CSotD: Again and again and again

Andy Marlette (Creators) offers a challenge that, IMHO, proves something though perhaps not what he intended.

I’d be willing to bet that, indeed, most Americans couldn’t find Afghanistan on a map, which you could take as an indication of how little attention we paid to that war. I’d take it further and suggest that it’s a good reason to bring back the draft, because, if our own kids were apt to be snatched up and sent off to war, we might care a little more.

And, when I say that, I mean both young men and young women, with no deferments for the sons and daughters of the middleclass and the influential.

I’d also point out something I noted during Vietnam, which was that people would have paid more attention if we’d had rationing and scrap metal drives and so forth like we did during WWII.

And I’d stand by the idea that there’s something deeply immoral about waging risk-free, painless wars.

But there’s also this:

Maybe most Americans couldn’t find Afghanistan on a map, but I’d also be willing to bet they couldn’t find Utah on a map, either.

Jay Leno used to send camera crews into the street to find foolish people so he could make fun of them on national television, but my guess — having done my share of man-on-the-street interviews — is that, if he showed his raw footage, you’d find that a lot of people answered his questions with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

Still, the world is indeed full of fools.

The question is whether you design a government to assist them or one that will exploit them, which brings us to this

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Ann Telnaes)


(Jeff Danziger – WPWG)

There was a phrase going around during Vietnam, “War is good business: Invest your son,” which was nothing new, or, at least, no newer than World War I, which was notable for the breakthrough realization that there were no class distinctions in trench warfare.

Danziger has standing to talk about the sponsors of warfare, because he served in Vietnam and has even written a book about it.

But, again, it’s nothing new.

Siegfried Sassoon wrote passionately about the rear echelon officers who sent young men off to die, and not from a theoretical point of view: His own exploits at the front had earned him the nickname “Mad Jack” from his comrades, captured in the excellent wartime autobiography of his friend Robert Graves, “Good-Bye To All That.”

Telnaes also points out the disconnect, quoting William Sherman’s advice to a group of graduating officers that they not romanticize war.

He was right, but they romanticize it anyway.

Reason and experience are no match for what people want to believe, and we’re currently seeing people gasp not at the horrors of the war in Afghanistan but at the fact that they’re happening where we can see them.

The word “obscene” comes from “off-scene,” because violence, in Greek tragedy, did not happen in front of the audience.

But war genuinely is hell, and, if you want to explore the fact from a woman’s point of view, read Vera Brittain’s “Testament of Youth,” a memoir of the horrendous cost of WWI to a young military nurse who lost nearly everyone she loved.

And who came home to write her own poems about it.

World War I was a century ago, but we did it again a generation later, and once more we left the participants to create art — “The Best Years of Our Lives” and “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” — that we would applaud and bestow Oscars upon and then ignore.

If we were going to learn, if we wanted to learn, we’d have long since learned.

Ann Landers famously said that nobody can take advantage of you without your consent, and, however Sassoon or Brittain or Danziger or Telnaes feel about the powerful, wealthy interests that exploit people, the fact remains that the exploiters are in no danger of running out of people who willingly, eagerly consent to being exploited.


Kevin Necessary (AMS) points out the folly of those who take mistaken pride in believing that they are smarter than everyone else, and he works in a nice connection between metaphorical and agricultural sheep.

The numbers of people requiring medical treatment for having ingested livestock de-wormers seems a bit squishy, but it is happening and, if it isn’t entirely typical of our gullible fellow citizens, it is at least an example of why exploiting their trust is irresponsible and dangerous.

It fails to “promote the general welfare,” which was supposed to be one of our founding goals.


Mind you, the term “welfare” has acquired its own negative connotation, to the point where it’s hard to know if Gary Varvel (Creators) is purposely exploiting people’s ignorance or genuinely doesn’t understand unemployment and the current labor market.

But making people feel smarter and better and more honest and industrious than their neighbors has always been how you build tribal loyalties, and Afghanistan is hardly the only tribal culture in the world.

Reagan’s mythic Welfare Queen has morphed here into the young person who should be out there flipping burgers for nine bucks an hour but, instead, is luxuriating on unemployment, with his silly little beard and his video games.

It doesn’t take much research to realize that you have to have lost a job in order to collect unemployment, and that we have always had a constantly renewing supply of young people just reaching their first-job age.

Any shortage of minimum wage workers has virtually nothing to do with those supplementary benefits.

It doesn’t take much more research to learn that workforce issues in states that have cut off federal supplementary benefits are actually worse than in states which have maintained them.

Or that the program ends in two weeks anyway.

However, it’s not about what is.

It’s about what people want to believe, and about people who want them to believe it.


And, as Kal Kallaugher (Counterpoint) puts it, the fingers of blame hardly begin to tell the story, or stop it from happening again and again and again.

An old story without an ending.



11 thoughts on “CSotD: Again and again and again

  1. The “off-scene” derivation of “obscene” was apparently in Wikipedia years ago, but it has fallen from favor. Currently, I saw

    “a word of unknown origin; perhaps from ob “in front of” (see ob-) + caenum “filth.”


    “(possibly ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *?weyn- (“to make dirty, soil; filth; mud”)) or scaevus (“left, on the left side; clumsy; (figurative) unlucky”) (from Proto-Indo-European *skeh?iwo-).[1]”

  2. Well, college was before Wikipedia, so who knows? But Jocasta hanged herself off stage, and Oedipus gouged out his eyes in the wings, so I’m stickin’ to it.

  3. Today’s “War is Hell” riff reminds me of a meme I caught the other day, quoting Hawkeye Pierce and Father Mulcahy from MASH (the TV version):

    Hawkeye: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.

    Mulcahy: How do you figure that, Hawkeye?

    Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?

    Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.

    Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them — little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.

  4. Be the first parents on your block
    To bring your boy home in a box!

    I heard Pete Seeger sing that at Wolf Trap sometime in the mid-1980s. Then Arlo Guthrie came out and said “that reminds me of something…” So friends, I’m a member of of the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement, and I hope at least some of you are old enough to remember what a movement was.

  5. Re ingesting that livestock de-wormer, it isn’t *quite* as stupid as it initially sounds. According to an Oct/2020 article at nature.com, in May/2020 health care workers in Bolivia handed out 350,000 doses to residents, apparently intended as a COVID-19 treatment or preventative.

    It could be debated whether its use was warranted (is there any research showing it was beneficial?). But the fact that is was used in Latin America serves as a precedent.

    What *is* stupid is taking dosages intended for animals (and to treat a different malady!). A typical bull weighs 2500 pounds — 7 times as much as your average NFL offensive lineman, who in turn weighs a lot more than your typical Mississippian.

    Personally I think it’s still pretty stupid. But it’s not like it just sprung up in Mississippi from out of nowhere.

  6. Hi Mike.

    I’m a New Zealander and know where Afghanistan is – as do many New Zealanders. Why? Not because of war but through sport (I follow and support the Afghanistan cricket team). We also know where Pakistan and Bangladesh are located. And a few other s-h countries. Maybe the problem of knowledge and identification is wider than war, perhaps the US is a bit of a hermit kingdom outside of fear politics? Just seeing the world as a 2-dimensional place?

  7. Quotes from W.T. Sherman and Hawkeye Pierce in the same post ! Just another reason I look forward to reading CSoTD !

  8. Lawrence — Your note reminded me of the aftermath of the 2004 earthquake/tsunami, and the cricket fundraiser that ensued. I was impressed with how well the cricket world fit over a map of the Indian Ocean and impacted nations, making it incredibly appropriate as a vehicle for that particular disaster.

    Also impressed with how so many nations came together. As they say down your way, “Good on ya.”


  9. “War is a racket. It always has been.

    “It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

    “A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. ” – Major General Smedley Butler

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