France * The Soviets and Americans faced off during the Cuban missile crisis * James Meredith registered at University of Mississippi thanks to protection from federal marshals * Cuba released 1,113 prisoners from the Bay of Pigs invasion attempt * Burundi, Jamaica, Western Samoa, Uganda, and Trinidad and Tobago became independent * 11,000 U.S. military advisers were in South Vietnam * 1963: France and West Germany signed a treaty of cooperation ending four centuries of conflict * Dr. De Bakey implanted the first artificial heart in human; the patient lived four days * Pope John XXIII died and was succeeded by Cardinal Montini, Paul VI * U.S. Supreme Court ruled no locality may require recitation of Lord’s Prayer or Bible verses in public schools * The U.K.’s Profumo scandal broke out * Dr. Martin Luther King delivered the “I have a dream” speech to a Civil rights rally held by 200,000 blacks and whites in Washington, D.C. * Washington-to-Moscow “hot line” communications link opened to reduce the risk of accidental war * President Kennedy was assassinated by sniper in Dallas, TX and Lyndon B. Johnson became president * Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of President Kennedy, was murdered by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner * Kenya achieved independence * Betty Friedan published “The Feminine Mystique” * 15,000 U.S. military advisers were in South Vietnam * 1964: U.S. Supreme Court ruled that congressional districts should be roughly equal in population * Ruby convicted of murder and sentenced to death for slaying Lee Harvey Oswald (the conviction was reversed Oct. 5, 1966; Ruby died Jan. 3, 1967) * Three civil rights workers—Schwerner, Goodman, and Cheney—murdered in Mississippi * Twenty-one arrests resulted in trial and conviction of seven by federal jury * Nelson Mandela sentenced to life imprisonment * Congress approved Gulf of Tonkin resolution (The Gulf of Tonkin turned out to be a false flag incident) * The Warren Report concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone * The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show * 23,310 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1965: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and more than 2,600 other blacks arrested in Selma, Ala., during three-day demonstrations against voter-registration rules * Malcolm X, black-nationalist leader, shot to death at Harlem rally in New York City * U.S. Marines and Army Rangers landed in Dominican Republic * Medicare, senior citizens’ government medical assistance program, began * Blacks rioted for six days in Watts section of Los Angeles: 34 dead, over 1,000 injured, nearly 4,000 arrested, fire damage put at $175 million * A power failure in Ontario plant blacked out parts of eight states of northeast U.S. and two provinces of southeast Canada * Ralph Nader’s published “Unsafe at Any Speed” * 184,314 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1966: Black teenagers rioted in Watts, Los Angeles; two men killed and at least 25 injured * The Supreme Court decided Miranda v* Arizona * 382,010 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1967: Three Apollo astronauts—Col. Virgil Grissom, Col. Edward White II, and Lt. Cmdr. Roger Chaffee—killed in spacecraft fire during simulated launch * Biafra seceded from Nigeria * Israeli and Arab forces engaged in the Six-day War that ended with Israel occupying Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, and east bank of Suez Canal * Red China announced the explosion of its first hydrogen bomb * Racial violence in Detroit; 7,000 National Guardsmen aided police after night of rioting * Similar outbreaks occur in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, Rochester, N.Y., Birmingham, Ala., and New Britain, Conn. * Thurgood Marshall sworn in as first black U.S. Supreme Court justice * Dr. Christiaan Barnard and team of South African surgeons performed world’s first successful human heart transplant-patient died 18 days later* 485,600 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1968: North Korea seized U.S. Navy ship Pueblo and held 83 on board as spies * Tet offensive started, turning point in Vietnam War * My Lai massacre * President Johnson announced he would not seek or accept presidential re-nomination * Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated in Memphis and James Earl Ray, indicted in his murder, captured in London (in 1969 Ray plead guilty and sentenced to 99 years) * Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was shot and critically wounded in Los Angeles hotel after winning California primary-he died the next day * (Sirhan Sirhan convicted 1969) * Czechoslovakia invaded by Russians and Warsaw Pact forces crushed the liberal regime* 549,500 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * 1969: Richard M. Nixon inaugurated 37th president of the U.S. * Stonewall riot in New York City marks beginning of gay rights movement * Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins—took man’s first walk on moon * Sen. Edward Kennedy plead guilty to leaving scene of fatal accident at Chappaquiddick, Mass. in which Mary Jo Kopechne drowned—got a two-month suspended sentence * Woodstock Festival * Sesame Street debuts * Internet (ARPA) goes online * 549,500 U.S. military personnel were in South Vietnam * Continue reading

The Democracy Option

Summer temperatures in the U.S.’s southwestern deserts reset the human ‘rational’ button.

Hot enough yet?

Hot enough yet?

Yesterday’s visits to two Tucson WalMarts and a Target in search of an inner tube for a bike tire, reminded me of that fact. When tarmac temperatures approach the melting point of sneaker treads and too small sandals invite blistered toes, the search for shade becomes a driving factor for human behavior. The shade of the few sparse, small trees allowed to survive in parking malls is territory to be fought over. It is astounding how creative the human mind can be in such situations. The same being who cannot read the ‘Limit 20 Items’ sign can manage the calculus of parking 10 vehicles in four carefully measured and marked spaces. Like some insane game of musical chairs, the remaining customers search for larger vehicles precisely positioned to afford shade for the anticipated duration of the store visit. Folks who long ago gave up balancing their checkbooks because the math baffled them are suddenly experts in the orbital dynamics of the sun. When the need arises, individuals rise to meet it.

Individuals are rising in this great country to meet a need far more urgent than parking in the shade on a very hot August day in Arizona. The heat is on the Constitution and its Bill of

The Founding Brothers stepped forward when an idea beckoned.

The Founding Brothers stepped forward when an idea beckoned.

Rights, the movement of government on the right and on the left to turn on its citizens, the economy and debt, the healthcare industry, the steep increase in the number of government secrets, an unresponsive, bloated government rife with scandal and more foreign wars the politicians want our beleaguered soldiers to fight. If the rank and file American citizen feels like he or she is living in chaos, the conclusion is not far wrong.

I am a proud American. I believe that if the motive power of the nation is released from bondage, all problems can be solved. This nation has proven more than once that, like the Timex of old ‘it can take a licking and keep on ticking’. Right in the middle of the chaotic domestic and foreign mess in which this country finds itself, I read Tom W. Bell’s article Can We Correct Democracy? in The Freeman. What? Really? I like our republic framed by the Constitution and don’t even like democracy in the literal sense. After re-reading the article several times, I’ve come to the conclusion Bell may be on to something interesting. Bell makes the case that the corrective democracy vehicle would bring a broader voter base to the table in what would naturally become a self-limiting government. But wait, there’s more!

The Tyranny of a Standing Military

In 1787, while addressing the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on his view of aJAMES-MADISON-550x439 standing military, James Madison said, “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”  He wasn’t alone. Well before James Madison addressed the Constitutional Convention, Samuel Adams admonished, in 1776, that a standing military was “always dangerous to the Liberties of the People.”  The first standing military in the history of the United States is a legacy of the Cold War (1947-1991) and it is now time to revisit the ‘buzz’ from the 1700s.

Madison, a proponent of a strong central government, is the last person I would have

even Years War - The Battle of Wilhelmstahl, 24th June 1762, in North West Germany

even Years War – The Battle of Wilhelmstahl, 24th June 1762, in North West Germany

suspected of opposing a standing army. What I lacked, of course, was context; the Revolutionary War. The British Monarchy was forced to double its debt to finance the Seven Years’ War. Sounding familiar? During the late 1760s, over half of the British tax revenue generated was dedicated to pay the interest on that debt. The Dutch bankers who financed the war smiled, but the people of Great Britain were taxed to the limit; they were enslaved by the cost of war. Living on less than half of the tax revenues generated was painful for Parliament so they began to pursue other sources of income. Hu-umm, the colonies in the New World were far away and could certainly foot part of the tax bill and ease the burden at home. Over a ten year period, Parliament passed a series of acts to increase tax revenues to maintain the standing military (in the opinion of the revolutionaries). To add insult to injury, The Quartering Act meant that the colonists had to provision and house the very troops that enforced the king’s policies at the end of a bayonet[1]. The new taxes and the coarse, profane drunkards that filled the ranks of the regular (standing) British Army in the colonies enraged a vocal, active minority and voilà, the American Revolution was born.

To their credit, Monroe and the other authors of The Constitution attempted to prohibit a standing military, other than the Navy. The Navy was supposed to protect commerce byNavy keeping the sea lanes open and free of pirates. That more or less worked for about 170 years. Armies were raised, wars were fought, and the armies stood down. It almost worked at the end of the WWII hostilities. The demobilization in 1947 resulted in a postwar low of $10 billion in real military spending. Enjoy that number, it is the last time you will see it! The Cold War was about to start and, with it, the beginning of the standing military and the enslavement of the American people.

By 1947, under the Truman administration, the seeds of the cold war were sewn. The American people, however, had other priorities. There appeared to be a growing awareness of Soviet aggressiveness, according to the polls of the time. Those same polls also reflected that most Americans were still not ready for another major overseas venture like opposing Russia. In November 1946, the Republicans gained control of Congress by promising a return to the good old days.. “We are not the British Empire” said they[2]. A crisis was needed to justify additional money for defense and the 1947 clashes over Greece and Turkey just didn’t cut it. Britain was close to bankruptcy and requested that the U.S. assume its role with the two countries.  At that time Truman, in accordance with the Truman doctrine, wanted to keep Greece and Turkey out of the hands of the Soviets by sending aid for military spending.  Greece was in the middle of a nasty civil war so was particularly vulnerable to communism, in Truman’s opinion. Truman argued that, because of the historic rivalry between the two nations, both nations had to be funded equally. Eventually, the Republican congress sent $400 million but no military support.

Luckily, a crisis availed itself when the Communists took over Czechoslovakia in 1948.

Communists takeover Czechoslovakia in 1948

Communists takeover Czechoslovakia in 1948

Lieutenant General Lucius Clay, military governor of the U.S. Zone in Germany, fanned the fire with his telegram warning that war between the United States and the Soviet Union might occur “with dramatic suddenness”. Congress was quick to approve over $3 billion when President Truman called for a supplemental defense appropriation. Truman’s re-election speech denouncing the Soviets for their “ruthless action” and their “clear design” to dominate Europe was the opening salvo of the Cold War, a state of permanent national emergency and military readiness. The standing military was here to stay. Just in case we, the people, needed reminding of how bad things were in the world, the Berlin crisis began in mid-1948, NATO was formed in 1949, and, in 1950, the outbreak of the Korean conflict kept the need for military spending at the forefront. By 1952, military spending authorization was over $180 million normalized to 1982 dollars.

In 1965, Vietnam ramped up, supported by the domino theory. By 1973, Viet Nam was not

In this Sept. 21, 1966 file photo, U.S. Marines emerge from their muddy foxholes at sunrise after a third night of fighting against continued attacks of north Vietnamese 324 B division troops during the Vietnam War.  AP / Henri Huet

In this Sept. 21, 1966 file photo, U.S. Marines emerge from their muddy foxholes at sunrise after a third night of fighting against continued attacks of north Vietnamese 324 B division troops during the Vietnam War. AP / Henri Huet

sustainable, but by then we’d spent $1.6 trillion and lost countless lives. There were down-sizing of forces after both Korea and Viet Nam but the military was, in both cases, left standing. The Cold War was declared over in 1991 and, yet, the military stands. In 2012, the military budget, which funds Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, now reporting to the Department of Homeland Security, was $553 billion[3]. The conflicts in Iran and Afghanistan were funded through other appropriations with a 2011 estimated cost of approximately $3.7 trillion[4] and more lives lost.  We are being enslaved by the debt of a standing military.

Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, and Iran are examples of conflicts that could not have happened, how they happened, without a standing military. These conflicts fall under Madison’s characterization of Rome’s use of its standing military, “…Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended...”.  When the military must be ‘called-up’, the Prescient and Congress are forced to air the issue during the light of day and the citizens have the opportunity to express their opinion. That is as it should be.

Mother and Father, Mary and Frank Moore before deployment in 1942

Mother and Father, Mary and Frank Moore before deployment in 1942

I can sit here and write this piece today because my father and mother, along with 16.1 million[5] others fought in WWII. My relatives, along with yours, have fought in every war and conflict this nation, the U.S., chose to engage, including both sides of the Civil War. It is not about the individual soldiers who left their homes and family to fight and, sometimes die, at the behest of their government. It is not about whether or not there is a draft or an all-volunteer force. It is about whether or not those soldiers get to put down their weapons and return home to their families. Since a standing military became the norm in the U.S., the government has enforced its will on all nations it touches through direct or indirect threat. We, the people who pay the bills, are not immune from the explicit or implicit threat of the military machine. Throughout history a standing military has become too seductive for power brokers to resist, today is no exception. While I understand that The Constitution has become an emotional icon, the ideas are fresh. The U.S. was great once, it could be again but not as long as there is a standing military and an advancing empire. If nothing else, the cost will consume the nation’s creative energy and still its motive power.

 


[1] The historical novel Johnny Tremain by Esther Hoskins Forbes is well-researched and provides an interesting view of the pre-revolutionary period through the opening salvos.

[2] Stephen E. Ambrose, Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy since 1938, 4th rev. ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 1985), pp. 71, 79-82, 93-94.

[3] Department of Defense; Fiscal Year 2012; http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/factsheet_department_defense

[4] Trotta, Daniel (29 June 2011). “Cost of war at least $3.7 trillion and counting”. Reuters.

How Much Empire Can We Afford?

Before the Cold War (1947-1991), most Americans viewed a large military contingent as a

 Chief of Staff Matome Ugaki, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, liaison staff officer Shigero Fujii, and administrative officer Yasuji Watanabe aboard battleship Nagato, early 1940s

Chief of Staff Matome Ugaki, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, liaison staff officer Shigero Fujii, and administrative officer Yasuji Watanabe aboard battleship Nagato, early 1940s

transient that responded to hot wars. Legends, and myths, of U.S. military might kept the continental U.S. free from attack. The country was a  ‘sleeping giant’ (Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto ) not to be poked by a stick. During the Cold War, the United States, like the Byzantine, Ottoman, Roman & British Empires before us, pretty much occupied the world.

The United Nations, bless their little hearts, recognizes 193 countries, including Vatican City. The United States has bases in 150 of those countries. The United States currently occupies about 78% of the world. Apart from the few bases established to support the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and the rest of the mid-east, the majority of those bases were developed during the Cold War. In January 2013,

Africa is a resource prize.

Africa is a resource prize.

the United States announced that it was deploying  troops to 35 African Nations.  According to Washington’s Blog[1], “America Sets Its Sights On Controlling African Resources … And Reducing Chinese Influence”. When the government uses the military to secure natural resources in someone else’s country, it should come as no surprise that they do not love the United States. When the government uses the military to directly or indirectly back up what we tell other sovereign countries they ‘have’ to do, they hate the United States. Those countries the Unites States does not occupy view our government as potentially hostile-humm, I wonder why?

The Cold War desensitized most post-WWII Americans from even asking whether or not the

The base was on the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure list. Air Force officials are saying with a smaller force, Congress should revisit closing some bases.

The base was on the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure list. Air Force officials are saying with a smaller force, Congress should revisit closing some bases.

physical occupation of most of the world made sense within our Constitution’s legal framework. Earlier generations frequently railed against unnecessary overseas bases that continued on after hostilities ended.  After the Cold War was declared ‘over’, the government implemented the Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) based on the 1990 Base Closure Act. Having worked on several BRAC projects, I can assure you the realignment worked perfectly. The bases closed were old and new bases or re-vamped bases sprung up in their stead. So, in 2007, we still occupied about 78% of the world. The Cold War gave excellent cover for the government’s empire building. I mean everyone feared the Soviet Union’s drive to conquer the world, didn’t they. There it is again. Fear driving an agenda or two.

It costs a bunch of money to maintain overseas bases and it is tough to get an accounting just how much a bunch is. About 2009, the government re-focused and many of the new base locations became classified or secret so the money trail went cold. My sources suggest the annual cost to maintain these bases may be approaching half a trillion dollars. And what of our young men and women, the soldiers? How are their talents being used?

The Constitution’s guidance, with respect to the military, is not clear. It is most direct in Article 1 Section 8:

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress[2];

The Cold War gave us an empire and we used that empire, for better or for worse, to enforce our will: economically, politically, and philosophically.  Now, the economic bubbles have come and gone and come again. The fiat currency is killing us slowly and the Federal Reserve is printing $85 billion a month just to keep the government and the financial sector afloat.  Our military is being weakened, through ignorance rather than malice, I hope. Most of the world hates us. Can we afford to maintain our military occupation of the world to satisfy the lusts of politicians and their cronies? Does it make sense?

 



[2] The last clause has been used as the basis for drafting civilians into the military.