Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Wilbert O. Davis, Sr.


Soldier Wilbert O. Davis, Sr. (1933-2010) was a friend and mentor to Ranger while he was an ROTC student as Bowling Green State University.

Memories are are of a quiet, reflective, quick-to-smile and tough-minded NCO. Davis was a Civil War history buff, and so was Ranger.

Master Sergeant Davis was a primary instructor for Military Science I and II, and both classes were a pleasure to attend. He led us on patrols and taught us Close Quarters Combat (CQC) and rifle drill. He showed no mercy in these classes and always smiled when he put us into stress positions.

In 1966, Davis returned to the active Regular Army and pinned on his Captain's bars, going to Vietnam with the 25th Division.

The Army has an odd dual-track system whereby Davis was a Regular Army Senior NCO, but also held the Reserve rank of "Captain". The Army was in need, so Davis was called up as a Reservist.

Davis was in the last all-black Airborne unit in the Army. Since he enlisted in 1952, this was probably the 505th Airborne, which devolved from the renowned 555th Airborne Battalion (the "Triple Nickles").

In Korea, the 505th was integrated into the 187th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR). This was the first all-black Parachute Infantry Battalion integrated in to a United States combat division. If memory serves, Davis wore a 187the PIR combat patch.

[As a point of interest, the all-black 2nd Ranger Company was attached to the 187th PIR, and it is likely that Davis was in this unit. The 2nd Rangers have the distinction of being the first Ranger unit to make a combat jump (Korea).]

Davis's awards included the Silver Star, Bronze Star (for both meritorious service and combat valor), Air Medal, Army Commendation, Master Parachute Badge and 2nd award of the Combat Infantry Badge.

After retirement, Davis served as a Department of the Army civilian. He also lost his eyesight. The last time we met was in 1969 at Ft. Benning (GA), when he smiled and congratulated me on my successful completion of all the normal Benning School for Boys finishing courses.

This is an homage to one of the excellent men who helped to train up a young cadet.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017


 --Orangina vintage advert, 
Bernard Villemot

 If they say,
Why, why, tell 'em that it's human nature
Why, why does he do me that way 
--Human Nature,
Michael Jackson

{This event is so absurd, pathetic, tragic and needless, 
we are going with a graphic neither black or white, 
a visual with a lot of holes,
as it is unknown whether race is a culprit.}

A day after we began our Black History month here at RAW, the November 2016 shooting of the murdered black Florida cop beater 53-year-old Edward Strother was back in the news (the shooter had been cleared by prosecutors).

It is not exactly a race story, but it is, sort of.

To wit: 53 year old Edward Strother is seen in a witness's phone footage in November (2016) whaling on Deputy Dean Bardes as he sits astride the deputy in the road. Ashad Russel, 35, happens along, strapped and possessing a concealed carry permit. Bardes, in extremis, calls to Ashad, "Shoot him! Shoot him!"

[Note: several witnesses are on the sidelines, watching and filming, but not calling 911 for assistance.]

Composed, Mr. Russel warns Strother, "Stop, or I will shoot." When Strother fails to cease beating the policeman, Russel fires three shots, killing Strother. Both the assailant and his killer were black; the policeman, white.

Following firing the shots, Mr. Russel throws the gun on the ground and walks away a la the film "High Noon", when the Sheriff throws his badge in the dirt with utter disgust for his fellows and his society.

So what prompted this absurd, violent event? Some backstory:

Both the assailant and his victim shared a job history -- both had been security guards in the Northeast; Strother in Connecticut, Bardes in New Jersey. Strother worked in the field for 22 years; Bardes left after five and became a Deputy in 2005

The only personal data on Strother are reports from his neighbors that odd and loud sounds had been reported coming from his residence late at night over the last few months.

On the day of the incident, Strother was reportedly traveling over 100 mph on Interstate 75 in Estero, Florida, when he almost struck patrolman Bardes' vehicle as the deputy was assisting in a separate incident.

News reports state that Bardes felt targeted when Strother almost hit his vehicle, and he then gave chase.

Strother pulled off on an exit ramp and as the two men approached, Strother reportedly punched Bardes, who then landed on the pavement. It was then that Strother straddled the officer and began "raining down punches" on him according to a witness, also slamming the officer's head on the pavement.

So what triggered Strother?
If his 22-year history as a security guard was a fairly consistent and uneventful one, what changed to make him violently target an officer of the law?

Emergent mental illness? Drug use? Personal trauma? A combination thereof? Whatever the cause, Mr. Strothers was killed in a pathetic, tawdry and sorry event.

Liberals will cry "gun control", but the man whaling on the cop did not use a gun, nor did the cop use a gun on Mr. Strothers.

Others will cry, "It is the paramilitary police", but Deputy Bardes did nothing untoward. The only way in which this is racial would be if the assailant had targeted the white policemen for his race, alone. This is unknown.

But if that is so, then what predicated this episode of racial rage?

The media was awash in news of racial violence prior to Strother's attack. The events spooling out in Ferguson, MO, was a fairly regular presence on the evening news. Then there was Freddie Gray, the youth in Cleveland, and the Charleston church shootings, among other incidents.

Also, what predicated Mr. Strother's release from his security job? Did he retire in good standing?

My construction of events is as good as any, and until further data is revealed, my diagnosis is:

Mental illness, exacerbated by an incessantly inflammatory press. Why else would a black man beating a white cop not cease his actions when a large and younger black man is standing in front of him in a full Weaver stance shouting at him to stop?

Mr. Strother must have suffered some extreme mental duress (possibly situational, possibly resulting from an organic mental illness, possibly, a combination of the two.) He may have suffered some personal affront from either a policeman or a white person.

After several years of exposure to incessant and salacious media coverage of prior racial events involving the police, Mr. Strother became vicariously, personally involved as a Person of Color (write large).

Possibly, he was on Molly or bath salts; if performed, a toxicology report was not printed. Possibly, there was no predicating event.

In what became a sad case of death-by-cop (sort of), Mr. Strothers lost his life after deciding that policeman Bardes was his enemy and beginning his brutal assault on the officer.

I contend that the two primary culprits in this pathetic and tragic event were severe mental distress or illness on Mr. Strother's part, and a complicit media organization which exploited racial events beyond their usefulness for their gratuitous ratings hunt.

Untreated mental illness and a media circus which promises fifteen minutes of fame, dead or alive. It is a toxic but heady combination in our frontier world lived on the flashy ground of social media.

Whenever acute distress meets with mediocre capabilities, tragedy is often the result. Mr. Strother was violating the law, and Deputy Bardes had demonstrated weakness with the issue of criminal containment (he had undergone remediation after a suspect once fled his patrol car.)

We can expect more Strother's and Cho's Adam Lanza's and James Holmes, until we figure out how to identify and treat vulnerable people, and how to live sanely in a world in which the itchy trigger finger is occupied scrolling through endless media feeds, and the mind attached to that finger can be roused to an immediate and visceral violence.

Moreover, the individual now lives in a vicarious relationship to those viewed events, being installed as he is in the immediate commentary (feed) to the viewed events. If you are one of the Twitterers, your shock and rush to commentary after such predictable events is disingenuous.

In this tragic event, as in most which preceded it, mental illness is the probable primary and proximal causative factor.

A fatted and goading media is the distal one.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Post- Post Racial

--Separate but Equal?
Will the suffering ever end?
--Jehovah's Witness tract left on Lisa's door 

That's just the way it is
Some things will never change 
--That's Just the Way it Is,
Bruce Hornsby 

Oh, we've got to free our brothers
from their shackles yeah if we can, if we can  
--Slave, Elton John

[We have been a little slaggerdly at RangerAgainstWar. We are sorry. Today -- and this week -- we present the equivalent of "Christmas in July" (the tchotchke buying spree that gets most Southern hearts a'thumpin): Black History Month in March.]

A question arises from the ground of our post-post modern angst: "Is God a bigot, or are people simply bigoted, using God as an excuse for their bigotry?" Or, is God simply not a part of the racial equation? {And, no, we may not pin this phenomenon on President Trump, as the existence of bigotry pre-dates his arrival on the planet, and will outrun it, as well.}

Further, is segregation hard-wired into Homo sapeins? If religion does not provide a way out, and one may not legislate away bigotry, perhaps it is a behavior with which we are stuck.

Further, if we ARE stuck with it, what then can be done to accommodate this reality and perhaps achieve a more felicitous co-existence in full recognition of its presence?

Would an honest recognition of bigotry's existence allow for a more honest exploration of the behavior? Perhaps, if all sides were to look at it and say, "Yes, here it is" with no hedging and no whitewash and denial. We might be better able to say what is we would like to do with and about it.

To wit: Ranger annually attends a United States Army Airborne Instructors reunion in Columbus, GA (home of Ft. Benning). This is a group of men which has shed blood together while fighting for our country and is demographically representative of our nation.

But they are not exactly a Band of Brothers.

Every year, the blacks segregate themselves at one end of the hall, the whites, at the other. (Ranger does not know who initiates the spread, and "white" could have easily preceded "black" in the previous sentence.) While these men spent their lives and careers as a group, they self-segregate. [N.B.: they all see themselves as members of the same elite veterans group, each year convening to achieve this "separate but equal" meeting.]

The Charleston church shooting of 2015 highlighted this reality. The church was not forced to be an all-black one, but it and so many others are. And the segregation occurs while the preachers in every church preach that we are all God's children.
Here in Gadsden county, it is estimated that there are 400+ churches serving a community of 49,000 residents. The majority of these churches are divided along the color line, with a smattering of miscegenation. There are the occasional annual events which bring together the various members of the religious community, but generally, the twain do not meet.

The county seat also has a segregated American Legion, with no white members. Down the road, there is Legion of predominately white members. The Legion is mentioned because of its unabashed allegiance to "God and country", "God" preceding country.

It may be 2017, and we may like to say we have made great racial strides, but that is not what it looks like to this observer.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Rise and Shine

 If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you,
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
--If, Rudyard Kipling

If you or anyone you know has been severely wounded or injured in mind or body and are looking for inspiration and direction, I highly recommend the new Audible release of the book Rise and Shine -- one man's path to navigating the healthcare behemoth -- written by my dear friend Simon Lewis and read by actor Kelsey Grammer. (We have mentioned the book previously here, but this is a new and updated version. and accessible to those who cannot read.)

Here is a clip from the Audible book discussing Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

In a terrible instant, Simon went from being a rising Hollywood producer, to learning to speak again via Disney children's films. Following many years of excruciating effort and assistance from an eclectic group of resources and against all odds, he regained his former 150 I.Q. and learned to walk again.

Due to the permanent TBI damage, he has sensorimotor and vision deficits. He calls the ever-present now in which he lives, "flat-time".

But Simon's fortitude, wit, erudition and unflagging courage will make a meet traveling companion for those who are treading the same arduous "hidden path", as he calls it. This book will lend you the courage and insight to bear it out against all odds.

Like Simon himself, Mr. Grammer lends dry humor, a sense of irony and gravitas to this dire yet tremendously inspirational story. As the reader writes on the Audible site:

"It reminds me of a line from Prometheus Unbound by Shelley — 'To suffer woes which hope thinks infinite' — surely Simon's story measures up to that description. That he emerged victorious, in the face of such travail, is a testament to his courage ... [and] is an inspiration to all."

Mr. Lewis is a tireless advocate for clients who are often discharged too early from treatment, to expect more. Through unceasing exploration, he asserts that answers can be found. 

"No one will tell you everything," he writes; of course, the corollary is, "No one knows everything" -- not by a long shot.

Bravo, Simon, and to everyone who is fighting a similar battle.

[cross-posted @ Milpub.]

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lt. General Snowden and Iwo Jima

 --General Snowden, before a plaque signed
and presented to him by the last Japanese Emperor
of the Empire of Japan (Hirohito) 

Strangers on this road, we are all
We are not two, we are one 
--Strangers, Golden Smog 

[NOTE: An officer and a gentleman died this week in our town. The date was 18 February 2017, one day before the start of the Battle of Iwo Jima, in which Lt. General Snowden led his men with great honor. We are running this re-post from 26 March 2015 so that his memory may not be in vain.]

We recently had the pleasure of meeting a hometown hero, Lt. General Lawrence "Larry" Snowden (R) who, at 93, is the senior survivor of the protracted and bloody World War II Battle of Iwo Jima, a climatic event of WW II in the Pacific lasting from 19 Feb 1945 to 26 Mar 45.

The General was wounded twice in the battle, leaving the hospital against medical advice and hopping a mail flight in order to get back to the island to command his men. He participated in eleven campaigns over the course of a career in which he saw action in three wars (WWII, Korea and Vietnam).

But Gen. Snowden is neither your typical military man nor retiree in a conservative part of the country.

Mr. Snowden traveled to Iwo Jima again last month, as he has every year for the last 15 years, to lead a "Reunion of Honor" with both his fellow survivors from the U.S. Marines well as the Japanese soldiers whom they fought. His mission is a solemn one of reconciliation with men who were once his mortal enemies but, as the widow of the Japanese commanding general said to him, "Once enemies, now friends."

As Snowden told a local journalist last year, "Those men didn't want to be here any more than we did. They were doing their duty. You don't hate anybody for that" (After 68 Years, the Battle of Iwo Jima Stays Fresh.)

When we asked how he reached this enlightened state, he smiled and gave his mother credit. He recalls being a pugilistic young man engaging in "fisticuffs" with his fellows and going on about "hating" someone. She told him that he didn't "know enough about anyone else to allow [him] to feel hatred," and that he could find another way of dealing with his anger. He got the idea then that the head could rule the emotions.

With recent attention to the concept of "moral injury" amongst soldiers, the idea of recognition, understanding and forgiveness between fighting men seems an essential move towards healing.

Snowden has commanded every level of combat unit from Rifle Company to Regiment. As a General Officer he served as Chief of Staff HQ, USMC. His route to reconciliation began during the Korean War when he worked alongside his former Japanese adversaries while coordinating logistical efforts flowing through Japan destined for the Korean peninsular effort. It was his first recognition that men need not retain hostilities, and that life had an ebb and flow.

He next bumped up against the idea of reconciliation when  he returned to Japan in 1972 as Chief of Staff, U.S. Forces, Japan (a Joint Services Command.) During that three-year posting he liaised with the Japanese government, becoming familiar with and appreciative of Japanese society. He left Japan for Washington D.C. in the final posting of his 37-year military career, serving as Chief of Staff HQ, USMC.

Upon retirement he returned to Japan as a civilian representative for Hughes Aircraft, focusing on production and economic matters while living in Tokyo for the next ten years. He also served as the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

This is the backdrop to the genesis in 1985, the 40th Anniversary of Iwo Jima, of the idea for the Reunion of Honor, and the General has been involved in the annual event since that time. Notice there is nothing about warriorhood or grand patriotic celebration surrounding the event. It is simply a somber recognition of men who did the heavy lifting for their respective nations.

A Buddhist priest who survived the fighting and the widow of the Japanese Commanding General, along with the General's son, deliver a solemn presentation. Following this, Mr. Snowden and his fellow survivors ascend Mount Suribachi; they then come down and the Japanese survivors then go up.

"I make the same speech three times: in Los Angeles, in Honolulu and Guam. I tell everybody there will be no T-shirts, no hollering and victory celebration. From the very beginning we have pledged that we would not ever, ever crow over our victory there. And we've never had any problems with that."

So much for the Toby Kieth brand of patriotism.

 --This painting is a retirement gift commissioned for General Snowden
by one of the riflemen he commanded on Iwo Jima

Ranger asked the General if he had seen the film, "American Sniper". He looked down and said his friends were always after him to see the latest war film, but that he usually demurred. "I have seen everything they could possibly put into one of those films, and I have no desire to see it ever again."

Semper Fi, Lt. Gen. Snowden.

Coda: As we were leaving, Gen. Snowden received a call from the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame; he would be nominated as their newest inductee.

Has has Ranger's Army vote.

[cross-posted @ Milpub.]

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sanctuary Cities

--They've co-opted their leader's invective

You say you'll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head 
The Beatles

 Sanctuary, it said:
but only the road has meaning there. It leads
into the world's cities like a long fuse laid
Judith Wright 

You don't need a weather man
to know which way the wind blows
--Subterranean Homesick Blues,
Bob Dylan

Subtitle: The Illegal illegal fight.

Mending Fences, Pt. II:

In Iraq the Coalition Forces (i.e., the United States) built walls around cities to keep insurgents out. This implied that walls would lead to victory versus violence.

Street battles, as in Fallujah, were fought to isolate cities from the insurgents (both domestic and foreign). In our current fight against ISIS, the same winning (ahem) formula applies: fight for the cities and when the vermin have been eradicated, everything will be just fine. 

Today, our 2017 Sanctuary City warriors are insurging against their President and federal authority. We (they) are insurgents when they burn images of their President in effigy, and wear shirts proclaiming, "Not My President.

Immigration has become a point of contention in the United States, and the United States' insurgents wish to keep criminal illegals inside the borders, rather than outside. It is a perverse inversion of the military fight abroad.

Alas, since gay marriage was signed into law, the last Civil Rights rampart has fallen, and Liberals are not Liberals unless they have some untermensch behind which to rally (provided they are not Jewish).

Do these sanctuary insurgents comprehend the nonsensical illegality what they are doing? If President Obama -- known as the "Deporter-in-Chief --had the authority to address immigration, then so does President Trump have that same authority. Legality transcends our personal convictions.

Mayors do not have the authority to override Constitutional imperatives. However, it is obvious they are not above sucking up to their constituents, forward-looking as they are to their next election and their meal plate.

Social workers may inhabit the "Every sperm is sacred" zone, fighting for the "rights" of illegals to remain in place. But why are the rest of us so hot to keep in people who are double criminals (i.e., illegals + run-of-the-mill criminals)?

Our country has problems enough ministering to our own citizens and blighted cities. What purpose can the whine du jour of the Democrats have other than being a convenient distraction from the problems of our indigenous?

Ah, but since the myriad of problems that beset our own citizens has proven to be intractable and obdurate, why not just look over there and drill down some illegal Muslims and Mexicans? The illegal fight to retain illegals is a clever bit of legerdemain. 

Since the U.S. has been fighting a 14 year war to protect foreign cities from external threats, what argument can be made to not do the same for our own cities?

In the counterinsurgency (COIN) environment the concept of personnel and resource control (PRC) is that every citizen or legitimate resident must have official identification issued by a legal authority. How else can a government control its territory?

If we will not control our borders then it is obvious that the PWOT © and the War on Drugs have been farcical enterprises conducted by farceurs (i.e., politicians).

Logical endpoint: a restive population maintains perpetual battle against their duly elected leader, who then must do something to restore order.

As the U.S. insurgents glumly and gleefully (a seeming oxymoron, but a Starbuck's espresso amongst the agonistas keeps it bearable and seemingly sensible) construct their insurgent safe zones against the order of law, they begin to feel more ostracized, more convinced that they are being persecuted and that they are on the side of right.

Ensconced in their "safety zones" pitted against the rule of law, they are transmuted into "The Deplorables" -- a term once reserved for the very people they are now opposing. They hunker down and draw to themselves their fellow travelers du jour (their token illegal pets).

What next for these illegals, and the people illegally harboring them?

Why does a nation have borders if they do not intend to enforce immigration law?

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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Mending Fences

  Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun 
--Mending Wall,
Robert Frost

I'm a bigot, but for the Left
Annie Hall (1977)

 Ain't nothin' gonna break-a my stride
Nobody gonna slow me down, oh no
I got to keep on movin' 
--Break My Stride,
Matthew Wilder
A small meditation on The Fence, in two parts:

It seems just yesterday that the Free World celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall -- that the iconic symbol of the Iron Curtain -- and with it, the collapse of the evil empire. Sort of.

Today, the United States contemplates building a wall between itself and Mexico at an estimated cost of $18 billion (which means that it will actually cost $65 billion, with mandatory cost overruns, before it is functional.) Ranger will now consider the fence in simple military terms.

The Fence will be an obstacle. The first rule of employing an obstacle is that it is useless unless covered by fire. This means direct or indirect fire must be implemented in a complete defensive fire plan.

Lacking fire, an obstacle is a waste of effort, time and assets. For the breacher, it is a like a bolus of material, an irritation, to be summited.

The U.S. must be willing to treat U.S. soil as an exclusion zone, and stand ready to implement deadly force to achieve the hoped-for goal of the fence, which would be as an adjutant to enforcing immigration policy.

But a fence is just a fence, an obstacle on the course, unless it is covered by fire. This point is offered for consideration, as it is usually omitted when considering the simple architecture of the thing.

An effective fence implies more than its mere physicality.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Raveonettes

In the long run,
the greatest weapon of mass destruction
is stupidity.
--Thomas Sowell
We've all gone mad
--Network (1976)

A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives
and I decline 
--The End of the World As We Know It,

I saw the sign and it opened up my mind
And I am happy now living without you
I've left you
Oh, oh-oh-oh 
--The Sign,
Ace of Base 

Lisa's post-inaugural reflections:

I spectated, agog, this political season. It was all so clear, and for speaking my truth, I was given no quarter by the erstwhile victors.

Some people once close are still angry with me. Still I am not sure why, for I was just the camera.

I saw my society in decline, born of a toxic blend of technological savvy, arrogance and entitlement. No party had a monopoly on these traits, but the party which had historically laid claim to be the protectors of the downtrodden (the Democrats) came across as impossibly smug and dismissive of those downtrodden with whom they felt no kinship. 

It was hypocrisy of the highest order, and their tone-deafness lost them the election. The sorry inability of the entitled, erstwhile thinking, people in the Democratic camp to engage in a dialog about the phenomenon unfolding before them in plain sight was shocking. 

My observations of the deracinated in our midst was met with horror by those supposedly in the know. Except, they did not know. They engaged in a robust cognitive dissonance because the plight of some did not fit in with their perceptions of "neediest cases" -- their personal tokens.

Now-President Trump revealed us to ourselves. We are angry, clannish, disputatious, and worse. We think well of ourselves when we shed crocodile tears for the right minority, and belittle and dismiss those who do not further our insular paradigm, one which is usually constructed for and received by us fairly early in life.

Over the course of the election season, I began to feel shamed for thinking myself a liberal. These were not my people, and I was now one of the deracinated.

An edition of the New Yorker magazine filled with only Trump-derision cartoons (poor ones, at that) came from a place of audacious triumphalism and hauteur, as Ms. Clinton would surely -- simply had to -- win. Given.

Mrs. Clinton in her workaday Xanthippe shroud now infamously goaded Trump in a debate, "Will you accept the results of the election?" with the affect of a gladiator entering the arena. We had seen this posture before in her "veni, vedi, vici" speech in her capacity as stateswoman following the brutal assassination of Libyan President and former Time coverboy Muommer Gaddafy. 

In retrospect, it was a marvel of ineptitude, like bringing tomato aspic to a 2nd grade Valentine's Day party. 

It was shame-faced strong-arming, straight from the Mayor Daley or Boss Tweed Machine playbook. Just like in a banana republic, she had a token opponent (Jewish socialist Uncle Bernie) . . . but, not really. Just like them, she was the presumptive shoo-in. 

Pity for the (literally) poor sops who donated their often meager holdings to his campaign coffers and who still refuse to remove their "Bernie" bumper stickers (all while the machinations of the Clinton campaign moved to discredit him, another bit of soul rot for which she, and they, will have to atone.)

My marveling continues as I read the discredited New York Times daily trying to beat its swords into plowshares.

The NYT calls their advertising spiel ("50% off new subscriptions!") their "Inauguration campaign". A few, for your amusement, with following RAW editorial comment:

"True, original, independent, always" [well, not exactly "always".]
"The truth is what we do better" [and, we do lies even better!]
"Searching out truth is What We Do" [But, it is a "search and destroy" mission.]
"Discover the truth with us" [if you enjoy solipsism, we will make it up as we go.]
"Read news that values the truth" [Tautology. Shouldn't "the news" =  "the truth"?]
"Truth: it's vital to our democracy" [Maybe so, but we won't deliver it.]
"Finding truth matters" [But even if we find it, we will not give it to you.]
"Eager for the Facts?" [Then go someplace else to get them.]

"Original"? Yeah, in terms of being divorced from reality, much in the same way that a kindergartener's lollipop drawing is an original imaging of a tree. 

"Independent"? Ditto. Actually, blandly following the party line in their construction of reality is more to the truth. Writing with egg all over their face is the fact. 

Our salvation as a nation may come (hopefully) when people don't feel so comfortable in Plato's cave anymore. However, the comfort and addiction of one's personal social media ego feed make this increasingly unlikely.

Readers of The Times and other badly skewed outlets have the temerity to laugh at Rupert Murdoch, but the lot of 'em are no better. They are just crusaders for their particular brand of lie. This writer will scan it to keep current with The Agenda, but for the news? Nevermore.

There was a time when tabloids were tabloids, and newspapers delivered facts (yes, yes -- albeit, with a slant.) No more. Election season 2016 stuck a fork in that beast.

Many years ago, as crime began to take up its cruel residency in our neighborhood, my family (like many others) took flight from the D.C. suburbs to Florida. My father left the now-defunct Washington Star (D.C.'s then conservative answer to The Post) and needed a job in a poor hiring climate, so he interviewed with the National Enquirer (the wicked pleasure of conspiracy-theorists, pre-Internet.) 

He was offered the job, but warned that the burnout rate for creating outrageously false "news" was usually two years for bona fide newsmen. It seems that caveat no longer applies. The nuttier, the better. 

Barnum and Bailey Circus recently reported that they were closing shop. As co-founder P.T. Barnum presciently said, "there's a sucker born every minute." Someone will have to take up their torch for amusing that public, and that someone may as well be fake and painfully based media outlets like the once-trusted Times.

Who wants to be told he is a bastard every day of his life? And yet, that is the average liberal's posture towards the new President. Unremitting, arrogant and entitled, as ever.

If the "Not My President" crowd could see their project with the benefit of perspective, they would know that their stance is sort of adversarial, sort of disrespectful, of the schoolyard bully variety. Adult behavior, it's not. Reaching across the aisle, it is not.

The nasty behavior is, at best, explainable as "tit for tat". But the liberals should be better than that.

They have lost the moral high ground.

It does not bode well for a healthy democracy.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Gone Girl

You shall see things, wonderful to tell.
You shall see a... a cow...
on the roof of a cotton house.
And, oh, so many startlements.
--Oh Brother, Where Art Thou (2000)

There's something happening here.
And what it is ain't exactly clear
--For What It's Worth,
Buffalo Springfield

You got the cool conversation
on your high tech telephone
But you got one little problem, baby
--You Ain't Down Home,
Julie Roberts


A non-United States citizen friend recently said to me, "I don't think Trump or anyone can make American great again -- you all are too far gone." 

I pondered this while several images coalesced in my mind, much like Douglas Adams's holistic detective, Dirk Gently.

This morning while checking online for the whereabouts of the wayward soldier Bowe Bergdahl I stumbled upon a "fake news" story put out by a satirical news site claiming that he had been promoted on the order of President Obama (a "story" which nevertheless had to be de-bunked by Snopes.)

Satire is a pleasure when it is done well, as it often is by The Onion and Andy Borowitz (when he's not inhabiting the bottom of the anti-Trump rabbit hole), but the realm of parody is now merging with that of actual news. And the consumer either does not care about or cannot discern the difference.

If a story is one toke over the line, we excuse it and blame it on the requisite hyperbole of the news cycle. Worse, we embrace it to our bosom if it furthers the agenda of our fellow cave dwellers, offering a pale "mea culpa" when it becomes too burdensome to prop up any longer.

At an I-10 exchange yesterday, I saw a hitchhiker on the side of the road sitting on his pack, taking a selfie. Mind you, he looked pretty clean, healthy and young, and his gear gotten more at Urban Outfitters than dumpster diving. Nonetheless.

Crossing Tennessee Street in front of the university, all pedestrian heads were down in the familiar smartphone scroll pose. The only place on campus where heads are reliably up is on the soccer fields.What is so important, and why must we be endlessly amused by our ego feeds?

Then my mind traveled back in a patchwork fashion. I remembered the secretary at the defunct Yugoslav-American office telling me that what most left visiting professors stupefied was when they stood before an entire aisle of (mostly) sweetened breakfast cereals in the supermarket. How to choose, and why so many?

Later, a trip to Walgreens revealed four pages of laxatives, followed by three of proton-pump acid reflux inhibitors in their sales flyer. Yup, this was just the stuff on special. Perhaps this was indicative of all of the bilge and bile we hear and disseminate?

And then I recalled my first trip to the U.K.visiting a friend in humble Llandudno, Wales. I wanted to see a field trial, so went to the phone book to look up farmers. Pages of them. I also wanted to find rambling groups, and on the way to the "R's" stumbled upon "Psychologists".

Precisely three.

People were actively engaged in doing productive things, even if that was a serious group ramble. Not too much time to wallow in self-important misery.

The Hillary and Bernie people still can't get over the functioning of the U.S. democratic process.

Junk food and laxatives, anger and therapists. Was there a connection? Are we become a phlegmatic people? Back to the old "Ridge Runner" template? Do we all need a government-mandated Bromo seltzer regime?

Surely something is wrong here.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

The Little Things

History doesn’t repeat itself.
But it does rhyme
--Mark Twain

 And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
--Circle Game
Joni Mitchell

Team by team, reporters baffled,
trumped, tethered, cropped
Look at that low plane, fine, then
Uh oh, overflow, population, common group 
--It's the End of the World as We Know It,

Mr. Obama wasn't the funniest of Presidents, but he has a toothsome sense of the ironic.

Just a little rumination, on Inaugural Day 2017 (which you might not know about if you read the New York Times exclusively.)

Last September, the President feted 1968 Mexico City Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the White House. The athlete's Black Power salute in violation of the non-partisan International Olympic Committee charter was a shot heard round the world via television. It was also to be the seminal event of symbolic terrorism in the mid-20th century.

Prior to this event, terrorist's goals were more tactically-oriented. Violence before Mexico City was for violence's sake. After Mexico City, it grew increasingly symbolic and spectacular. Terrorist events became entertainment in the theatre and the society of the spectacle.

Smith's and Carlos's theatre inspired terrorist actions from that point forward. Not that the two Olympians killed anyone, themselves. Rather, they showed that massive attention could be garnered by enlisting the electronic media in the conspiracy to commit spectacle. Simply put: their action was a fountainhead of international terrorism.

The near result was the 1972 Summer Munich Olympics Massacre of Jewish athletes by Palestinian terrorist group Black September. Eleven Olympic team members were taken hostage and killed, with the (later revealed) complicity of members of the German police force.

Subsequent actions were also media sensations, often focusing on only one building, boat or other vehicle. They were framed for the camera, just as the Olympics winner's podium provided a frame and a set-up for the Smith-Carlos photo-grab.

The athletes were not standing in the grass, but elevated and arrested in motion, calling out for the perfect shot. (Catch me while you can in my static set up; I'd like to be on t..v. tonight.)

Historical examples abound, but the Lod Airport Massacre (1972), the Raid on Entebbe (1976), the Rome and Vienna airport incidents (1985) and the Achille Lauro hijacking (1985) are a few.

The Irish Republican Army's 1982 Hyde Park bombing which killed seven Blues and Royal's horses scored front pages above the fold internationally, but not for the 11 serviceman that were killed: it was for the horses (who held no passport). Murdered animals are always a gut punch, and this was a new and novel target.

TWA Flight 847 (1985) featured the body of a USN diver thrown onto the tarmac. But the iconic image of this hijacking -- a gun being held to a pilot's head, sticking out of the cockpit window -- was committed with an unloaded gun.

The hijacker stated he primarily wanted to be on television.

The 1968 Olympic protest spectacle differs little from ISIS instantaneous uploads of their violence in Iraq, France, Belgium or Australia. We are our own publicists in this day of the social media upload.

Both murderer, set designer and photog.

The drama and symbolism always trumps the action. In order not to become hackneyed, symbolic terrorist acts always require that each subsequent act has more shock power than its predecessor.

As our consumption grows ever more savvy, we demand increasingly outrageous spectacles to hold our gaze. It is perhaps not too simplistic to trace the origins of ISIS live Facebook feeds to the 1968 initial broadcasted transgression.

It took four years for terrorists to learn and operationalize the lesson, but a profusion of spectacular media events followed.

Operating from the principle of charity, it could be said that Mr. Obama acted from an intellectual scotoma, as the first visibly black President. Everyone from Henry Louis Gates to Rosa Parks had their moment in the sun during his presidency, in the callow effort to enforce a post-racial America.

But publicly honoring the Olympic "protest" lends credence to every subsequent video violation. Euroterror and Palestinian terror groups were informed by this first act of live defiance, and learned to coalesce and to harness the power of instantaneous international news coverage.

Smith and Carlos let the horse out of the barn. The West has been opposing the violence unleashed for the last 48 years. And we now commend them.

Just how stupid and clueless are we?

We guess it's good for giving the dispirited public something to fixate upon. We all like rehabilitation stories -- even when we must construct them for ourselves.

However, it would be wise to consider that one cannot in good faith be both for protests that germinate terror activities, and yet against terror activities. Or as the late George Carlin said, "Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity."

What have the last 25+ years been about? Confronting the escalating threat of terrorist activity rising out of the Middle East.

Concomitant with and responsible for the terrorist's success is their ability to saturate the media. Ditto for the ability of the media to saturate our minds, as we grow ever closer to the much ballyhooed convergence day when our minds coalesce with our devices.

Some celebrate this "brain opera", but we must be ever-vigilant in monitoring the conductors. How to keep the mind in control is becoming an exponentially greater challenge daily. The peddlers of fake news -- an oxymoron if ever there was one -- do not want to help you.

Living in America today is a little like inhabiting an M. C. Escher drawing, or traveling a Mobius strip.  Perhaps, Hieronymous Bosch's Purgatory is the more analogous scenario.

We supposedly fight terrorism, while smiling and nodding at two men who blazed the trail for terrorists to exploit public media.

Where does it come from and where does it go?

Just an interesting little thought on this morning of the swearing in of a new President.

--by Jim and Lisa

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Goodbye to You

Nothin' more to be said
Write me a letter instead
I don't mean to be cruel
But I'm finished with you
--Talk to Ya Later,
The Tubes 

You say yes, I say no
You say stop
and I say go go go 
--Hello, Goodbye,
The Beatles 

These last few weeks of holdin' on
The days are dull, the nights are long
Guess it's better to say
Goodbye to you 
--Goodbye to You,

Capping off an evening of inanity which passes as television news today was departing President Obama's Farewell Address to the nation from Chicago. It was a self-aggrandizing wrap on a lackluster two terms.

Mr. Obama proudly proclaimed that our lives as citizens matter, while inhabiting a podium in a city which he and anyone he knows and loves would not walk the streets sans Gestapo-like personal security details. Say it all you want, but the lives of those city's residents do not matter, not so much.

His boilerplate about how our soldiers, police and security apparatus have protected us from terrorist incidents drew hearty applause, but it is unproven. Mr. Obama was pitching woo over the murders of Osama bin Laden and thousands of terrorists, but the subjects of his kill orders were never near threats to the United States.

Those killings were merely convenient distractions, of the Wag the Dog variety.

The President cannot prove that his actions prevented terrorist attacks, and Ranger cannot prove his contention to the contrary. Neither Ranger nor Obama can prove that he is correct. Both positions, simply hypotheses without proof.

We here at RAW have maintained since 2005 that there have been no follow-on attacks because there are no operational terror assets capable of such actions here in the Homeland. The worst that we can expect are pin-prick attacks by pathetic losers wrongly portrayed as credible threats.

The President talked "democracy", while bragging of killing without trial and proof of guilt. Such actions are not democratic, and look suspiciously like those of the 9th century inhabited by crazed modern jihadists. Our leader is not a monarch wielding the power of life and death. Our Constitution says otherwise.

Ironically, this speech preempted a PBS special, "Super Weapons of the Third Reich". The coincidence provokes thought.

How do the U.S. drones unleashed on terror suspects differ from the V1 and V2 rockets used by the Nazis on the people of England? The U.S. Tomahawk missiles are direct descendants of these rockets. We launch them in the absence of declared war and on people outside the jurisdiction of our legal codes.

What the President did not say about democracy was that we hold detainees in a prison called Guantanamo, and that they are held without consideration of their being Prisoners of War (POW's) nor of their not having been convicted of any crime by any federal court.

One of Mr. Obama's feted election promises -- to dissolve GITMO, remains unfulfilled. 40 prisoners remain held in this legal limbo inflicted upon enemy combatants, our term for what the international community calls POW's.

Mr. Obama was elected on a platform of "hope" and "change", a counter-balance to the legal breeches of his predecessor. As he departs for his new $5 million D.C. digs (yes, the Obama's are leasing this humble abode, but they are buying multi-million dollar homes in California and Hawaii), it seems the main and abiding change will be in his personal and familial well-being.

The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) has not achieved much for most of us, but has profited some, handsomely.

History will be the final arbiter of the actions of both President Obama and those of his predecessor.

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Monday, January 02, 2017

Welcome to the Post-Truth Era

--Schott (De Volkskrant, Netherlands)

 A half truth is a whole lie
--Yiddish proverb

Welcome to Costco,
I love you
--Idiocracy (2006)

It's a beautiful mornin', ah
I think I'll go outside a while
And just smile
Just take in some clean fresh air, boy!
--A Beautiful Morning,
The Rascals

Play that funky music white boy
Lay down that boogie and
play that funky music 'til you die
--Play That Funky Music,
Wild Cherry  

A caveat, and a wish:

Ranger and I considered this week which loss will hurt the most: the death of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) or former boy band singer George Michael. The news cycle has tended assiduously to both. But the answer is, “neither”.

The greatest loss is the integrity of the portal through we are fed such stuff. 2016 marks the death of the news media as a trusted partner in our vaunted democratic experiment. Requiescat in pace.

Yes, yes, we all know the news has always come with a bias, and even the fact of what we see is determined for us. But this year, the rust fully breached the veneer. 

It has been a long, inexorable regression. 

Newspapers have been precipitously cutting staff and shuttering operations for over a decade. Cheap, often unvetted and inaccurate content has filled the void (thank you Huffington Post for leading the way, exploiting desperate and often unpaid writers.)

Gone are most college journalism departments and their lessons of boring but stolid integrity. In their place, media studies programs where one learns the art of the package and the spectacle, how to be “newsy” and “newsish”, have bling, and get hired.

Fakirs and Magis:

In 2016, it became o.k. for "legitimate" newscasters to present a lie, provided it propped up the approved liberal agenda.

Couric edited her "Under the Gun" documentary to further the program's anti-gun agenda. Jill Stein was censored in her appearance on the PBS Newshour to make the candidate appear clueless. The reporting offenses are legion, and occurred daily through 2016 in every erstwhile legitimate news outlet. 

This year, I learned disgust for my previous go-to sites, places like The New York Times, The New Yorker and National Public Radio. Each liberal media source partook this election season in a robust and frenzied dance of “Kill the Other Candidate,” and they did so by any means necessary.

It turns out much of their “news” was fake -- misinformed or outright created to foment madness and fury. And in their mad bubble, they were wrong. (It didn't take a Carnac the Magnificent to see this.)

We head into 2017 dampened by a sour anger and a bitter fear born of their imposed and continually reinforced ideation. It is a poor way to welcome a new presidency and a New Year. 

For those who were blinkered, snookered and tribed-up, our wish and hope is that you will wake up, and not too hungover.

In the face of this loss, some tonic ideas from elsewhere:

A Swedish friend recently celebrated with me the Finnish concept of  “Sisu” (in honor of my heritage). Sisu is a national ethos, and has no English translation. Roughly, it means “grit”. Getting it done despite all resistance; seizing success from the jaws of defeat. 

Sisu is a good and noble sort of hardheadness.

We then spoke of “lagom”, the Swedish concept of “just enough” – neither too much, nor too little. Again, a concept absent from the average U.S. lexicon. 

Lagom is a sort of life art, the knowing and understanding of what is necessary for an elegantly simple life. It is a hard concept to acquire for one raised in our “more for me” society.

For good measure, we threw in the Danish idea of “hygge”. Hygge is both the having and the enjoying of simple comforts, the sort that makes a “hard rain’s gonna fall” sort of day bearable. It is neither ostentatious nor in excess. It may be private, or shared.  It is a self-comfort.

So for our readers may you know sisu, lagom and hygge as the holiday season draws nigh. May we all find a candle to light our way.

May we be grateful for the things not lost, and for the ability to apprehend and to appreciate them.

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