Bernie Sanders — A Clock Stopped Right On Time

I dislike gratuitous use of screen clips to characterize or caricature what you might be writing about. It’s a cheap shot and I’m guilty of it too. Just not this time.

So in this case, I looked to find what I think is a flattering image of Bernie. I like it. It’s old-dude endearing (in which my own needs grow), probably more honest than most. Don’t get me wrong. His ideas—throughout a lifetime of a non-working career, including US Senator—are as goofy as a football bat.

…I thought I’d take a look at Congressional Pay in current dollars. It’s pretty all over the map early on. It changed a lot. But it’s enlightening to see that congressmen and senators were paid $206,000 in 1907 (in inflation adjusted USD, to 2019). In 2009, their pay was $207,000 in 2019 dollars.

Seems they keep a better hand on inflation than that to which their legislation would attest. They’ve taken a hit in real terms of inflation vs. salary over the last decade or so. I don’t suppose the stupid shit they do as “lawmakers” has anything to do with that. I digress.

So, to the rather astounding point of the post.

It comes to pass that Bernie did a short but prescient and surprising thing; an Op-Ed in the UK Guardian, entitled We must do everything possible to avoid an enormously destructive war in Ukraine. Its lede: “I’m concerned when I hear familiar drumbeats in Washington demanding we ‘show strength.’” It’s always decent when a rather mundane title belies its content. Judge for yourselves.

The opinion piece opens with the typical hand waving that ensures allegiance from either side—a standard writing technique to reel in die-hard fans…where passing the plate on signal from the minister at the altar is now accounted for in social media likes and shares.

One of the precipitating factors of this crisis, at least from Russia’s perspective, is the prospect of an enhanced security relationship between Ukraine and the United States and western Europe, including what Russia sees as the threat of Ukraine joining the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (Nato), a military alliance originally created in 1949 to confront the Soviet Union.

It is good to know some history. When Ukraine became independent after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russian leaders made clear their concerns about the prospect of former Soviet states becoming part of Nato and positioning hostile military forces along Russia’s border. US leaders recognized these concerns as legitimate at the time. They are still legitimate concerns. Invasion by Russia is not an answer; neither is intransigence by Nato. It is also important to recognize that Finland, one of the most developed and democratic countries in the world, borders Russia and has chosen not to be a member of Nato.

Putin may be a liar and a demagogue, but it is hypocritical for the United States to insist that we do not accept the principle of “spheres of influence”. For the last 200 years our country has operated under the Monroe Doctrine, embracing the premise that as the dominant power in the western hemisphere, the United States has the right to intervene against any country that might threaten our alleged interests. Under this doctrine we have undermined and overthrown at least a dozen governments. In 1962 we came to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union in response to the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba, 90 miles from our shore, which the Kennedy administration saw as an unacceptable threat to our national security.

And the Monroe Doctrine is not ancient history. As recently as 2018, Donald Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, called the Monroe Doctrine “as relevant today as it was the day it was written”. In 2019, Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, declared “the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well”.

To put it simply, even if Russia was not ruled by a corrupt authoritarian leader like Vladimir Putin, Russia, like the United States, would still have an interest in the security policies of its neighbors. Does anyone really believe that the United States would not have something to say if, for example, Mexico was to form a military alliance with a US adversary?

I really damn like it and I have no idea whether it came from his own mind or a writer he commissioned. What I do know is that in the early 90s after the Berlin Wall collapsed and the Soviet Union was in free fall, the attitude amongst senior staff Navy officers I knew was one of distraught deer in the face of approaching headlights.

There was no toasting, drinking champagne from bottles, kissing and hugging strangers in the streets, ticker tapes sprouting wings, or anything at all that goes with an end to war on both sides—the sides being comprised of the guys who actually fight it, with many of them no more.

I reflect that back in WWII, the US commissioned industry to step up and manufacture ships, planes, munitions, and many different ways to deliver them.

I wonder how much of that simmered in ensuing years…that is…how much the Korean and Vietnam “Police Action” conflicts were really more about tuning, so as to afford US Military contractors unlimited mutual back-scratching opportunities to get it right and keep it right.

It’s not that the concept of military superiority is lost on me. That drive results in plenty of downstream benefits. But in a world where tech can’t really be kept secret at all, anymore, mil-tech is a global rat race now, and there are no taxpayers of any country on earth benefiting from any of it.

…The tech is impressive. I’ll give them that. In 1983, about a year before I became a US Navy officer, I did a report in my technical writing course at Oregon State about the development and capabilities of the F/A-18 and I thought the professor might need a private room. He gave me an A+++ and told the class it was by far the best paper submitted.

I was a senior. My sophomore hot-chick-little-mignon filipino girlfriend typed it out for me.

I paid her back.

…Some years later, as I was working 7th Fleet staff as a “young superstar,” I simply noticed a few things. First, I was good at long-form writing (crafting a narrative) and I could also craft numbers in support. Nobody could use the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet back then, 1988. I was a master. I converted the ridiculous “fuel management system” operating on a ridiculous MILSPEC cludge of a “computer.” Too ridiculous to describe. It probably cost $10 million. Smart military…

Essentially, I started tracking actual reported fuel burn of various ship types, cross-referenced those reports against refueling records, and came up with a few tiers of fuel burn based upon operational demands that turned out to be decent estimates in practice. All in a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet.

Did that make me a hero when, in the 1988 arena, we were showing our might after the USS Stark had been hit by a French Iraqi Mirage with one of their Exocet missiles?

Quite to the contrary.

Even though I had previously justified the $180 million fuel budget based on WAGS (wild ass guesses) of and over operational requirements for the ensuing year and we got that budget approved, I endeavored to keep refining my own calculations and when I later came forward to say “HEY, I SAVED YOU $13 MILLON EASY, MAYBE MORE!!!” let’s just say I wasn’t celebrated with flying ticker tapes, hot loose babes in tight slutty one-piece, or uncontained effervescence from bottles brutally uncorked.

It wasn’t all bad, though. They made a bit of a thing of it and presented it to the 4-Star who ran the Navy part of the Pacific. I’m just a 27-year old Lieutenant JG at the time, doing a job designed for an officer 10-15 years senior, and wanting to kill it. I think that was recognized overall. And understood. I got a pass.

…After 10 or 15 more years at that, you understand a lot more.

  1. Always “justify” a budget far more than you may need.
  2. Budgetary requirements flow from the bottom up for the first round, and then when budgetary authority flows back down, you’re in competition for for a bigger slice proportionally. Your requirements are PLEASE JESUS!!! more important.
  3. NEVER give back money, waste it if you must. You always have to say that you’d have done more had they given you more.

You probably get it pretty well and it applies to many areas of life where lying better and doing a worse job in the service of the narrative lie are the keys to success. Turn on your TV. Any cable news will do.

…So that’s all tangential to Bernie’s stopped-clock-one-day op-ed. Since this is for paying members only, I’m pretty sure everyone gets it.

Care for a discussion in comments? I’m all in.

I just didn’t care much for the US Military when I left it in 1993, once the competent strategic threat was not quite as it was, but by then, US Defense contractors determined our threat theater—and everything was a threat and a new threat.

Permanent crisis.

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8 Comments

  1. Greg Bur on February 10, 2022 at 22:56

    I grew up in a small town in the Midwest. If you wanted “out” you had two paths: college or the military. I was too pig-headed for the latter despite the persistent efforts of the recruiters so I chose option two. I said piss on it and left college after two years, returned home, and eventually started a small business. I have a lot of friends and family who served and they all take great pride in serving but they also share the same sentiment in terms of not really caring for the military. The mission doesn’t make sense to them.

    I left college for much the same reason. It didn’t make sense to spend all that money if the majority of your focus was on shit that had nothing to do with the reason you wanted to be there. I thought I was going to study chemistry and learn new ways to change the world. What I really learned is how terrible human beings can be to one another based solely on point of origin. I got more out of one semester of developmental psychology than I did from two years of biology, chemistry, and math. For my psychology final I wrote a research proposal in six hours the night before it was due. The subject: Is a College Education Worth It? I got a B+ and my professor asked me what the hell I was doing wasting my time in college. I took his advice to heart and I’m better for it.

    Today I work in technology (cloud). There is always something new that is going to disrupt an entire industry. Right now the world needs thought disruption. I don’t think that will happen until a critical mass shitcans Zuckbook, Twatter, and the rest.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 10, 2022 at 23:23

      I can’t be sure of course, Greg, but it seems to me that you asked a lot of the right questions early on, which many do.

      The big difference is that when those most get the same bullshit answer they always got, then they dive into whatever narrative they’re supposed to be in.

      The answers weren’t satisfactory to you, and that sent you off differently. Perhaps harder shot term. No comparison long term.

      • Greg Bur on February 11, 2022 at 03:13

        I was a card carrying sheep out of high school. I don’t recall asking a lot of questions. It was more a sense of waking up one day realizing what they were telling me was new car smell was something entirely different.

        It was damn hard in the short term. Hard enough that there is still a lingering bit of PTSD that triggers from time to time although even when it does trigger it quickly fades into the background noise. Even though the younger me didn’t understand what the hell was going on back then, the older me appreciates the lessons learned and reaps the rewards.



  2. Natalie Manis on February 10, 2022 at 22:58

    I haven’t been very vested in this Russian Ukraine controversy in the same way I wasn’t particularly interested in the 12 fake Russian controversies I’ve witnessed over the last 20 years or so that the media told me we’re disasters (Georgia anyone), but I do want to comment on Bernie.

    Some of Bernies ideas are naive, no doubt. But the basic problem he’s trying to fix is the same one libertarians are trying to fix, which is the corruption of government.

    The way I see it, the problem isn’t government (who libertarians blame) or filthy rich people (who Bernie blames). The problem is the two combined together which allows the government to be used as an assault weapon by private interests.

    The problem is the same, the only question is the best way to fix it.

    I’m not supportive of all or even most of Bernie’s ideas, but it’s important to look at the limited evidence the world has on his policies ie Scandanavia. What happens when you remove the monetary incentive for public servants and cap the amount of power that private interests have over the government? You can look at the wildly different pandemic response in that region to answer that question.

    Bernie might have some nutballz ideas, but he’s been on the right side of almost every issue that matters when literally no one from either side was, from the Iraq war to the Wall Street bailouts to the patriot act. Him and Ron Paul were the cheese standing alone almost always, that is not a coincidence. The Democratic Party tried to destroy him for a reason.

    Again, not supporting his policies, only supporting his integrity and his desire to fix the major problem that’s destroying this country, and via osmosis, the world.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 10, 2022 at 23:28

      Yea, those are sobering ideas and it kinda sucks to give Bernie props but we’re honest and we have integrity in these parts.

      And yea again, it’s remarkable how much a socialist like Sanders and a libertarian like Paul truly have in common fundamentally.

      But such things are not how the narrative works.

      You know what I mean.

      • Natalie Manis on February 10, 2022 at 23:37

        The way I see it, there might be two mouth pieces (the left and the right), but make no mistake, there’s only one voice talking. They might run some ideas through one mouth piece and different ideas through the other, and they might run conflicting ideas through both to sow the division that allows them to distract us while they rob us blind of everything that matters while most people don’t even look up from their phone, but the same groups control both.

        anyone who had consistently stood up to that voice even when it was political inconvenient to do so, must be doing something right. If I’m not mistaken he spent most of his career as an independent and only picked a side when he had to to run for president.



  3. Natalie Manis on February 10, 2022 at 23:45

    Please ignore my typos. I’m not an idiot, I’m just on my phone and too lazy to correct. You know what I meant 😊

  4. John Bafaro on February 12, 2022 at 01:28

    Wow, giving me a reason to actually have to agree with old BS, by itself is worth the annual subscription. The US would absolutely take the same position today, just as we (rightfully, in my opinion) did during the ‘Cuban missile crisis’ era. However, I’m not sure that is Putin’s only objective in this case. Let’s face it, Italy and Germany, where we have a large military presences, are not far enough away to not be seen as a threat. Who knows, maybe when the saber rattling is at it’s peak, Joe will be able to come away looking like a peace maker somehow, and boost his poll numbers before November. Putin does owe him one for removing sanctions on Nord 2. Crazy? Lol. Maybe, but such is the world we live in today.

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