Abuse of Authority, continued

Two years ago, I wrote about the trend toward the abuse of authority by people in various positions.  The examples I mentioned were:  Teachers and professors, using their jobs to conduct political indoctrination, and even marking down the grades of those with differing views. Corporate executives, using company resources to promote their personal political views. And intelligence officers, using their positions to influence US election outcomes.

The case of the intelligence people is worthy of particular attention at the moment.  The Hunter Biden trial and the introduction of the Laptop into evidence should remove any remaining doubt about the genuineness of the contents of that laptop.  Remember that 51 former intelligence officials signed a letter stating that the laptop story bore the earmarks of a classic Russian disinformation operation…even though they surely knew, or could have easily discovered, that the laptop contents were no such thing. The FBI also participated in this disinformation-about-disinformation story.  Social media platforms were persuaded (and persuaded without too much difficulty, I would bet) to suppress discussion of the story and even to suppress person-to-person messages that referenced the laptop…the contents of which were quite relevant to the question of whether or not to vote for Biden.

It is also time to remember a statement made by Senator Charles Schumer in response to then-President Trump’s criticism of the intelligence agencies.  He said that Trump was being “really dumb” by taking on these agencies, and continued “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

This statement would basically imply that the ultimate sovereign in the United States is the set of senior people in the “intelligence community”, and that the elected government remains in power–or not–at the pleasure of those agencies, similar to the way the militaries in some countries are the ultimate approvers or removers of civilian governments.  And Schumer did not make his statements in a way that implied–“This is awful, and we have to do something about it”….he seemed to be totally comfortable with that situation, and I would bet that a majority of other Democratic senators and congressmen feel the same way.

I also see some disturbing things in a recent interview with four-star admiral William McRaven, specifically: every time you undermine one of our institutions, you undermine America.  “Undermine” in his usage seems to mean criticizing the actions of any of these institutions.  I don’t think that position is consistent with the whole American idea.  It’s true that ignorant and overly-broad attacks are destructive–but it’s also true that institutions that are defined to be beyond criticism tend to get worse and worse.  Does admiral McRaven believe that all court decisions are correct? Even if we constrain it to “court decisions which were upheld after appeal” it seems like a pretty remarkable statement.  When was this level of judicial perfection established?…at some time, presumably, after the Dred Scott decision.

And McRaven’s statement, although focused on the judicial system and specifically the recent Trump conviction, was broader; it applied to “institutions” in general.  Are the Department of Education and the CDC to be viewed as sacred entities beyond criticism? How about those intelligence agencies and the FBI? Indeed, how about the US Navy and its problems with warship construction and ship handling?

Admiral McRaven’s statements may not be precisely abuse of authority in the way that my previous three examples are, but they’re still pretty disturbing when made by an admiral who held such an important command over American forces.

I’m reminded of something that occurred in the UK in 1940, at a time when Churchill was not yet Prime Minister but was First Lord of the Admiralty. He received a letter from a father disappointed that his son had been turned down for a commission, despite his qualifications and his record. Churchill suspected class prejudice and wrote to the Second Sea Lord, saying that “Unless some better reasons are given to me, I shall have to ask my Naval Secretary to interview the boy on my behalf.”

The Second Sea Lord, unhappy with the meddling from above, responded to the effect that it was inappropriate to question the decisions of “a board duly constituted.” To which Churchill replied:

I do not at all mind “going behind the opinion of a board duly constituted” or even changing the board or its chairman if I think injustice has been done. How long is it since this board was re-modeled?… Who are the naval representatives on the board of selection? Naval officers should be well-represented. Action accordingly. Let me have a list of the whole board with the full record of each member and his date of appointment.

15 thoughts on “Abuse of Authority, continued”

  1. Almost as bad as Schumer’s comment is the fact that nobody in the media followed up on what he meant. They all seem to think it’s a fine thing.

  2. Well, of course – the National Establishment Media is basically the Dem party public affairs outreach department. The employees/operatives of that department will obediently follow the directives they have been given.

  3. Evil. Serious evil.

    We are all flawed, foolish, ignorant, often stupid, and always sinful. Humility is essential to wisdom. Our elites have neither. Instead, they are afflicted with a hubris so horrible it will destroy us all.

    They believe they are entitled to play god in our lives. Not only entitled to dictate to us, but also to use the force of government violence against us. Their lack of self-awareness would be stunning, if we hadn’t become so accustomed to it from so many for so long.

    Covid showed us how comfortable they are embracing evil. We need to keep pointing out how evil they are. Not just immoral or morally defective — evil.

  4. I frequently see a similar attitude on display with regard to the institutional Church. Any criticism is taken as an act of disloyalty. And the more corrupt the institution becomes, the louder it demands blind obedience from the faithful. This will not end well.

  5. To David’s original post regarding teachers and abuse of authority, Robert Pondiscio’s How Public Schools Became Ideological Boot Camps adds to his argument by pointing to latitude for curriculum given to teachers if they wish to use it. Another example of abuse of authority is in the federal bureaucracy. Remember Nancy Pelosi’s quip about OabamaCare? That “We have to pass the bill, so that you can find out what is in it”? Bills are written in a vague way so that the critical details are filled out by the bureaucracies and if the Devil is in the details, then that makes wide swaths of DC a hellscape. I doubt this will change if the Supreme Court strikes down “Chevron” next week, As Marini said, the bureaucracy is the 4th branch of government.

    Also of interest is a response to Pomdisico, America Doesn’t Respect Teachers The problem with Swope’s argument is that is he misplaces his emphasis regarding first principles. The legitimacy (and therefore public funding) of the public K-12 schools rests on the public’s belief that said schools further the public interest by creating citizens of virtue and sufficiency. That legitimacy is undermined when the public K-12 system abuses that autonomy. In other words a comprehensive public K-12 school system can only exist when there is a broad consensus on cultural norms.

    Here’s a solution for Swope’s concerns about micromanaging teacher creativity… vouchers. Let there be schools that are more amenable to Swope’s taste and if parents want what those “best teachers” and “inspired young people” are offering, then everyone wins.

    Intelligence agencies, let alone the forementioned bureaucracies are a poor fit in a constitutional republic that is designed to protect individual rights by limit tyranny through decentralization of power. Intelligence agencies rely on both secrets and centralization of information which are not anathema to said republic but create power that attract the corrupt. Marini posited that Watergate was a CIA/FBI hit job, though Nixon confessed he gave his enemies the weapon they used to get him.

    What we have seen over the past 8 years is the repurposing of the post-9/11 security apparatus to attack domestic enemies with its ultimate public incarnation in Biden’s 9/1/2022 statement that MAGA was a threat to the country.

    We mistake that tyranny is always seen by everyone is a bad thing, but there are too many people who believe that it can be wielded for the right reasons. I’m willing to bet there are plenty of people down in DC and Langley who think they are patriots.

    Whether Schumer’s view of the intelligence agencies stems because they have compromised him or he wants to ally with them or both is irrelevant given that he is resigned to live with them, Trump on the other hand has to scare the daylights of security apparatus because they have already taken their kill shot at him and missed and now it’s a fight to the finish

  6. I spent at least 5 seconds typing this Admiral McRaven’s name into a search box, which I find to be more time than he deserves.

    This guy was a SEAL. He doesn’t appear to have had anything at all to do with the most famous and important aspect of the navy, which is its ships. He did however have a great deal to do with the War on Terror ™ and if you think that went well, he’s your guy.

    I do not think it went well.

    Anyway, he also had a great deal to do with the CIA, Barry Obama, other democrats, and joined the board of Palantir, a company famous for its CIA connections, in 2022.

    In other words, he’s a card-carrying minion of the Deep State.

    From wikipedia:

    On October 17, 2019, McRaven published an op-ed in The New York Times with the headline “Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President”, arguing that if Trump did not demonstrate leadership, he was to be replaced.

    He was to be replaced. By who, exactly? The CIA?

    As Americans, we should be frightened — deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.

    I’d like to know just who threatened McRaven in any way or attempted to stop him from speaking, because I’d bet it was exactly no one. But let’s discuss. Alex Jones was fined a billion dollars because he said things a few families didn’t like. I don’t agree with what he said, but I’ve read the First Amendment. Rudy Giuliani was similarly fined because he expressed his opinion that the 2020 election was rigged. There are apparently swarms of lawyers being prosecuted because they’ve challenged the integrity of that election, and just today I read that the Gateway Pundit- I site I occasionally read- has been sent into bankruptcy due to leftist lawsuits and the DoJ has intervened to prevent a settlement in an obvious attempt to shut the site down permanently. George Soros is buying a prominent radio network- perhaps silencing the Mark Levin show- and the regime-dominated FCC is greasing the skids to that sale make easier. And- by the way- what happened to the Drudge Report?

    Forgive me- or don’t- if I conclude that McRaven isn’t on the side of the good men and women attempting to speak the truth, or at least express their opinion.

    Not a fan.

  7. 1543: “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” is published and Copernicus dies. Not a coincidence, he knew he was setting off a bomb and waited until he would be beyond reach of the “authorities”.

    1633: Galileo found guilty of heresy, sentenced to house arrest and prohibited from expressing or or even believing heliocentric ideas.

    1618 – 1621: Kepler publishes “Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae” a mathematical textbook and explication on the Copernican system.

    1687: Newton publishes “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” including his theory of Universal Gravitation.

    154 years to finally drive a stake through the heart of Aristotelian “science” and begin the real age on enlightenment. All with the “authorities” kicking and screaming and threatening eternal damnation for those that failed to heed their warnings. Also, the end of the conceit that the innumerate could contribute to the understanding of the universe.

    As with much of the rest of the government, the American military has lost sight of leadership and seeks to substitute authority instead. The results have been profound. Where the ascent to flag rank has been evidence of good judgement, and leadership in the past, now it mostly signifies a long succession of correct boxes checked, and proper asses kissed. Thus McRaven. Those that would be lead, in the form of recruits, have taken notice and are acting appropriately. You still hear the phrase “lost the confidence of his superiors” as cause for relief, instead the “superiors” have lost the confidence of ranks and are completely unwilling to admit it, let alone, effectively reverse it. Announcing that their carbon footprint will be improved by substituting vat grown “meat” for the real thing isn’t going to do the trick. We’re not going to win any war with an army counting the days till they can retire.

    Considering the sort of driving that seems completely normal in much of the rest of the world, the scene of a car waiting for a light to change at 3:00AM without another soul to be seen in any direction has always struck me.

  8. I believe it was Bevin Alexander who said that the role of a general in relation to civilian authority was not to be insubordinate as with MacArthur, but it was also not to be a supplicant. Rather it was to offer their best advice and then follow the orders that were given\

    There were a long line of 4-star mediocrities fighting our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan let alone at the Pentagon. However something snapped during the Obama years. There was the purge conducted through the promotion boards of the field grade and lower flag ranks, sending a message of what kind of officer had a future in Barry’s military (i.e. not the warfighters). However there was also the curious thing that nobody at the White House was bothering to talk to anyone in Defense, civilian or otherwise. Both Gates and Hagel complained that they were never consulted by anyone in the White House regrading Defense matters

    McRaven gained his 4th star in this system. Then there is the curious case of Mark Milley, a political creature, who not only rose from 1 to 4-stars under Obama but also became Army Chief of Staff. He was the one who later bragged to a reporter that in the last days of the Trump Administration that he as Chief of JCS broke the chain of command by back channeling force dispositions to the Chinese and required various commands to report to him directly. Rather than being cashiered, he of course was kept on under Biden.

    It was he who said nothing as the withdrawal from Afghanistan was overseen and then bungled by the civilian authority. As we found out earlier this year when Secretary of Defense Austin went missing for a week and nobody noticed, nobody in the Biden White House talks to anyone at Defense. Austin gained his 4th star and rose to head CENTCOM under Obama, so he was the perfect choice as SECDEF.

    Yet even an a**-kisser and a betrayer of his oath like Milley felt it necessary to take (to me) the shocking step of breaking ranks with Administration policy and stating in November 2022 that we should come to a negotiated settlement in Ukraine, a statement he later backtracked from. Of course just as with Afghanistan, Milley refused to resign in protest of administration policy and simply glided into retirement.

    The flag ranks have always been filled with mediocre careerists and back-alley politicians. However something different happened under Obama, something different from the normal irruption of professional ethics, and instead more akin to aligning itself with the prevailing zeitgeist in DC; as with many other “professional” institutions, it has become fully politicized. Watch out this November

  9. the scene of a car waiting for a light to change at 3:00AM without another soul to be seen in any direction has always struck me.

    A friend of mine told me about Ottawa, that it was prim and proper place where laws and courtesies were obeyed as only a town of Canadian civil servants could be. Imagine how they felt during the 2022 Trucker Convoy.

    I remembered that comment several years later when I was in Ottawa and observed a pedestrian waiting for the light to change so he could cross on a deserted street in the middle of the night during a near-blizzard.

  10. The flag ranks have always been filled with mediocre careerists and back-alley politicians. However something different happened under Obama, something different from the normal irruption of professional ethics, and instead more akin to aligning itself with the prevailing zeitgeist in DC; as with many other “professional” institutions, it has become fully politicized. Watch out this November

    I agree that peacetime militaries always accumulate a layer of time servers and useless drones. We saw this in WWII in both Army and Navy. Fortunately we still had a few who could clear out the trash like Earnest J King and George Marshall. King said very appropriately, “When they get in trouble, they send for the sons of bitches .” Marshall had a “little black book” in which he kept a record of the officers he met through his career and his evaluation of them.

    We are in the midst of a “fundamental transformation” of this country and its military. Vietnam set the stage and Obama is doing the dirty work. I doubt we could win a war with Obama’s military.

  11. As I read of McRaven ‘trust us, we know what we are doing. How dare you question us, we have stars on our shoulders.” More or less.
    What came to mind was the sad failure of the torpedoes provided to submarines going in harms way, only to find the torpedoes bounced off the enemy hulls without causing any damage.
    The Naval PTB, likely some with starred shoulder boards, claimed their torpedoes were perfect, and it must be all those idiotic junior officers who were messing things up.
    What is the real message? Some people reach positions of authority beyond their capacity, and become unable to make mistakes, and to question them essentially questions what they are. You rock the boat, and detract from their oh so high self opinion.
    I was always at odds with my superior officers while on active duty. I questioned the asinine rules and regulations that caused extra effort and wasted time while solving problems. I was told in no uncertain terms that I could not communicate with the support group back in San Diego and seek assistance in the performance of the main mission of the ship. I was expected to run everything up the chain of command, and await the results. Meanwhile, I have no idea how they expected our system to provide them with the needed information to pull the products for our unreps. Dead in the water in at least one respect.
    Kind of the same deal where the Engineering Officer had an emergency diesel that was supposed to fire up whenever they
    ‘dropped the load”. It had not functioned for quite some time. My nosy busybody self went into after steering and chatted with the EM who was poring over the disassembled air starter motor. It had been assembled incorrectly, and was about to go back together the same way. I mentioned that the blades would seat better if the flat surface was pointed to the outer diameter rather than the curved. The air starter worked every time after that.
    What does that say? The Engineering officer did not get involved, nor did the J.O.’s nor the Chiefs, nor the 1st Class non-coms. No one paid a bit of attention to a problem they had suffered for months, if not years. Something is/was wrong with how things were being considered. Something important, as shown by the Key Bridge in MD, was being given short shrift. Similarly the failing torpedoes in the early part of WWII. The PTB knew better.
    And, don’t rock the boat.
    Nothing new, but refined and encouraged by Teh Won who actually does not and did not want USA to succeed at anything. His puppet is being manipulated just fine. Hope he falls on his face Real Soon Now. Deservedly so.

  12. You needn’t go back to the Mk 14 though if you feel your blood pressure is deficient, this is probably the definitive account:

    For something more recent see the Littoral Combat Ships cluster, they would have saveed everyone a lot of time, money and trouble to have just towed the things from the slipway to the breaking yard, thus no need for the power plant to operate at all and minimal chance that they would break apart:

    And for a look at Christmas yet to come, the Constellation Frigate:

  13. For something more recent see the Littoral Combat Ships cluster,,,,

    Ah yes, LCS – “Little Crappy Ships” and don’t forget that the Freedom-class is a based on a license design from an Italian company; it’s not like we developed that from scratch (though the problem with Freedom is more with shipyard capacity.) A good source to follow on this issue is CDR Salamander who seems to have a post weekly on the topic; he goes further back than LCS into the 1990s with the Zumwalt-class and CG(X)

    To MCS’ point about the MK 14, Cdr. Sal. uses a great metric of “WW IIs” to define how quickly an institution, in this case the Navy, can respond to change. The US Navy in WW II went from a bureaucratic mess to an apex predator in the 44 months from Pearl Harbor to the Japanese surrender. It’s been 12 years (or more than 3 WW IIs) since Obama announced the “Pivot to Asia” and we cannot even build enough ships to maintain our fleet size.

    Along that theme I see that he touches on Niall Ferguson’s essay, “We’re All Soviets Now” Ferguson makes the comparison between the 1970s-80s USSR and the creeping sclerosis of our own society in terms of leadership, ability to innovate, and general quality of life. Analogies aren’t the best way of reasoning but the general point of Ferguson’s piece is to reframe our dilemma in terms of the demise of a recent geopolitical peer, whose collapse while seemingly inevitable retrospect nobody saw coming at the time. A fraction of the money that will be spent on EV charging stations and the strange “broadband” Internet; for which there is no great demand, is paid for by debt, and will takes many years to build, we could be investing in shipyard capacity and workforce development for something we desperately need.

    Wait, I’ve got McRaven on line one telling me to stay in my lane.

    What’s almost as interesting is Jonah Goldberg’s head-scratching response to Ferguson which takes on the tone of drunken debates I had in school with lefties who would counter your argument with non sequiturs and ad hominem arguments, At first I thought Goldberg’s piece was the equivalent of a hostage video, but then seeing his holy and misleading invocation of Buckley I realized that he was just filling his role as the screening force on the right-wing of the DC Establishment. It’s sad because once upon a time Goldberg was the guy writing pieces that completely reframed the debate, see his book “Liberal Fascism”

    Read Ferguson’s piece and what you get from it indicates how you see the world and how you;ll vote If you agree with his basic premises, I can predict you’ll vote for Trump. If you think or simply publicly (and probably dishonestly) Ferguson is a blowhard then you are going to be a never-Trumper

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