RANGER AGAINST WAR: January 2008 <

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Back in Black

Well I'm back in black
Yes, I'm back in black

--Back in Black

We at Ranger do not like to be gulled.

The Clinton's are being blamed for playing the race card, but that is not how it appears to be.

In South Carolina, the AP reported Obama "playfully breaks into a black vernacular, which seems to amuse him and his audiences greatly."

"'I need you to grab Cousin Pookie to vote,' he told a crowd in Kingstree on Thursday. 'I need you to get Ray-Ray to vote.'

"At a similar rally in Dillon, Obama said Clinton was ducking the need to shore up Social Security. 'There are some things that aren't right,' he said 'and some things that just ain't right. And that ain't right!'

"He chuckled, the crowd laughed and cheered. 'In Washington,' he added with another big grin, 'that's how they do' (Obama Navigates Racial Minefield.)"

Hmm. We wonder if Obama has a cousin Pookie, or consorts with the likes of Ray-Ray. Presumably, they will need to be pulled from the methadone clinic line to vote by some more responsible relative.

Obama is a full player in the Washington where Obama says things "ain't right." When he makes his ingratiating comment -- "In Washington, that's how they do!" -- he is indicting himself.

If Obama is not exploiting his race, why is he talking like a field hand?
Did they teach Obama to speak like that at the madrasa in Indonesia, or in Hawaii? Perhaps it was on the Harvard Law Review? It is doubtful he speaks that way during his briefings.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who really does hail from the background Obama is mimicking, would never exploit the idiom of his youth. Obama is trying to come across as one of y'all, even though he is not.

Obama seems a candidate willing to exploit every angle, and that is politics as usual. But this is emanating from the horse's mouth, so let's not pin it elsewhere.

The liberal talking heads are all too pleased with themselves that they could identify the "call-and-response" idiom of the black spirituals. It feels cool and hip, but how many of them have ever attended a church service with a primarily black congregation? Obama is more than happy to exploit the hypnotic trance induced by such sessions.

In Sumter, S.C. he assured such a crowd, that he
"pray[s] to Jesus, with [his] Bible" (When Obama Calls, They Respond.) What is so different here from Romney's protestations, George W. Bush's and the lot of them? It is short on the sort of substance America needs if it is to restablish itself on the world stage.

Now Edward Kennedy has thrown his support to Obama. "Mr. Kennedy was [also] impressed at how Mr. Obama was not defined as a black candidate. . .
(Kennedy Chooses Obama.)"

Uh, is he defined as an "uppity, middle-aged white broad"? I think everyone is pretty happy painting Obama as our "first black president." But thank goodness race is not an issue.

Why this charade?

Clinton's precision is derided as "wonkish." Don't say what you really think, without first couching it in 100 verbal arabesques to obscure your true intention. If you don't, you are deemed a "loose-cannon," "not a team player," "wingnut and wacko," and political cartoonists will depict you being beamed aboard a UFO.

Today, in our media-saturated and wired society, the candidate must reflect who we think we are: erudite -- but not too much so, charming and positive, with a bit of swagger and mystique -- but not cocky, slim and attractive. Cinton pere once owned this magnetism, as did JFK and Reagan.

However, at one time we also allowed for non-runway contenders. Think Richard Nixon and 320-pounder William Howard Taft. More than ever, if one cannot pass under the image bar of attractiveness, one is an outsider. This is the New Prejudice, and it transcends and replaces race; perhaps, gender.

It is certainly more cruel to the female gender, members of whom become shrewish as they age. She is no longer able to obscure her competence beneath a socially acceptable veneer of beauty, whereas her male colleague only gains in sagacity as he lays on wrinkles.

Look at Edward Kennedy, fully a reprobate himself. But as Neely Tucker in the WaPo says, while yearning for Camelot is not the time for talking of such things.

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Not Ready for Prime Time Players. . .

Wall Street says the sub-prime mortgage fiasco is contained.
Maybe to planet earth.

--Financial analyst in
"House of Cards,"
60 Minutes
Steve Croft interview

We are not forecasting gloom and doom here.

But we do request you send your donations in gold bullion,

canned goods or ammo.

--Marketplace Money
, Heard on NPR (1/26/08)


Economics George W. Bush-style, In a nutshell.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

We the People

Tell me lies
Tell me sweet little lies
--Little Lies, Fleetwood Mac

Lies lies

Thats all I ever get from you

, Styx

There's deceivers an' believers an' old in-betweeners,

That seem to have no place to go

--Hands on the Wheel
, Willie Nelson


In yesterday's State of the (dis)Union address, George W. Bush emphasized numerous times the concept that the American people should be trusted. This hogwash doesn't square with the way Mr. President has treated corpus Americanus. In today's America it is not We the People, it is them, and us.

If the government trusts us so much, then why so many Federal laws to keep us in line? In fact, why not make the Federal income Tax voluntary if we are so trusted? It seems that trust is only useful as an applause line. If it is "We the People," let us plug in a few rejoinders of our own:

  1. We the People are tired of these phony wars. End them now.
  2. We the People are tired of warrantless intrusions into our private lives.
  3. We the People are tired of a politics of divisiveness.
  4. We the People are tired of national policy that claims to be fiscally conservative, yet squanders money prodigiously.
  5. We the People are tired of secret courts, secret police, secret prisons, secret interrogation techniques and secret White House visitor logs.
  6. We the People are tired of weekly escalating grocery bills and medical costs.
  7. We the People are tired of daily increases in the cost of petroleum products.
  8. We the People want a government free of liturgical entanglements.

No, this is not currently a government of, by and for the People. That is a lie. The only thing the "We the People" get is socked by taxes and the chance to vote to sustain a deceit called "democracy." That is the State of the Union, 2008-style.

We the People are pissed.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Identity Crisis

The incognito of lower class employment is
an effective cloak for any dagger one might wish to hide.

--Margaret Cho

Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth

--Matthew 6:3

The fact that all Americans who travel outside of and return to the U.S. from Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean must now obtain extra identification cards to prove we are who we say we are, paying hard-earned dollars and wasting precious time in the process, got Ranger thinking.

Millions of us have United States Uniformed Services Identification cards DD form 2 (retired) and Department of Veterans Affairs ID cards. Active Duty Military and Reserve Force personnel also have official identification cards. These individuals have undergone security clearances that clearly exceed the requirements of the current ID cards.

Why must these federally identified individuals, bearing federal ID, also possess the new passports to prove that they are citizens? The U.S. government should not require further ID of these individuals; it is needless redundancy and cost.

Why are these layers of ID needed? The duplication of identifying documentation does not make anyone safer from terrorism. It is another example of the federal left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

It simply takes money out of American pockets.



Sunday, January 27, 2008

Run to Me

You don't have to call me darlin', darlin'
You never even call me by my name

--You Never Called Me By My Name
, Steve Goodman

'Cause when the feelin's right I'm gonna run all night

I'm gonna run to you
--Run to You
, Bryan Adams

Ranger is unmoved by sweet-talkin', pro-veteran campaign rhetoric from all sides.

Standing in place of their absent service records are loud proclamations of being pro-veteran and pro-military. Usually uttered after they tell you how Christian they are. It is the whole and necessary enchilada for being a contender for public office in our secular U.S. of A. And it would be gauche in a time of war to say otherwise.

Strange days for the republic when military options preempt diplomacy, intelligence (CIA) is placed under military leadership and each civilian leader attempts to out gun the next guy in the earnestness of his patriot games. Yet the political Brahman and Mandarin classes, never needing the financial incentives, never actually don the uniform.

If we love our military so much, why must we buy our soldiers with monetary bonuses and other financial inducements, and then again to have them re-up or extend their periods of service? We love us some soldiers when it feels good or buys votes, but love is a short-term phenomenon.

If the pols are pro veteran, why do veterans groups always have to fight to ensure adequate funding from the discretionary budget to cover veterans health care and other issues? With the exception of Huckabee and Romney, all of the current crop of presidential candidates are career federal weenies, and it is equally a fact that battles are always fought over meeting the DVA budget, and shortfalls are par for the course.

They are all pro veteran, but what do they do that is so exceptionally pro vet? We vets do not expect a free ride, but we do expect to be treated equitably when the shrinking federal pie is cut up. Veterans' rights are one of those things like access to health care which should not be seen as a munificent gesture, but rather, a given in a successful society.

Ranger looks for a pro-American bias rather than a pro-Afghani or Iraqi one. Take care of America first. The Hippocratic oath is a good start: first, do no harm.

If this country supported its vets properly, we wouldn't have to scramble for the platitudes and crumbs tossed out so munificently by the candidates. They can promise the moon, but whoever is elected in '08 will by necessity be making drastic program cuts across the board by 2012.

Veterans benefits saw a 2.1% cost of living increase this year.
This cost of living increase will not cover the increase in the cost of living; everything the average person needs -- gas, heating oil, food -- has gone up exponentially, concomitant with a devalued dollar. When the time comes to pay for this war in real USD, the monetary value will have to come from somewhere other than the printing presses. Benefits for veterans will suffer, along with all other governmentally-funded programs.

Veterans benefits are always an afterthought, save when it'll buy a few votes. In a government which claims to love its vets, they should be the first consideration before embarking on a feel-good war.


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Saturday, January 26, 2008

To Die For

I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see
--Amazing Grace, John Newton

It is being marketed as the card à la mode--the new pocket-sized "alternative passport." Neat and tidy, and cheaper than a real passport. Tres chic. However, it will not entitle you to travel worldwide, so if your travel plans include more than Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean, this card will be a redundancy.

If you do not possess a passport, in a few days you will have to present both a government-issued ID --like a driver's license -- plus proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate, to return to the U.S. after crossing the border. It is unclear whether the new
Real ID Chertoff is touting will suffice for both of these requirements.

USA Today
reports, "The State Department says it will begin accepting applications Feb. 1 for passport cards as alternatives to passports for Americans who travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean." Not only are they portable, at $45 they are cheaper than a regular passport. If all you do is hop across our borders or go to the Caribbean, this is your card.

From the State Department website:

"To facilitate the frequent travel of U.S. citizens living in border communities and to meet DHS’s operational needs at land borders, the passport card will contain a vicinity-read radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. This chip will link the card to a stored record in secure government databases. There will be no personal information written to the RFID chip itself [green emphasis State Dept.] "

Not now, at least, in the first days of its trial. Pray tell, what will be on the RFID chip?

Sounds pretty benign at first, but the implications are nefarious. This creates a de facto categorization of citizens based on their travel preferences. You will give this information away by virtue of the cost you pay for your identification and therefore the card you carry. Yet another way to slot you in the bureaucratic hierarchy.

Will the chip be like that in your pet cat, revealing name and address (and owner?), in case you get lost?

Will you have more success getting back home than your lost luggage? Or will you end up like them, languishing in an unclaimed baggage depot in Scottsboro, Alabama, unceremoniously waiting to be bought by the highest bidder.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Bank Shot

And when we get behind closed doors
Then she lets her hair hang down
And she makes me glad that I'm a man
No one knows what goes on behind closed doors
--Behind Closed Doors, Charlie Rich

I hear the secrets that you keep

When you're talking in your sleep

--Talking in Your Sleep,
The Romantics

Some things are just defendu.

Disturbing news today on CIA-issued "national security letters":

"For three years, the Bush administration has drawn fire from civil liberties groups over its use of national security letters, a kind of administrative subpoena that compels private businesses such as telecommunications companies to turn over information to the government. After the 2001 USA Patriot Act loosened the guidelines, the FBI issued tens of thousands of such requests, something critics say amounts to warrantless spying on Americans who have not been charged with crimes.

"Now, newly released documents shed light on the use of the letters by the CIA. The spy agency has employed them to obtain financial information about U.S. residents and does so under extraordinary secrecy, according to the ACLU, which obtained copies of CIA letters under the Freedom of Information Act.

"The CIA's requests for financial records come with 'gag orders' on the recipients, said ACLU lawyer Melissa Goodman. In many cases, she said, the recipient is not allowed to keep a copy of the letter or even take notes about the information turned over to the CIA."

Why is the CIA, a foreign intelligence function, collecting intelligence on U.S. citizens? The ostensible reason -- counterintelligence -- has long been an FBI function, whose charter is domestic investigations.

This is an attempt to remove Fourth Amendment protections at home for U.S. citizens.
There is nothing that entitles our government to issue letters that bypass the constitutional requirements for warrants.

If the government is investigating crimes, to include terrorism, then warrants are the only justifiable avenue to obtain the desired information. The FISA courts already provide a speedy avenue to obtain such warrants.

However, warrants are issued to law enforcement agencies,
of which the CIA is not a member.

Not only are telecommunications companies surrendering our data and private conversations without a fight, now financial institutions are violating federal guidelines assuring the security of our financial records.
This intrusion shakes the very core of capitalistic ideals. Banking records should be sacrosanct. If these vaunted privacy rights are surrendered behind our backs, what is secured to the individual anymore?

The CIA collects intelligence on foreign threats, not American citizens. Hundreds of years of American jurisprudence and law enforcement discipline have been neutralized by the Patriot Act,
which is anything but. There is no government data to indicate current privacy violations counter any terrorist threat.

Since the secret letters are not court-issued, this means that gag orders are being placed upon U.S. citizens sans court jurisdiction. An FBI or CIA agent does not have any legal justification for telling a citizen what he or she may or may not say. The last time Ranger checked, agents do not possess judicial powers.

Even if a court had issued the gag order in the service of a secret letter, this would be a spurious motion. When has secrecy become the
modus operandi of U.S. society and government? A viable democracy demands openness.

Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 were judged unconstitutional because they stifled opposition to and criticism of the administration. Speech is a guaranteed right. The gag orders are attempts to stifle the possibility of popular dissent.

Why have there not been any constitutional challenges to these letters violating our privacy? Oh right -- because they are secret.

The White House recently lost a federal court battle to protect the secrecy of their visitor logs. It seems that the secrecy of White House visitor logs is more important than the privacy of an individual's bank records.

There are two Americas--them, and us. Secrecy works for them, yet is meaningless for the legal protection of the average citizen. SSDD. Team Bush can't defeat terrorism, but they can beat the hell out of us.

Our financial records should have the same level of security and secrecy as George Bush's National Guard records.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nut Job

“Let’s change ‘brink of chaos’ to ‘Everything is wonderful.’” , Cartoon Bank, Cartoonbank, New Yorker Magazine, New Yorker Cartoon, New Yorker Cover, New Yorkistan, New Yorker 2008 Desk Diary, New Yorker Desk Diary, Naked Cartoonist, Bob Mankoff, Robert Mankoff, Roz Chast, Saul Steinberg, Peter Arno, Jack Ziegler, Leo Cullum, Lee Lorenz, Charles Barsotti, Peter Steiner, Mick Stevens, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Charles Addams, Danny Shanahan, Golf Cartoons, Baseball Cartoons, Kids Cartoons, Technology Cartoons, Money Cartoons, Business Cartoons, Cartoon licensing, Thursday's out
But I would not be convicted
By a jury of my peers

Still crazy after all these years

--Still Crazy After all These Years,
Paul Simon

I guess I missed the target

Caught up in a different line of fire

--Finger on the Trigger,
Donna Summer

Venezuela's opposition is demanding leftist President Hugo Chavez take a drug test after he said he chews coca leaves to keep up his energy.

"'We are going to ask that the President of the Republic take a toxicological exam, as would any baseball or football player,'" said opposition politician Antonio Ledezma, of the small party Brave People's Alliance."

This concept of drug testing leaders should be implemented by the U.S. and expanded across the political spectrum.
Why hasn't the U.S. required their elected officials to be tested for drug usage, much as are professional or even high school athletes?

Taking this a step further, more important even than drug testing is psychological testing. Presently there are no requirements for testing U.S. leaders for pathologies, nor is there a Constitutional test to challenge a President on the grounds of psychological unfitness.

We now surmise the first King George (III) suffered porphyry, resulting in unfortunate fits of insanity leading to a formal Regency in 1811. How much easier it would be to diagnose these afflictions prior to installment on the throne or in the Oval Office.

Being crazier than a mad hatter is not equal to and is more consequential than drug usage. After all, the U.S. President has his finger on the trigger of 20,000 nuclear weapons. Psychological testing is easily justifiable.

Hugo Chavez is a minor threat to world security as he is not sitting upon such a vast nuclear stockpile. The fact that all the major news agencies covered this without addressing the appropriateness of such a request indicates our cultural bias.

Drug testing and psychological testing should be required of all potential leaders, before they are even placed on an election ballot.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Grand Guignol

Now if you load your rifle right
And if you fix your bayonet so

And if you kill that man my friend

The one we call the foe

And if you do it often lad

And if you do it right

You'll be a hero overnight

You'll save your country from her plight

Remember God is always right

--I Don't Believe in
If Anymore, Roger Whittaker

Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity
to flow over into their political life, for the establishment
of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster.
-Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis


Screwtape has nothing to fear. Hardly news, but our system of choosing presumptive leaders does not reveal the qualities of statesmanship required to lead a great nation.

The catchword "change" is really sticking in Ranger's craw. What is it that needs to change, because surely something is wrong.

As example, let's assume one of the promised changes, affordable, universal health care, is actually enacted this next administration. This is not "change," so much as the natural progression of a civil and solvent society, and the right of every American. It is so basic a human right -- if we choose to adhere to that concept of rights -- that it should not be a political issue at all.

Nobody defines this
touted "change," which even Rudy Guiliani noted can be for the good or the bad. Ranger would add a third option -- neutral.

GWB promised change back in 2004. Yet nothing good has come of that; it was all bad change. We as a nation have become fearful, and spawned an intelligence and security apparatus to rival the KGB and Gestapo.

Legality has become confused with position papers justifying secret prisons, torture and suspension of
habeas corpus. Terrorism has become an excuse for government intrusions into our private lives and a reliance on the concept of state secrets in our judicial system. The soaring trade deficit and shrinking dollar, escalating oil prices and diminishing social programs are all changes, and all detrimental to the health and welfare of the average U.S. citizen.

Voters select a leader based on words and promises, and get a bait-and-switch.

In fact, the change we need is backward, rather than forward. A return to the core values of the American experiment.

Some ideas:

  1. A definition of America on the world stage. Are we are a world player, or a rogue nation? Do we police the world? If so, how?
  2. If America cannot provide a social and economic framework for all of our citizens, then why are we nation-building in the sandbox?
  3. What is the purview of federal courts--protection of questionable government practices, or the rights of the citizens?
  4. Does a government of, by and for the people still have relevance today? Do our appointed and elected officials represent the people, or has the government superseded the taxpayer as the ultimate authority in the country?
  5. Is the U.S. military actually a Department of Defense, or is it a tool of preemptive violence? What is the function of defense in a liberal democratic society? Are the policies of America dependent upon violence, or the threat of violence?
  6. Is soft power preferable to hard power, manifested via military bullying?
  7. Do the defense and intelligence types exist to serve America, or do we exist to serve them? If they work for us, we have the right to know what they are doing, and at what cost.
  8. Does the defense and intelligence bureaucracy determine state policy, or is this a State Department function?

America stands at a crossroads, yet the electorate ignore these issues and our leadership happily complies with their apathy. This allows for an unresponsive government, regardless of political party, which is par for the present course.

This election will not bring change because this election is based upon a theater of fantasy and illusion. It is like a reality show, with about as much credibility. A simulacrum experience of the changeover of power.

Democracy relies upon the transparency of facts. Politics must transcend illusion and rhetoric if it is to be a politics of change.

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Straight Talk

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision
of what is before them, glory and danger alike,

and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it



Our North Florida Congressman and tireless veteran's advocate, Vietnam-vet Allen Boyd, sent the following newsletter to his constituents January 17, before the market meltdown began. Being on the House Budget Committee, he is well-aware of the profligacy which has occurred in the administration of GWB. Some excerpts:

"In 2001, President Bush took office with an advantage that few presidents have enjoyed: a 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion. On his watch, this surplus has vanished, and in its place, we have record deficits, a rising mountain of debt now exceeding $9 trillion, and a struggling economy. We are facing an economic emergency because of this Administration’s irresponsible and failing economic policies over the last seven years, which have trickled down to our states.

"Both the state of Florida and the federal government, at the recommendation of many economic experts, are now considering economic stimulus packages to provide a quick boom to our struggling economy. Yes, we need to target specific needs in our waning economy in the short term, but this must be coupled with long term solutions. Our fiscal and economic problems, both on the state and national levels, cannot be dealt with only in the short term.

"As U.S. Comptroller General David Walker said in Tallahassee on January 14, our fiscal challenges are even worse than advertised over the long term. Walker indicated that without a change of economic and budgetary course, every single household in America will owe $455,000 to finance our country’s liabilities and the promises we have made under the Medicare and Social Security programs.

"As a fiscal conservative and budget hawk, I have been talking for years about the need for strict budget controls, such as pay-as-you-go rules and spending caps, and responsible entitlement reform to make the Medicare and Social Security programs solvent for years to come. While most people will agree that these are important efforts, they would rather focus on issues that they consider more pressing, whether it be the war in Iraq, health care, or immigration. What they do not see is that all of those serious issues are related to our fiscal situation. We cannot support our country’s priorities if we are flat-out broke.

"While the presidential candidates have focused on the short term problems with our economy, none of these candidates to date are talking about ways to deal with our long term fiscal challenges. The solutions will not be easy, but this is a national conversation that we must have if we want our country to remain strong and free. If we do not have a president who is willing to solve our fiscal situation and our economic problems in a bipartisan, responsible, and effective way, then the consequences we are currently facing will become exceedingly worse."

We are proud of Congressman Boyd for speaking plainly and truthfully.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Dasvidanya Comrade


Michael Chertoff, Czar of the Department of Homeland Security, is peddling his product -- fear -- again. He insists upon implementing the Real ID license program, presumably to protect you from people who do not look as scary as Mr. Chertoff but nonetheless harbor malevolent intentions.

However, if Islamic extremism is the threat to America, why are we aiming security measures at the American taxpaying citizenry? This i.d. measure is a distraction from the real issues of our safety and security. The Real ID is a Real fraud.

Islamic extremists bent on death and destruction need not obtain the Real ID to fly on our airliners or to navigate American streets. All they need are their indigenous passports and credit cards. So why do we need to add secure driver's licenses to the layers of bureaucracy in our society? Security measures should address the threat; piling on peripheral issues does not equal adequacy.

He begins his argument irrationally enough, "Should parents hire baby-sitters they know nothing about? Should airlines let passengers on board without validating their identity?
(Real ID is All About Safety.)"

How does Real ID equate to safer babysitting?
Senator Craig and Congressman Foley have valid i.d.'s, but they're both perverts that aren't fit to babysit, save for AB/DLs ( paraphilic infantilists.) Real ID doesn't prevent sexual predation. Chertoff knows this.

The Real ID is purely symbolic. Its power is all implied, namely, the destructive potentiality of the bearer.

With Real ID, the administration again focuses on appearances rather than realities. It will require "
individuals seeking driver's licenses [to] provide their state Department of of Public Safety office with documents proving who they are and that they're here legally." How does this keep you safe from a sexual predator or a potential bomb threat? I guess such people would have to take public transportation or bicycle to the intended site of their crime, rather than borrow or rent a car.

Chertoff's article is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, confusing the issues.

"All but one of the 9/11 hijackers carried government IDs that helped them board planes and remain in the country illegally." Their having IDs did not facilitate nor deter these facts. The hijackers would have been allowed to board plane even if they showed their indigenous passports and ID. Foreign passports are legal for ID purposes.

It was the incompetence of the FBI, CIA, DoJ and INS that allowed the largely Saudi flight contingent to carry out the 9-11 mission. IDs -- real or phonied -- did not contribute to this colossal cock-up.

In a non sequitur, he says, "Last year, our immigration and customs agents charged hundreds of illegal workers with crimes relating to state and federal document fraud." The fact of document fraud does not pertain to the supposed safety from threat supposedly provided by the Real ID. This is simply circular reasoning.

Chertoff goes on to cite costs of $64 billion in identity fraud in 2005, and "28 percent of these incidents
likely required a driver's license to perpetrate." "Likely"?

Since a large portion of ID theft is cybercrime, this initiative is even dubious as a crime preventive crime. It is simply a subversive way to further catalog our driving population.

He claims Real ID is "
something that the American people overwhelmingly support." If this is so, then Ranger inhabits the dark side of the moon. This issue is so far removed from our daily realities that most people don't have any opinion on the topic.

While Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, the "Department of Homeland Security unveiled uniform standards [last week] to help the states advance this vital imperative." Congress is sidestepping its responsibility by allowing the DHS to determine policy.

Chertoff says "the states must verify that the documents presented are legitimate." Years ago the same thing happened with the Brady Bill and the courts supported the position that Federal law cannot force state and local governments to do background checks on prospective gun purchasers.
Obviously the Fed can control federal documents such as passports, but intruding on driver's licenses is overstepping federal authority. The Real ID seems like a similar federal intrusion on State's Rights.

He promises that they will not be "national identity cards," and will cost only $8 more than a regular driver's license. "That's just $1.60 per year," sounding every bit an NPR fund-drive pitchman.

"We are making $360 million available to help defray the costs of implementation." Accepting $1.60 per year as the cost of this initiative per person, and assuming 200 million licensed drivers, that is a cost of approximately one-quarter of a billion dollars per year. Small change to a bloated government behemoth, but where is the money coming from? Our taxes or our pocketbooks.

Chertoff declares, "[I]n my view, it's the opponents of secure identification who pose the greatest risk." Again, if one opposes anything the Fed proposes, one becomes the threat. He alleges, "Without REAL ID, you are far more likely to endure one of the worst privacy violations — having your identity stolen."

We counter:
having the Federal government involved in every detail of our personal lives and data is actually the worst violation imaginable.

This is an unwanted and unnecessary expenditure.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

The King and I

Dr. Evil: Oh hell, let's just do what we always do.
Hijack some nuclear weapons and hold the world hostage.

We hold the world ransom for...


--Austin Powers

In this day and age, what the fuck is this world coming to?

I can't believe this, prejudice against--a Jew broad?

Prejudice against Italians?


George W. Bush's recent visit slumming it with Prince Abdullah in the ruby-encrusted tents got me thinking about who and what is evil, and who is eviler. The security of America is the mission and the responsibility of our president. All else is icing.

What is the relevance of Presiden Bush's callow constructions of good vs. evil? While true in formative thinking we come to understand ourselves in opposition to or as reflections of others, a mature nation need not enhance its standing by the demonization of another.
One does not need the evil twin to remain the Guy in the White Hat.

The demonization of Iran does not slide us to the absolute left on the morality scale, ipso facto making us good guys.
The President is ostensibly advocating for peace, yet he threatens Iran, playing up a phony "gun-boat" incident. He always has to be the badass. You think he would learn by now that divisive posture compromises diplomatic progress and is counterproductive to the security of America.

A propitious opening shot for that elusive peace, his bellicosity belies his juvenile state of maturation; "Do as we say, not as we do," is his message.

After Bush threatened Iran, he visited some Holocaust memorials and made what he thought would be a soft landing in Saudi Arabia, home of his family's old buddies, the House of Saud.

He was given the dog-and-pony show, replete with stud horses who get hydrotherapy treatment (I do not think U.S. Medicaid recipients are privy to hydrotherapy treatment.) Then he got a phony gold medallion to wear around his neck to make it official: He and the King are asshole buddies.

This friendship prompts Mr. Bush to promise billions of dollars in arms sales to S.A., predicated on the myth that Iran is a clear and present threat. Omitting of course the fact that U.S. invasions have elevated the Iranian hegemony in the region.

Forgetting that the Saudis are making $100's of billions of windfall profits from the war and the sale of oil to a prostrate and supplicant America. Forgetting that the preponderance of foreign fighters in Iraq are Saudis. Forgetting that the Saudi foreign minister won't shake hands with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Annapolis, and that Saudi Arabia does not even recognize the State of Israel. Forget that Wahabi violence and Saudi money funds extreme Islam throughout the world.

It is a good thing Bush lacks a photographic memory.

Christian crusader Bush has late decided that he would add his imprimatur to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Bush is desperate for a legacy, but this will not be it. He is playing in the wrong sandboxes, and he is totally outclassed. GHWB's buddies in Saudi Arabia are not alchemists, and will not turn a loser into a winner, not even with all the hydrotherapy in the kingdom.

The U.S. citizens are left ass-kissing the Saudis via our President and congressionally-approved sales of weaponry to a questionable kingdom that is not our friend. Profitable business alliances with the Bush family are not synonymous with the best interests of America at large.

S.A. is a necessary evil, but they are not friends. U.S. policy may reflect this fact when the last vestiges of the Bush's are removed from policymaking.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Rest of the Story

Now all you sucker. D.J.’s
Who think you’re fly

There’s got to be a reason

And we know the reason why

Word Up, Cameo

The above militantly cited pre-Korn, in honor of Ms. Ehrenreich.

I cannot understand how the press and the people get so hung up on minutiae when events of great moment hang like a damoclean sword centimeters above our heads. Talk about living in a spin zone.

The latest tempest in a teapot swirls around Hillary's impudence to suggest that a white man, Lyndon Baines Johnson at that, was instrumental in passing Civil Rights legislation. Everyone has had their say, but I will address Barbara Ehrenreich's post at
HuffPo. She should know better, yet has hopped on the p.c. soapbox like everyone else.

She even manages to wangle in Bo Derek's cornrows, dating herself a tad. Following her logic, a black student who excels at Harvard Law School is appropriating the white paradigm of corporate success, and therefore, an oreo. This is really not cool and hip analysis.

She has told half of the truth: that any great societal shift can only occur following mass protest from the people. The change starts with you. Truth.

Then this:

". . .Clinton's LBJ remark reveals something more worrisome than racial tone-deafness - a theory of social change that's as elitist as it is inaccurate. Black civil rights weren't won by suited men (or women) sitting at desks."

Huh? Ehrenreich's statement, like the rest of the blather out there, is sophistry. This is not an either-or proposition.

Mass movements alone do not shift policy. That change does not come without the backing of the courts and/or the legislators. How was Hillary lying by stating a fact?

Civil Rights was not a spontaneous movement. Great organization was required to marshal the boots on the ground. Ehrenreich mentions a few of the black foot soldiers; she mentions none of the whites. This movement would not have been successful in changing the status quo had not members from many divergent strata joined in unison.

The civil rights workers in the 50's and 60's knew it was a multi-pronged war in which the press must be harnessed to garner sympathy. It was not a good day for the movement if the attack dogs or the fire hydrants were not turned on.

In addition to the pressure of the protests, the assassination of John F. Kennedy was instrumental in allowing for the speedy passage of a large number of initiatives which had languished in committee prior to his death.

In homage to Kennedy, these were railroaded through following his death. One need only look at JFK's voting record to see this. Change would have come, but at a much more gradual pace. His assassination was not essential, but catalytic.

Going back further, JFK might not even have been elected had it not been for the one-woman campaigning of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a great friend of the black community, on his behalf.

After securing Kennedy's promise prior to the elections that he would advocate for equal housing rights, Roosevelt executed a coast-to-coast lecture circuit of black churches, sans Secret Service protection. A dicey undertaking at best, and one performed out of sheer moral convection.

"'Change' is this year's Democratic battle cry, but if you don't know how it happens, you're not likely to make it happen yourself. A case in point is Clinton's 1993 "health reform" plan. She didn't do any "listening tour" for that, no televised town meetings with heart-rending grassroots testimonies. Instead, she gathered up a cadre of wonks for months of closed-door meetings. . ."

Ehrenreich goes on the criticize Hillary's herculean efforts to change health care during Bill Clinton's administration. But she was not president then, so criticizing her lack of success is moot. That Hillary attempted to contribute to a change is laudatory, for having 49 million citizens without health care is a great disgrace for such a mighty country, and I see no commensurate efforts on behalf of the Bush's.

Are we so afraid -- so politically correct out of some latent residual hypocrisy and bigotry -- that we can't speak frankly and fully about these things? To disallow the acknowledgment of the instrumental presence of whites and politicians in writing and enacting the legislation of the civil rights movement is to feign historical blindness.

To call Hillary's acknowledgment of the fact of the necessity of coalition "most unfortunate" is disingenuous.

To what avail? This is another moment where we need solidarity to resuscitate the U.S. Unfortunately, the ego spectacle that is our electioneering process threatens to fragment and distract us from the real ills that presently afflict us.

Perhaps the flap just reaffirms the fragmentation that is our society.

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Den of Iniquity

When criminals in this world appear,
And break the laws that they should fear,

And frighten all who see or hear,

The cry goes up both far and near for

Underdog! Underdog! Underdog!


Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) recently won a court case requesting the Secret Service's White House visitor logs be revealed.

Judge Royce Lambert said the logs were public property, and rejected the White House claim that they were protected via executive privilege, as they did not reveal the content of executive deliberations. CREW must be either a very lonely, or a very busy, office. The White House has expressed it may appeal the ruling.

In 2006, The Washington Post had obtained a similar ruling against Vice President Cheney's logs, but dropped it upon a block by an appellate court. Understandable seeing how the unctuous, minx-like, shape-shifting character of VP Cheney -- neither executive nor legislator -- would most likely allow him to slip out of any prosecutorial hands.

CREW pursued its own lawsuit, and is interested specifically in the visits of nine conservative Christian leaders, including James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and Gary Bauer.

Executive privilege is not a constitutionally-derived legal principle, yet everyone from activist judges to supposed conservatives firmly adhere to the concept. Why would a self-proclaimed wartime President fight a judicial battle to keep secret the White House visitor log? Surely this is not official State Secrets material, nor is it a matter of national security. Why the secrecy?

As a matter of democratic principles, the White House belongs to the American people. Do we not pay the utilities and the rent on that shack? In fact, do we not pay the occupant's health care? The White House residents have a great gig, but on top of that they want to turn this public house into a secret den. Why the secrets -- is Larry Craig a frequent fly-by visitor?

Ranger envisions any White House appeal will stress the importance of secrecy in the service of winning the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©). This, tied to the need for absolute security, should save the day.

Terror, secrecy and security, con brio. It is a proven formula for success.

--by Jim

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

From Reich to Riches

Money, it's a crime.
Share it fairly

but don't take a slice of my pie

--Money, Pink Floyd

To call war the soil of courage and virtue
is like calling debauchery the soil of love

--George Santayana

Following the previous Yad Vashem post I stumbled upon this via boingboing on five companies that went From Nazi Collaborators to Fortune 500. Actually, collaborate is not a strong enough term, as these companies actually exploited and then starved or killed their slave labor, sometimes via their own devices.

The author notes that while most
partnering American business "took what can be generously described as a morally ambivalent stance on the whole Hitler thing" and cut ties with the Third Reich following the entrance of the U.S. into the war, "IBM on the other hand decided to stick around and see where he was going with this whole final solution thing."

"IBM claims they were a victim of circumstance. . . (but) IBM sent internal memos in their New York offices acknowledging that
their machines were making the Nazis more efficient, and they made no efforts to end the relationship with the German branch.

"IBM has never made an apology or admitted any need to apologize at all, hoping instead that with time everyone would just forget about it. And, we pretty much have, because, hey, they make such awesome computers!"

At Siemens, "it was not atypical for a slave worker to build electrical switches for Siemens in the morning and be snuffed out in a Siemens-made gas chamber in the afternoon."

"(A) few years ago, in an act of insensitive fuckery so colossal it could blot out the sun, Siemens tried to trademark the name
Zyklon with the intent of marketing a series of products under the name. Including gas ovens."

BBC reported Siemens already uses the "Zyklon" name in Germany, but Dr. Shimon Samuels, head of the European arm of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, said, "Siemens should have known better because it was directly complicit in the use of slave labor."

Designer Hugo Boss, Volkswagon and Bayer round out the list in this short piece.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

To Bomb, or Not to Bomb

A popular proverb in Iran says that 'they wanted to fix
a person's eyebrow but instead they made him blind.'
In our view, this summarizes Bush's policies in the Middle East
--Ali Reza Jalaeepour, Tehran political analyst

[In the] nightmare prospect of all-out civil war [in Iraq]. . .

It is very likely any president would use air power

to try to separate the sides. But whom do we target?

If there are no good guys, do we bomb some civilians
to save others?

Vanishing Act, New York Times Magazine

There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys.
There's only you and me and we just disagree.

--We Just Disagree,
Dave Mason

On viewing an aerial photo of Auschwitz during his recent visit to Israel's Holocaust memorial, Bush said, "We should have bombed it."

Secretary of State Rice later clarified that Bomber George was talking about the rail lines to the camp. Most likely our manichaean President hasn't a clue. He just knows that bombing is the answer to all that ails the world.

Auschwitz is a bona fide Axis of Evil moment. However, the Bush's and Walker's grew rich from their dealings with the Nazis, and in fact were only stopped from their felicitous partnerships under the Trading with the Enemy Act (How Bush's Grandfather Helped Hitler's Rise to Power.)

In this moment of tears and change, in a teary-eyed moment of expiation, grandson George W. Bush got to pontificate. Somehow, we are not quite moved.

Regarding bombing the rail lines, many believe as Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum does, "The Americans flubbed it. The bombing could have weakened the infrastructure and made it more difficult to kill with the efficacy with which they killed."

Ranger thinks the rail lines should have been attacked with allied-controlled partisan interdiction, or via OSS assets to organize such strikes. Unfortunately, Polish Resistance would not dedicate assets at that time to save Jewish lives.

The next option would be aerial bombing of the railway lines and crematorium. But the aerial delivery systems in 1944 did not possess the accuracy to permanently interdict the rail lines. Even in 1944 the Germans had adequate response to repair bomb damage to rail lines. The most that would have been accomplished would have been a slowing down of the pace of the genocide. Still, this would have been something.

The crematoriums themselves needed to be bombed, but this required precision bombing, and it is doubtful that could have been achieved realistically via aerial bombardment. Bombing would have led to untold loss of life, but one could argue those lives were hanging by a thread anyway. Any action would have been welcome.

The question is, why didn't we do it? U.S. State Department at that time should have immediately addressed the Jewish genocide in a diplomatic initiative exposing the German abomination to the entire world. One wonders why this wasn't done once the facts were undeniable in 1942. The extermination program was officially ignored by the allies.

This lack of diplomatic action is more damnable than the particular absence of the event of death camp bombing.

Unfortunately, this is a nuanced dialog beyond the capabilities of Bomber George Bush.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

The New KKK

And we only have that arsenal
So that you won't raise no fuss,

And if you don't like that, then call the cops,

'Cause the chances are, they're us

--Your Friendly. Liberal Neighborhood KKK,

Chad Mitchell Trio


Barack Obama often comments that his father is Kenyan. His mother is from Kansas. Some in the press opine that he is the inheritor of Martin Luther King's legacy (though some say he is more lawyer-like and professorial than ministerial, save when it comes to co-opting the great orator's rhetoric.) Let's see, that's three K's -- Kansas/Kenya/King.

It appears that Obama is a KKK kind of guy.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Small Change

We will deliver for our children,
our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren
--Sen. Barack Obama

How such utter empty gas-baggery could sound to so many
people like the second coming of Pericles utterly baffles me
David Frum on Barack Obama

I guess it's our great-great grandchildren what get the screw job.

cover this week hails candidate Obama under the Title, "Our Time for Change Has Come: Obama's Afterglow." The subtitle suggests a contented lover basking after an ardent interlude. It is an apt title, suggesting as it does the Frankie Valli Song which is almost as substantive in message as Obama's.

If America wants to elect an inspirational speaker, then Obama is their man. However, if qualifications for being President extend beyond the oratorical, then something is askance.

With books like, Today is Your Day to Win, and mottoes like, "Fill Your Life With Joy, Freedom and Inspiration," the field of black motivational speakers is a burgeoning one. Les Brown, Rene Godefroy, Tony Roberts. . . who better signifies triumphalism and Up From Slavery mindset than the successful black male?

It is the same redemptive promise that made Christianity so successful, appealing as it did to reward slaves in this earthly vale of tears with a better life down the road, if you just believe, and buy in to the party line, of course.

Obama's rhetoric in the Newsweek interview neatly parallels Christianity's appeal: I was not born into privilege, he says, and Americans cannot be stopped once they believe in something. It is as though he is the shepherd to herd the juggernaut that is American can-do.

The problem with this facile construction is that good old American can-do spirit is not what shifts policy,
at least not directly. However, bipartisan political alliances can.

It is a fact that the Dems rode a wave of discontent to become the majority parties in the House and Senate by promising change. The undelivered change was to be the ending of wrong-headed, open-ended wars. If the Dems could not deliver on their promises for change in '06, so why should anyone believe Obama's more generalized rhetoric?

In 1992, Bill Clinton adopted Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" as a theme song, and of course, politics is all about promising change -- something better than the next guy can deliver. But that promised change must be realistic, achievable and politically sustainable. The same criteria that should be applied to war-making, or any public venture.

Clinton could not deliver on his universal health care agenda, a sobering reminder that regardless of how innovative or ideologically compelled a President may be, he is first and last reliant upon the cooperation of Congress to enact his initiatives, no matter how splendid they may be.

Here we are sixteen years on, and the same buzz words are being bandied about -- change, universal health care -- as though they are concepts created anew. Talk is cheap, but where are the finances to back up the words?

Politics may be about the promise of change, but the only constant delivered by both parties in U.S. politics is that the common everyday taxpayer will always bear the brunt of government policy -- folly, pork or otherwise.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees

For the grace of God in the desert here
And the desert far away

Democracy is coming to the u.s.a.

, Leonard Cohen

I know you're working for the CIA
they wouldn't have you in the Mafia
Why can't we be friends?
Why can't we be friends?
--Why Can't We Be Friends? WAR

Having a target is a great help in life, unless it is the wrong target, of course.

"A massive U.S. aerial bombing campaign launched in Iraq on Thursday
attempted to strike a delicate balance — routing members of a newly resurgent al-Qaeda while trying to avoid civilian casualties that could alienate ordinary Iraqis.

"U.S. planes attacked a rural Sunni area southeast of Baghdad with 40,000 pounds of bombs during a 10-minute period. That surpassed the tonnage that previously had been dropped there during an average month, said Maj. Alayne Conway, a U.S. military spokeswoman.

"The attacks targeted suspected al-Qaeda weapons caches, supply lines and bombmaking sites, Conway said. No civilian casualties were immediately reported, she said, reflecting a central focus of the U.S. military's year-old counterinsurgency strategy: winning the support of the local population (U.S. Air Strikes In Iraq Reflect Targeted Efforts.)"

bombs don't do "delicate," regardless of how daintily the bombardier executes his task.

Second, note that these are "suspected supply lines, etc." Does an infantry unit assault a "suspected" enemy bunker? If the target is not hard and definitely pinned down, then it should not be bombed.

Not only does bombing suspected targets not further military objectives, it is costly and wastes valuable ordnance, misutilizing valuable assets.

Iraq Body Count reports "U.S. forces caused an average of 63 Iraqi civilian deaths per month in 2007 — down from 169 per month in 2004." Good news, unless you are one of the 63. And of course, bad news for the nine U.S. soldiers killed earlier this week at the start of a new "drive to kill al-Qaida in Iraq fighters holed up in districts north of the capital."

"Six soldiers were killed and four were wounded Wednesday in a booby-trapped house in Diyala province, where joint U.S.-Iraqi forces were driving through a difficult web of lush palm and citrus groves."

This war is so removed from any reality that might benefit America that it jars the mind. Why is the U.S. chasing this homegrown band of irregulars around their own country, getting killed and maimed in the process of gaining -- what? Al-Qaeda in Iraq didn't even exist until after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. This is not a project which will benefit the U.S. either at home or abroad. It is madness.

Dropping bombs on "suspected" targets is as insane as is building airports to facilitate pilgrimages. Who is providing leadership for this fiasco?

More good news for Iraq: U.S. tax season is approaching.

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