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American Exceptionalism as the USA version of nationalism

News Who Rules America Recommended books Recommended Links Anatol Leiven on American Messianism Economic costs of American Exceptionalism American imperialism: the attempt to secure global hegemony
Narcissism as Key American Value Neoliberalism as secular religion, "idolatry of money NeoMcCartyism Russiagate: Special Prosecutor Mueller and his fishing expedition Neoconservatism Antirussian hysteria as a method of suppressing of dissent against neoliberalism and militarism What's the Matter with Kansas
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National Security State Corporatism Resurgence of neofascism as reaction on crisis of neoliberalism and neoliberal globalization Fighting Russophobia Fifth Column of Globalization Understanding Mayberry Machiavellians (Rovism) The History of Media-Military-Industrial Complex Concept
Big Uncle is Watching You Nation under attack meme Antirussian hysteria as a method of suppressing of dissent against neoliberalism and militarism National Socialism and Military Keysianism Corporatist Corruption: Systemic Fraud under Clinton-Bush-Obama Regime Authoritarian Corporatism Terrorism as a smokesreen for National Security State implementation
Elite [Dominance] Theory And the Revolt of the Elite William Browder, MI6, economic rape of Russia, and Magnitsky Act Is national security state in the USA gone rogue ? American Exceptionalism as Civil Religion Fighting Neo-Theocracy Inside democratization hypocrisy fair The Unlikely History of American Exceptionalism Walter A. McDougall
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Introduction


I call it a tribal phenomena. A tribe can be a religion, a nation, a gender, a race, or any group which is different from the group you identify with. It is not confined to religion.

And it seems to be an inherent trait in the human species that was one aspect of our evolution. Only when we learn that it is better to cooperate with each other rather than kill each other will we be free from this deadly disease which may, in the end, destroy us all.

sheridan44 comment in The Guardian

[American exceptionalism] is a reaction to the inability of people to understand global complexity or important issues like American energy dependency. Therefore, they search for simplistic sources of comfort and clarity. And the people that they are now selecting to be, so to speak, the spokespersons of their anxieties are, in most cases, stunningly ignorant.

Zbigniew Brzezinski

According to George Soros, the events of 9/11 renewed a "distorted view" of American supremacy that "postulates that because we are stronger than others, we must know better and we must have right on our side."  In other words 9/11 was important step to the transformation of the USA in the "National Security State" with the permanent regime of Total surveillance" over the population. The next step were events of 2008, which signified crisis of neoliberalism as an ideology. Neoliberalism now can mostly be propagated by brute force, via military intervention or some form of coup d'état (aka color revolutions) much like Trotskyites planned to propagate socialism to other countries via Permanent Revolution.  With  "Democracy promotion" instead of "liberation of proletariat".

Rise of American exeptionalism is also connected with the reaction to neoliberalism with its redistribution of wealth up by most of US population. Actually this is global phenomenon: neoliberalism gives strong impulse to the rise of neofascism in many countries, not only in the USA. As William I. Robinson noted in his article  Global Capitalism Crisis of Humanity and the Specter of 21st Century Fascism  

Yet another response [ to globalization] is that I term 21st century fascism.5   The ultra-right is an insurgent force in many countries. In broad strokes, this project seeks to fuse reactionary political power with transnational capital and to organise a mass base among historically privileged sectors of the global working class – such as white workers in the North and middle layers in the South – that are now experiencing heightened insecurity and the specter of downward mobility. It involves militarism, extreme masculinisation, homophobia, racism and racist mobilisations, including the search for scapegoats, such as immigrant workers and, in the West, Muslims.

Twenty-first century fascism evokes mystifying ideologies, often involving race/culture supremacy and xenophobia, embracing an idealised and mythical past. Neo-fascist culture normalises and glamorises warfare and social violence, indeed, generates a fascination with domination that is portrayed even as heroic.

American exceptionalism is unique in many ways as it does not include mass mobilization (see Inverted Totalitarism). "Go shopping" famously recommended George W Bush after 9/11. It should probably be more correctly called US-specific version of far right nationalism. The latter is  a milder variant of  one that existed in 30th of the last century in national-socialist countries of Europe, such as Italy and Spain, which does not necessarily employ physical violence against political opponents.  

The sad fact is that the America of today is even more arrogant than the America  in the days of Manifest Destiny and gunboat diplomacy. Indeed, the dissolution of the USSR cemented the national myth of superiority. The establishment of unparalleled industrial might, military victories in two world wars and on both sides of the globe, and the staggering economic defeat of Communism in the Cold War all have combined to cement America’s presumption of  chapters in a long history of escalating national illusions of pre-eminence and blind national egoism. The dominant view about the USA from most countries is that it has a split paranoid personality,  a “Jekyll and Hyde” America, “a democracy inside, an empire outside.” American policy makers, with their pretensions of global superiority after collapse of the USSR and with ever-increasing power of their military machine moved steadily toward making the whole globe a US preserve.  Despite its vulgarity and borderline obsession with pornography (or may be because of that) the US culture made inroad all over the globe, and even in Europe and Russia despite rich cultural traditions of both. While the blatant American imperialism of the turn of the last century is now only a memory, today the nations face policies evidence more insidious brands of imperialism: cultural imperialism, economic imperialism,  the imperialism of neoliberal ideology and forced globalization on the US terms.  All are spread by the same national arrogance, the same cock-sure certainly that we are right.  Many nations fear the United States practices a contemporary brand of “soft imperialism,” enslaving nations with IMF debt meachisms under  the auspice of economic globalization.  Converting  the Third World in debt slaves or simply exploit it. In spite of such fears, and despite the setbacks, Americans remain convinced that eventually all nations are destined to fall into step and adopt “the American way.” All the while, the US politicians decry the rigid fundamentalism of our enemies while we remain utterly blind to our own.

Americans have been, and are today, exposed almost from birth to a particularly virulent strain of nationalism unlike that found in other modern nations. The resulting affliction stems from an unswerving faith in national superiority and uniqueness that is deeply ingrained in the American mind. Historically, these notions of superiority sprang from myths of the visions of chosen-ness, and high destiny; from the myth of frontier self-sufficiency; and finally from the perceived universality of American ideology and dominance of US culture and English language over the globe. While in some of us, nationalist feelings are not that pronounced, few of us are immune, and that is especially visible in times of anger, or fear. In spite of, and perhaps because of, our many strengths, practically all of us as Americans share this particularly prideful, unlovely, and potentially fatal weakness. In one form or another and to some degree or another, we carry national pride across the invisible boundary that separates benign patriotism from malignant far right nationalism. Hillary candidacy demonstrates that this process went too far and became really  malignant:

Still, Americans are sure that they, like Woodrow Wilson, have seen “visions that other nations have not seen,” and that, accordingly, the United States’ mission has always been to become the “light of the world.”28 Indeed, from the very beginning, the American national identity was built on audacious visions of chosen-ness, destiny, and mission. Ronald Reagan was not the first nor the last in a long line of entrenched American visionaries to proclaim American exceptionalism, with its missionary implications of the Puritan “city on the hill,” no longer a stationary beacon, but an active force, the “leader of the free world” directing its forces against “empires of evil.”29

With such visions comes a warning: “the adoption of political and social values … as a framework for national identification is possible only if these values are based on some source of apparent ultimate truth which confers on them absolute validity — if they can claim universality.”30 If Americans unflinchingly believe that theirs is the single principle of Absolute Truth representing the universal interests of humankind, then any opposition will appear either criminal or inhuman.31 As Arthur Schlesinger Jr. puts it, “Those who are convinced that they have a monopoly on Truth always feel that they are saving the world when they slaughter heretics. Their object remains the making of the world over in the image of their dogmatic ideology — their goal is a monolithic world, organized on the principle of the infallibility of a single creed.”32 If Americans are so egotistical as to believe that their nation with its gleaming lamp of Ultimate Truth is the envy of the world, then they will perceive no wrong in trying to make the world over in America’s image, by whatever means. However, the world is a very complex and diverse place, and Ultimate Truth is a highly elusive and unstable substance. Thus, these are not only very arrogant ideas; they are also very dangerous ideas.

The way in which American elite as a whole relates with the rest of the world demonstrates a strong nationalistic (as in cultural nationalism) and chauvinistic point of view. That means that mass media presents events only from the particular  point of view, that militarism is always encouraged and defended. With the considerable part of brainwashed lemmings (aka American public) believing that their nation, or culture, is superior to all others.

This view involves a unique mixture of prejudice, xenophobia and inter-group and in-group violence, with the latter directed at suppression of dissent. Indeed, the United States’ inflated sense of eminence create additional, non-economic stimulus for the country elite to act in  fundamentally ethnocentric ways, and to to strive for unilateral rule of the world using military supremacy as door opener to resources of other nations.  And first of all oil.

The other key support of American exeptionalism are large financial institutions, which depend on the success of the US "financial imperialism". We can view imperialism as ethnocentrism in action. And "financial imperialism" is very similar to "old-style" European imperialism, where  European nations discovered new lands and imposed capitalism, their system of law and culture on the native peoples usually through violence. Like old colonies were forced to abandon their way of life and adopt a “superior” lifestyle and became resource base of metropolia, financial imperialism impose debt on other nations keeping them in a kind of debt slavery with the same result: they also became resource base for metropolia. 

American exceptionalism might also have religious overtones as "citi on the hill" metaphor implies.  It is not thus accidental that the first deep analyses of American exceptionalism was done by Niebuhr from the religious positions in his famous book The Irony of American History. Niebuhr as a theologian came to conclusion that it represents a sin that inevitably lead to the false allure of simple solutions and lack of appreciation of limits of power. In his opinion "Messianic consciousness" which constitute the core of American exceptionalism, was partially inherited form religious dogmas of early religious sects which came to colonize America.  Those views were later enhanced and developed further by Professor Bacevich. See more details exposition of his views on the subject in the page New American Militarism

Any unbiased analysis of the nationalist activities leads to a disappointing conclusion: nationalists can behave as compradors: as enthusiastic servants of a foreign occupier of their own territory. In this case international banking cartel. Ukraine is one example, Serbia and Georgia are other but very similar examples. In the same way the USA can be viewed as a country occupied by financial oligarchy with most of its citizents converted into "debt slaves".

The policy which oppose exceptionalism is often called Noninterventionism

Noninterventionism is a rather clunky and unappealing label for a set of very appealing ideas: that the U.S. should mind its own business, act with restraint, respect other nations, refrain from unnecessary violence, and pursue peace. If future administrations took just a few of these as guiding principles for the conduct of foreign policy, America and the world would both be better off.

There were several important thinkers who contributed to understand of this complex and multifaceted, like any type of nationalism,  phenomena. We will discuss (in breif) just four thinkers that made significant impact in understanding of this very complex concept. Among them: 

  1. Niebuhr
  2. Michael Ignatieff
  3. Anatol Lieven
  4. Andrew Basevich

American neo-conservatism  is a closely related phenomenon. In this case the key point is that the pre-eminence of the USA as the sole superpower needs to be maintained at all costs and with wide use of military force. Among prominent neocons we can name Hillary Clinton and most of republican candidates for the presidency in the 2016 presidential race. That means that American exeptionalism is an establishment view, the view of the US elite, not some anomaly.  

Niebuhr's contribution to understanding of American exeptionalism

In his brilliant foreword to Niebuhr's book The Irony of American History Bacevich noted:

In Niebuhr's view, America's rise to power derived less from divine favor than from good fortune combines with a fierce determination to convert that good fortune in wealth and power. The good fortune cane in the form of vast landscape, rich in resources, ripe for exploitation, and apparently insulated from the bloody cockpit of [European] power politics. The determination found expression in a strategy of commercial and territorial expansionism that proved staggeringly successful, evidence not of superior virtue but of shrewdness punctuated with a considerable capacity for ruthlessness.

In describing America's rise to power Niebuhr does not shrink from using words like "hegemony" and "imperialism". His point is not to tag the United States with responsibility for all the world's evils. Rather, it is to suggest that it does not differ from other great powers as much as Americans may imagine.

...Niebuhr has little patience for those who portray the United States as acting on God's behalf. "All men are naturally inclined to obscure the morally ambiguous element in this political cause by investing it with religious sanctity," he once observed. " This is why religion is more frequently a source of confusion then of light in the political realm.". In the United States, he continued "The tendency to equate our political [goals] with our Christian convictions cause politics to generate idolatry."

Michael Ignatieff contribution to understanding of American exeptionalism

In the introduction to American Exceptionalism and Human Rights Michael Ignatieff identifies three main types of exceptionalism:

I would add to it

The contributors to American Exceptionalism and Human Rights use Ignatieff's essay as a starting point to discuss specific types of exceptionalism -- America's approach to capital punishment and to free speech, for example -- or to explore the social, cultural, and institutional roots of exceptionalism.

Anatol Lieven contribution

The second important contribution to to the studies of American exceptionalism is Anatol Lieven.  He correctly linked American exceptionalism with far right nationalism which Wikipedia defined as

Far-right politics or extreme-right politics are right-wing politics to the right of the mainstream centre right on the traditional left-right spectrum. They often involve a focus on tradition as opposed to policies and customs that are regarded as reflective of modernism. They tend to include disregard or disdain for egalitarianism, if not overt support for social inequality and social hierarchy, elements of social conservatism and opposition to most forms of liberalism and socialism

 "America keeps a fine house," Anatol Lieven writes in his probably best book on the American Exceptionalism (America Right or Wrong An Anatomy of American Nationalism ) "but in its cellar there lives a demon, whose name is nationalism."  In a way US neocons, who commanded key position in Bush II and Barack Obama administrations  are not that different from Israeli Likud Party. 

While neocons definitely played an important role in shaping the US policy immediately after 9/11, the origins of aggressive U.S. foreign policy since 9/11 also reflect controversial character of the US national identity, which according to Anatol Lieven embraces two contradictory features.

Both of those tendencies are much older then 9/11. The first aggressive, expansionist war by the US was the war of 1812. See American Loyalists, The Most Important War You Probably Know Nothing About - By James Traub Foreign Policy

The War of 1812 matters because it was America’s first war of choice. The United States did not have to declare war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812, to survive as a nation and indeed President James Madison did not want to. The newly founded United States was growing westward but the “war hawks” in Congress pressed for a conflict with America’s former colonial masters in the hopes of gaining even more territory to the north. The term “hawk” was coined in the run-up to the War of 1812 and the hawks of U.S. foreign policy have been with us ever since.

The War of 1812 was America’s first neocon war. With an audacity that would become familiar, the war hawks appealed to a combination of personal pride — the British navy was forcibly conscripting Americans — and the prospect of material gain — the absorption of British Canada — wrapped up in love of country. No one said the conquest of Canada would be a “cakewalk,” but the hawks were confident the Americans would be greeted as liberators.

These two mutually-excusive impulses caused wild oscillations of the US foreign policy, especially in the Middle East and influenced the nature of U.S. support for Israel. Due to those oscillations those two contradictory impulses are undermining the U.S. foreign policy credibility in the eyes of the worlds and complicates reaching important national objectives.

Some attribute the term “American Exceptionalism” to Alexis de Tocqueville — though he never penned the phrase. In reality this term originated by German Marxists who were trying to explain weakness of worker movement in the USA. The idiom was popularized by neo-conservative pundits (aka former Trotskyites) soon after WWII.

In reality the term "American Exceptionalism is nothing but a disguised, more "politically correct" reference to America's Janus-faced nationalism. It has some mystical components like long vanished under the hill of financial oligarchy the "American dream" and its German-style refrain "God bless America". What is interesting about "God bless America" is that most founding fathers were Deists, profoundly critical of organized religions and they sought to separate personal -- what many of them described as mythologies -- from government. They were profoundly respectful of personal religious belief, but saw government as necessarily secular if freedom was to prevail. Not until the religious revivals of the 1820s through the 1860s can you find many identifying religion as a component of American exceptionalism.

As Martin Woollacott aptly noted in his review of Anatol Lieven book America, Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism ( Guardian):

He cuts through the conformist political rhetoric of America, the obfuscating special language of the "American dream", or the "American exception", which infects even foreign accounts. Even to use the word "nationalism" to describe an American phenomenon is, as he notes, not normal. Americans are not "nationalist", they are "patriotic". It is a patriotism which too often leaves no room for the patriotism of others, combining a theoretical care for all humanity with, in practice, an "indifference verging on contempt" for the interests and hopes of non-Americans. Nothing could be more distant from "the decent respect to the opinions of mankind" recommended to Americans in the early years of their independent existence

Lieven first paints a picture of an in some ways admirable American "civic nationalism", based on respect for the rule of law, constitutionality, democracy, and social (but not economic) equality, and a desire to spread these values in the world. But because this nationalism unrealistically holds that such "American" values can be exported at will, it blinds Americans to the different nature of other societies, sustaining the mistaken idea that if only particular rulers or classes can be displaced, "democracy" will prevail - a "decapitation" theory which contributed to the decision to attack Saddam. The American campaign to democratize other societies, Lieven says, harshly but fairly, "combines sloppiness of intellect and meanness of spirit". But, while in part mythic and not entirely rational, this side of American nationalism is of some value not only to the United States, but to the world as a whole.

...The result, Lieven argues, is that instead of the mature nationalism of a satisfied and dominant state, American nationalism is more akin to that of late developing and insecure states such as Wilhelmine Germany and Tsarist Russia.

"While America keeps a splendid and welcoming house," Lieven writes in his preface, "it also keeps a family of demons in its cellar.

His book supports Mark Twain quite to the effect that we are blessed with three things in this country, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and, thirdly, the common sense to practice neither one!

He also points at the very important side effect of Exceptionalism: "America's hypocrisy," (see for example Inside "democracy promotion" hypocrisy fair). An outstanding level of hypocrisy in the US foreign policy also is corroborated by other scholars, among them James Hillman in his recent book "A Terrible Love of War" in which he characterizes hypocrisy as quintessentially American (although British are strong competitors). Now after Snowden, Libya, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, etc we might be appear to be entering an new stage on which "The era of easy hypocrisy is over."

The regime of easy hypocrisy means that America position itself as a blessed nation created by God and (here’s the rub) therefore privileged in what actions it can take around the world and the nation that can safely ignore international norms, which are created only for suckers. It is above the international law.

We create our own reality

The source of the term, which implicitly stresses that the USA stands outside international norms and treaties and can act as it please, is a quotation in an October 17, 2004, The New York Times Magazine article by writer Ron Suskind, quoting an unnamed aide to George W. Bush (later attributed to Karl Rove[1]):

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."[2]

This is pretty precise definition of the idea of introduced by Nazi idea of “decisionism” in which action is seen as a value in itself. Decisionism is a defining feature of any totalitarian state. By extension if you find decisionism exists in particular state, it is rational to expect other F-features of such states. Umberto Eco has listed fourteen attributes along with two major features: irrationalism and decisionism. Eco has them listed as attributes 2 and 3.

The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.

3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action's sake.

Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism, from Hermann Goering's fondness for a phrase from a Hanns Johst play ("When I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my gun") to the frequent use of such expressions as "degenerate intellectuals," "eggheads," "effete snobs," and "universities are nests of reds." The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.

Eternal Fascism:
Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt

http://www.themodernword.com/eco/eco_blackshirt.html

Fascism has an irrational element that rejects modern thought because it conflicts with traditional beliefs of the Christian religion and because fascism views communist ideology as a child of the Age of Reason and Jewish intellectuals. The Nazis were well aware that Karl Marx was a German Jew. Evolution is seen as modernist and is rejected in favor of Christian creationism. This debate is repeating itself today in American society with Christian fundamentalism attempting to gain control of state education.

Very closely related to irrationalism is “decisionism” in which action is seen as a value in itself. This is an existential element in fascism that elevates action over thought. Action is a sign of unambiguous power, and thought is associated with weakness and indecision. Carl Schmitt, a Nazi Law constitutional jurist, wrote that a decision is “(an actual historical event) and not within that of a norm (an ahistoric and transcendent idea).” The a priori is overshadowed by the posteriori. Actions over abstract principles, Fact over Idea, Power over pure thought, Certainty over ambiguity are the values and ideological norms that are primary in a totalitarian state.

After fleeing Germany, Marcuse wrote in 1934 a critique of German fascist society and attempted to identify those beliefs and philosophical themes found within fascist ideology. Marcuse believed that the seeds of fascism could be found in the Capitalist Democratic Liberal State, which over time mutate as Monopoly Capitalism gain control of the State as in the case of Germany. The evolution of Capitalism is also the concealed dialectic of Fascism. Those mutated liberal democratic ideas and values are betrayed by a totalitarianism based on action and force.

Using Germany as his example of a fascist society Marcuse writes:

And within the political sphere all relationships are oriented in turn toward the most extreme “crisis,” toward the decision about the “state of emergency,” of war and peace. The true possessor of power is defined as beyond all legality and legitimacy: “Sovereign is he who decides on the state of emergency.” (Carl Schmitt, Politische Theologie,1922).

Sovereignty is founded on the factual power to make this decision (decisionism). The basic political relationship is the “friend-enemy relationship.” Its crisis is war, which proceeds until the enemy has been physically annihilated.

There is no social relationship that does not in a crisis turn into a political relationship. Behind all economic, social, religious, and cultural relations stands total politicization. There is no sphere of private or public life, no legal or rational court of appeal that could oppose it.
Negations, page 36.

From what social idea in Capitalistic Liberalism did this decisionism evolve? It is none other than the economic hero, the free independent entrepreneur of industrial capitalism.The idea of the charismatic, authoritarian leader is already preformed in the liberalist celebration of the gifted economic leader, the “born” executive. Negations, page 18.

The total-authoritarian state is born out of the Liberal state and the former concept of the economic leader is transformed into a Fuhrer. We can see this mutation of the concept of the “born” executive into the leader-state (Fuhrerstaat) in George Bush’s speech and actions.

An uneducated but privileged man, George Bush, has merged the idea of the CEO with that of the State Leader. But society has also made this same concatenation of ideas. He is a president of action and seen as a “strong” president. He is doer and not a thinker and his followers are proud of this persona. His opponents are “feminine” and members of the “reality based community.” Consequently, the Bush administration has attempted to engineer the executive branch to be the strongest in American history by claiming “inherent” presidential powers. It is precisely the concept of “state of emergency” that Bush has used to grab more and more state power in the name of security.

He has instituted the hyper-surveillance of Americas with the Patriot act, which is based on the same justification Nazi Law used to empower the Fuhrer. A Bush lawyer and advisor, John Yoo, wrote, Just two weeks after the September 11 attacks, a secret memo to White House counsel Alberto Gonzales’ office concluded that President Bush had the power to deploy military force “preemptively” against any terrorist groups or countries that supported them—regardless of whether they had any connection to the attacks on the World Trade Towers or the Pentagon. The memo, written by Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, argues that there are effectively “no limits” on the president’s authority to wage war—a sweeping assertion of executive power that some constitutional scholars say goes considerably beyond any that had previously been articulated by the department. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6732484/site/newsweek/

Carl Schmitt, a Nazi Law constitutional jurist in Hitler’s Third Reich, wrote a similar justification of power for the State Leader using the concept of the “exception” in his work “Political Theology,” Hence, the thundering opening of his treatise: 'The sovereign is he who decides on the exception.' It is a disturbingly 'realistic' view of politics, which, in the manner of Hobbes, subordinates de jure authority to de facto power: autoritas, non veritas facit legem. (The law is made by the one who has authority (i.e. power) and not the one who possesses the truth (the legitimate sovereign).)

The problem of the exception, for the constitutional jurist Schmitt, can only be resolved within the framework of a decision (an actual historical event) and not within that of a norm (an ahistoric and transcendent idea). Moreover, the legal act which decides what constitutes an exception is 'a decision in the true sense of the word', because a general norm, an ordinary legal prescription, 'can never encompass a total exception'. If so, then, 'the decision that a real exception exists cannot be derived entirely from this norm.' The problem of the exception, in other words, demarcates the limit of the rule of law and opens up that trans-legal space, that no-man's land of existential exigency, which is bereft of legal authority and where the decision of the sovereign abrogates the anomaly of the legal void. …against the legal positivism of his times, Schmitt seems to be arguing that not law but the sovereign, not the legal text but the political will, is the supreme authority in a state. States are not legal entities but historical polities; they are engaged in a constant battle for survival where any moment of their existence may constitute an exception, it may engender a political crisis that cannot be remedied by the application of the rule of law. From the existential priority of the sovereign over the legitimacy of the norm, it would also follow that according to Schmitt, law is subservient to politics and not autonomous of it. The Sovereignty of the Political Carl Schmitt and the Nemesis of Liberalism http://www.algonet.se/~pmanzoor/CarlSchmitt.htm

When the Bush administration argues that increased presidential power is needed to fight terrorism by suspending or overriding the constitutional protections against search and seizures, they are arguing the principles of Nazi constitutional law. Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday vigorously defended the Bush administration's use of secret domestic spying and efforts to expand presidential powers, saying "it's not an accident that we haven't been hit in four years." Talking to reporters aboard his government plane as he flew from Islamabad, Pakistan to Muscat, Oman on an overseas mission, Cheney said a contraction in the power of the presidency since the Vietnam and Watergate era must be reversed. "I believe in a strong, robust executive authority and I think that the world we live in demands it. And to some extent, that we have an obligation as the administration to pass on the offices we hold to our successors in as good of shape as we found them," he said.

http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/12/20/D8EK28B82.htmlAgainst these ever expanding powers of the State stand the once traditional individual freedoms upheld by the Liberal Democratic State. The theologian and philosopher of the Age of Reason, Immanuel Kant wrote…Human right must be kept sacred, no matter how great the sacrifice it costs the ruling powers. One cannot go only halfway and contrive a pragmatically conditioned right….All politics, rather, must bend the knee before sacred human right…

"Faith-based community" vs. Reality-based community

The same idea from slightly different angle is reflected in term "Faith-based community" vs. Reality-based community ( Wikipedia )

Reality-based community is a popular term among liberal political commentators in the United States. In the fall of 2004, the phrase "proud member of the reality-based community" was first used to suggest the commentator's opinions are based more on observation than on faith, assumption, or ideology. The term has been defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from judicious study of discernible reality." Some commentators have gone as far as to suggest that there is an overarching conflict in society between the reality-based community and the "faith-based community" as a whole. It can be seen as an example of political framing.

The source of the term is a quotation in an October 17, 2004, New York Times Magazine article by writer Ron Suskind, quoting an unnamed aide to George W. Bush:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."[1]

Commentators who use this term generally oppose former President Bush's policies and by using this term imply that Bush's policies (and, by extension, those of the conservative movement generally) were (or are) out of touch with reality. Others use the term to draw a contrast with the perceived arrogance of the Bush Administration's unilateral policies, in accordance with the aide's quote. Its popularity has prompted some conservative commentators to use the term ironically, to accuse the left-leaning "reality-based community" of ignoring reality[2].

Imperial Outreach

The Republican Party — and more particularly the neo-con wing of the party — is particularly susceptible to imperial outreach. This imperial mentality is well exemplified by Fox News reporting.

For example, Matt Lewis, a conservative political Pundit on MSNBC attacked Barack Obama for saying “Any world order that elevates one nation above another will fall flat.” In response Lewis stated:

“I think that goes against the idea of American exceptionalism…most Americans believe that America was gifted by God and is a blessed nation and therefore we are better.”

For any conservative the concept of “American Exceptionalism” is rather bemusing. America is not more democratic, more free, more enterprising, more tolerant, or more anything else be it Canada, New Zealand or for that matter Australia. America is just a bigger country and due to its size, human resources and industrial potential it the leading Western country and the owner of world reserve currency, after Great Britain became financially exhausted after WWII. That means that American Exceptionalism is simply a politically correct work for a combustible mixture of nationalism (with Christian messianism component similar to Crusades with "democracy" instead Jesus) and Jingoism. In a very deep sense this is negation of the idea "all men are created equal" and as such is anti-American ;-).

America is a blessed nation as everybody in the country is an immigrant, the nation that at some point of time was freer and more prosperous than many others, but as a great Nazarene once said, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

Bill Moyers Journal . Watch & Listen | PBS

sample:

BILL MOYERS:

Here is one of those neon sentences. Quote,

"The pursuit of freedom, as defined in an age of consumerism, has induced a condition of dependence on imported goods, on imported oil, and on credit. The chief desire of the American people," you write, "is that nothing should disrupt their access to these goods, that oil, and that credit. The chief aim of the U.S. government is to satisfy that desire, which it does in part of through the distribution of largesse here at home, and in part through the pursuit of imperial ambitions abroad."

In other words, you're saying that our foreign policy is the result of a dependence on consumer goods and credit.

ANDREW BACEVICH:

Our foreign policy is not something simply concocted by people in Washington D.C. and imposed on us. Our foreign policy is something that is concocted in Washington D.C., but it reflects the perceptions of our political elite about what we want, we the people want. And what we want, by and large - I mean, one could point to many individual exceptions - but, what we want, by and large is, we want this continuing flow of very cheap consumer goods.

We want to be able to pump gas into our cars regardless of how big they may happen to be, in order to be able to drive wherever we want to be able to drive. And we want to be able to do these things without having to think about whether or not the book's balanced at the end of the month, or the end of the fiscal year. And therefore, we want this unending line of credit.

Anti-Americanism as blowback of American exeptionalism

Quite logically the imperial actions is a source of widespread Anti-Americanism. As Ian Tyrrell noted in What is American exceptionalism

It is also important to realize that there is a “negative” version of exceptionalism, i.e. that the US has been exceptionally bad, racist, violent. While this is less a part of the common myths about American history, the attempt to compensate for American exceptionalism by emphasizing unique American evils is equally distorting. We need to think more about this matter, especially when we deal with racial divisions and gender prejudice. Is the US experience a variant on wider racial and gender patterns? While social history has provided new perspectives on the role of women, African Americans, and ethnics in the making of American history, has that new history discredited or qualified ideas of American exceptionalism?

The actual term “American exceptionalism” was originally coined by German Marxists who wished to explain why the US seemed to have by-passed the rise of socialism and Marxism. (Actually the US had much class conflict, some Marxist parties and theorists, and a lively socialist movement, though the latter was not on the scale of, say, France and Germany.) But exceptionalism is much more than about class conflict.

Some historians prefer the terms “differences” or “uniqueness?” Are these suitable substitutes? Whatever the terminology, the implications of American difference/uniqueness have long been debated. Some have said the difference was temporary, and eventually the US would be like other countries. Others have argued that American “specialness” stems from its political, intellectual, and even religious heritage, and is enduring.

Conclusions

Skeptic view on American Exceptionalism is valuable for different reasons some of which were listed by Stephen M. Walt in his The Myth of American Exceptionalism (Foreign Policy, November 2011)

The only thing wrong with this self-congratulatory portrait of America's global role is that it is mostly a myth. Although the United States possesses certain unique qualities -- from high levels of religiosity to a political culture that privileges individual freedom -- the conduct of U.S. foreign policy has been determined primarily by its relative power and by the inherently competitive nature of international politics. By focusing on their supposedly exceptional qualities, Americans blind themselves to the ways that they are a lot like everyone else.

This unchallenged faith in American exceptionalism makes it harder for Americans to understand why others are less enthusiastic about U.S. dominance, often alarmed by U.S. policies, and frequently irritated by what they see as U.S. hypocrisy, whether the subject is possession of nuclear weapons, conformity with international law, or America's tendency to condemn the conduct of others while ignoring its own failings. Ironically, U.S. foreign policy would probably be more effective if Americans were less convinced of their own unique virtues and less eager to proclaim them.

What we need, in short, is a more realistic and critical assessment of America's true character and contributions. In that spirit, I offer here the Top 5 Myths about American Exceptionalism.

Myth 1: There Is Something Exceptional About American Exceptionalism.

Whenever American leaders refer to the "unique" responsibilities of the United States, they are saying that it is different from other powers and that these differences require them to take on special burdens.

Yet there is nothing unusual about such lofty declarations; indeed, those who make them are treading a well-worn path. Most great powers have considered themselves superior to their rivals and have believed that they were advancing some greater good when they imposed their preferences on others. The British thought they were bearing the "white man's burden," while French colonialists invoked la mission civilisatrice to justify their empire. Portugal, whose imperial activities were hardly distinguished, believed it was promoting a certain missão civilizadora. Even many of the officials of the former Soviet Union genuinely believed they were leading the world toward a socialist utopia despite the many cruelties that communist rule inflicted. Of course, the United States has by far the better claim to virtue than Stalin or his successors, but Obama was right to remind us that all countries prize their own particular qualities.

So when Americans proclaim they are exceptional and indispensable, they are simply the latest nation to sing a familiar old song. Among great powers, thinking you're special is the norm, not the exception.

Myth 2: The United States Behaves Better Than Other Nations Do.

Declarations of American exceptionalism rest on the belief that the United States is a uniquely virtuous nation, one that loves peace, nurtures liberty, respects human rights, and embraces the rule of law. Americans like to think their country behaves much better than other states do, and certainly better than other great powers.

If only it were true. The United States may not have been as brutal as the worst states in world history, but a dispassionate look at the historical record belies most claims about America's moral superiority.

For starters, the United States has been one of the most expansionist powers in modern history. It began as 13 small colonies clinging to the Eastern Seaboard, but eventually expanded across North America, seizing Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California from Mexico in 1846. Along the way, it eliminated most of the native population and confined the survivors to impoverished reservations. By the mid-19th century, it had pushed Britain out of the Pacific Northwest and consolidated its hegemony over the Western Hemisphere.

The United States has fought numerous wars since then -- starting several of them -- and its wartime conduct has hardly been a model of restraint. The 1899-1902 conquest of the Philippines killed some 200,000 to 400,000 Filipinos, most of them civilians, and the United States and its allies did not hesitate to dispatch some 305,000 German and 330,000 Japanese civilians through aerial bombing during World War II, mostly through deliberate campaigns against enemy cities. No wonder Gen. Curtis LeMay, who directed the bombing campaign against Japan, told an aide, "If the U.S. lost the war, we would be prosecuted as war criminals." The United States dropped more than 6 million tons of bombs during the Indochina war, including tons of napalm and lethal defoliants like Agent Orange, and it is directly responsible for the deaths of many of the roughly 1 million civilians who died in that war.

More recently, the U.S.-backed Contra war in Nicaragua killed some 30,000 Nicaraguans, a percentage of their population equivalent to 2 million dead Americans. U.S. military action has led directly or indirectly to the deaths of 250,000 Muslims over the past three decades (and that's a low-end estimate, not counting the deaths resulting from the sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s), including the more than 100,000 people who died following the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. U.S. drones and Special Forces are going after suspected terrorists in at least five countries at present and have killed an unknown number of innocent civilians in the process. Some of these actions may have been necessary to make Americans more prosperous and secure. But while Americans would undoubtedly regard such acts as indefensible if some foreign country were doing them to us, hardly any U.S. politicians have questioned these policies. Instead, Americans still wonder, "Why do they hate us?"

The United States talks a good game on human rights and international law, but it has refused to sign most human rights treaties, is not a party to the International Criminal Court, and has been all too willing to cozy up to dictators -- remember our friend Hosni Mubarak? -- with abysmal human rights records. If that were not enough, the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the George W. Bush administration's reliance on waterboarding, extraordinary rendition, and preventive detention should shake America's belief that it consistently acts in a morally superior fashion. Obama's decision to retain many of these policies suggests they were not a temporary aberration.

The United States never conquered a vast overseas empire or caused millions to die through tyrannical blunders like China's Great Leap Forward or Stalin's forced collectivization. And given the vast power at its disposal for much of the past century, Washington could certainly have done much worse. But the record is clear: U.S. leaders have done what they thought they had to do when confronted by external dangers, and they paid scant attention to moral principles along the way. The idea that the United States is uniquely virtuous may be comforting to Americans; too bad it's not true.

Myth 3: America's Success Is Due to Its Special Genius.

The United States has enjoyed remarkable success, and Americans tend to portray their rise to world power as a direct result of the political foresight of the Founding Fathers, the virtues of the U.S. Constitution, the priority placed on individual liberty, and the creativity and hard work of the American people. In this narrative, the United States enjoys an exceptional global position today because it is, well, exceptional.

There is more than a grain of truth to this version of American history. It's not an accident that immigrants came to America in droves in search of economic opportunity, and the "melting pot" myth facilitated the assimilation of each wave of new Americans. America's scientific and technological achievements are fully deserving of praise and owe something to the openness and vitality of the American political order.

But America's past success is due as much to good luck as to any uniquely American virtues. The new nation was lucky that the continent was lavishly endowed with natural resources and traversed by navigable rivers. It was lucky to have been founded far from the other great powers and even luckier that the native population was less advanced and highly susceptible to European diseases. Americans were fortunate that the European great powers were at war for much of the republic's early history, which greatly facilitated its expansion across the continent, and its global primacy was ensured after the other great powers fought two devastating world wars. This account of America's rise does not deny that the United States did many things right, but it also acknowledges that America's present position owes as much to good fortune as to any special genius or "manifest destiny."

Myth 4: The United States Is Responsible for Most of the Good in the World.

Americans are fond of giving themselves credit for positive international developments. President Bill Clinton believed the United States was "indispensable to the forging of stable political relations," and the late Harvard University political scientist Samuel P. Huntington thought U.S. primacy was central "to the future of freedom, democracy, open economies, and international order in the world." Journalist Michael Hirsh has gone even further, writing in his book At War With Ourselves that America's global role is "the greatest gift the world has received in many, many centuries, possibly all of recorded history." Scholarly works such as Tony Smith's America's Mission and G. John Ikenberry's Liberal Leviathan emphasize America's contribution to the spread of democracy and its promotion of a supposedly liberal world order. Given all the high-fives American leaders have given themselves, it is hardly surprising that most Americans see their country as an overwhelmingly positive force in world affairs.

Once again, there is something to this line of argument, just not enough to make it entirely accurate. The United States has made undeniable contributions to peace and stability in the world over the past century, including the Marshall Plan, the creation and management of the Bretton Woods system, its rhetorical support for the core principles of democracy and human rights, and its mostly stabilizing military presence in Europe and the Far East. But the belief that all good things flow from Washington's wisdom overstates the U.S. contribution by a wide margin.

For starters, though Americans watching Saving Private Ryan or Patton may conclude that the United States played the central role in vanquishing Nazi Germany, most of the fighting was in Eastern Europe and the main burden of defeating Hitler's war machine was borne by the Soviet Union. Similarly, though the Marshall Plan and NATO played important roles in Europe's post-World War II success, Europeans deserve at least as much credit for rebuilding their economies, constructing a novel economic and political union, and moving beyond four centuries of sometimes bitter rivalry. Americans also tend to think they won the Cold War all by themselves, a view that ignores the contributions of other anti-Soviet adversaries and the courageous dissidents whose resistance to communist rule produced the "velvet revolutions" of 1989.

Moreover, as Godfrey Hodgson recently noted in his sympathetic but clear-eyed book, The Myth of American Exceptionalism, the spread of liberal ideals is a global phenomenon with roots in the Enlightenment, and European philosophers and political leaders did much to advance the democratic ideal. Similarly, the abolition of slavery and the long effort to improve the status of women owe more to Britain and other democracies than to the United States, where progress in both areas trailed many other countries. Nor can the United States claim a global leadership role today on gay rights, criminal justice, or economic equality -- Europe's got those areas covered.

Finally, any honest accounting of the past half-century must acknowledge the downside of American primacy. The United States has been the major producer of greenhouse gases for most of the last hundred years and thus a principal cause of the adverse changes that are altering the global environment. The United States stood on the wrong side of the long struggle against apartheid in South Africa and backed plenty of unsavory dictatorships -- including Saddam Hussein's -- when short-term strategic interests dictated. Americans may be justly proud of their role in creating and defending Israel and in combating global anti-Semitism, but its one-sided policies have also prolonged Palestinian statelessness and sustained Israel's brutal occupation.

Bottom line: Americans take too much credit for global progress and accept too little blame for areas where U.S. policy has in fact been counterproductive. Americans are blind to their weak spots, and in ways that have real-world consequences. Remember when Pentagon planners thought U.S. troops would be greeted in Baghdad with flowers and parades? They mostly got RPGs and IEDs instead.

Myth 5: God Is on Our Side.

A crucial component of American exceptionalism is the belief that the United States has a divinely ordained mission to lead the rest of the world. Ronald Reagan told audiences that there was "some divine plan" that had placed America here, and once quoted Pope Pius XII saying, "Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind." Bush offered a similar view in 2004, saying, "We have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom." The same idea was expressed, albeit less nobly, in Otto von Bismarck's alleged quip that "God has a special providence for fools, drunks, and the United States."

Confidence is a valuable commodity for any country. But when a nation starts to think it enjoys the mandate of heaven and becomes convinced that it cannot fail or be led astray by scoundrels or incompetents, then reality is likely to deliver a swift rebuke. Ancient Athens, Napoleonic France, imperial Japan, and countless other countries have succumbed to this sort of hubris, and nearly always with catastrophic results.

Despite America's many successes, the country is hardly immune from setbacks, follies, and boneheaded blunders. If you have any doubts about that, just reflect on how a decade of ill-advised tax cuts, two costly and unsuccessful wars, and a financial meltdown driven mostly by greed and corruption have managed to squander the privileged position the United States enjoyed at the end of the 20th century. Instead of assuming that God is on their side, perhaps Americans should heed Abraham Lincoln's admonition that our greatest concern should be "whether we are on God's side."

Given the many challenges Americans now face, from persistent unemployment to the burden of winding down two deadly wars, it's unsurprising that they find the idea of their own exceptionalism comforting -- and that their aspiring political leaders have been proclaiming it with increasing fervor. Such patriotism has its benefits, but not when it leads to a basic misunderstanding of America's role in the world. This is exactly how bad decisions get made.

America has its own special qualities, as all countries do, but it is still a state embedded in a competitive global system. It is far stronger and richer than most, and its geopolitical position is remarkably favorable. These advantages give the United States a wider range of choice in its conduct of foreign affairs, but they don't ensure that its choices will be good ones. Far from being a unique state whose behavior is radically different from that of other great powers, the United States has behaved like all the rest, pursuing its own self-interest first and foremost, seeking to improve its relative position over time, and devoting relatively little blood or treasure to purely idealistic pursuits. Yet, just like past great powers, it has convinced itself that it is different, and better, than everyone else.

International politics is a contact sport, and even powerful states must compromise their political principles for the sake of security and prosperity. Nationalism is also a powerful force, and it inevitably highlights the country's virtues and sugarcoats its less savory aspects.

But if Americans want to be truly exceptional, they might start by viewing the whole idea of "American exceptionalism" with a much more skeptical eye.


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[May 22, 2019] The Great Power Game is On and China is Winning

Notable quotes:
"... As the Pentagon's strategic paper posits, China's overriding foreign policy goal is to squeeze America out of East Asia and force it back to the Hawaiian islands as its forward position in the Pacific. Thus would Hawaii cease to be America's strategic platform for projecting power into Asia and become merely a defensive position. If this strategic retreat were to happen, it would be one of the most significant developments in international relations since the end of World War II. ..."
"... None of your suggestions is likely to happen, absent defeat. America's trump card is the fiat dollar as world currency, defended by the full faith and power of an imperial global military, with its own economic inertia to the domestic economy as well. ..."
"... The most obvious step is to forge a genuine alliance with India. America can't take on China alone (although China's ineluctable demographic decline may make the US' relative decline in fortunes short-lived), and the world's largest democracy, and soon to be most populous nation, is an obvious counterweight to China, despite its still inefficient economy. ..."
"... The US has been trying to reverse this, but our patronizing attitude towards a proud country seeking great-power status has led to modest progress at best, and their defense relationship with Russia is stronger than with us. ..."
"... There is no countervailing force within the USA that is able to tame MIC appetites, which are constantly growing. In a sense the nation is taken hostage with no root for escape via internal political mechanisms (for all practical purposes I would consider neocons that dominate the USA foreign policy to be highly paid lobbyists of MIC.) ..."
"... Overlooked might be Germany's copycat foreign policy posturing too often hidden behind 'humanitarian' language. https://www.swp-berlin.org/en/projects/new-power-new-responsibility/the-paper/ ..."
"... Guess the parallel with the US 'New American Century' is not misplaced. Do you realize that Germany aims to leverage the EU for establishing its position as a 'World Player'. Do realize too that it tends to categorize other countries along the same zero sum power line of reasoning as the US "either with us or against us". ..."
"... This German foreign policy gave birth to the European Neighborhood Policy which exploited the US instigated coup to indenture Ukraine into a dependent NON-member state associated exclusively with the EU excluding normal economic relations with Russia. ..."
"... One of the most malign effects of Israeli and Saudi control of American politicians is the grotesque overemphasis on the Middle East in US foreign policy. Trump's trade fights to one side, it often seems as if we dismiss or ignore much of the rest of the world. This disproportion has been obvious and growing since the end of the last century, but at this point it's pathological. ..."
"... Well, it all depends on goals doesn't it. US foreign policy goals are to increase chaos and create international tension. Why? Because US foreign policy exists to feed military and intel contractors on the one hand and asserting power for the sake of asserting power with no overall strategy other the Great Game. ..."
May 22, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

The Great Power Game is On and China is Winning If America wants to maintain any influence in Asia, it needs to wake up. By Robert W. Merry May 22, 2019

President Donald J. Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, Thursday, November 9, 2017, in Beijing, People's Republic of China. ( Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead) From across the pond come two geopolitical analyses in two top-quality British publications that lay out in stark terms the looming struggle between the United States and China. It isn't just a trade war, says The Economist in a major cover package. "Trade is not the half of it," declares the magazine. "The United States and China are contesting every domain, from semiconductors to submarines and from blockbuster films to lunar exploration." The days when the two superpowers sought a win-win world are gone.

For its own cover, The Financial Times ' Philip Stephens produced a piece entitled, "Trade is just an opening shot in a wider US-China conflict." The subhead: "The current standoff is part of a struggle for global pre-eminence." Writes Stephens: "The trade narrative is now being subsumed into a much more alarming one. Economics has merged with geopolitics. China, you can hear on almost every corner in sight of the White House and Congress, is not just a dangerous economic competitor but a looming existential threat."

Stephens quotes from the so-called National Defense Strategy, entitled "Sharpening the American Military's Competitive Edge," released last year by President Donald Trump's Pentagon. In the South China Sea, for example, says the strategic paper, "China has mounted a rapid military modernization campaign designed to limit U.S. access to the region and provide China a freer hand there." The broader Chinese goal, warns the Pentagon, is "Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the United States to achieve global pre-eminence in the future."

The Economist and Stephens are correct. The trade dispute is merely a small part of a much larger and even more intense geopolitical rivalry that could ignite what Stephens describes as "an altogether hotter war."

As the Pentagon's strategic paper posits, China's overriding foreign policy goal is to squeeze America out of East Asia and force it back to the Hawaiian islands as its forward position in the Pacific. Thus would Hawaii cease to be America's strategic platform for projecting power into Asia and become merely a defensive position. If this strategic retreat were to happen, it would be one of the most significant developments in international relations since the end of World War II.

America has been projecting significant power into Asia since the 1890s, when President William McKinley acquired Hawaii through annexation, then seized Guam and the Philippines in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. For good measure, he cleared the way for the construction of the Panama Canal and continued his predecessors' robust buildup of the U.S. Navy. President Theodore Roosevelt then pushed the Canal project to actual construction, accelerated the naval buildup, and sent his Great White Fleet around the world as a signal that America had arrived on the global scene -- as if anyone could have missed that obvious reality.

With the total victory over Japan in World War II, America emerged as the hegemon of Asia, with colonies, naval bases, carrier groups, and strategic alliances that made it foolhardy for any nation to even think of challenging our regional dominance. Not even the Vietnam defeat, as psychologically debilitating as that was, could undercut America's Asian preeminence.

Now China is seeking to position itself to push America back into its own hemisphere. And judging from the language of the National Defense Strategy, America doesn't intend to be pushed back. This is a clash of wills, with all the makings of an actual military conflict.

But if China represents the greatest potential threat to America's global position, making an eventual war likely (though not inevitable), why is Washington not acting like it knows this? Why is it engaging in so many silly military capers that undermine its ability to focus attention and resources on the China challenge? While the National Defense Strategy paper suggests that U.S. officials understand the threat, America's actions reveal an incapacity to grapple with this reality in any concentrated fashion.

Here's a general idea of what a U.S. foreign policy under Trump might look like if it was based on a clear recognition of the China threat:

Iran: Since the end of the Cold War, the sheer folly of Trump's Iran policy has been exceeded only by George W. Bush's Iraq invasion. Barack Obama bequeathed to his successor a rare gift in the Iran nuclear deal, which provided an opportunity to direct attention away from Tehran and toward America's position in East Asia. In no way did it serve America's national interest to stir up tensions with Iran while the far more ominous China threat loomed. A policy based on realism would have seized that opportunity and used the channels of communication forged through the nuclear deal to establish some kind of accommodation, however wary or tenuous. Instead, America under Trump has created a crisis where none need exist.

Personnel: While the Iran policy might be difficult to reverse, a reversal is imperative. And that means Trump must fire National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. While their bully boy actions on the global stage seem to mesh with Trump's own temperament, the president also appears increasingly uncomfortable with the results, particularly with regard to their maximum pressure on Iran, which has brought America closer than ever to actual hostilities. Whether Trump has the subtlety of mind to understand just how destructive these men have been to his broad foreign policy goals is an open question. And Trump certainly deserves plenty of blame for pushing America into a zone of open hostility with Iran. But he can't extricate himself from his own folly so long as he has Bolton and Pompeo pushing him toward ever more bellicosity in ever more areas of the world. He needs men around him who appreciate just how wrongheaded American foreign policy has been in the post-Cold War era -- men such as retired Army Colonel Douglas MacGregor and former Virginia senator Jim Webb. Bolton and Pompeo -- out!

Russia: Of all the developments percolating in the world today, none is more ominous than the growing prospect of an anti-American alliance involving Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran. Yet such an alliance is in the works, largely as a result of America's inability to forge a foreign policy that recognizes the legitimate geopolitical interests of other nations. If the United States is to maintain its position in Asia, this trend must be reversed.

The key is Russia, largely by dint of its geopolitical position in the Eurasian heartland. If China's global rise is to be thwarted, it must be prevented from gaining dominance over Eurasia. Only Russia can do that. But Russia has no incentive to act because it feels threatened by the West. NATO has pushed eastward right up to its borders and threatened to incorporate regions that have been part of Russia's sphere of influence -- and its defense perimeter -- for centuries.

Given the trends that are plainly discernible in the Far East, the West must normalize relations with Russia. That means providing assurances that NATO expansion is over for good. It means the West recognizing that Georgia, Belarus, and, yes, Ukraine are within Russia's natural zone of influence. They will never be invited into NATO, and any solution to the Ukraine conundrum will have to accommodate Russian interests. Further, the West must get over Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula. It is a fait accompli -- and one that any other nation, including America, would have executed in similar circumstances.

Would Russian President Vladimir Putin spurn these overtures and maintain a posture of bellicosity toward the West? We can't be sure, but that certainly wouldn't be in his interest. And how will we ever know when it's never been tried? We now understand that allegations of Trump's campaign colluding with Russia were meritless, so it's time to determine the true nature and extent of Putin's strategic aims. That's impossible so long as America maintains its sanctions and general bellicosity.

NATO: Trump was right during the 2016 presidential campaign when he said that NATO was obsolete. He later dialed back on that, but any neutral observer can see that the circumstances that spawned NATO as an imperative of Western survival no longer exist. The Soviet Union is gone, and the 1.3 million Russian and client state troops it placed on Western Europe's doorstep are gone as well.

So what kind of threat could Russia pose to Europe and the West? The European Union's GDP is more than 12 times that of Russia's, while Russia's per capita GDP is only a fourth of Europe's. The Russian population is 144.5 million to Europe's 512 million. Does anyone seriously think that Russia poses a serious threat to Europe or that Europe needs the American big brother for survival, as in the immediate postwar years? Of course not. This is just a ruse for the maintenance of the status quo -- Europe as subservient to America, the Russian bear as menacing grizzly, America as protective slayer in the event of an attack.

This is all ridiculous. NATO shouldn't be abolished. It should be reconfigured for the realities of today. It should be European-led, not American-led. It should pay for its own defense entirely, whatever that might be (and Europe's calculation of that will inform us as to its true assessment of the Russian threat). America should be its primary ally, but not committed to intervene whenever a tiny European nation feels threatened. NATO's Article 5, committing all alliance nations to the defense of any other when attacked, should be scrapped in favor of language that calls for U.S. intervention only in the event of a true threat to Western Civilization itself.

And while a European-led NATO would find it difficult to pull back from its forward eastern positions after adding so many nations in the post-Cold War era, it should extend assurances to Russia that it has no intention of acting provocatively -- absent, of course, any Russian provocations.

The Middle East: The United States should reduce its footprint in the region on a major scale. It should get out of Afghanistan, with assurances to the Taliban that it will allow that country to go its own way, irrespective of the outcome, so long as it doesn't pose a threat to the United States or its vital interests. U.S. troops should be removed from Syria, and America should stop supporting Saudi Arabia's nasty war in Yemen. We should make clear to Israel and the world that the Jewish state is a major U.S. ally and will be protected whenever it is truly threatened. But we should also emphasize that we won't seek through military means to alter the regional balance of power based on mere perceptions of potential future threats to countries in the region, even allies. The United States won't get drawn into regional wars unrelated to its own vital interests.

Far East: Once the other regional decks are cleared, America must turn its attention to Asia. The first question: do we wish to maintain our current position there, or can we accept China's rise even if it means a U.S. retreat or partial retreat from the region? If a retreat is deemed acceptable, then America should secure the best terms possible over a long period of tough and guileful negotiations. But if we decide to maintain regional dominance, then China will have to be isolated and deterred. That will mean a long period of economic tension and even economic warfare, confrontations over China's extravagant claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea and elsewhere, strong U.S. alliances with other Asian nations nurtured through deft and measured diplomacy, soaring technological superiority, and a continual upper hand in any arms race.

In this scenario, can war be averted? History suggests that may not be likely. But either way, America won't remain an Asian power if it allows itself to be pinned down in multiple nonstrategic spats and adventures around the world. Asia is today's Great Game and China is winning. That won't be reversed unless America starts playing.

Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century . MORE FROM THIS AUTHOR

Hide 27 comments 27 Responses to The Great Power Game is On and China is Winning

Fran Macadam, says: May 21, 2019 at 10:36 pm

None of your suggestions is likely to happen, absent defeat. America's trump card is the fiat dollar as world currency, defended by the full faith and power of an imperial global military, with its own economic inertia to the domestic economy as well. That allows U.S. legal decisions to have extra territorial scope as the real international power, not now irrelevant toothless international institutions like the UN.
Whine Merchant , says: May 22, 2019 at 12:02 am
Nice summary, Mr Merry. Even the most die-hard Trumpet can find something to disagree upon with their Dear Leader while supporting everything else he does, but this clear and succinct outline leaves no where for the Deplorables to hide. Coupled with the China trade war fiasco, thias is pretty grim.

Of course, come 2020, all will be forgiven by the GOP, and even one criticism with be blasted with a twitter assault.

Fazal Majid , says: May 22, 2019 at 12:22 am
The most obvious step is to forge a genuine alliance with India. America can't take on China alone (although China's ineluctable demographic decline may make the US' relative decline in fortunes short-lived), and the world's largest democracy, and soon to be most populous nation, is an obvious counterweight to China, despite its still inefficient economy.

Unfortunately our support for the treacherous Pakistanis has poisoned our relationship with India. In 1971, Nixon actually sent a carrier group in the Bay of Bengal to intimidate the Indians into stopping support for the Bangladeshis fighting a war of independence against the genocidal (West) Pakistan, and the Indians had to call on the Soviets to send nuclear submarines to deter that threat. Like all ancient nations, Indians have long memories. Ironically, that reckless action was in cahoots with China.

The US has been trying to reverse this, but our patronizing attitude towards a proud country seeking great-power status has led to modest progress at best, and their defense relationship with Russia is stronger than with us.

likbez , says: May 22, 2019 at 12:29 am
Great article. Thank you very much!

Pragmatic isolationism is a better deal then the current neocon foreign policy. Which Trump is pursuing with the zeal similar to Obama (who continued all Bush II wars and started two new in Libya and Syria.) Probably this partially can be explained by his dependence of Adelson and pro-Israeli lobby. But the problem is deeper then Trump: it is the power of MIC and American exceptionalism ( which can be viewed as a form of far right nationalism ) about which Andrew Bacevich have written a lot:

From the mid-1940s onward, the primacy of the United States was assumed as a given. History had rendered a verdict: we -- not the Brits and certainly not the Germans, French, or Russians -- were number one, and, more importantly, were meant to be. That history's verdict might be subject to revision was literally unimaginable, especially to anyone making a living in or near Washington, D.C.

If doubts remained on that score, the end of the Cold War removed them. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism, politicians, journalists, and policy intellectuals threw themselves headlong into a competition over who could explain best just how unprecedented, how complete, and how wondrous was the global preeminence of the United States.

Choose your own favorite post-Cold War paean to American power and privilege. Mine remains Madeleine Albright's justification for some now-forgotten episode of armed intervention, uttered 20 years ago when American wars were merely occasional (and therefore required some nominal justification) rather then perpetual (and therefore requiring no justification whatsoever).

"If we have to use force," Secretary of State Albright announced on morning television in February 1998, "it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future."

Back then, it was Albright's claim to American indispensability that stuck in my craw. Yet as a testimony to ruling class hubris, the assertion of indispensability pales in comparison to Albright's insistence that "we see further into the future."

In fact, from February 1998 down to the present, events have time and again caught Albright's "we" napping. The 9/11 terrorist attacks and the several unsuccessful wars of choice that followed offer prime examples. But so too did Washington's belated and inadequate recognition of the developments that actually endanger the wellbeing of 21st-century Americans, namely climate change, cyber threats, and the ongoing reallocation of global power prompted by the rise of China.

Rather than seeing far into the future, American elites have struggled to discern what might happen next week. More often than not, they get even that wrong.

Like some idiot savant, Donald Trump understood this. He grasped that the establishment's formula for militarized global leadership applied to actually existing post-Cold War circumstances was spurring American decline. Certainly other observers, including contributors to this publication, had for years been making the same argument, but in the halls of power their dissent counted for nothing.

Yet in 2016, Trump's critique of U.S. policy resonated with many ordinary Americans and formed the basis of his successful run for the presidency. Unfortunately, once Trump assumed office, that critique did not translate into anything even remotely approximating a coherent strategy. President Trump's half-baked formula for Making America Great Again -- building "the wall," provoking trade wars, and elevating Iran to the status of existential threat -- is, to put it mildly, flawed, if not altogether irrelevant.

His own manifest incompetence and limited attention span don't help.

There is no countervailing force within the USA that is able to tame MIC appetites, which are constantly growing. In a sense the nation is taken hostage with no root for escape via internal political mechanisms (for all practical purposes I would consider neocons that dominate the USA foreign policy to be highly paid lobbyists of MIC.)

In this limited sense the alliance of China, Iran, Russia and Turkey might serve as an external countervailing force which allows some level of return to sanity, like was the case when the USSR used to exist.

I agree with Bacevich that the dissolution of the USSR corrupted the US elite to the extent that it became reckless and somewhat suicidal in seeking "Full Spectrum Dominance" (which is an illusive goal in any case taking into account existing arsenals in China and Russia and the growing distance between EU and the USA.)

Piero , says: May 22, 2019 at 2:06 am
Your current foreign policy simply seems to reflect the astonishing degree of violence that permeates your society, when observing you Americans from a place like Hong Kong or China it's really frightening, I would be more scared to visit the US than Liberia or Sierra Leone, with those innumerable ( armed ) nutcases roaming your streets, you are by now used to it, and it saddens me, thinking of how grateful we should be for all you have done in the distant past for so many countries in the world
Fayez Abedaziz , says: May 22, 2019 at 2:30 am
The blockheads advising know nothing Trump about history and geo-politics don't care a whit about the American people or what is ten years down the road. These people, Bolton, Pompeo and the joke-Kushner- are ego/power lovers and are doing the opposite of a sane policy to every part of the globe.
How the hell do you goad and threaten Russia, for example, for no good reason and how do you threaten Russia, which, like the U.S., with the push of several buttons can turn any city in the world to ashes, in minutes.

The American people are not only dumb as a wall, they don't care about foreign policy and they don't wanna know. The're looking at celebrities and looking at their smart phones for fun and weirdness. The phones are smarter than them and they pay the price when clown Trump does things like trade wars and so on.

Yeah, the average American, what prizes they are, as in they look and say,

Is that the actress there on the 'news' oh, what's she wearing is that the 'genius' athlete, what does that smelly guy say today hey, let's order food delivered so we can watch and tomorrow to the sports bar and

Kent , says: May 22, 2019 at 6:32 am
This article forgets to mention why it would be in the American people's interest to be the hegemon of East Asia. I can't think of any reason myself. Anyone?
JR , says: May 22, 2019 at 7:11 am
Thanks for this article.

Overlooked might be Germany's copycat foreign policy posturing too often hidden behind 'humanitarian' language. https://www.swp-berlin.org/en/projects/new-power-new-responsibility/the-paper/

Guess the parallel with the US 'New American Century' is not misplaced. Do you realize that Germany aims to leverage the EU for establishing its position as a 'World Player'. Do realize too that it tends to categorize other countries along the same zero sum power line of reasoning as the US "either with us or against us".

This German foreign policy gave birth to the European Neighborhood Policy which exploited the US instigated coup to indenture Ukraine into a dependent NON-member state associated exclusively with the EU excluding normal economic relations with Russia.

The result is a thoroughly corrupt indebted Ukraine disenfranchising more than 60% of its population through imposing forced 'Ukrainization'.

Cavin , says: May 22, 2019 at 7:51 am
I agree with the article, but not the title. The article acknowledges two important points, but leaves out another.

First, it correctly acknowledges that our obsession with Iran is vastly disproportionate to the threat it poses. In fact, we would do well to scale back our adventurism in the Middle East. If China is winning in the Far East, it is largely because we have chosen to devote resources elsewhere.

Second, it correctly acknowledges that continued antagonizing of Russia by the West is needless. It is time to normalize relations with Russia, recognize its legitimate interest in having some buffer against the West, and repatriate Russian nationals who have recently immigrated to the West.

Third, the article fails to acknowledge that China, like Russia, is also entitled to some sphere of influence. And there is historic precedence for certain such claims. Those claims are tenuous when it comes to Japan and the Korean peninsula. But there is little reason why American Navy ships should be sailing right up to the borders of China, just as there is little reason why Chinese Navy ships should be sailing off the coast of Oregon. We also need to understand that provoking a trade war that slows the Chinese economy merely enhances the power of President Xi. Trump has given President Xi a massive political gift, and for no good reason. The trade imbalance is evidence of the strength of our economy, not a sign that we're losing out to China.

Grits Again , says: May 22, 2019 at 8:02 am
One of the most malign effects of Israeli and Saudi control of American politicians is the grotesque overemphasis on the Middle East in US foreign policy. Trump's trade fights to one side, it often seems as if we dismiss or ignore much of the rest of the world. This disproportion has been obvious and growing since the end of the last century, but at this point it's pathological.

If we are to compete effectively with China and other global players, if we are to have a balanced and effective foreign policy in general, we need to remove the Middle East blinders, get Israel and Saudi Arabia off our back, and start seeing the world as it is, rather than as Israel and Saudi Arabia pay our politicians to see it.

Collin , says: May 22, 2019 at 8:25 am
Simple questions: Why should we care? And how does all this soft power benefit the average citizens? And for all the China fears, they appear to react very rationally and avoid military conflicts.

Ok, it is true Chinese oil buying is probably keeping Iran in a better economic situation but again this seems more of a problem of Iran hawks not the average citizen. Honestly, I wish the US had more of treasury focused foreign policy and stop worrying about US power.

Mommsen the Younger , says: May 22, 2019 at 9:26 am
Excellent. Merry has it exactly. (Note: Have reread paragraph 9 several times and believe the copy editor fell asleep here)
Chris Cosmos , says: May 22, 2019 at 9:30 am
Well, it all depends on goals doesn't it. US foreign policy goals are to increase chaos and create international tension. Why? Because US foreign policy exists to feed military and intel contractors on the one hand and asserting power for the sake of asserting power with no overall strategy other the Great Game.

Any rational analysis of the past couple of decades forces us to come to that conclusion. The reason why this whole scheme is unlikely to fail in the short and medium term is US military involvement in 150 countries has brought much of the world under Washington's control–or at least their ruling elites. The best China can do is provide an alternative to the Empire and live in some sort of harmony with it because China has not shown any intention of competing militarily with the US. Iran is a key part of the Silk Road project and that is the strategic reason for the attempt to crush or destroy Iran that is central to the strategy. The US wants to keep China and Russia out of Europe–that, if you look at policy, seems to be the main contest.

HenionJD , says: May 22, 2019 at 9:30 am
The conflict with Iran has assumed heightened importance because,at 70 years old, John Bolton has to face the possibility that he might die without having started a war somewhere.
Thaomas , says: May 22, 2019 at 9:32 am
The author misses two other two other components of of a proper China "containment" policy: Immigration and trade policy. The US should be actively trying to attract immigration of skilled young workers and entrepreneurs (including from China) and encouraging university graduates from abroad to remain. The US ought to join the TPP in order to increase our leverage in negotiating reductions in Chinese restrictions on trade and investment.
Sid Finster , says: May 22, 2019 at 10:47 am
Why would Russia want to make a deal with the United States, which cannot be trusted to keep its word, or even to act rationally in pursuit of its own interests?
TheSnark , says: May 22, 2019 at 11:20 am
Generally a good article, but it misses an important point. While China and Russia do have natural spheres of influence, the countries within those natural spheres hate being there.

Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam are naturally within China's influence, but they don't trust the Chinese at all, and surely don't want China to dominate their countries. And given they way the Chinese empire treats Tibetan and Uigurs, they have good reason for that.

Similarly in Eastern Europe, where Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic States might be in Russian sphere, but they sure don't want to be. The fact is that NATO did not aggressively seek them out for membership, those small countries begged to join NATO out of their historical fear of Russia.

While recognizing such spheres of influence, do we want to abandon friendly, democratic countries to a hostile, autocratic power? The Cold War model of Finland give some hope for a compromise, but it won't be easy to implement outside of Finland.

david , says: May 22, 2019 at 1:41 pm
This article is another vivid illustration of how disoriented and narrow-minded when a typical intelligent and well-meaning American is talking about China. For examples:

1. The author has no problem acknowledging specific geopolitical interests to accommodate Russia or even Iran, but when he comes to China, he fails completely to mention any of the legitimate interests China has in East Asia.

2. The author repeats the nonsensical China haters' allegation about China's threat to America, and China's intention to push American out of East Asia.

3. The author resorts back to a typical zero-sum or even cold-war style mentality when talking about overall China strategy, without even considering the possibilities that China and America can co-exist in a friendly manner, where all the peaceful competition between the two countries ultimately translating into net positive results that benefit the people of both countries and the world.

Unfortunately, our so-called "experts" in China are consistently failing Americans badly, because they lack the knowledge and perspective to think from the other side of the coin.

Steve , says: May 22, 2019 at 1:50 pm
I scrolled for quite a bit before finding Thaomas' comment about TPP. Leaving it will prove to be one of the Trump's admin's greatest blunders (which is saying something) and any column about China strategy that omits it is incomplete.
hooly , says: May 22, 2019 at 2:01 pm
So why exactly should Russia be accommodated and be allowed its sphere of influence and a 'defense perimeter' and not China? I don't get it. And why should the USA be allowed the fruits of its aggression in the form of an annexed and brutally conquered Hawaii? why can't Uncle Sam be satisfied with San Diego as a naval base?

The USA has the Monroe Doctrine giving it dominion over the Western Hemisphere, and China holds the Mandate of Heaven granting it hegemony over everything else. Can't the Dragon and the Eagle get along on that basis??

Ken Zaretzke , says: May 22, 2019 at 2:06 pm
In terms of geography, China vitally needs Russia in order to close off a corridor through which Muslims will flow to China. Without that cooperation from Russia, China will be seriously hobbled by unassimilable and hostile migrants in its south. At least symbolically, this will cripple its superpower claims.

The U.S. would be stupid not to seek an alliance with Russia, given Russia's geographical strengths, which also includes its proximity to the Arctic and therefore a legal claim to the oil and gas buried there.

Geography is Russia's long-term strength, and not incidentally is a reason why trying militarily to force Putin to surrender Crimea could easily lead to nuclear war, which might begin with tactical (battlefield) Russian nukes aimed at NATO garrisons in eastern Europe.

China isn't fated to win its contest with the U.S. if it must depend on Russia in order to become an unquestioned superpower. We need Russia for strategic security as much as Russia needs us for economic growth.

fabian , says: May 22, 2019 at 2:47 pm
Nice summary. In my view the US (not Trump) make a big mistake to throw Russia in the arms of China. It's not only its geopolitical situation that is the problem but the fact the it gives China unlimited access to natural resources. In a generation, if things goes the way they do now, the only saving grace for the US will be a failure of this partnership. Because if it works, by the sheer force of gravity it will swallow Europe. But betting on the adversary's failure is not a good strategy.
workingdad , says: May 22, 2019 at 3:08 pm
eh, keeping pressure on Iran keeps Saudi Arabia happy which means they stay in our sphere; as opposed to China's.

Until Venezuala wants to become part of the Oil-for-dollars system or we all drive electric cars and only oil for remote work and emergency military expeditions then we need the Saudis on our side.

Un Citoyen , says: May 22, 2019 at 3:58 pm
This kind of mentality is the reason why I think the demise of America is necessary to achieve world peace.

Why on God's green earth should America dominate East Asia? Last time I checked, America is NOT part of Asia. We are not even in the same hemisphere for crying out loud. Why can't we just leave Asia to the Asians?

When was the last time China invaded a country? Never. These are the same people who discovered Africa and America long before the Europeans, but only wanted to "do business" and trade. They already have 1.3 Billion mouths to feed, the last thing the Chinese government needs is more mouths to feed.

Meanwhile, when Washington thinks of invasion, all they think of is guns, tanks, battleships. The Chinese are already quietly invading and conquering the west -- through immigration. All along the East and West coasts, Chinese dominant cities and schools are popping up everywhere. America really is the stupidest country on earth sometimes. All brawn and no brain. We want to start wars with everybody in the name of protecting "American interests", while the rest of the world are already conquering us from within through immigration. Wake up America.

Ricardo Toledano , says: May 22, 2019 at 7:06 pm
Though Mr. Merry sees things clearly, I can't really see why people like playing these games in the age of nukes.

It's one thing trying to play Kaiser Wilhelm II and dream of containment and conquest when you actually had to send armies to defeat your enemies, It's another to do so when people can kill a few millions by pressing a button.

It's a reckless game for me.

Ricardo Toledano , says: May 22, 2019 at 7:06 pm
Though Mr. Merry sees things clearly, I can't really see why people like playing these games in the age of nukes.

It's one thing trying to play Kaiser Wilhelm II and dream of containment and conquest when you actually had to send armies to defeat your enemies, It's another to do so when people can kill a few millions by pressing a button.

It's a reckless game to me.

Tom Diebold , says: May 22, 2019 at 7:32 pm
I would assume that the US is "in" East Asia, to a significant extent, because Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have sought US security and defense guarantees. The US has not forced itself into the region. Korea has reasons to be concerned about China, due to its experiences during the Korean War, and Taiwan, which wishes to remain independent of Chinese control, is directly threatened by China.

As for other allies in the region, Philippine president Duterte's overtures, upon taking office, to China, and his especially disparaging remarks about the US while making an official visit to China, seem quite puzzling, given China's illegitimate seizing of Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea. US relations with the Philippines needs to be reexamined in light of this development. While Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are first-level allies in the region, the Philippines is not.

[May 22, 2019] Daniel Larison

Notable quotes:
"... Before and during the nuclear negotiations that led to the JCPOA, American opponents of the talks kept insisting that Iran couldn't be trusted to keep their word and they would cheat on any agreement they made. ..."
"... It is fitting that they have been the ones to urge the U.S. to break its word and betray our negotiating partners, and in so doing guarantee that the U.S. is seen as the unreliable deal-breakers that Iran's government was supposed to be. In the future, other governments may want to have some "snap-back" mechanisms of their own to ensure that the U.S. will be penalized if it breaches its obligations. ..."
"... Iran isn't interested in photo-op summits ..."
"... A real negotiation would involve making a compromise and offering concessions to Iran. Iran would have to believe that it has something to gain from the exchange, and right now it has no reason to believe anything of the kind. Trump has no desire to make concessions, only to receive them, and he won't compromise because he can't conceive of a mutually beneficial agreement. Because he sees everything as a zero-sum contest, Trump perceives anything less than the other side's capitulation as a "loss" for the U.S. In the absence of a real "win," Trump is willing to settle for the made-up kind that he claims after every unsuccessful summit. ..."
"... The next administration will have their work cut out for them. A future president won't only have to repair the damage to America's reputation, but will have to rebuild tattered relationships with allies and other major economic powers that have been frayed by years of senseless economic warfare. Over the longer term, the U.S. will face the growing problem that our commitments will be called into question every time there is a change in party control. The seesaw between increasingly hard-line unilateralists that want to tear up one agreement after another regardless of the merits and the rest of us will make it so that no one will be able to trust the U.S. to commit to anything for more than four or eight years. That will give presidents strong incentives not to burn political capital on securing agreements that they know their successors will just throw away, and it will eventually mean that U.S. diplomacy continues to atrophy from lack of use. ..."
May 22, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

May 22, 2019, 1:16 PM

J.Bicking/Shutterstock One of the obvious consequences of violating the JCPOA is that the U.S. can't be trusted to negotiate anything else with Iran:

Zarif told CNN this week Iran had "acted in good faith" in negotiating the deal that Washington abandoned. "We are not willing to talk to people who have broken their promises.".

Before and during the nuclear negotiations that led to the JCPOA, American opponents of the talks kept insisting that Iran couldn't be trusted to keep their word and they would cheat on any agreement they made.

It is fitting that they have been the ones to urge the U.S. to break its word and betray our negotiating partners, and in so doing guarantee that the U.S. is seen as the unreliable deal-breakers that Iran's government was supposed to be. In the future, other governments may want to have some "snap-back" mechanisms of their own to ensure that the U.S. will be penalized if it breaches its obligations.

Iran hawks are always complaining about the "fatally flawed" nuclear deal, but they are the ones that exploited what was perhaps its only true flaw, namely the built-in assumption that our government would observe the terms of the agreement in good faith as long as Iran did what it promised to do. Other major powers and Iran now know they shouldn't expect the U.S. to be a reliable partner in future talks, and they will reasonably conclude that offers to "talk" from the administration that seeks to destroy the JCPOA are just so much hot air.

As I was saying yesterday, Iran isn't interested in photo-op summits:

Trump has said Washington is not trying to set up talks but expects Tehran to call when it is ready. A U.S. official said last week Americans "were sitting by the phone", but had received no call from Iran yet

Foad Izadi, a political science professor at Tehran University, told Reuters that phone call is not coming.

"Iranian officials have come to this conclusion that Trump does not seek negotiations. He would like a phone call with Rouhani, even a meeting and a photo session, but that's not a real negotiation," Izadi said.

A real negotiation would involve making a compromise and offering concessions to Iran. Iran would have to believe that it has something to gain from the exchange, and right now it has no reason to believe anything of the kind. Trump has no desire to make concessions, only to receive them, and he won't compromise because he can't conceive of a mutually beneficial agreement. Because he sees everything as a zero-sum contest, Trump perceives anything less than the other side's capitulation as a "loss" for the U.S. In the absence of a real "win," Trump is willing to settle for the made-up kind that he claims after every unsuccessful summit.

The next administration will have their work cut out for them. A future president won't only have to repair the damage to America's reputation, but will have to rebuild tattered relationships with allies and other major economic powers that have been frayed by years of senseless economic warfare. Over the longer term, the U.S. will face the growing problem that our commitments will be called into question every time there is a change in party control. The seesaw between increasingly hard-line unilateralists that want to tear up one agreement after another regardless of the merits and the rest of us will make it so that no one will be able to trust the U.S. to commit to anything for more than four or eight years. That will give presidents strong incentives not to burn political capital on securing agreements that they know their successors will just throw away, and it will eventually mean that U.S. diplomacy continues to atrophy from lack of use.

MORE FROM THIS AUTHOR

SteveM May 22, 2019 at 2:47 pm

Related to "America the Untrustworthy" is the economic total war that the U.S. has declared on the rest of the planet. Very complex business relationships and supply chains are being destroyed. The Trump administration's objectives are to economically strangle China and Russia and do economic beat-downs on any country that gets in the way. No company or country wants to do business with that kind of political volatility. And what can't go on forever – won't.

What the idiots in Washington don't realize is that the Chinese and the Russians have suffered 100x mores deprivation than Americans. They will suck it up now and then do whatever it takes to decouple themselves economically from the United States. (See what happens in the U.S. when the Chinese tell Apple to pound sand.)

And to think that the Chinese don't have the organic capability to technically compete with the U.S. now is nuts. China has the resources and intellectual horsepower to compete with the U.S. regardless of what the arrogant "City on a Hill" exceptionalists in Washington think. And given that China has 5X the number of STEM grads, it's easy to do the math.

America the Untrustworthy on the economic front is telling the rest of the planet to find other partners because doing business with an erratic Gorilla is more trouble than its worth.

Scott , says: May 22, 2019 at 3:44 pm
At some point, Americans are going to be outraged when they realize that most of the world doesn't view us as someone to admire but rather a rogue nation.

We have lost so much standing under Trump

BD , says: May 22, 2019 at 3:53 pm
I wonder if it ever occurred to Trump–or any of his advisers–that pulling out of a deal for no other reason than "we didn't like the terms that everyone agreed to" (rather than noncompliance by Iran) only makes it impossible for anyone to trust a new deal he wants to make later. But I guess this is why it's unwise to govern based on what Fox and Friends tells you each morning.
Barry , says: May 22, 2019 at 5:20 pm
"A future president won't only have to repair the damage to America's reputation, but will have to rebuild tattered relationships with allies and other major economic powers that have been frayed by years of senseless economic warfare. "

I don't think that any future president will be able to do this. Dubya was a shock to the rest of the world, in that they realized that there was indeed 'no there there'. Congress isn't helping.

Obama was a relief, but then along came Trump. At this point, all other countries know that (a) any competent Democratic President will be followed by a destructive and reckless GOP president, and (b) that the GOP Congress will aid and abet this.

A reputation for reliability has to be maintained.

Christian J Chuba , says: May 22, 2019 at 6:37 pm
And there is a 90 / 10 chance that we will break the agreement. This is not a Trump'ism, we never keep our word regardless of the Administration.
  1. Libya/Gaddafi GWB made the promise, Obama killed him.
  2. Saddam Hussein – Bush Sr. made the promise, get rid of WMD and live, GWB killed him.
  3. JCPOA – Obama made the agreement, Trump broke it.
  4. Russia – Bush Sr. promised not to expand NATO, Clinton expanded NATO like mad.

When have we ever kept an agreement?

[May 21, 2019] 2020 Elections: It's Militarism and the Military Budget Stupid! by Ajamu Baraka

May 17, 2019 | www.counterpunch.org

U.S. ships are involved in provocative "freedom of navigation" exercises in the South China Sea and other ships gather ominously in the Mediterranean Sea while National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo along with convicted war criminal Elliot Abrams conspire to save the people of Venezuela with another illegal "regime change" intervention. But people are drawn to the latest adventures of Love and Hip-Hop, the Mueller report, and Game of Thrones. In fact, while millions can recall with impressive detail the proposals and strategies of the various players in HBO's latest saga, they can't recall two details about the pending military budget that will likely pass in Congress with little debate, even though Trump's budget proposal represents another obscene increase of public money to the tune of $750 billion.

This bipartisan rip-off could not occur without the willing collusion of the corporate media, which slants coverage to support the interests of the ruling elite or decides to just ignore an issue like the ever-expanding military budget.

The effectiveness of this collusion is reflected in the fact that not only has this massive theft of public money not gotten much coverage in the mainstream corporate media, but also it only received sporadic coverage in the alternative media. The liberal-left media is distracted enough by the theatrics of the Trump show to do the ideological dirty work of the elites.

Spending on war will consume almost 70% of the budget and be accompanied by cuts in public spending for education, housing, the environment, public transportation, jobs trainings, food support programs like food stamps and Meals on Wheels, as well as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Most of the neoliberal candidates running in the Democratic Party's electoral process, however, haven't spoken a word in opposition to Trump's budget.

The public knows that the Democratic Party's candidates are opposed to Trump's wall on the southern border, and they expect to hear them raise questions about the $8.6 billion of funding the wall. But while some of the Democrats may oppose the wall, very few have challenged the details of the budget that the U.S. Peace Council indicates . For example:

"$576 billion baseline budget for the Department of Defense; an additional $174 billion for the Pentagon's Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), i.e., the war budget; $93.1 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs; $51.7 billion for Homeland Security; $42.8 billion for State Department; an additional $26.1 billion for State Department's Overseas Contingency Operations (regime change slush fund); $16.5 billion for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (nuclear weapons budget); $21 billion for NASA (militarizing outer space?); plus $267.4 billion for all other government agencies, including funding for FBI and Cybersecurity in the Department of Justice."

The Peace Council also highlights the following two issues: First, the total US military and war budget has jumped from $736.4 billion to $989.0 billion since 2015. That is a $252.6 billion (about 35%) increase in five years. Second, thesimultaneous cuts in the government's non-military spending are reflected in the proposed budget.

Here are some of biggest proposed budget cuts:

+ $1.5 trillion in cuts to Medicaid over 10 years, implementing work requirements as well as eliminating the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The budget instead adds $1.2 trillion for a "Market Based Health Care Grant" -- that is, a block grant to states, instead of paying by need. It's not clear whether that would be part of Medicaid.

+ An $845 billion cut to Medicare over 10 years. That is about a 10 percent cut .

+ $25 billion in cuts to Social Security over 10 years, including cuts to disability insurance.

+ A $220 billion cut to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP) over 10 years , which is commonly referred to as food stamps, and includes mandatory work requirements. The program currently serves around 45 million people.

+ A $21 billion cut to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families , an already severely underfunded cash-assistance program for the nation's poorest.

+ $207 billion in cuts to the student loan program, eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and cutting subsidized student loans.

+ Overall, there is a 9 percent cut to non-defense programs , which would hit Section 8 housing vouchers, public housing programs, Head Start, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program , among others.

The working classes and oppressed peoples of the U.S. and around the world can no longer afford the unchallenged ideological positions of the Pentagon budget and the associated expenditures for so-called defense that are considered sacrosanct in the U.S. They cannot afford that much of the U.S. public is not concerned with issues of so-called foreign policy that the military budget is seen as part.

The racist appeals of U.S. national chauvinism in the form of "Make America Great" and the Democrats' version of "U.S. Exceptionalism" must be confronted and exposed as the cross-class, white identity politics that they are. The fact that supposedly progressive or even "radical" politics does not address the issue of U.S. expenditures on war and imperialism is reflective of a politics that is morally and political bankrupt. But it also does something else. It places those practitioners firmly in the camp of the enemies of humanity.

The objective fact that large numbers of the public accept that the U.S. can determine the leadership of another sovereign nation while simultaneously being outraged by the idea of a foreign power interfering in U.S. elections demonstrates the mindboggling subjective contradictions that exist in the U.S. For example – that an Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez can assert that she will defer to the leadership of her caucus on the issue of Venezuela or that Barbara Lee can vote to bring Trump's budget proposal out of committee or that Biden can proudly support Trump's immoral backing of a neo-fascist opposition in Venezuela and they will all get away with those positions – reveals the incredible challenge that we face in building an alternative radical movement for peace, social justice and people(s)-centered human rights.

So, we must join with U.S. Peace Council and the other members of the Anti-war, pro-peace, and anti-imperialist communities in the U.S. to "resist and oppose this military attack on our communities, our livelihoods and our lives." This is an urgent and militant first step in reversing the cultural support for violence and the normalization of war that currently exists in the U.S. Now is the moment to demand that Congress reject and reverse the Trump Administration's military budget and the U.S. Government's militaristic foreign policy. But now is also the moment to commit to building a powerful countermovement to take back the power over life and death from the denizens of violence represented by the rapacious 1%. Join the debate on Facebook More articles by: Ajamu Baraka

Ajamu Baraka is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and contributing columnist for Counterpunch magazine.

[May 21, 2019] Where Lyme Disease Came From and Why It Eludes Treatment by David Swanson

May 17, 2019 | www.counterpunch.org
A new book called Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons by Kris Newby adds significantly to our understanding of Lyme disease, while oddly seeming to avoid mention of what we already knew.

Newby claims (in 2019) that if a scientist named Willy Burgdorfer had not made a confession in 2013, the secret that Lyme disease came from a biological weapons program would have died with him. Yet, in 2004 Michael Christopher Carroll published a book called Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Germ Laboratory . He appeared on several television shows to discuss the book, including on NBC's Today Show, where the book was made a Today Show Book Club selection. Lab 257 hit the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list soon after its publication.

Newby's book reaches the same conclusion as Carroll's, namely that the most likely source of diseased ticks is Plum Island. Newby reaches this conclusion on page 224 after mentioning Plum Island only once in passing in a list of facilities on page 47 and otherwise avoiding it throughout the book. This is bizarre, because Newby's book otherwise goes into great depth, and even chronicles extensive research efforts that lead largely to dead ends, and because there is information available about Plum Island, and because Carroll's best-selling book seems to demand comment, supportive or dismissive or otherwise.

In fact, I think that, despite the avoidance of any discussion of Plum Island, Newby's research complements Carroll's quite well, strengthens the same general conclusion, and then adds significant new understanding. So, let's look at what Carroll told us, and then at what Newby adds.

Less than 2 miles off the east end of Long Island sits Plum Island, where the U.S. government makes or at least made biological weapons, including weapons consisting of diseased insects that can be dropped from airplanes on a (presumably foreign) population. One such insect is the deer tick, pursued as a germ weapon by the Nazis, the Japanese, the Soviets, and the Americans.

Deer swim to Plum Island. Birds fly to Plum Island. The island lies in the middle of the Atlantic migration route for numerous species. "Ticks," Carroll writes, "find baby chicks irresistible."

In July of 1975 a new or very rare disease appeared in Old Lyme, Connecticut, just north of Plum Island. And what was on Plum Island? A germ warfare lab to which the U.S. government had brought former Nazi germ warfare scientists in the 1940s to work on the same evil work for a different employer. These included the head of the Nazi germ warfare program who had worked directly for Heinrich Himmler. On Plum Island was a germ warfare lab that frequently conducted its experiments out of doors . After all, it was on an island. What could go wrong? Documents record outdoor experiments with diseased ticks in the 1950s (when we know that the United States was using such weaponized life forms in North Korea ). Even Plum Island's indoors, where participants admit to experiments with ticks, was not sealed tight. And test animals mingled with wild deer, test birds with wild birds.

By the 1990s, the eastern end of Long Island had by far the greatest concentration of Lyme disease. If you drew a circle around the area of the world heavily impacted by Lyme disease, which happened to be in the Northeast United States, the center of that circle was Plum Island.

Plum Island experimented with the Lone Star tick, whose habitat at the time was confined to Texas. Yet it showed up in New York and Connecticut, infecting people with Lyme disease -- and killing them. The Lone Star tick is now endemic in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

If Newby agrees or disagrees with any of the above, she does not inform us. But here's what she adds to it.

The outbreak of unusual tick-borne disease around Long Island Sound actually started in 1968, and it involved three diseases: Lyme arthritis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and babesiosis. A U.S. bioweapons scientist, Willy Burgdorfer, credited in 1982 with discovering the cause of Lyme disease, may have put the diseases into ticks 30 years earlier. And his report on the cause of Lyme disease may have involved a significant omission that has made it harder to diagnose or cure. The public focus on only one of the three diseases has allowed a disaster that could have been contained to become widespread.

Newby documents in detail Burgdorfer's work for the U.S. government giving diseases to ticks in large quantities to be used as weapons, as they have been in Cuba in 1962, for example. "He was growing microbes inside ticks, having the ticks feed on animals, and then harvesting the microbes from the animals that exhibited the level of illness the military had requested."

Burgdorfer published a paper in 1952 about the intentional infecting of ticks. In 2013, filmmaker Tim Grey asked him, on camera, whether the pathogen he had identified in 1982 as the cause of Lyme disease was the same one or similar or a generational mutation of the one he'd written about in 1952. Burgdorfer replied in the affirmative.

Interviewed by Newby, Burgdorfer described his efforts to create an illness that would be difficult to test for -- knowledge of which he might have shared earlier with beneficial results for those suffering.

Newby, who has herself suffered from Lyme disease, blames the profit interests of companies and the corruption of government for the poor handling of Lyme disease. But her writing suggests to me a possibility she doesn't raise, namely that those who know where Lyme disease came from have avoided properly addressing it because of where it came from.

Newby assumes throughout the book that there has to have been a particular major incident near Long Island Sound, either an accident or an experiment on the public or an attack by a foreign nation. Burgdorfer reportedly claimed to another researcher that Russia stole U.S. bioweapons. Based on that and nothing else, Newby speculates that perhaps Russia attacked the United States with diseased ticks, coincidentally right in the location where the U.S. government experimented with diseased ticks.

"What this book brings to light," Newby writes, "is that the U.S. military has conducted thousands of experiments exploring the use of ticks and tick-borne diseases as biological weapons, and in some cases, these agents escaped into the environment. The government needs to declassify the details of these open-air bioweapons tests so that we can begin to repair the damage these pathogens are inflicting on human and animals in the ecosystem."

Another product of U.S. bio-weapons tax dollars at work, of course, was the anthrax mailed to politicians in 2001. While Newby speculates that perhaps someone was trying to demonstrate the danger for our own good, I don't think we should forget that one purpose served -- whether or not intended -- by the "anthrax attacks" was a significant augmentation of the Iraq war lies. The attacks were falsely blamed on Iraq, and even if people have forgotten that, they fell for it long enough for it to matter. The one bit of truth in current public understanding of Lyme disease is that it has not been falsely blamed on some country the United States is eager to bomb. Let's keep it that way! Join the debate on Facebook More articles by: David Swanson

David Swanson wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition .

[May 20, 2019] EP.744 Presidential Candidate Mike Gravel -- Joe Biden's Conventional Wisdom is AMERICAN IMPERIALISM!

May 11, 2019 | www.youtube.com

On this episode of Going Underground, we speak to Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Gravel who discusses why he is joining the race to pull the debate to the left, the nature of his contenders such as Joe Biden, Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders, US regime change attempts in Venezuela and escalating tension with Iran, Julian Assange's imprisonment in the UK and the US' extradition request. Next we speak to Chris Williamson MP, in his first international interview since being suspended by the Labour Party.

He discusses NHS privatisation by stealth with the new GP contracts due to be signed next week, Israeli oppression of Palestinians, Trump's escalation against Iran and Julian Assange's on-going imprisonment in Belmarsh Prison.


Gary Salisbury , 1 week ago (edited)

Pompeo Finally Tells the Truth: 'We Lie, We Cheat, We Steal'" !! He makes me want to Puke !! His duplicity has no bounds !! A swamp dweller of NOTE !!

B. Greene , 1 week ago (edited)

Senator Gravel needs 100k unique contributions to qualify for the DNC debates. Help him shake things up with a $1 donation at: www.mikegravel.com

TrickyVickey , 1 week ago (edited)

Pompeo is a murderous "dictator pusher" for the military industrial complex.

harriet , 6 days ago (edited)

Love Mike gravel, honest, good, genuine person with pure heart and soul! Donate dollar to get him on the debates! Love Chris Williamson also a great men we need more people like these! This channel should have way more subs and views, great show!

Muzza Man , 1 week ago (edited)

The proven oil reserves in Venezuela are recognized as the largest in the world, totaling 297 billion barrels . They are going to be INVADED by the real world terrorists, the USA,BRITAIN, and their puppet allies !!!! Need I say more?

invisble man , 1 week ago

Joe Biden could stand in the middle of fifth avenue and sniff everybody and he would not lose any voters.

[May 20, 2019] US bullying caprices stain its credibility

Those are pretty strong words from the official agency...
Notable quotes:
"... The U.S. side is perhaps narcissistic about its "art of deal," yet its tainted records in failing to keep its own words have alarmed the world. ..."
"... As a matter of fact, China is not the first victim of America's acts of bad faith and trade bullyism. Over more than a year, the U.S. side has wielded a "big stick" of protectionism, and coerced many of its trade partners, including South Korea, Canada and Mexico, into re-negotiating their long-existing trade agreements. ..."
"... When Washington decided to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union (EU) last year, the European Commission rebutted in a tweet, saying that "The EU believes these unilateral U.S. tariffs are unjustified and at odds with World Trade Organization rules. This is protectionism, pure and simple." ..."
"... Since the Trump administration took power, Washington has backed away from a string of major international agreements and multilateral bodies, including the Paris climate accord, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the UN Human Rights Council, and the Universal Postal Union. ..."
"... In the aftermath of the World War II, the United States helped establish the existing global trade and finance order. As a result, Washington has benefited enormously from such a system that is based on the U.S. dollar's supremacy. However, Washington is in no way justified to abuse its superpower status. ..."
"... Instead, it needs to fulfill its duties as an equal member of the international community. It is worth noting that the U.S.-led global order may collapse once Washington's credibility goes bankrupt. This dangerous prospect is in no one's interests. ..."
May 20, 2019 | www.xinhuanet.com

Source: Xinhua | 2019-05-20 17:11:21 | Editor: Xiang Bo

BEIJING, May 20 (Xinhua) -- Modern international trade relations are based on credibility and the spirit of the contract. However,in the year-long China-U.S. trade negotiations, Washington repeatedly reneged on its promises and played "face changing" tricks, leaving stark stains on its credibility.

During Chinese Vice Premier Liu He's visit to Washington last May, Beijing and Washington agreed not to engage in a trade war. Only days later, the Trump administration said it will impose a 25-percent tariff on 50 billion U.S. dollars' worth of Chinese imports which contain industrially significant technology.

Soon after the recent setbacks in China-U.S. trade consultations, the Trump administration, in the name of "national security," rolled out measures to hit Chinese tech firms. The White House's executive order will kill many business contracts between Chinese and U.S. firms.

The U.S. side is perhaps narcissistic about its "art of deal," yet its tainted records in failing to keep its own words have alarmed the world.

As a matter of fact, China is not the first victim of America's acts of bad faith and trade bullyism. Over more than a year, the U.S. side has wielded a "big stick" of protectionism, and coerced many of its trade partners, including South Korea, Canada and Mexico, into re-negotiating their long-existing trade agreements.

These bullying behaviors have sent a clear signal: one can arbitrarily tamper with the original contracts regardless of cooperation partners' interests and concerns, as long as it has the power to do so. That is "the logic of gangsters" and "the law of jungle." Such bullying tactic has stirred global opposition, including from Washington's allies in Europe.

When Washington decided to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union (EU) last year, the European Commission rebutted in a tweet, saying that "The EU believes these unilateral U.S. tariffs are unjustified and at odds with World Trade Organization rules. This is protectionism, pure and simple."

Also, America's bullying actions have gone far beyond multilateral economic and trade realms.

Since the Trump administration took power, Washington has backed away from a string of major international agreements and multilateral bodies, including the Paris climate accord, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the UN Human Rights Council, and the Universal Postal Union.

These self-serving moves have disgraced Washington's credibility as a responsible major country, and seriously eroded the foundation for international cooperation.

In the aftermath of the World War II, the United States helped establish the existing global trade and finance order. As a result, Washington has benefited enormously from such a system that is based on the U.S. dollar's supremacy. However, Washington is in no way justified to abuse its superpower status.

Instead, it needs to fulfill its duties as an equal member of the international community. It is worth noting that the U.S.-led global order may collapse once Washington's credibility goes bankrupt. This dangerous prospect is in no one's interests.

[May 20, 2019] "Us" Versus "Them"

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... There are differences between the parties, but they are mainly centered around social issues and disputes with little or no consequence to the long-term path of the country. The real ruling oligarchs essentially allow controlled opposition within each party to make it appear you have a legitimate choice at the ballot box. Nothing could be further from the truth. ..."
"... There has been an unwritten agreement between the parties for decades where the Democrats pretend to be against war and the Republicans pretend to be against welfare. Meanwhile, spending on war and welfare relentlessly grows into the trillions, with no effort whatsoever from either party to even slow the rate of growth, let alone cut spending. The proliferation of the military industrial complex like a poisonous weed has been inexorable, as the corporate arms dealers place their facilities of death in the congressional districts of Democrats and Republicans. In addition, these corporate manufacturers of murder dole out "legal" payoffs to corrupt politicians of both parties in the form of political contributions. The Deep State knows bribes and well-paying jobs ensure no spineless congressman will ever vote against a defense spending increase. ..."
"... Of course, the warfare/welfare state couldn't grow to its immense size without financing from the Wall Street cabal and their feckless academic puppets at the Federal Reserve. The Too Big to Trust Wall Street banks, whose willful control fraud nearly wrecked the global economy in 2008, were rewarded by their Deep State patrons by getting bigger and more powerful as people on Main Street and senior citizen savers were thrown under the bus. ..."
"... When these criminal bankers have their reckless bets blow up in their faces they are bailed out by the American taxpayers, but when the Fed rigs the system so they are guaranteed billions in risk free profits, they reward themselves with massive bonuses and lobby for a huge tax cut used to buy back their stock. With bank branches in every congressional district in every state, and bankers spreading protection money to greedy politicians across the land, no legislation damaging to the banking cartel is ever passed. ..."
"... I voted for Trump because he wasn't Hillary. ..."
"... If the Chinese refuse to yield for fear of losing face, and the tariff war accelerates, a global recession is a certainty. ..."
"... These sociopaths are not liberal or conservative. They are not Democrats or Republicans. They are not beholden to a country or community. They care not for their fellow man. They don't care about future generations. They care about their own power, wealth and control over others. They have no conscience. They have no empathy. Right and wrong are meaningless in their unquenchable thirst for more. They will lie, steal and kill to achieve their goal of controlling everything and everyone in this world. This precisely describes virtually every politician in Washington DC, Wall Street banker, mega-corporation CEO, government agency head, MSM talking head, church leader, billionaire activist, and blood sucking advisor to the president. ..."
"... The problem is we have gone too far. The "American Dream" has become a grotesque nightmare because people by the millions sit around and dream about being a Kardashian. Makes me want to puke. ..."
May 20, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,

"I'll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. "I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs." "I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking." "Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding out both puppets!"" – Bill Hicks

Anyone who frequents Twitter, Facebook, political blogs, economic blogs, or fake-news mainstream media channels knows our world is driven by the "Us versus Them" narrative. It's almost as if "they" are forcing us to choose sides and believe the other side is evil. Bill Hicks died in 1994, but his above quote is truer today then it was then. As the American Empire continues its long-term decline, the proles are manipulated through Bernaysian propaganda techniques, honed over the course of decades by the ruling oligarchs, to root for their assigned puppets.

Most people can't discern they are being manipulated and duped by the Deep State controllers. The most terrifying outcome for these Deep State controllers would be for the masses to realize it is us versus them. But they don't believe there is a chance in hell of this happening. Their arrogance is palatable.

Their hubris has reached astronomical levels as they blew up the world economy in 2008 and successfully managed to have the innocent victims bail them out to the tune of $700 billion, pillaged the wealth of the nation through their capture of the Federal Reserve (QE, ZIRP), rigged the financial markets in their favor through collusion, used the hundreds of billions in corporate tax cuts to buy back their stock and further pump the stock market, all while their corporate media mouthpieces mislead and misinform the proles.

There are differences between the parties, but they are mainly centered around social issues and disputes with little or no consequence to the long-term path of the country. The real ruling oligarchs essentially allow controlled opposition within each party to make it appear you have a legitimate choice at the ballot box. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There has been an unwritten agreement between the parties for decades where the Democrats pretend to be against war and the Republicans pretend to be against welfare. Meanwhile, spending on war and welfare relentlessly grows into the trillions, with no effort whatsoever from either party to even slow the rate of growth, let alone cut spending. The proliferation of the military industrial complex like a poisonous weed has been inexorable, as the corporate arms dealers place their facilities of death in the congressional districts of Democrats and Republicans. In addition, these corporate manufacturers of murder dole out "legal" payoffs to corrupt politicians of both parties in the form of political contributions. The Deep State knows bribes and well-paying jobs ensure no spineless congressman will ever vote against a defense spending increase.

Of course, the warfare/welfare state couldn't grow to its immense size without financing from the Wall Street cabal and their feckless academic puppets at the Federal Reserve. The Too Big to Trust Wall Street banks, whose willful control fraud nearly wrecked the global economy in 2008, were rewarded by their Deep State patrons by getting bigger and more powerful as people on Main Street and senior citizen savers were thrown under the bus.

When these criminal bankers have their reckless bets blow up in their faces they are bailed out by the American taxpayers, but when the Fed rigs the system so they are guaranteed billions in risk free profits, they reward themselves with massive bonuses and lobby for a huge tax cut used to buy back their stock. With bank branches in every congressional district in every state, and bankers spreading protection money to greedy politicians across the land, no legislation damaging to the banking cartel is ever passed.

I've never been big on joining a group. I tend to believe Groucho Marx and his cynical line, "I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member". The "Us vs. Them" narrative doesn't connect with my view of the world. As a realistic libertarian I know libertarian ideals will never proliferate in a society of government dependency, willful ignorance of the masses, thousands of laws, and a weak-kneed populace afraid of freedom and liberty. The only true libertarian politician, Ron Paul, was only able to connect with about 5% of the voting public. There is no chance a candidate with a libertarian platform will ever win a national election. This country cannot be fixed through the ballot box. Bill Hicks somewhat foreshadowed the last election by referencing another famous cynic.

"I ascribe to Mark Twain's theory that the last person who should be President is the one who wants it the most. The one who should be picked is the one who should be dragged kicking and screaming into the White House." ― Bill Hicks

Hillary Clinton wanted to be president so badly, she colluded with Barack Obama, Jim Comey, John Brennan, James Clapper, Loretta Lynch and numerous other Deep State sycophants to ensure her victory, by attempting to entrap Donald Trump in a concocted Russian collusion plot and subsequent post-election coup to cover for their traitorous plot. I wouldn't say Donald Trump was dragged kicking and screaming into the White House, but when he ascended on the escalator at Trump Tower in June of 2015, I'm not convinced he believed he could win the presidency.

As the greatest self-promoter of our time, I think he believed a presidential run would be good for his brand, more revenue for his properties and more interest in his reality TV ventures. He was despised by the establishment within the Republican and Democrat parties. The vested interests controlling the media and levers of power in society scorned and ridiculed this brash uncouth outsider. In an upset for the ages, Trump tapped into a vein of rage and disgruntlement in flyover country and pockets within swing states, to win the presidency over Crooked Hillary and her Deep State backers.

I voted for Trump because he wasn't Hillary. I hadn't voted for a Republican since 2000, casting protest votes for Libertarian and Constitutional Party candidates along the way. I despise the establishment, so their hatred of Trump made me vote for him. His campaign stances against foreign wars and Federal Reserve reckless bubble blowing appealed to me. I don't worship at the altar of the cult of personality. I judge men by their actions and not their words.

Trump's first two years have been endlessly entertaining as he waged war against fake news CNN, establishment Republicans, the Deep State coup attempt, and Obama loving globalists. The Twitter in Chief has bypassed the fake news media and tweets relentlessly to his followers. He provokes outrage in his enemies and enthralls his worshipers. With millions in each camp it is difficult to find an unbiased assessment of narrative versus real accomplishments.

I'm happy he has been able to stop the relentless leftward progression of our Federal judiciary. Cutting regulations and rolling back environmental mandates has been a positive. Exiting the Paris Climate Agreement and TPP, forcing NATO members to pay their fair share, and renegotiating NAFTA were all needed. Ending the war on coal and approving pipelines will keep energy costs lower. His attempts to vet Muslims entering the country have been the right thing to do. Building a wall on our southern border is the right thing to do, but he should have gotten it done when he controlled both houses.

The use of tariffs to force China to renegotiate one sided trade deals as a negotiating tactic is a high-risk, high reward gamble. If his game of chicken is successful and he gets better terms from the Chicoms, while reversing the tariffs, it would be a huge win. If the Chinese refuse to yield for fear of losing face, and the tariff war accelerates, a global recession is a certainty. Who has the upper hand? Xi is essentially a dictator for life and doesn't have to worry about elections or popularity polls. Dissent is crushed. A global recession and stock market crash would make Trump's re-election in 2020 problematic.

I'm a big supporter of lower taxes. The Trump tax cuts were sold as beneficial to the middle class. That is a false narrative. The vast majority of the tax cut benefits went to mega-corporations and rich people. Middle class home owning families with children received little or no tax relief, as exemptions were eliminated and tax deductions capped. In many cases, taxes rose for working class Americans.

With corporate profits at all time highs, massive tax cuts put billions more into their coffers. They didn't repatriate their overseas profits to a great extent. They didn't go on a massive hiring spree. They didn't invest in new facilities. They did buy back their own stock to help drive the stock market to stratospheric heights. So corporate executives gave themselves billions in bonuses, which were taxed at a much lower rate. This is considered winning in present day America.

The "Us vs. Them" issue rears its ugly head whenever Trump is held accountable for promises unkept, blatant failures, and his own version of fake news. Holding Trump to the same standards as Obama is considered traitorous by those who only root for their home team. Their standard response is that you are a Hillary sycophant or a turncoat to the home team. If you agree with a particular viewpoint or position of a liberal then you are a bad person and accused of being a lefty by Trump fanboys. Facts don't matter to cheerleaders. Competing narratives rule the day. Truthfulness not required.

The refusal to distinguish between positive actions and negative actions when assessing the performance of what passes for our political leadership by the masses is why cynicism has become my standard response to everything I see, hear or he read. The incessant level of lies permeating our society and its acceptance as the norm has led to moral decay and rampant criminality from the White House, to the halls of Congress, to corporate boardrooms, to corporate newsrooms, to government run classrooms, to the Vatican, and to households across the land. It's interesting that one of our founding fathers reflected upon this detestable human trait over two hundred years ago.

"It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime." – Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine's description of how moral mischief can ruin a society was written when less than 3 million people inhabited America. Consider his accurate assessment of humanity when over 300 million occupy these lands. The staggering number of corrupt prostituted sociopaths occupying positions of power within the government, corporations, media, military, churches, and academia has created a morally bankrupt empire of debt.

These sociopaths are not liberal or conservative. They are not Democrats or Republicans. They are not beholden to a country or community. They care not for their fellow man. They don't care about future generations. They care about their own power, wealth and control over others. They have no conscience. They have no empathy. Right and wrong are meaningless in their unquenchable thirst for more. They will lie, steal and kill to achieve their goal of controlling everything and everyone in this world. This precisely describes virtually every politician in Washington DC, Wall Street banker, mega-corporation CEO, government agency head, MSM talking head, church leader, billionaire activist, and blood sucking advisor to the president.

The question pondered every day on blogs, social media, news channels, and in households around the country is whether Trump is one of Us or one of Them. The answer to that question will strongly impact the direction and intensity of the climactic years of this Fourth Turning. What I've noticed is the shunning of those who don't take an all or nothing position regarding Trump. If you disagree with a decision, policy, or hiring decision by the man, you are accused by the pro-Trump team of being one of them (aka liberals, lefties, Hillary lovers).

If you don't agree with everything Trump does or says, you are dead to the Trumpeteers. I don't want to be Us or Them. I just want to be me. I will judge everyone by their actions and their results. I can agree with Trump on many issues, while also agreeing with Tulsi Gabbard, Rand Paul, Glenn Greenwald or Matt Taibbi on other issues. I don't prescribe to the cult of personality school of thought. I didn't believe the false narratives during the Bush or Obama years, and I won't worship at the altar of the Trump narrative now.

In Part II of this article I'll assess Trump's progress thus far and try to determine whether he can defeat the Deep State.


TerryThomas , 32 minutes ago link

"The scientific and industrial revolution of modern times represents the next giant step in the mastery over nature; and here, too, an enormous increase in man's power over nature is followed by an apocalyptic drive to subjugate man and reduce human nature to the status of nature. Even where enslavement is employed in a mighty effort to tame nature, one has the feeling that the effort is but a tactic to legitimize total subjugation. Thus, despite its spectacular achievements in science and technology, the twentieth century will probably be seen in retrospect as a century mainly preoccupied with the mastery and manipulation of men. Nationalism, socialism, communism, fascism, and militarism, cartelization and unionization, propaganda and advertising are all aspects of a general relentless drive to manipulate men and neutralize the unpredictability of human nature. Here, too, the atmosphere is heavy-laden with coercion and magic." --Eric Hoffer

666D Chess , 11 minutes ago link

Divide and conquer, not a very novel idea... but very effective.

Kafir Goyim , 32 minutes ago link

If you don't agree with everything Trump does or says, you are dead to the Trumpeteers

That's not true. When Trump kisses Israeli ***, most "Trumpeteers" are outraged. That does not mean they're going to vote for Joe "I'm a Zionist" Biden, or Honest Hillary because of it, but they're still pissed.

Rich Monk , 33 minutes ago link

These predators (((them))) need to fear the Victims, us! That is what the 2ND Amendment is for. It's coming, slowly for now, but eventually it speeds up.

yellowsub , 42 minutes ago link

Ya'll a dumb fool if you think gov't as your best interests first.

legalize , 46 minutes ago link

Citation needed.

Any piece like this better be littered with footnotes and cited sources before I'm swallowing it.

I'll say it again: this is the internet, people. There's no "shortage of column space" to include links back to primary sources for your assertions. Otherwise, how am I supposed to distinguish you from another "psy op" or "paid opposition hit piece"?

bshirley1968 , 51 minutes ago link

"The question pondered every day on blogs, social media, news channels, and in households around the country is whether Trump is one of Us or one of Them."

If you still ponder this question, then you are pretty frickin' thick. It is obvious at this point, that he betrayed everything he campaigned on. You don't do that and call yourself one of "us".......damn sure aren't one of "me".

If I couldn't keep my word and wouldn't do what it takes to do what is right.....then I would resign. But I would not go on playing politics in a world that needs some real leadership and not another political hack.

The real battle is between Truth and Lie. No matter the name of your "team" or the "side" you support. Truth is truth and lies are lies. We don't stand for political parties, we stand for truth. We don't stand for national pride, we take pride in a nation that is truthful and trustworthy. The minute a "side" or "team" starts lying.....and justifying it.....that is the minute they become them and not one of us.

Any thinking person in this country today knows we are being lied to by the entire complex. Until someone starts telling the truth.....we are on our own. But I be damned before I am going to support any of these lying sons of bitches......and that includes Trump.

Fish Gone Bad , 37 minutes ago link

Dark comedy. All the elections have been **** choices until the last one. Take a look at Arkancide.com and start counting the bodies.

Anyone remember the news telling us how North Korea promised to turn the US into a sea of fire?? Trump absolutely went to bat for every single American to de-escalate that situation.

bshirley1968 , 31 minutes ago link

Don't tell me about Arkancide or the Clintons. I grew up in Arkansas with that sack of **** as my governor for 12 years.

NK was never a real threat to anyone. Trump didn't do ****. NK is back to building and shooting off missiles and will be teaming up with the Russians and Chinese. You are a duped bafoon.

Kafir Goyim , 28 minutes ago link

I don't think anybody thought NK was an existential threat to the US. It has still been nice making progress on bringing them back into the world and making them less of a threat to Japan and S. Korea. Trump did that.

Giant Meteor , 9 minutes ago link

Dennis Rodman did that, or that is to say, Trump an extension thereof ..

Great theater..

Look, i thought it was great that Trump went Kim Unning. I mean after all, i had talked with a few elderly folks that get their news directly from the mainstream of mainstream, vanilla news reportage. Propaganda central casting. I remember them being extremely concerned, outright petrified about that evil menace, kim gonna launch nukes any minute now. If the news would have been announced a major troop mobilization, bombing campaigns, to begin immediately they would have been completely onboard, waving the flag.

Frankly, it is only a matter of time, and folks can speculate on the country of interest, but it is coming soon to a theater near you. So many being in the crosshairs. Iran i suspect .. that's the big prize, that makes these sociopaths cream in their panties.

Probably. In the second term .. and so far, if ones honestly evaluates the "brain trust" / current crop of dimwit opposition, and in light of their past 2 plus years of moronic posturing with their hair on fire, trump will get his second term ..

666D Chess , 15 minutes ago link

Until the last one? You are retarded, the last election was a masterpiece of Rothschilds Productions. The Illuminati was watching you at their private cinema when you were voting for Trump and they were laughing their asses off.

HoodRatKing , 55 minutes ago link

The author does not realize that everyone in America, except Native American Indians, were immigrants drawn towards the false promise of hope that is the American Dream, turned nightmare..

Owning your own home, car, & raising a family in this country is so damn expensive & risky, that you'd have be on drugs or an idiot to even fall for the lies.

I don't see an us vs them, I see the #FakeMoney printers monetized every facet of life, own everything, & it truly is RENT-A-LIFE USSA, complete with bills galore, taxes galore, laws galore, jails & prisons galore, & the worst fkn country anyone would want to live in poverty & homelessness in.

At least in many 3rd world nations there is land to live off of & joblessness does not = a financial death sentence.

bshirley1968 , 39 minutes ago link

Sure. Lets all go back to living in huts.....off the land....no cars.....no electricity.....no running water......no roads....

There is a price to pay for things and it is not always in the form of money. We have given up some of our freedom for the ease and conveniences we want.

The problem is we have gone too far. The "American Dream" has become a grotesque nightmare because people by the millions sit around and dream about being a Kardashian. Makes me want to puke.

There is a balance. Don't take the other extreme or we never find balance.

911bodysnatchers322 , 56 minutes ago link

This article is moronic. One can easily prove that Trump is not like all the others in the poster. Has this author been living under a rock for the last 2.5 yrs? The past 5 presidents represent a group that has been literally trying to assassinate Trump, ruin his family, his reputation, his buisness and his future, for the audacity to be an ousider to the power network and steal (win) the presidency from under their noses. He's kept us OUT of war. He's dissolved the treachery that was keeping us in the middle east through gaslighitng and a proxy fake war that is ISIS, the globalists' / nato / fiveys / uk's fake mercenary army

Giant Meteor , 25 minutes ago link

And yet, I'll never forget all the smiling faces at the gala wedding affair.

Happier times ..

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/30/us/politics/ex-ally-donald-trump-now-heaps-scorn-on-bill-clinton.html

And yes, thanks in advance for noting the link is from New York slime, but i believe the picture in this case anyway, was not photo shopped.

She is, (hillary) after all, good people, a real fighter ..

**** .. mission accomplished ..

ExPat2018 , 1 hour ago link

The greatest threat to the USA is its own dumbed down drugged up citizens who cannot compete with anyone. America is a big military powerhouse but that doens't make successful countries

You must have intelligent people

America doesn't have that anymore.

JuliaS , 1 hour ago link

Notice how modern narrative is getting manipulated. What is being reported and referenced is completely different from how things are. And knowing that we can assume that the entire history is a fabricated lie, written by the ruling class to support its status in the minds of obedient citizens.

911bodysnatchers322 , 54 minutes ago link

This article is garbage propaganda that proves that they think we aren't keeping score or paying attention. The gaslighting won't work when it relies on so much counterthink, willful ignorance, counterfacts and weaponized omissions

istt , 1 hour ago link

The reality is the de-escalation of wars, the stability of our currency and our economy, and the moral re-grounding of our culture does not occur until we do what over 100 countries have done over the centuries, beginning in Carthage in 250AD.

fersur , 1 hour ago link

There's an old saying; "Congress does 2 things well Nothing and Protest" said by Pence Live-Streamed 4 hours ago at USMCA America First speech !

Good, Bad and Ugly

The Good is President Trump works extreme daily hours trying his best !

The Bad is Haters miss every bit of whatever their President Trump does that is good !

The Ugly is Hater Reporters ignoring World events, scared of possibly shining President Trump fairly !

SHsparx , 1 hour ago link

You really are making it a bit too obvious, bro.

911bodysnatchers322 , 52 minutes ago link

The congress are statusquotarians. If they solved the problems they say they would,they'd be out of a job. and that job is sitting there acting like a naddler or toxic post turtle leprechaun with a charisma and skill level of zero. Their staff do all the work, half of them barely read, though they probably can

SHsparx , 1 hour ago link

I still think 1st and 2nd ammedment is predicated on which party rules the house. If a Dem gets into the WH, we're fucked. Kiss those Iast two dying amendments goodbye for good.

Zeusky Babarusky , 1 hour ago link

If we rely on any party to preserve the 1st or 2nd Amendments, we are already fucked. What should preserve the 1st and 2nd Amendments is the absolute fear of anyone in government even mentioning suppressing or removing them. When the very thought of doing anything to lessen the rights advocated in these two amendments, causes a politician to piss in their pants, liberty will be preserved. As it is now citizens fear the government, and as a result tyranny continues to grow and fester as a cancer.

Zoomorph , 1 hour ago link

In other words, those amendments are already lost... we're just waiting for the final dictate to come down.

Zeusky Babarusky , 1 hour ago link

You may very well be right. I still hold out hope, but upon seeing what our society is quickly morphing into, that hope seems to fade more each and every day.

SHsparx , 49 minutes ago link

@ Zeusky Babarusky

I couldn't agree with you more.

Unfortunately, it is what it is, which is why I used the word "dying."

Those two amendments are on their deathbed, and if a Dem gets in the house, that'll be the nail in the coffin.

bshirley1968 , 1 hour ago link

If you think the 1st and 2nd amendments are reliant on who is in office, then you are already done. Why don't you try growing a pair and being an American for once in your life.

I will always have a 1st and 2nd "amendment" for as long as I live. Life is meaningless without them.....as far as I am concerned. Good thing the founders didn't wait for king George to give them what they "felt" was theirs.....by the laws of Nature and Nature's God.

I hope the democrats get the power......and I hope they come for the guns......maybe then pussies like you will finally have to **** or get off the pot......for once in your life. There are worse things than dying.

Nephilim , 1 hour ago link

THEHAZELFLOCKOFCRANES

BRINDLED FOOT,

AUSTRALIAN.

caveofgoldcaveofold

Zoomorph , 1 hour ago link

"Why do we have wars?"

"Because life is war: fighting for survival, resources, and what is best in the world."

"Why do people say war is bad?"

"Because they are useful idiots who have been tricked by religion and/or weak degenerates who are too weary to participate."

delta0ne , 1 hour ago link

This country cannot be fixed through the ballot box. Unless we get rid of *** influencing from abroad and domestically. Getting rid of English King few hundred years ago was a joke! this would be a challenge because dual-citizens masquerading as locals.

blind_understanding , 1 hour ago link

Last revolution (1776) we targeted the WRONG ENEMY.

We targeted King George III instead of the private bankers who owned of the Bank of England and the issued of the British-pound currency.

George III was himself up to his ears in debt to them by 1776, when the bankers installed George Washington to replace George III as their middleman in the American colonies, by way of the phony revolution.

Phony because ownership of the central bank and currency (Federal-Reserve Banks, Federal-Reserve notes) we use, remains in the same banking families' hands to this day. The same parasite remains within our government.

djrichard , 1 hour ago link

https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2013/05/16/the-gervais-principle-vi-children-of-an-absent-god/

It is this strangely incomplete calculus that creates the shifting Loser world of rifts and alliances. By operating with a more complete calculus, Sociopaths are able to manipulate this world through the divide-and-conquer mechanisms. The result is that the Losers end up blaming each other for their losses, seek collective emotional resolution, and fail to adequately address the balance sheet of material rewards and losses.

To succeed, this strategy requires that Losers not look too closely at the non-emotional books. This is why, as we saw last time, divide-and-conquer is the most effective means for dealing with them, since it naturally creates emotional drama that keeps them busy while they are being manipulated.

[May 19, 2019] Lawrence Wilkerson Warns The US Is Driving Down A Highway To War With China

Notable quotes:
"... More broadly, Wilkerson pegs the ramping up of confrontation with China as "all about keeping the [military-industrial] complex alive" that Wilkerson explains "the military was scared to death would disappear as we began to pay the American people back" a peace dividend at the end of the cold war. US government efforts against terrorism, explains Wilkerson, have also been used to ensure the money keeps flowing. ..."
May 19, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Adam Dick via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,

Former Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell in the George W. Bush administration, warns in a new The Real News interview with host Sharmini Peries that the United States government is driving down a "highway to war" with China -- a war for which Wilkerson sees no sound justification.

The drive toward war is not undertaken in response to a real threat posed by China to the people of America. Instead, argues Wilkerson, the US government is moving toward war for reasons related to money for both the military and the broader military-industrial complex, as well to advance President Donald Trump's domestic political goals.

Wilkerson, who is a member of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity's Academic Board, elaborates on the US military's money-seeking motivation to advance the new China scare, stating:

All of this right now, first and foremost, is a budget ploy. They want more money.

And that's largely because their personnel costs are just eating their lunch. And, second, it's an attempt to develop - and this has something to do with money too of course - another threat, another cold war, another feeding system .

The military just hooks up like it is hooking up to an intravenous, you know, an IV system and the money just pours out-slush fund money, appropriated money, everything else.

More broadly, Wilkerson pegs the ramping up of confrontation with China as "all about keeping the [military-industrial] complex alive" that Wilkerson explains "the military was scared to death would disappear as we began to pay the American people back" a peace dividend at the end of the cold war. US government efforts against terrorism, explains Wilkerson, have also been used to ensure the money keeps flowing.

Watch Wilkerson's complete interview here:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/42LauiK_rbY

* * *

Please donate to the Ron Paul Institute

[May 19, 2019] The OPCW, Douma, The Skripals

Notable quotes:
"... The neocon faction in the US is usually (and reasonably) regarded as the motivator behind much of the western aggression in the Middle East. ..."
"... Granted the US has been looking for excuses to intervene ever more overtly in Syria since 2013, and in that sense this Douma "initiative" is a continuation of their longterm policy. It's also true Russia was warning just such a false flag would be attempted in early March. But in the intervening month the situation on the ground has changed so radically that such an attempt no longer made any sense. ..."
"... A false flag in early March, while pockets of the US proxy army were still holding ground in Ghouta would have enabled a possible offensive in their support which would prevent Ghouta falling entirely into government hands and thereby also maintain the pressure on Damascus. A false flag in early April is all but useless because the US proxy army in the region was completely vanquished and nothing would be gained by an offensive in that place at that time. ..."
"... The US media has been similarly, and uncharacteristically divided and apparently unsure. Tucker Carlson railed against the stupidity of attacking Syria. Commentators on MSNBC were also expressing intense scepticism of the US intent and fear about possible escalation. ..."
"... The official story is a hot mess of proven falsehoods, contradictions, implausible conspiracy theories, more falsehoods and inexplicable silences were cricket chirps tell us all we need to know. ..."
"... The UK government has lied and evaded on every key aspect. ..."
"... Indeed if current claims by Russian FM Lavrov turn out to be true, a "novichok" (whatever that precisely means in this case) may not have been the only substance found in those samples, and a compound called "BZ", a non-lethal agent developed in Europe and America, has been discovered and suppressed in the OPCW report (more about that later). ..."
"... The Skripals themselves were announced to be alive and out of danger mere days after claims they were all but certain to die. Yulia, soon thereafter, apparently called her cousin Viktoria only to subsequently announce, indirectly through the helpful agency of the Metropolitan Police, that she didn't want to talk to her cousin – or anyone else – at all. ..."
"... She is now allegedly discharged from hospital and has "specially trained officers helping to take care of" her in an undisclosed location. A form or words so creepily sinister it's hard to imagine how they were ever permitted the light of day. ..."
"... If a false flag chemical attack had taken place in Syria at the time Russia predicted, just a week or two after the Skripal poisoning, a lot of the attention that's been paid to the Skripals over the last month would likely have been diverted. Many of the questions being asked by Russia and in the alt media may never have been asked as the focus of the world turned to a possible superpower stand-off in the Middle East. ..."
"... So, could it be the Skripal event was never intended to last so long in the public eye? Could it be that it was indeed a false flag, or a fake event, as many have alleged, planned as a sketchy prelude to, or warm up act for a bigger chemical attack in Syria, scheduled for a week or so later in mid-March – just around the time Russia was warning of such a possibility? ..."
"... This would explain why the UK may have been pushing for the false flag to happen (as claimed by Russia) even after it could no longer serve much useful purpose on the ground, and why the Douma "attack" seems to have been so sketchily done by a gang on the run. The UK needed the second part to happen in order to distract from the first. ..."
"... If this is true, Theresa May and her cabinet are currently way out on a limb even by cynical UK standards. Not only have they lied about the Skripal event, but in order to cover up that lie they have promoted a false flag in Syria, and "responded" to it by a flagrant breach of international and domestic law. Worst of all, if the Russians aren't bluffing, they have some evidence to prove some of the most egregious parts of this. ..."
"... But even if some or all of our speculation proves false, and even if the Russian claims of UK collusion with terrorists in Syria prove unfounded, May is still guilty of multiple lies and has still waged war without parliamentary approval. ..."
"... The UK were the most vocal about Syria, and desperately tried to drum up support over Skripal, but it all came to nothing much in the end. ..."
"... Theresa May's political career still hangs by a thread, and her "Falklands moment", at best, staved off the inevitable for a few months. A washout in the EU elections, a very real threat from Farage's Brexit party, and rumblings inside her own party, make her position as unstable as ever. ..."
"... In the US, generally speaking, it seems that the Trump admin – or at least whichever interested parties currently have control of the wheels of government – have called time on war in Syria. Instead, they've moved on to projects in Venezuela and North Korea, and even war with Iran. ..."
"... The failure of the Douma false flag to cause the war it was meant to cause, and the vast collection of evidence that suggests it was a false flag, should be spread far and wide. Not just because it's a truth which vindicates the smeared minority in the alternate media. ..."
May 19, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Via Off-Guardian.org,

In view of the latest revelations from the leaked report, which seem to prove that at least some elements of the Douma "chemical attack" were entirely staged, we want to take look back at the chaotic events of Spring 2018.

The following is an extract from an article by Catte originally published April 14th last year, which takes on a greater weight in light of certain evidence – not only that the Douma attack was faked, but that the OPCW is compromised.

You can read the whole article here .

* * *

PRIMARILY UK INITIATIVE?

The neocon faction in the US is usually (and reasonably) regarded as the motivator behind much of the western aggression in the Middle East.

Since at least 2001 and the launch of the "War on Terror" the US has led the way in finding or creating facile excuses to fight oil wars and hegemonic wars and proxy wars in the region. But this time the dynamics look a little different.

This time it really looks as if the UK has been setting the pace of the "response".

The fact (as stated above) that Mattis was apparently telegraphing his own private doubts a)about the verifiability of the attacks, and b)about the dangers of a military response suggests he was a far from enthusiastic partaker in this adventure.

Trump's attitude is harder to gauge. His tweets veered wildly between unhinged threats and apparent efforts at conciliation. But he must have known he would lose (and seemingly has lost) a great part of his natural voter base (who elected him on a no-more-war mandate) by an act of open aggression that threatened confrontation with Russia on the flimsiest of pretexts.

Granted the US has been looking for excuses to intervene ever more overtly in Syria since 2013, and in that sense this Douma "initiative" is a continuation of their longterm policy. It's also true Russia was warning just such a false flag would be attempted in early March. But in the intervening month the situation on the ground has changed so radically that such an attempt no longer made any sense.

A false flag in early March, while pockets of the US proxy army were still holding ground in Ghouta would have enabled a possible offensive in their support which would prevent Ghouta falling entirely into government hands and thereby also maintain the pressure on Damascus. A false flag in early April is all but useless because the US proxy army in the region was completely vanquished and nothing would be gained by an offensive in that place at that time.

You can see why Mattis and others in the administration might be reluctant to take part in the false flag/punitive air strike narrative if they saw nothing currently to be gained to repay the risk. They may have preferred to wait for developments and plan for a more productive way of playing the R2P card in the future.

The US media has been similarly, and uncharacteristically divided and apparently unsure. Tucker Carlson railed against the stupidity of attacking Syria. Commentators on MSNBC were also expressing intense scepticism of the US intent and fear about possible escalation.

The UK govt and media on the other hand has been much more homogeneous in advocating for action. No doubts of the type expressed by Mattis have been heard from the lips of an UK government minister. Even May, a cowardly PM, has been (under how much pressure?) voicing sterling certitude in public that action HAD to be taken.

Couple this with the – as yet unverified – claims by Russia of direct UK involvement in arranging the Douma "attack", and the claims by Syria that the perps are in their custody, and a tentative storyline emerges. It's possible this time there were other considerations in the mix beside the usual need to "be seen to do something" and Trump's perpetual requirement to appease the liberal Russiagaters and lunatic warmongers at home. Maybe this time it was also about helping the UK out of a sticky problem.

THE SKRIPAL CONSIDERATION

Probably the only thing we can all broadly agree on about the Skripal narrative is that it manifestly did not go according to plan. However it was intended to play out, it wasn't this way. Since some time in mid to late March it's been clear the entire thing has become little more than an exercise in damage-limitation, leak-plugging and general containment.

The official story is a hot mess of proven falsehoods, contradictions, implausible conspiracy theories, more falsehoods and inexplicable silences were cricket chirps tell us all we need to know.

The UK government has lied and evaded on every key aspect.

  1. It lied again and again about the information Porton Down had given it
  2. Its lawyers all but lied to Mr Justice Robinson about whether or not the Skripals had relatives in Russia in an unscrupulous attempt to maintain total control of them, or at least of the narrative.
  3. It is not publishing the OPCW report on the chemical analyses, and the summary of that report reads like an exercise in allusion and weasel-wording. Even the name of the "toxic substance" found in the Skripals' blood is omitted, and the only thing tying it to the UK government's public claims of "novichok" is association by inference and proximity.

Indeed if current claims by Russian FM Lavrov turn out to be true, a "novichok" (whatever that precisely means in this case) may not have been the only substance found in those samples, and a compound called "BZ", a non-lethal agent developed in Europe and America, has been discovered and suppressed in the OPCW report (more about that later).

None of the alleged victims of this alleged attack has been seen in public even in passing since the event. There is no film or photographs of DS Bailey leaving the hospital, no film or photographs of his wife or family members doing the same. No interviews with Bailey, no interviews with his wife, family, distant relatives, work colleagues.

The Skripals themselves were announced to be alive and out of danger mere days after claims they were all but certain to die. Yulia, soon thereafter, apparently called her cousin Viktoria only to subsequently announce, indirectly through the helpful agency of the Metropolitan Police, that she didn't want to talk to her cousin – or anyone else – at all.

She is now allegedly discharged from hospital and has "specially trained officers helping to take care of" her in an undisclosed location. A form or words so creepily sinister it's hard to imagine how they were ever permitted the light of day.

Very little of this bizarre, self-defeating, embarrassing, hysterical story makes any sense other than as a random narrative, snaking wildly in response to events the narrative-makers can't completely control.

Why? What went wrong? Why has the UK government got itself into this mess? And how much did the Douma "gas attack" and subsequent drive for a concerted western "response" have to do with trying to fix that?

IS THIS WHAT HAPPENED?

If a false flag chemical attack had taken place in Syria at the time Russia predicted, just a week or two after the Skripal poisoning, a lot of the attention that's been paid to the Skripals over the last month would likely have been diverted. Many of the questions being asked by Russia and in the alt media may never have been asked as the focus of the world turned to a possible superpower stand-off in the Middle East.

So, could it be the Skripal event was never intended to last so long in the public eye? Could it be that it was indeed a false flag, or a fake event, as many have alleged, planned as a sketchy prelude to, or warm up act for a bigger chemical attack in Syria, scheduled for a week or so later in mid-March – just around the time Russia was warning of such a possibility?

Could it be this planned event was unexpectedly canceled by the leading players in the drama (the US) when the Russians called them out and the rapid and unexpected fall of Ghouta meant any such intervention became pointless at least for the moment?

Did this cancelation leave the UK swinging in the wind, with a fantastical story that was never intended to withstand close scrutiny, and no second act for distraction?

So, did they push on with the now virtually useless "chemical attack", botch it (again), leaving a clear evidence trail leading back to them? Did they then further insist on an allied "response" to their botched false flag in order to provide yet more distraction and hopefully destroy some of that evidence?

This would explain why the UK may have been pushing for the false flag to happen (as claimed by Russia) even after it could no longer serve much useful purpose on the ground, and why the Douma "attack" seems to have been so sketchily done by a gang on the run. The UK needed the second part to happen in order to distract from the first.

It would explain why the US has been less than enthused by the idea of reprisals. Because while killing Syrians to further geo-strategic interests is not a problem, killing Syrians (and risking escalation with Russia) in order to rescue an embarrassed UK government is less appealing.

And it would explain why the "reprisals" when they came were so half-hearted.

If this is true, Theresa May and her cabinet are currently way out on a limb even by cynical UK standards. Not only have they lied about the Skripal event, but in order to cover up that lie they have promoted a false flag in Syria, and "responded" to it by a flagrant breach of international and domestic law. Worst of all, if the Russians aren't bluffing, they have some evidence to prove some of the most egregious parts of this.

This is very bad.

But even if some or all of our speculation proves false, and even if the Russian claims of UK collusion with terrorists in Syria prove unfounded, May is still guilty of multiple lies and has still waged war without parliamentary approval.

This is a major issue. She and her government should resign. But it's unlikely that will happen.

So what next? There is a sense this is a watershed for many of the parties involved and for the citizens of the countries drawn into this.

Will the usual suspects try to avoid paying for their crimes and misadventures by more rhetoric, more false flags, more "reprisals"? Or will this signal some other change in direction?

We'll all know soon enough.

* * *

Back to today...

...and while things have moved on, we're still puzzling over all the same issues.

All these questions stand, and are important, but more important than all of that is the lesson: They tried it before, and just because it didn't work doesn't mean they won't try it again.

Last spring, the Western powers showed they will deploy a false flag if they need too, for domestic or international motives. And they have the motives right now.

The UK were the most vocal about Syria, and desperately tried to drum up support over Skripal, but it all came to nothing much in the end.

Theresa May's political career still hangs by a thread, and her "Falklands moment", at best, staved off the inevitable for a few months. A washout in the EU elections, a very real threat from Farage's Brexit party, and rumblings inside her own party, make her position as unstable as ever.

Britain had the most to gain, of all NATO countries, and that is still true. We don't know what they might do.

This time they might even receive greater support from France this time around – since Macron is facing a revolution at home and would kill (possibly literally) for a nice international distraction.

In the US, generally speaking, it seems that the Trump admin – or at least whichever interested parties currently have control of the wheels of government – have called time on war in Syria. Instead, they've moved on to projects in Venezuela and North Korea, and even war with Iran.

That's not to say Syria is safe, far from it. They are always just one carefully place false-flag away from all-out war. Last year, Mattis (or whoever) decided war with Syria was not an option – that it was too risky or complicated. That might not happen next time.

Clearly, the US hasn't totally seen sense in terms of stoking conflict with Russia – as seen by the decision to pull out of the INF Treaty late last year. And further demonstrated by their attempts to overthrow Russia's ally Nicolas Maduro. Another ripe candidate for a false flag.

The failure of the Douma false flag to cause the war it was meant to cause, and the vast collection of evidence that suggests it was a false flag, should be spread far and wide. Not just because it's a truth which vindicates the smeared minority in the alternate media.

But because recognising what they were trying to do last time , is the best defense when they try it again next time .

[May 18, 2019] Under the neocon enforced regime of the US militarism winning the competition takes precedence over working together, and diplomacy is reduced to making and enforcing US demands.

May 18, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

Don Bacon , May 18, 2019 10:26:39 AM | link

What we need is a true and functional global community of nations and people, where governments truly work together to balance out the stronger world powers.

The US national security state which enjoys a huge military budget and 800 overseas bases necessarily sees the world in a masculine competitive sense, not in a feminine cooperative sense. So winning the competition takes precedence over working together, and diplomacy is reduced to making and enforcing US demands.

from the recent US National Defense Strategy. . .

We are facing increased global disorder, characterized by decline in the long-standing rules-based international order -- creating a security environment more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory. Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security. China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea. . . here

[May 18, 2019] The mentality of a nation founded by people who considered themselves God's Chosen is crippled forever

May 18, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

Jen , May 18, 2019 1:46:55 AM | link

Thanks to everyone who replied to my comment @ 25.

I certainly agree with Peter AU 1 @ 33 and 40 that the Western (or more specifically the English) mentality of the period in which the US was founded as a set of colonies and then later became a nation was a significant influence on the US' later conception of its place in the world. The Pilgrims must have certainly felt themselves blessed by God in surviving (with the help of native individuals like Squanto) their early years of crop failures and famines; at the same time they regarded their new environment as theirs for the taking (in their mind-set, God had willed it so) and the native people, being non-Christian, as their enemies. The Pilgrims may have seen themselves as God's Chosen people cast into the wilderness like the Israelites wandering in the Sinai under Moses for 40 years. This is one root of 'Murica's belief in itself as the Exceptional Nation. (It probably also is the root of the Special Relationship between the US and Israel.)

Overthrowing British monarchical rule and replacing it with a republican form of government (and nicking the idea of federal government from the Iroquois confederacy of indigenous nations around the Great Lakes region) no doubt reinforced this self-belief in being the Exceptional Nation. Add to that the territorial expansion across the prairies and the Rockies, then receiving waves of immigrants from northern, central and eastern Europe (mostly German-speaking) through the 19th century, wars (War of 1812 and the American Civil War) in which the British are either the enemy or aid the Confederate States, the genocide of indigenous peoples by the US government in the late 1800s and the legacy of slavery (which American slave-owning states claimed was supported by the Bible) and you have the foundation for a nation that believes that everyone around the world looks up to it for moral and spiritual leadership.

The mentality of a nation founded by people who considered themselves God's Chosen probably also finds unusual parallels in the superhero phenomenon. Most comic superheroes like Superman, Spiderman et al are "chosen" in some way (even if by accident as in the case of Spiderman). They are blessed with unusual powers and make a choice as to how to use their powers, whether for good or evil. They nearly always work alone and if they work together, they don't necessarily collaborate well but tend to work in parallel against evil. Superheroes like Batman work alone (or with a junior partner) aided by loads of technology which require his alter ego to be an insanely wealthy and eccentric industrialist. As Wage Laborer @ 35 says, all this definitely is internalised: I didn't even have to look up anything on Batman to be able to say all this!

[May 17, 2019] US military complex is a 'malignant virus' that's evolved to defend itself

May 17, 2019 | www.unz.com

annamaria , says: Next New Comment May 16, 2019 at 10:51 pm GMT

@9/11 Inside job Andrew Cockburn: "US military complex is a 'malignant virus' that's evolved to defend itself" https://www.rt.com/usa/459505-us-military-industrial-virus/

"The MIC is embedded in our society to such a degree that it cannot be dislodged, and also that it could be said to be concerned, exclusively, with self-preservation and expansion, like a giant, malignant virus."

The system has evolved to be very good at defending itself – while leaving the country, "in reality so poorly defended".

One Tribe , says: May 16, 2019 at 11:10 pm GMT
Thanks again CJH for all the chuckles. It is time all 'real' people acknowledged that

The NYT is the " Propagandist of Record ".

Nothing more. And it's been like that for quite a while. While it would be logical to identify the systemic bend, and blindness that it has, it is probably against the law, like all discussions about [redacted]

A pattern that has played out consistently for over 2000 years, and can be seen for what it is in reviewing the Pale (of Settlements) and the conditions for those not included in the [redacted]. But really, it's beyond the pale, isn't it. People, slowly but surely, are building immunity to the perception management programs, even with the wildly amplified volume and frequency , we see the early adapters adapting, and opting for the red pill .

Just a co-incidence that while the psychotic ' leaders ' of a small colonial ' government ' squatting on expropriated land, committing escalating genocidal programs against the indigenous population, and actively conflating it with anti-[redacted], while the co-affiliates resident in the empire's other nation-states keep quiet, there seems to be an epidemic of anti-[redacted]?!

" It's a trick, and we use it a lot. "
he, he, aren't we so clever!

This ruse is coming to an end soon
and all of those people working in the desert somewhere, writing stuff online, are going to have to get real jobs.

[May 14, 2019] Despite a $ 22 Trillion National Debt, America Is on a Military Spending Spree. 800 Overseas US Military Bases by Masud Wadan

Highly recommended!
Trump provided to be another Obama -- master of "bait and switch". His promise to disengage from foreign wars remains an unfulfilled promise. Due to thefact that he is owned by pro-Israel lobby he broung into his administrations such rabid neocons as chickenhawk Bolton and smug ruthless careerist masquerading as far-right zealot as Pompeo (and before them Haley). His promises to raise the standard of living of middles class (which is impossible without cutting the military budget) remains fake. He is a fake. The second fake after obama -- Republican Obama.
Notable quotes:
"... While the national debt of the United States was recorded at 22.03 trillion as of April 2019, Washington's going ahead with its hawkish policies worldwide with recent NATO summit pushing for further unity against China, Russia and Iran. NATO's annual overall military budget was US$ 957 billion in 2017 where the US's share was US$ 686 billion, accounting for 72 percent of the total. This number is pressed by the US to rise in the years to come. ..."
"... According to The Guardian, Trump takes more than $1tn in taxpayer money and allocates $750bn to the military. In other words, out of every taxpayer dollar, 62 cents go to the military and Department of Homeland Security and seven cents to Veterans affairs. It leaves just 31 cents for all the rest: education, job training, community economic development, housing, safe drinking water and clear air, health and science research and the prevention of war through diplomacy and humanitarian aid. ..."
"... In 2017, US spent US$ 685,957 billion with 3.6 of its GDP on military spending while the UK stood second at US$ 55,237 billion with 2.1 per cent of GDP. France and Germany allocated US$ 45,927 billion and 45,472 billion respectively with 1.8 and 1.2 percent of their GDPs. The NATO member states are pressured for raising their defense spending to 2 percent and gradually up to 4 percent in five years. ..."
Apr 10, 2019 | www.globalresearch.ca

While the national debt of the United States was recorded at 22.03 trillion as of April 2019, Washington's going ahead with its hawkish policies worldwide with recent NATO summit pushing for further unity against China, Russia and Iran. NATO's annual overall military budget was US$ 957 billion in 2017 where the US's share was US$ 686 billion, accounting for 72 percent of the total. This number is pressed by the US to rise in the years to come.

According to The Guardian, Trump takes more than $1tn in taxpayer money and allocates $750bn to the military. In other words, out of every taxpayer dollar, 62 cents go to the military and Department of Homeland Security and seven cents to Veterans affairs. It leaves just 31 cents for all the rest: education, job training, community economic development, housing, safe drinking water and clear air, health and science research and the prevention of war through diplomacy and humanitarian aid.

The Trump budget finds vast billions for militarization, while it cuts "smaller" poverty alleviation projects and other programs, claiming the goal is to save money.

Rutherford Institute's founder and director John W. WhiteHead writes in his institute's website that the American nation is being preyed upon by a military industrial complex that is propped up by war profiteers, corrupt politicians and foreign governments. He remarks:

"Don't be fooled into thinking that your hard-earned tax dollars are being used for national security and urgent military needs".

He writes "you know what happens to tax dollars that are left over at the end of the government's fiscal year? Government agencies – including the Department of Defense – go on a 'use it or lose it' spending spree so they can justify asking for money in the next fiscal year".

"We are talking about $97 billion worth of wasteful spending"

He maintains that the nation's educational system is pathetic, the infrastructure is antiquated and growing more outdated by the day and the health system is overpriced and inaccessible to those who need it most.

The tax cuts on super-rich, outflow of huge sums in interest payment for debt and more spending are plunging the US economy into a new crisis, according to many authors. The US economy faces a deficit which means the spending especially on military and defence is far exceeding the tax revenues.

In 2017, US spent US$ 685,957 billion with 3.6 of its GDP on military spending while the UK stood second at US$ 55,237 billion with 2.1 per cent of GDP. France and Germany allocated US$ 45,927 billion and 45,472 billion respectively with 1.8 and 1.2 percent of their GDPs. The NATO member states are pressured for raising their defense spending to 2 percent and gradually up to 4 percent in five years.

According to a study regarding world powers' overseas military bases

In other words, the US possesses up to 95 per cent of the world's military bases . The Department of Defense says that its locations include 164 countries. Put another way, it has a military presence of some sort in approximately 84 percent of the nations on this planet.

The US Military Bases Abroad Are Disrupting the World Order

The annual cost of deploying US military personnel overseas, as well as maintaining and running those foreign bases, tops out at an estimated US$ 150 billion annually. The US bases abroad cost upwards of US$ 50 billion only for building and maintenance, which is enough to address pressing needs at home in education, health care, housing and infrastructure.

In 2017 and 2018, the world's largest military spenders were the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and India. The UK took over France as sixth largest spender in 2018 while Japan and Germany stood at eighth and ninth positions.

In early 2018, Pentagon released a report saying that Afghan war costs US$ 45 billion to taxpayers in the preceding year. Of this amount, US$ 5 billion has been spent on Afghan forces, US$ 13 billion towards US forces in Afghanistan and the rest on economic aid.

But these costs are far lower than the time when the US military was highly engaged in Afghanistan. With nearly 100,000 soldiers in the country from 2010 to 2012, the price for American taxpayers surpassed US$ 100 billion each year. For now, there are around 16,000 US troops in Afghanistan. Despite hundreds of billions of dollars have gone into Afghanistan, the US admits it failed in war against militants in Afghanistan.

In November 2018, another study published by CNBC reported that America has spent US$ 5.9 trillion on wars in the Middle East and Asia since 2001 including in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The study also reveals that more than 500,000 people have been killed in the wars and nearly 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.

The US has reportedly spent US$ 1.07 trillion in Afghanistan since 2001 which include Overseas Contingency Operations funds dedicated to Afghanistan, costs on the base budget of the Department of Defense and increase to the budget of the Department of Veteran Affairs.

In Afghanistan, the US costs of war in 2001 commenced with US$ 37.3 billion that soared to US$ 57.3 billion in 2007 and US$ 100 billion in 2009. The year with record spending was 2010 with US$ 112.7 billion that slightly plummeted to US$ 110.4 billion in 2011 but took downwards trend in the later years.

Due to skyrocketing military costs on the US government, Trump Administration recently decided to pack up some of its military bases in Afghanistan and Middle East to diminish expenditures, though it doesn't mean the wars would end at all.

According to Afghanistan Analysts Network, the US Congress has appropriated more than US$ 126 billion in aid for Afghanistan since financial year 2002, with almost 63 percent for security and 28 percent for development and the remainder for civilian operations, mostly budgetary assistance and humanitarian aid. Alongside the US aid, many world countries have pumped millions of dollars in development aids, but what is evident for insiders and outsiders is that a trickle of those funds has actually gone into Afghanistan's reconstruction.

With eighteen years into Afghan war, the security is deteriorating; Afghan air force is ill-equipped; poppy cultivation is on the rise; roads and highways are dilapidated or unconstructed; no mediocre hospital and health care has been established; weekly conflict causalities hit 150-250; electricity is still imported from Central Asian countries; economy remains dependent upon imports; unemployment rate is at its peak; more than three quarters of population live under poverty line and many, many more miseries persist or aggravate.

The US boasts of being the largest multi-billion dollar donor for Afghanistan, but if one takes a deeper look at the living standards of majority and the overall conditions, it can be immediately grasped that less than half of that exaggerated fund has been consumed. The US-made government of Afghanistan has deliberately been left behind to rank as the first corrupt country in the world. Thanks to the same unaddressed pervasive corruption, a hefty amount of that fund has been either directed back to the US hands or embezzled by senior Afghan officials.

Afghanistan's new Living Conditions Survey shows that poverty is more widespread today than it was immediately after the fall of Taliban regime, or in other words, in the early days of US invasion.

Next month, Kabul will host a Consultative Loya Jirga attended by around 2,000 representatives from Afghanistan which will cost the Afghan Ministry of Finance AF 369 million (equivalent to five million US$). Even as the past has proved that these events are only symbolic and further complicating the achievement of peace, a country with great majority under poverty line doesn't deserve to organize such costly gatherings.

*

Note to readers: please click the share buttons below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

Masud Wadan is a geopolitical analyst based in Kabul. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from Salon.com

The original source of this article is Global Research Copyright © Masud Wadan , Global Research, 2019

[May 11, 2019] US Army Colonel Pentagon's Latest China Report A Budget Ploy To Bleed The Taxpayer

May 11, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

https://www.dianomi.com/smartads.epl?id=4777 More ridiculous Civil Asset Forfeiture shenanigans by TDB - May 10, 2019 1:46 pm Chicago police run a vehicle impound racket

"A Little Fear" Makes for an Exciting Week in Gold and Silver by Sprott Money - May 10, 2019 11:45 am Trade Wars, Tariffs, and Volatility. Oh my! US Army Colonel: Pentagon's Latest China Report A "Budget Ploy" To Bleed The Taxpayer

by Tyler Durden Fri, 05/10/2019 - 21:45 2 SHARES

A former US Army Colonel has blasted Department of Defense's (DOD) latest report on China's military capabilities as a "budget ploy" .

"You're looking at a situation where the only thing [the DOD] can ask for, in terms of fixing any of this, is money -- more and more money " retired Colonel Lawrence "Larry" Wilkerson said of the DoD's annual report prepared for Congress entitled, "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2019".

US Navy in the Pacific Ocean, via US Navy/Reuters

Wilkerson, who served as former chief of staff to US Secretary of State Colin Powell, described in an interview with The Real News that hyping the China threat taps into a well-trodden American pastime of fear-mongering in order to squeeze more precious taxpayer dollars towards inflated budgets .

The Pentagon report focused heavily on President Xi's plans for rapid modernization of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), especially China's ambitious plans for the region's "largest navy" -- which has lately included ongoing construction of the country's third aircraft carrier (the first full-sized one), with plans for seven total by 2025.

Watch the interview with Army Col. (ret.) Larry Wilkerson below.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/42LauiK_rbY?start=60

Col. Wilkerson dismissed the idea that China's aircraft carrier or latest much reported naval modernization initiatives were real causes for concern:

We've got a dozen [aircraft carriers]. They've got one at sea, one about to come out, and another one perhaps, and ours are so far ahead of theirs that it's 10, 15, 20 years before they even achieve the kind of capacity we have .

He explained that "aircraft carriers are extraordinarily vulnerable and we're going to find that out when one of them with 5,000 hands and $14bn worth of taxpayer money is sunk in less than 30 minutes, whenever we get engaged in something real."

Now a military analyst who teaches at The College of William & Mary in Virginia, Wilkerson addressed the familiar Pentagon cycle of threat inflation in the interview:

The [US] army could not expand; it could not take on a real enemy today without massive conscription and full mobilization . And I wonder if the nation could even stand that today. And so, you're looking at a situation where the only thing [the DOD] can ask for, in terms of fixing any of this, is money -- more and more money.

However, he did warn that the heightened rhetoric and blustering amidst a trade war could serve to paint both sides into a corner, resulting in a scenario of blindly bumbling toward war, as other analysts have described of the so-called "Thucydides Trap".

Wilkerson said an increasingly aggressive US posture toward Beijing could create a "self-fulfilling prophecy," wherein each minor escalation based on inflating threats begins "demarcating the highway to war with China," - according to the interview.

[May 08, 2019] America's Defense Budget Is Bigger Than You Think

May 08, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

America's Defense Budget Is Bigger Than You Think

by Tyler Durden Tue, 05/07/2019 - 18:50 3 SHARES Authored by William Hartung and Mandy Smithberger via TomDispatch.com,

Each year, Congress approves hundreds of billions of dollars for the US defense budget... but the real number exceeds $1 trillion.

In its latest budget request, the Trump administration is asking for a near-record $750 billion for the Pentagon and related defense activities -- an astonishing figure by any measure. If passed by Congress, it will be one of the largest military budgets in American history, topping peak levels reached during the Korean and Vietnam wars. And keep one thing in mind: That $750 billion represents only part of the actual annual cost of our national security state.

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There are at least 10 separate pots of money dedicated to fighting wars, preparing for yet more wars, and dealing with the consequences of wars already fought. So the next time a president , a general , a secretary of defense , or a hawkish member of Congress insists that the US military is woefully underfunded, think twice. A careful look at US defense expenditures offers a healthy corrective to such wildly inaccurate claims.

Now, let's take a brief dollar-by-dollar tour of the US national security state of 2019, tallying the sums as we go, and see just where we finally land (or perhaps the word should be "soar"), financially speaking.

The Pentagon's base budget: The Pentagon's regular, or base, budget is slated to be $544.5 billion in fiscal year 2020 -- a healthy sum but only a modest down payment on total military spending.

As you might imagine, that base budget provides basic operating funds for the Department of Defense, much of which will be squandered on preparations for ongoing wars never authorized by Congress, overpriced weapons systems that aren't actually needed, or outright waste, an expansive category that includes everything from cost overruns to unnecessary bureaucracy. That $544.5 billion is the amount publicly reported by the Pentagon for its essential expenses and includes $9.6 billion in mandatory spending that goes toward items like military retirement.

https://www.dianomi.com/smartads.epl?id=4855

Among those basic expenses, let's start with waste, a category even the biggest boosters of Pentagon spending can't defend. The Pentagon's own Defense Business Board found that cutting unnecessary overhead, including a bloated bureaucracy and a startlingly large shadow workforce of private contractors, would save $125 billion over five years. Perhaps you won't be surprised to learn that the board's proposal has done little to quiet calls for more money. Instead, from the highest reaches of the Pentagon (and the president himself) came a proposal to create a Space Force, a sixth military service that's all but guaranteed to further bloat its bureaucracy and duplicate work being done by the other services. Even Pentagon planners estimate that the future Space Force will cost $13 billion over the next five years (and that's undoubtedly a low-ball figure).

In addition, the Defense Department employs an army of private contractors -- more than 600,000 of them -- many doing jobs that could be done far more cheaply by civilian government employees. Cutting the private contractor work force by 15 percent to a mere half-million people would promptly save more than $20 billion per year . And don't forget the cost overruns on major weapons programs like the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent -- the Pentagon's unwieldy name for the Air Force's new intercontinental ballistic missile -- and routine overpayments for even minor spare parts (like $8,000 for a helicopter gear worth less than $500 -- a markup of 1,500 percent).

Then there are the overpriced weapons systems the military can't even afford to operate, like a $13 billion aircraft carrier, 200 nuclear bombers at $564 million a pop, and the F-35 combat aircraft, the most expensive weapons system in history, at a price tag of at least $1.4 trillion over the lifetime of the program. The Project on Government Oversight has found -- and the Government Accountability Office recently substantiated -- that, despite years of work and staggering costs, the F-35 may never perform as advertised.

And don't forget the Pentagon's recent push for long-range strike weapons and new reconnaissance systems designed for future wars with a nuclear-armed Russia or China, the kind of conflicts that could easily escalate into World War III, in which such weaponry would be beside the point. Imagine if any of that money were devoted to figuring out how to prevent such conflicts rather than hatching yet more schemes for how to fight them.

BASE BUDGET TOTAL: $554.1 BILLION

The war budget: As if its regular budget weren't enough, the Pentagon also maintains its very own slush fund, formally known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account, or OCO. In theory, the fund is meant to pay for the War on Terrorism -- that is, the US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and elsewhere across the Middle East and Africa. In practice, it does that and so much more.

After a fight over shutting down the government led to the formation of a bipartisan commission on deficit reduction -- known as Simpson-Bowles after its co-chairs, former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican senator Alan Simpson -- Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011. It put caps on both military and domestic spending that were supposed to save a total of $2 trillion over 10 years. Half that figure was to come from the Pentagon, as well as from nuclear-weapons spending at the Department of Energy. As it happened, though, there was a huge loophole: The war budget was exempt from the caps. The Pentagon promptly began to put tens of billions of dollars into it for pet projects that had nothing whatsoever to do with current wars (and the process has not stopped). The level of abuse of this fund remained largely secret for years, with the Pentagon admitting only in 2016 that just half the money in the OCO went to actual wars, prompting critics and numerous members of Congress -- including then-Representative Mick Mulvaney, now President Donald Trump's latest chief of staff -- to dub it a "slush fund."

This year's budget proposal supersizes the slush in that fund to a figure that would likely be considered absurd if it weren't part of the Pentagon budget. Of the nearly $174 billion proposed for the war budget and "emergency" funding, only a little more than $25 billion is meant to directly pay for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. The rest will be set aside for what's termed enduring activities that would continue even if those wars ended or for routine Pentagon activities that couldn't be funded within the constraints of the budget caps. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is expected to work to alter this arrangement. Even if the House leadership has its way, however, most of its reductions in the war budget would be offset by lifting caps on the regular Pentagon budget by corresponding amounts. (It's worth noting that Trump's budget calls for someday eliminating the slush fund.)

The 2020 OCO also includes $9.2 billion in "emergency" spending for building Trump's beloved wall on the US-Mexico border, among other things. Talk about a slush fund! There is no emergency, of course. The executive branch is just seizing taxpayer dollars that Congress refused to provide. Even supporters of the president's wall should be troubled by this money grab. As 36 former Republican members of Congress recently argued , "What powers are ceded to a president whose policies you support may also be used by presidents whose policies you abhor." Of all of Trump's "security"-related proposals, this is undoubtedly the most likely to be eliminated or at least scaled back, given the congressional Democrats against it.

WAR BUDGET TOTAL: $173.8 BILLION

Running tally: $727.9 billion

The Department of Energy/nuclear budget: It may surprise you to know that work on the deadliest weapons in the US arsenal, nuclear warheads, is housed in the Department of Energy, not the Pentagon. The DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration runs a nationwide research, development, and production network for nuclear warheads and naval nuclear reactors that stretches from Livermore, California, to Albuquerque and Los Alamos, New Mexico, to Kansas City, Missouri, to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to Savannah River, South Carolina. Its laboratories also have a long history of program mismanagement, with some projects coming in at nearly eight times their initial estimates.

NUCLEAR BUDGET TOTAL: $24.8 BILLION

Running tally: $752.7 billion

Defense-related activities: This category covers the $9 billion that annually goes to agencies other than the Pentagon -- the bulk of it to the FBI for homeland-security-related activities.

DEFENSE-RELATED ACTIVITIES TOTAL: $9 BILLION

Running tally: $761.7 billion

The five categories above make up the budget of what's officially known as national defense. Under the Budget Control Act, this spending should have been capped at $630 billion. The $761.7 billion proposed for the 2020 budget is, however, only the beginning of the story.

The Veterans Affairs budget: The wars of this century have resulted in a new generation of veterans. In all, over 2.7 million US military personnel have cycled through the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Many of them remain in need of substantial support to deal with the physical and mental wounds of war. As a result, the budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs has gone through the roof, more than tripling in this century to a proposed $216 billion . And this massive figure may not even be enough to provide the necessary services.

\More than 6,900 US military personnel have died in Washington's post-9/11 wars, with more than 30,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. These casualties are, however, just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of thousands of returning troops suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, illnesses created by exposure to toxic burn pits, or traumatic brain injuries. The US government is committed to providing care for these veterans for the rest of their lives. An analysis by the Costs of War Project at Brown University determined that obligations to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will total more than $1 trillion in the years to come. This cost of war is rarely considered when leaders in Washington decide to send US troops into combat.

VETERANS AFFAIRS TOTAL: $216 BILLION

Running tally: $977.7 billion

The Homeland Security budget: The Department of Homeland Security is a mega-agency created after the 9/11 attacks. At the time, it swallowed 22 existing government organizations, creating a massive department that currently has nearly a quarter of a million employees. Agencies that are now part of the DHS include the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Secret Service, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

While some of the DHS's activities -- such as airport security and defense against the smuggling of a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb into our midst -- have a clear security rationale, many others do not. ICE -- America's deportation force -- has done far more to cause suffering among innocent people than to thwart criminals or terrorists. Other questionable DHS activities include grants to local law enforcement agencies to help them buy military-grade equipment.

HOMELAND SECURITY TOTAL: $69.2 BILLION

Running tally: $1.0469 trillion

The international-affairs budget: This includes the budgets of the State Department and the US Agency for International Development. Diplomacy is one of the most effective ways to make the United States and the world more secure, but it has been under assault in the Trump years. The Fiscal Year 2020 budget calls for a one-third cut in international affairs spending, leaving it at about one-fifteenth of the amount allocated for the Pentagon and related agencies grouped under the category of national defense. And that doesn't even account for the fact that more than 10 percent of the international affairs budget supports military aid efforts, most notably the $5.4 billion Foreign Military Financing program. The bulk of FMF goes to Israel and Egypt, but in all over a dozen countries receive funding under it, including Jordan, Lebanon, Djibouti, Tunisia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS TOTAL: $51 BILLION

Running tally: $1.0979 trillion

The intelligence budget: The United States has 17 intelligence agencies. In addition to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis and the FBI, mentioned above, they are the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Drug Enforcement Agency's Office of National Security Intelligence, the Treasury Department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the Department of Energy's Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, the Office of Naval Intelligence, Marine Corps Intelligence, Coast Guard Intelligence, and Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. And then there's that 17th one, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, set up to coordinate the activities of the other 16.

We know remarkably little about the nature of the nation's intelligence spending, other than its supposed total, released in a report every year. By now, it's more than $80 billion . The bulk of this funding, including for the CIA and NSA, is believed to be hidden under obscure line items in the Pentagon budget. Since intelligence spending is not a separate funding stream, it's not counted in our tally below (though, for all we know, some of it should be).

INTELLIGENCE BUDGET TOTAL: $80 BILLION

Running tally: $1.0979 trillion

Defense share of interest on the national debt: The interest on the national debt is well on its way to becoming one of the most expensive items in the federal budget. Within a decade, it is projected to exceed the Pentagon's regular budget in size. For now, of the more than $500 billion in interest taxpayers fork over to service the government's debt each year, about $156 billion can be attributed to Pentagon spending.

DEFENSE SHARE OF NATIONAL DEBT TOTAL: $156.3 BILLION

Final tally: $1.2542 trillion

So our final annual tally for war, preparations for war, and the impact of war comes to more than $1.25 trillion, more than double the Pentagon's base budget. If the average taxpayer were aware that this amount was being spent in the name of national defense -- with much of it wasted, misguided, or simply counterproductive -- it might be far harder for the national security state to consume ever-growing sums with minimal public pushback. For now, however, the gravy train is running full speed ahead, and its main beneficiaries -- Lockheed Martin, Boeing , Northrop Grumman, and their cohort -- are laughing all the way to the bank.

[May 05, 2019] The Left Needs to Stop Crushing on the Generals by Danny Sjursen

Highly recommended!
Pentagon serves Wall Street and is controlled by CIA which is actually can be viewed as a Wall Street arm as well.
Notable quotes:
"... This time, though, the general got to talking about Russia. So I perked up. He made it crystal clear that he saw Moscow as an adversary to be contained, checked, and possibly defeated. There was no nuance, no self-reflection, not even a basic understanding of the general complexity of geopolitics in the 21st century. ..."
"... General It-Doesn't-Matter-His-Name thundered that we need not worry, however, because his tanks and troops could "mop the floor" with the Russians, in a battle that "wouldn't even be close." It was oh-so-typical, another U.S. Army general -- who clearly longs for the Cold War fumes that defined his early career -- overestimating the Russian menace and underestimating Russian military capability . ..."
"... The problem with the vast majority of generals, however, is that they don't think strategically. What they call strategy is really large-scale operations -- deploying massive formations and winning campaigns replete with battles. Many remain mired in the world of tactics, still operating like lieutenants or captains and proving the Peter Principle right, as they get promoted past their respective levels of competence. ..."
"... If America's generals, now and over the last 18 years, really were strategic thinkers, they'd have spoken out about -- and if necessary resigned en masse over -- mission sets that were unwinnable, illegal (in the case of Iraq), and counterproductive . Their oath is to the Constitution, after all, not Emperors Bush, Obama, and Trump. Yet few took that step. It's all symptomatic of the disease of institutionalized intellectual mediocrity. ..."
"... Let's start with Mattis. "Mad Dog" Mattis was so anti-Iran and bellicose in the Persian Gulf that President Barack Obama removed him from command of CENTCOM. ..."
"... Furthermore, the supposedly morally untainted, "intellectual" " warrior monk " chose, when he finally resigned, to do so in response to Trump's altogether reasonable call for a modest troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria. ..."
May 03, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

The two-star army general strode across the stage in his rumpled combat fatigues, almost like George Patton -- all that was missing was the cigar and riding crop. It was 2017 and I was in the audience, just another mid-level major attending yet another mandatory lecture in the auditorium of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The general then commanded one of the Army's two true armored divisions and had plenty of his tanks forward deployed in Eastern Europe, all along the Russian frontier. Frankly, most CGSC students couldn't stand these talks. Substance always seemed lacking, as each general reminded us to "take care of soldiers" and "put the mission first," before throwing us a few nuggets of conventional wisdom on how to be good staff officers should we get assigned to his vaunted command.

This time, though, the general got to talking about Russia. So I perked up. He made it crystal clear that he saw Moscow as an adversary to be contained, checked, and possibly defeated. There was no nuance, no self-reflection, not even a basic understanding of the general complexity of geopolitics in the 21st century. Generals can be like that -- utterly "in-the-box," "can-do" thinkers. They take pride in how little they discuss policy and politics, even when they command tens of thousands of troops and control entire districts, provinces, or countries. There is some value in this -- we'd hardly want active generals meddling in U.S. domestic affairs. But they nonetheless can take the whole "aw shucks" act a bit too far.

General It-Doesn't-Matter-His-Name thundered that we need not worry, however, because his tanks and troops could "mop the floor" with the Russians, in a battle that "wouldn't even be close." It was oh-so-typical, another U.S. Army general -- who clearly longs for the Cold War fumes that defined his early career -- overestimating the Russian menace and underestimating Russian military capability . Of course, it was all cloaked in the macho bravado so common among generals who think that talking like sergeants will win them street cred with the troops. (That's not their job anymore, mind you.) He said nothing, of course, about the role of mid- and long-range nuclear weapons that could be the catastrophic consequence of an unnecessary war with the Russian Bear.

I got to thinking about that talk recently as I reflected in wonder at how the latest generation of mainstream "liberals" loves to fawn over generals, admirals -- any flag officers, really -- as alternatives to President Donald Trump. The irony of that alliance should not be lost on us. It's built on the standard Democratic fear of looking "soft" on terrorism, communism, or whatever-ism, and their visceral, blinding hatred of Trump. Some of this is understandable. Conservative Republicans masterfully paint liberals as "weak sisters" on foreign policy, and Trump's administration is, well, a wild card in world affairs.

The problem with the vast majority of generals, however, is that they don't think strategically. What they call strategy is really large-scale operations -- deploying massive formations and winning campaigns replete with battles. Many remain mired in the world of tactics, still operating like lieutenants or captains and proving the Peter Principle right, as they get promoted past their respective levels of competence.

If America's generals, now and over the last 18 years, really were strategic thinkers, they'd have spoken out about -- and if necessary resigned en masse over -- mission sets that were unwinnable, illegal (in the case of Iraq), and counterproductive . Their oath is to the Constitution, after all, not Emperors Bush, Obama, and Trump. Yet few took that step. It's all symptomatic of the disease of institutionalized intellectual mediocrity. More of the same is all they know: their careers were built on fighting "terror" anywhere it raised its evil head. Some, though no longer most, still subscribe to the faux intellectualism of General Petraeus and his legion of Coindinistas , who never saw a problem that a little regime change, followed by expert counterinsurgency, couldn't solve. Forget that they've been proven wrong time and again and can count zero victories since 2002. Generals (remember this!) are never held accountable.

Flag officers also rarely seem to recognize that they owe civilian policymakers more than just tactical "how" advice. They ought to be giving "if" advice -- if we invade Iraq, it will take 500,000 troops to occupy the place, and even then we'll ultimately destabilize the country and region, justify al-Qaeda's worldview, kick off a nationalist insurgency, and become immersed in an unwinnable war. Some, like Army Chief General Eric Shinseki and CENTCOM head John Abizaid, seemed to know this deep down. Still, Shinseki quietly retired after standing up to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Abizaid rode out his tour to retirement.

Trump Scores, Breaks Generals' 50-Year War Record Afghanistan and America's 'Indispensable Nation' Hubris

Generals also love to tell the American people that victory is "just around the corner," or that there's a "light at the end of the tunnel." General William Westmoreland used the very same language when predicting imminent victory in Vietnam. Two months later, the North Vietnamese and Vietcong unleashed the largest uprising of the war, the famed Tet Offensive.

Take Afghanistan as exhibit A: 17 or so generals have now commanded U.S. troops in this, America's longest war. All have commanded within the system and framework of their predecessors. Sure, they made marginal operational and tactical changes -- some preferred surges, others advising, others counterterror -- but all failed to achieve anything close to victory, instead laundering failure into false optimism. None refused to play the same-old game or question the very possibility of victory in landlocked, historically xenophobic Afghanistan. That would have taken real courage, which is in short supply among senior officers.

Exhibit B involves Trump's former cabinet generals -- National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Chief of Staff John Kelley, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis -- whom adoring and desperate liberals took as saviors and canonized as the supposed adults in the room . They were no such thing. The generals' triumvirate consisted ultimately of hawkish conventional thinkers married to the dogma of American exceptionalism and empire. Period.

Let's start with Mattis. "Mad Dog" Mattis was so anti-Iran and bellicose in the Persian Gulf that President Barack Obama removed him from command of CENTCOM.

Furthermore, the supposedly morally untainted, "intellectual" " warrior monk " chose, when he finally resigned, to do so in response to Trump's altogether reasonable call for a modest troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria.

Helping Saudi Arabia terror bomb Yemen and starve 85,000 children to death? Mattis rebuked Congress and supported that. He never considered resigning in opposition to that war crime. No, he fell on his "courageous" sword over downgrading a losing 17-year-old war in Afghanistan. Not to mention he came to Trump's cabinet straight from the board of contracting giant General Dynamics, where he collected hundreds of thousands of military-industrial complex dollars.

Then there was John Kelley, whom Press Secretary Sarah Sanders implied was above media questioning because he was once a four-star marine general. And there's McMaster, another lauded intellectual who once wrote an interesting book and taught history at West Point. Yet he still drew all the wrong conclusions in his famous book on Vietnam -- implying that more troops, more bombing, and a mass invasion of North Vietnam could have won the war. Furthermore, his work with Mattis on Trump's unhinged , imperial National Defense Strategy proved that he was, after all, just another devotee of American hyper-interventionism.

So why reflect on these and other Washington generals? It's simple: liberal veneration for these, and seemingly all, military flag officers is a losing proposition and a formula for more intervention, possible war with other great powers, and the creeping militarization of the entire U.S. government. We know what the generals expect -- and potentially want -- for America's foreign policy future.

Just look at the curriculum at the various war and staff colleges from Kansas to Rhode Island. Ten years ago, they were all running war games focused on counterinsurgency in the Middle East and Africa. Now those same schools are drilling for future "contingencies" in the Baltic, Caucasus, and in the South China Sea. Older officers have always lamented the end of the Cold War "good old days," when men were men and the battlefield was "simple." A return to a state of near-war with Russia and China is the last thing real progressives should be pushing for in 2020.

The bottom line is this: the faint hint that mainstream libs would relish a Six Days in May style military coup is more than a little disturbing, no matter what you think of Trump. Democrats must know the damage such a move would do to our ostensible republic. I say: be a patriot. Insist on civilian control of foreign affairs. Even if that means two more years of The Donald.

Danny Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army Major and regular contributor to Truthdig . His work has also appeared in Harper's, the Los Angeles Times , The Nation , Tom Dispatch , and The Hill . He served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge . Follow him on Twitter @SkepticalVet .

[ Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.]

[May 05, 2019] The Establishment clowns Bolton, Pence and Pompeo will keep Trump on track in proving the the USA is lawless brutal empire

May 05, 2019 | consortiumnews.com

Michael , April 30, 2019 at 18:40

America's word has never been taken seriously. Ever heard of our treaties with the Native Americans? Clinton abrogated the accords between Gorbachev and Reagan, that NATO would not move one inch to the East. Clinton set up the drunken Yeltsin as his puppet, interfering with Russia's elections and raping their economy.

Bush II desperately wanted to finish his father's Gulf War, ignoring the UN weapons inspectors. He also unilaterally pulled the US out of the anti-ballistic missile treaty.

America promised Ghaddafi that if he did not pursue nuclear weapons and supporting terrorists (like Saudi Arabia and Israel), he would be left alone. Soon he was dead from bayonet rape with a gleeful chortling Hillary impressing American spooks with her "Libya Model", touted by Bolton, Pence and Pompeo to Kim's face.

Obama's deal with Iran was hated even more by Hillary (and most members of Congress) than by Trump, and was doomed when Obama left office (one of his few achievements, however fleeting).

The Establishment clowns Bolton, Pence and Pompeo will keep Trump on track.

[Apr 30, 2019] Here's how much global military spending rose in 2018

Apr 30, 2019 | www.defensenews.com

WASHINGTON -- Overall military expenditures rose 2.6 percent between 2017 and 2018 , to hit a total of $1.82 trillion, according to new research from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The total from 2018 is 5.4 percent higher than 2009, and represents a 76 percent increase over 1998, a 20-year period.

Sixty percent of global military spending came from five countries: The United States ($649 billion), China ($250 billion), Saudi Arabia ($67.6 billion), India ($66.5 billion) and France ($63.8 billion). Russia ($61.4 billion) and the United Kingdom ($50 billion) were the other two countries to spend $50 billion or more on defense.

However, there are ups and downs among the biggest spenders. While the U.S. (4.6 percent, the first overall growth since 2010), China (5 percent) and India (3.1 percent) increased their respective military spending year over year, Saudi Arabia cut its spending by 6.5 percent, France by 1.4 percent and Russia by 3.5 percent.

And overall defense spending per gross domestic product fell to 2.1 percent in 2018, representing $239 per global citizen, a 0.1 percent decrease over one year and a 0.5 percent decrease over 10 years.

Notably, Russia ranked outside the top five for the first time since 2006. China, meanwhile, increased its military spending for the 24th consecutive year, and its spending is almost 10 times higher than it was in 1994; however, researchers warn that Chinese growth may slow in the coming year.

"The annual rate of growth of China's military spending has slowed steadily since it reached a post-2009 high of 9.3 percent in 2013. The growth of 5.0 percent in 2018 was the lowest annual increase since 1995," the authors note. "China has followed a policy of linking growth in military spending with economic growth. With its economic growth slowing in 2018 to the lowest level in 28 years, slower rates of growth in the coming years can be expected if China continues to follow this policy."

Mike Smith

Cuts in DOD should start right here, given the utter absurdity and culture of entitlement that continues unchecked in DOD with the objectively preposterous $21 BILLION per year tax free monthly optional off-ship and of-base surmised "housing" allowances/handouts in our nation's all volunteer military.

Just look at these tax free monthly handouts! They are all beyond ridiculous regardless of location and rank! And most were increased yet again for 2019!

Upwards of $2,000-over $5,000 a month tax free for singles, the vast majority of who could and should be living in the existing and more than adequate singles quarters on the ships and bases they are assigned.

Upwards of eye-popping ranges of $4,000-$6,000-$8,000-$10,677, yes, $10,677 a month tax free for so-called "dual married" volunteer couples. Dual marrieds are two married volunteers. There are approx. 90,000 volunteers who are dual married. And all of these couples get TWO tax free monthly handouts for their ONE family unit.

If they have a kid, one gets the higher "with dependents" tax free rate. And the other gets the slightly lower "without dependents" rate. If no kid, then they both get the tax free monthly "without" rate. And the vast majority of these dual marrieds are already being paid from $100,000-$300,000 and more in combined annual base pays, other pays, and other tax free monthly handouts each year.

These extremely well paid couples should be using their very generous US taxpayer provided de facto salaries to pay for their housing needs just like the taxpaying public. Or at a bare minimum means testing is more than appropriate just as other federal social welfare programs are administered.

And the most outrageous fact concerning these patently absurd tax free monthly handouts is that no proof of any kind is needed to show that these tax free windfalls are actually being used for off base "housing" needs or expenses in the first place.

And as a direct result of this utter lack of management control and fiscal responsibility, most volunteers gain much lower cost housing (e.g., most singles opt to roommate) so they can divert, although currently legally, hundreds and even many thousands tax free into their pockets each month and/or divert them into luxury auto purchases and other items of excess so they can live vastly premature affluent lifestyles off the backs of the U.S. taxpayers.

And here is a sample of these ludicrous tax free monthly handouts by four cities over four ranks. Cumulatively, there are hundreds of thousands of military volunteers currently assigned throughout these four locations. And although there are many other locations with lower tax free monthly handouts, there are many others with even higher figures.

San Diego Area:

E-3 Singles - $1,995
E-3 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $4,530

E-7 Singles - $2,535
E-7 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $5,589

O-3 Singles - $2,880
O-3 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $6,009

O-6 Singles - $3,114
O-6 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $6,936

San Francisco Bay Area:

E-3 Singles - $3,312
E-3 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $7,623

E-7 Singles - $4,308
E-7 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $9,408

O-3 Singles - $4,806
O-3 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $9,990

O-6 Singles - $5,169
O-6 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $10,677, YES $10,677

Honolulu/Oahu:

E-3 Singles - $2,139
E-3 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $4,989

E-7 Singles - $2,856
E-7 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $6,132

O-3 Singles - $3,078
O-3 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $6,660

O-6 Singles - $3,573
O-6 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $7,557

Washington, DC Area

E-3 Singles - $1,845
E-3 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $4,200

E-7 Singles - $2,361
E-7 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $5,007

O-3 Singles - $2,571
O-3 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $5,316

O-6 Singles - $2,730
O-6 Dual Marrieds w/kid - $5,973

Rank Key:

  • E-3s are typically GED or HS educated. The vast majority are 19-20 years old with less than 2 years in the military since leaving their parent's homes, literally.
  • E-7s are typically the same as above but add 10-12 years and perhaps a dubious AA or BA "e-degree" gained at full taxpayer expense during their supposed "working" hours from an open enrollment, for profit, on-line diploma mill that caters to DOD staff and relies on taxpayer funds in DOD "training" accounts for its very existence.
  • O-3s are typically twenty somethings with undergrad degrees occupying entry-level or near entry-level military pseudo management or staff positions.
  • O-6s include legions of desk-based administrative support staffers with grad degrees earned 100% off the backs of the U.S. taxpayers

Contact your members of Congress today to help get this $21 billion per year, but little known outside of DOD tax free out of control gravy train stopped in its tracks

[Apr 30, 2019] Boeing Kept Mum to Customers, FAA About Disabling of 737 Max Warning System

Apr 30, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

... ... ...

This basic fact pattern has been revealed to be worse than it first appeared by virtue of Boeing not having been explicit that the angle of attack sensor alerts had been disabled on the 737 Max. Why should Boeing have cleared its throat and said something? Recall that the sales pitch for the 737 Max was that it was so much like existing 737s that it didn't require FAA recertification or pilot simulator training. But the angle of attack sensor alert had been a standard feature in all previous 737s, meaning buyers would assume it was part of the plane unless they were told otherwise. And on top of that, the non-upgraded 737 Max did have lights in the pilots' controls for this alert. But they didn't work unless the buyer had purchased the package of safety extras.

And the proof that Boeing was playing way too cute with its pointed silence about its deactivation of what had been a standard feature? The biggest customer for the 737 Max, Southwest Airlines, had inaccurate information in its pilots' manual because the airline had mistakenly assumed the angle of attack sensor alerts worked as they had on earlier 737s.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Boeing Co. didn't tell Southwest Airlines Co. and other carriers when they began flying its 737 MAX jets that a safety feature found on earlier models that warns pilots about malfunctioning sensors had been deactivated, according to government and industry officials.

Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors and supervisors responsible for monitoring Southwest, the largest 737 MAX customer, also were unaware of the change, the officials said.

The alerts inform pilots whether a sensor known as an "angle-of-attack vane" is transmitting errant data about the pitch of a plane's nose .

Southwest's management and cockpit crews didn't know about the lack of the warning system for more than a year after the planes went into service in 2017, industry and government officials said. They and most other airlines operating the MAX learned about it only after the Lion Air crash in October led to scrutiny of the plane's revised design.

"Southwest's own manuals were wrong" about the availability of the alerts, said the Southwest pilots union president, Jon Weaks.

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allan , April 29, 2019 at 10:16 am

C-suite still in denial:

Boeing suppliers ramp up schedule for MAX: 52/mo by July, 57/mo by August [Leeham News]

Boeing reduced the production rate on the 737 line in mid-April from 52/mo to 42/mo in response to the grounding of the airplane by regulators worldwide.

The company and others said they didn't know how long the airplane would be grounded.

But Boeing told suppliers to keep producing parts, components and the fuselage at rate 52.

Boeing already had a ramp-up plan in place;

According to the information LNA learned at the, this is the schedule for ramping back up:

• Rate 42/mo, April and May;
• Rate 47, June;
• Rate 51.5, July and August; and
• Rate 57, September.

Boeing originally planned to go to 57/mo in June or July.

Good luck with that. The upside is that this corporate controlled flight into terrain
will someday make a great B-school case study.

Edit: If you Captcha-train an autonomous vehicle not to run into bicycles, and it gets into an accident,
are you legally liable? Asking for a friend.

The Rev Kev , April 29, 2019 at 10:55 am

Oh man, this is bad. Really bad. This story just gets worse and worse over time. It's like one of those Russian Matryoshka dolls – just when you think that you have a handle on what happened, you find that there is a whole new layer of ugliness underneath. When the hell did safety become an optional extra on Boeing aircraft? After reading this, I think that it was a minor miracle that there were no 737 MAX crashes in the continental United States. By the sounds of this article, it would have likely been a Southwest airliner if it had happened. I am wondering what else will come out of this saga that we don't know about yet.

flora , April 29, 2019 at 12:33 pm

+1.

Self-regulation/certification is a sham.
and
Boeing is toast, imo.

Arizona Slim , April 29, 2019 at 1:21 pm

I agree, flora. I also think that the Max is about to become the Chevy Corvair of airliners. As in, unsafe at any speed.

Wyoming , April 29, 2019 at 1:47 pm

I would say that Boeing easily falls into the 'Too big to fail.' category.

So no matter what happened they will be either made whole (more defense contracts, taxpayer bailout if necessary, whatever is needed) or protected in some way tbd. They are a 100 billion a year company with 150,000+ employees and untold numbers of other contractors and jobs depending on their existence. Going away is just not going to happen.

ex-PFC Chuck , April 29, 2019 at 4:02 pm

Never underestimate the MICC's* capability & inclination to look after its own.

*Military Industrial Congressional Complex

737 Pilot , April 29, 2019 at 10:55 am

Okay, Boeing screwed the pooch again, and they should have been more clear in their communications to the airlines. However, let me add some perspective as a 737 operator.

Given the AOA malfunction in either the Lion Air or Ethiopian accidents, an "AOA Disagree" warning annunciation would have possibly been helpful, but not really crucial to the safe recovery of the aircraft. There were plenty of other indications that the AOA's were disagreeing – namely that only one of the stick shakers was activated. Once you get over the initial surprise, it shouldn't have been that hard to determine this fact. The lack of the AOA display and disagree annunciator is not what doomed these crews.

vlade , April 29, 2019 at 11:04 am

I sort of agree and disagree.

I've never had a flight emergency as a pilot, but had a few as a diver. I suspect that for both of those, when they hit, you need to resolve things quickly and efficiently, with panic being the worst enemy.

Panic in my experience stems from a number of things here, but two crucial ones are:
– input overload
– not knowing what to do, or learned actions not having any effect

Both of them can be, to a very large extent, overcome with training, training, and more training (of actually practising the emergency situation, not just reading about it and filling questionairres).

So, if the crews were expecting to see AoA disagree but it wasn't there, they could have easily be misled and confused. The crews weren't (from what I've seen) hugely experienced. So any confusion would have made a bad situation even worse. How big an impact it made is hard to judge w/o any other materials.

marku52 , April 29, 2019 at 3:42 pm

Well it is rarely just one thing that causes an "accident". There are multiple contributors here. But the one basic overarching cause was Boeing's insistence that there-will-not-be-any-additional-training.

Without that management decree, the Max could be flown without the hack of MCAS, just that the pilots be trained on the new pitchup characteristics.

And releasing MCAS into the wild without even alerting pilots to its existence, well, that is manslaughter, if not outright murder.

CraaaaaaaaaazyChris , April 29, 2019 at 4:02 pm

My takeaway from the IEEE article was that the AOA sensor is almost a red herring. The dog that didn't bark was a pitch sensor, and the cardinal sin (from a software perspective) was that the MCAS algo did not consider pitch sensor values when deciding whether or not to angle the plane towards ground.

Synoia , April 29, 2019 at 11:09 am

Blame the pilots then? Is that your point?

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 1:50 pm

I suggest reading some of the other pieces on the 737 debacle on NC. There's been extensive discussion of the details, and yes the pilots may be partially to blame, but are the least culpable out of all parties involved.

GooGooGaJoob , April 29, 2019 at 12:03 pm

Given that story states that Boeing was more or less silent on the disabling of the sensor alerts, it's is reasonable to posit that any 737 pilot stepping into a 737 MAX would expect the sensor to be active.

I can understand the position that a pilot still needs to be skilled enough to not be 100% reliant on sensors, warning lights etc. to fly the plane. However, if I already assume that a sensor is active and it's not providing a signal that I would be potentially anticipating, it's going to seed doubt in my mind in a scenario where you don't have much time at all to think things through.

flora , April 29, 2019 at 12:44 pm

On the other hand: a safety light that is deactivated without telling the airlines and pilots gives false negatives to pilots at a critical juncture. They assume it's active, check it, and see a false negative they don't realize is false.

Imagine having a 'check engine' or 'oil' light on your car's dashboard that's been deactivated. They never come on. But they're still there. The driver assumes they'll light if there's engine trouble that needs attention.

Boeing's actions don't pass the 'reasonable man' test.

Jim A. , April 29, 2019 at 1:23 pm

Yeah, normally if a mechanical gauge "knows" that it isn't working there will be a little flag that pops up across the display. Leaving the light there but inoperative instead of either removing the light or covering it up with an "inoperative" cover is a really bad idea. It is EVEN WORSE than making safety features optional, and that is bad enough.

John k , April 29, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Let's see
First, they didn't know MCAS existed, so had no idea or training in what to do when it was erroneously engaged by system.
Then, they think both Aos sensors are working properly.
And, Boeing tells everybody plane is just like previous versions, no need for simulations.
I'm glad I'm not one of the dead pilots you're blaming.
By the way, it's apparently just chance that the bad sensors affected foreign and not domestic flights, no public reports that superior domestic pilots had no problem when it hit the fan on their watch although some domestic airlines were told (warned) that bad sensor light was optional extra so possibly a domestic plane cancelled flight on account of bad sensor.
But imagine a really experienced pilot would have saved the day so Boeing should say only really experienced pilots should fly the plane? Maybe simulators help you get really experienced, especially with unexpected emergencies?
Personally, I'll avoid the plane for a few years if simulators aren't required hate to have a pilot not experienced with what we now know is not such a rare event.

Old Jake , April 29, 2019 at 3:22 pm

We seem to be forgetting that, in the Lion Air case, a really experienced pilot did save the day the previous day on the same aircraft . The issue was reported, the airline neglected to repair the issue and nobody seems to have told the new aircrew about the issue. This seems to support 737 Pilot's position. It is also another egregious failure, this time on the part of the airline.

dcrane , April 29, 2019 at 3:42 pm

That pilot was a third set of eyes. Since he didn't have to fly the plane, he was free to observe and fortunately his attention eventually focused on the repeating trim wheel movements. A standard two-person crew doesn't have this luxury. Worth keeping in mind.

That lion crew also seems to have written up the problem incompletely. They didn't mention, for example, that they had the stick shaker going for the entire flight.

JerryDenim , April 29, 2019 at 4:51 pm

Your point is legitimate but without the benefit of a CVR recording I think you may be affording too much credit to the jumpseating pilot who is rumored to have provided the flight crew with the excellent advice of disabling the electric stabilizer trim motor. Even if the story is entirely true it's not like turning off the Stab trim motor was esoteric knowledge, maybe 737 pilot can correct me on this but I thought that procedure was a memory item for trim runaway emergencies, meaning the pilots were supposed to have that bit of knowledge firmly committed to memory and they were supposed to execute that procedure without any checklists or undue delay as soon as the condition was recognized. If not a memory item it was in the 737 QRC or QRH emergency procedures guide that is always present for immediate reference on the flight deck. The most important thing the crew of Lion Air 43(?) did (the flight previous to 610 that managed not to crash) was to simply not let themselves become so frazzled they forgot to pull the thrust levers out of the take-off detent after they reached a safe altitude, and not overspeeding an out of trim airplane making a bad situation worse. Maybe the jumpseating pilot had to scream at the crew to reduce thrust and maybe he had to slap the Captain and reduce the thrust levers himself, but absent a CVR recording to verify this slightly far-fetched scenario I would say the previous crew deserves the Lion's share (sorry couldn't resist) of the credit for landing safely.

You are absolutely 100% correct when you point out the non-crashing Captain was far from exemplary. He laid an absolutely vicious trap for the ill-fated crew of flight 610 by failing to mention a great number of things he experienced, especially the uncommanded and unwanted nose down trimming that necessitated turning off the stab trim motor which he also failed to communicate. Not a shining moment for Lion Air pilots, mechanics or Boeing. Despite the obvious and multiple shortcomings and blunders of the Captain/crew of Lion Air 43, I believe that flight proves what the airline pilot commenters here have been saying all along, which is the 737 Max flaws were serious but survivable with a competent crew. That's not the same thing as calling the airplane safe or airworthy and it's certainly not excusing Boeing. They delivered a death trap. Perhaps a bad analogy, but a professional body guard should be able to easily disarm a five year with a knife, but that doesn't mean a murderous five year with a knife isn't dangerous or isn't capable of killing you. Airplanes are machines which inevitably fail and mechanics are humans who make mistakes which is why pilots need to know how to hand fly airplanes absent automation. Reducing thrust during an emergency to avoid overspeeding your airplane really isn't a tall ask for a professional pilot. Pilots get this, non-pilots don't, and it's a point I've grown quite weary of making.

shtove , April 29, 2019 at 1:32 pm

There's been interesting points made back and forth on NC – what do you make of this from Karl Denninger: basically, "You can't fix the problems the 737Max has with software alone"?
https://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=235578

JerryDenim , April 29, 2019 at 2:27 pm

I made the exact same argument here a couple of days ago, but I will say IF the system was engineered in a way it could have given the Ethiopians a warning prior to eighty knots or V1 (depending on training and pilot judgement) on takeoff, maybe they could have aborted and kept the plane on the ground avoiding the disaster. Having that disagree light or indication immediately after rotation on climbout could have soothed the nerves of the pilots and made them feel more confident trusting the perfectly normal instrumentation on the FO's side of the airplane. But if the high speed clacker, the airspeed tape and the thrust settings aren't enough information to convince a overwhelmed, elevator control fixated pilot that he/she has more than adequate speed to avoid stalling, and they should slow down, then it stands to reason a secondary warning indication would also not break through the mental logjam of two very overwhelmed pilots bombarded by warnings and data. In the case of Lion Air 610 the malfunctioning AOA vane had already caused multiple instrument malfunctions and improper nose down MCAS trimming on three other flights, so it seems like those guys were hellbent on flying that plane no matter what. Even if Lion Air would have had the optional warning system onboard the mechanics most likely would have deferred the warning system as broken. "Ops checks good". They probably would have removed the bulb or stuck a placard on top of it.

And before anyone feels the need to point it out, yes, I'm engaging in speculation, but so is everyone claiming this optional safety system would have made a difference in the two aforementioned tragedies. I'm engaging in speculation as a guy who has reviewed thousands of logbooks and had hundreds, possibly thousands of interactions with airline maintenance technicians. Some of those interactions include contentious debates over what is safe to defer or what can actually legally be deferred so I do have a bit of experience in this department.

Boeing screwed up. They were hasty, they were greedy, they were cavalier, the MCAS trim system with a single point of failure was a terrible design that was most likely criminal. I'm just weighing in on 737 pilot's contention. With a system as poorly designed as the MCAS stall protection trimming, every safety feature available should have come standard from Boeing, but sadly additional fault indications don't always matter in emergency situations. Proper fault diagnosis is only part of any successful emergency outcome. Pilots still have to possess the knowledge and skill required to follow procedures and fly the airplane.

vlade , April 29, 2019 at 10:56 am

The only planes I ever flew you'd fly w/o pretty much any instrumentation (WW2 trainers, hoping to fly a Spitfire or Mustang one day.. ).

But in a modern plane, I'd think that _any_ instrument that is doubled or more (which implies some sort of criticality) should have an automatic "inputs disagree" indicator, which would not be possible to turn off.

Not that you'll have to buy it as a special feature.

JBird4049 , April 29, 2019 at 1:16 pm

I have been thinking about the modern 737. My completely uninformed guess is that the original model, while less "safe" was more informative in a real way than the current one.

In modern cars, especially something like a hybrid, there is not much "feel" to it. In an older old fashion gasoline engine car, there is. I could use the Volkswagen as an example, because it only had some colored lights and the speedometer, and none of the safety features of a modern car. However, I could sense, smell, see just about everything, often subconsciously, even before something went kablowie because there was nothing isolating me from the vehicle and the road. Today, I have to depend on my car's sensors because it has been designed to be quiet and isolating as possible.

John , April 29, 2019 at 11:06 am

The downward slide of corrupt predatory capitalism is not a pretty picture. These cases will continue as long as the responsible executives know they have nothing to lose.

campbeln , April 29, 2019 at 12:30 pm

Just more proof that self regulation works, just look to our favorite sporting events!
There's no need to have refs on the field because everyone involved is a professional and would never cheat, disrespect the sport or do something against the rules because the fans would punish them!
If our sports don't need refs, then surely our markets don't need regulators! Checkmate, big government stooges!

Synoia , April 29, 2019 at 1:20 pm

Absolutely correct. Throw away the huge NFL rule-book, and revert to the rules the of the Roman arena.

It would save the NFL team owners huge amounts of money.

StarryGordon , April 29, 2019 at 12:20 pm

I suppose I am naive, but I am shocked that the behavior of Boeing's management and the FAA are not being treated as a criminal matter. What happened was not a business mistake, it was a crime in which a number of persons deliberately and knowingly decided to risk other people's lives in order to increase profits, as a result of which hundreds of people were killed. I believe the term is 'negligent homicide', upon conviction of which lesser beings than high management and bureaucrats go to jail. In some countries their next of kin would already have received a bill for bullets and services rendered.

Synoia , April 29, 2019 at 1:15 pm

It would be interesting in Ethiopia issues a criminal arrest warrant on these grounds for the Executives of Boeing.

That being the country with jurisdiction for this second crash.

Is there an extradition treaty between Ethiopia and the US?

John k , April 29, 2019 at 1:36 pm

The term used to be criminally negligent homicide, but this no longer applies to those wearing white collars.
Otherwise we would see charges against bankers, opioid pushers, and others.

JBird4049 , April 29, 2019 at 1:30 pm

But Boeing, as part of a duopoly, recognizes that its customers have nowhere to go .at least for the next few years, which might as well be eternity as far as MBAs are concerned.

Even if it meant drastically reducing flights why would any airline buy airplanes that are not guaranteed to be safe? Losing money through fewer paying customers because you are choosing to have fewer flights is better than being boycotted or bankrupted by lawsuits, or arrested and criminally charged.

EoH , April 29, 2019 at 2:00 pm

It is inexplicable that Boeing shut off an indicator system for the Max that had been standard on earlier versions of the 737, when that AoA sensor disagreement indicator was even more important for safe flight.

Turning it on in the Max version was possible but was made part of an extra-cost safety package. How would a purchaser know to buy it when Boeing downplayed its importance so as not to suggest how different the Max was from supposedly similar earlier versions of the 737?

The more that comes out about the conduct of Boeing and its senior management's decisions, the more they look criminally reckless.

WestcoastDeplorable , April 29, 2019 at 4:02 pm

The FAA is mostly responsible for this fiasco because they have a misguided mission. Safety should be their only concern, but over the years that's eroded into a "sort of safety" attitude but mostly being a cheerleader for the aviation industry.
And you can't trust bastards like Boeing to "self-certify" anything, apparently!

Carey , April 29, 2019 at 4:06 pm

Scott Hamilton at Leeham News on Boeing's CEO:

"..It took months before Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg issued a video in which, among other things, he said, "We own it." He was referring to safety of the MAX.

This was widely interpreted as Boeing stepping up and taking responsibility for at least some of the causes of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.

Last Wednesday, he took it all back.

On the first quarter earnings call, Muilenburg denied there was any "technical slip or gap" in designing the now famous MCAS system. He said "actions not taken" contributed to the crash, a thinly veiled reference once again to pilot error.."

https://leehamnews.com/2019/04/29/pontifications-we-own-it-but/

VietnamVet , April 29, 2019 at 7:03 pm

Boeing and FAA are criminally negligent especially for the Ethiopian Airline crash. The recovered horizontal stabilizer screw jack from the Lion Air crash was found in the full nose down position that forced the plane to dive into the sea. It should have never be in this is flight critical position. Grounding the fleet should have been immediate until the cause and fix were found. On top of all this, it is simply criminal for Boeing to charge Southwest Airlines for additional safety features and then turn them off not telling the airline.

It is tragic that it appears that Americans will have to rely on China to force Boeing to actually fix MCAS and along with Canada to shame the FAA into requiring pilot training on Flight Simulators before flying passengers on the Max.

A Boeing C-Suite executive has to go to jail. If not, there is no chance for the United States of America to survive. With government run by and for profiteers, long term planning is dead. Profit over people. A plague, an economic crash, a world war, a middle-class revolt, flooded coasts, or an autocratic Caesar become inevitable.

[Apr 29, 2019] Let's rename Boeing to BidenAir

Apr 29, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Late Introvert , , April 28, 2019 at 9:19 pm

I noticed that Boeing is incorporated in the great state of Delaware. Ah-hem.

dearieme , , April 29, 2019 at 11:46 am

Oh well, change their name to BidenAir.

[Apr 29, 2019] Ralph Nader Calls Out Boeing for 737 MAX Lack of Airworthiness, Stock Buybacks, and Demands Muilenburg Resign by Lambert Strether

Apr 28, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Ralph Nader has published an open letter to Dennis A. Muilenburg, current CEO of Boeing, which is worth reading in full . There's a personal connection :

[Nader's] niece, 24-year-old Samya Stumo, was among the 157 victims of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash last month, less than six months after a flight on the same aircraft, the Boeing 737 Max 8, crashed in Indonesia.

Nader comments, in Stumo's obituary in the Berkshire Eagle :

"She was compassionate from the get-go. She'd be 8 years old and she'd get a pail of hot water and go to her great-grandmother and soak her feet and rub her feet and dry them. She was always that way."

Clifford Law has brought suit on behalf of the Stumo family in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. From the complaint :

Blinded by its greed, BOEING haphazardly rushed the 737 MAX 8 to market, with the knowledge and tacit approval of the United States Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"), while BOEING actively concealed the nature of the automated system defects. Numerous decisions by BOEING's leadership substantially contributed to the subject crash and demonstrate BOEING's conscious disregard for the lives of others, including but not limited to BOEING's role in: designing an aircraft with a powerful automated flight control system [the MCAS] susceptible to catastrophic failure in the event a single defective sensor; failing to properly inform pilots of the existence of the new flight control system and educate and train them in all aspects of its operation; failing to properly address the new system in the aircraft's flight manual; refusing to include key safety features as standard in the aircraft rather than optional upgrades; delivering 737 MAX aircraft with a version of the flight control system that was materially different from the version presented to the FAA during certification; and failing to take appropriate action after BOEING learned that the 737 MAX aircraft was not performing as intended or safety, as was made tragically clear with the crash of Lion Air Flight JT 610.

BOEING's decision to put profits over safety is further evident in BOEING's repeated claims that the 737 MAX 8 is so similar to its earlier models that it does not require significant retraining for those pilots familiar with the older generation of 737s.

All pretty much conventional wisdom at this point! The suit also calls for exemplary (punitive) damages ; I've embedded the complaint at the end of the post, in case any readers care to dig into it. I'm not going to examine the case in this post; rather, I'm going to focus on three items from Naders letter that I think advance the story: His framing for 737 MAX airworthiness; his highlighting of Boeing's stock buybacks; and his call for Boeing CEO Muilenburg's defenestration.

Nader on 737 MAX Airworthiness

From Nader's letter :

Aircraft should be stall-proof, not stall-prone.

(Stalling, in Nader's telling, being the condition the defective MCAS system was meant to correct.) Because aircraft that are aerodynamicallly unstable, llke fighter jets, have ejection seats! Now, a pedant would point out that Nader means commercial aircraft , but as readers know, I eschew pedantry in all contexts. That said, Nader manages to encapsulate the problem in a single sentence (using antithesis , isocolon , and anaphora ). Now, we have pilots in the commentariat who will surely say whether Nader's formulation is correct, but to this layperson it seems to be. From 737 MAX, a fan/geek site, on the business and technical logic of the MCAS system :

The LEAP engine nacelles are larger and had to be mounted slightly higher and further forward from the previous NG CFM56-7 engines to give the necessary ground clearance. This new location and larger size of nacelle cause the vortex flow off the nacelle body to produce lift at high AoA [Angle of Attack]. As the nacelle is ahead of the C of G, this lift causes a slight pitch-up effect (ie a reducing stick force) which could lead the pilot to inadvertently pull the yoke further aft than intended bringing the aircraft closer towards the stall. This abnormal nose-up pitching is not allowable under 14CFR §25.203(a) "Stall characteristics". Several aerodynamic solutions were introduced such as revising the leading edge stall strip and modifying the leading edge vortilons but they were insufficient to pass regulation. MCAS was therefore introduced to give an automatic nose down stabilizer input during elevated AoA when flaps are up.

Nader on Stock Buybacks

From Nader's letter , where he is addressing Muilenberg ("you") directly:

Boeing management's behavior must be seen in the context of Boeing's use of its earned capital. Did you use the $30 billion surplus from 2009 to 2017 to reinvest in R&D, in new narrow-body passenger aircraft? Or did you, instead, essentially burn this surplus with self-serving stock buybacks of $30 billion in that period? Boeing is one of the companies that MarketWatch labelled as "Five companies that spent lavishly on stock buybacks while pension funding lagged."

Incredibly, your buybacks of $9.24 billion in 2017 comprised 109% of annual earnings . As you well know, stock buybacks do not create any jobs. They improve the metrics for the executive compensation packages of top Boeing bosses [ka-ching]. Undeterred, in 2018, buybacks of $9 billion constituted 86% of annual earnings .

To make your management recklessly worse, in December 2018, you arranged for your rubberstamp Board of Directors to approve $20 billion more in buybacks. Apparently, you had amortized the cost of the Indonesian Lion Air crash victims as not providing any significant impact on your future guidance to the investor world.

Holy moley, that's real money! Nader's detail on the stock buybacks (see NC here , here , and here ) interested me, because it bears on Boeing's 2011 decision not to build a new narrow-body aircraft in 2011. I summarized the decision-making back in March:

(2) Choice of Airframe : The Air Current describes the competitive environment that led Boeing to upgrade the 737 to the 737 MAX, instead of building a new plane:

Boeing wanted to replace the 737. The plan had even earned the endorsement of its now-retired chief executive. "We're gonna do a new airplane," Jim McNerney said in February of that same year. "We're not done evaluating this whole situation yet, but our current bias is to not re-engine, is to move to an all-new airplane at the end of the decade." History went in a different direction. Airbus, riding its same decades-long incremental strategy and chipping away at Boeing's market supremacy, had made no secret of its plans to put new engines on the A320. But its own re-engined jet somehow managed to take Boeing by surprise. Airbus and American forced Boeing's hand. It had to put new engines on the 737 to stay even with its rival .

Why? The earlier butchered launch of the 787:

Boeing justified the decision thusly: There were huge and excruciatingly painful near-term obstacles on its way to a new single-aisle airplane. In the summer of 2011, the 787 Dreamliner wasn't yet done after billions invested and years of delays. More than 800 airplanes later here in 2019, each 787 costs less to build than sell, but it's still running a $23 billion production cost deficit. . The 737 Max was Boeing's ticket to holding the line on its position -- both market and financial -- in the near term. Abandoning the 737 would've meant walking away from its golden goose that helped finance the astronomical costs of the 787 and the development of the 777X.

So, we might think of Boeing as a runner who's tripped and fallen: The initial stumble, followed by loss of balance, was the 787; with the 737 MAX, Boeing hit the surface of the track.

So, Dennis. How's that workin' out for ya? How does the decision not to build a new plane look in retrospect? Ygeslias writes in Vox, in April:

Looking back, Boeing probably wishes it had just stuck with the "build a new plane" plan and toughed out a few years of rough sales, rather than ending up in the current situation. Right now the company is, in effect, trying to patch things up piecemeal -- a software update here, a new warning light there, etc. -- in hopes of persuading global regulatory agencies to let its planes fly again.

What Nader's focus on stock buybacks shows, is that Boeing had the capital to invest in developing a new plane . From Bloomberg in 2019 :

For Boeing and Airbus, committing to an all-new aircraft is a once-in-a-decade event. Costs are prohibitive, delays are the norm and payoff can take years to materialize. Boeing could easily spend more than $15 billion on the NMA, according to Ken Herbert, analyst with Canaccord Genuity, and Airbus may be forced into a clean-sheet design if sales take off.

The sales force has been fine-tuning the design with airlines for at least five years, creating a "will it or won't it?" drama around the decision on whether to make the plane, known internally at Boeing as the NMA, for new, middle-of-market airplane.

Now, it is true that the "huge and excruciatingly painful near-term obstacles" referred to by the Air Current are sales losses that Boeing would incur from putting a bullet into it's cash cow, the 737, before it turned into a dog (like now?). Nevertheless, Beoing was clearly capable, as Yglesias points put, of "tough[ing]out a few years of rough sales." So what else was "excruciatingly painful"? Losing the stock buybacks (and that sweet, sweet executive compensation). Readers, I wasn't cynical enough. I should have given consideration to the possibility that Muilenburg and his merry men were looting the company!

Nader on Muilenburg

Finally, from Nader's letter :

Consider, in addition, the statement of two Harvard scholars -- Leonard J. Marcus and Eric J. McNulty, authors of the forthcoming book, You're It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When it Matters Most. These gentlemen did not achieve their positions by using strong language. That is why, the concluding statement in their CNN article on March 27, 2019, merits your closer attention:

"Of course, if Boeing did not act in good faith in deploying the 737 Max and the Justice Department's investigation discovers Boeing cut corners or attempted to avoid proper regulatory reviews of the modifications to the aircraft, Muilenburg and any other executives involved should resign immediately. Too many families, indeed communities, depend on the continued viability of Boeing."

These preconditions have already been disclosed and are evidentially based. Your mismanagement is replete with documentation, including your obsession with shareholder value and executive compensation. There is no need to wait for some long-drawn out, redundant inquiry. Management was criminally negligent, 346 lives of passengers and crew were lost. You and your team should forfeit your compensation and should resign forthwith.

All concerned with aviation safety should have your public response.

I can't find anything to disagree with here. However, I'll quote from commenter Guido at Leeham News, March 29, 2019 :

What I don't understand: Muilenburg was the CEO when the MCAS code was implemented. Muilenburg was the CEO when Boeing "tweaked" the certification of the B737Max. It was the Boeing management that decided, that the B737Max must under no circumstances trigger simulator training for pilots.

Muilenburg has for sure not written the code for MCAS by himself, but as the CEO he is responsible for the mess. He is responsible, that the first version of MCAS was cheap and fast to implement, but not safe. It was basically Muilenburg, who allowed a strategy, that was basically: Profits and Quickness before safety. Muilenburg has the responsibility for 346 dead people. You can't kill 346 people with your new product and still be the highly paid CEO of the company. There have to be consequences.

Why are there no calls, that Muilenburg must step down?

Nader has now issued such a call. As [lambert preens modestly] did Naked Capitalism on March 19 .

Conclusion

Wrapping up, Muilenberg has plenty of other lawsuits to worry about :

However, a search of court documents and news reports shows the company is facing at least 34 claims from victims' families and one claim seeking class certification on behalf of shareholders. The claims allege Boeing is responsible for losses after installing an unsafe anti-stall system, called "MCAS" (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), on its 737 Max 8 planes, suspected to have played a role in both crashes. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said it was "apparent" the system had been activated in both crashes.

Added to the uncertainty of potential expenses for Boeing are pending regulator probes. The U.S. Justice Department initiated a criminal investigation into Boeing's Federal Aviation Administration certification, as well as how it marketed its 737 Max 8 planes. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General is also conducting an inquiry.

On April 9, the lawsuit seeking class certification was brought on behalf of shareholders who purchased Boeing stock between January 8, 2019 and March 21, 2019. The proposed class period covers a time frame beginning after the Lion Air crash, and extending beyond the Ethiopian Airlines crash, when Boeing's stock experienced a steep decline.

But then again, Muilenberg may know -- or think -- that Boeing, as a national champion, is too big to fail. So, if Boeing gracefully exits from the commercial aviation business, it may find the warm embrace of government contracting more comfortable. Perhaps that's why propaganda like this suddenly started showing up in my Twitter feed:

me title=

I suppose it's too much to ask that the CEO of a too-big-to-fail company be asked to resign, even if he did kill a lot of people. But if Nader can do with the 737 MAX, at the end of his career, what he did with the Corvair ("a one-car accident") , when he was coming up, everybody except for a cabal of looters and liars in Boeing's Chicago C-suite will be a lot better off. So we can hope.

APPENDIX 1: The Rosy Scenario

From Ask the Pilot :

I keep going back to the DC-10 fiasco in the 1970s.

In 1974, in one of the most horrific air disasters of all time, a THY (Turkish Airlines) DC-10 crashed after takeoff from Orly Airport outside Paris, killing 346 people. The accident was traced to a faulty cargo door design. (The same door had nearly caused the crash of an American Airlines DC-10 two years earlier.) McDonnell Douglas had hurriedly designed a plane with a door that it knew was defective, then, in the aftermath of Paris, tried to cover the whole thing up. It was reckless, even criminal. Then, in 1979, American flight 191, also a DC-10, went down at Chicago-O'Hare, killing 273 -- to this day the deadliest air crash ever on U.S. soil -- after an engine detached on takeoff. Investigators blamed improper maintenance procedures (including use of a forklift to raise the engine and its pylon), and then found pylon cracks in at least six other DC-10s, causing the entire fleet to be grounded for 37 days. The NTSB cited "deficiencies in the surveillance and reporting procedures of the FAA," as well as production and quality control problems at McDonnell Douglas.

That's two of history's ten deadliest air crashes, complete with design defects, a cover-up, and 619 dead people. And don't forget the 737 itself has a checkered past, going back to the rudder problems that caused the crash of USAir flight 427 in 1994 (and likely the crash of United flight 585 in 1991). Yet the DC-10, the 737, and America's aviation prestige along with them, have persevered. If we survived the those scandals we can probably manage this. I have a feeling that a year from now this saga will be mostly forgotten. Boeing and its stock price will recover, the MAX will be up and flying again, and on and on we go.

This is how it happens.

Maybe. But in 1974, the United States was commercial aviation. Airbus had launched its first plane, the A300 , only in 1972. We were also an imperial hegemon in a way we are not now. For myself, I can't help noticing that it was Boeing's takeover of a wretched, corrupt McDonnell Douglas -- the famous reverse takeover -- that ultimately turned Boeing from an engineering company into a company driven by finance. With resulits that we see.

APPENDIX 2: The Stumo Complaint

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ChristopherJ , April 28, 2019 at 4:20 pm

The fact that the CEO and the Board have not resigned just shows everyone that they lack all the essential characteristics of human beings.
Stock buybacks should be illegal. Profits should only be distributed via dividends or reinvested. The fact that companies can do this shows how corrupted our governments are.
The rest of the world may forget this one. I won't and there are millions like me who will never step aboard a boeing plane again.
The only thing that will save this company now is the US govt, which is likely.

JBird4049 , April 28, 2019 at 5:00 pm

Boeing's management is not going to jail and likely will keep their jobs. The deaths of over three hundred people means nothing. They are not even American and probably only middle class so they don't have connections to use. The "American" company Boeing has both money and connections.

Money gives you rights and if you don't have it, you are not even a human being.

Just look at 2008. The Vampiric Octopus called Wall Street was saved by the Feds with almost no one going to jail, or even criminally prosecuted. The exceptions of an innocent small community bank in NYC and some low level employees of a very few loan companies. The entire planetary economy came to with in hours of freezing and then collapsing. Millions of Americans lost homes, often through questionably legal foreclosures, with many millions more losing their jobs.

Nothing going to change and I wish I could believe otherwise.

DHG , April 28, 2019 at 5:33 pm

So I should just fire up my own money press then as should everyone else Money was invented as a limiter by the ancient church then adopted by governments.. Money isnt necessary to live and it will b thrown overboard soon enough.

Plenue , April 28, 2019 at 9:03 pm

"Money was invented as a limiter by the ancient church then adopted by governments"

Er, what?

JBird4049 , April 28, 2019 at 11:42 pm

I think money as a concept arose in Sumer about 6-7 thousand years ago with the clay receipts given by the temple of the local city's patron god for livestock and grain stored there.

But my knowledge of money's history is limited. If anyone wants to correct or clarify, please do.

animalogic , April 29, 2019 at 5:34 am

Might be wrong but think (if my memory of Gerber serves) you refer to credit/debt. Actual money (coin) I think arose along side the use of large scale Armies (armies are both highly mobile & inherently amorphous -- ie people come & go, die, are wounded, loot must be traded etc, all of which is difficult in the absence of currency)

The Rev Kev , April 28, 2019 at 8:37 pm

Stock buybacks were once illegal because they are a type of stock market manipulation. But then Reagan got in and wanted to do his banker buddies a favour-

https://mavenroundtable.io/theintellectualist/news/stock-buybacks-were-once-illegal-why-are-they-legal-now-sHh6HZjtyk2styG-qLgnQg/

To think that Boeing has Ralph Nader of all people on their case. With apologies to Liam Neeson, Nader might be saying to Muilenberg right now: "If you are looking for (forgiveness), I can tell you I don't have (forgiveness). But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you go now, that'll be the end of it."
That sounds like good advice that.

drumlin woodchuckles , April 28, 2019 at 9:03 pm

Re-outlawing the "Stock Buyback" would be one useful reNew The Deal reform. Outlawing compensation in stocks, options, or etc. of any kind except money would be another useful Newer Deal reform. Both together would force-multiply each other's effect.

I hope the four Old Real Democrats have people reading these threads and taking any possibly-good ideas back to headquarters. I hope the New Catfood Democrats and their people aren't spying or eavesdropping on these threads.

JerryDenim , April 28, 2019 at 4:52 pm

Wow. Great post Lambert and nice job Mr Nader!

I love how Nader brings stock buy-backs into his letter and basically connects the dots from a recklessly designed aircraft system full circle to an indictment of our current shareholder value system of capitalism and its perverse incentive structure which includes safety shortcuts and runaway executive compensation. Such a perfect case study for this site!

I think Nader really should beat the drum heavily on the perverse incentive structure at Boeing and how executives shortchanged safety to grab more money for themselves because that's an easy story for a jury to understand. I see where Nader is going with the inherently "stall prone" aerodynamic design stuff, and he's not wrong, but I think he may be treading on dangerous ground. Automatic stabilizer trimming systems designed to overcome the negative aerodynamic attributes of the new 737 Max wing/engine design is a confusing rabbit hole for the lay person. Boeing attorneys and expert witnesses may be able to twist the jury's head into a pretzel on this issue. The debate and discussion here concerning process, decision making, design philosophy etc at Boeing has generally been of very high quality, but has a tendency to go off the rails when the discussion dives too deeply into the subject matter of aerodynamics and aircraft systems. I could see the same dynamic playing out in the courtroom. Nader is the master class-action consumer advocacy attorney not me, but I think he should go heavy buybacks and whistle blower warnings while avoiding unforced errors arguing over the not-so-important point of whether or not the 737 Max crashed because it was stall prone or because it was too stall adverse. Two brand new Boeings crashed, people died, Boeing was greedy, Boeing was hasty, the MCAS trim system was garbage and probably criminal. He's got a slam dunk case arguing the MCAS trim system with a single point of failure was poorly designed and recklessly conceived, I think he should just stick to that and the greed angle and avoid the stall prone vs. stall adverse debate. I wish him luck.

Darius , April 28, 2019 at 10:19 pm

They screwed up the plane design then thought an extra layer of software would ameliorate the problem enough. It sucks but it's probably just good enough. Seems pretty simple.

Darius , April 28, 2019 at 10:40 pm

They effed up the hardware and thought they could paper it over with more software. But at least the shareholders and executives did well.

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 1:15 am

As JerryDenim touched on, a good defense lawyer would probably be able to defeat this argument in front of a jury. There are too many examples of successful and safe commercial aircraft with aerodynamic compromises (the hardware, as you call it) that use software fixes to overcome these limitations. The focus in this case would need to be on the implementation of that software and how criminal neglect occurred there.

JerryDenim , April 29, 2019 at 3:31 am

Boeing's attorneys are going to try and make any lawsuits a question of why the airplanes ultimately crashed. I hate to spoil it for anyone, but I can tell you Boeing's attorneys are going to blame it all on the pilots. Airlines and airplane manufactures always do. Nothing new. Dead pilots can't defend themselves, their families don't have millions in the bank and they aren't going to be placing any billion dollar aircraft orders in the future. If anyone has read my frequently maligned comments, you already know the line of attack. Not following the runaway trim procedures and overspeeding the aircraft with takeoff thrust set. That's why Nader or anyone else pursuing Boeing would do well to sidestep the "why did two Boeing 737 Max Jets crash" question and stick to the details surrounding the horribly flawed MCAS trim system and the Boeing corporate greed story. Steer clear of the pilots' actions and the potentially confusing aerodynamics of modern jetliners, keep the focus squarely on the MCAS trim system design process and executive greed.

animalogic , April 29, 2019 at 5:55 am

Anyone prosecuting Boeing will have to deal with Boeing's defence, which as noted, will play up the commoness of such technical compromises. I do wonder whether Boeing will go after the pilots, though.
Any pilots argument naturally raises Boeing's negligence re : training, flight manuals & communication. The prosecution case will naturally play up the greed aspect as cause/motivation/
context for the crashes & Boeing's direct responsibility /negligence.

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 7:49 am

The defense would likely also pull in the airlines and FAA as targets for liability, as both have some responsibility for these matters. Attacking the FAA would be fodder for the de-regulators (Privatize it! Government is incompetent!). The airlines would complain that competition forces them to cut costs, and that they meet all of the (gutted) legal requirements.

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 1:44 am

I agree with focusing on the greed aspect. Nader's letter has some technical errors such as stating the engines were tilted (they were moved horizontally and vertically, not rotated) that show he hasn't fully understood the details. It doesn't help that many of the changes made to the 737 MAX from previous generations are actually quite subtle, and can't really be discussed individually for this context. It is the sum of these changes that made it an extremely deadly aircraft.

Norb , April 29, 2019 at 8:55 am

The other failure/business feature is the concept of modularity. The software designed to fix the aerodynamic complexities is broken down into modular components, and then sold off as "options". Once again greed sabotages the system. Modularity is a great way to gouge customers and lock in higher profits. The level of technical competence needed to properly evaluate what modules are essential complicates the outcome. But then again, this can be rationalized as a feature not a bug. Blame for failure can be passed around- the customer should have purchased the entire package.

The runaway externalities emanating from the current form of capitalism as practiced in the US must be reigned in. Voluntary compliance to some sort of moral code is useless- worse than useless in that corrupt operators can hide behind lame excuses for failure.

The bigger problem is that Government regulations could solve these problems quickly, as in throwing people in jail and confiscating their property. A strong argument can be made for ill-gotten gains. I surely would vote for that if given the chance. Deal drugs and you can loose your home. What about conscious business decisions
leading to harm?

You need a strong force external to these business concerns for this to happen. The separation of government and business. Business should operate at the will of the government. When the government is run with the wellbeing of the people foremost, then issues like crashing planes can be rectified.

When the interests of business and government merge, then what you have is fascism. American fascism will have a happy face. These unfortunate problems of crashing planes and polluted environments will trundle along into the future. Billionaires will continue to accumulate their billions while the rest of us will trundle along.

But one day, trundling along won't be an option. Maybe only outsiders to the US system can see this clearly.

Ray Duray , April 28, 2019 at 7:07 pm

You ask: "So when the original 737 was designed, did the engineers have the option of using these larger engines? Did they decline to do so because it was a flawed design?"

The larger engines currently in use on the 737 Max 8 were not designed until recently. They did not decline because the current engine wasn't even invented.

Here's an abbreviated design history: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_737#Engines

Edward , April 28, 2019 at 7:31 pm

I guess what I am wondering is if the original designers of the 737 had the option of designing a more powerful engine similar to that used in the 737 MAX but declined to do so. No doubt engine technology has advanced during the 50 years since the first 737's were built. Could the engineers 50 years ago have designed engines like those on the 737 MAX? If so, what were there reasons for not doing so?

I also have a second question. I have been told that stalling can be prevented by placing small wings at the front of an airplane. Would such a design have resolved the problems with the 737 MAX?

Plenue , April 28, 2019 at 9:14 pm

Fifty years of technological improvement, yes. The new engines aren't more powerful, they're more fuel efficient. Airbus had put more fuel efficient engines on its planes, so Boeing rushed new engines of its own into service to compete.

But they're really too large to be mounted on the 737; they mess up the center of gravity. MCAS was a janky software fix to solve a fundamental hardware problem, because Boeing didn't want to design a new plane.

And it didn't want to lose money by requiring airlines to retrain pilots, it sold the plane with the new engines as being exactly the same as the old, a painless upgrade.

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 4:48 am

Canards, as the small wings at the front of aircraft are sometimes called, would likely not have been a fix in this case. There are some light aircraft that use these for stall prevention by utilizing the aerodynamic properties of the wing. Since a stall (absence of lift) is often caused by the nose of aircraft being too high, you can design the canard so that it stalls before the main wing. Thus it's difficult for the whole plane to stall, since the nose will sink when the canard loses lift first and returns the plane to a more appropriate attitude. An example here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutan_VariEze

And explanation of canards here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canard_(aeronautics)

In high performance aircraft canards are used to increase maneuverability by providing another control surface.

We generally don't see them in commercial aircraft for a few reasons:

These are of course all very coarse generalizations – engineering is all about making technical and economic trade-offs.

A radical example of what can be accomplished by a combination of aerodynamics and software is the B-2 bomber – only one main wing, no tail or canards. I know, it has ejection seats but I sincerely doubt any aeronautical engineer has ever sat down and thought, "Hm, well, that's a sketchy design, but screw it, they can just eject if I messed up".

Edward , April 29, 2019 at 9:56 am

Thanks for this clear explanation. Would it make sense to locate the canards on the cockpit roof?

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 10:44 am

Possibly, here's an example, although these fold as well:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_Tu-144

There have been many concept aircraft that also had them mounted high.

Edward , April 29, 2019 at 1:58 pm

So would Boeing have to design a new plane to use canards? It would probably require the 737 MAX pilots to have new training. Boeing also seemed to want to hide the instability problem and the canards would be visual evidence for the problem.

Synoia , April 28, 2019 at 7:14 pm

The 737 Was designed in the '60. High bypass turbo fan engines had yet to be developed then. Upgrading the 737 is like adding a plug in hybrid engine to a Ford F100.

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 4:19 am

The original 737 was designed to be quite low to the ground, to allow for easier boarding in an era before widespread jetway use (models have even been offered with integrated pull out boarding stairs), and to allow for more accessible servicing.

This worked well with the engines of the time, which were often low bypass turbofans, and thus smaller in diameter. This combination of height and engines made sense for the market it was designed.

Most modern commercial engines are high bypass turbofans, and therefore larger in diameter. The move to larger fan diameters has been enabled by advances in materials, manufacturing technology, and simulation software, with the goal of increasing engine power and efficiency.

Another factor influencing the engine size that can be used without extensive redesign is the landing gear operation. Because it folds towards the centerline of the plane, and into pockets in the bottom of the fuselage, there is a limit on how long it can be before it becomes too long and each side would collide with the other. And one would need to redesign the wing box structure to accommodate the moved wheels.

VietnamVet , April 28, 2019 at 6:24 pm

Exactly. This is a textbook case of the looting of America.

The $30 billion dollars made by cutting costs including quality inspection, using an existing airframe, tax cuts and ignoring safety went directly to stock buybacks that benefited stockholders and C-suite compensation.

Just like 2008 Boeing is "too big to fail and jailing the executives would cause it to collapse". Unless Americans demand an end to the corruption and the restoration of the rule of law; the plundering will continue until there is nothing left to live on. Boeing could have designed two brand new safe airliners with that cash that would have provided jobs and efficient transportation into the future but instead the money went into the pockets of the connected rich and killed 346 people.

JBird4049 , April 28, 2019 at 8:39 pm

What really gets me is that ultimately that would have given the fools more money because the orders would have kept on coming and probably increase, which would mean more profit and more compensation for everyone. Of course that would have taken a few years instead of immediately. So now the compensation is going to crash. Oh wait! They will just sell again to themselves, strip the company, and sell the nameplate still affixed to some ruin.

I am starting to understand why the Goths had no resistance when in Italy and during the sack the city of Rome. Centuries earlier the Republic and then the Empire routinely raised multiple armies and dealt with catastrophes both natural and man made. At the end, not only could they not readily create an another army, they could not repair the aqueducts. Like we are becoming, Rome became a hollow shell.

drumlin woodchuckles , April 28, 2019 at 9:09 pm

And probably the only stockholders who even benefited would be the individual or family-dynasty rich stockholders who own many thousands to millions of shares of a particular stock at a time. It takes ownership of that many shares for a tiny benefit-per-share to add up to thousands or millions of tiny little benefits-per-share.

People with pensions or 401ks or whatever may well involuntarily "own" 2 or 3 or maybe 10 shares "apiece" of Boeing. But they derived no benefit from the tiny little benefit per share this maneuver gained for the shares.

ChrisPacific , April 28, 2019 at 7:13 pm

Re: appendix 3, over-steer is counter-intuitive as hell. Once it's underway you have to steer left during a right turn and vice versa. I have watched race drivers do it (very skillfully) at the track, but there is no way I would want to be in a car that did that in a pressure or potential accident situation without a lot of training beforehand.

dearieme , April 28, 2019 at 7:19 pm

"your obsession with shareholder value": shareholder value is not being attended to if the company is driven into the ground by virtue of its planes being driven into the ground.

Clearly the definition of "shareholder value" that these bozos use is as defective as their engineering decision-making.

Hang a few of them pour encourager les autres . And hang a few of the regulators who thought it would be a dandy idea to let the firm regulate itself.

drumlin woodchuckles , April 28, 2019 at 9:11 pm

And hang a few of the lawmakers and lawbuyers who legislatively de-budgeted and money-starved FAA into this " turn it over to the plane-makers" corner as well.

Late Introvert , April 28, 2019 at 9:19 pm

I noticed that Boeing is incorporated in the great state of Delaware. Ah-hem.

dearieme , April 29, 2019 at 11:46 am

Oh well, change their name to BidenAir.

oaf , April 28, 2019 at 9:15 pm

There is another case of air disaster often referred to in what is known as *Human Factors* training a L-1011 which *descended* into the glades; while the crew tried to sort out a problem with a light bulb. I suggest familiarizing with it for perspective. (not to exonerate Boeing; just to encourage keeping an open mind)

JerryDenim , April 29, 2019 at 3:09 am

Ahhh, the infamous Captain Buddy. Immortal tyrant of early CRM training fame

Lambert's mention of the DC-10 and it's fatally flawed, explosive decompressing cargo door sent me down a hole of DC-10 disasters and accident reports. Some of those DC-10 incidents like America Airlines flight 96 could have been major tragedies but were saved by level heads and airmanship that by today's standards would be considered exceptional. The AA 96 crew landed safely with no fatalities after an explosive decompression, a partially collapsed floor and severely compromised flight controls. The crew had to work together and use non-standard asymmetrical thrust and control inputs to overcome the effects of a stuck, fully deflected rudder and a crippled elevator. The pilots of the ill fated United flight 232, another DC-10, are celebrated exemplars of the early CRM case studies, both crew members and a United DC-10 instructor pilot who happened to be occupying the jumpseat all worked together to heroically crash land their horribly stricken craft in Sioux City Iowa with only partial aileron control and assymetrical thrust to control the airplane. No elevator, no rudder control. A good number of passengers perished but most lived. Those pilots in the two instances I mentioned were exceptional, and they had to resort to exceptional means to control their aircraft, but in light of airmanship of that caliber from just a few decades ago, it blows my mind that in 2019 the mere suggestion that professional airline pilots should probably still be capable of moving the thrust levers during a trim emergency is somehow controversial enough to expose oneself to charges of racism and bias?! Different times indeed.

Boeing 737 Max aside, airplanes seem to be a lot safer these days than they were in the 1970's and 80's. Widespread acceptance and adoption of CRM/TEM has made personalities like Captain Buddy and many bad cockpit automation practices relics from the past, but automation itself still looks to be increasingly guilty of deskilling professional pilot ranks. In light of that trend, it's a really good thing passenger jets in 2019 are more reliable than the DC-10 and easier to land than the MD-11.

The Rev Kev , April 29, 2019 at 12:53 am

Two more links on the saga of the 737 MAX-

"The Boeing 737 Max crashes show that 'deteriorating pilot skills' may push airlines to favor Airbus" at https://www.businessinsider.com/boeing-737-max-crashes-deteriorating-pilot-skills-airbus-2019-4/?r=AU&IR=T

"Southwest and FAA officials never knew Boeing turned off a safety feature on its 737 Max jets, and dismissed ideas about grounding them" at https://www.businessinsider.com.au/boeing-737-max-safety-features-disable-southwest-grounding-discussions-2019-4

JerryDenim , April 29, 2019 at 3:55 am

Deteriorating pilot skills. Yep. Now you're getting it. Problem is, more automation equals more pilot skill degradation. Everything is just peachy with highly automated "idiot proof" airplanes until something breaks, then who is supposed to fly the plane if the pilots can't? The flight attendants? Whoever is sitting in 1A? Airbus airplanes malfunction too, as documented in a number of well publicized disasters and not-so-well publicized near disasters, so while this may be an effective marketing pitch to an airline executive not able or not willing to pay for highly skilled, experienced pilots, it's not a solution to a pilot skill crisis. Long term, it makes the situation worse.

The Rev Kev , April 29, 2019 at 10:05 am

Personally I believe in training the hell out of pilots because if I get into a plane, I want a pilot at the controls and not an airplane-driver. I would bet that even I could be trained to fly an aircraft where most of the functions are automated but when things go south, that is when you want a pilot in control. Training is expensive but having an ill-trained pilot in the cockpit is even more expensive.

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 1:09 am

A thought . A completely fresh plane design is not necessarily safer. There is aways a trade off between innovation and proven reliability. It is surprisingly rare for an entirely new aircraft family to be introduced without at least one problem that threatens (but does not always take) lives.

tim , April 29, 2019 at 3:28 am

787 and 737 MAX are not the only problems Boeing have had.

The 737 NG (Next Generation) airplane using composite materials for the aircraft body, was also outsourced, The idea was that the Body parts would be built to exacting specifications, so they could be connected at the stage of final assembly. However, the sub-contractor couldn't live up to the specifications, so Boeing had to manually re-drill holes to connect the fuselage parts.

Not long after we had a series of crashes, where the fuselage broke up into its parts, something almost never seen before in airplanes.

youtube documentary from Australian SBS News:

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 6:29 am

For clarity, the 737 NG does not have a composite fuselage.

http://www.b737.org.uk/production.htm

skippy , April 29, 2019 at 5:37 am

Umm the investors and market demanded the executive suite too engage in such behavior or suffer the consequences aka hyper reporting et al.

oaf , April 29, 2019 at 9:18 am

There are other Human Factors at play; regarding pilot ability Measuring ability by simply looking at *hours flown* (often referred to as *experience*) is misleading. Relevant details might include just what types of experience. It is possible to get airline positions *ab initio*, or in-house, if you will (with 500 hours, (IIRC) OR:
Prospective pilots from private sector, or military, may be more likely to have diverse backgrounds; including Flight Instructor background, Upset Recovery training; Aerobatic flying; and Glider or sailplane background. These are not necessarily prerequisites for airline hires. Do they make a difference? in emergencies???

The change in Part 135 minimums for non ab-initio applicants has done little or nothing to improve safety. It did financially squeeze some very competent and capable career minded pilots out of the pipeline to the left front seat. (thanks chuck.)(f.u.) His feel-good legislation:*We're doing something about it!*

James McRitchie , April 29, 2019 at 9:22 am

It isn't just Boeing that is using share buybacks to goose CEO pay. Shareholders of American Express have an opportunity to vote to Deduct Impact of BuyBacks on Pay. See American Express 2019 Proxy Vote Recommendations

DJG , April 29, 2019 at 9:25 am

And lest we forget what a good corporate citizen Boeing is now that it has moved to Chicago to take advantage of the many, errrrr, advantages:

https://chicagoist.com/2017/04/28/boeing_pays_just_01_of_its_profits.php

Carolinian , April 29, 2019 at 10:03 am

But, but Nader made Al Gore lose in 2000. Good to see him out of the shadows (he has a podcst BTW).

While Boeing deserves every form of condemnation and Muilenberg should resign I do think the facts that were all laid out in that should-be-Pulitzer-winning Seattle Times series are being stretched a bit. The problem seems to be, not that the plane is prone to fall out of the sky, but that its handling characteristics differ from the earlier, ubiquitous, 737 models. MCAS is the defective part, and Boeing will pay plenty

tempar555510 , April 29, 2019 at 10:22 am

' But, but Nader made Al Gore lose in 2000. ' Please elucidate .

Tom , April 29, 2019 at 12:23 pm

Florida's presidential election in 2000 was expected to be close and likely to be decisive in the electoral college vote. Nader was a fairly popular third-party candidate for president in that election. Many supporters of Gore over Bush pleaded for Nader to exit that race and ask his supporters to vote for Gore. He did neither. In the end the margin of Bush's win in Florida was tiny, if it existed at all, so there was reason to be angry at Nader, as I was at the time, since if he had quit the race in that state, Gore would very likely have become president instead of Bush.

If you're into counterfactual teleology then you might say Nader's stubborn vanity therefore led to the Iraq and Afghan wars. I don't but it's worth being aware that some people do.

GF , April 29, 2019 at 1:52 pm

I can't find the link right now; but, it stated that after close study, most of the voters who voted for Nadar would not have voted for Gore and would have just sat out the election resulting in an even more pronounced victory for Bush. Gore's defeat came from his inability to win his home state of TN.

Carolinian , April 29, 2019 at 12:25 pm

Should have included the /sarc tag.

EoH , April 29, 2019 at 12:24 pm

Concurrence and causation are not the same.

The claim ignores other factors. Gore's lackadaisical campaign, for one, and its poor response to the BushCheney campaign's misuse of the legal system to stop the Florida recount.

It's not Gore's fault the Supreme Court's conservative majority chose to not let the FL supreme court determine what FL law means, and chose to decide the election itself. But his response to the Florida debacle was weak, like his campaign. That might be one reason so many people voted for Nader. That's on Al and on BushCheney.

Nels Nelson , April 29, 2019 at 11:42 am

Some additional information and clarification about the Corvair.

The Corvair had a rear mounted engine and rear wheel drive. This is a poor design from a handling perspective as the rear weight bias produces a pendulum effect making the Corvair prone to oversteer. This tendency was exacerbated by the Corvair's swing axle independent rear suspension with its inherent camber changes as the wheel moved up and down. These characteristics of the Corvair were deadly in that while cornering if you let off the accelerator, the engine brakes the rear wheels creating a condition called "throttle lift oversteer". Under this situation the counterintutive reaction should be to put your foot on the accelerator and not the brakes. Some of you may recall that comedian Ernie Kovacs was killed when his Corvair spun off the road in wet weather and hit a utility pole.

A paradox here is that the Porsche 911 has a design very similar to the Corvair, rear wheel drive, rear mounted engine and rear weight bias and is praised for its handling. The Corvair was sometimes referred to as a poor man's 911. It too was prone to severe and violent oversteer if the throttle was lifted while cornering but in the case of the 911 it was expected that the driver know that while cornering your foot stayed on the accelerator. As the horsepower of 911s increased over the years the tendency to oversteer was tamed by fitting larger tires on the rear wheels. With the advent of technologies like antilock braking systems ,traction control and advanced computers employing torque vectoring to control vehicle stablity, cars today do have their versions of MCAS and the Porsche can be referred to as a triumph of engineering over design.

marku52 , April 29, 2019 at 3:27 pm

The 911 had pivots at both ends of the stub axles. It would lift throttle oversteer (boy would it lift throttle oversteer -lots of fun if you knew what you were doing), but it would not do the jacking rear-end lift that the corvair (pivots only at the differential end of the half shaft) would do.

Oddly, the VW bug had the exact same layout but Ralph never went after it.

EoH , April 29, 2019 at 12:15 pm

Nader is right to point out the design flaws, which seem to have the potential to cascade into failure.

The new engine nacelles create unusual lift. Being placed forward of the center of lift, that causes the nose of the aircraft to rotate vertically upward. If uncorrected, that would cause the aircraft inappropriately to rise in altitude and/or to approach a stall.

The nacelle-induced lift increases with an increase in engine thrust. That increases speed and/or reduces the time the pilot has to react and to correct an inappropriate nose-up attitude.

Boeing seemed unable to correct that design problem through changes in the aircraft's shape or control surfaces. It corrected it, instead, by having the computer step in to fly the aircraft back into the appropriate attitude. Works when it works.

But Boeing seems to have forgotten a CompSci 101 problem: shit in, shit out. If the sensors feeding the computer report bad data, the computer will generate a bad solution. Boeing also seems to have designed the s/w to reset after manual attitude correction by the pilot, forcing a correction loop the pilots would not always win.

Boeing elected not to inform aircraft purchasers or their flight crews of their automated fix to their new aircraft's inherent instability problem. Murphy's Law being what it is – if something can go wrong, it will – the pilots should have been made aware of the recommended fix so that when something went wrong it, they would have a chance of fixing it with a routine response.

Boeing elected not to do that. In the short run, it avoided the need for expensive additional pilot training. In the long run, Boeing would have hoped to increase sales. When hoping for the best, it is normal practice to plan for the worst. Boeing seems not to have done that either.

The Heretic , April 29, 2019 at 4:41 pm

All this talk of CEO and top managment resignation . honestly they probably don't care. They have made millions, if not tens of millions of dollars on bonuses; they can retire once they walk out the door. To change the behaviour of the C-suite you must affect the C-suite directly, charge convict them with at least criminal negligence or worse.. A drunk driver who causes the accident will most likley go to jail if someone dies in the accident, how come a CEO and his mgmt team, can wilfully go against decades of engineering and aviation best practices that are codified, and still only have to resign??

Pat , April 29, 2019 at 7:07 pm

Reality check. Even with all this news . BA closed at:

$379.05 29 April 2019
$342.79 31 August 2018

Yeap the stock price is up from before the crashes. There are good reasons for the Boeing board to be indifferent – there is no punishment.

[Apr 29, 2019] Heritage Foundation + the War Industry What a Pair by Paul Gottfried

Notable quotes:
"... A 2009 Heritage Foundation report, " Maintaining the Superiority of America's Defense Industrial Base ," called for further government investment in aircraft weaponry for "ensuring a superior fighting force" and "sustaining international stability." In 2011, senior national security fellow James Carafano wrote " Five Steps to Defend America's Industrial Defense Base ," which complained about a "fifty billion dollar under-procurement by the Pentagon" for buying new weaponry. In 2016, Heritage made the case for several years of reinvestment to get the military back on "sound footing," with an increase in fiscal year 2016 described as "an encouraging start." ..."
"... These special pleas pose a question: which came first, Heritage's heavy dependence on funds from defense giants, or the foundation's belief that unless we steadily increase our military arsenal we'll be endangering "international stability"? ..."
"... note that from the Heritage 2015 IRS 990 submission the then president Jim DeMint was paid over a Million Bucks in total compensation. Trulio will no doubt also be living very large care of the MIC Cronies while in the Big Seat of that Think Pimp Tank ..."
"... Heritage senior national security fellow and defense contractor stooge James Carafano was paid over $300 Grand. Not bad scratch for merely shilling for the Merchants of Death. ..."
"... And those MIC Cronies are shrewd. It's not just Conservative Inc. They buy off EVERYBODY. ..."
"... To demonstrate how insidious the Security State propaganda is in shaping Fake News, Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors are named contributors to ostensibly left-leaning PBS/NPR. ..."
"... And Jeff Bezos' Amazon inked a $600M deal with CIA/NSA to provide cloud computing services, which is Amazon's actual cash cow. You think Bezos' Washington Post will go heavy on the civil liberties intrusions of the Deep State? ..."
"... BTW, Mad Dog Mattis parachuted into the SecDef job from a BoD slot at General Dynamics. Have we heard even a peep from Mad Dog about acquisition reform since he assumed his latest perch on the Security State apparatus? ..."
"... I wonder when Think Tanks will stop being "non-profit" and being issuing stock. ..."
"... When Keynes suggested digging holes to spend money, he did not mean using explosives to do so, and he did not want the bulk of it go to profiteers safely contained within their inflationary "national security" bubble. ..."
"... "In 2008, the Government Accountability Office found that 52 of the biggest defense contractors employed 2,435 former generals, senior executives and acquisition officers. Of those, 422 were in a position to work on defense contracts directly related to their former agencies and at least nine may have been working on the same contracts they previously oversaw." ..."
Nov 30, 2017 | www.theamericanconservative.com
Conservative think tank considers Lockheed fixture for its next president.

According to recent reports , the Heritage Foundation, clearly the most established and many would say politically influential conservative think tank in Washington, is considering David Trulio, Lockheed Martin vice president and longtime lobbyist for the defense industry, to be its next president. While Heritage's connection to Washington's sprawling national security industry is already well-established, naming Trulio as its president might be seen as gilding the lily.

If anything, reading this report made me more aware of the degree to which the "conservative policy community" in Washington depends on the whims and interests of particular donors.

And this relationship is apparently no longer something to be concealed or embarrassed by. One can now be open about being in the pocket of the defense industry. Trulio's potential elevation to Heritage president at what we can assume will be an astronomical salary, will no doubt grease the already well-oiled pipeline of funds from major contractors to this "conservative" foundation, which already operates with an annual disclosed budget of almost $100 million.

A 2009 Heritage Foundation report, " Maintaining the Superiority of America's Defense Industrial Base ," called for further government investment in aircraft weaponry for "ensuring a superior fighting force" and "sustaining international stability." In 2011, senior national security fellow James Carafano wrote " Five Steps to Defend America's Industrial Defense Base ," which complained about a "fifty billion dollar under-procurement by the Pentagon" for buying new weaponry. In 2016, Heritage made the case for several years of reinvestment to get the military back on "sound footing," with an increase in fiscal year 2016 described as "an encouraging start."

These special pleas pose a question: which came first, Heritage's heavy dependence on funds from defense giants, or the foundation's belief that unless we steadily increase our military arsenal we'll be endangering "international stability"? Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the middle: someone who is predisposed to go in a certain direction may be more inclined to do so if he is being rewarded in return. Incidentally, the 2009 position paper seems to be directing the government to throw more taxpayer dollars to Boeing than to its competitor Lockheed. But it seems both defense giants have landed a joint contract this year to produce a new submersible for the Navy, so it may no longer be necessary to pick sides on that one at least. No doubt both corporations will continue to look after Heritage, which will predictably call for further increases, whether they be in aerospace or shipbuilding.

Although one needn't reduce everything to dollars and cents, if we're looking at the issues Heritage and other likeminded foundations are likely to push today, it's far more probable they'll be emphasizing the national security state rather than, say, opposition to gay marriage or the defense of traditional gender roles. There's lots more money to be made advocating for the former rather than the latter. In May 2013, Heritage sponsored a formal debate between "two conservatives" and "two liberals" on the issue of defense spending, with Heritage and National Review presenting the "conservative" side. I wondered as I listened to part of this verbal battle why is was considered "conservative" to call for burdening American taxpayers with massive increases in the purchase of Pentagon weaponry and planes that take 17 years to get off the ground.

Like American higher education, Conservatism Inc. is very big business. Whatever else it's about rates a very far second to keeping the money flowing. "Conservative" positions are often simply causes for which foundations and media enterprises that have the word "conservative" attached to them are paid to represent. It is the label carried by an institution or publication, not necessarily the position it takes, that makes what NR or Heritage advocates "conservative."

In any event, Mr. Trulio won't have to travel far if he takes the Heritage helm. He and his corporation are already ensconced only a few miles away from Heritage's Massachusetts Avenue headquarters, if the information provided by Lockheed Martin is correct. It says: "Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 98,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services." A company like that can certainly afford to underwrite a think tank -- if the price is right.

Paul Gottfried is Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for twenty-five years. He is a Guggenheim recipient and a Yale PhD. He writes for many websites and scholarly journals and is the author of thirteen books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents. His books have been translated into multiple languages and seem to enjoy special success in Eastern Europe.


SteveM, says: November 30, 2017 at 11:19 am

Big Money Indeed

Professor Gottfried, note that from the Heritage 2015 IRS 990 submission the then president Jim DeMint was paid over a Million Bucks in total compensation. Trulio will no doubt also be living very large care of the MIC Cronies while in the Big Seat of that Think Pimp Tank .

Heritage senior national security fellow and defense contractor stooge James Carafano was paid over $300 Grand. Not bad scratch for merely shilling for the Merchants of Death.

And those MIC Cronies are shrewd. It's not just Conservative Inc. They buy off EVERYBODY.

To demonstrate how insidious the Security State propaganda is in shaping Fake News, Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors are named contributors to ostensibly left-leaning PBS/NPR.

You think NPR will ever run a story on the TRILLION dollar boondoggle that is the F-35 or the other hyper-busted weapon systems catastrophes? Or in interviews, challenge the idiotic fear-mongering of the Generals used as fronts for the bankrupt U.S. Global Cop foreign policy?

And Jeff Bezos' Amazon inked a $600M deal with CIA/NSA to provide cloud computing services, which is Amazon's actual cash cow. You think Bezos' Washington Post will go heavy on the civil liberties intrusions of the Deep State?

When the Post was still hard-copy-centric, LockMart and the other defense contractors regularly took out expensive full-color, full-page ads in the Post. When given that Pentagon weapons acquisition is all inside baseball, those adverts had no actual marketing value. They were merely payoffs to the Post to go easy on their reporting of defense contracting pathologies

BTW, Mad Dog Mattis parachuted into the SecDef job from a BoD slot at General Dynamics. Have we heard even a peep from Mad Dog about acquisition reform since he assumed his latest perch on the Security State apparatus?

Nope, given the massive Military-Security State lobbying and propaganda engine that is in place, it's all over but the crying for the deluded taxpayers.

sholto , says: November 30, 2017 at 11:26 am
i like that they dont dare call their reports Military Industrial Complex.

There is an interesting for arguing that these supposed non-profits should be forced to publish all donors and donations.

One Guy , says: November 30, 2017 at 1:22 pm
The US Military is the biggest Jobs Program/Corporate Welfare in the world. And many conservative voters are the biggest dupes in the world for not understanding that we don't need a big, expensive military to defend America.
b. , says: November 30, 2017 at 2:12 pm
'Which came first, Heritage's heavy dependence on funds from defense giants, or the foundation's belief that unless we steadily increase our military arsenal we'll be endangering "international stability"?'

The chicken-egg here is contrived – the military-industrial-congressional complex in general and 9/11 specifically provide an excellent example to explain punctuated equilibrium.

I wonder when Think Tanks will stop being "non-profit" and being issuing stock.

Until then, there will be many players engaged in vigorous rimming the self-penetrating sinkhole of "national security spending" to extract profits from the channeling of public purse funds financed with Treasury debt backed by the promise of the full tax revenue of government of the USA – supplied by tax cuts. I could accept the tongue wagging as a particularly offensive type of performance art, if the money that goes into the hole did not have to drop as bombs out of airplanes and from drones somewhere beyond the borders to ensure that demand sustains. When Keynes suggested digging holes to spend money, he did not mean using explosives to do so, and he did not want the bulk of it go to profiteers safely contained within their inflationary "national security" bubble.

Michael N Moore , says: November 30, 2017 at 7:32 pm
"In 2008, the Government Accountability Office found that 52 of the biggest defense contractors employed 2,435 former generals, senior executives and acquisition officers. Of those, 422 were in a position to work on defense contracts directly related to their former agencies and at least nine may have been working on the same contracts they previously oversaw."

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/12/12/trump-takes-aim-at-pentagons-revolving-door-and-lockheed-martins-400-billion-f-35-program/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_f35-1130a%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

DGJ , says: December 3, 2017 at 10:52 am
Movement conservatism is dead, somebody should bury its' corpse because it is stinking up the room.
EliteCommInc. , says: December 7, 2017 at 3:45 pm
I finally broke down and started watching

"War Machine"

[Apr 28, 2019] Boeing Didn't Tell Southwest Or FAA That It Had Disabled Critical Safety Alerts On 737 MAX

Notable quotes:
"... The article also discusses how some frontline FAA safety inspectors wanted to ground the MAXes until the "AoA Disagree" indicators were re-enabled, but were overridden by higher-ups who insisted that it was not a primary safety feature. ..."
Apr 28, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

Zachary Smith , Apr 28, 2019 3:58:25 PM | link

Here is a headline from a couple of days ago:

FAA could clear Boeing 737 MAX to fly again within weeks

Yes, the very last country to pull the 737-MAX out of use is going to be the first to put it back. There is some serious money being lost by Boeing and the Airlines, and they want to put a stop to it. This is all about millions and millions of Benjamins, for "they" are taking a shortct to save even more money.

A draft report by an FAA-appointed board of pilots, engineers and other experts concluded that pilots only need additional computer-based training to understand MCAS, rather than simulator time.

Simulators are EXPENSIVE, so the plan is to give the pilots a joystick and a computer, and maybe throw in some lectures and videos of other pilots using a real flight simulator. Are you ready to rush to reserve a flight?

This isn't a bad deal just for the flight crews and passengers, but the pure stench of it is contaminating other arenas. A Denier site I'm not going to link has managed to leverage the lack of regulator oversight by the FAA to lots of other places.

Planes, Automobiles, Bicycles, Homes, Hospitals, Schools, and Sidewalks Can All Be Made Unsafe by Mad Science, Rush to Market, and Corrupt Regulators

They don't include "vaccines" in that list because their readers understand perfectly well that if the FAA is a crap agency, why not the FDA as well? Much as I hate to admit it, the Deniers didn't have to break a sweat to score these perfectly valid points.

Does anyone imagine Volkswagen could have gotten away with all those years of cheating on their emissions if the regulators had been doing their jobs?

How did China get away with shipping that cancer-causing blood pressure medicine to the US for so many years? It's safe to assume some bored "regulator" was just waving the stuff on past without doing a single test.

This is going to cost us. I'm out of links, but here is a headline to consider.

Russia's Irkut aircraft manufacturer has posted the first video of a direct flight by its MS-21-300 airliner from Irkutsk to Ulyanovsk-Vostochny Airfield.

The brand-new Russian passenger craft is designed to transport up to 211 people over a distance of 6,400 kilometres.

There are competitors out there, and they can't be fended off by "sanctions" forever. Allowing unwatched & unregulated companies to run amok is going to hurt us all in the long term.

S , Apr 28, 2019 5:21:07 PM | link

There is a brand new Boeing piece at Naked Capitalism.

Ralph Nader Calls Out Boeing for 737 MAX Lack of Airworthiness, Stock Buybacks, and Demands Muilenburg Resign

Boeing management's behavior must be seen in the context of Boeing's use of its earned capital. Did you use the $30 billion surplus from 2009 to 2017 to reinvest in R&D, in new narrow-body passenger aircraft? Or did you, instead, essentially burn this surplus with self-serving stock buybacks of $30 billion in that period? Boeing is one of the companies that MarketWatch labelled as "Five companies that spent lavishly on stock buybacks while pension funding lagged. "

Feathering the Corporate Nest while stiffing the workers. Just what Wall Street loves. "Ugly" at Boeing isn't a 'skin deep' issue - it's that way clear to the bone!

Zachary Smith | Apr 28, 2019 4:28:00 PM

Boeing Didn't Tell Southwest Or FAA That It Had Disabled Critical Safety Alerts On 737 MAX

The article also discusses how some frontline FAA safety inspectors wanted to ground the MAXes until the "AoA Disagree" indicators were re-enabled, but were overridden by higher-ups who insisted that it was not a primary safety feature.

[Apr 27, 2019] A surprisingly crude expression by Huntsman is in fact typical for Trump administration rhetoric with its "Might makes right" mentality of old imperialists

Looks like some people in Trump administration are completely unhinged and try to imitate the most clueless members of the US Congress.
But what you can expect from the State Department which is led by Pompeo ?
Huntsman should be awarded b the special medal "For the promotion of anti-Americanism in Russia"
Apr 27, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com

Ishmael Zechariah , 27 April 2019 at 11:00 AM

Colonel,
I would appreciate your comments about John Huntsman and his remarks " each of the carriers operating in the Mediterranean as this time represent 100,000 tons of international diplomacy", "Diplomatic communication and dialogue, coupled with the strong defenses these ships provide, demonstrate to Russia that if it truly seeks better relations with the United states, it must cease its destabilizing activities around the world." Strange words coming from a "diplomat". It might be informative to see the kind of a reception he will get when he returns to Russia as "ambassador".
Ishmael Zechariah
turcopolier , 27 April 2019 at 11:00 AM
IZ A surprisingly crude expression by Huntsman but, in fact, reality in this administration.

[Apr 25, 2019] Mish Boeing 737 Max Unsafe To Fly, New Scathing Report By Pilot, Software Designer

Apr 25, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,

A pilot with 30 years of flying experience and 40 years of design experience rips decisions made by Boeing and the FAA.

Gregory Travis, a software developer and pilot for 30 years wrote a scathing report on the limitations of the 737, and the arrogance of software developers unfit to write airplane code.

Travis provides easy to understand explanations including a test you can do by sticking your hand out the window of a car to demonstrate stall speed.

Design shortcuts meant to make a new plane seem like an old, familiar one are to blame.

This was all about saving money. Boeing and the FAA pretend the 737-Max is the same aircraft as the original 737 that flew in 1967, over 50 years ago.

Travis was 3 years old at the time. Back then, the 737 was a smallish aircraft with smallish engines and relatively simple systems. The new 737 is large and complicated.

Boeing cut corners to save money. Cutting corners works until it fails spectacularly.

Aerodynamic and Software Malpractice

Please consider How the Boeing 737 Max Disaster Looks to a Software Developer . Emphasis is mine.

The original 737 had (by today's standards) tiny little engines, which easily cleared the ground beneath the wings. As the 737 grew and was fitted with bigger engines, the clearance between the engines and the ground started to get a little um, tight.

With the 737 Max, the situation became critical. The engines on the original 737 had a fan diameter (that of the intake blades on the engine) of just 100 centimeters (40 inches); those planned for the 737 Max have 176 cm. That's a centerline difference of well over 30 cm (a foot), and you couldn't "ovalize" the intake enough to hang the new engines beneath the wing without scraping the ground.

The solution was to extend the engine up and well in front of the wing. However, doing so also meant that the centerline of the engine's thrust changed. Now, when the pilots applied power to the engine, the aircraft would have a significant propensity to "pitch up," or raise its nose. This propensity to pitch up with power application thereby increased the risk that the airplane could stall when the pilots "punched it"

Worse still, because the engine nacelles were so far in front of the wing and so large, a power increase will cause them to actually produce lift, particularly at high angles of attack. So the nacelles make a bad problem worse.

I'll say it again: In the 737 Max, the engine nacelles themselves can, at high angles of attack, work as a wing and produce lift. And the lift they produce is well ahead of the wing's center of lift, meaning the nacelles will cause the 737 Max at a high angle of attack to go to a higher angle of attack. This is aerodynamic malpractice of the worst kind.

It violated that most ancient of aviation canons and probably violated the certification criteria of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. But instead of going back to the drawing board and getting the airframe hardware right, Boeing relied on something called the "Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System," or MCAS.

It all comes down to money , and in this case, MCAS was the way for both Boeing and its customers to keep the money flowing in the right direction. The necessity to insist that the 737 Max was no different in flying characteristics, no different in systems, from any other 737 was the key to the 737 Max's fleet fungibility. That's probably also the reason why the documentation about the MCAS system was kept on the down-low.

Put in a change with too much visibility, particularly a change to the aircraft's operating handbook or to pilot training, and someone -- probably a pilot -- would have piped up and said, "Hey. This doesn't look like a 737 anymore." And then the money would flow the wrong way.

When the flight computer trims the airplane to descend, because the MCAS system thinks it's about to stall, a set of motors and jacks push the pilot's control columns forward. It turns out that the Elevator Feel Computer can put a lot of force into that column -- indeed, so much force that a human pilot can quickly become exhausted trying to pull the column back, trying to tell the computer that this really, really should not be happening .

MCAS is implemented in the flight management computer, even at times when the autopilot is turned off, when the pilots think they are flying the plane. I n a fight between the flight management computer and human pilots over who is in charge, the computer will bite humans until they give up and (literally) die . Finally, there's the need to keep the very existence of the MCAS system on the hush-hush lest someone say, "Hey, this isn't your father's 737," and bank accounts start to suffer.

Those lines of code were no doubt created by people at the direction of managers.

In a pinch, a human pilot could just look out the windshield to confirm visually and directly that, no, the aircraft is not pitched up dangerously. That's the ultimate check and should go directly to the pilot's ultimate sovereignty. Unfortunately, the current implementation of MCAS denies that sovereignty. It denies the pilots the ability to respond to what's before their own eyes.

In the MCAS system, the flight management computer is blind to any other evidence that it is wrong, including what the pilot sees with his own eyes and what he does when he desperately tries to pull back on the robotic control columns that are biting him, and his passengers, to death.

The people who wrote the code for the original MCAS system were obviously terribly far out of their league and did not know it. How can they can implement a software fix, much less give us any comfort that the rest of the flight management software is reliable?

So Boeing produced a dynamically unstable airframe, the 737 Max. That is big strike No. 1. Boeing then tried to mask the 737's dynamic instability with a software system. Big strike No. 2. Finally, the software relied on systems known for their propensity to fail (angle-of-attack indicators) and did not appear to include even rudimentary provisions to cross-check the outputs of the angle-of-attack sensor against other sensors, or even the other angle-of-attack sensor. Big strike No. 3.

None of the above should have passed muster. It is likely that MCAS, originally added in the spirit of increasing safety, has now killed more people than it could have ever saved. It doesn't need to be "fixed" with more complexity, more software. It needs to be removed altogether .

Numerous Bad Decisions at Every Stage

Ultimately 346 people are dead because of really bad decisions, software engineer arrogance, and Boeing's pretense that the 737 Max is the same aircraft as 50 years ago.

It is incredible that the plane has two sensors but the system only uses one. A look out the window was enough to confirm the sensor was wrong.

Boeing also offered "cheap" versions of the aircraft without some controls. The two crashed flights were with the cheaper aircraft.

An experienced pilot with adequate training could have disengaged MACS but in one of the crashed flights, the pilot was desperately reading a manual trying to figure out how to do that.

Flight Stall Test

If you stick you hand out the window of a car and your hand is level to the ground. You have a low angle of attack. There is no lift. Tilt your hand a bit and you have lift. Your arm will rise.

When the angle of attack on the wing of an aircraft is too great the aircraft enters aerodynamic stall. The same thing happens with your hand out a car window.

At a steep enough angle your arm wants to flop down on the car door.

The MACS software overrides what a pilot can see by looking out the window.

Useless Manuals

If you need a manual to stop a plane from crashing mid-flight, the manual is useless. It's already too late. The pilot had seconds in which to react. Yet, instead of requiring additional training, and alerting pilots of the dangers, Boeing put this stuff in a manual.

This was necessary as part of the pretense that a 737 is a 737 is a 737.


Swamidon , 2 minutes ago link

In my day Pilot's were repeatedly cautioned not to fly the aircraft to the scene of an accident since nobody survives a high speed crash or a stall. Non-pilots can vote me down but the proper action at the second the pilot lost control of his aircraft that close to the ground should have been to pull power, drop flaps, and make a soft field landing that some passengers would have survived.

wide angle tree , 2 minutes ago link

Sure it's a flying turd, but it will be back in the air soon. The CEO can spew buzzwords at the speed of sound. The FAA will approve any fix Boeing pukes forth cause nobody has the moral courage to stand in the way of making the big money.

I Write Code , 8 minutes ago link

I saw that article in Spectrum and while it makes some points about software development he mixes it up with generic claims way beyond his expertise. Editors at Spectrum should be fired.

Hope Copy , 10 minutes ago link

Cirrus Jet got grounded due to this MACS problem.. This CODE is all over the place and probably in AIRBUS also [(.. I'm betting that it was stolen from AIRBUS] Computer controlled fly by wire is death-in-a-box as it can always be hacked.

arby63 , 17 minutes ago link

Scary stuff there.

paul20854 , 18 minutes ago link

Boeing thinks it will fix the problem with its "MCAS" software. While it may do so on paper, there remains the problem of the weight distribution of engines, cargo and fuel which is placing the center of gravity behind the center of pressure for this modified aircraft during flight near the stall point. That problem is faulty aerodynamics. Any aircraft that is inherently aerodynamically unstable should never be flown in a commercial setting. Ground them all. Fire the stupid fools who allowed this beast to fly, including those at the FAA. And finally, sell your Boeing stock.

N3M3S1S , 12 minutes ago link

Sell your Boeing Stock FIRST

Born2Bwired , 19 minutes ago link

Recommend reading entire missive which was sent to me by a retired Aircraft Captain this morning.

ZH link didn't work for me.

https://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/aviation/how-the-boeing-737-max-disaster-looks-to-a-software-developer.amp.html

The guy is a very clear writer and explains things quite well.

edit: looks like there is now a sign in wall that wasn't there from my tablet.

Scaliger , 20 minutes ago link

Wing fences (see: wikipedia, for photos) are the only solution to the Leading Edge Extension,

that the upwards and wider jet engine cowling imposes.

This extension causes the wing stall problem.

Wing fences improve the longitudinal flow, on the expense of lateral flow,

thus delay border layer separation, thus curb wing stall.

robertocarlos , 38 minutes ago link

There's a picture of a man who jet skied over Niagara Falls. He wore a parachute but it failed to open in time. I think he needed more height.

jewish_master , 42 minutes ago link

Glorified Tesla.

oobilly , 43 minutes ago link

Single point failure designed into the plane isnt much of a business plan.

piavpn , 46 minutes ago link

Just remember to fart well.

Have a nice farty day.

robertocarlos , 49 minutes ago link

It's a POS and they are going to ram it down our throats in July. If you have to fly then you have to take this plane.

Ohanzee , 40 minutes ago link

Not really. Don't fly with Boeing.

Aubiekong , 52 minutes ago link

Hiring engineers for diversity and not for ability has consequences...

bluskyes , 39 minutes ago link

.gov gravy requires diversity

arby63 , 10 minutes ago link

Can you say EEO. That's causing all sorts of issues throughout the economy--especially in manufacturing.

[Apr 24, 2019] Which is the Greater Threat - Russia or the United States

Apr 24, 2019 | viableopposition.blogspot.com

I found it particularly interesting that nations like Germany, Japan, Mexico and South Korea which have traditionally been viewed as pro-American overwhelmingly found that the United States was a greater threat to their nation than Russia. Not surprisingly, only a very small 15 percent of Israelis felt that the United States was a greater threat compared to 28 percent who felt that Russia was a greater threat, however the percentage of Israelis that are concerned about American power is up from only 9 percent in 2013.

Looking back in time, more people now believe that the United States is a greater threat to their nation than in 2013 and 2017; in 2018, a median of 45 percent of all respondents believed that the United States was a major threat to their nation, up from 38 percent in 2017 and 25 percent in 2013.

... ... ...

Once again, it is interesting to observe that nations like France and Germany that have traditionally been viewed as pro-American have seen the highest increase in their assessment of the threat posed by American power.

The growing power and influence wielded by the United States is now rather widely viewed by the world as a far greater threat than the power and influence wielded by Russia, particularly when one looks back to 2013. Respondents in just over 70 percent of the 26 nations in the study feel that America forms a greater threat to their home nation than the much-vilified Russia, a result that is not terribly surprising given the events of the past two years in Washington.

[Apr 22, 2019] Boeing s 737 Max Debacle The Result of a Dangerously Pro-Automation Design Philosophy

Notable quotes:
"... "One of the problems we have with the system is, why put a system like that on an airplane in the first place?" said Slack, who doesn't represent any survivors of either the Lion Air or Ethiopia Airlines crashes. "I think what we're going to find is that because of changes from the (Boeing 737) 800 series to the MAX series, there are dramatic changes in which they put in controls without native pitch stability. It goes to the basic DNA of the airplane. It may not be fixable." ..."
"... But it's also important that the pilots get physical feedback about what is going on. In the old days, when cables connected the pilot's controls to the flying surfaces, you had to pull up, hard, if the airplane was trimmed to descend. You had to push, hard, if the airplane was trimmed to ascend. With computer oversight there is a loss of natural sense in the controls. There is only an artificial feel, a feeling that the computer wants the pilots to feel. And sometimes, it doesn't feel so great. ..."
"... An airplane approaching an aerodynamic stall cannot, under any circumstances, have a tendency to go further into the stall. This is called "dynamic instability," and the only airplanes that exhibit that characteristic -- fighter jets -- are also fitted with ejection seats. ..."
"... The airframe, the hardware, should get it right the first time and not need a lot of added bells and whistles to fly predictably. This has been an aviation canon from the day the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk. ..."
"... When the flight computer trims the airplane to descend, because the MCAS system thinks it's about to stall, a set of motors and jacks push the pilot's control columns forward. It turns out that the flight management computer can put a lot of force into that column -- indeed, so much force that a human pilot can quickly become exhausted trying to pull the column back, trying to tell the computer that this really, really should not be happening. ..."
"... MCAS is implemented in the flight management computer, even at times when the autopilot is turned off, when the pilots think they are flying the plane. In a fight between the flight management computer and human pilots over who is in charge, the computer will bite humans until they give up and (literally) die ..."
"... Like someone with narcissistic personality disorder, MCAS gaslights the pilots. And it turns out badly for everyone. "Raise the nose, HAL." "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that." ..."
"... Travis also describes the bad business incentives that led Boeing to conceptualize and present the 737 Max as just a tweak of an existing design, as opposed to being so areodynamically different as to be a new plane .and require time-consuming and costly recertification. To succeed in that obfuscation, Boeing had to underplay the existence and role of the MCAS system: ..."
"... Travis also explains why the FAA allows for what amounts to self-certification. This practice didn't result from the usual deregulation pressures, but from the FAA being unable to keep technical experts from being bid away by private sector players. Moreover, the industry has such a strong safety culture (airplanes falling out of the sky are bad for business) that the accommodation didn't seem risky. ..."
"... The 737 Max saga teaches us not only about the limits of technology and the risks of complexity, it teaches us about our real priorities. Today, safety doesn't come first -- money comes first, and safety's only utility in that regard is in helping to keep the money coming. The problem is getting worse because our devices are increasingly dominated by something that's all too easy to manipulate: software ..."
Apr 22, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Even though Boeing is scrambling to fix the software meant to counter the 737 Max's increased propensity to stall as a result of the placement of larger, more fuel=efficient engines in a way that reduced the stability of the plane in flight, it's not clear that this will be adequate in terms of flight safety or the public perception of the plane. And even though the FAA is almost certain to sign off on Boeing's patch, foreign regulators may not be so forgiving. The divergence we've seen between the FAA and other national authorities is likely to intensify. Recall that China grounded the 737 Max before the FAA. In another vote of no confidence, even as Boeing was touting that its changes to its now infamous MCAS software, designed to compensate for safety risks introduced by the placement of the engines on the 737 Max, the Canadian air regulator said he wanted 737 Max pilots to have flight simulator training, contrary to the manufacturer's assertion that it isn't necessary. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that American Airlines is developing 737 Max flight simulator training .

But a fundamental question remains: can improved software compensate for hardware shortcomings? Some experts harbor doubts. For instance, from the Spokane Spokesman-Review :

"One of the problems we have with the system is, why put a system like that on an airplane in the first place?" said Slack, who doesn't represent any survivors of either the Lion Air or Ethiopia Airlines crashes. "I think what we're going to find is that because of changes from the (Boeing 737) 800 series to the MAX series, there are dramatic changes in which they put in controls without native pitch stability. It goes to the basic DNA of the airplane. It may not be fixable."

"It is within the realm of possibility that, if much of the basic pitch stability performance of the plane cannot be addressed by a software fix, a redesign may be required and the MAX might not ever fly," [aviation attorney and former NASA aerospace engineer Mike] Slack said.

An even more damming take comes in How the Boeing 737 Max Disaster Looks to a Software Developer in IEEE Spectrum (hat tip Marshall Auerback). Author Greg Travis has been a software developer for 40 years and a pilot. He does a terrific job of explaining the engineering and business considerations that drove the 737 Max design. He describes why the plane's design is unsound and why the software patch in the form of MCAS was inadequate, and an improved version is unlikely to be able to compensate for the plane's deficiencies.

Even for those who have been following the 737 Max story, this article has background that is likely to be new. For instance, to a large degree, pilots do not fly commercial aircraft. Pilots send instructions to computer systems that fly these planes. Travis explains early on that the As Travis explains:

In the 737 Max, like most modern airliners and most modern cars, everything is monitored by computer, if not directly controlled by computer. In many cases, there are no actual mechanical connections (cables, push tubes, hydraulic lines) between the pilot's controls and the things on the wings, rudder, and so forth that actually make the plane move ..

But it's also important that the pilots get physical feedback about what is going on. In the old days, when cables connected the pilot's controls to the flying surfaces, you had to pull up, hard, if the airplane was trimmed to descend. You had to push, hard, if the airplane was trimmed to ascend. With computer oversight there is a loss of natural sense in the controls. There is only an artificial feel, a feeling that the computer wants the pilots to feel. And sometimes, it doesn't feel so great.

Travis also explains why the 737 Max's engine location made the plane dangerously unstable:

Pitch changes with power changes are common in aircraft. Even my little Cessna pitches up a bit when power is applied. Pilots train for this problem and are used to it. Nevertheless, there are limits to what safety regulators will allow and to what pilots will put up with.

Pitch changes with increasing angle of attack, however, are quite another thing. An airplane approaching an aerodynamic stall cannot, under any circumstances, have a tendency to go further into the stall. This is called "dynamic instability," and the only airplanes that exhibit that characteristic -- fighter jets -- are also fitted with ejection seats.

Everyone in the aviation community wants an airplane that flies as simply and as naturally as possible. That means that conditions should not change markedly, there should be no significant roll, no significant pitch change, no nothing when the pilot is adding power, lowering the flaps, or extending the landing gear.

The airframe, the hardware, should get it right the first time and not need a lot of added bells and whistles to fly predictably. This has been an aviation canon from the day the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk.

Travis explains in detail why the MCAS approach to monitoring the angle of attack was greatly inferior to older methods .including having the pilots look out the window. And here's what happens when MCAS goes wrong:

When the flight computer trims the airplane to descend, because the MCAS system thinks it's about to stall, a set of motors and jacks push the pilot's control columns forward. It turns out that the flight management computer can put a lot of force into that column -- indeed, so much force that a human pilot can quickly become exhausted trying to pull the column back, trying to tell the computer that this really, really should not be happening.

Indeed, not letting the pilot regain control by pulling back on the column was an explicit design decision. Because if the pilots could pull up the nose when MCAS said it should go down, why have MCAS at all?

MCAS is implemented in the flight management computer, even at times when the autopilot is turned off, when the pilots think they are flying the plane. In a fight between the flight management computer and human pilots over who is in charge, the computer will bite humans until they give up and (literally) die

Like someone with narcissistic personality disorder, MCAS gaslights the pilots. And it turns out badly for everyone. "Raise the nose, HAL." "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."

Travis also describes the bad business incentives that led Boeing to conceptualize and present the 737 Max as just a tweak of an existing design, as opposed to being so areodynamically different as to be a new plane .and require time-consuming and costly recertification. To succeed in that obfuscation, Boeing had to underplay the existence and role of the MCAS system:

The necessity to insist that the 737 Max was no different in flying characteristics, no different in systems, from any other 737 was the key to the 737 Max's fleet fungibility. That's probably also the reason why the documentation about the MCAS system was kept on the down-low.

Put in a change with too much visibility, particularly a change to the aircraft's operating handbook or to pilot training, and someone -- probably a pilot -- would have piped up and said, "Hey. This doesn't look like a 737 anymore."

To drive the point home, Travis contrasts the documentation related to MCAS with documentation Cessna provided with an upgrade to its digital autopilot, particularly warnings. The difference is dramatic and it shouldn't be. He concludes:

In my Cessna, humans still win a battle of the wills every time. That used to be a design philosophy of every Boeing aircraft, as well, and one they used against their archrival Airbus, which had a different philosophy. But it seems that with the 737 Max, Boeing has changed philosophies about human/machine interaction as quietly as they've changed their aircraft operating manuals.

Travis also explains why the FAA allows for what amounts to self-certification. This practice didn't result from the usual deregulation pressures, but from the FAA being unable to keep technical experts from being bid away by private sector players. Moreover, the industry has such a strong safety culture (airplanes falling out of the sky are bad for business) that the accommodation didn't seem risky. But it is now:

So Boeing produced a dynamically unstable airframe, the 737 Max. That is big strike No. 1. Boeing then tried to mask the 737's dynamic instability with a software system. Big strike No. 2. Finally, the software relied on systems known for their propensity to fail (angle-of-attack indicators) and did not appear to include even rudimentary provisions to cross-check the outputs of the angle-of-attack sensor against other sensors, or even the other angle-of-attack sensor. Big strike No. 3.

None of the above should have passed muster. None of the above should have passed the "OK" pencil of the most junior engineering staff, much less a DER [FAA Designated Engineering Representative].

That's not a big strike. That's a political, social, economic, and technical sin .

The 737 Max saga teaches us not only about the limits of technology and the risks of complexity, it teaches us about our real priorities. Today, safety doesn't come first -- money comes first, and safety's only utility in that regard is in helping to keep the money coming. The problem is getting worse because our devices are increasingly dominated by something that's all too easy to manipulate: software

I believe the relative ease -- not to mention the lack of tangible cost -- of software updates has created a cultural laziness within the software engineering community. Moreover, because more and more of the hardware that we create is monitored and controlled by software, that cultural laziness is now creeping into hardware engineering -- like building airliners. Less thought is now given to getting a design correct and simple up front because it's so easy to fix what you didn't get right later .

It is likely that MCAS, originally added in the spirit of increasing safety, has now killed more people than it could have ever saved. It doesn't need to be "fixed" with more complexity, more software. It needs to be removed altogether.

There's a lot more in this meaty piece . Be sure to read it in full.

And if crapification by software has undermined the once-vanuted airline safety culture, why should we hold out hope for any better with self-driving cars?


Fazal Majid , April 22, 2019 at 2:11 am

Automation is not the issue. Boeing cutting corners and putting only one or two angle of attack sensors is. Just like a man with two clocks can't tell the time, if one of the sensors malfunctions, the computer has no way of knowing which one is wrong. That's why Airbus puts three sensors in its aircraft, and why Boeing's Dreamliner has three computers with CPUs from three different manufacturers to get the necessary triple redundancy.

Thus this is really about Boeing's shocking negligence in putting profits above safety, and the FAA's total capture to the point Boeing employees did most of the certification work. I would add the corrosion of Boeing's ethical standards was completely predictable once it acquired McDonnell-Douglas and became a major defense contractor.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 8:08 am

I beg to differ since it looks like you didn't read the article in full, as a strongly recommended. The article has a section on the cost of fixing hardware problems versus software problems. Hardware problems are enormously costly to fix.

The plane has a hardware problem resulting from Boeing not being willing to risk having to recertify a fuel efficient 737. So rather than making the plane higher off the ground (new landing gear, which other articles indicate was a non-starter since it would lead to enough other changes so as to necessitate recertification) and trying to fix a hardware problem with software. That has two knock-on problems: it's not clear this will ever be adequate (not just Travis' opinion) and second, it's risky given the software industry's propensity to ship and patch later. Boeing created an additional problem, as Travis stresses, by greatly underplaying the existence of MCAS (it was mentioned after page 700 in the documentation!) and maintaining the fiction that pilots didn't need simulator training, which some regulators expect will be the case even after the patch.

You also miss the point the article makes: the author argues (unlike in banking), the FAA coming to rely on the airlines for certification wasn't a decision they made, but an adaptation to the fact that they could no longer hire and retain the engineers they needed to do the work at the FAA on government pay scales. By contrast, at (say) the SEC, you see a revolving door of lawyers from plenty fancy firms. You have plenty of "talent" willing to work at the SEC, but with bad incentives.

Susan the other` , April 22, 2019 at 10:57 am

Thank you for reviewing this. 700+ pages! I thought it was paywalled bec. so slow to download. The resistance to achieving fuel efficiency is front and center these days. One thing I relate it to is the Macron attitude of punishing the fuel consumer to change the market. Cart before horse. When the FAA sent down fuel efficiency requirements it might have been similarly preemptive, now in hindsight. There should have been legislation and regulation which adjusted the profitability of the airline industry via better tax breaks or regulations against aggressive competition. The safety of airlines would have been upheld if the viability of the company were protected. So even domestic protectionism when it comes to safety. And in so doing, the FAA/congress could also have controlled and limited airline use which tries to make up in volume for all the new costs it incurs. It's a serious problem when you are so carefree as a legislator that you let the free market do it. What a mess. Quality is the first thing to go.

foppe , April 22, 2019 at 11:41 am

reminds me of what was said about risk departments inside banks -- deliberately lowly paid, so that anyone with skills would move on or easily be hired away. Was it you? Bill Black? Luyendijk? I don't remember. Either way..

Marley's dad , April 22, 2019 at 11:45 am

I did read the article completely and I was an aircraft commander of a C-141A during the Viet Nam war and I am a degreed electrical engineer.

Having flown the C-141A for several thousand hours I am very familiar with the aircraft pitching up almost uncontrollably. A favorite trick that C -141 flight instructors pulled on pilots new to aircraft was to tell the student pilot to "go around" (for the first time during his training) on an approach. The student pilot followed the flight manual procedure and started to raise the nose while advancing the throttles to full power. However, what wasn't covered in the flight manual was the fact that a HUGE trim change occurred when the engines went from near idle to full power. To regain control, it took both hands (arms) to move the yoke away from your chest while running nose down trim. While you were doing this the airplane was trying to stand on its tail. On the other hand none of us ever forgot the lesson.

The C-141 was not fly by wire; however all control surfaces were equipped with hydraulic assist and "feel springs" to mimic control feel without the hydraulics. The feel springs for the elevators must have been selected using a human subject like Arnold Schwarzenegger because (in my opinion) they were much stronger than necessary. The intent was to prevent the pilots from getting into excessive angles of pitch, which absolutely would occur if you weren't prepared for it on a "go around".

What Fazal & V have said is basically correct. The max has four angle of attack vanes. The MAIN problem was that Boeing decided to go cheap and only connect one of the vanes to the MCAS. If they had connected two, the MCAS would be able to determine that one of them was wrong and disconnect itself. That would have eliminated the pitch down problem that caused the two crashes.

Connecting that second AOA vane would not have created any certification issues and would have made Boeing's claim about the "Max" being the "same" as previous versions much closer to the truth. Had they done that we wouldn't be talking about this.

Another solution would have been to disable the MCAS if there was significant counter force on the yoke applied by the pilot. This has been used on autopilot systems since the 1960's. But not consistently. The proper programming protocol for the MCAS exists and should have been used.

I agree that using only one AOA vane and the programming weren't the only really stupid things that Boeing did in this matter. Insufficient information and training given to the pilots was another.

flora , April 22, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Yes.
second, it's risky given the software industry's propensity to ship and patch later.
-this is one of the main themes in the Dilbert cartoon strip.

the author argues (unlike in banking), the FAA coming to rely on the airlines for certification wasn't a decision they made, but an adaptation to the fact that they could no longer hire and retain the engineers they needed to do the work at the FAA on government pay scales.

-That's what happens when you make 'government small enough to drown in a bathtub' , i.e. starve of the funds necessary to do a good job.

My 2¢ . Boeing's decision to cut manufacturing corners AND give the autopilot MCAS system absolute control might have been done (just a guess here, based on the all current the 'self-driving' fantasies in technology ) to push more AI 'self-drivingness' into the airplane. (The 'We don't need expensive pilots, we can use inexpensive pilots, and one day we won't need pilots at all' fantasy.) Imo, this makes the MCAS system, along with the auto AI self-driving systems now on the road no better than beta test platforms And early beta test platforms, at that.

It's one thing when MS or Apple push out a not quite ready for prime time OS "upgrade", then wait for all the user feedback to know where it the OS needs more patches. No one dies in those situations (hopefully). But putting not-ready for prime time airplanes and cars on the road in beta test condition to get feedback? yikes . my opinion.

Anarcissie , April 22, 2019 at 3:31 pm

It is interesting that a software bug that appears in the field costs very roughly ten times as much as one caught in QA before being released, yet most managements continue to slight QA in favor of glitzy features. I suppose that preference follows supposed customer demand.

WestcoastDeplorable , April 22, 2019 at 2:14 pm

It's not only the 737 Max that endangers Boeing's survival; it's this:

https://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/boeing787/

15 workers at their N. Charleston SC assembly plant were asked if they would fly on the plane they build there; 10 said NO WAY!

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 3:23 am

Boeing, the FAA, and the airlines seriously screwed up the introduction of this aircraft so badly it cost lives. The article by Travis is however written by someone out of his depth, even though he has more familiarity with aircraft and software than the average person. There are numerous factual errors and misrepresentations, which many commenters (with more detailed knowledge of the subjects) on the article point out. One of the principles of aviation safety is to identify and fix failures without finger pointing, in order to encourage a culture of openness and cooperation. The tone of the article takes the opposite approach while trying to argue from (undeserved) authority. I agree with his critique that these incidents are a result capitalism run amok – that should, in my opinion, be separate from a discussion of the technical problems and how to fix them.

Thuto , April 22, 2019 at 4:51 am

If Boeing had adhered to that cardinal principle of openness, there might be no failure to fix via "a culture of openness and cooperation". These catastrophic failures were a result of Boeing not being open with its customers about the safety implications of its redesign of the 737 Max and instead choosing the path of obfuscation to sell the idea of seamless fleet fungibility to airlines.

Knifecatcher , April 22, 2019 at 5:00 am

Looking through the comments the complaints about the article seemed to be in one of three areas-

– Questioning the author's credentials (you're just a Cessna pilot!)
– Parroting the Boeing line that this was all really pilot error
– Focusing on some narrow technical element to discredit the article

The majority of comments were in agreement with the general tenor of the piece, and the author engaged politely and constructively with some of the points that were brought up. I thought the article was very insightful, and sometimes it does take an outsider to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

I'd like to see a reference for your assertion that the "principles of aviation safety" preclude finger pointing. Unless I'm very much mistaken the whole purpose of an FAA accident investigation is to determine the root cause, identify the responsible party, and, yes, point fingers if necessary.

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 5:57 am

This is one example:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crew_resource_management

The general point I was trying to make, perhaps poorly worded, is that the only goal is to identify the problem and fix it, and not to focus primarily on assigning blame as vigorously as possible. Mistakes occur for many reasons – some of them nefarious, some not. Excessive finger pointing, especially before a full picture of what went wrong has been developed, fosters a tendency to coverups and fear, in my opinion.

Regarding your other points, the technical details are vital to understand clearly in almost any aviation incident, as there is never one cause, and the chain of events is always incredibly complex. Travis' analysis makes the answers too easy.

skippy , April 22, 2019 at 6:23 am

From what I understand the light touch approach was more about getting people to honestly divulge information during the investigation period, of which, assisted in determining cause.

I think you overstate your case.

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 6:58 am

This "light touch" approach is used throughout the aviation industry, all the way from initial design to aircraft maintenance, as the purpose is to make sure that anyone, no matter the rank or experience, can bring up safety concerns before incidents occur without fear of repercussions for challenging authority. It's likely that this cornerstone of aviation culture was ignored at too many points along the way here.

I am not defending Boeing, the FAA, or the airlines. Serious, likely criminal, mistakes were made by all.

I however take issue with Travis' approach of assigning blame this early and vigorously while making errors in explaining what happened. He especially attacks the the development process at Boeing, since software is his speciality, although he makes no claims as to having worked with real time or avionics software, aside from using products incorporating it. These are quite different types of software from normal code running a website or a bank. He does not, and can not, know what occurred when the code was written, yet makes significant declarations as to the incompetence of the engineers and coders involved.

If he were leading the investigation, I believe the most likely outcome would be pushback and coverup by those involved.

flora , April 22, 2019 at 12:19 pm

It's likely that this cornerstone of aviation culture was ignored at too many points along the way here.

I am not defending Boeing, the FAA, or the airlines. Serious, likely criminal, mistakes were made by all.

I however take issue with Travis' approach of assigning blame this early

I don't disagree with your description of how it used to be. However, since the FAA has reduced its regulatory role, and by extension given aircraft manufactures more leash to run with ideas that shouldn't be followed, we're left with the situation that large, potentially crippling tort lawsuits are one of the only checks left on manufacturer stupidity or malfeasance. Think of the Ford Pinto bolt-too-long-causing-gas-tank-explosions case. If the FCC won't make manufacturers think twice when internal engineers say 'this isn't a good idea, isn't a good design', maybe the potential of a massive lawsuit will make them think twice.

And this is where we get into pointing the finger, assigning blame, etc. I'm assuming there are good engineers at Boeing who warned against these multiple design failure and were ignored, the FCC was see-no-evil here-no-evil, and the MCAS went forward. Now come the law suits. It's the only thing left to 'get Boeing's attention'. I don't know if Travis' is too early. It's likely there's been plenty of chatter among the Boeing and industry engineers already. imo.

charles 2 , April 22, 2019 at 3:35 am

Training a pilot is building a very complicated automation system : what kind of thought process do you expect within the short timeframe (few minutes) of a crisis in a cockpit ? Kant's critique of pure reason ?Somehow people seem more comfortable from death coming from human error (I.e. a bad human automation system) that death coming from a design fault, but a death is a death

The problem is not automation vs no automation, it is bad corner-cutting automation vs good systematic and expensive automation. It is also bad integration between pilot brain based automation and system automation, which also boils out to corner cutting, because sharing too much information about the real behaviour of the system (if only it is known accurately ) increases the complexity and the cost of pilot training.

Real safety comes from proven design (as in mathematical proof). It is only achievable on simple systems because proofing is conceptually very hard. A human is inevitably a very complex system that is impossible to proof, therefore, beyond a certain standard of reliability, getting the human factor out of the equation is the only way to improve things further. we are probably close to that threshold with civil aviation.

Also, I don't see anywhere in aircraft safety statistics any suggestion of "crapification" of safety see https://aviation-safety.net/graphics/infographics/Fatal-Accidents-Per-Mln-Flights-1977-2017.jpg Saying that the improvement is due only the better pilot training and not to more intrinsically reliable airplanes is a stretch IMHO.

Similarly, regarding cars, the considerable improvement in death per km travelled in the last 30 years cannot be attributed only to better drivers, a large part comes from ESP and ABS becoming standard (see https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/811182 ). If this is not automation, what is ?

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 7:57 am

It looks as if you didn't read the piece. The problem, which the author makes explicit, is the "ship now, patch later" philosophy that is endemic in software design.

And it would be better to look at flight safety stats within markets. You have great swathes of the emerging world starting to fly on airplanes during this period. I'm not saying the general trend isn't correct, but I would anticipate it's to a significant degree attributable to the maturation of emerging economy air systems. For instance, I flew on Indonesia's Garuda in the early 1990s and was told I was taking a safety risk; I'm now informed that it's a good airline. Similarly, in the early 1980s I was doing business in Mexico, and the McKinsey partner I was traveling with (who as a hobby read black box transcripts from plane crashes) was very edgy on the legs of our travels when we had to use AeroMexico (as in he'd natter on in a way that was very out of character for a typical older WASP-y guy, he was close to white knuckle nervous).

Marley's dad , April 22, 2019 at 10:28 am

Garuda's transition from "safety risk" to "good airline" was an actual occurrence. At one point Garuda and all other Indonesian air lines were prohibited from flying in the EU because of numerous crashes that were the result of management issues, that forced the airline(s) to change their ways.

Darius , April 22, 2019 at 10:11 am

ABS is an enhancement. MCAS is a kludge to patch up massive weaknesses introduced into the hardware by a chain of bad decisions going back almost 20 years.

Boeing should have started designing a new narrow-body when they cancelled the 757 in 2004. Instead, they chose to keep relying on the 737. The end result is MCAS and 300+ deaths.

Harrold , April 22, 2019 at 11:16 am

I'm not sure Boeing can design a fresh aircraft any more.

Olga , April 22, 2019 at 4:17 am

"There are numerous factual errors and misrepresentations, which many commenters (with more detailed knowledge of the subjects) on the article point out."
Not sure why anyone would mis-characterise comments. The first comment points out a deficiency, and explains it. There was only one other commenter, who alleged errors – but without explaining what those could be. He was later identified by another person as a troll. Almost all other comments were complimentary of the article. So why make the above assertion?

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 7:43 am

We have a noteworthy number of newbie comments making poorly-substantiated digs at the Spectrum IEEE piece. We've also seen this sort of non-organic-looking response when we've put up pro-union pieces when political fights were in play, like Wisconsin's Scott Walker going after unions.

AEL , April 22, 2019 at 9:29 am

Travis does indeed play fast and loose with a number of things. For example, his 0-360 engine does *not* have pistons the size of dinner plates (at a 130mm bore it isn't even the diameter of a particularly large saucer). MCAS is a stability augmentation system not stall prevention system and the 737 MAX wasn't "unstable" it was insufficiently stable. The 737 trim system acts on the stabilizer not the elevator (which is a completely different control surface). etc.

For the most part, it doesn't affect the thrust of his arguments which are at a higher level. However it does get distracting.

Harrold , April 22, 2019 at 11:19 am

"the 737 MAX wasn't "unstable" it was insufficiently stable"

The passengers are not "dead", they are insufficiently alive.

Olga , April 22, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Thank you – I was beginning to wonder what the difference was between unstable and insufficiently stable. Not that this is a subject to make jokes about.

JBird4049 , April 22, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Not that this is a subject to make jokes about.

Yeah, but sometimes the choice is to laugh or cry, and after constantly going WTF!?! every time I read about this horror, even mordantly grim humor is nice.

Walt , April 22, 2019 at 2:30 pm

Yes, stabilizer trim on the 737 acts on the horizontal stabilizer, not the elevator or "pilots' control columns."

As a former "73" pilot, I too find the author's imprecision distracting.

ChristopherJ , April 22, 2019 at 5:21 am

Investigators pipe up, but my understanding of a proper investigation is: a. find out what happened; b. find out why the incident occurred; c. what can be done to prevent.

The public opinion has already sailed I think, against the company. If negligent, adverse-safety decisions were made, the head people should be prosecuted accordingly.

Yet, I feel this isn't going to happen despite the reality that billions of humans never want to fly a boeing jet again. Why would you risk it? Toast and deservedly imho

Ape , April 22, 2019 at 5:35 am

"Agile" "use-case driven" software development: very dangerous, takes the disruptive, crappification approach (under some hands) of trying to identify the minimum investment to hit the minimal requirements, particularly focusing on an 80/20 Pareto rule distribution of efforts.

Which may be good enough for video delivery or cell-phone function, but not for life-critical or scientifically-critical equipment

JeffC , April 22, 2019 at 12:59 pm

Many people here are assuming Boeing uses modern software-development methodology in spite of flaws that make such an approach iffy in this field. Why assume that?

When I worked, many years ago now, as a Boeing software engineer, their software-development practices were 15 years behind the rest of the world. Part of that was sheer caution and conservatism re new things, precisely because of the safety culture, and part of it was because they did not have many of the best software people. They could rarely hire the best in part because cautious, super-conservative code is boring. Their management approach was optimized to get solid systems out of ordinary engineers with a near incomprehensible number of review and testing steps.

Anyone in this audience worked there in software recently? If not, fewer words about how they develop code might be called for. Yes, the MCAS system was seriously flawed. But we do not have the information to actually know why.

False Solace , April 22, 2019 at 1:40 pm

> Anyone in this audience worked there in software recently? If not, fewer words about how they develop code might be called for.

4/16 Links included a lengthy spiel from Reddit via Hacker News by a software engineer who worked at Boeing 10 years ago (far more recently than you) which detailed the horrors of Boeing's dysfunctional corporate culture at length. This is in addition to many other posts covering the story from multiple angles.

NC has covered this topic extensively. Maybe try familiarizing yourself with their content before telling others to shut up.

JeffC , April 22, 2019 at 2:32 pm

Excuse me? Are ad hominem attacks fine now? I didn't tell anyone to "shut up" or contradict the great amount of good reporting on Boeing's management dysfunction.

I just pointed out that at one time, yes way back there, there was a logic to it and that the current criticism here of its software-development culture in particular seems founded on a combination of speculation and general disgust with the software industry.

Whatever else I am or however wrong I may sometimes be, I am an engineer, and real engineers look for evidence.

NN , April 22, 2019 at 5:50 am

Moving the engines in itself didn't introduce safety risks, this tendency to nose up was always there. The primary problem is Boeing wanted to pretend MAX is the same plane as NG (the previous version) for certification and pilot training purposes. Which is why the MCAS is black box deeply hardwired into the control systems and they didn't tell pilots about it. It was supposed to be invisible, just sort of translating layer between the new airframe and pilots commanding it as the old one.

And this yearning for pre-automation age, for directly controlling the surfaces by cables and all, is misguided. People didn't evolve for flying, it's all learned the hard way, there is no natural way to feel the plane. In fact in school they will drill into you to trust the instruments and not your pedestrian instincts. Instruments and computers may fail, but your instincts will fail far more often.

After all 737 actually is old design, not fly by wire. And one theory of what happened in the Ethiopian case is that when they disengaged the automatic thing, they were not able to physically overcome the aerodynamic forces pushing on the plane. So there you have your cables & strings operated machine.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 7:40 am

I don't see basis for your assertion about safety risks given the counter-evidence in the form of the very existence of the MCAS software. Every article written on it points out it was to prevent the possibility of the plane stalling out when "punching up". And as the article describes, there were two design factors, the placement of the engines and the nacelles, which led to it generating too much lift in certain scenarios.

And your argument regarding what happened when the pilot turned off the autopilot is yet another indictment of Boeing's design. This is not "Oh bad pilots," this is "OMG, evidence of another Boeing fuckup." This is what occurred when the pilots disabled MCAS per instructions.

Have you not heard of purely mechanical systems that allow for the multiplication of force? It's another Boeing design defect that the pilots couldn't operate the flight stabilizer when the plane was under takeoff stresses. That's a typical use case! And it was what Boeing told pilots to do and it didn't work! From Reuters (apparently written before the black box detail revealed that the pilots could not control the stabilizers):

Boeing pointed to long-established procedures that pilots could have used to handle a malfunction of the anti-stall system, regardless of whether the pilots knew MCAS existed.

That checklist tells pilots to switch off the two stabilizer trim cutout switches on the central console, and then to adjust the aircraft's stabilizers manually using trim wheels.

And that's one of they should worry about most, since that's one of highest risk times for flight, and the plane should have been engineered with that scenario in mind. This raises the possibility that the inability of the pilots to handle the plane manually in takeoff also somehow resulted from the changes to the aerodynamics resulting from the placement of the bigger engines.

This is his argument about how the reliance on software has led to undue relaxation of good hardware design principles:

The original FAA Eisenhower-era certification requirement was a testament to simplicity: Planes should not exhibit significant pitch changes with changes in engine power. That requirement was written when there was a direct connection between the controls in the pilot's hands and the flying surfaces on the airplane. Because of that, the requirement -- when written -- rightly imposed a discipline of simplicity on the design of the airframe itself. Now software stands between man and machine, and no one seems to know exactly what is going on. Things have become too complex to understand.

NN , April 22, 2019 at 9:08 am

I'll cite the original article:

Pitch changes with power changes are common in aircraft. Even my little Cessna pitches up a bit when power is applied. Pilots train for this problem and are used to it.

Again, the plane already had the habit of picthing up and the changes didn't add that. The question isn't if, but how much and what to do about it. Nowhere did I read MAX exceeds some safety limits in this regard. If Boeing made the plane to physically break regulations and tried to fix it with software then indeed that would be bad. However, I'm not aware of that.

As for the Ethiopian scenario, I was talking about this article . It says when they tried manual, it very well could be beyond their physical ability to turn the wheels and so they were forced to switch electrical motors back on, but that also turned up MCAS again. In fact it also says this seizing up thing was present in the old 737 design and pilots were trained to deal with it, but somehow the plane become more reliable and training for this failure mode was dropped. This to me doesn't look like good old days of aviation design ruined by computers.

JerryDenim , April 22, 2019 at 5:57 pm

You should read the Ethiopian Government's crash preliminary crash report. Very short and easy to read. Contains a wealth of information. Regarding the pilot's attempt to use the manual trim wheel, according to the crash report, the aircraft was already traveling at 340 knots indicated airspeed, well past Vmo or the aircraft's certified airspeed when they first attempted to manually trim the nose up. It didn't work because of the excessive control forces generated by high airspeeds well beyond the aircraft's certification. I'm not excusing Boeing, the automated MCAS nose down trim system was an engineering abomination, but the pilots could have made their lives much easier by setting a more normal thrust setting for straight and level flight, slowing their aircraft to a speed within the normal operating envelope, then working their runaway nose-down pitch emergency.

none , April 22, 2019 at 6:21 am

I didn't like the IEEE Spectrum piece very much since the author seemed to miss or exaggerate some issues, and also seemed to confuse flying a Cessna with being expert about large airliners or aerospace engineering. The title says "software engineer" but at the end he says "software executive". Executive doesn't always mean non-engineer but it does mean someone who is full of themselves, and that shows through the whole article. The stuff I'm seeing from actual engineers (mostly on Hacker News) is a little more careful. I'm still getting the sense that the 737 MAX is fundamentally a reasonable plane though Boeing fucked up badly presenting it as a no-retraining-needed tweak to the older 737's.

There's some conventional wisdom that Boeing's crapification stems from the McDonnell merger in 1997. Boeing, then successful, took over the failing and badly managed McDonnell. The crappy McDonnell managers then spent the next years pushing out the Boeing managers, and subsequently have been running Boeing into the ground. I don't know how accurate that is, but it's a narrative that rings true.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 7:20 am

You are misrepresenting the Hacker News criticisms, and IMHO they misrepresent the piece. They don't question his software chops. And if you really knew the software biz, "software executive" often = developer who built a company (and that includes smallish ones). The guy OWNS a Cessna, which means he's spent as much on a plane as a lot of people spend on a house. If he was a senior manager as you posit, that means at large company, and no large company would let an employee write something like this. He's either between gigs or one of the top guys in a smallish private company where mouthing off like this won't hurt the business. Notice also his contempt for managers in the article).

He's also done flight simulator time on a 757, and one commentor pointed out that depending on the simulator, it could be tantamount to serious training, as in count towards qualifying hours to be certified to fly a 757.

They do argue, straw manning his piece, that he claims the big failure is with the software. That in fact is not what the article says. It says that the design changes in the 737 Max made it dynamically unstable, which is an unacceptable characteristic in any plane, no matter what size. He also describes at length the problem of relying on only one sensor as an input to the MCAS and how that undermined having the pilots be able to act as a backup .by looking at each other's instrumentation results.

The idea that he's generalizing from a Cessna is absurd. He describes how Cessnas have the pilot having greater mechanical control than jets like the 737. He describes how the pilots read the instrument results from each side of the plane, something which cannot occur in a Cessna, a single pilot plane. He refers to the Cessna documentation to make the point that the norm is to over-inform pilots as to how changes in the software affect how they operate the plane, not radically under-inform them as Boeing did with the 737 Max.

As to the reasonableness of Travis' concerns, did you miss that a former NASA engineer has the same reservations? Are you trying to say he doesn't understand how aircraft hardware works?

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 8:02 am

A few points:

He owns a 1978 Cessna 172 , goes for about $70K, so not quite house prices, more like a nice Tesla, whose drive by wire systems he seems to trust far more for some reason.

In regard to "dynamic instability" being unacceptable, this is a red herring. Most modern airliners rely on flight characteristic augmentation systems in normal operation, trim systems being the most common. Additionally, there are aircraft designed to be unstable (fighters) but rely on computers to fly them stably, to greatly increase manoeuvrability.

In regard to Cessnas being single pilot planes, the presence of flight controls on both sides of the cockpit would somewhat bring into question this assertion .? Most 172s do however have only one set of instrumentation. When operating with two pilots (as with let's say a student pilot and instructor) you would still have the issue of two pilots trying to agree on possibly faulty readings from one set of non-redundant instruments.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 8:27 am

No, it's a 1979 Cessna, and you don't know when he bought it and how much use it had, since price is significantly dependent on flight hours. The listings I show it costs over $100K. A quick Google search says a plane with a new feel is closer to $300K. Even $100K in equity is more than most people put down when buying a house

He also glides, and gliders often own or co-own their gliders.

The author acknowledges your point re fighters. Did you miss that he also says they are the only planes where pilots can eject themselves from the aircraft? Arguing from what is acceptable for a fighter, where you compromise a lot on other factors to get maneuverability, to a commercial jet is dodgy.

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 9:39 am

According to the registration it became airworthy in 1978, so perhaps that is the model year.

https://uk.flightaware.com/resources/registration/N5457E

Regarding fighters and instability, I'm not the one that stated it's "an unacceptable characteristic in any plane, no matter the size".

I am completely on Travis' side when it comes to the issues with culture and business that brought on these incidents. Seeing however that these affected and overrode good engineering, I believe it's vitally important that the engineering is discussed as accurately as possible. Hence my criticism of the piece.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 1:08 pm

Had you looked at prices as you claimed to, Cessnsa 172s specify the year in the headline description. 1977 v. 1978 v 1979 on a page I got Googling for 1979.

You are now well into the terrain of continuing to argue for argument sake.

PlutoniumKun , April 22, 2019 at 8:34 am

I agree with you that the article is good and the criticisms I've read seem largely unmerited (quite a few of those btl on that article are clearly bad faith arguments), but just to clarify:

That in fact is not what the article says. It says that the design changes in the 737 Max made it dynamically unstable, which is an unacceptable characteristic in any plane, no matter what size.

My understanding (non-engineer, but long time aviation nerd) is that many aircraft, including all Airbus's are dynamically unstable and use software to maintain stability. The key point I think that the article makes is that there is a fundamental difference between designing hardware and software in synchronicity to make a safe aircraft (i.e Airbus), and using software as a fudge to avoid making hard decisions when the hardware engineers find they can't overcome a problem without spending a fortune in redesigns.

Hard engineering 'fudges' are actually really common in aircraft design – little bumps or features added to address stability problems encountered during testing – an example being the little fore planes on the Tupolev 144 supersonic airliner. But it seems Boeing took a short cut with its approach and a lot of people paid for this with their lives. Only time will tell if it was a deep institutional failure within Boeing or just a flaw caused by a rushed roll-out.

I've personal experience of a catastrophic design flaw (not one that could kill people, just one that could cost hundreds of millions to fix) which was entirely down to the personal hang-ups of one particular project manager who was in a position to silence internal misgivings. Of course, in aircraft design this is not supposed to happen.

Thuto , April 22, 2019 at 6:21 am

I'm reminded of the famous "software is eating the world" quote by uber VC Marc Andreessen. He posits that in an era where Silicon valley style, software led disruption stalks every established industry, even companies that "make things" (hardware) need a radical rethink in terms of how they see themselves. A company like Boeing, under this worldview, needs to think of itself as a software company with a hardware arm attached, otherwise it might have its lunch eaten by a plucky upstart (to say nothing of Apple or Google) punching above its weight.

It's not farfetched to imagine an army of consultants selling this "inoculate yourself from disruption" thinking to companies like Boeing and being taken seriously. With Silicon valley's obsession with taking humans out of the loop (think driverless cars/trucks, operator-less forklifts etc) one wonders whether these accidents will highlight the limitations of technology and halt the seemingly inexorable march towards complex automation reducing pilots to cockpit observers coming along for the ride.

jonst , April 22, 2019 at 6:41 am

so perhaps Trump lurched blindly into the truth?

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/12/trump-says-planes-too-complex-after-crash-of-boeing-jet-in-ethiopia.html

WobblyTelomeres , April 22, 2019 at 7:30 am

"native pitch stability"

Let me guess. The author prolly flies a Cessna 172. [checks article]. Yep.

The 172 is one of the most docile and forgiving private planes ever. Ignore that my Mom flew hers into a stand of trees.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 8:32 am

Ad homimem and therefore logically invalid. Plus reading comprehension problem. The "native pitch stability" comment was from Mike Slack, a former NASA engineer, and not Travis, the Cessna owner.

Mel , April 22, 2019 at 9:39 am

I think that the point is that there are aircraft that don't take over the controls and dive into the ground. It's possible to have these kinds of aircraft. These kinds of aircraft are good to have. It's like an existence proof.

Octopii , April 22, 2019 at 8:28 am

No, not dangerously pro-automation. More like dangerously stuck in the past, putting bandaids on a dinosaur to keep false profits rolling in. AF447 could be argued against excessive automation, but not the Max.

tegnost , April 22, 2019 at 9:13 am

i think they are real profits. And the automation that crashed two planes over a short time span and it wasn't excessive? Band aids on what was one of the safest planes ever made (how many 737's crashed pre 737 max? the hardware problem was higher landing gear along with engines that were larger and added lift to the plane. MCAS was intended to fix that. It made it worse. I won't be flying on a MAX.

Carolinian , April 22, 2019 at 8:29 am

Thanks for the article but re the above comments–perhaps that 737 pilot commenter should weigh in because some expert commentary on this article is badly needed. My impression from the Seattle Times coverage is that the MCAS was not implemented to keep the plane from falling out of the sky but rather to finesse the retraining issue. In other words a competent pilot could handle the pitch up tendency with no MCAS assist at all if trained or even informed that such a tendency existed. And if that's the case then the notion that the plane will be grounded forever is dubious indeed.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 8:44 am

This isn't quite correct, and I suggest you read the article in full.

The issue isn't MCAS. It is that MCAS was to compensate for changes in the planes aerodynamics that were so significant that it should arguably have been recerttified as being a different plane. That was what Boeing was trying to avoid above all Former NASA engineer Mike Slack makes that point as well. Travis argues that burying the existence of MCAS in the documentation was to keep pilots from questioning whether this was a different plane:

It all comes down to money, and in this case, MCAS was the way for both Boeing and its customers to keep the money flowing in the right direction. The necessity to insist that the 737 Max was no different in flying characteristics, no different in systems, from any other 737 was the key to the 737 Max's fleet fungibility. That's probably also the reason why the documentation about the MCAS system was kept on the down-low.

Put in a change with too much visibility, particularly a change to the aircraft's operating handbook or to pilot training, and someone -- probably a pilot -- would have piped up and said, "Hey. This doesn't look like a 737 anymore." And then the money would flow the wrong way.

Carolinian , April 22, 2019 at 9:30 am

I think you just said what I said. My contention is that the only reason the plane could ever be withdrawn is that the design is so inherently unstable that this extra gizmo–the MCAS–was necessary for it to fly. Whereas it appears the MCAS was for marketing purposes and if it had never been added to the plane the two accidents quite likely may never have happened–even if Boeing didn't tell pilots about the pitch up tendency.

But I'm no expert obviously. This is just my understanding of the issue.

Darius , April 22, 2019 at 11:48 am

From what I've read at related links in the last week, a significant element is common type rating. Manufacturers don't have to go through expensive recertification if their modifications are minor enough, earning a common type rating. Thus, the successive incarnations of the 737 over the decades.

I'm only a layman, but a citizen who tries to stay informed and devours material on this topic. The common type rating merry go round needs to stop. It seems at least that a new engine with a different position that alters the basic physics of the plane shouldn't qualify for common type rating, which should be reserved only for the most minor of modifications.

barrisj , April 22, 2019 at 12:30 pm

As one who has followed the entirety of the MAX stories as detailed by the Seattle Times aviation reporters, it all comes back to "first principles": a substantive change in aerodynamics by introduction of an entirely new pair of engines should have required complete re-engineering of the airframe. We know that Boeing eschewed that approach, largely for competitive and cost considerations, and subsequently tried to mate the LEAP engines to the existing 737 airframe by installing the MCAS, amongst other design "tweaks", i.e., "kludging" a fix. Boeing management recognized that this wouldn't be the "perfect" aircraft, but with the help of a compliant FAA and a huge amount of "self-assessment", got the beast certified and airborne -- -- until the two crashes, that is. Whether the airlines and/or the flying public will ever accept the redo of MCAS and other ancillary fixes is highly problematic, as the entire concept was flawed from the kick-off.
Also, it should be mentioned in passing that even the LEAP engines are having some material-wear issues:
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/cfm-reviews-fleet-after-finding-leap-1a-durability-i-442669/

b , April 22, 2019 at 8:46 am

Th IEEE Spectrum piece is somewhat reasonable but the author obvious lacks technical knowledge of the 737. He also does not understand why MCAS was installed in the first place.

For example:
– "However, doing so also meant that the centerline of the engine's thrust changed. Now, when the pilots applied power to the engine, the aircraft would have a significant propensity to "pitch up," or raise its nose.
– The MAX nose up tendency is a purely aerodynamic effect. The centerline of the thrust did not change much.

– "MCAS is implemented in the flight management computer, "
– No. It is implemented in the Flight Control Computer of which there are two. (There is only on FMC unit.)

-" It turns out that the Elevator Feel Computer can put a lot of force into that column -- "
– The Elevator Feel unit is not a computer but a deterministic hydraulic-mechanical system.

– "Neither such [software] coders nor their managers are as in touch with the particular culture and mores of the aviation world as much as the people who are down on the factory floor, "
– The coders who make the Boeing and Airbus systems work are specialized in such coding. Software development for aircrafts It is a rigid formularized process which requires a deep understanding of the aviation world. The coders appropriately implement what the design engineers require after the design review confirmed it. Nothing less, nothing more.

and more than a dozen other technical misunderstandings and mistakes.

If the author would have read some of the PPRUNE threads on the issue or asked an 737 pilot he would have known all this.

Senator-Elect , April 22, 2019 at 10:35 am

This.

Harrold , April 22, 2019 at 11:28 am

And yet the fact remains that the 737MAX is grounded world wide and costing Boeing and airlines millions every day.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 1:11 pm

Given what has happened with Boeing manufacture (787s being delivered with tools and bottles rattling around in them), you have no basis for asserting how Boeing does software in practice these days.

And you have incontrovertible evidence of a coding fail: relying on only one sensor input when the plane had more than one sensor. I'm sorry, I don't see how you can blather on about safety and coders supposedly understanding airplanes with that coded in.

JeffC who actually worked at Boeing years ago and said the coding was conservative (lots of people checked it) because they were safety oriented but also didn't get very good software engineers, since writing software at Boeing was boring.

johnf , April 22, 2019 at 9:05 am

I still have some trouble blaming the 737 losses, ipso facto, on using automation to extend an old design. There are considerably more complex aircraft systems than MCAS that have been reliably automated, and building on a thoroughly proven framework usually causes less trouble than suffering the teething problems of an all new design.

At the risk of repeating the obvious, a basic principle of critical systems, systems which must be reliable, is that they can not suffer from single point failures. You want to require at least two independent failures to disturb a system, whose combined probability is so low that other, unavoidable failure sources predominate, for example, weather or overwhelming, human error.

This principle extends to the system's development. The design and programming of a (reliable) critical system can not suffer from single point failures. This requires a good many, skilled people, paying careful attention to different, specific stages of the process. Consider a little thing I once worked on: the indicator that confirms a cargo door is closed, or arguably, that is neither open nor unlatched. I count at least five levels of engineers and programmers, between Boeing and the FAA, that used to validate, implement and verify the work of their colleagues, one or more levels above and/or below: to insure the result was safe.

I bet what will ultimately come out is that multiple levels of the validation and verification chain have been grievously degraded ("crapified") to cut costs and increase profits. The first and last levels for a start. I am curious and will ask around.

Darius , April 22, 2019 at 11:58 am

The MAX isn't a proven framework. Boeing fundamentally altered the 737 design by shifting the position of the engines. The MCAS fudge doesn't fix that.

The Rev Kev , April 22, 2019 at 9:10 am

My own impression is that there seems to be a clash between three separate philosophies at work here. The first is the business culture of Boeing which had supplanted Boeing's historical aviation-centric ways of doing things in aircraft design. The bean-counters & marketing droids took over, outsourced aircraft construction to such places as non-union workshops & other countries, and thought that cutting corners in aircraft manufacture would have no long-term ill effects. The second philosophy is that of software design that failed to understand that the software had to be good to go as it was shipped and had little understanding of what happens when you ship beta-standard software to an operational aircraft in service. This was to have fatal consequences. The third culture is that of the pilots themselves which seek to keep their skills going in an aviation world that wants to turn them into airplane-drivers. If there is any move afoot to have self flying aircraft introduced down the track, I hope that this helps kill it.
Boeing is going to take a massive financial hit and so it should. Heads should literally roll over this debacle and it did not help their case when they went to Trump to keep this plane flying in the US without thought as to what could have happened if a US or Canadian 737 MAX had augured in. The biggest loser I believe is going to be the US's reputation with aviation. The rest of the aviation world will no longer trust what the FAA says or advise without checking it themselves. The trust of decades of work has just been thrown out the door needlessly. Even in the critical field of aircraft crash investigation, the US took a hit as Ethiopia refused the demands that the black boxes be sent to the US but sent them instead to France. That is something that has flown under the radar. This is going to have knock-on effects for decades to come.

Susan the other` , April 22, 2019 at 11:56 am

Beginning to look like a trade war with the EU. airbus, boeing, vw, US cars; but haven't seen Japan drawn into this yet. Mercedes Benz is saying EV cars are nonsense, they actually create more pollution than diesel engines and they are recommending methane gasoline (that sounds totally suicidal), and hydrogen power. Hydrogen has always sounded like a good choice, so why no acclaim? It can only be the resistance of vested interests. The auto industry, like the airline industry, is frantically trying to externalize its costs. Maybe we should all just settle down and do a big financial mutual insurance company that covers catastrophic loss by paying the cost of switching over to responsible manufacturing and fuel efficiency. Those corporations cooperate with shared subsidiaries that manufacture software to patch their bad engineering – why not a truce while they look for solutions?

voislav , April 22, 2019 at 9:34 am

The whole 737 development reminds me of a story a GM engineer told me. Similarly to the aviation industry, when GM makes modifications to an existing part on a vehicle, if the change is small enough the part does not need to be recertified for mechanical strength, etc. One of the vehicles he was working on had a part failure in testing, so they looked at the design history of the part. It turns out that, similarly to 737, this was a legacy part carried over numerous generations of the vehicle.

Each redesign of the vehicle introduced some changes, they needed to reroute some cabling, so they would punch a new hole through the part. But because the change was small enough the engineering team had the option of just signing off on the change without additional testing. So this went on for years, where additional holes or slits were made in the original part and each change was deemed to be small enough that no recertification was necessary. The cumulative change from the original certification was that this was now a completely different part and, not surprisingly, eventually it failed.

The interesting part of the story was the institutional inertia. As all these incremental changes were applied to the part, nobody bothered to check when was the last time part was actually tested and what was the part design as that time. Every step of the way everybody assumed their change is small enough not to cause any issue and did not do any diligence until a failure occured.

Which brings me back to the 737, if I am not mistaken, 737 MAX is, for certification purposes, considered an iteration of the original 737. The aircraft though is very different than the original, increased wingspan (117′ vs 93′), length (140′ vs. 100′). 737 NG is similarly different.

So for me the big issue with the MAX is the institutional question that allowed a plane so different from the original 737 certification to be allowed as a variant of the original, without additional pilot training or plane certification. Upcoming 777X has the same issue, it's a materially different aircraft (larger wingspan, etc.) that has a kludge (folding wingtips) to allow it to pass as a variant of the original 777. It will be interesting to see, in the wake of the MAX fiasco, what treatment does the 777X get when it comes to certification.

Susan the other` , April 22, 2019 at 12:35 pm

The FAA needs to be able to follow these tweaks. Maybe we citizens need a literal social contract that itemizes what we expect our government to actually do.

Matthew G. Saroff , April 22, 2019 at 9:35 am

There are also allegations of shoddy manufacturing on the 787 at Boeing's South Carolina (union busting) facility .

BTW, I do not believe that the problems are insoluble, or as a result of a design philosophy, but rather it is a result of placing sales over engineering.

There are a number of aerodynamic tweaks that could have dealt with this issue (larger horizontal tail comes to mind, but my background is manufacturing not aerodynamics), but this would require that pilots requalify for a transition between the NG and the MAX, which would likely mean that many airlines would take a second look at Airbus.

Carolinian , April 22, 2019 at 10:37 am

Your link was fully discussed in yesterday's Links.

cm , April 22, 2019 at 10:41 am

Yeah, that was a fascinating (and scary) article. Worth reading!

vomkammer , April 22, 2019 at 9:41 am

We should avoid blaming "software" or "automation" for this accident. The B737 MAX seems to be a case of "Money first, safety second" culture, combined with insufficent regulatory control.

The root of the B737 MAX accidents was an erroneous safety hazard assessment: The safety asessment (and the FAA) believed the MCAS had a 0.6 authority limit. This 0.6 limit meant that an erroneous MCAS function would only have limited consequences. In the safety jargon, its severity was classifed as "Major", instead of "Catastrophic".

After the "Major" classification was assigned, the subsequente design decions (like using a single sensor, or perhaps insufficient testing) are acceptable and in line with the civil aviation standards.

The problem is that the safety engineer(s) failed to understand that the 0.6 limit was self-imposed by the MCAS software, not enforced by any external aircraft element. Therefore, the MCAS software could fail in such a way that it ignored the limit. In consequence, MCAS should have been classifed "Catastrophic".

Everybody can make mistakes. We know this. That is why these safety assessments should be reviewed and challenged inside the company and by the FAA. The need to launch the MAX fast and the lack of FAA oversight resources surely played a greater role than the usage of software and automation.

oaf , April 22, 2019 at 9:46 am

Yves: Thanks for this post; it has (IMO) a level-headed perspective. It is not about assigning *blame*, it is about *What, Why, and How to Prevent* what happened from re-occurring. Blame is for courts and juries. Good luck finding jurors who are not predisposed; due to relentless bombardment with parroted misinformation and factoids.

YY , April 22, 2019 at 10:13 am

I wonder how often MCAS kicked in on a typical 737MAX flight, in situation where the weather vane advising of angle attack was working as per normal. Since we are excluding the time when auto-pilot is working and also the time when the flaps are down, there is only a very small time window immediately after take off. I would venture to guess that the MCAS would almost always adjust the plane at least once. This is once too many, if one is to believe that the notion of design improvement includes improvement in aerodynamic behavior. The fact that MCAS could only be overridden by disabling the entire motor control of the trim suggests that the MCAS feature is absolutely necessary for the thing to fly without surprise stalls. There is no excuse in a series of a product for handling associated with basic safety becoming worse with a new model. Fuel efficiency is laudable and a marketable thing, but not when packaged together with the bad compromise of bad flight behavior. If the fix is only by lines of code, they really have not fixed it completely. We know they are not going to be able to move the engines or the thrust line or increase the ground clearance of the plane so the software fix will be sold as the solution. While it probably does not mean that there will be more planes being trimmed to crash into the ground, it does make for some anxiety for future passengers. Loss of sales would not be a surprise but more of a surprise will be the deliveries that will be completed regardless.

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 10:34 am

MCAS was intended to rarely if ever activate. It is supposed to nudge the aircraft to a lower angle of attack if AoA is getting high to cause instability in certain parts of the flight envelope. An overly aggressive takeoff climb would be an example. Part of the problem is that a faulty AoA sensor resulted in the system thinking it was at this extreme case, repeatedly, and in a way that was difficult for the pilots to identify since they had not been properly trained and the UX was badly implemented.

YY , April 22, 2019 at 10:52 am

Yes I've heard that. But do not believe it, given how it is implemented. So I really would like to know how it behaves in non-catastrophic situations. If so benign, why not allow it to turn off without turning off trim controls? Did not the earlier 737's not need this feature?

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 2:19 pm

In a non-catastrophic situation, and if functioning correctly, it's my understanding it would felt by the flight crew as mild lowering of the nose by the system. This is is to keep the plane from increasing angle of attack, which could lead to a stall or other instability.

It's my understanding MCAS should be treated as a separate system from the trim controls, although they both control the pitch of the stabilator. Trim controls are generally not "highly dynamic", in that the system (or pilot) sets the trim value only occasionally based primarily on things like the aircraft weight distribution (this could however change during a flight as fuel is burned, for example). MCAS on the other hand, while monitoring AoA continuously in flight modes where it is activated only kicks in to correct excessive inputs from the pilots, or as a result of atmospheric disturbances (wind shear would be one possible cause of excessive AoA readings).

Neither trim nor MCAS are required to manually fly the plane safely if under direct pilot control and the the pilot is fully situationally aware.

Earlier 737s did not need this feature due to different aerodynamic properties of the plane. They however still have assistive features such as stick shakers to help prevent leaving the normal flight envelope.

Some technical details here:

http://www.b737.org.uk/mcas.htm

Alex V , Apr