Saturday, June 29, 2013

Darkness at Noon

  If you root for different teams,
Waste no time, weep no more,
Show him what the door is for.
Rub him out of the roll call
And drum him out of your dreams 
--I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair, 
South Pacific

  It's only because of their stupidity
that they're able to be so sure of themselves 
--The Trial, Franz Kafka

On National Public Radio's "Friday News Roundup" with Diane Rehm yesterday came a glaring example of news bias that passed right under the radar.

Edward Snowdon, the National Security Association leaker, was being discussed, mostly in a dismissive manner as if to parrot President Obama's lead. Anne Gearan, diplomatic correspondent for the Washington Post made passing reference to -- "that Wikileaks man who is on trial this week."

Just like that, a supposedly trusted journo goes from a disinterested posture to one of damnation and dismissal, consigning Bradley Manning to the rubbish bin of irrelevance. And host Rehm, who usually takes the high road filling in the blank for her guests, failed to do so this time.

"That man" is Bradley Manning, whose trial is being robustly ignored by the press. That is a great shame, when our press has space to consider how Kate Winslet's third child by a third man (bet there have been others) might signal the downfall of civilization, and just where is Kim Kardashian's child (she of the monumental ass, her claim to fame.)

PFC Manning's trial should be a serious story, if we were a serious people. Sorry Bradley, but we are not, and that was your major mistake. RangerAgainstWar hopes you do not disappear into some gulag, but alas, the United States is not the Sunshine State you thought we were.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Room of Her Own, III

--Brave (2012)

On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake and morally straight
--Boy Scout Oath

 I knew I wouldn't be there to help ya along.
 So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you'd have to get tough or die
And it's the name that helped to make you strong 
--A Boy Named Sue, Johnny Cash 

 I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman
 --I Am Woman, Helen Reddy

It seems sensible and modern to allow women in the combat arms -- after all, we haven't exactly been Johnny-on-the-spot about according women their rights. It was less than 100 years ago U.S. women were given the vote, and grudgingly, at that. So Ranger seems positively Paleolithic when we oppose placing women on the Forward Line of Own Troops (FLOT), or whatever the equivalent is today. As a society, we look at Beyonce and Hillary (not at once) and figure, women can do anything, right?

Moreover, some argue that such a placement would simply be a repatriation (pardon the phrase) to a long-lost status, since women were once warrior princesses, right? But the reality of our lives today is far removed from those often incomplete and sometimes apocryphal tales. We will address this archetype later.

Our reality is that on the fields of athletic competition, men and women are separated in recognition of their different potentials. Title IX guaranteed girls could compete in sports to the degree that boys could, but their teams are gender-specific. When the feminists fronted the "Battle of the Sexes" in 1973 -- Billie Jean King against Bobby Riggs, 26 years her senior -- it was a put up, as the age gap could not possibly be overcome. Such showmanship should not be confused with the reality as played out in the Olympic games, where each sports competition is gender-specific.

One may argue for the politically-correct social-construction view of gender, but there is no confusing the proclivities of children at play. Even boys from the most pacifist families usually demand their toy guns, and girls are all about networking, communication and keeping their fictional houses in order. There is nothing inherently superior or inferior about either proclivity (see Tannen's, You Just Don't Understand) -- it just is.

Girls join the Brownies and Girl Scouts; boys, the Boy Scouts. There are notions of honor and duty implicit in carrying on the sacred duty of these brotherhoods or sisterhoods. We will not argue about the effectiveness of such separation, but there is something in the sexes which enjoys the fraternity with its own, especially when conducting projects to which each group feels a certain affinity.

--even Samurai Girls are just girls, after all

The feminine warrior archetypes often include the martyr (Joan of Arc) or the helper, like Native Americans Pocahantas or Sacajawea. Their power is more at being faithful servants who facilitate communication. They may also be crusaders like Clara Barton or Carrie Nation - warriors for God and soul. The true strength vis-a-vis the male is held by the Siren-crone-witch archetype, but this is not a pretty face and it is often destructive, especially to the male. Hence, our glamorizing society doesn't have much use for them.

The female archetype we are most familiar with is the needy wench (Rapunzel, Snow White or Cinderella), or the religious "good woman" (unlike the "bad" ones who leads men astray, like our very own Eve.) In Christianity, Mary is revered for her long-suffering status and for abiding; she is not part of the Trinity (godhead), though she served as the vessel, midwifing Jesus into this world. The faithful sing hymns to her virginity, which implies she is good by virtue of not reveling in her true sex.

The feminine warriors we have access to in the media today are tarted-up Barbies overlaid with deltoids, worthy of Hans'n Franz's designation, "girly-men": Wonder Woman, Lara Croft -- Tomb Raider, Xena the Warrior Princess, Japanese Manga, or Brave (Pixar). They are either Eddie Bauer Women on steroids, or they could be carrying Hello Kitty! purses across their chest. Like "The Bride" in the film Kill Bill they are striking a pose, and are fashion set pieces moreso than gritty warriors. The BESM ("Big eyes, small mouth") fetish of Manga depicts the woman as the baby doll of so many men's dreams: big baby eyes, and a small mouth for ... whatever one would use a small mouth for.

It may smack of paternalism and Old Boy's club to suggest that women ought not be on the FLOT, but we would not be the only civilized nation to take this stance. We like being  first, but being first is not always a good.

If the military institution is incapable of erasing the sexual subjugation of its service members while they not facing dire life-or-death scenarios, why would we imagine their burden would be any less so while facing challenges that already tax the frontiers of their brother's physical and psychological limits? It seems cruel and inefficient, in the most pragmatic sense. 

We are a free society, but we do not necessarily have liberal minds that are free from their apetitive animal desires and sense of entitlement and resentment and the whole lot of malignancies which plague our interpersonal relations. Even the boxing ring has the Marquess of Queensbury rules to ensure a fair fight, yet have not demonstrated the attainment of any such set of intrinsic rules governing our congress between the sexes. We stumble through life haphazardly making decisions we hope will not be too detrimental, but it's mostly a crapshoot. At our best, respect is the watchword; all too often, we are sneaky animals looking for our best angle -- that goes for both men and women.

Recent scandals show putting women in the military is like putting Tweety bird in front of Sylvester the Cat with no cage door. The documentary "Invisible War" confronts the culture of sexual assault in the military: "A female U.S. soldier in a combat zone is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire." This is not some quaint relic of a Neanderthal past but your Army, today. Feminists say, don't cage us in or out, but it might just be an enlightened move of self interest to choose not to enter the boxing ring with the men when the gloves are off, and no holds barred.

Child psychologist Piaget argued for the necessity of the phase in which children would touch a hot stove and react to the pain, thereby learning an action not to repeat. Unfortunately, when it comes to the relations between men and women, we demonstrate no such ability to learn. Putting the sexes into perhaps the most fraught situation a civilized society sanctions should not be a social experiment, and it is bound to not turn out well.

If placing women in the combat arms were a situational necessity (as in a young Israel, Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany) Ranger would support it. But we have a society of X-Box playing slobs just ripe for the picking (the draft) if we need to flesh out our military ranks.

We can barely face the returning caskets of our male soldier's bodies, and their presentation in the media is still fraught with indecision.  Bad enough we accept our men may come on their shield -- will adding women into the fray reduce our anxiety and discomfort?

A woman, regardless of her designation on the masculinity index (she could be the most thoroughgoing XXY in the book), still holds the staff for her sex. In her we see our mothers and every other woman who has nurtured us, as well as those for whom men hold (subliminal) destructive impulses. When she will be killed in action, we believe it will unleash a flurry of repressed responses.

Until such time as the sexes gain true parity, why would we add insult to injury, using women both as vessels for self-gratification and sending them off to be killed? Would we think it a good if women in Afghanistan went from being a handmaid to being fodder on the battlefield, before achieving full personhood?

Mind you, we are not nearly that bad, but we are not that evolved on this topic, either.

[Final installment: A Room of Her Own, Finis.]

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Room of Her Own II

 --Princess Kitana,  
Mortal Kombat video game 

Every day I wake up, then I start to break up
Lonely is a man without love
Every day I start out, then I cry my heart out
Lonely is a man without love 
--Lonely is a Man Without Love, 
Englebert Humperdinck 

Sometimes I feel I've got to
Run away I've got to
Get away 
--Tainted Love, Soft Cell 

 Under my thumb
Her eyes are just kept to herself 
Under my thumb, well I
I can still look at someone else 
--Under My Thumb, Rolling Stones
[Pt. II of series ...]
The disconnect in our original piece (Sex and Violence) came in the concluding paragraph:

"The same people who would criticize porn (overtly) are the same [sic] who would argue for (someone else's) women to kill, fight and die in the depravity and degradation of war. How is having sex with strangers and pretending to enjoy the encounter less socially acceptable than fighting?"

In fact, the truth is neither so neat nor so partisan. Both liberals and conservatives avail themselves of porn, usually on the sly. Additionally, both would also claim to champion women's rights. Conservatives are no longer all of the Phyllis Schlafley stripe, and presumably accept women in both "Houses" now (though their numbers are still pathetically small.) Liberals give lip-service to women's participation in all walks of life, though neither political party has yet  managed to achieve economic equality for women.
Our main point was, it is hypocritical to argue against the objectification of women in porn, while also arguing for their objectification in the guise of an Infantry soldier. Just as in the identity-less world of porn, so a fighting woman would be separated from her personhood (save on her dog tag.) Just as most men enjoy porn, but would not want their wives or daughters to make a career of spreading her legs before the camera, so, too, would their views of women's roles on the battlefield be conflicted. 

Just as on Ranger's workshop floor, where the Union accord said "no" to helping women, but for the real live woman on the bench next to you, the rules get broken.

If true equality were to be granted, fighting women would become fighting personnel and expected to fully carry their own weight (literally). They would become sexual eunichs and alter their physiology accordingly, a physical impossibility.

Here are the things Ranger knows:

--Men and women are different, and possessed of different strengths

--Like many of his fellows, he has viewed porn and so can state that he feels it to be an objectification versus a glorification of women; it is, however, something men do

--In male's compartmentalized brains, there is also a place for "his" women -- actual women. These women elicit a different response

--There are some spaces and subjects which are the chosen domain of men (see, Fight Club for the idea.) In his life, the Army's Combat Arms was such an area -- their real-world "Outward Bound" in which men tested their limits against their fellows and the enemy, and lived the Jungian warrior archetype.

--We have no warrior princesses today, no Boudiccas, outside of Hollywood or cartoon versions of Zena the Warrior Princess and ilk. For most girls today, that image has been superseded by Snow White or Cinderella. For most women, their reality lies somewhere in between (They can bring home the bacon, serve it up to a man, all the while retaining their ineffable femininity.)

What we wonder is, what of the male-female dynamic? Are men suffering a la feminist Faludi's anthem to men in the age of feminism, "Stiffed"? If women walk onto the battlefield shoulder-to-shoulder, will they fall into line as genderless automatons, one-each? Teams will not be gender-separated -- there will be no women's Field Artillery Unit.

They will fight on a biologically unequal playing field, and to whose benefit?

[more to follow ...

p.s. -- Here is a little debate on the topic @ debate.org.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

A Room of Her Own

 --"Safety Last!" (1923)

 It's physical
Only logical
You must try to ignore
That it means more than that 
--What's Love Got to Do with It?
 Tina Turner 

I don't know what you think I am
I'm not no magician I tell you no I ain't
Maybe I can open your pants  
But big fucking deal 
--I'm a Boy, I'm a Girl,  Johnny Thunders 
When blogwriting, one has the tendency to expostulate, to grandstand and even proselytize (though we're neither Mormons nor Seventh Day Adventists), and Ranger was perhaps not fully exploring every aspect of the issue in a recent presentation, "Sex and Violence"; we may charitably chalk that up to a sin of omission rather than commission.

Comments to the piece @ sister site Milpub have provoked some dialog amongst the principles here at RAW. Friend FDChief is correct: our analogy does not quite hold. Moreover, he states the observation that a member of a democracy only obtains full citizenship when he or she may participate in every aspect of maintaining that democracy, which may mean full participation in the military, if not in the porn industry (though women's role there is guaranteed.)

The result will be several days of looking at the issue through different eyes -- both mine and Rangers -- seeking to clarify the problem, shore up the analogy and to explore any possible resolutions. No one installment will be complete, so we what follows will be a series of posts looking at different facets of the issue.

So let's define the topics and what porn and war share as far as opportunities, causal effects and requirements (of all players).

Since at least the Venus of Willendorf 20,000 years BCE, men have enjoyed viewing representations of the female body (head not always needed, thanks). Humans enjoy gaping at protuberances, the more grotesque, perhaps, the more fascinating. Ranger is amongst the crowd of his fellows who has enjoyed the same. However, he also recognizes the necessary objectification and frequent degradation often involved in these depictions; this is an acknowledged tension for perhaps many viewers.

His thoughts actually stemmed from what he sees as the evolution of porn from fairly innocuous early 20th-century blue movies to the more violent representations of recent decades. Crush films -- the brutal murder of animals -- is but one perverse incarnation in an industry that has few bounds on its impositions upon the human body. They, along with "snuff films" -- the human equivalent -- have ostensibly been banned, and represent probably the outermost limit of what has been achieved in this genre. What remains is often not pretty. 

(As an aside to the crush films, a Florida Representative even proposed a ban on the cruel practice of "cow-tipping" in 2004 [it did not pass], yet we may do the same and worse to our women, fat or otherwise, any day of the week. But that is a topic for another day.)

We know what is cruel and what is exploitative, but that does not slake our taste for such things. Most pornography, besides the actuality of the sexual representation, is an exercise in power, both that imposed by the viewer and the producer/exploiter (film industry; actors, etc.)

When commenter "ael" writes @ milpub, "This ability to empathize makes pornography inevitable. Watching people have fun is also fun", he is showing himself a man of compassion, but perhaps not recognizing the darker impulse behind porn. Is "fun" truly the thing sought? Perhaps in the way that self-gratification is "fun" to the narcissist (and with that comes the additional destructive resentment of his need for porn, but that again is another topic.)

A recent piece, "The Conspiracy of Pornography Exposed", indicts porn consumption as a narcissistic retreat from reality and a controlling experience of a simulacrum representation. As such, it cannot move beyond a physical response to the impersonal yet universal carnality spooling out before him. Viewing porn is a release into the libidinal free from the superego (unless mom breaks into your room, or your mind.) 

So porn is basically an avenue for self gratification, at the expense of having to actually engage with the sex partner up close and personal. It does not extinguish the libido of course; it is merely a temporary physical release. The partner used to achieve that end is obviously a projected objectification, a facsmilie of a woman who is used to self-gratify. 

But along with man's desire to own and expropriate the feminine is his strong drive for protection of the female, something which often fuels his lust to fight, presumably for his society's protection (as explained in books like What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II.") In fact, this is one of the main arguments against having women on the front line, namely, that man's protective instinct will kick in and he will act on those intrinsic impulses, ignoring good soldiering and endangering himself and his fellows in the process. 

Ranger spoke with a combat medic yesterday who said his biggest fear is that he would treat a less severely-wounded female soldier before he would a male, thereby violating his triage training. This favoritism on the basis of gender is a very real and indwelling impulse. 

Women seek parity with men when they seek equal pay -- Senator Elizabeth Warren is fighting now for a Paycheck Fairness Act (how many decades after the Equal Rights Amendment Failed?) -- and this is rightly so when one is thinking equal pay for equal work. But what about those domains in which men cut women a break due to their lesser physical capabilities, a reality for most women in strenuous, physically demanding work environment -- an environment like being an Infantryman on the front line of a fight. How would this play out on the battlefront?

When Ranger worked in a machine shop as a young man, he watched as the male workers lift heavy buckets of material for the female workers -- something which was the women's job -- even as this was in violation of union agreements. It's just the way it is. 

So let us summate the truths we have: Men watch porn, a media which is by necessity an objectification of women. Men also have an innate protective feeling toward actual women in their lives. Men are competitive, and excel in certain physical arenas against most women. 

Add into this mix Equal Opportunity measures which force the entrance of women into previously all-male domains (the first female SEAL is expected soon, for instance.) Many men, including Ranger, have enjoyed the combat arms as being the last bastion of male camaraderie; this will be gone once women enter their ranks. The time-honored protective impulse will be challenged, and the possible fall-back if uniformity in ranks is to be maintained will be for men to change women into the unfortunate object, a position which they themselves occupy in war.)

The conundrum: How to allow women to escalate through the military ranks sans combat or Special Forces experience, the traditional means of gaining respect in that world, but jobs in which they will not necessarily perform well, and perhaps not even due to their own shortcomings? Their success seems doomed from the outset, and there is no reality game simulator which will be able to definitively represent the actions of the players on the ground once actual fighting starts. 

Just because something can be done, should it? It asks the question, "Where is a woman's place?" The feminists say, "Anyplace she wants to be." 

Maybe, but stand on L street SE in Washington, D.C. at night and even G. I. Jane would be at risk.

More to come ...

--Lisa and Jim

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Death of the Gated Community

--Haves and Havenots,
Arend van Dam
Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck ten,
The mouse came again
 --Hickory Dickory Dock, Nursery rhyme

Self-Defense is not murder 
--Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) 

In 1988, the crime rate in the United States rises four hundred percent.
The once great city of New York becomes the one maximum security prison
for the entire country. 
. . .
The United States Police Force, like an army,
is encamped around the island. There are no guards inside the prison,
only prisoners and the worlds they have made.
The rules are simple: once you go in, you don't come out.  
--Escape from New York (1981)

Its summertime, and that means the news cycle is hungry for more of the crazy in Florida; we do not disappoint.

This summer will see the latest recrudescence of the 26 February 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman as jury selection is underway for Zimmerman's 2nd degree murder trial. We will not discuss the excellence or degeneracy of either the shooter or the victim.

As we have written before, it a sad story oft-repeated, young black male with a brief history of flirting with the wrong side of the law, killed before be could manifest whatever it was he would mature into, usually killed by another of his own race. There is little to make this story any more noteworthy than the too-many other daily iterations of Martin's death, but the name and nationality of the shooter caught the eye of some crime reporter scouring the police blotter.

What a bombshell this might have been: Jewish man (=Zimmerman) shoots black teen (Are Jews armed? Don't they volunteer for the ACLU getting blacks their rights?) A sociological truism is that the underdog who is assisted will one day turn against his champions (=perceived betters), and people like Louis Farrakhan made sure no love was lost between the black and Jewish communities. But shooting? Surely Jewish people do not go shooting up blacks for racist reasons. This would have indeed been a coup for some gun-jumping journo, but it was not to be.

Turns out the shooter is Hispanic, and had volunteered time tutoring young black youths in his gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Florida, described as "a multi-ethnic" gated community. The Zimmermans had lived there since 2009, and Mr. Zimmerman was the community watch captain. So we do not have a rogue Jewish shooter, nor do we have a version of the Crips and the Bloods.

Now, since it is not a rare occurrence for a young black man to be shot by a police officer or a peer, why the outrage surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin? Perhaps the story has become one of place, rather than players. Perhaps this story actually marks the death of the gated community, once the last refuge of affluent whites seeking protection from the ravages that play out daily in the inner cities of our country.

This story has touched a nerve: does it signal the end of the line for "White Flight"? Where do the whites go now that the last bastion of "whitehood" has been breached? The gated community is no longer a white haven, and is patrolled by Hispanic volunteers who will confront the perceived interlopers.

The sanctity of the gated community has been corrupted and penetrated from within by a degraded economy which does not discriminate when taking its victims down. Gated communities are no longer guaranteed havens or retreats from the ills that plague this world, for the residents have all been jostled about by the vagaries of an unstable world.

The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Florida -- the now multi-ethnic gated community -- is no longer a place of retreat. It is just another community of striving individuals who do not care to look out of their windows when they hear a scuffle or a gunshot. The losers are the people who used to believe that gates could protect them.

26 Feb 2012: R.I.P., Gated Communities. Your death was slow but inexorable; you, the victim of a tanked economy and an ever-multi-culturing society. Whether you will be missed, and/or replaced, remains to be seen.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Obama Messiah

 If telling the truth is bad manners,
then we will have bad manners 
--Sabotage (1936) 

I'm from the government
and I'm here to help 
--Ronald Reagan 

Thank you, sir,
may I have another?
--Animal House (1978)

President Obama says he will protect the American people, while concomitantly whittling our civil rights down to size. But who better to corral than Munchkins? Yet again, he is overreaching his job description. The President does not protect us physically; Job #1 of our Chief Executive is to protect and uphold the Constitution. 

Mr. Obama is co-opting the rhetoric of his erstwhile mentor Reverend Wright when he suggests he is our individual protector on this earthly plane.  Are we so cowed and puerile that we accept this power-grab, and then accept Attorney General Eric Holder as Obama's "Sin Eater", functioning as inmate John Coffey did in Stephen King's derivative story The Green Mile (appealing to the simple idea of one individual as repository and magnet for all sin?)

Do we hear the gospel lyrics, "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me" when we think of our President? If so, we may as well be in the land of the opium eaters.

We have an entire apparatus of government to handle the function of personal protection, to include the States, state-controlled police assets and their governors (unless you live in Florida.) Have we become so conditioned to paternalism that we find this perversion of duty to be a comfort? 

Protecting lives is a paltry exercise of authority compared to the concept of protecting our core values. A life without rights of privacy or fear from capricious and arbitrary imprisonment, or one in which the President can order secret prisons, renditions, kidnappings, assassinations, torture and aggressive wars is not free.  The life of a man in such a society does not need a protector.

That man is already safely ensconced in his cage of unfreedom.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sex and Violence

Why is it always, "sex and violins"?
--Ruth Buzzi, Laugh-In

The new pornography is left-wing;
and the new pornography is a vast graveyard
where the Left has gone to die.
The Left cannot have its whores and its politics too
--Letters from a War Zone, Adrea Dworkin

I seen ev'ry blue eyed floozy on the way, hey
But their beauty and their style
Went kind of smooth after a while.

Take me to them lardy ladies every time!
 --Fat Bottomed Girls, Queen

Let them eat war
That's how to ration the poor
Let them eat war
--Let Them Eat War, Bad Religion

Not war pornography -- war AND pornography. Now that we have your attention ...

War is the specialized, systematic application of State violence, and it is a perversion of civilized values, yet it is an activity that few societies have extirpated. It is also an activity designated as a career track primarily for the disadvantaged of our society. But war is an exploitation -- if it were not, our politicians would seek active combat service (which they avidly do not.)

We all know what pornography is when we see it, and aside from those 5th Avenue feminists who have the luxury of arguing that women in the porn industry are empowered by selling their anatomy, porn has traditionally been but one realm of the exploitation and objectification of women. Yet we have now opened a new realm of women's exploitation, and we call this a good: putting women in the combat arms.

To allow women to participate in the perpetuation of the violence will raise their glass ceiling we are told, thereby facilitating their career opportunities. This is the bottom line for arguing for women on the front lines. But this "privilege" will only be seen as such by a certain segment of society.

--Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, 
Reich's Women's Führer
Why are women in porn seen as exploited, while sending them off to fight in war is well and good? Neither war nor pornography are held as social goods, yet our internet lives bathed in porn sites, and the acceptability and necessity of war are peddled as unquestionable. Hypocrisy, thy name is U.S.A.

Is this argument for sending women into combat a backlash to the feminist movement? While women have still not gained economic parity with men in the workplace, we are now fast-forwarding them to star in their own personal snuff films, while screwing them all the way there (20% of women in the military have been sexually harassed by their male counterparts, according to recent studies.)

Further, these women will be fighting and dying for the rights of women in foreign lands to be exploited at the hands of males, as they always have been. It is a historical Mobius strip, for the women who they die for may one day gain their rights to fight and die for some other women to be exploited, ad nauseam. This is presuming that these imagined future women will have the crusading American impulse to help the scapegoat. But few look beyond the present moment, to see the implications of their bravery or foolishness.

The same people who would criticize porn (overtly) are the same who would argue for (someone else's) women to kill, fight and die in the depravity and degradation of war. How is having sex with strangers and pretending to enjoy the encounter less socially acceptable than fighting?

Exploitation by any other name ...

--Jim and Lisa

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Warriors Without Borders


The sacrifice of brave men
does not justify the pursuit of an unjust cause 
--Our Kind of Traitor, John LeCarre 

You must go on. 
I can't go on.
I'll go on 
--The Unnameable, Samuel Beckett 

You say "Yes", I say "No". 
(I say "Yes", but I may mean "No").
You say "Stop", I say "Go, go, go".
(I can stay still it's time to go) 
--Hello Goodbye, The Beatles

The trait characterized by all terrorism is that the violence -- though symbolic -- is ultimately nihilistic, and nihilism does not build great civilizations or institutions. Terrorism does not assist the progress of man.

Fights like Wanat, Waygul and Kamden are symbolic of so many others, but for our purposes let us assume they are representative of the entire war, a microcosm of the gestalt. This is not a heartening thought.

If the U.S. Army in 2009 with the compliance of NATO allies and the Afghan Army are needed to (barely) hold isolated Command Outposts, why should we assume the Afghan government will continue to do so after the U.S. leaves the country? They are as unable to do this as they were at the war's outset. Instructive is the example of Vietnam, the United States first counterinsurgency (COIN) war, the war which informed the late great General David Petraus to compose Field Manual 3-24, everyman's guide to fighting the COIN way.

The drawdown of U.S. assets led to the 1972 North Vietnamese offensive, and ultimately the April '75 fall of Saigon. The NVA achieved this military objective despite having been strategically bombed for at least seven years. Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were as nihilistic from the U.S. side as are the acts of today's terrorists.

The NVN had a realistic and understandable military goal; in contrast, the U.S. goal was simply to kill the NVA and Vietcong into submission, a goal not achieved. As in Vietnam, fighting remains our raison d'etre, yet we marvel at the senseless nature of terrorism. We refuse to see that our response to terrorism is as senseless as the precipitating event.

Bombing Hanoi did not defeat the NVN venture, and drones will not thwart the will to fight of our current adversaries. Drone strikes will not defend America. In fact, they are an extralegal approach to a criminal problem (terrorism).

It is surreal to realize that we have fought and do fight wars without military objectives, we have tried to build nations that do not want to be re-built and we do all of this with money that we do not have to squander. Even the direness of the sequester is inadequate to shake our resolve to press the fight in which we have nothing to gain. It is Hamburger Hill, in perpetuity.

A simple question: If Chinese and Vietnamese Communism were bad and worth fighting the Korean and Vietnam Wars, why are both nations now major trade partners of the U.S.?

Perhaps to look into the gaping maw of that zed is too much to bear, so we press on, like Beckett's Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot. They do not realize their project is D.O.A., for Godot is not coming (Gott es Tod), or perhaps they do, and substitute an eternal march and cogitation in place of actually achieving something, like meeting their goal.

Much like the characters in Waiting for Godot, we are not even sure what we are waiting for, or what that might look like. Like them, our project has a foregone nullity for a conclusion.

The day that Saigon fells did not impact one iota upon the freedoms and liberties of U.S. citizens. If the Vietnamese, Afghans and Iraqis cannot achieve a national consensus without nasty civil wars, so be it. Ditto Libya, Syria and the whole shooting match. Let them fight it out, without us, as we alone did in the creation of our nation -- through the time-honored bloody slog that is how men decide who's top dog.

--Jim and Lisa

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bradley Manning Trial

--Rainer Hachfeld, Neues Deutschland

Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what's going on 

 --What's Going On, Marvin Gaye 

I'm as mad as hell
and I'm not going to take this anymore! 
--Network (1976)

The National Security Agency moved swiftly and forcefully today to remind its employees of its longstanding zero-tolerance policy on conscience, warning that any violation of that policy would result in immediate termination. 
“When you sign on to work at the N.S.A. you swear to uphold the standards of amorality and soullessness that this agency was founded upon,” said N.S.A. director General Keith B. Alexander. “Any evidence of ethics, decency, or a sense of right and wrong will not be tolerated. These things have no place in the intelligence community.” 

To enforce the policy, General Alexander said that once a month all N.S.A. employees will be wired to a computer to take full inventory of what is going on in their minds: “We want to be sure they are spending their free time playing Call of Duty, not reading the Federalist Papers.” 

-- fr. N.S.A. Enforces Zero-Tolerance Policy on Conscience, Andy Borowitz

The Bradley Manning trial which began this week is not getting much press; some 75% of mainstream news outlets will not be covering the trial, and the press gallery remains mostly empty.

Meanwhile, the United States government continues perfecting its adversarial electronic surveillance posture against both the press and the rest of us. It is apparent that secrecy and the diminution of our privacy rights are a daily event in our brave new world, and we the marching morons continue in lockstep throwing our rights away by the fistfuls.

As Juan Cole wrote, "The US Government has been gleefully getting access to your private correspondence and that gave the Government Class an inherent superiority over ordinary Americans. Manning announced that turnabout is fair play, and we should be able to see their correspondence, too, especially given the war crimes in Iraq. That's why they're trying to execute him."

But as U.S. intelligence agencies perfect their methods of spying on us -- with our complicity -- there will always be the few like Edward Snowden and Manning who refuse to forbear their part in the voyeurism. Adrian Lamo who turned Manning in, under oath described Manning as having a sort of oceanic moment of awareness in which he realized the brutality we do to others, we do to ourselves. At this thought Manning felt suicidal, but instead of acting on that he revealed to us the source of the impulse to self-immolation.

We did not do much with the data other than to shuffle it off with a time-worn, "Things happen in war."

Once in a while there's a Howard Beale who dares to yell out the open window, but we don't mollycoddle our whistle blowers. Most of us go along to get along, just so happy for the Costco membership, the (hopefully one) mortgage and the 10-day family vacation. But there is another Bradley Manning out there now releasing secret court orders and PowerPoint presentations showing government tendencies to overreach its constitutionally-mandated boundaries.

To that person, whomever he may be -- we will say, "thank you for your service."

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Big Brother

--Schot, De Volksrant

"Nobody is listening to your telephone calls."
defending government surveillance programs.

Well your nobody called today
She hung up when I asked her name
Well, I wonder
Does she think she's being clever
--Your Nobody Called Today, Sylvia

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, 
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,
shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue,
but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation,
and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized
--Fourth Amendment
If your consumer life extends beyond cash purchases at Sears and Safeway, someone's got tabs on you.
They sold the Internet to you as a World of Warcraft and other fun games, but now we know that the price of our amusement comes at the cost of the State's declared need for security in the form of data mining. But is the effort worth the cost?

President Obama tells us to get over ourselves; nobody's listening.  But he sounds schizophrenic when he says the government both is and is not surveilling our phone conversations. Everyone is hedging, with tech companies conceding to surveillance programs -- but "just a bit". Sorry -- you cooperate or you do not; the act cannot be mitigated.  And the trawling is done so quickly now as to obviate the need for justification of targets. David Bromwich gives a good critique of the "Total Protection Government" HERE.

Even if you accede to your government's claims that snooping over your shoulder saves lives -- "What need I worry if I'm doing nothing wrong?" -- there are problems with electronic intelligence (ELINT) and intelligence in general. Usually, such a wide net collects too much data, and proof is never provided to justify the violation of our privacy. If the intrusion into our privacy is so crucial to fighting to terrorism, show us the data. The shelf life of these data intercepts is brief, and are designed only to develop link analysis and association matrices -- "mail trees" in pre-computer days. 

However, the efficacy of these programs was based upon stable, non-mobile targets. Terrorism is based upon dynamic membership with rapid movement, implying the need for international cooperation between police agencies versus a unilateral isolated National Security Agency (NSA) effort. History shows manifold failures of such isolated intelligence: President George W. Bush did not synthesize the terror warnings he was provided in early August of 2001; the U.S. Navy fleet was in berth at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. 

Intel is useless if it is so highly compartmentalized and classified that it is not disseminated down to the action level. If these data collections were so effective, why doesn't law enforcement use them to eliminate the spree shootings we find so horrifying, for example? No criminal or terrorist venture reaches the execution phase without giving off intel indicators that the event will take place.

We are not children, though we may be useful idiots if we believe there is congressional oversight for these intrusions into our technological lives. We must define for ourselves what is intel and what is its shelf life.

Moreover, what do we do with it, --both when it is viable, and when it becomes rancid?

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Saturday, June 08, 2013

Look Alikes

Left, Anzor Tsarnaev; Right, RangerAgainstWar

Ranger bears a striking resemblance to the hapless father of the Boston Marathon bombers, Anzor Tsarnaev, and shares his affinity for wearing aviator glasses. 

As though his winning military views were not enough to earn him some ire, he should expect some hard-timing from our ever-vigilant TSA employees should he take to the friendly skies anytime soon.

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