RANGER AGAINST WAR <

Monday, May 25, 2015

Moral Injury

--White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland
(Zwerger) --
He's a little late

Forgive us now for what we've done
It started out as a bit of fun
Here, take these before we run away
The keys to the gulag
--O Children, Nick Cave

Torture is not just a matter of policy;
it is an addiction, a deadening mindset,
a point of identification, a form of moral paralysis,
a war crime, an element of the spectacle of violence,
and it must be challenged in all of its dreadful registers
--America's Addiction to Torture,
Henry Giroux
_____________________

It took until 1980 for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a diagnosis, thereby validating the recurring trauma which many returning veterans from the Vietnam War experienced. Today, "moral injury" is the new designation on the medical radar.

Surely the concept of moral injury is rock solid. However, Ranger takes exception with a Special Forces Lt. Col. Bill Russell Edmonds (then a Special Forces captain) who has written a book about his moral injury in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) based upon his experiences witnessing torture and in which he felt complicit.

Edmonds "volunteered for duty in an ad hoc organization, the Iraqi Assistance Group, which the United States military created to supply advisers to the nascent Iraqi military. He was sent to Iraq, given a brief training course in Baghdad and then loaded into a convoy to Mosul, where he would spend the next year on a small compound Sad­dam Hussein had called the Guest House" (God is Not Here).

Forgive me if Edmond's claim does not move me, but as an SF officer he was trained and conversant in the Geneva Conventions and the Rules of Land Warfare. He knew what he was doing, and he chose to "just follow orders."

As he was purportedly injured when a Captain, he was later rewarded for his transgressions as he is now an LTC. How can one be morally injured and yet still wear the beret and revel in the rank awarded you for your subservience?

Further, what was an SF trooper doing  in the bowels of an Enemy Prisoner of War (EPW) compound running amok with captured  personnel? Is this what JSOC and SOCOM hath wrought both to our Army and society?

There was a time pre-JSOC/SOCOM when interrogations were handled by military intelligence specialists and tip of the spear guys, where the rubber meets the road guys never got involved with enemy prisoners of war. Why was an SF officer performing this duty?

Clearly, the Military Intelligence types would not prostitute themselves by torturing and insisted on following the Rules of War. (At least, Ranger hopes there was an enclave of legality somewhere in this otherwise immoral war.) So, the Special Forces assumed the illegal function.

In short, the Captain insured his own moral injury by playing fast and loose with the morality of soldiering. His self-perversion earned him a promotion, retention in active duty, and a book detailing his experiences. Sorry, but this does not go down well.

Moral injuries are real, devastating and corrosive, and characteristically fall upon the average soldier unprepared for what he experiences. It is too much to believe that an SF Captain would go along to get along, yet once safely awarded his LTC rank, finally wakes up to smell the coffee. It sounds like bandwagon-hopping to this retired SF LTC.

Nobody ever said that SF guys were stupid.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Being There


If you think that I don't know
about the little tricks you've played
And never see you when deliberately
you put things in my way 
--I Can See for Miles and Miles,
The Who 

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright, bright
Sun-Shiny day 
--I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash 

Your lips are moving
I cannot hear
Your voice is soothing
But the words aren't clear 
--I'm Looking Through You,
The Beatles
________________________

A mirage is an optical illusion caused by atmospheric conditions. What you think you see is not there.

In long-distance marksmanship, shooting through a mirage requires sight adjustments as the target is not where the eye perceives it to be. The adjustment compensates for the optical illusion, allowing one to hit his mark. As with shooting, so with the never-ending Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©).

The politicians and the media place our focus in one grid square, while the facts are in fact skewed somewhere off-center. Some see what they wish out of denial or hope; some make the shift off-kilter for more purposeful and self-serving ends.

What did President George W. Bush see when looking at Iraq? It is a safe bet that he saw terrorism, latent democracy, weapons of mass destruction and a preponderance of other reasons enlisted to justify the invasion of that nation.

What did the Iraqis see when looking at us through the same mirage? Whatever their looking glass revealed to them, it was not democracy or any of the other evocative words we used to serve up this war.

The Iraqi saw a way to settle old scores and to establish a Shia hegemony, a dream which would have never materialized under the leadership of Saddam Hussein. The United States blustered in and let the genie out of the bottle, using hope and a cheesecake filter to make the mirage look like the fact.

The U.S. version never adjusted for the mirage in their sight picture. However, the Iraqis wisely did adjust their sights; the situation in May 2015 shows that they performed their sight adjustment, and it was realistic and achievable.

The U.S. was never able to correctly compensate for the mirage. The spotter could have used a 40 power scope to do the job. Apres and ante-war, the real picture could be given only by men on the ground. Teleconferences and news coverage failed to depict the subtlety of atmospheric events.

It is a simple rule of good cognition: make sure the eye is actually seeing the thing the brain registers as being there.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

An Eastern Western

 
--Propaganda questions 

 But behind all this, the circus is
a massive machine whose very life
depends on discipline and motion and speed.
A mechanized army on wheels,
that rolls over any obstacle in its path,
that meets calamity again and again,
but always comes up smiling
--The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)


Look at that! That is a complete fucking fraud,
and it looks a hundred percent real.
It's the best work I've ever done in my life,
because it's so honest
--Wag the Dog (1997)


Come to your house,
no he doesn't stay long
Look around the room,
you see your father will be gone
--Death Don't Have No Mercy,
Rev. Gary Davis

________________________ 


 From a Special Operations perspective, the Osama bin Laden raid as presented by the Obama administration has some gaping holes. As Seymour Hersh said in a recent interview:

They're going in [ST6] just repelling down was the plan. You know, a perfect target for anybody with a BB gun. And they're going to go in like that without any air cover. (OBL) is going to hide out in a compound at Abbottabad, sort of a resort town, and a resort town 48 miles or so outside of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, within a mile or two of Pakistan's West Point where they train young officers, the army does, and a couple of miles from a regimental headquarters full of army troops. He's going to hide out there? I mean, As I wrote in the article, it's a Lewis Carroll story. It just doesn't sustain any credibility if you look at it objectively.

All Special Operations leave a paper trail, even though an event may be highly classified. Special Ops does not have any secret methods of mission preparation; they are all based upon logic and similar to those used in any combat unit. Troop-leading procedures and staff planning remain the same.


Pre-mission planning


-- Was Tac Air protection planned for all phases of the operation?
-- Was aerial rocket artillery pre-planned to seal off all avenues of approach and the objective?

-- Were medical assets on standby to receive the mission wounded?


-- Were intelligence assets designated to receive the Enemy Prisoners of War (EPW)?


-- Were the local U.S. Embassies alerted to the action?

-- Were "spares" designated for any helo losses at the objective?

--Was there a command and control element designated in the pre-mission planning which would be airborne during the operation?
--Were Air Forces assets on standby to deliver OBL to United States jurisdiction, should he be captured?

Actions at the Objective

-- Were avenues of approach blocked? 
-- Was there any near or far security element?
-- Were demo teams designated to destroy U.S. property left behind? Did the    Operations Order designate this?
-- What was the medevac standard operating procedure for friendly casualties? Were hospitals  on alert in Afghanistan?
-- What actions were anticipated Should Pakistani forces compromise the mission?
-- Were air cover assets on station?
-- Were Army Special Operations aviation assets covering the actions at the objective?
-- If the objective was too strong to be breached what actions were expected from the assault  team?


Actions upon leaving the objective

 

-- Were any assets designated to destroy any enemy forces reinforcing the objective?
-- Was there a designated temporary assembly area protected by friendly fires should the assault be repulsed?

These are all elements that a leader should address before, during and after the operational phases are actually conducted. An investigator should ask if these were present in the mission preparation and examination of the OPORD is vital in determining these points.

As example, the downed helo would not be destroyed until after the team was airborne and exfiltrating. No Special Operator would blow anything up until the assigned mission was completed. The mission is the highest priority.

The helo would be rigged and set to blow upon team exfiltration. Anything else would be calling additional local attention to the operation (though the sounds of gunfire and helo rotors bellowing into the night were all indications that the mission was operational, anyway.)

The team's actions indicate that this was a pre-determined cake-walk, and a real investigation would reveal this fact. Seymour Hersh's investigative piece begins the questioning, but it seems the media outlets are more interested in toeing the Obama administration's party line of denial, rather than doing their job as our watchdogs.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Osama bin Laden: Anticlimax

--It's a Wrap:
National Command Authority viewing the 
Osama bin Laden execution 

make em laugh make em cry
make em dance in the aisles
make em pay make em stay
make em feel ok
we've got to get on with the film show
Hollywood waits at the end of the rainbow 
--Not Now John, Pink Floyd 

Let me entertain you
Let me make you smile
Let me do a few tricks
Some old and then some new tricks
I'm very versatile
--Let Me Entertain You, Gypsy 

You brought me fame and fortune
And everything that goes with it
I thank you all 
--We are the Champions, Queen
___________________

Say, did ya hear about that tornado in Texas? They say we've had a tornado a day since May 2nd. Kinda blows your little mind, no? Oh, and black men who run from the police, some of them have been killed, too.

And an impeccable journalist (a vanishing breed) named Seymour Hersch has just revealed an explosive news story to little attention: that the Osama bin Laden kill-raid was a well-scripted affair in collusion with the Pakistanis for a couple of years before the scenario actually went into live action action on May 2011. The body parts of the target of the assassination, Mr. Bin Laden, were strewn in the mountains of Afghanistan (in contrast to the official story of a burial at sea.) 

The non-event was in the can before the film started rolling.

The Big News is: President Obama's approval of this assassination is an impeachable offense, but the media cabal will not allow that to happen, in the same way it (and we) have allowed Mr. Obama to order previous assassinations (four of whom were U.S. citizens.)

The point is, we are distracted by the predictable, the intractable and the insoluble, while a real and present threat to our democracy is issued from the White House to little fanfare. We are slaves to our self-imposed notions of political correctness, missing the forest for the trees.


When the Abu Ghraib scandal was revealed by the same Mr. Hersch, The New Yorker magazine was only too happy to oblige. It brought proper shame and howls of execration upon the administration of President George W. Bush. The press was game to follow the meticulously researched trail of grotesqueries revealed by Hersch's reportage, but not so now. Why?

Mr. Bush was a natural flak magnet, a Privileged White Man (PWM) who began the dreadful bungle of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) in a spectacular fashion, with the support of many. However, as the realities of the failure began to unravel themselves, the easy derision -- often from his one-time supporters -- came easily.

Though Obama has continued what Bush began and taken the legal violations to new heights, there is not much outcry. Obama is a "serious man". He embodies what we like to imagine as our triumph of will: The election of our first black president.Our underlying collective guilt and bigotry allow us to do naught but allow for the hagiography of Obama.

But The London Review of books did run Hersch's piece, and it is just as damning, just as vulgar as anything committed in the Bush administration if not more so by virtue of its scripted nature. Where much of Abu Ghraib was a ghoulish cock-up perpetrated partly by misfits operating under incapable supervision, partly by a hubristic system gone rogue, reveling in its sadistic power, the killing of OBL was accomplished by a master plan long in the making, staged to look like a heroic mission.

However, heroism is not a term to be applied to either Mr. Bush's or Mr. Obama's escapades in the conduct of the Phony War on Terror. We do not need Mr. Yoo anymore; Obama brings his own lawyerly skills to the execution of his administration's dastardly deeds.

One and a half years later, Hollywood's script of the Army's scripted action -- the film Zero Dark Thirty (2012) -- was released, winning an Academy Award for Kathryn Bigelow (a FEMALE director!) capturing the "essence" of war. She had cut her teeth on "the Hurt Locker" in the same way the Army cut its on the Jessica Lynch fable. Our own Leni Reifenstahl, helping to further the war effort; a good lap dog.

The White House fabulists began the simulacrum with their early construction of a "daring" multi-force assault story-board for the rescue of Jessica Lynch, the plucky blond West Virginian who went down shooting in 2003, except it was not true. Twelve years have passed since that foundational tale, and it was bookended with the daring OBL raid and the fake-modest book by one of the perpetrators (Mark Bissonnette), "No Easy Day."

No, you will not hear the calls for President Obama's impeachment over his complicity in and approval of this shocking action because, well, you choose the reason.

We will offer a few:

--The nation needs its heroes.

--The trade-off for the blacks who have been killed in recent months and have been forefronted by the media is to not try our first black president. (Forget that they and he are not fungible quantities. For the sake of a Tweet they are.)

--If President Bush was not tried for impeachment, we can't try Obama.

--Living as we do in philosopher Baudrillard's hyperreal, to reveal the fact behind the portrayal of the spectacle would be a tertiary
"event" for us, and therefore, much diluted in its potency.
The real is less appealing, and we are collectively less heroic, more demonized, in its revelation.

The OBL raid was DOA as a news item; an anticlimax. The ailing older man had been superannuated by new leadership presenting new challenges. The only thing left was to rub out the lingering non-threat (OBL) and to imbue the supposed capture-kill mission with an air of western bravado, another daring raid, a la Jessica Lynch. An Eastern Western, fit for the agog Facebooking masses.

Like propagandist Reifenstahl's homage to the Third Reich (Triumph of Will), Bigelow's No Easy Day  depicts Americans as well-intentioned and successful. Like director Clint Eastwood's American Sniper earlier this year, these movies show events populated by men and missions acting for the greater glory of the State. There is little room for ambiguity. Things are necessary, and the gruesome and ambiguous nature of the reality is sucked up by the "get ir done", can-do of American moxie.

It seems the supposed liberals think it better to let Hersch's expose die with every other failure by denying it press, by focusing on the things we know how to talk about, giving our sympathy to things familiar and tried. Pity, given the dangerous nature of the news Hersch has presented

A nation which pretends to democracy while hiding its violations dies the death of a thousand small cuts.

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Monday, May 04, 2015

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Responsibility


 Instead of truly speaking to others today,
we are all waiting merely to unload on to others
the words that have collected inside us 
--The World of Silence, Max Picard
 _______________________

Today's Diane Rehm show featured a discussion on the press's latest concatenation on race (Fallout From Freddie Gray’s Death And Underlying Causes of Urban Poverty And Racial Strife In Baltimore And Across the Country).

It provided the usual Public Radio imbalance of 4:1 uber-liberal opinions, everyone talking at cross-purposes to the other's view in the service of advancing his (or more often, her) agenda. Which was particularly amusing considering the rhetoric of the Left was to champion the position of the "Othered". Perhaps only other Others are favored (=patronized) on Rehm's platform.

The rhetoric was getting so thick that the moderator asked the panel if white people suffer from problems of oppression and mobility, too. Does anything indicate naivete and bias more than such a question?

Former Army Lt. Colonel and black State Representative Allen West (FL-R) held up his 20%, but his opening statement was too logical, and he was therefore marginalized. He laid out his and his family's history in segregated Atlanta of the 1950's, and the ways in which the black community thrived then as opposed to its dismal state today. (His opening presentation is impressive, but re-plowing through the other voices on the re-broadcast would be intolerable, so that mission is left for the staunch reader at the above link, if you so choose.)

The impossible female voices which have come to define public radio jumped in with their shrill patter of "Otherness" and how Baltimore and other cities are being "over-policed", and the problems with not being racially-diversified, when Mr. West interrupted by re-stating that the businessmen in Atlanta of his youth were not racially diversified, and that blacks walked amidst positive role models every day.

West continued with the example of Harlem's "Success Academies," public charter schools which have shown outstanding success thus far with traditionally blighted student populations, yet which NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio wants to shut down, caving to the pressure of the teacher's union. 

He used the "R" word: Responsibility, a thing outre on NPR when talking about anything, really. You may simply presume the blame lies with the U.S. government not throwing out enough money, and call it a day.

Someone asked the panelists about "black-on-black" crime in Chicago, the ensuing response eliciting my only laugh during the show. One of the apoplectic females insisted that focusing on personal responsibility was a misbegotten path. 

"We don't need to be saying, 'Mom's need to take responsibility for their babies'!" The 80% refused to even entertain ideas like the welfare state might have entrenched a fractured family unit for many in the black community, or that family cohesion is a bedrock of a sound society. But as Ranger says, "Don't breed 'em if you can't feed 'em," and this goes for all people of course.

The concluding caller, who said that he had grown up in the worst of NYC hoods and yet managed against the odds to get out and get an education, seconded the problem as expressed by West, namely, no examples and no neighborhood opportunities. The moderator gave the final word to one of the shrill panelists as to how this problem might be addressed.

Of course, she would not veer from her well-trod path. "The police should have asked Mr. Gray, 'How can I help YOU, young man?' He's part of our community, our society."

But to that Mr. West had already given a pre-emptory reply.

He said in the Atlanta of his youth, if a policeman approached you, the only possible reply was, "Is there a problem, officer?" As he said, if you're not guilty, why wouldn't that be the first response out of your mouth? Certainly, you would not run. West's brother, who joined the Atlanta police force after returning from service in Vietnam, would expect no less.
Courtesy and civility -- it works both ways.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Going Jihadi


The "Mother of the Year" was everywhere yesterday. The hero mom, Toya Graham, is seen delivering a serious whoopin' to her 16-year-old son Michael as he retreats down and across a street. CBS news promised a later feature with the mother and son in their living room. Apparently this was the best feel-good piece the broadcasters could find.

Single mother of six Graham is relentless in her assault, hitting her son repeatedly about the head and face after she says she saw him throwing items at the police trying to quell the riots in Baltimore, and acclaim for her violent reaction is fawning. You go girl, they say.

Turn it around for a moment: say the camera caught a Baltimore policeman hitting the rock-throwing 16-year-old upside the head, all the way across a street. Would the cop be our hero?

What if Ms. Graham began whaling on a policeman in the same way she attacked her son? We would call it, "battery upon an officer". What if a white woman did that to her son? We would think she is crazy, strung out or loveless.

We would ask, "Is it any wonder the young man turned out the way he did?", that is, if we actually cared to know how it is 16-year-old Michael came to be throwing rocks at the cops.

What if a 200-pound white woman charged at the (apparently) smaller young black man, reining her fury down upon him? RACISM, no doubt.

Yet the true racism is revealed by the glee shown uniformly in the news. We accept that these people live in a jungle, and are delighted (as when watching a nature film) the elder member jumps a presumptuous younger member for transgressing the group's mores.

But this is not a nature film, and the younger, smaller member will soon outgrow the family member dispensing jungle justice.

A Philidelphia Times Op-Ed column proclaims with attitude, "Baltimore mother in viral video who beat up her son is my kind of mom." "Who beat up son ..." I wonder if that privileged writer also chose to beat up her children? I wonder what the Department of Children and Families would have to say about that?

If you saw Ms. Graham meting out the punishment to her son in another venue, would it look like child abuse? If your son were involved in mayhem, would pummeling his body be your first reaction?

How about if this were a formative experience of a young President Obama after his mama caught him smoking weed? Would we be reveling in the punishment she exacted, calling it righteous? Would we say, "That is the sort of discipline that allowed Barack to aspire to the White House?

More likely, we would cry foul -- a white woman failing to understand the efforts of the young Barry to fit in. We would chasten ourselves, excusing the lad of simply getting caught in the seine net of hood behavior. We would call his mom a brute, insensitive, surely out of line.

The permutations are many. Look into your heart and decide if this video brings you peace and satisfaction.

This is the soft bigotry of low expectations


Prediction: Either young Michael will become an honorary gang member, he will be given no quarter for being p-whipped before he is even a baby daddy, or he will have a conversion and join the ministry, capitalizing on his 15 minutes.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Running from the Police

 --Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Intelligence is a moral category
--Theodor Adorno

 "Nay, I’ll not unvision
A shape which, somehow, there may be." 
So I went on softly from the glade,
And left her behind me throwing her shade.
--Shadows on the Stone, Thomas Hardy,

Give 'em lots of sex, perversion and rape
Give 'em lots of violence and plenty to hate 
--Give the People What They Want,  
The Kinks
_______________________

Maybe our fascination with zombies is largely metaphorical. What if the grotesque, suppurating beings represent the vulgarities that live beside, within and among us daily? What a clever and poetic thing to call that which you place outside of you, "undead".

The term recognizes the thing's existence in a liminal area; not quite exterminated, though you wish it were gone. They threaten the existence you think you have lest you avert your eyes for a moment allowing the thing to reanimate, and possibly consume you. Eternal vigilance is the only salvation.

"The Undead" is a trope we may use to explain every recent incident of a black man dying while in contact with the police. Like Casablaca's Captain Renault, we cry a disingenuous "Shocked!" when we see videos which prove the fact.

We prostrate ourselves, overlaying our collective guilt upon the scene, as if to erase the reality of power over a group of people we fear and disdain: the outlaw, the threat to conformity within the society. We can shuttle off our concerns onto the culpable officer of the law and breathe somewhat easily for a moment, but the mise en scene is still "undead".

The benefits to the masses of this forefronting of our outrage, backgrounding our fear, are many.  We get to throw stones, and discharge a collective angst. We get the high of viewing the salacious footage.

Snuff films used to be outre, the outliers in the undercover world of porn. Now, with the advent of our ubiquitous recording devices, we may view heads rolling or bodies pumped with bullets day or night from the comfort of our device of choice, from our own bed (if you wish.) No need to trek to the Coliseum anymore. 

Michael Eric Dyson's recent New York Times Op-Ed, Racial Terror, Fast and Slow, offered little that was new. Dyson wrote, "Problems arise when images of blackness contradict a received racial script" -- what blather. In fact, the "images of blackness" cohere quite nicely with the racial script. 

The images follow the script like night the day: 70% of black babies are born out of wedlock. Children born into a single-parent household languish in most developmental tests from the beginning. It is hard enough to run a household with two parents, how much moreso with one usually marginally-educated parent in a society which does not support single parenthood. 


In 1992, the white, liberal, educated and employed t.v. character Murphy Brown played by an attractive Candace Bergen sallied forth to bear a child without marrying, and the liberal commentariat cheered her. Republican Dan Quayle had the temerity to suggest this might not be a good thing, and the liberals drowned him in howls of execration. A woman can do what she pleases (and it's especially nice when, as with Brown character, she has an attractive Latino handyman and a good paycheck helping her out.) 

An iconic 1970's commercial of female empowerment for a perfume (!) featured a perfectly groomed woman in a power suit and heels slinging a frying pan to the sassy tune, "I can bring home the bacon / fry it up in a pan / and never, ever let you forget you're a man." The reality for most single mothers and their offspring isn't an Enjoli commercial or Murphy Brown's sophisticate dream, and it is their children you are seeing on the real-life snuff films.

Another script is, black men have been marginalized by the advent of various social welfare programs which  benefited single mothers in the 1960's. But perhaps the programs were developed to meet a need, and did not have the nefarious intent of displacing the male head of household. A sociological survey in the 1950's, "The Negro Street Corner Man", suggested that black males, like males in many machismo cultures, enjoy hanging out with their boys (their peers, not their offspring), leaving the women to run the household. Kick it, and run, or as the Jamaicans say, "Trow down and take away."

In a supporting role is the rap culture which glorifies the bling of the lone trolling thug, the female reduced to his adoring toy. (We are not talking about "life-affirming" rap, which is a small subcategory of the genre.) Too many young women have bought into this, so a working-class male cannot match this image. Therefore, they end up with no partner.

In addition, many African tribes are matriarchal, as are many black American families today. During slavery in America, blacks were forbidden to marry. Following Emancipation, there was a rush to enforce marriage in the black community to bring them quickly into the Western Christian model, but many rejected this enclosure.
These are just a couple of idiosyncratic observations, but rather than accept Dyson's constructed script-and-image duality, let us look at the reality. This is not often done as most people want to see themselves as good and as such, refrain from stating anything which might be construed as racist, pejorative or prescriptive. But by not stating what is apparent (though unpalatable to some), one never has the opportunity to change the actuality (if it needs to be, or can be changed.) 
When looking at the black men who have died in police encounters, we should be honest about our presumptions, the realities and the solutions. Over the next few posts, we will aim for that.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Full of Sound and Fury

 Money, it's a hit
Don't give me that do goody good bullshit
I'm in the high-fidelity first class traveling set
And I think I need a Lear jet 
--Money, Pink Floyd 
 _______________________

Another Earth Day thought from writer I.F. Stone, on the inception of the holiday. He cautioned the would-be hypocrites for congratulating themselves too heartily on their project lest they fail to see the connectivity with all other national priorities.

Stone first came to my attention in a groaning stack of his collected essays being sold (or not) at a dollar store, the place most people go for cleaners and needful paper products. Such is the fate of the iconoclastic essayist, a form most haven't time or inclination for in a while.

The occasional outliers like the Stone book which appear in such stores are intriguing, like the lovely moderne Italian espresso cups and saucers next to the chocolate Easter bunnies on the same trip. Too avant-garde to sell for their actual purpose, someone thought to cleverly stage them as children's tea set.

The largely-forgotten Stone was quoted yesterday in a piece by Naomi Klein on her recent receipt of the "Izzy" (Stone) award for independent writing, and the excerpt voices precisely the problem with our sliced-and-diced sped up views of the supposed problems which we face. Because we lack a gestalt, we exist in frustration and outrage, and do not solve problems.

"There’s no use talking about Earth Day until we begin to think like Earthmen. Not as Americans and Russians, not as blacks and whites, not as Jews and Arabs, but as fellow travelers on a tiny planet in an infinite universe. All that we can muster of kindness, of compassion, of patience, of thoughtfulness, is necessary if this tiny planet of ours is not to go down to destruction.
"Until we have a leadership willing to make the enormous changes—psychological, military, and bureaucratic—to end the existing world system, a system of hatred, of anarchy, of murder, of war and pollution, there is no use talking about buying more wastebaskets or spending a couple of hundred million dollars on the Missouri River. If we do not challenge these fundamental causes of peril, we will be conned by the establishment while basic decisions are being made over which we have very little control, though they endanger everything on which our future and the world’s depend."

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day 2015


 Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life? 
--The Summer Day, Mary Oliver
_________________________

Happy Earth Day, Ranger readers. We hope you're able to breathe a little fresh air, hear some wildlife noise and smile at the sun today.

It was 45 years ago the first Earth Day was celebrated. It was a time of consciousness raising -- the earth was our mother, and it wasn't nice to "fool with mother nature." Today, the earth is our slag heap. Some remained committed to conserving resources while the others claim there's nothing to worry about, since the water keeps coming out of the tap when it is turned on.

President Obama is in the ever-threatened Everglades today with Bill Nye the Science Guy. Our coral reefs off the coast are dying. Too many people, said a conservationist on National Public Radio today. It is true, but we are not going to wallow in that just today.

We have been AWOL from posting recently, but not due to a lack of interest or concern. We have simply been focusing on productive issues, and have found the negative tone required of so much online writing to be a turn-off and a bummer, so we have just dropped out for a while.

We will be back tomorrow, most likely, with our usual honest thoughts and no knee-jerking. That's why you come to Ranger.

We hope you may enjoy your earth, today and beyond.


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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Rush to Judgement

 I read the news today oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh 

--A Day in the Life, The Beatles 

Ebony and ivory 
live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard, 
oh Lord, why don't we?  
--Ebony and Ivory, Paul McCartney 

There are a thousand hacking at the branches
of evil to one who is striking at the root 
--Walden, Henry David Thoreau
_____________________

I opened the paper this morning to see the lede: Black man shot by white officer. Apparently the victim was shot while running off with the officer's Taser gun.

I thought about a similar shooting in our town last month that should have gotten press, but didn't. The man killed was a casual associate of Ranger's.

Garland Wingo, white male, age 64, was felled by three bullets fired by a black Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) officer while walking away from him down the street. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene. It was a bright sunny early evening around 7:00 at Lake Ella, the favorite park in our area for socializing and walking after work.

On a nice day Lake Ella is always a popular place. Not really a lake but a drainage pond housing monster carp which seem to thrive on the effluent, but it is as close to a nature park downtown as Tallahassee comes. All ages and colors mingle freely at all hours of the day in this outpost of general safety in a town growing increasingly unsafe. The park abuts the police department, adding to that sense of security.

On 18 March 2015, someone is said to have reported Mr. Wingo as having a gun on his person to the police. At that time, he was reported as sitting on one of the many benches surrounding the lake.

Mr. Wingo was a long-time fixture of the Lake Ella area, as he usually took advantage of the Wi-Fi at the nearby Publix grocery food court. He was always neat and tidy, and fit-looking -- a bit quiet, but friendly when spoken to. No one recalls him as ever being loud, hostile or out of line.

The regulars say he had a concealed carry permit. Many people do in this area. It is not unusual to sit down to a meal at a restaurant and see a civilian's gun peek out from under her clothing. That is just how it is in these parts.

The only report with any details was given on 19 March by the Famuan, the campus paper of Florida A & M University; still, it wasn't much. They reported, according to TPD spokesman David Northway, 

“At approximately 6:55 p.m. Wednesday evening, TPD received a call about a man with a weapon at Lake Ella sitting on a park bench.”

"(Zackari) Jones, who was the first officer on the scene, found Wingo walking in the roadway on the south side of the lake. Jones went up to Wingo. Officer Northway said, the two 'made contact with each other.'  At some point, Jones had to draw his weapon and fire, striking Wingo. Emergency medical services were applied but Wingo died at the scene.

"TPD officers came to the scene to assist and section off the scene. The Homicide and Forensic Units collected found a handgun on Wingo’s body."

There are no details given regarding what was said, or why the officer felt he had to fire three shots into 64-year-old Mr. Wingo. What is certain is that no witnesses reported that Mr. Wingo was brandishing a weapon (though the headline in one news outlet said just that.) One woman reported seeing the officer fire three shots and then standing over Wingo's body.

I guess Mr. Wingo's killing at the hands of a black police officer doesn't merit national coverage because ... maybe it doesn't happen that often (except in the case of now-dead Mr. Wingo.) It must be that white people just don't get killed at the hands of officers of the law, and certainly not black officers.

Perhaps it is that Tallahassee is not that big a deal being a rather uneventful place, though it is the capital of the state. Surely it is as important as Ferguson, Missouri.

There are those who will say, "Carrying a gun is just asking for it," but it is legal to do so in Florida with a $135 CCW permit, which Mr. Wingo is said to have had. Surely it is no more egregious than reaching into an officer's car and grappling for his weapon. Probably less so on the measure of threat level.

But alas, the white-on-black meme will run 'round the globe via 100's of thousands of social networking posts. They won't accomplish anything beyond allowing the poster to expulse some of his or her bile for the moment. "Look for another such killing in a few more months," Chad Lorenz, Slate's news editor and Cassandra hopefully extolled today.

What comes of this fixation? Surely we continue to have a racial problem in the U.S., but are we seeing the whole truth? Are we understanding it? What are we not focusing on when we vent our holy outrage at the shooting du jour? What do we gain by our collective cognitive dissonance?

Our social platforms require speed over rigor, and we will suffer ignorance due to our addiction. Anger and outrage are the things that gain readership, and isn't one's number of followers the only metric for success today?

In Tallahassee two weeks ago the city held a forum to discuss the problem of crime in the predominately black South side of town. There will be grants awarded, but the police are not hopeful. A TPD spokesman speaking on the local NPR radio station said the problem was too complex to be fixed with one approach. Basically the grant would be a fallow gesture, is what he was saying.

White Mr. Wingo is still dead. The TPD Public Information Officer declined to return my call. Almost one month on, it is unlikely we will receive further.

Meanwhile, keep tuned for the next black man to be jumped by a white officer. Slate has promised it.

A little something to keep you occupied.

______________________________


Correction: The video appears to show the victim, Walter Scott, did not have the officer's Taser when he was running. Still missing is film showing the period of time between the officer's dash cam showing the traffic stop and when the bystander began shooting his video of Mr. Scott and the officer getting up off the ground and Mr. Scott running prior to being shot by the officer.


UPDATE: Sgt. Bossio of the TPD returned my call today and said, though he could give me no further details, I could come to the station and view the incident report after the Grand Jury convenes 6 May 15.

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