Friday, August 29, 2008

Amateur Hour

Something old, something new,
something borrowed, something blue

--Victorian Good Luck saying

His clothes are loud, but never square.

It will make or break him
so he's got to buy the best,

cause hes a dedicated follower of fashion
--Dedicated Follower of Fashion
, the Ki

We have seen the best of our time.

Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all

ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves

--King Lear (Act I, sc. ii), Shakespeare


What we have this election are two tickets vying for who will be the most inane and irrelevant to addressing the pressing matters facing the U.S's survival as a Republic.

Obama is riding the nostalgia express. Take a look at the young uns' today wearing peasant blouses and checkered pants to get the idea. Probably a lot of tunes on Obama's iPod feature samplings from the 70's and 80's. And the nostalgic craze is just that deep; it's a fashion statement. Though his watchword is "change," it is a retro kind of change promising to herd you and your country to your better self, which presumably means pre-Me Generation bloating.

Throw in the too-cool facts like his announcement of running mate via text messaging (oooh), and you can't beat it. He's new, but
he's old school too, but not too old. If he wore the checkered pants they'd be Brooks Brothers or Burberry's, though definitely not chav; McCain's would be back of the closet, with moths flying out.

The Baby Boomers are high on the same nostalgia, but for them it is for themselves. All things 60's + Dr. King find their embodiment in the person of Obama. Such solipsism is rarely a problem for the ever-egotistical Boomers. Complementing such unreality is Mr. Obama's partner Mr. Biden, who is every Hollywood West Wing inhabitant you've ever seen: smiles and tanned, for miles and miles.

Within 10 minutes of the Democratic convention last night I heard references to lynch mobs, the March on Washington, Civil Rights and the statement that with Obama, we finally have the realization of Dr. Martin Luther King's efforts in the 50's and 60's and someone who will pick up the Civil Rights torch in the 21st century.

This is insulting to every civil rights worker of the last 50+ years. What about Lyndon B. Johnson, the president who oversaw the implementation of so much civil rights legislation? What about every civil rights advocate, black and white, who laid it on the line, and every president since who has enacted legislation to serve underrepresented and oppressed populations in the U.S.?

I resent the simplicity of the message that Obama is the quintessence of the Civil Rights era, ergo, Obama = Change.
He offers naught but a bromide, riding the coattails of great orators like MLK. Once one gets behind Obama's soaring generalized rhetoric, there is no particular message of change.

The next patter is no better. Today, McCain announced his running mate, Alaska Governor
Sarah Palin. Ms. Palin has been governor for a little over 1 1/2 years. Her previous governmental experience was as two-term mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a town of 6,500. But, she is a white woman, and the country has just dealt a killing blow to Hillary, a white woman with a sizable base, albeit for the other team. But those disillusioned Hillaryites may become switch-hitters, something which McCain may be hoping for.

Ms. Palin is, well, pale. And young. On the scales of many voters, adding her age (44) + his (72) / 2 = a reasonable balance. Qualities the McCain ticket offers are: all-white, ostensibly maverick, a bit of a change (the other 50% is represented) yet still properly medieval regarding things like abortion rights. Ms. Palin sports funky black geometric glasses, giving the same young-hip vibe as Obama. Hip as Alaska gets, and there is something quirky about Alaska, plus there is oil up there.

But if the Republican party really wanted to cover some bases, why not a black woman? While you're there, why not go whole-hog? Lay on with the niche groups: woman of color, lesbian (Cheney surely couldn't disapprove) -- the possibilities are endless. One could really pile on in the p.c. department. At 44, Palin is hardly many years Obama's junior. The republicans need something completely different.

Since matters of state importance are scuttled to the periphery, matters of no consequence become the focus. Gender, skin color and plasticity and age are the things most occupying this Nip and Tuck sort of viewing audience.

Since neither candidate has successfully brought matters of national import to front and center, pundits focus on the messenger, rather than the (absent or inadequate) message. For McCain's supporters, as with Cheney's, his hoary bearing gives him gravitas. For Obama, his alterity alone says "change". By virtue of his chromosomes he is different, right?

Then to the wives. McCain, who in choosing his current wife Cindy has done what 90% of American males would do given the chance, is branded a golddigger, an unforgivable offense in a male, especially an alpha male.

Some white liberals figure they will flatter Michelle Obama by referring to her attractiveness, or at least, acceptability. They note that "at least she is not wrinkled." Some went so far on the complimentary to scale to say things like, Obama better watch out or their white selves would give her a run for her money.

Ditto white women on Obama. Because, y'know, Obama's clean and bright, to quote running mate Biden. These are two blacks who probably do not harbor HIV, separate as they are from their brethren who accounted for 50% of new AIDS cases in 2005 (CDC Bulletin). They are not the one's at whom President Bush's "Healthy Mariage Initiative" is aimed -- the almost 70% of unwed mothers who are black. The Obama's are acceptable blacks, blacks with whom we might even have relations. Though most of us do not.

Racism is as omnipresent in 2008 as it was in 1950.
That Michelle Obama is attractive is only in comparison to her nappy-headed sisters. That is why white men feel it is such an impressive compliment to say they would go for her; the implication is, she is not your run-of-the-mill ho, who they most certainly would not consider chasing.

Or at least she's not an old white woman, like Pat Nixon or Lady Bird Johnson, let's say. (It is a given that a Babs Bush of any age would not be a contender.) Crones of any color are also the butt end of jokes in this racist, ageist America.

To make such a statement belittles not only women but black women in particular.
It seems the best we can say of her is that she would elicit a sexual response in members of the opposite race. She can be an unwitting receptacle for the male, not even one of her own choosing. She should be flattered.

However, this is the appropriation of the slave body in yet another guise. Reverse the claim and see how it plays: a black man says of a white woman that her husband better be on the lookout, because he's on the prowl to get some of that strange stuff. It is the reverse of the Mandingo fantasy, and we are looking to eradicate that, no?

If coveting the female body is the highest form of praise men can offer, then we are at square one the evolutionary table regarding gender relations; forget race. This isn't politics, but it is the subtext of politics. The politics of gender and race is the issue in this election, an election in which foreign affairs should be the focus.

Obama and Biden, McCain and Palin. Tokenism--no great achievement for EOE.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Put on Your Tin Foil Hats. ..

Rainer Hachfeld, Neues Deutschland

Mr. President, are you aware unless you're rich,

you have poor health care?

It makes you scream and want to pull out your hair

Discharged from the hospital soon as you get there

--Mr. President
, LL Kool J,

What we got here is...

failure to communicate

--Cool Hand Luke


What's The Frequency?

Check out this summary of a new GAO report about the Pentagon's purchase of a new generation of radios.

"The Department of Defense (DOD) has spent an estimated $12 billion on the development and production of tactical radios over the last 5 years--about as much as was spent producing Virginia Class submarines ($10.8 billion) in the same period."

The original estimated cost was supposed to be close to $3 billion.

Why, why, why, you ask. Government Inc. wonders too. The report suggests that the Pentagon rushed the development of the radios, then got caught up in costly delays, and then watched as costs soared.

Of course, it was working, as it should, in the interests of the warfighters, whose lives often depend on instant, excellent communication. But it appears we may have a breakdown in communication on how to design and buy the equipment.

Is anybody ever held accountable for this kind of thing?

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tinny Weasel Words Verboten

Women hold up half the sky

--Mao Zedong

If she won't be a slave,
we say that she don't love us

If she's real, we say she's

trying to be a man

--Woman is the Nigger of the World
Yoko Ono

When you're chewing on life's gristle

Don't grumble, give a whistle

--Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
Monty Python (Life of Brian)


Perspective is all. The Wall Street Journal proclaimed what a victory the Beijing Olympics had been for women, showing the determined grimace of Bahrain's 200-meter runner Roqaya Al-Gassra, "dressed head-to-toe in a Muslim hijab. . . [i]n stifling heat." Note the freedom and placid expression of the woman running next to her (A Woman's Place is Here.)

From the
Journal's perspective, things are peachy. "Of the 10,500 Olympians competing this month in Beijing, 42% are female." But in addition to those women constrained by head-to-toe garments there is the small matter of countries like our friends in oil the Saudi Arabians, who fronted precisely zero females to participate in this Olympiad, the same as every year.

With typical restraint, they say Saudi Arabia is "opposed" to female athletes. Opposed sounds like George H.W. Bush's view on broccoli -- he was opposed to eating it, but others surely could. In S.A., there are no sports programs for women or girls, so their attitude toward women in sports would be better served by a woody word like "prohibit." Saudi Arabia prohibits female athletes. That is a true statement.

There is something hypocritical about dealing economically with a nation which oppresses its women, while claiming to fight wars elsewhere to liberate them. Early on in the Afghanistan invasion, one of the main justifications was to liberate women from those medieval Taliban who kept them under abayas. In their impotence, women can be exploited or ignored, as befits those in positions of power.

But the good news is, hijab-compatible sportswear is a growth industry. "Nike, Adidas AG and other sporting good companies are aggressively targeting [these] women athletes."

Always look on the bright side.

Labels: , ,

Bring Yer Welllies

It was Kevin Kelly, with his chopped off wellies
In the middle of the summer time he was looking fine!

--Kelly's Wellies
, Gaelic Storm

Sitting in a truck stop after tropical depression Fay has blown through his landscape, Ranger was reflective. Being in a truck stop always makes me so, but today it is not FOX News which causes the thought (Yes, even truck stops impose that garbage upon you.) Maybe it's puttering around in my old jungle boots because of the rainy weather. Ranger is not a Wellies or Crocs kind of guy.

Last night my little fire base lost all power due to the storm, and this led to thoughts of Baghdad and the world that endures largely without electricity or operates routinely through daily outages. This morning the deer stood stoically under the pear trees, enduring the heavy rain while looking for a meal.

The deer flashed me back to times that Ranger stood under trees enduring nature; the cold, rain, monsoons, typhoons, and like those deer, just stood and endured. This is one fact that all veterans know: We were all animals caught in a storm beyond our control.

This knowledge is what makes us veterans. Forget badges, tabs and awards, which are the symbols. The reality is that we weathered storms and did our jobs.

Ranger next thought of the naturalists of the late 19th-early 20th century who saw nature a a neutral force, moving our lives disinterestedly. Fay is just a fact of nature, neither good nor evil. Natural history is the same -- a recitation of facts which just are.

The most common question I encounter is, "Are you against all wars, or just Iraq?" (Afghanistan is usually ignored, as though a given.) Both have morphed into the entertainment that is www.PWOT.com.

In the past, Ranger answered that most wars are are futile exercises in human endeavor. Going with the naturalist point of view, wars seem to be a natural occurrence for men. Damaging and sometimes mortally so, but just a fact.

The Revolutionary War and Civil War might be exempt if one imagines them justified and righteous, but even my thinking on those wars has changed. Even they could have been resolved politically and humanistically. Neither of those wars were Good Wars. All wars are bad, and good cannot come from their inhumanity and brutality.

England banned slavery without a civil war, and Canada, New Zealand, Australia, India and Pakistan became independent without launching major wars. If man has the capacity to reason, then reason should dominate his actions; wars are never acts of reason.

Wars are shameful, and that is why they are glorified.
Labeling soldiers "warriors", giving medals, adulation, etc., all hide the shame of a society that destroys life and batters bodies and condemns them to a lifetime of physical and psychological suffering.

Wars begun without physical provocation are the common man being elevated to warriors doing the bidding of leaders with faulty moral compasses. Going to war is not an exercise of freedom; it is another form of slavery.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Running Out the Clock

If you want to study the social and political
history of modern nations, study hell

--Thomas Merton

The United States today finds itself with

too much war and too few warriors

--Andrew J. Bacevich,

"The Next President Will Disappoint You"

I went down to the bank this mornin', 'bout half past nine.

Well, I was lookin' for a little somethin' in the credit line.

But the man said: "Look, what we got here, sonny:

"There's too much month at the end of the money"

--Too Much Month
, Marty Stuart

Ranger Question of the Day:

Why does everyone assume Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan?

Why not Saudi Arabia?


In previous post Daddy Dearest, Ranger posited that the easiest way to disrupt terrorist networks is to foment discord within the ranks, thereby fragmenting their cohesion.

But what if al-Qaeda is the one exception to the rule, and classic attacks like disrupting money conduits and encouraging internal dissent will not work. What then?

Has anyone ever asked them what they want? Did anyone ask Khalid Sheik Mohammed in questioning what was his mission statement? "What were you trying to achieve?"

Did anyone offer them a forum, like a one-page
New York Times ad? A professional You Tube? A microblog? Surely al-Qaeda is not so stupid as to espouse a "long war" strategy, are they?

What is their idea of success?

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 25, 2008

Daddy Dearest

It’s as though the pixilated people we see on television
are real and the actors are only secondary manifestations.

--The Theory That Ate The World

We have to start teaching ourselves not to be afraid
--William Faulkner

Jump down turn around

pick a bale of cotton,

jump down turn around

pick a bale a day

--Pick a Bale of Cotton

Ranger Question of the Day:
How can a Bible filled with warfare
lead to humanitarian (Christian) actions
in international relations?


Chapter six (“An Amiable Monster”) of Jacob Weisberg’s The Bush Tragedy (Random, 2008), mentions the role of Laurie Mylroie’s book, The Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America, in animating George Bush’s tragic crusade against Saddam Hussein’s government.

Unfortunately, the plot outlined by Mylroie was mostly cobbled hearsay presented as verified agenda. When did Saddam ever attack the U.S.? Even in Gulf War I his troops seemed more intent on running than fighting.

It is doubtful that Saddam ever intended to fight the U.S. – what could he have possibly gained? In a charitable light, our wars with Iraq are misinterpretations of intention and facts.

In addition to Vice President Cheney’s unfounded faith in Saddam’s biological weapons program, he followed Mylroie’s “unified field theory” of terrorism:

“. . . Mylroie argued that Saddam was behind every major terrorist attack against America in the 1990’s, including the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 and the OKC bombing in 1995.”

In Gulf War I, Saddam did not utilize chemical or biological weapons vs. the U.S., although he possessed the capability. He never exhibited the intent, though he possessed the means. Nevertheless, these facts did not dissuade Mylroie, who knew her audience.

Her book, published by the American Enterprise Institute (where she was a fellow) included jacket praise from Scooter Libby, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, a veritable choir boy triumvirate for someone like Cheney. These men had an as-yet unbesmirched pedigree. Cheney “followed these men into the tortured pathways of Mylroie’s conspiracy theory, including her tantalizing suggestion that 9-11 ringleader Mohammed Atta had met with intelligence officers in Prague.”

This blind faith and bum rush to war is reminiscent of the scenario played out in President Reagan’s National Security Council chambers vis-à-vis the USSR.

Ranger recalls that for Reagan, the book was that of another right-wing fanatic -- Claire Sterling’s The Terror Network. Sterling’s book claimed that all terrorism was the result of Soviet leadership and influence, both operationally and functionally. In fact, he remembers Sterling's book was even integrated into Army coursework in the mid-late 80's.

Both Bush 43 and Gipper 40 accepted false premises from flawed books, and used these as the basis for aggressive U.S. foreign policy and governmental doctrine. Sterling was wrong in the 80’s and Mylroie is wrong now, but their doctrines were dear to warhawks and spawned disastrously misled national policy.

The problems and confusion in the current Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) can trace their genesis to the false assumptions of Sterling’s diatribe, which ushered in the idea of using one subjective book to justify military intervention (that is, excluding the always useful, Good Book.)

Both Reagan and Bush had false assumptions and beliefs that were based upon and buoyed up by solitary pieces of borderline fictional works. Both administrations accepted bibles that verified their dogma, flawed as it was.

Terrorism is not centrally organized, nor do terrorists follow clearly delineated organizational charts like good corporations. If they did, they wouldn’t be terrorists; they would be Coca Cola or the U.S. Federal Government (on a good day.)

U.S. leadership tries to measure groups by our yardstick, but these groups resist easy measure or quantification by definition. Terrorism is dynamic and amorphous: it is right-wing, left-wing, Islamist, Christian, separationist, Maoist, atheist, environmentalist, and pro- and con- animal rights. Terror groups have internal tension and dissent; there are hard-liners, middle-of-the-roaders and extreme elements.

In these ways, Terrorists resemble political parties. The best response to disrupt terrorist networks is to encourage their internal strife, thereby destabilizing the system.

This is a realistic course of action, more reasonable than trillion-dollar phony wars, but one unfortunately ignored by the Gippers and Dubyas. Unfortunatelty, it’s hard to get a rally going on game day for a dialog, versus a war.

But neither dialog nor war will work if not based in reality. Notre Dame couldn't win a War on Terror, even with their Hail Mary.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pentagon Fire Sale

"He was found guilty of speaking his mind"
Hu Jia's mother, on the Chinese human rights activist's
sentencing to 3 1/2 years in a labor camp for subversion

Someday this war's gonna end

--Apocalypse Now

In the long run, we are all dead

--John Maynard Keynes


The U.S. Naval Institute's journal Proceedings has become more candid and accessible in recent years. (Note: The "Going Out of Business" sign graced the photo in the hard copy, but had been scrubbed in the online edition. Candor only goes so far.)

One recent article projected bankruptcy for the Pentagon (fiscal, not moral) in the near future based on acquisition figures dating back through the last century and the laws of then-Martin Marietta Aerospace executive Norman R. Augustine
(DOD on a Glide Path to Bankruptcy.) Anderson foresaw unsustainable exponential increases in unit costs of military equipment vis-a-vis military budgets.

"Growth rates for unit costs of major systems are greater than those for total defense procurement, total defense spending, and the gross domestic product (GDP). If these historic trends are not addressed, the U.S. military will cease being a significant influence in world events because of shrinking force structure. Past acquisition reforms have been unable to change the trend because they focused on the problem's symptoms (e.g., schedule slippages and cost growth), not its causes."

Augustine's growth rates (Augustine's Laws, 1982), which have been borne out in the 30+ years since he developed them, "procuring a single tactical aircraft by 2050 [will] take the entire defense budget."

"If [this] trend continues, the entire defense budget would be required to buy one aircraft carrier early in the 22nd century. Thus, the problem is not just with aircraft. . . .estimates for the Future Combat System, the Army's current largest acquisition program, have increased more than 75 percent over the 2003 baseline estimate."

"Recently defense budget requests have not included the majority of costs of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most wartime supplemental funding has been for increased operating costs plus replacement of consumable items. At the same time, accelerated use of military equipment is increasing the need for replacement of systems. Thus, recent supplemental funding is not easing the acquisition problem."

It is hard to imagine the defense establish in a state of decline when it is taking in over $400 billion a year, not including supplemental appropriations. However, unless changes are made in the procurement process, the author asserts,
"U.S. defense forces will continue to shrink and age, and we rapidly will cease being a dominant military force in the world."

Maybe having empty pockets is the only thing that will stay our hand.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, August 22, 2008

Slam Dunk, Not

“Look at me,” shouted the waza Bombur Yambarzal.
“This thickheaded, comical, bloodthirsty moron
is what you have all decided to become.”
--Salman Rushdie, Shalimar the Clown

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it,

ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is

--Winston Churchill


The most recent polls released yesterday show candidates McCain and Obama in a statistical dead heat.

The most obvious question: In this of all presidential elections, following a two-term President leaving office with the highest disapproval rating of any modern President (over 70%), with an ongoing, open-ended two-fronted war, an unfathomable budget deficit and dire economic indicators all-round, how is it this nation does not clamor for a change? How is it the Democratic candidate is not a shoo-in, a slam-dunk?

Polling results show 9% of voters said a black candidate is problematic for them. Rather than decrying provincialism, racism, or whatever you feel the problem with your "stupid fellow Americans" to be, my question is: Who were the demographers that placed such a problematic candidate as Obama on the ballot?

Were they enjoying a nice soy latte at a West Coast cafe when the idea for a nuevo-RFK - Malcolm X - iPod listening - terrorist consortin' (Weather Underground) - hoop-shooting - biracial - Harvard-educated candidate came to mind? A candidate who could not even take California, not even with the Kennedy's and Oprah's imprimatur?

You may not like it, but America is not ready for a woman president, a bi-racial president, a Jewish vice president; America is not there yet; not quite. So to force such problematic candidates on the often insular and frightened U.S. public is counterintuitive to success. Winning is the goal in politics, not forcing some kind of societal shift.

It is an uphill battle: Barack Hussein Obama. We in liberal blogland can chuckle about the name shared with that "bad man" that we got hanged. We can be comforted (though I don't know why) in Obama's protestations that he is thoroughly Christian, and has been saved and taken the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal savior. But then. . . there's the matter of his two Muslim daddies. And attending a madrassa. And a mother who was obviously a fellow-traveler.

Hit every Rick Warren enclave you will -- there remains that 9%. That America is racially and religiously, age and gender-biased is a sad fact, for sure. But it remains a fact, nonetheless. One day, as our population shifts and matures, views will naturally realign. But not yet. This is not about what ought to be, or could or might be; it is not p.c., but it is the truth. You can not shame people or force their hands by constricting their choices. Because not voting is also a choice.

43 to 45%, a dead heat with a 3% margin of error. In 2008, when almost everyone is disillusioned and hurting from the battering of the past eight years. McCain, a man who sold his soul in 2000 to the Bush machine and lost all claims to maverick status, McCain is holding his own against the prospect of change. This is akin to a dehydrated man in the desert bypassing a possible oasis.

The Democratic Party may actually achieve the herculean task of losing Election 2008, an election all but handed to them on a silver platter. If so, that will be a feat of note in the record books.

So for now, an incredibly weak Republican candidate holds his own with Obama because time is not yet for Obama. The people should not be faced with such a conflicted candidate. Perhaps, if Obama really were something different and new, instead of just new packaging, perhaps the choice might be clearer.

As it is, he is the same old thing, in an unfamiliar wrapper. Who shocks me? Not my fellow Americans, who are a known quantity. The Democratic party shocks me. If they lose this election, of all elections, they deserve it. Though we do not.

Because this election should be a slam-dunk.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Hamas hotline --
choose option #4 on your keypad for franchise opportunities

--Don't Mess with the Zohan

The Doha trade negotiations may have collapsed, but all is not lost: Doha, Qatar, is soon to get their very own Hard Rock Cafe franchise.

Upon next reading the story about the newest al-Qaeda franchise in Algeria, The visual was obvious (Bombings Kill 12 On Second Day of Attacks in Algeria):

"There were no immediate assertions of responsibility for this week's bombings. But analysts said the attacks were almost certainly sponsored by a group known as
al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
"The organization used to be known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat but changed its name after joining al-Qaeda two years ago."

Capitalism verily is a wondrous thing, praise be to Allah.

Labels: ,

When She was Good. . .

When she was good,
She was very, very good,

And when she was bad,

she was horrid

--There Was a Little Girl

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When I'm good I'm very good,

but when I'm
bad I'm better
--Mae West,
I'm No Angel (1933)

Why must I be surrounded by frickin' idiots?

--Dr. Evil, Austin Powers (1997)

Look at the faces

Listen to the bells

It's hard to believe

we need a place called hell

--Devil Inside


Mssrs. McCain and Obama held forth on evil at Mr. Warren's Orange County megachurch warren this past Saturday. I did not view it, but if you are a glutton for punishment, the video is here. Our friend tw sent Al Jazeera's take, which predictably mocked U.S. provincialism and hypocrisy.

What strikes me, aside from the obvious dissonance (a pastor leading a political debate at his church, and the candidates actually addressing the topic of evil) is the ease with which the term "evil" has entered the political lexicon.

Seventeen years ago,
Time magazine ran an issue devoted to the topic: "The Nature of Evil: Does it Exist, or Do Bad things Just Happen? (6/10/91)" It was an interrogative, and the featured essayists came down on either side of the matter. Sixteen years later Time fronted an issue which took the matter of the existence of evil for granted: "What Makes us Good/Evil? (12.3.07)"

The 1991 cover is a blackout, implying a void, an unknown quantity. This not a Loony Tunes cartoon, and there is no devil with a pitchfork on one shoulder, angel on the other. It offers neither a prescription nor an easy answer.

Contrast 1991 with 2007, which feature an interior view of the brain, with dotted lines pointing to different regions for "good" and "evil," implying that the very chemistry of our mind is wired to produce one or the other result. The "Good/Evil" construction posed in the question implies a duality, but it does not suggest the possibility of the absence of either quality. This is a quasi-scientific, anatomical rendering of the origin of evildoing.

In just over 15 years, pop culture has gone from engaging in a dialog on the possibility of evil to the presumption of its existence; in fact, its indwelling within the human character. We were once bad or good. Now the dichotomy is anted-up. We are either good, or we are evil.

This dialectic is firmly within the purview of a religious dialog. However, it certainly is not a humanistic one. Roll back at least 250 years to a fork in the road, and do not choose Jefferson, but rather the Rev. Jonathan Edwards' sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." How would the U.S. Constitution rest on that bedrock?

What does this imply about our mores in 2008 AD?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Say "Cheese"!

Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny
with the object of making men happy in the end

... but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death

only one tiny creature ...

And to found that edifice on its unavenged tears:

would you consent to be the architect on those conditions?

Tell me, and tell me the truth!

--The Brothers Karamazov
, Fyodor Dostoevsky

Ranger recently saw a USMC recruiting advertisement on t.v. It said, "We don't make compromises; We make Marines." Just then, an artillery strike hits the screen.

The message: Drop a strike on someone and you've solved a problem; you've become a Marine, a U.S. military man. You have not compromised. . .but what have you "not compromised"?

If only life were so simple.

Labels: , ,


If the devil does not exist,
and man has therefore created him,

he has created him in his own image and likeness

--Fyodor Dostoevsky

"Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable

ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century,"

[Bush] said, with no apparent sign of irony.

--Dan Froomkin,

Vice Stops being vice when

there's no virtue

--Billiards at Half-past Nine
Heinrich Böll


When Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and wanna-be Henry Kissinger talk of blueprints for U.S. foreign policy, they point to Iraq and Afghanistan as the epicenter -- a gaping maw for hard-earned U.S. taxpayer dollars. The return on those dollars will be felt by the U.S. people for the next several generations.

Meanwhile, China, all 1.34 billion of them, has loaned Angola $2 Billion to be repaid in oil. Chinese business is investing in Angola, and throughout Africa China is supplanting the West. 48 of 53 African countries have significant economic ties with China.

Contrast that with the U.S. which is spending $160 Billion for wars to secure street corners in Kabul and Baghdad, fulfilling no significant strategic goals for the U.S. In fact, the terms "U.S." and "strategic goals" should not be uttered together, post 2000. They have become an oxymoron.

the U.S. pursues policies alienating Iran, Venezuela and Russia, nations like China are ensuring their future enhanced lifestyles courting these nations. Meanwhile George Bush alternately plays kissy-face with and grovels before Saudi Arabian potentates who share no U.S. values, aside from money grubbing.

While the U.S. focuses on two countries insignificant to U.S. interests, Brazil will exceed the U.S. this year in soybean exports. This fact, linked with Brazil's trade surplus derived from exports to China, effectively elevates Brazil to an agricultural superpower, rendering the U.S. superfluous. The world moves on as we expend our power in the alleys of Baghdad and Kabul. This is not policy, it is monetary and military insanity.

Compare today's actions with another Area of Operations in which American soldiers fought and died for nothing -- the old French Indochina, specifically, Cambodia.

China is the biggest investor in Cambodia today, and in return, Chinese borders are secure and their influence has spread. The U.S. fought in and around Cambodia, but has now ceded it to become a Chinese sphere of influence.

What is U.S. long-term policy? It is senseless to fight a major war and then abandon a large segment of the stated goals of the war when opportunity for an American influence develops. Of course, we are making progress in Iraq, so screw Cambodia.

The U.S. may be the sole hard-power super dog, but China is the largest. And China's economic policies are logical and expansive. Along with India and the EU, China is mastering the art of soft power, while the U.S. soldiers on like Bam-Bam in The Flintstones.

Hard power is meaningless unless based upon a legitimate soft power foundation. Social and economic development produces profit and prestige, minus military siphoning. The U.S. lost that foundation when it embarked upon the aggressive unilateral Phony War On Terror (PWOT ©). (We noticed commentary somewhere today calling for a War on the Phony War on Terror -- a WOPWOT. Sounds like a great idea, save the acronym is not very p.c.)

China is the world's workshop, producing 24-7 and earning $1.2 Trillion from exports in 2007. China adds 1 million new jobs per month to their economy.

Contrast that with the U.S., which lost 65,000 jobs last month. The U.S. sells $2 Billion a day of its debt in T notes, and China is presently financing $1 Trillion of that debt. This is distinct from U.S. businesses absorbing Chinese investments. This does not include the U.S. trade deficit to China. The U.S. Federal Deficit was $597 Billion this year.

What this means is Communist China is exceeding the U.S. in capital development. As Kruschev predicted, a communist country is in the position to bury the U.S., but it will be through economic means and we are digging our grave by frittering away our precious resources in unprovoked, unnecessary military endeavors.

U.S. foreign policy is bankrupt and reflective of limited intellectual ability. All concerned since 2000 (BushCheney, Condi and Powell) are fighting the last Cold War, a superannuated paradigm.

While the world progresses, growing and facing the future, the U.S. is running in place. When it is not running backwards.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Po-Mo ROTC Tableau

This happy cadet's photo is not featured
in the BGSU ROTC Hall of Fame

I'm sick to death of seeing things
From tight-lipped, condescending, mamas little chauvinists

All I want is the truth

Just gimme some truth now
--Just Gimme Some Truth
, John Lennon

Ranger does not have chicken pox, but merely a case of a poor yearbook xerox.

Recently he visited his college ROTC Program at Bowling Green State U. Ranger graduated from BGSU in 1968, a Distinguished Military Graduate, Regular Army Infantry Officer. ROTC taught him leadership, integrity, honor -- all the Boy Scout virtues. (Whether they have taken, is another matter. Ranger notes in his second commission the word "gentleman" was notably dropped from the oath.)

One place these fine lessons did not take is the ROTC Hall of Fame, where 4-Star General John Abrams'
(son of Gen. Creighton Abrams) picture is prominently displayed. You can imagine Ranger's shock at finding General Abrams, for you see, there is a problem: Abrams is not a BGSU ROTC graduate.

Abrams flunked out of BG his first year of ROTC, to be subsequently commissioned as a 2LT/OCS. Capt. Abrams later returned to BG in the early 70's to finish his degree in the U.S. Army Bootstrap Program. This may seem a small point, but it demonstrates that
facts are not relevant, even at the ROTC level of Army leadership.

Continuing his ramblings, Ranger remembered his professor of military science (PMS) advising against the Military Intelligence branch, his first choice, saying "You'll never make General officer in the MI." And so dumbass Ranger chose Infantry.

What PMS didn't tell him was that he wouldn't make General in the Infantry, either. What he didn't say was, having a 4-Star General for a father would be a great career enhancement, even for a college wash out.

It is all so very Post-Modern, something I'm sure the class of '68 will have no problem claiming as a theory of their own. The referent is gone, and the center does not hold. It is all so ironic, and so pastiche. If Ranger were high at the moment I am sure he would be amused, but he is not, and he is not.

I wonder how Gen. Abrams would feel about being co-opted into this Po-Mo tableau?

Labels: ,

Seen and Not Heard

I ... had a purpose now
To lead out many to the Holy Land,
Lest rest and lying still might make them look
Too near unto my state.
Therefore, my Harry,
Be it thy course, to busy giddy minds
With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out,
May waste the memory of the former days.

--Henry IV, Shakespeare


Of any population in the U.S., veterans should have full access to the vote, yet tens of thousands may not be able to vote this presidential election due to restrictions on voter registration drives in VA inpatient facilities. Connecticut's Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz made a plea last week in a New York Times Op-Ed piece, Help Our Veterans Vote:

WHAT is the secretary of Veterans Affairs thinking? On May 5, the department led by James B. Peake issued a directive that bans nonpartisan voter registration drives at federally financed nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and shelters for homeless veterans. As a result, too many of our most patriotic American citizens — our injured and ill military veterans — may not be able to vote this November.
"There are thousands of veterans of wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan who are isolated behind the walls of V.A. hospitals and nursing homes across the country. We have an obligation to make sure that every veteran has the opportunity to make his or her voice heard at the ballot box."

The Hatch Act has erroneously been invoked to continue this prohibition, but registering people to vote is a nonpartisan activity. A bipartisan group of 21 secretaries of state has asked VA Secretary Peake to lift his department’s ban on voter registration drives. But as Bysiewicz says, this federal legislation shouldn’t even be necessary.

Last Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the VA policy, policy barring voter registration drives inside its hospitals, concluding the rule does not violate the First Amendment.

"They are walling our wounded warriors off from participating in political life in the communities of which they are citizens," and "disenfranchising thousands of wounded veterans around the country." (Court: No Voters Drives at VA Hospitals).

The Left Coaster says the first group of disenfranchised voters of the 2008 election will be "wounded and homeless veterans currently occupying VA facilities around the country."

"President Bush and Karl Rove are attempting to block voter registration of at least 200,000 and possibly as much as 400,000 veterans," said Paul Sullivan, president of Veterans for Common Sense. ... This needs to be shoved in the face of every single elected official in the country. We can fix this in a second. We are talking about two or three sentences in legislation. We are talking about the integrity of our democracy."

"The GOP has identified its first enemy group for election 2008, and it's the brave men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice in carrying out illegal GOP policies. Disgusting."

Why would the Bush Administration keep VA populations away from the vote?
Could it be they fear these military personnel are not happy with what they've seen, or how they have been treated? That they may not be the rah-rah poster children that they wish to represent them as?

Labels: ,

Gardens of Stone

Joseph Urbas, at home with his mother
before deployment to Vietnam, 1969


Ranger wants to discuss Captain's Joseph W. Urbas and James Donald Reid, both Special Forces, both CIB recipients, two old friends now gone in as many years. This is a meditation on their lives and deaths.

Reid lived his military experience every day of his life, right until the end. It seem a bit campy, but I think he was dead serious. For instance, the reading material in his guest bedroom included the entire Program of instruction for SFOC, Improvised Explosives and Incendiaries and the Ranger Handbook. Dissonantly, there was a copy of "Random Acts of Kindness" on the bedside table, courtesy his wife, I'm sure. A picture of him standing over dead bodies graced the wall.

Reid's living room featured a photo of POW Nick Rowe in a bamboo cage. I used to tell Reid, "If I didn't have PTSD when I arrived, I most certainly would when I left." He also kept his 7" SOG Recon knife next to his bed, for reasons I do not need to know.

Urbas was more the serious type. Both were exposed to the carcinogenic defoliant Agent Orange in 1970-71 in the Republic of Vietnam. Reid died of diabetes-related organ failure, and Urbas of oral cancer which spread to his jaw and lymph nodes.

Reid was rated 100% VA service-connected medically disabled, and had Tri-care and VA medical coverage that addressed his medical concerns. The DVA covered Reid's Service-connected illness to an admirable extent; no bitch there.

Joe was another matter. He never received any presumption of service-connection for his cancer. Joe died a poor man, living solely on a VA pension which was less than $800 per month.

Both men smoked incessantly as far back as I can go. Admittedly, exposure to Agent Orange is not a good thing, but why did these healthy, intelligent men engage in a form of long-term suicide by a daily smoking habit?

Why expend medical assets on Reid and Urbas when their actions are so self-destructive? Both were good men, but smoking did not help Reid's diabetes abate, and very possibly caused Joe's too-early demise.

So much of our behavior is self-destructive. Whether a society which allows for deferment of responsibility is to blame, or big bucks advertising depicting the glamorous life to accrue to one via smoking or drinking, or whether our naivete is the cause, we are culpable at bottom for much that happens or doesn't in our lives whether we realize it or not.

Life is a guessing game and one of chance, but excessive high-risk activity is a one-way express ticket to the graveyard. I'm not even sure why I wrote this. Possibly out of frustration seeing friends hasten their own demise.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Traffic Calming

photo by Ahma al-Rubaye

Now go out and get yourself some big black frames
With the glass so dark they wont even know your name

And the choice is up to you cause they come in two classes:

Rhinestone shades or cheap sunglasses

--Cheap Sunglasses
, ZZ Top

We are sure these are not cheap sunglasses, but the photo also says U.S. combat soldiers have become traffic monitors. If the Iraqi Police Forces and Military cannot perform this function, then the concept of Iraq as a nation is clearly a fiction.

These soldiers have no tactical or technical advantage and operate without visible security. Once again, U.S. soldiers are placed within grenade distance of potential adversaries.

This is a better Foster Grant add than it is an example of military readiness.

Labels: ,

Friday, August 15, 2008

Picture Perfect

photo by Ali Yussef, AFP

Don't shoot shotgun,

You got me bitin' my lip

--Don't Shoot Shotgun
, Def Leppard

Attention Ranger trainees: Scan this picture of an Iraqi Police house raid in the new Democratic Republic of Iraq.

Please note the #2 soldier in line has his rifle pointed exactly at the lead man's head. Also, there is no all-around or rear security evident.

We have been in this country since Christ was a corporal and spent untold billions on their police and Army training. It doesn't look like we have a very good return on our investment.

This would seem to dispel the propaganda about the effectiveness of the training for this organization. We are open to being convinced otherwise. If you beg to differ, send just one photo of them doing it correctly and we will publish it.

Labels: , ,

Mad as Hell

Hey! think the time is right for a palace revolution

But where I live the game to play is compromise solution

--Street Fighting Man
, Rolling Stones

Money, its a crime.

Share it fairly but don't take a slice of my pie.

Money, so they say

Is the root of all evil today
--Money, Pink Floyd

Well, the Phony War on Terror (PWOT©) has come to visit Ranger's bank account in more ways than one.

For the last three months, Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) ["It's About (Screwing) the Customer ©"] has been shorting my Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) by $1,350 a month.

Ranger wishes to enlighten our "We Support the Troops"
types out there in FOX TV land that all is not well in the homeland. Hopefully Commander in Chief sometime fly-boy Bubba will be concerned that one of his tired, old WARRIORS ™ is getting shortchanged by a grateful nation.

My particular problem is a microcosm of the macro problem facing soldiers, whether active, reserve forces or retired. The government wants our service but routinely and blithely fails to compensate us properly.

My CRSC is not a gift; it was earned in a rather unpleasant manner. That fact never changes, and injuries worsen with age. Ranger is not complaining. He was a volunteer, and stood up when George Bush stood down.

The military like to hype its "Wounded Warriors Brigade," but I am disinclined to awe since I see they can't even keep normal transactions disbursed.

A recent New York Times editorial on the problem of neglect for wounded soldiers quoted Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker' February appearance before a Congressional subcommittee: “The Army’s unwavering commitment and a key element of our warrior ethos is that we never leave a soldier behind on the battlefield — or lost in a bureaucracy.”

"That was thousands of wounded, neglected soldiers ago. There are now about 12,500 soldiers assigned to the warrior transition units — more than twice as many as a year ago. The number is expected to reach 20,000 by this time next year
(Wounded Warriors Empty Promises.)"

Count this soldier as one left behind and
lost in the bureaucracy. An administrator at DFAS in Cleveland calls his situation "a concern." But if it were her pay that went disappeared, Ranger reckons it would rise to a status above that of "concern."

To read the
Army Echoes is to be wowed by all the goodies and services supposedly rendered to military retirees, but obviously this doesn't extend to my compensation.

How does the government stiff someone for three months pay? Is the government so broke they must shortchange retirees? Is this systemic or a single screw-up? Is it a reaction against Ranger's anti-war stance? (Hyper-vigilance is a part of my training.)

Thankfully, my congressman is a Vietnam vet and so has sympathies to my population. His office is helping me cut through the tape too thick for our knives. So his helpful veterans issues person liaises with the VA. Having the proper letterhead means everything in matters of this nature. Everyone gets to do a job in these United States.

I pity the "wounded warriors" even more than their wounds, for their struggle with the Veteran's Administration has just begun, and will become a life-long project (unless they become disheartened or disgusted as so many do, and drop out.)

Their problems did not commence the day they were wounded, but the day they began applying for remuneration of service-connected disability in an adversarial claims process in which most veterans get short-changed in their ratings.

If you want to know more, ask a veteran.