We live in the crazy years, but can choose a different destiny for ourselves and our children

Summary:  In 1939 the great science fiction writer Robert Heinlein created a timeline, the framework within which he wrote many of his greatest stories. On it is the period he called the “crazy years”. While he got the specifics wrong, that description aptly describes our time. We have made the crazy years. It’s our choice, not our destiny. We can change course and put America back on track. We need only choose to do so.

Scudder For President
We will have another chance in 2016

The Crazy Years:

Considerable technical advance during this period, accompanied by a gradual deterioration of mores, orientation, and social institutions, terminating in mass psychoses in the sixth decade, and the interregnum.

— Created by Robert Heinlein in 1939; published in Astounding Science Fiction, May 1940

Crazy years are commonplace in human history. Such as …

  • The 14th century were crazy years in Europe, brought about by a combination of  massive social and political changes, plus natural catastrophes (e.g., plague and the onset of the Little Ice Age). For a vivid account of this time see Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century (1978).
  • The French called the 1920s the années folles (crazy years), the aftershock of WWI and massive social and political change.

Now we’re in the crazy years of the 21st century, whose exact starting point does not matter (but will become clear to future historians). That we’re in the crazy years is widely recognized, especially among conservatives. Such as this, from Nebuala-award winning nominated science fiction writer John C. Wright. He read this news story:

The criminal case against the first detainee transferred from Guantanamo Bay for trial in a U.S. civilian court should be thrown out because he was denied the right to a speedy trial, defense lawyers argued on Monday.” (Reuters, 11 January 2010)

… and said this:

May God have mercy on us, I am not making this up. … The state, the military, the court system, is treating an Gitmo terrorist like a criminal defendant rather than like a prisoner of war.

Few, if any, of the prisoners at Gitmo were captured on a battlefield; fewer still are agents of a State. So they are not obviously POWs. Fewest of all were captured committing acts of terrorism, so they are only “accused terrorists”. Hence the need for a trial of some sort. Wright’s comment shows confident ignorance (unaware of why the Judge acted as he did), but not this the judge’s rule is crazy. (Update: see his explanation in the comments. Pending further clarification, it makes this an even better example of my point He’s an attorney, considering his disagreement with a judge about a technical point of complex law as evidence we’re in the crazy years).

This is a commonplace vignette in America, where both Left and Right substitute mockery for analysis — blindness to the reasoning of their opponents. The equivalent on the Left is labeling as “deniers” all who disagree with their forecasts of climate doom (including those defending the work of the IPCC and major climate agencies). These fetters of the mind are a gift to their leaders, preventing communication which might result in compromise — or even new and larger alliances.

Neither Left or Right focuses on the greater madness affecting us all, to which most Americans assent. Together their confidence, blindness and amnesia (well documented in these posts) lead America into the crazy years.


Looking Toward The Future

Power of the Crazy Years explanation

This ties together so many unrelated but important trends (all reported here in the 2700 posts since 2003). Here are three of the many examples; each reader can add to this list in the comments. Note that these are bipartisan projects, most of Left and Right among those cheering.

  1. That we cheered our foolish wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, generations after which 4GW was brought to maturity by Mao — after which foreign armies are routinely defeated by local insurgents. This is part of our mad, profitless, imperial project.
  2. That we allow Second Republic (built on the Constitution) to wither and die on our watch, passed down to our safekeeping after surviving two centuries of perils. We watch a New America arise on its ruins.
  3. That we blithely allow a financial bubble to inflate in America — an astonishing third bubble in 15 years (each with increasingly severe consequences).

The wisdom of our forefathers is our greatest inheritance, which we can recovery anytime we wish to do so. We live in the crazy years by choice. We are here as a result of decisions we know to be wrong but which we lack the will to change. We can do better.

Poll: Wrong or Right Direction
Real Clear Politics, 9 March 2014

For More Information

Posts about Robert Heinlein:

  1. Are our wars driving us mad?, 28 June 2009
  2. How the Soviet Menace was over-hyped – and what we can learn from this, 13 October 2009

Posts about our madness:

  1. Future generations will never understand our shopping madness, 13 December 2008
  2. A look back at the madness that led us into our wars. How does this advice read 6 years later?, 26 June 2012
  3. The world of wonders: Democratic Party takes center, pushes GOP right to madness, 19 February 2013



10 thoughts on “We live in the crazy years, but can choose a different destiny for ourselves and our children”

  1. Two corrections:

    1. I never did win a Nebula Award; I was only nominated.

    2. I am an attorney; I do know the reasoning of the judge, I am disagreeing sharply with it: I am suggesting that a military tribunal had appropriate jurisdiction, see Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942).

    1. Mr. Wright,

      Thank you for the two corrections. I will note this in the post.

      However, I still don’t understand your comment in response to the ruling:

      “May God have mercy on us, I am not making this up.”

      You have competent standing to disagree with the judge, of course. But why should a legal dispute on such a complex matter (regarding the appropriate jurisdiction for resolving the status of prisoners at Gitmo) be grounds for your statement, let alone evidence that we’re in the crazy years. Has there ever been a period without legal disputes about vital matters?

      That (rather than the specifics) was the basis for my observation that both Left and Right consider their own opinions as almost sacrosanct.

    2. For those not familiar with this issue, see the Wikipedia entry for Ex parte Quirin. Conclusion:

      {the Supreme Court of the United States in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld rule} that Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions applies to detainees in the “War on Terror”, and that the Guantanamo military commission process used to try these suspects was in violation of U.S. and international law.

      In response to Hamdan, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act 2006, which President Bush signed into law on October 17, 2006. The Act’s stated purpose was “To authorize trial by military commission for violations of the law of war, and for other purposes.” The Act explicitly forbids the invocation of Geneva when executing the writ of habeas corpus or in other civil actions.

  2. If John C.Wright is a lawyer, that’s the most shocking aspect of this example. As the law and the facts will show, John C. Wright exhibits no apparent knowledge or understand of legal process, a total lack of basic understanding of the law in question, and a thorough ignorance of the foundations of Anglo Saxon jurisprudence going back to the Magna Carta.

    We begin with the most elementary foundation of Western case law: the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Yet John C. Wright claims:

    The state, the military, the court system, is treating an Gitmo terrorist like a criminal defendant rather than like a prisoner of war.

    John C. Wright’s legal reasoning is grossly and appallingly incompetent, since in his statement he asserts what the judicial process exists to prove. How do we know the people imprisoned in Guanatamo Bay are “terrorists”? Is that not what the military commission trial process exists to determine? If it is legally proven as a judicial fact that the inmates in Guantanamo Bay are indeed terrorists, what need have we for trials? We should simply execute them summarily.

    The entire fact that the Guantanamo inmates are being tried in a court of law constitutes prima facie evidence that the legal status of guilt or innocence of said defendants remains undetermined. In reality, the Guantanamo inmates are innocent until proven guilty, like all defendants.

    All that has happened is that the Guantanamo inmates have been accused of being terrorists. But many people have been accused of many things since 9/11. Republicans have accused Democratic politicians of being “enemy combatants,” “traitors,” and “eager to see America fail.” Accusing someone of something does not constitute proof. That is what a trial is for.

    Moreover, there exists substantial reason to believe that many (possibly most) of the Guantanamo inmates are innocent of any crime. See the article “Former State Department Official: Team Bush Knew Many At Gitmo Were Innocent,” The Atlantic Magazine, 26 April 2013.

    Retired Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, who served the Bush Administration as a senior official in the State Department with access to classified documents and the most senior White House officials, was willing to testify, and formally declared under penalty of perjury, that many of the prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay were taken into custody “without regard for whether they were truly enemy combatants, or in fact whether many of them were enemies at all.”

    The reality of the situation in Afghanistan is that the U.S. army put out a $50,000 bounty to Afghan warlords for terrorists prisoners turned over the American forces. The Afghan warlords did waht you’d expect a greedy corrupt warlord to do, and rounded up all the goat-herders and taxicab drivers and innocent bystanders they could find, accused them of being terrorists, and sold them to the American army.

    For specifics on just one example, see the documentary “Taxi To the Dark Side,” a film about the torture and murder of an innocent taxicab driver held in Afghanistan by U.S. armed forced and beaten to death even after his American captors became convinced of his innocence.

    A competent lawyer would refrain from making assertions about a defendant without full knowledge of the facts of the case. But John C. Wright has no such compunctions — Wright is apparently too ignorant of the law and too incompetent as a lawyer to bother to do the basic legal research that would reveal that many (perhaps most) of the kidnap victims in Guantanamo Bay prisons are innocent of any crime.

    This brings us to the second and even more shocking example of John C. Wright’s ignorance of the law and incompetence in legal matters: Wright asserts that the Gitmo inmates should be treated as “a prisoner of war.”

    Which war is that, exactly?

    When did the United States declare war? And on whom?

    No declaration of war exists. Consequently no state of war exists between the United States of America and any other nation. Therefore America is not at war, and inflated phrases like “War on Terror” have no legal standing whatsoever, for America is not now legally in a state of war with anyone, nor has America been legally in a state of war since 9/11. Sloganeering like “War on Terror” is a term of art, mere inflated rhetorical fustian. Such assertions have no legal standing, any more than the phrase “war on drugs” means that America is in a legal state of war with anyone or anything.

    But of course John C. Wright is to ignorant of the law and too incompetent at legal matters to discern this basic legal fact. The sole basis for talking about “war” with regard to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan involves the invocation of the War Powers Act in the 2001 AUMF, the Authorization of Use of Military Force. The AUMF is so short that it can be reprinted in its entirety in a single brief paragraph, so let’s cite the entire AUMF to see whether it constitutes a legal declaration of war:

    Joint Resolution

    To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.

    Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens; and

    Whereas, such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad; and

    Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence; and

    Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and

    Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

    Section 1 – Short Title

    This joint resolution may be cited as the ‘Authorization for Use of Military Force’.
    Section 2 – Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces

    (a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

    (b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-

    (1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

    (2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

    Nowhere does this joint resolution of congress from 2001 declare war against anyone. On the contrary, this joint resolution of congress specifically invokes section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, which means that this joint resolution authorizes the president of the United States to send military forces into another country without a declaration of war, based on the language of the War Powers Acts which mandates that “he President can send U.S. armed forces into action abroad only by declaration of war by Congress, “statutory authorization,” or in case of “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”

    Because the AUMF invokes section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Act, it makes clear the legal fact that the AUMF is not a declaration of war, but rather “statutory authorization” for the use of military forces in another country based on “a national emergency.” A statutory authorization for use of American military forces is an altogether different animal than a formal declaration of war.

    Let’s enumerate the legal differences:

    A legal declaration of war creates a legal state of war between America and some other nation. A statutory authorization of use of military force does not.

    A legal declaration of war creates a legally identifiable enemy, which becomes crucial when interpreting such laws as the Espionage Act of 1917. Such laws speak of “giving information to the neemies of the United States” — but on what legal basis do we ascertain that some country or individual is an “enemy” of the United States? If a state of war legally exists, then it becomes simple to ascertain a legal basis that someone or some nation is legally an enemy of the U.S. If no state of war legally exists, it becomes extremely problematic to try to legally establish that any individual or any nation is legally an “enemy” of the United States.

    A legal declaration of war invokes the rules and articles of war, including the Geneva Convention. A statutory authorization for the use of American military forces does not.

    Yet John C. Wright claims that the kidnap victims in Guantanamo Bay prison are “prisoners of war.” How can this be when the AUMF under which American military forces enter Afghanistan specifically excludes a declaration of war?

    In fact, the legal status of the prisoners at Guantanamo bay is that they are foreign nationals kidnapped by American military forces and forcibly imprisoned. Since no legal state of war exists between America and any other country, the kidnap victims in Guantanamo Bay are prisoners of war — they have simply been abducted and are being held in violation of international law.

    Moreover, the AUMF remains a grossly illegal act of congress. It violates the constitution in many different ways, as well as flagrantly violating the rules of procedure of congress. The AUMF violates the fourth amendment, the fifth amendment, the sixth amendment, the eighth amendment, and the fourteenth amendment. The AUMF also has the force of law, yet the rules of procedure of the United States congress forbid “multiple subject laws” — any law may have only one subject, and cannot (for example) simultaneously ban underage drinking and the sale of unpasteurized milk. But the AUMF has many different subjects — it authorizes the president to

    use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

    This is absurd and impossible on its face. How can the president ever prevent “any future acts of international terrorist against the United States”? The only way to prevent any future acts of terrorism against the United States would be to invade every nation on earth and send death squads to every corner of the planet. But even then, there would be no guarantee that somewhere in the far future, perhaps in H.G. Wells’ mythical year 800,000, that some Eloi or Morlock would not commit a terrorist act against the United States.

    The outlandish excessiveness of the AUMF proves gobsmacking in its extremity. There is no limit to the amount of military force it authorizes the president to use in pursuit of the goal of preventing “any future acts of international terrorism” against the U.S. If the President decides that nuclear carpet-bombing is necessary, no problem — the AUMF authorizes that. If the President determines that the mass rape of all women in some third-world country is what’s needed to prevent terrorism, well, that’s life, and the AUMF authorizes that too. And if the President comes to the conclusion that genocide is necessary to prevent future terrorism? Why, then the AUMF authorizes the President of the United States to order the entire population of some foreign country lined up on their knees in front slit trenches and shot in the head, every last man, woman and child.

    This is clearly such a bizarre illegal and unconstitutional expansion of the president’s powers that the AUMF is legally null and void on its face. Many legal precedents support this assertion, including (but by no means limited to) the supreme court decisions New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), United States v. U.S. District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972), also known as the Keith case, and Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952). Indeed, many law professors and other commentators have remarked on the unconstitutional nature of the AUMF’s granting of seemingly limitless powers to the executive branch:

    More than eleven years ago, Congress authorized the Iraq War. This week, the White House voiced its support for finally repealing that authorization, conceding that the law has outlived its usefulness. This is good news. But repealing the authorization for the use of force in Iraq is not enough. It’s time to repeal the authorization for the War on Terror itself.

    Immediately after the attacks of September 11, Congress passed the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or the “AUMF.” It was an incredibly short resolution – just one sentence. But the power it handed to the president was nearly limitless. And rather than fading out of use, its power seems to grow with time.

    How can the National Security Agency maintain its sweeping, invasive spying program? The only justification is the AUMF. Where did the president get the authority to indefinitely detain people for over a decade without charge or explanation? The AUMF provides that power, of course. Can U.S. citizens be targeted by drones for assassination without due process? Sure, says the AUMF.

    It is doubtful that members of Congress envisioned the future they were creating when they voted “yes” for the AUMF in 2001. But now that future is the present world we live in, and it is time to re-examine it. Is it safer? Is it more secure? As Americans, do we have more liberty? As global citizens, are we leading by example to bring about justice and the rule of law? There is a strong case to be made that the answer to each of those questions is a resounding no, and it is directly because of the AUMF.

    It is impossible to discuss the issues of warrantless wiretapping, the war in Afghanistan, the detention facility at Guantanamo or targeted drone strikes without discussing the AUMF. These troubling practices are only possible because they are considered “incidents of war” that are covered by the sweep of the AUMF’s authority.

    For the duration of the war, the AUMF provides the president full authority to continue or even enhance these practices. But how long will that be? By passing the AUMF, Congress essentially gave the president the ability to wage war anywhere, against anyone, at any time. As a result, acts of war have spread outside Afghanistan to places such as Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Individuals with tenuous ties not to al Qaida, but to vaguely-defined “associated forces” are the targets of drones and indefinite detention. The globe is the new battlefield, and all its citizens are potential targets.

    Source: “Bring the War on Terror to an End,” U.S. News and World Report, 10 January 2014.

    The AUMF stands as a sinister monument to mass hysteria a shoddy legal reasoning. The AUMF belongs to the same twilight realm of disgraced and discredited legal atrocities as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the Supreme Court’s Dredd Scott decision, 60 U.S. 393 (1857). and the amendment to the Espionage Act of 1917 which makes it a felony to utter “any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States…or the flag of the United States, or the uniform of the Army or Navy.” Basing any legal reasoning upon the AUMF is akin to basing a theory of mathematics upon the proposition that 2 + 2 = 71.

    John C. Wright is of course too ignorant of the law and too incompetent as a lawyer to understand any of this. Wright’s knowledge of the applicable law bearing on the AUMF the military commission trials at Guantanamo Bay is likewise nil.

    Evidently John C. Wright belongs to the John Yoo school of legal reasoning, aptly summarized by Richard Nixon as “If the president does it, that means it’s legal” — and consequently the ludicrously counterfactual claims about the Guantanamo kidnap victims which Wright asserts, without legal or factual basis, may be dismissed equally without basis.

    Even the most rudimentary knowledge of legal precedent suffices to assure anyone with knowledge of the law that Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952) renders the AUMF clearly illegal and unconstitutional, since it expands the power of the executive branch far beyond what the Supreme Court found illegal in 1952.

    More to the point, the fundamental legal dictum “the law does not require impossibilities” serves to nullify the AUMF entirely, since the AUMF requires something flatly impossible — that the president prevent “any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.” Is the president God? Is the president king of all time and space? How can any president possibly fulfill the requirements of the AUMF? This alone makes such a legal act a patent absurdity and null and void on its face.

    It stands to reason that John C. Wright is aware of none of this. No surprise: as Gore Vidal remarked, we have become the United States of Amnesia, blissfully ignorant of the even the most famous aspects of recent American history.

    1. I agree on all points. There is a lesson here, one which must learn ASAP: We are alone in the defense of the Republic, 5 July 2012:

      Summary: One by one, our professions and institutions have failed us and the Republic. Under pressure their standards proved to be parchment barriers defending our liberty. Rightly so, since the Constitution stands upon its people’s love. When that fades nothing can prevents citizens from becoming subjects.

  3. “We are here as a result of decisions we know to be wrong but which we lack the will to change. We can do better.”

    Stopping this madness, the wars, the drones, the torture, the spying, Guantanamo, is only the first step. After we stop, let’s beg the world for forgiveness for all that we’ve done. Then it’ll be up to them, not us, to say when it’s over.

    1. Cathryn,

      You raise a question I’ve wondered about – how long the world’s nations will tolerate our increasingly mad militarism. Polls increasing numbers believing that we are a destabilizing force.

      Perhaps one day we’ll go too far and spark a reaction. A President McCain or President Palin might already have done so, so we have been lucky.

    2. It seems entirely possible (to me) that clever nations, like Iran, will encourage and welcome America’s crazy militarism. Clever nations realize that America’s military is, in Osama bin Laden’s prophetic words, “a paper tiger,” fearsome theoretically and certainly capable of wreaking much havoc in the lives of individual third-world tribesmen…but America’s military is in the real world ultimately powerless to change deep structures like national allegiances, the will of a population to resist the imposition of Western values, the basic religious or social attitudes of a foreign nation, and the economic substructure of a foreign region.

      Remarkable examples of the fundamental impotence of American military power abound. America’s mighty aircraft carriers and fearsome M1A1 tanks and supersophisticated one-shot-one-kill stinger missiles are completely unable to change the attitudes of Afghan men toward Afghan women. America boasts hypersonic attack craft and fabulously sophisticated drones, but those can’t impede the will of fifteen-year-old kids to fiercely resist American military intervention in their impoverished third world countries. America can bring all the stealth bombers and carpet bombing it likes to countries in the middle east, but America can do nothing to change the fundamental dependence of these third world countries on oil as a resource (which cripples and warps their entire society).

      Clever countries probably applaud America’s waste of effort and money and ingenuity in doomed military expeditions to sinkholes like Afghanistan, “the grave of empires.” The more money and effort America wastes in regions of the world that defeated even Alexander the Great’s mighty armies, the less money and effort America can expend in opposing the regional or economic ambitions of countries like China, or Iran, or Russia.

      If I were an adroit third world leader, I would urge the United States on in its quixotically counterproductive crusade against chimeras like “global terrorism” or “the effort to bring democracy” to countries whose economies haven’t yet advanced beyond mud huts and pack mules and opium farming. while laughing behind my hand at America’s folly and naïveté.

  4. “A rotting fish stinks from the head down.” All news is a psyop, the courts dispense “just-us,” the corruption of absolute power infects our elites and they drive us mad for their amusement. So much of our sickness can be traced to the massive inequality corrupted capitalism has produced.


    1. benign,

      “All news is a psyop, the courts dispense “just-us,” the corruption of absolute power infects our elites”

      Sad but true.

      “and they drive us mad for their amusement.”

      I doubt that. The existence of a ruling elite does mean that they are god.

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