Losing The Empire.

by Daniel Russ on February 26, 2011

Congress Doing Business

First goes the Korengal Valley. Within hours of having our own troops leave outposts there, the Taliban were inside our outposts and posting videos online enjoying the accommodations. Surprised? Of course you are. Who in the American media talks about this when there are so many more interesting things to talk about:  Charlie Sheen’s outlandish party habits, Cameron Diaz says she likes porn, and of course Real Surgically Altered Housewives of Peoria. I mean who in the American media really gives a shit about the nameless faceless soldiers who are fighting a war in another country that might as well be another planet? Even Mike Huckabee commented that when he visited the country he thought it might as well have been another planet. I admire him for at least being honest enough to stop walking lockstep with the pro-war Congress that has hardly ever worn a uniform beyond that of Cub Scout. And just when you think you’ve seen everything, read these statements by US combat commanders quoted in the New York Times regarding another decision to pull back from a place where Americans died because of its importance:

“Military officials say they are sensitive to those perceptions. “People say, ‘You are coming out of the Pech’; I prefer to look at it as realigning to provide better security for the Afghan people,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander for eastern Afghanistan. “I don’t want the impression we’re abandoning the Pech.”


The reorganization, which follows the complete Afghan and American withdrawals from isolated outposts in nearby Nuristan Province and the Korangal Valley, runs the risk of providing the Taliban with an opportunity to claim success and raises questions about the latest strategy guiding the war.

American officials say their logic is simple and compelling: the valley consumed resources disproportionate with its importance; those forces could be deployed in other areas; and there are not enough troops to win decisively in the Pech Valley in any case.”

You see, pulling out of Pech Valley must not be looked at as a retreat, or a loss, even though the admission here is that we do not have the forces available to hold and secure the valley. Even after Obama has increased the number of private contractors (oh…yeah…mercenaries) to 19,000. That’s basically the size of an entire Army

Japanese Commuter Trains

division. I am sure these guys are getting paid at lot more than the $22,000 a year Marines. But let’s not lose sight of the facts that this is not a retreat, it’s “realigning forces to better protect the…” blah blah blah bullshit. That’s what we do increasingly. We don’t make anything anymore, except deals. And we don’t tell the truth. We manage perceptions.

Sounds like a slow, creeping defeat. Worse, it’s surrounded by brass that is more concerned about the public relations implications rather than facts on the ground. So nobody will think, you know…”we are losing to these ragheads”. And then there is the obligatory “we don’t want the sacrifices we made to be made for nothing.” Well, that’s what happens when you lose territory. Of course it’s no reason to send more people to die for nothing, unless you’re pro-war, and there is no amount of American kids you wouldn’t mind seeing die just to save face. Well, worry not my friends about saving face. Ninety nine percent of America couldn’t find Afghanistan on a map with two hands and a flashlight, much less Pech Valley. And in the era of perpetual unaccountability, ratcheting up the force projection to almost Iraq levels is not discussed at all in the “news”, or what that portends for us all; except that the Afghanistan surge hasn’t worked, and we are running out of people to blame it all on and commanders to fire and replace with someone else. I would love to ask Obama what he thinks of all this, but I am sure all I would get is that highly mannered dance of nothingness from a guy who will never have anything to lose for losing in Afghanistan.

What else did we just hear about two days ago regarding “psy-ops”? Our own “elected representatives” were targeted to keep the war in Afghanistan going, or should I say, to keep the tax dollars going to the weapons manufacturers. And where is the outrage? Where are the investigations? Why aren’t the gonifs who robbed us all blind even being prosecuted? Because in today’s America, money and power are firewalls against prosecution.

I sit here and see the cost and the suffering this war is causing us all and how tone deaf our own government seems and we really do have two Americas. The one out here in the real world and the one in the cushy bubble

American Commuter Trains

inside the Beltway. It seems to me that TV right now is just a series of distractions. Shitty reality shows where one person is allowed to humiliate another over cake decorations, or dwarf dog owners, or middle aged women so filled with botox and silicone that you can barely recognize the beauty they had to begin with, people who have done absolutely nothing but are stars nonetheless. While labor relations are the latest domestic battlegrounds, notice that on Sunday talk shows, there is not a single labor relations expert or advocate being interviewed, just anti labor Republicans who made millions taking public bailout money or by hoovering up lobbying cash.

This country needs to wake up and frankly all we want to do is sleep and hope that when we wake up, we will still have pensions, or rights beyond carrying a gun into a public school. Half the country won’t even vote, and hides their heads in the sand while billionaires engineer ways to destroy unions and hide their own perfidy. Look around you and tell me what you see besides a country that is growing moribund like an old house that is too expensive to maintain. The data and power infrastructure is going over the streets in an ever-proliferating band of lines and wires that occlude even billboards. Here in Austin, the prime billboards (the ones not blocked by wires) are all empty.Some have ads for billboard advertising in the most unconvincing attempts at marketing: DO BILLBOARDS WORK? THIS ONE JUST DID!

Just down the street from our home, the spools of wires on phone polls look like a bad hair day, and grow reminiscent of the ersatz Gerry-rigged wiring you see in the poorer neighborhoods in Mexico City. Our trains look like they came out of the Wild Wild West, covered in street art, rusty, squeaky, pulled by engines older than the people who service these dinosaurs. A few years ago I was in Europe on a business trip and rode a train that was modern, clean, simple to navigate, fast and cheap to ride. Last year in DC I rode the Metroliner to Philly. This is a train I had ridden while I worked in DC. It was rusty, noisy, covered with street tagging, chipped paint all over the interior, and a bathroom that made you want to vomit after you empty your bowels in it. Yet this is the train that goes from our Capitol city to our “greatest” city, New York.

America is like an old man who has grown gray, fat, asthmatic and still remembers the days when he was strong and handsome. We slip into irrelevancy and corruption and live in our heads about where we actually stand. Bankers and industrialists who spray painted poop filled bundled securities gold and sold them as AAAA rated investments get to keep their money, and their socialized bailouts. But it’s unfettered capitalism for the rest of us. Foreclosures by entities that can barely prove they own the mortgages, health insurance companies that deny care to their own patients and pay bonuses to the executives who oversee the destruction. And frankly we have a shell-shocked public that can barely process the facts, cannot get the facts, and can barely think beyond the challenges they are facing at this very moment.

American Data And Phone Infrastructure

Yesterday while driving back to Austin from new New Braunfels, I listened to NPR explaining why Boeing won the in flight refueler contract over Airbus. Robert Seigel asked the Pentagon correspondent why do we need to replace the tankers. The correspondent said “Well most of these tankers have been flying since the Eisenhower era.” OK, bullshit. Most of the original KC-135s that flew in 1956 have been grounded and long since replaced. The KC-10s have been flying since the late seventies. Every single refueler in our fleets has been overhauled, parts replaced, and upgraded until they barely resemble the first planes they started out as. So no, these are not Eisenhower era planes. Many of them are in a lot better shape than the Boeings we fly with American or Southwest.  So don’t expect any actual insights from NPR, just more of the same pre-chewed talking points in a more sophisticated format. I will tell you why Airbus will never beat Boeing in a head to head contract in the US. Boeing pays Congressmen a lot more lobbying cash that Airbus. Believe me, if China paid as much as Boeing, you would see Congress doffing Mao Suits and bowing to Buddha.

Consider how irrelevant the United States seems to be in the Mideast right now. Tunisia, Egypt, Lybia erupt in spontaneous anti-government insurgencies and mass protests, and what do we do? Well, to Obama’s credit, we do nothing. If you don’t know what to do then sometimes the best  option is not to do anything. But notice how little help the people of these countries are asking of us. Why is that? Because we can’t do anything but jawbone about freedom and democracy. To these people, we have been the diametric opposite of freedom and democracy. We invaded Iraq for no reason other than to grab their oil reserves and we are losing in Afghanistan, so why ask us for anything? That said, the insurgents in Lybia have on their own taken back most of the country and little by little, the wacko Colonel is holed up and can only ask his mercenary troops to fire into crowds of citizens. And we’re a superpower? Well, yes. But waning nonetheless.

Time Magazine online published this statement about the ongoing piracy off the coast of Somalia in light of the murder of four Americans by pirates.

“Nevertheless, International officials acknowledge that whatever they’ve been doing so far, it hasn’t deterred the pirates. The piracy monitoring group Ecoterra says Somali pirates now hold more than 800 crew on 40 ships. Said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after the four Americans were killed: “We’ve got to have a more effective approach to maintaining security on the seas, in the ocean lanes that are so essential to commerce and travel.”


Let’s talk about this for a second. While Americans are fighting and dying and giving ground in Afghanistan, pirates are holding 800 people, and 40 ships. Pirates armed with 20th century skiffs and RPGs are taking down merchant marines around the world and successfully negotiating million dollar ransoms to stateless ungoverned terrorists. Why aren’t we there instead of Afghanistan? My guess is that there is no money in stopping pirates when you can get $35 billion contracts for refuelers that are needed to keep our air power over a god forsaken sandy shit hole in central Asia.

Yesterday the last Shuttle flight took off to bring astronauts and a Canadian robot device to the International Space Station. The last flight of the first re-usable spaceship. Now we have to rely on robot Soyuz craft and Japanese low orbit vehicles to get up and back to a station taxpayers mostly built. And who in the media gives a shit? Who on the lipstick and eyeshadow hollow out remnants of CNN, once an actual news channel, can even talk about anything but Lindsay Lohan or the centennial of Ronald Reagan?

The entire country has been taken over by corporations and we sit quietly hoping it’ll all just go away and one day we’ll wake up and it’ll be 1955 again. We have governments here that answer to no one except those who can keep paying for their ever increasing re-election campaigns. They sure as hell don’t answer to us.

OK, my blood pressure is up and so I have to get off of my soapbox.

Have a great weekend.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

thiet ke web o can tho December 1, 2015 at 2:42 am

I had this page bookmarked a while before but my PC crashed. I have since gotten a new one and it took me a while to find this! I also in fact like the template though.. Thiet Ke Web .

Louis September 4, 2017 at 6:33 am

The picture of a Japanese High Speed train, for region to region traffice, and the one of an American intra city one is not a fair comparison. Japan also has “normal” intra city trains, just like the US. This is like comparing Concorde with a DC-9 or Bombadier. Yes, they both fly, but the reason for their being, and thus the form they take, is entiirely different.

Daniel Russ September 4, 2017 at 8:14 am

you’re missing the point. when a country as big as ours has to ride trains that look like theycame from the old west, then the empire is sick

Louis September 4, 2017 at 9:48 am

Oh, I see the point alright. And I agree with it. I just think you choose the wrong examples. In my view you should have had pictures of the detoriating mayor infrastructure (interstate roads, bridges, stuff like that) and set them against those of Japan, or Germany for instance, which are usually in far better repair.

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