Monday, April 30, 2007

Such Quantities of Sand...

The poem on the Walrus and the Carpenter

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;

They wept like anything to see

Such quantities of sand:

"If this were only cleared away,"

They said, "it WOULD be grand!

--The Walrus and the Carpenter,
Through the Looking Glass

So you can understand why they're sad, really. They see such potential...

New topic: Latrine etiquette among soldiers dictates you ''flush twice--it's a long way to the Pentagon.''

General Petraeus needs to flush twice so he can end up as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army (''General Says Iraq Pullback Would Increase Violence.'') His rise is exponential, and will continue as he sings GWB's tune, which unfortunately is a bit off key; actually, more like nails on a chalkboard:

The top military commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, warned Thursday that an American troop pullback this fall would lead to an escalation in sectarian killings and worsening violence.

My sense is that there would be an increase in sectarian violence, a resumption of sectarian violence, were the presence of our forces and Iraqi forces at that time to be reduced,” General Petraeus said at a Pentagon news conference.

Does Gen. Petraeus have a crystal ball? Is he basing his comments on
sense, or nonsense. He's spouting the conventional wisdom (not) that keeps the U.S. mired ever deeper into this muck. It is time to flush this mess.

Although General Petraeus did not address the political debate over a withdrawal deadline in his briefing or in a later interview, he said there would be risks to beginning a troop pullout before the end of the year.

Ranger likes to keep things simple, and it seems that when Petraeus makes wild ass guesses (WAGS) about the future of Iraq, he is in fact trying to influence Congress. But this is not part of his job description.

General Petraeus also said that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq lacked enough power to single-handedly push through measures sought by the United States that were aimed at easing tensions between Shiite and Sunni Arabs.

Aye, there's the rub, for the measures to unify this mess must not be sought by the U.S., but by the Iraqis. It must be borne in mind that the Iraqis did not invite our oh-so magnanimous attentions.

And [Petraeus] signaled that he hoped for political progress in Iraq, not just military improvements.

Yes, political progress would be refreshing, but why is this topic being addressed by Petraeus, and not Ms. Rice? Remember, Petraeus is military; Rice is political. The military commander is not the person to address the political needs of Iraq.

Let Petraeus do his job of killing people, and Rice do hers of facilitating a political accommodation.


They're Coming Home to Roost

I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought,
but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones

--Albert Einstein

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?
--Over the Rainbow

Strange days indeed. The U.S. is tied in a knot about Iran's possible acquisition of nuclear weapons, yet ignores the fact that the 1972 ABM Treaty eviscerated by the Bush administration is all about nuclear weapons. Now the chickens are coming home to roost (''Putin to Suspend Pact with NATO''):

''President Vladimir V. Putin said Thursday that Russia would suspend its compliance with a treaty on conventional arms in Europe that was forged at the end of the cold war, opening a fresh and intense dispute in the souring relations between NATO and the Kremlin.''

''Although Mr. Putin did not mention it on Thursday,
Russia is angry that in 2001 the Bush administration unilaterally pulled out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972.''

Nobody cares about the missiles; it is the multiple warhead nuclear weapons that they deliver. So what is U.S. policy? Shaft Russia, which holds thousands of nukes, and hope that the problem will go away. Then we push the envelope by putting NATO missiles closer to Russian territory.

In one from the annals of the pot calling the kettle black:

''Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking in Oslo at a gathering of diplomats from NATO countries, reacted coldly to Mr. Putin’s speech.

''These are treaty obligations, and everyone is expected to live up to treaty obligations,'' she said.

Right. However, the arch Ms. Rice is a tad hypocritical, and seems lost in space and time when she espouses her Cold War rhetoric.

“The idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in Eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic deterrent is purely ludicrous, and everybody knows it,” Ms. Rice said, slipping inadvertently into cold war terminology with her reference to the Soviet Union.''

Russian foreign minister Sergey V. Lavrov presented reasoned grievances against the necessity of NATO.

“Our starting point is that we should conduct a joint analysis of whom we should protect ourselves against,” he said. “Who are our enemies?”

He added, “We cannot see at the moment any kind of justified threat.”

Why does Iran dominate our policies while GWB and Rice are baiting the bear with sharp sticks? Sharp sticks can lead to nuclear conflagrations.

Here's an idea: why not deal with the existing threat rather than the one that is somewhere over the rainbow?

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Jason Pepper


Jason Pepper is a serviceman on whose behalf the Disabled American Veterans is soliciting for donations. Jason could serve as the universal injured soldier for Iraq.

Jason ''had his eyes destroyed, his right forearm shattered, and his left hand mangled in an explosion in Iraq.'' Ranger is publishing this Disabled American Veterans' letter to publicize the cause, and to share the realities facing Jason and his fellows.

I salute his service and sacrifice, and America should be proud of soldiers like him. But were these soldiers to rely exclusively upon the largesse of the Department of Veterans Affairs, many, like Jason, ''would be completely lost.''

It's a shame and a pox on America that our distinguished soldiers must depend upon charity after they are severely injured.

Money for elective wars, but not enough to meet the needs of the injured warriors.


Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning
--Not Waving but Drowning, Stevie Smith

In politics, nothing happens by accident.
If it happens, you can bet it was planned that w

In another free pass from the press to the administration the New York Times reports, ''Despite multiple investigations and hand-wringing by the Pentagon, the full truth has not emerged about the death of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the football star turned infantryman who was accidentally gunned down by other Americans in Afghanistan ("Corporal Tillman Haunts the Pentagon''.)

There has been no proof that this death was accidental. This is not a foregone conclusion, as there are several ways to interpret the facts. Among these, it could be a deliberate murder (homicide), or it could be accidental (fratricide).

Since the investigations are so flawed and contradictory, there is no way to say this was accidental.

A Ranger rule is ''don't ever lie to another Ranger or an officer.'' After recent congressional testimony, it seems that in this incident that inviolable rule was violated, top down.


Which Side of the Fence are You On?

I have emphasized before that this was a struggle of Cuban patriots against a Cuban dictator. ...we made it repeatedly clear that the armed forces of this country would not intervene in any way.

Any unilateral American intervention, in the absence of an external attack upon ourselves or an ally, would have been contrary to our traditions and to our international obligations

--John F. Kennedy, Bay of Pigs Invasion speech (1961)

Willard Gates: Raven... how do you feel when you're doing...
[indicates murder headlines] this?
Phillip Raven: I feel fine
--This Gun for Hire (1942)

While President Kennedy's speech included a small untruth regarding U.S. involvement, he nonetheless spoke to an electorate who understood the job of their President, and as a president who understood his obligation to international law. ''...
this Government will not hesitate in meeting its primary obligations, which are to the security of our Nation.'' That is the truth, a truth unfortunately made murky by this administration, with the complicity of the press.

It is this subtle, ethnocentric agenda of most MSM interests me. A small bit recently on a Bay of Pigs veteran provides an example:

TITUSVILLE, Fla. - A Bay of Pigs paratrooper will sky dive Saturday in Titusville to commemorate the 46th anniversary of the ill-fated U.S. invasion of Cuba.

Special Forces veteran Edel R. Fernandez of Titusville was a paratrooper during the April 17, 1961, invasion.
He was kept as a political prisoner for almost two years.

So, Mr. Fernandez jumped into Cuba as a part of a U.S.-trained, equipped and funded military assault force that had as its intention the overthrow of the government of Cuba, which most Americans will recognize as a sovereign, if much maligned, state. And he then morphed into ''Political prisoner.''

How did he turn into persecuted hero ideologue from paratrooper? He did not languish in Gitmo for five years as an armed enemy combatant.

Even though paratrooper Fernandez did not ostensibly nor in point of fact represent a nation, the U.S. policy was to require the Cuban government to treat them as bona fide POW's. Yet today, we do not afford that same right to the prisoners we hold at Gitmo, who instead meet with inappropriate punishments.

Our standards are inconsistent. Without a doubt, men like Fernandez killed Cuban soldiers during this venture, yet none of them were tried for the crime of murder, as we trying to do with the Gitmo inmates. Killing on the field of battle is not murder, nor should it be treated as such.

Therefore, the correct title for Mr. Fernandez during his capture in Cuba would be ''POW,'' as he was captured on the field of battle by a sovereign state. But the confusion is understandable in a country which eschews calling a spade a spade, for that precise nomenclature would entail responsibility. Responsibility today seems the most onerous of things for this country to own up to.

If you are responsible, you must ensure proper care and treatment. To earn the title humane, you must not abuse your responsibilities. If you are uncertain or ambivalent, and do not define your status in relationship to another, anything is possible. That anything usually ends up being the languishing of those which have come under your provenance. And that is neither kind nor fair nor just.

Just because Mr. Fernandez hired on with the U.S., doesn't automatically make his cause just. He is not exempt from title of combatant simply by virtue of his affiliation. He was a shooter, not a political protester. Likewise, the U.S. is not presumed to be ideologically justified simply because is it advancing its own interests. Terms like ''right'' and ''terrorist'' are often determined by which side of the fence on which you live.

If we were to play the semantic game that Mr. Fernandez was a political prisoner, then what are the occupants of Gitmo and other secret prison facilities throughout the free world? Political prisoner applies more aptly to present-day U.S. detainees than to Mr. Fernandez, who was a mercenary invading a sovereign state. Most Gitmo prisoners were indigenous fighters defending their homeland, not offensive fighters-for-hire captured in a foreign territory. They were the home team.

For all of his vilification, Castro treated these prisoners more equably than U.S. policy is managing to do in Cuba today.

Hindsight indicates that the Bay of Pigs served as a mini-practice for later regime change type invasions like Grenada, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a simple, straightforward formula: invade, kick ass, and kick 'em out. Put in your lackeys. Repeat, if necessary.

Only it didn't go to plan in Cuba.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Warranted Article

Crime is increasing
Trigger-happy policing

Panic is spreading

God knows where we're heading

--Inner City Blues, Marvin Gay

I can stop these cops from killin',

I can feed these hungry children,

I can stop racism,

a product of cap-it-a-lism
We Need A Revolution, Dead Prez

I feel like I'm being stalked by a Nazi

Dazed and Confused (1993)

The two Atlanta police officers who killed Kathryn Johnson, a 92-year-old during a ''botched drug raid'' last Fall, pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges last Thursday (
''Atlanta Officers Plead Guilty.'') An informant said he'd bought drugs from a dealer there, so the police burst in on armed citizen Johnson, who then opened fire on those who invaded her home. She was shot dead by the entering officers.

There are so many aspects of this story which are appalling:

  • Johnson shot once through the door, injuring no officers, following which they shot at least 39 rounds, striking her five or six times, once fatally in the chest.
  • After being shot, Ms. Johnson was handcuffed while her premises were searched. When no WMD's, uh, drugs, were found, ''the cover-up began in earnest.'' One of the convicted officers, J.R. Smith, admitted to planting three bags of marijuana is Johnson's apartment.
  • A man claiming to be the informant said he had never fingered Johnson's residence, leading Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington to admit he was uncertain whether the suspected drug dealer actually existed.

Some reports place the woman at 88, so using that conservative estimate, let's take a 360 degree walk around her life.

She would have been born in 1919, which is a year the U.S. was fighting a war to make the world ''safe for democracy.'' This probably meant that democracy should be safe in America, versus making the world safe in terms of receptive for proselytizers to go traipsing about the world planting the seeds of democracy like an agenda'd Johnny Appleseed.

She also lived through WW II, which was another exercise in fighting non-democratic forces of evil loose in the world. We fought the Nazis because they did things like arrest people without warrants, use slave labor, hold secret courts and detentions, and commit torture, among other very bad things. Then Ms. Johnson lived through the Cold War, eventually making it to the current era of forced democratization (Iraq/Afghanistan) and the export of democracy.

Which brings us to Atlanta and Ms. Johnson's death at the hands of police officers executing that marvelous invention of democratic police action, the no-knock warrant.

The American people accept the ''no-knock'' as a requisite tool in the arsenal of the War on Drugs, which is a subset of the War on Democracy. I guess it is because we have a Drug Czar overseeing this effort, and this is par for the course in Russia, where they do such things.

The party line is that the no-knock visitation disallows drug criminals from flushing the evidence down the toilet. However, if they possess such a small amount that it can voided in this manner, why not let them flush it and call the raid a success? Ranger argues that raids should be focusing on major suppliers rather than low-level users/pushers.

Further, warrants are granted by ensconced judges that accept the flimsiest of ''probable cause'' statements that are usually or often based upon the statements of low-life informants. Instead, warrants should be granted on the basis of solid police work, rather than info/intelligence purchased from drug-dazed stooges.

The New York Times alleges ''broad corruption in the Atlanta Police Department'':

First, according to court papers, they pried off the burglar bars and began to ram open the door. Ms. Johnston, who lived alone, fired a single shot from a .38-caliber revolver through the front door and the officers fired back, killing her.

''She was without question an innocent civilian who was caught in the worst circumstance imaginable,” Mr. Howard, the district attorney,

Ranger contends that more American citizens are shot and killed by local, state and federal police actions than are killed by terrorists. So if the latter scares you, ...

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Friday, April 27, 2007

It's a Question of Honor

People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get...And if anything should go wrong, there's soma
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

One of the great attractions of patriotism - it fulfills our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what's more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous
--Aldous Huxley

What is absurd and monstrous about war is that men who have no personal quarrel should be trained to murder
one another in cold blood
--Aldous Huxley

John McCain's dogmatic insistence on staying the course, and his conflation of the concepts of nobility and honor and the ''courage and resolve of our troops'' with the failed war that is Iraq is shameful grandstanding. Yet, because he shows no equivocation at a time when waffling is the order of the day, that stalwartness is seen as moral rectitude. Pity, for history is full of unequivocal zealots and madmen.

After reading this glowing editorial in the Philadelphia Enquirer, ''On the Question of Honor, McCain Raises the Bar,'' certain distortions of history and misapplications of the law within the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) arise.

In "Character Is Destiny," [McCain] tells how Americans were tortured [in RVN] for military information, for details about one another, for statements against their country or their mission. If they would just speak, they were told, the pain would stop - and no one would know they had talked

McCain writes, "But the men I had the honor of serving with always had the same response: 'I will know. I will know.'

"That, dear reader, is good character. And I hope it is your destiny, your choice, your achievement, to hear the voice in your own heart, when you face hard decisions in your life, to hear it say to you, again and again, until it drowns out every other thought: 'I will know. I will know. I will know.''

This stuff just chokes me up and makes me want to wave flags and oppose torture for any reason. But wait a minute--isn't this the new McCain, a man firmly ensconced as a supporter of terror in our entertaining brave new world? How can McCain speak so disdainfully about North Vietnamese torture, yet support U.S. torture? It's a mite hypocritical.

Ranger finds it interesting that the U.S. policy in the Second Indochina war was to bomb the hell out of NVN sans the luxury of a declaration of war, a bombing which included civilian targets. And though there was no declared war, insisting that our captured airmen be afforded the rights of the Geneva Convention (G.C.). Fast forward to 2002-2007, and the U.S. has completely reversed its rhetoric.

Now the U.S. position is P.O.W.'s are not P.O.W.'s because there is no declared war, although there is a war when it benefits U.S. interests. We must get clear on this matter: either it is a
War on Terror, or it is not a war. It would be noble and honorable to declare for one and stick with it, with all the attending ramifications.

If it is a war, then prisoners are P.O.W.'s, and this means
no torture. Period.

As RVN was invoked by Senator McCain in his recent speech at the Virginia Military Institute, it is good to consider some similarities between then and now--what was gained, and what was/remains lost.

The Viet Cong, like the Taliban today, did not represent a sovereign state, did not wear uniforms, yet we afforded the VC G.C. protections. [Later G.C. Protocols dropped the military uniform requirement.] Somehow, we rationalize failing to extend that same protection to the Taliban and Iraqi resistance fighters.

However, if our soldiers are captured, the U.S. expects those same combatants to apply the G.C. protection to our captured personnel. In other words, the document works for us but not for them, as they are barbarians, i.e., subhuman (see Petraeus' recent letter).

The U.S. in the Republic of Vietnam ignored and short-stopped the G.C. in other areas, however.

One example is the North Vietnamese and VC graves which were mostly were unmarked and undocumented. No effort was made to comply with the G.C. by providing the names and burial locations of the dead. Not only is this lack of record keeping inhumane, it ignores the requirement of the convention. We seem to have contravened this messy bookkeeping aspect of the war.

So Vietnam demonstrated spotty application of the G.C., whereas Iraq demonstrates an almost total disdain of the documents. I don't think I'd count it progress.

Ranger's analysis: the U.S. administration wants it both ways.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

In or Out?

Ich bin ein Berliner
--John F. Kennedy

“The common people will let it go. Oh yes, they’ll sell liberty for a quieter life.
That is why they must be led, sir,driven, pushed!”

--Mr. Alexander, A Clockwork Orange

Kennedy was voicing John Donne's metaphysical no man is an island. Bill Clinton gave voice to the same idea, if some what less elegantly with his statement, I feel your pain. This compassion is notoriously absent from the aggressive stance of this administration.

The proposed or actual concrete walls to be constructed in Iraq are 12 feet tall and called
Texas Walls since they have been employed with such stellar success in protecting the U.S. Southern borders.

The walls that the U.S. builds are of course not even remotely comparable to the Iron Curtain of yore. That piece of nastiness was designed to keep people in, and ours of course are humanistic and democratic, since they keep people out. But then again, the Iraq wall keeps them in, too. Out or in, depending upon our mood.

Wall conceptualist Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson sees them as ''homogenous, gated communities,'' each two-blocks square, ''built around a market, a mosque and a generator'' (''In Iraq, and Officer's Answer to Violence: Build a Wall.'') These are placed in the ''epicenter of Iraq's civil war,'' presumably to keep the sects from killing each other. Picture it as a kind of more challenging Celebration, Florida, the communitarian Disney development. At least the homogeneity part.

According to Peterson and other commanders, they are clearly no longer fighting an insurgency, but are in the semi-policing business of trying to stop a civil war. Local policing is not a job for the U.S. Army. ''I felt as though I had been coopted into their sectarian agenda.'' Indeed, he had.

So now the best he and his squadron can do is build more walls, knowing that the Sunnis in these enclaves will now be targets not only for the national police and Shiite affiliates, but also their own Sunni militias, for cooperating with the Americans.

So which is it really--in or out, to borrow Alex's phrase from his game of ultraviolence in A Clockwork Orange? And of course, U.S. soldiers and Iraqis are dying at an alarming rate.

Unfortunately, the walls around our cemeteries are not keeping them out.


Any Road

Charlie Chaplin Film Set Modern Times (1936) 0027977

If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there
--English proverb

The trouble with our age is that it is all signposts and no destination
--The War Cry

I believe... that security declines as security machinery expands
--E.B. White

The human race's prospects of survival were considerably better when we were defenseless against tigers than they are today when we have become defenseless against ourselves
--Arnold Toynbee

Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times was as good an accompaniment as any for a bit about a society gone mad, turning gears for gears' sake.

Just to get a little perspective: We can confiscate vats of little shampoo and water bottles at the airports, yet we can't deal with a crazed student with a gun. A student who had given years of prodigious evidence as to his violent instability, to boot.

Just think--if the students had only had their deadly ballistic fingernail clippers which were confiscated on their last trip through the airport on their Spring break, they might have had a fighting chance.

What a farce and a boondoggle is Homeland security. We don't even begin to understand the concept of security because we can't define the threat. My guess is, the threat clearly doesn't go to church on Sunday. Oops, except in Cho's case.

--by Lisa

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Glory Days

Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture

A little of the glory of, well time slips away

And leaves you with nothing mister but

Boring stories of glory days

--Glory Days, Bruce Springsteen

Recently Ranger published a photo with CSM Lowell Jergens (retd.) taken last month in Columbus, GA.

Here's a couple of age-regressed photos of the two of us to show how we used to look when we were prettier. Hint: Jergens didn't smile too often, so the dayroom photo is a rarity. As I said, it was an honor and a pleasure to serve with men like CSM Jergens, so these pictures bring back some pleasant memories.

Since Rod Serling was a paratrooper, I'll just say, submitted for your consideration from the DZ in the Twilight Zone.


Puppy Dog Terrorists


A fine piece today by Richard Clarke, chief counterterrorism advisor on the U.S. National Security Council under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (''Put Bush's 'Puppy Dog' Theory to Sleep.'') Unlike the president, it seems Clarke has taken Logic 101. Included below is a portion:

''Does the President think terrorists are puppy dogs? He keeps saying that terrorists will 'follow us home' like lost dogs. This will only happen, however, he says, if we 'lose' in Iraq.

The puppy dog theory is the corollary to earlier sloganeering that proved the President had never studied logic: "We are fighting terrorists in Iraq so that we will not have to face them and fight them in the streets of our own cities."

How is this odd terrorist puppy dog behavior supposed to work? The President must believe that terrorists are playing by some odd rules of chivalry. Would this be the "only one slaughter ground at a time" rule of terrorism?

Of course, nothing about our being "over there" in any way prevents terrorists from coming here. Quite the opposite, the evidence is overwhelming that our presence provides motivation for people throughout the Arab world to become anti-American terrorists.

At the same time, investing time, energy and resources in Iraq takes our eye off two far more urgent tasks at hand: one, guarding the homeland against terrorism much better than the pork-dispensing Department of Homeland Security currently does the job; and two, systematically dismantling Al Qaeda all over the world, from Canada to Asia to Africa. On both these fronts, the Bush administration's focus is sorely lacking.

Yet in the fantasyland of illogic in which the President dwells, shaped by slogans devised by spin doctors, America can "win" in Iraq. Then, we are to believe, the terrorists will be so demoralized that they will recant their beliefs and cease their terrorist ways.

In the real world, by choosing unnecessarily to go into Iraq, Bush not only diverted efforts from delivering a death blow to Al Qaeda, he gave that movement both a second chance and the best recruiting tool possible.

But we can be sure that when the next attacks come in the U.S., if Bush is down on the ranch cutting trees, he and whatever few followers he retains by then will blame his successor. You can almost hear them now: If only his successor had left enough U.S. troops in the Iraqi shooting gallery to satisfy the blood lust of the enemy, as Bush did, then they wouldn't have come here.

The truth: If not for this administration's reckless steps to push America into war - and strategic blunder after strategic blunder that has satisfied the blood lust of the enemy - fewer evildoers would follow us home like the dogs that they are.

--by Lisa

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Walkin' to New Orleans

I'm walkin' to New Orleans
I'm going to need two pair of shoes
When I get through walkin' to you
When I get back to New Orleans
--Walkin' To New Orleans, Fats Domino

Do you know what it's like to walk, and not ride? Lots of folks who used to live in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans do. Maybe because of that softer footprint on the planet they drew less attention from the powers that be, and literally got swept away.

''Fifty-nine years ago this week — on April 3, 1948 — President Truman signed the legislation establishing the Marshall Plan, which contributed so much to the rebuilding of postwar Europe. Now, more than half a century later, the U.S. can’t even rebuild New Orleans.''

So wrote the New York Times' Bob Herbert recently in ''Our Crumbling Foundations'' on the New Orleans tragedy, and by extension what this failure signifies for America's infrastructure, in general. Ranger has just addressed the misapplication of one of our foundation documents and our concomitant crumbling ideological foundations; we will now lift and shift fire to our crumbling material foundations.

Why are U.S. priorities not behind a rebuild effort in New Orleans? Simply put, GWB's priorities in Iraq and Afghanistan are more important than the welfare of U.S. cities. And certainly, the land grabbers wouldn't stand to profit if these decrepit properties were repatriated to their original owners.

''Drawn Together'' in the May 2007 Reader's Digest gives a personal dimension to the travesty. It is the story of a boy, Donald, from the Ninth whose mother was killed the night of the storm, and a dedicated art program volunteer named Ashley who, taken by his drawing talent, worked to find a home placement for him.

Through selfless work on her own time she locates an aunt who too has also lost everything in the storm and is struggling to provide for her two children, but wishes to take Donald in. The challenges to helping Donald return to a normal life would be comical, were they not tragic:

''Donald's most basic necessities--medical care and food--seem unobtainable. The government denies all applications for food stamps and Social Security benefits, citing no proof Donald's mother is dead.''

''For the same reason, Donald's aunt is not allowed to become his legal guardian. Yet he is not old enough to have a voice for himself...''

It is only the middle of last year, after 6 months of tireless advocacy, that Ashley was able to get Lt. Gov. Landrieu to secure the services of a pro bono counsel to arrange for his aunt to become his legal guardian. This has allowing him to receive medical care, including antidepressants.

Donald's story will hopefully turn out well, but it if it does, it will only be because of his chance advocate's unceasing efforts on his behalf. But what of the innumerable other Donalds out there, our country's abandoned children?

GWB was elected to be President of the U.S., yet his nation-building zeal does not seem to extend to the homeland.

It would be interesting to see if John McCain could walk through non-tourist sections of New Orleans without security these days.

by Lisa

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Our Truth

Minds are not conquered by arms, but by greatness of spirit
--Baruch Spinoza

The wave of the future is not the conquest of

the world by a single dogmatic creed but the

liberation of the diverse energies of free nations
--John F. Kennedy

I don't care how little your country is, you got a right to run it
like you want to.
When the big nations quit meddling then the world
will have peace
--Will Rogers

Welcome to Peoria, Illinois, home of middle America

Ice-cream and apple pie, guns and the Wild West
Americana, The Kinks

There is much talk about homeland and security since GWB has been our self-annointed and appointed leader of wartime proportions.

It strikes me rather bluntly that there is no homeland. America is not a geographical entity--it is a concept. That thought turned into action is the U.S. Constitution. Wherever the constitution goes, there is America. Our constitution is so valuable that anything done contrary to its principles is the greatest threat to our geographical homeland.

The constitution is not defined by invasions, preemptive wars and forced democratizations, but by the simple everyday beauty that it conveys to the social life of America. America is defined by the mundane, not the extraordinary. This ethos cannot be forced upon unwilling participants. The Constitution was written for America, and unlike the Bible, it is not a universal document.

The power of the Constitution and the U.S. military are different realities. The latter is purchased with blood and money; the other is purchased with integrity. There is no bayonet stud or selector switch on the Constitution. You should not beat people with it, and it is defended with ideals and ideas, not necessarily firepower.

This concept is lost on the likes of GWB for whom, if he had two good ideas in his head, they'd be like BB's in a septic tank.

The present philosophy of American leadership is to supposedly export American democracy without the benefit of the U.S. Constitution. This will never work, for these are not mutually exclusive concepts. While
American democracy is a portable concept that is not tied to flags and partisanship, it was an upwelling unique to this nation.

The shortcomings of Afghanistan and Iraq or any other nation do not compel America to proselytize. America is not contingent upon any other nation joining in our unique project. The constitution is the center of American social and political life. Folks like the religious right have attempted to coopt it and bundle into their ritual worship, but this should be seen for the partisanship it is. The constitution falls under no creed's rubric.

The constitution and the flag and GWB are separate entities. The constitution stands alone and for all that is the best of America. U.S. efforts will never be successful in Iraq, Afghanistan, Columbia, the Philippines, or anywhere unless that truth is examined. The truth now is that our present policies are based upon lies that are contradictory to our constitutional principles.

Our leaders can lie, dissemble and dominate other countries with the force of arms. But when the day ends, the truth is evident even to our elected liars. The truth is that we are lying to ourselves, and that is the basis of our failures and diminishment. If your reasons are lies, than so are your policies.

In the past when American soldiers died, it was not for a piece of real estate but for a piece of irrevocable parchment.

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A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained.
It can afford to extend a helping hand to others.
It's a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster
and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity
--Jimmy Carter

We hold the distinction of being the only nation
that is goin' to the poorhouse in an automobile
--Will Rogers

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher recently said ''the U.S. economy has been growing handsomely.'' How does one quantify that word, handsomely.

I reckon the Chinese consider it to be one trillion plus in foreign reserves mostly held in dollars.

At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reported, ''The dollar fell to a two-year low against the euro on worries that U.S. complaints over trade with China might cause the Chinese government to retaliate'' (''The Dollar Drops Sharply on Euro,'' Dan Molinski, 4/11/07, C.12.'') Since that report, the euro has broken 1.36 [from 1.3457], despite reassurances in the intervening two-weeks that it was remaining ''well-below'' that mark.

The above article also reported,

'''The U.S.-China issue seems to be the factor weighing on the dollar,' said David Watt, senior currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto, noting that there were no major U.S. or European data that otherwise might have explained the dollar's move lower.''

''Currency analysts at Brown Brothers Harriman, explaining the dollar's decline against the euro, said that 'the fear is that China will retaliate to U.S. action and sell U.S. Treasurys or simply not buy more.'''

The dollar was sent even lower against the euro today by a ''slew of negative U.S. reports on housing, consumer confidence and manufacturing activity, all of which shined a spotlight on an overall weak economy'' (''Dollar Drops on Home Sales, Consumer Confidence Data,'' WSJ, 4/24/07.)

The euro reached a fresh two-year high of $1.3640, closing in its all-time high of $1.3670 back in December 2004. Influencing factors included soft manufacturing reports and ''poor existing-home sales, which took their biggest tumble in 18 years in March, falling 8.4% versus an expected slip of only 4.0%.'' But it's just a tumble, I guess. Not just headlines, but sub-reports were consistently ''dollar-negative''.

Ranger's casual take on the subject: The Chinese continue to finance the U.S. deficit lifestyle and our phony elective wars, but the Bush administration gets its pants in a wad over Chinese exports of glossy paper. It seems that glossy paper is worth alienating our sister economy, the Chinese.

The U.S. economy is a house of cards based upon Chinese goodwill and economic policy. The U.S. is so far behind the power curve that we will never be in the driver's seat again, unless the U.S. adopts sound financial policies--from the personal to the federal level.

We have no FDR or Jimmy Carter telling us that we must rein in our profligate resource consumption. Victory gardens and thermostat reduction are for chumps. Unfortunately, our national leadership is on board with the conservative fundamentalist monetary credo, which basically assures the faithful that God wants you to be flush.

Deficit lifestyles do not benefit the individual nor the country. We better get a grip before it is too late.

A good start would be to eliminate ''emergency spending'' on a non-emergency, phony war.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

The Wolves at the Gates

'But, grandmother, what big eyes you have!' she said.
'All the better to see you with, my dear.'
'Oh! but, grandmother, what big teeth you have!'
'All the better to eat you with!'
--Little Red Riding Hood

The U.S. is now walling off neighborhoods in Baghdad, building seven so-called ''gated communities,'' using the terminology of some U.S. official's idea of a bad joke.

Middle East expert Anthony Cordesman, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., noted
''Both Ulster and the Balkans have shown such an approach can bring added security, but that it can also polarize and freeze divisions within the population.''

Also from Cordesman's report:

"[I]t is unclear that any degree of local success will matter without [political solutions and conciliation as every other military activity]. Unlike the British or the forces in the Balkans, the US simply cannot stay long enough to wait out the tensions of a divided city or act as a long-term peace keeping force.''

It is all too easy for those providing security to become occupiers, jailers, or the enemy unless they have the trust of the local population. . . the US cannot afford to tie down troops for long periods in given neighborhoods, the better combat units in the Iraqi Army also should not be tied down (and present ethnic and sectarian problems), and much depends on the very uncertain quality of the Iraqi police. . ."

Ranger has previously compared the fighting in Baghdad to the fighting in the Warsaw Ghetto (recognizing the obvious disparities in availability of weapons and other provisions.) The U.S. forces are now reinforcing this estimate by creating a Sunni Ghetto. All the better to see you, my dear.

Now imagine this marvelous plan: Channelize the Sunnis into a ghetto and force them to enter and exit through portals controlled by Shia army units. If I were a cynical man, I'd say it sounds like a great method to facilitate Sunni murders at the clotted checkpoints.

When the U.S. leaves the country, then a full-blown ethnic cleansing scenario can play out. And it will happen.

One must wonder when this insanity will stop. . .will it be when we run out of bodies, or money?


You've Come a Long Way, Baby

"Congressman Engel,  what interests you most about this test?...
I'm interested in the effect of a blast upon the enemies. Because
by studying such effects, we will learn approximately what may
happen to humans in the event they are exposed to atomic attack"
--Radio Bikini, film on Pacific Atomic bomb test in WW II
Old soldiers never die; they just fade away
--Douglas MacArthur

Notice the subtle differentiation in Congressman's Engel's speech when describing enemies, vs. humans.

This bit on the recent passing of the last known combat vet of WW I, Retired Army Cpl. Howard V. Ramsey, ran in the Spring 2007 edition of
The Salute, a U.S. Army publication.

The Army has come a long way since WW I.

In WW II soldiers were exposed to radiation and chemical weapons; in RVN Agent Orange was the treatment of choice. The Gulf War rondeles gave the soldiers depleted uranium.

Imagine the amount of retired pay and veterans' benefits saved by ensuring the early demise of our veterans.

Somehow, Cpl. Ramsey slipped through the cracks.

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Not Bloody Likely

If wishes were horses,
Then beggars would ride
--English proverb

What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war. Petrol is more likely than wheat to be a cause of
international conflict.

--Simone Weil

Lieutenant Colonel Gian P. Gentile wrote a piece for Army Times, reprinted in my local paper,
''U.S. Media Reports fairly on Success, Failure in Iraq.''

It is LTC Gentile's
foxhole-view as the commander of an armored reconnaissance squadron in 2006 Baghdad that the press generally represented the situation in Iraq accurately, a situation where ''the bad tends to outweigh the good.''

LTC Gentile presents a balanced and reasoned viewpoint concerning press coverage of the Iraq war.

Ranger wishes LTC Gentile good luck in his next promotion.

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Cruise Control

"[the image] is the reflection of a profound reality;
it masks and denatures a profound reality;

it masks the absence of a profound reality;

it has no relation to any reality whatsoever; it is its own pure simulacrum."

Simulacra and Simulation
, Jean Baudrillard

This is Ranger's nod to Earth Day.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel ran a piece on the increasing amounts of muck the cruise ship industry is dumping into our waters (''What Lies Beneath.'') This is but one of the myriad ways we foul mother earth.

These cruise ships are exactly like the Iraq war. They are the appearance of reality, rather than reality. Simulacrum encounters. Both are surface, shallow, and stink upon close examination.

Over the past two decades, Port Canaveral has transformed itself ''into the world's second-busiest cruise port. . . But what's good for the economy could be harming the environment, activists warn.''

'"More ships certainly means more pollution," said Terri Shore, spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth, a national organization pushing for stricter regulations on the cruise industry. "There are very few enforceable standards on cruise-ship dumping and air pollution.

''Seven cruise ships now call Port Canaveral home, and several others include it in their seasonal and special-occasion itineraries.

''Environmentalists say a typical cruise ship on a one-week voyage generates more than 50 tons of garbage; 210,000 gallons of sewage; 1 million gallons of "gray water" from sinks, showers and galleys; and 35,000 gallons of oil-contaminated water. Much of the waste -- some treated and some not -- is dumped directly into the ocean, Shore said.

''Ballast water, which is seawater pumped into the hulls of ships to keep them stable, also has created concerns. The water typically is taken in at one port and dumped at a destination port, possibly introducing invasive species into the area.

''In 2001, Royal Caribbean admitted it had installed special piping to bypass pollution-control devices and was ordered to pay $33.5 million to settle dumping complaints that occurred between 1994 and 1998.

''In 2002, Carnival Corp. was fined $18 million and placed on probation for falsifying records to cover up pollution by six ships. That same year, Norwegian Cruise Lines paid a $1 million fine for falsifying records involving the discharge of oily and other hazardous waste into the ocean.

''And in April 2003, several cruise lines agreed to pay $75,000 to research ways of handling ballast water after environmental groups sued, saying it was being discharged illegally into shoreline waters.

The article goes on to explain that the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has a self-imposed rule for dumping sewage past the 12-mile mark from shore. However, ''Florida's gambling ships typically follow the minimum state standard, dumping hundreds of gallons of human waste daily three miles from shore.''

Isn't garbage the same wherever it is dumped, and won't it float whither it will? What do we think--only the Indians or Chinese will have to bathe and swim in this swill? The prevailing winds don't always favor the fair U.S.A.

On an ironic note, This article was carried by Yahoo news, amidst pages of advertising for cruise lines.

Sunday, April 22, 2007



And I'm going down, all the way down
I'm on the highway to hell

Highway to Hell, AC/DC

If this is Judge Marcia Cooke's expression on the first day of jury selection, I wonder how her enthusiasm will hold up for the entirety of the actual trial.

Back in Padillaville (''Jury Selection Moves Slowly for Padilla Trial,'' Curt Anderson,
AP), Ranger can't help but wonder why Padilla was not bound over for trial back in 2002? The selection last week was described as moving at a ''glacial pace,'' yet 28 people out of the ultimately hoped for 90 potential candidates had been chosen by week's end. This, after five years of no movement for resolution and a constant media barrage.

Isn't this why that U.S. has a federal court system that expends big chunks of our tax dollars every year? While not speedy, if this pace is considered
glacial, I would like to know how the federal government's pace could be described...sclerotic?

Can't Win for Losing

If there's anything in the world I hate, it's leeches--filthy devils!
--Charlie Allnut, African Queen

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is taking some hits because he realistically said Thursday the U.S. cannot win this mess in Iraq (Reid: ''U.S. Can't Win War.'') Ranger believes that the U.S. can not even define winning or victory because there has been no honesty in defining the goals associated with this no-end, mindless violence.

The fight 'em there rhetoric must be seen for the bucket of bilge that it actually is. American military personnel are being expended to counter a declared threat that does not even exist. Not on the battleground on which it is fighting; not in the form it has identified.

The Jihad/terror groups never could be a target for the U.S. military. By definition, they are self-regenerating, stealthy, stateless and multinational entities who will only capitalize on this U.S. aggression, using it as an effective recruiting tool for their cause. Our actions are as effective as an Uncle Sam poster, but this time, for the opponents.

It would behoove policy-makers to separate the resistance fighters in Iraq from the Jihad/terror groups that specifically target U.S. interests.

With limited resources, we must be discriminate in choosing our battles. What are we after? A healthy and secure America is the only answer. We are bleeding those resources away in the desert, for naught in the realm of national gain. The only ones who stand to profit are a thin slice in the world of private contractual profiteers, a.k.a, leeches.

James Montgomery Flagg, the creator of the Uncle Sam poster, also designed ''Wake Up, America,'' below. I hope that Americans are able.

Wake Up America!

Friday, April 20, 2007

We're Really Serious Now

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people
--John F. Kennedy

I've seen better days, I've been star of many plays
I've seen better days, and the bottom drops out
--I've Seen Better Days, Sublime

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is convening a hearing on 24 April regarding misleading military statements which followed the death of Pat Tillman and the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch (
''House Questions Information on Tillman, Lynch.''). They are investigating into ''whether there was a strategy to mislead the public.'' No way?

The Committee will ''examine why inaccurate accounts of these two incidents were disseminated, the sources and motivations for the accounts, and whether the appropriate administration officials have been held accountable,'' they said on their website.

''[Lynch's] videotaped rescue by special forces [in 2003] branded Lynch a hero at a time the U.S. war effort seemed bogged down.'' Brilliant. Unlike now, of course, when the picture in Iraq is so much rosier. ''Lynch's spokeswoman, Aly Goodwin Gregg, said Lynch also will testify. 'She was very interested in doing so...'''

Isn't it absolutely astonishing that Lynch has a ''spokeswoman''? Next thing you know, she'll be a congresswoman.

''It wasn't clear whether the committees planned to call officials with knowledge of the cases to testify during the hearing, titled ''Misleading Information from the Battlefield'.'' So, perhaps they will just call for some stars of stage and screen to keep them entertained. I suggest someone like the late Gregory Hines, upbeat, who could do both song and dance.

So this House committee is really serious, but the officials in the know don't have to come; might necessitate revealing an inconvenient truth. The key point is, the American people cannot expect to get the truth from the government.

Ranger is constantly amazed that the leaders of America do not trust us with the truth. With the taxes we pay, that is the least we should expect for our money.

Not a Snowball's Chance

Does Padilla have a snowball's chance in hell? The prosecutor and former Attorney General Ashcroft have already judged him in the press before the trial (''Jury Selection Begins fir Padilla Trial.'')
"They [Padilla and other Gitmo defendants] certainly supported al-Qaida, there's no question about that," Shipley said. "We're not going to try them for their specific involvement in 9/11."
So much for the concept of innocent until proven guilty for the federal courts.

Padilla, as always, is described here as a ''former Chicago gang member.'' Maybe so, but how is that relevant? GWB is a recovering substance abuser, but that doesn't appear in any articles about him. Padilla is not om trial for gang membership.

Ranger can't help but wonder how our ''best and brightest'' can take a miserable loser like Padilla and turn him into a sympathetic figure and a hero to segments of the world's population.
''Critical pieces of evidence include thousands of intercepted phone conversations and an application Padilla purportedly completed in 2000 to become a "mujahedeen" trainee at the Afghan camp.''
The critical evidence is thousands of phone conversations. That's dandy--where are the warrants and probable cause for the intercepts? Guilty or not, Padilla, as a U.S. citizen, has every reasonable expectation to ''due process of law.'' To date, this has not happened.
''Padilla was hastily added to an existing case in Miami in November 2005, a few days before a Supreme Court deadline for Bush administration briefs on the question of the president's powers to continue holding him in military prison without charge.''
Imagine ''hastily'' being applied to this prosecution when Padilla was arrested in May 2002. If this is a definition of hasty, Ranger must buy a new dictionary.

This Padilla case is a screaming indictment on GWB's abuse of power and the Department of Justice's and federal judiciaries compliance in the case. And of course, let's not forget our wonderfully democratic enabling Congress.

What a great place America used to be. . . ''with liberty and justice for all.'' The words stick in my throat, with the current red, white and blue hypocrisy.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Show Our Troops the Money

Gary Kurpius adressing the audience, Paul Morin flanking him

Mr. Kurpius is the National Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Mr. Morin is the National Commander of The American Legion. Together the VFW and Legion have 4.5 million members. Recently I resigned from the American Legion, and this article prompts my withdrawal from the VFW.

Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,

I say, trouble right here in River City
--Ya Got Trouble, Meredith Wilson

''Show Our Troops the Money,'' an article co-authored by the national commanders of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion (AL), is historically misleading, emotional and basically a bucket of slop.

Both the AL and the VFW have vested interests in supporting this phony War on Terror. It is a major source of new members, with no end in sight. Large membership allows the fat cats at corporate to enjoy executive perks.

Forget the concept of the ''Long War;'' for them it is the ''Long Membership Recruiting Drive.''

AL, VFW and all fraternal military organizations should get their fingers out of the political spectrum and get back on track, which is serving as watchdogs for veterans' rights.

In this shameless screed they say,

''(T)roop withdrawal timelines will tie the hands of our battlefield commanders to maneuver their forces, and that will break the morale of our troops in the field.''

There is no battlefield in Iraq; our soldiers are functioning in lieu of a national Iraqi police force. My Army is not intended to be deployed as officer friendlies'' on a police beat. Screw Baghdad--secure the battlefield on the streets of American cities.

''Our troops operate in a world of ideals known as service, commitment and sacrifice. They don't do politics...''

Nor should the AL or VFW do politics. The AL/VFW leadership were not elected, and they are not part of the body politic, so Quit endorsing candidates (especially those without campaign ribbons or the qualifications to join your organizations.) Hint: GWB and Cheney are not VFW types.

(T)hey know that not being allowed to take the fight directly to the enemy is exactly what happened in Korea and Vietnam. They don't want to repeat history.

Surely this is emotive pablum that has no basis in historical fact. In Korea and Vetnam, the U.S. Army, Air Force and USMC employed more ordnance than was expended during WW II. Does the AL/VFW suggest that U.S. forces should have expanded Korea into a general war against China? (If they did, we wouldn't have WalMart today, nor would China be able to support our deficit spending so well.) What are these fools suggesting?

Korea was a UN Police Action, without a U.S. declaration of war. Restraint in such a situation is realistic leadership, a concept which thus far has escaped GWB and his policies. Same/same in RVN. Were the Commanders of AL and VFW in line signing up to invade the North?

Militarily, the U.S. bombed North Vietnam more heavily than WW II Germany, and killed or wounded 20% of the people in South Vietnam. The entire South was bombed, artied and defoliated. Strange half-measures if you ask me.

But [Iraq] can't be bullied into forming a democracy by an American Congress, and American troops can't speed up a process that has taken our own country 231 years to nurture.

Excellent point. Let the Iraqis alone for the next 231 years and see if they develop into a working democracy. If they don't, who cares, since their oil reserves will be depleted by then anyway.

We need a little Civics lesson here, and I'm not talking Honda.

Congressional legislation is not based upon Presidential hopes, or General Petraeus's wishes, or even progress in Iraq. The Congress is responsible for the welfare of America. The streets of Baghdad are not a U.S. taxpayer responsibility.


This issue is about American men and women who we sent to war and who now some want to pull back before they finish their job.

What do they mean by, ''we sent to war''? The U.S. military was sent to war by GWB on the flimsiest of pretexts, and the American people are paying for his incredibly poor judgment.

American policy must benefit the average American taxpayer, and not the Shias of Iraq. This article is an insult to all thinking Americans, be they veterans or Republicans.