Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mission Impossible

 --The bloom's off the rose 

 His stop-loss odyssey 
went Kabul, morphine, 
   Ramstein, Stateside, 
and back—round-robin   
desert wrestling,
tag out, tag in 
--Welcome Home, Troops! 
 Amit Majmudar

 Cause I gonna make you see 
There's nobody else here 
No one like me
 I'm special, so special
--Brass in Pocket,
The Pretenders

One step forward and two steps back
 Nobody gets too far like that
 One step forward and two steps back 
This kind of dance can never last 
--One Step Forward, 
The Desert Rose Band    

Let us do a check-in on the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) at lucky year 13, as President Obama sends more advisers to Syria in what looks very much like JFK's adviser gambit in the early years of the Vietnam War, the poster child counterinsurgency (COIN) failure.

First, a review: After the initial conventional invasion stage, the PWOT© became a COIN war, for lack of a better term. General Petraeus and his post-Vietnam thesis guided our participation, as if this time, we would really nation-build and win hearts and minds.

Hearts and minds, as if Vietnam could be redeemed and made into something of worth. COIN theory redux would modernize Galula, make what they tried to bury count, make it relevant for a new day.

But then the New COIN started looking like its own danse macbre. We forgot that it wasn't a war, and we were fighting the very people we came to democratize. COIN  really isn't a very good way for the U.S. to win a war, or to help a people.

You cannot both fight people and nation build concurrently. Probably, we still do not realize that it is possible to nation build and to fight insurgents, but the process must occur consecutively. It is impossible to fight, kill and destroy while also attempting to build; the concepts are mutually exclusive.

The luster fell away from the erstwhile Golden Boy, General Petraeus, and his vaunted COIN theory has been folded and put back under the trundle bed, like an old Mission Impossible VHS tape. So where does that leave hearts and minds and nation building, as the United States trudges on in the quagmire that is the Not-Arab Spring?

The mask of nation-building has fallen away, as the U.S. realizes that was merely pretense for our frenzied occupation of places in which the U.S. had no legitimate reason to be. "Asymmetrical warfare" has also died a protracted death on the trash heap of a failed policy.

The U.S. is currently yoked to a slug-fest that makes less sense than did the tarted-up, new-and-improved COIN of once-wonder boy, Vietnam vet-manque, Mr. Petraeus.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Earth Day + 4

--It's not nice to fool Mother Nature
In making war with nature, there was risk of loss in winning
Read more at: http://www.azquotes.com/author/9897-John_McPhee
In making war with nature, there was risk of loss in winning
Read more at: http://www.azquotes.com/author/9897-John_McPhee
 In making war with nature,
there was risk of loss in winning 
---John McPhee 

The warm, the richly coloured,
the infinitely friendly world of soma-holiday.
 How kind, how good-looking,
how delightfully amusing every one was! 
--Brave New World
Aldous Huxley 

It is a fiction that science can save us
--Ranger thought

If you live in a lovely part of the world, mazel tov. However, if you are drinking water in Flint or Cleveland, not so much.

"Better living through science" was the mantra in the 1950's, and one cannot watch commercial television or read a magazine without exposure to copious advertisements of drugs which will cure what ails you (if it doesn't kill you, first). The scientists can offer fixes, but they are more reticent on the topic of what made you sick to begin with.

The despoiling of our water sources will probably be mankind's undoing. But the water still comes out of the faucet, so it mustn't be all that bad, right? Florida is experiencing the slow catastrophe that is the fouling of its aquifer, but Governor Scott has seen fit to remove most protections and solutions.

Lake Apopka in the center of the state, once a pristine bass fishing area, has been fouled by decades of fertilizer runoff from muck farming by the A. Duda company. (Agricultural interests get a pass in Florida.) Now, it is the home of hermaphroditic frogs, and it has rendered as dead zones the entire Chain of Lakes which emanate from it.

Lisa lives near a Superfund site which, after the top six feet of contaminated earth was scraped and sent up to Georgia, has been converted into "Cascades Park", a capital showpiece. Of course, when she moved into town she read about clusters of illness in the vicinity, but also that doctors were not required to report these observations to any clearinghouse as there was no clearinghouse.

The money today is on chronic illness and lifetime "maintenance drugs". As Ranger observes, there are "well baby" doctor visits, but no "well adult" visits. People are too busy to stop and smell the roses, so they take antidepressants at unheralded levels as a stop-gap measure to keep them working, and working too long without rest and good food, they break down,.

A kindly friend gave Lisa a bottle of COSTCO sublingual B-12 the other day, for nerve health and energy. The pill was unpalatably, sickeningly sweet, creating a radioactive red color in the saliva advertised as a "cherry" flavor. She then read the ingredient list: Sucralose -- a neurotoxin -- and Mannitol, even worse. There is a contradiction here between intent and execution. 

The best medical innovations in the last century have probably been antibiotics and vaccinations, which eradicated scourges like polio (something which the privileged anti-vaxxers forget, and village people in Afghanistan and Pakistan never understood, anyway; just don't trust whitey . . . usually sound advice.) But besides those, how do we know that the things that afflict us are not caused by the things that we have created to "better" our lot? We foul and fix, like a dog chasing its tail.

It will be interesting to see the results of lives lived on smartphones, up until the wee hours updating and trolling Facebook and Instagram feeds. Surely Darwinism will remove many of the driving-texters from the gene pool.

We are already noticing young teens demonstrating nascent Dowager's humps as their faces tilt preturnaturally downward, and "Together Alone" is becoming the norm as all 'round the table get their fix on the smartphone.

Will we be able to stay ahead of the power curve resulting from the destruction which lies in our wake?

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

You Wanted Dead White Males, You Got 'Em

 --And away they go
(Jackie Gleason as Ralph Cramden)

 A dirty white boy
I've been in trouble since I don't know when
I'm in trouble now and I know somehow
I'll find trouble again
--Dirty White Boy,

Twenty five years ago they spoke out and they broke out
Of recession and oppression and together they toked
And they folked out with guitars around a bonfire
Just singin' and clappin' man what the hell happened
--Walking on the Sun,
Smash Mouth

The only thing that's left to fear is too late to ever start again
They rape us over and over and over and over
But I'm still alive, but I'm still alive in this dead space 
--Dead Space, Sick Puppies

Subtitle: Requiem for a Heavyweight

The academie has been calling for their heads for decades.  De-center the white male -- eject his works from the canon! And while it is true that society has historically failed to recognize and include females and minorities, the white male artist should not be the whipping boy for society's failures.

Especially white males of the lower and middle strata today, who largely have no power to oppress anyone in society. Yet among the liberal crowd, it is with glee and snarkiness that they -- largely young to middle-aged white males -- express their schadenfreude against the meth-heads and Oxy fiends in Kentucky, largely young to middle-aged white males.

Scapegoats needed, and the bedraggled Khalid Sheikh Mohammed-looking guy in Appalachia in the wife-beater, gaze affixed to the rabbit-eared t.v. will do nicely, thanks. 

Well, we now have the result of this denigration and disdain: the white male young to middle-aged cohort is the only demographic losing in the longevity race in the United States. In addition to alcohol, drug abuse and liver cirrhosis is cited depression, as though the latter were a discrete phenomenon from the former.

After the previous gains had plateaued for several years, they have now begun to dip. Every other cohort continues to gain annually.

This trend should be very concerning to anyone who cares about a well populace. One group need not lose in order for others to gain. There is no penance that need be paid. This is not the bible, and offspring do not pay for the sins of the fathers.

But these dead and dying they are no one's pet project, they are simply lost like so much detritus along the highway that used to be paved with hope. Their jobs have been outsourced and off-shored, their towns, dying due to the outflux of industry. Good union jobs are scarce, once the route into the middle class for the vocational track student. There are few apprentices or journeymen anymore.

Clothes and socks and appliances are bought cheaply from abroad, and disposed of as befits their value. Human's valuation and a sense of pride also landed on that trash heap. These are the designated losers in the sweepstakes of modernity, not educated enough to innovate or escape the dead ends into which they were born, not qualifying for any particular charitable cause.

The last time an administration took note of their plight was back in the 1930's when FDR's administration began improvements like the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Works Project Administration (WPA). President Obama's Promise Zones plans to bring federal dollars to regions with persistent poverty, like those in Kentucky (the first rural pilot), but it will probably be as successful as Johnson’s War on Poverty and Clinton’s Empowerment Zones. Not.

The causes du jour, gay marriage and LGBTQ rights, have no space for the floundering straight white male. As in The Dark Tower, time has moved on. The People Who Mean Well will bring places like rural Kentucky online, but sans leadership, they will play video games and grow more unfit to do anything but get to the end of the driveway for their monthly check to keep the Mountain Dew flowing.

The too-young dying white males should be seen as a bellwether for the future of any hopeless cohort in our country. Simply as a matter of expediency, we should be utilizing all of our manpower into building a more robust society; forget morals and ethics.

We amuse ourselves with programs like "Justified and "The Walking Dead", but the reality which props up the artifice is anything but amusing. Witnessing large swathes of desolation throughout the land which used to be centers of production -- now become rat holes -- we should all be concerned if for naught else than the corrosive effect upon on our own piece of the puzzle. The contagion spreads from the epicenters of the disease.

Epitaph of the dead white male: I can't go on, I'll go on.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chinese Fire Drill

--The New Europeans 

The greatest patriotism is to tell your country
when it is behaving dishonorably
--Julian Barnes

Islam is a beautiful harmless happy daffodil 
--Earth (The Book),
Jon Stewart, et al. 

I don't wanna hear your talking, boy
Your words don't mean a thing 
--Wings, Little Mix

Watching the news today is like watching a Chinese fire drill. Inscrutable Middle East / Arab / Muslim people lead each news hour. If it is not the bedlam in their own countries, than it is their effect upon the others. It is a contagion we are led to believe cannot be contained.

The intellectuals tell us, "refugees are the price we pay for a globalised economy in which commodities – but not people – are permitted to circulate freely", like it or lump it [ "The Non-Existence of Norway".]

When we make a foray into out own nation's news, it is to strike the alarum against Things That Cannot Be, like presidential front-runner Trump. In a democratic nation, Trump's facticity mortifies us. Yet his success is a bellwether for the condition of our electorate. 

In addition, he is not sui generis. We have had businessmen and an actor (a business of sorts) serve as President. In addition, wrestlers, comedians, and everyone in between have served in representative positions.

Rather than The Powers That Be scrambling to pull the plug on the farrago that is Trumpmania, why not look with fascination and concision at that very real phenomenon. No, sadly, that sort of truth-telling we cannot allow. 

We do not ask the right questions because we are too busy constructing the images that tell the story we want to tell.

A recent story-topper in the New York Times was masterful: "The New Europeans" re-constructed Grant Wood's iconic "American Gothic" for a world which is told it must absorb the illegal Arab immigrant (see above). ("Look -- they are just like you", the carefully constructed image tells you. "No worries".)

The clean-cut Middle East couple newly arrived in Bavaria could be in an American Outfitters advertisement, with the photo's appealing bright pinks and yellows. And, it's got kids -- kids in matching little construction boots! Future workmen -- what's not to like?

In addition to the variously imaged immigrants, we see the same news footage nightly regarding the latest Islamic State (IS) outrage, but we never see pictures of IS fighters who have been captured alive. Why?

Does the Iraqi Army, Iraqi militias or the Kurds have enemy prisoner of war (EPW) units? Do these forces abide by the Geneva Conventions (GC) when dealing with IS?

The immediate reply will be, "Well, IS doesn't abide by the GC's". While clearly a true statement, hopefully United States tax dollars do not finance IS. The Iraqis are a different matter since they were created in our image and likeness by our greenbacks.

You won't hear it on the news, but the real Rubik's Cube is a U.S. policy which supports allies who are not allies, and who do not share our values. Allies who practice ethnic cleansing and Genocide Light, something which is opposed to the 1988 Genocide Treaty signed by the U.S. 

What we are given instead are graphics, things we can scroll on our media feed while stopped at traffic lights, possibly even while driving, a little something to enhance that otherwise mundane experience.

We took our eyes off of the road some time ago.

--Jim and Lisa

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