Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wonders of Torture, or WOT

In the big rock candy mountains,
there's a land that's fair and bright,

where the handouts grow on bushes,

and you sleep out every night.

--Big Rock Candy Mountain
Harry McClintock

You'll find your fortune falling

All over town.

Be sure that your umbrella is upside down

--Pennies from Heave
n, Bing Crosby

If You Wanna Make The World

A Better Place

Take A Look At Yourself, And

Then Make A Change

--Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson


Ranger is amazed by the misplaced ire displayed today.

We have rants calling for Tea Parties, rants inveighing against Wall Street fat cats, conservative commentators who rants about everything not affiliated with Ronald Reagan (praised be his name.) But no outrage is left for the moral bankruptcy that is American life in this 21st century.
We should look in the collective mirror and see how we have come to such a state.

The answer seems obvious: Democracy is as dead as Dick Cheney's speeches. In addition, Christianity has become as irrelevant as Jeffersonian thought.

The nation supports violence disguised as democracy, and leads crummy nations to believe that the elections we bring are the sign of a healthy democracy, which is a big lie. After all, we still vote, sort of.

Elections are merely a symbol of democracy, a system which must be based upon the concept of political accommodation and humanistic principles along with the attendant responsibilities of citizenship. Those are behaviors which cannot be outsourced.

And that is exactly the problem with domestic politics in America. We accept the illusion that just because we got to vote, it follows that we are free and democratic. Our votes
should dictate the policies desired by the enfranchised majority, but that is not happening. The will of the people is ignored, in the name of expediency or state secrets, or something else which trumps the will of the simple folk.

Why have the people only come to anger now? Because they, too, were hoping to ride the gravy train but find their retirement is on the chopping block, as well. Everyone is happy to turn a blind eye, until the blindness is not of their own choosing.

The only democracy that counts in America today are the votes of the corporations. That is the crucible in which our policies are born, and that is where democracy dies.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Hell House

--Patrick Chappatte
Le Temps, Switzerland)

All of these steps, these combinations
and permanency, is the road to hell
--Czech president
Mirek Topolánek
(EU President Blasts US Spending)

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the
collective wisdom of individual ignorance
--H. L. Mencken

No stop signs, speed limit

Nobody's gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it
Nobody's gonna mess me round

--Highway to Hell

It's a sad state of affairs when a European realizes AC/DC is your national prophet of doom.

Since Mirek is a Pink Floyd fan, we'll also give another musical hat tip, from that group's "Heaven and Hell":
Did you exchange/A walk on part in the war/for a lead role in the game?
Those lyrics, Mr. Topolánek, describe most of our vaunted political leaders today.

The Obama administration is looking for an international bailout in its continued Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) in Afghanistan and beyond.

"The extra troops he is ordering to Afghanistan in combat and advisory roles can make a difference, as can additional U.S. civilian specialists to help Afghanistan build governing competence.

"But even those U.S. approaches have risks and limitations, as Obama made clear in explaining why he must overcome skepticism in Congress about spending billions of dollars more on State Department and foreign assistance programs.

"'Make no mistake, our efforts will fail in Afghanistan and Pakistan if we don't invest in their future,' he said" (New war Strategy Will Require Outside Help.)

The President of the U.S. is not and should not be the proponent of Afghani or Pakistani governments. Hey Mr. President: the American people need and deserve investment in our lives and our economy. You are here because of Mr. Bush's failures in this department -- take note.

There is no time for Obama, Clinton and Gates to play politics with insoluble problems in the sandbox. We cannot afford to invest in Afghanistan if we cannot invest in America.

Obama says the war in Afghanistan is crucial to protecting Americans against a repeat of the 9/11 attacks, yet no proof is offered that al-Qaeda possesses this operational capacity. Justifying his latest moves, he spoke Friday of an "uncompromising core" of the Taliban that is beyond reconciliation and must be defeated militarily."

The last statement is so innocuous and blandly accepted that it is easy to miss its extreme significance to the PWOT rationale. It says the U.S. is committed to a culturally-based war and is willing to utterly destroy the Taliban elements of Afghan society. It says that U.S. policy is as intransigent as that of the Taliban.

The U.S. is willing to destroy their way of life to protect our way of life. But. . . this is not what democracy is all about. Killing people is not an exercise in freedom -- it is the most extreme form of discrimination. The Taliban cannot be defeated militarily, only culturally, and that is not achievable this side of genocide.

The "Afghan government" is a figment of a neo-con frame of mind. Even the AP reports it is,
"(R)ife with corruption and unable to extend its authority beyond the capital, Kabul." Afghanistan can not be "reconstructed" as that implies a precondition of being constructed. This is the illusion of COIN, financed by hard-earned tax dollars.

Obama describes al-Qaida as "a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within." Is it al-Qaeda, or Taliban, or a combination thereof? And how has this become a U.S. strategic interest? Are we so big we cannot fail? Will we continue to fight open-ended wars until we achieve our victory?
Will the fight for Pakistan, Korea and Taiwan finally bankrupt a national treasury based on sleight-of-hand?

The accelerated war in Afghanistan is the same old thing, packaged as a winner. What will it take for our leaders to focus on our daily realities? Terrorism is far less a threat than the decaying economy. While they sanction boogeymen-chasing in mountain passes of Afghanistan and Pakistan -- places you will never find on a AAA vacation tripych -- Americans are losing jobs faster than you can say "mujahadeen".

America today is like a leper. We pretend we are a vibrant, viable superpower, but the dead tissue indicates otherwise.

The U.S. cannot afford the safety the PWOT is supposedly providing.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kabul Cabal

--Money, Andy Warhol

There 's no success like failure
and failure is no success at all
--Love Minus Zero, Bob Dylan

For those who like their Sparkle Ponies mint green: "Invoking the 9/11 attacks, Obama proposed a major push to expand Afghan security forces, improve the responsiveness of the Kabul government, reduce corruption, fight drug trafficking, and combat the Taliban. He'll also boost Pakistan's counter-terror capacity and encourage detente with India" (Slate: Return of the Benchmarks).

In a war that still has no end in sight, Obama said the fresh infusion of U.S. forces is designed to bolster the Afghan army and turn up the heat on terrorists that he said are plotting new attacks against Americans. (Obama: 4,000 Troops to Afghanistan.)

If a war has no end in sight, it is not a war. It is an exercise in national futility. Wars have endgames which can be defined and articulated. This clarity is lacking in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©)

"President Barack Obama on Friday ordered 4,000 more military troops into Afghanistan, vowing to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" the terrorist al-Qaida network in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan."

Is there in fact an al-Qaeda terror network in Afghanistan, or is it simply Taliban resistance to the U.S. occupation? This is a poor mission statement as al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was defeated long ago. However, it is evident that the Taliban is resurgent.

Taliban and al-Qaeda are still not the same dog, regardless of close linkages in the past. What do current intl estimates say about the relationship, 2009. U.S. policies today cannot be based upon 2001 relationships.

Where will the increased funding come from --"Obama's plan will also cost many more billions of dollars"? And whose pockets will it line, once disbursed? A good guess is the leadership of the Kabul Cabal will tuck these Billions into their escape duffle bags for future contingencies. (After all, the Overseas Contingency Operation can't go on forever, can it?)

"Obama bluntly warned that the al-Qaida terrorists who masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were actively planning further attacks on the United States from safe havens in Pakistan."

Fear-mongering at its finest, taking a page from Condi Rice's mushroom cloud play, albeit with a softer touch. Give us facts, Mr. President. This is no change, this is feed from the same trough of hysteria. It is a worn out record. Maybe you don't know from vinyl, being as your 48-year-old self is so Ipod. But the needles starts skipping grooves once scratched, and one ultimately cannot hear the song; not groovy at all.

Obama is now expanding the U.S. goal as being the removal of al-Qaida
from Pakistan as well as Afghanistan, "and to prevent their return to either country in the future." Talk about mission creep.

If President Lincoln is Obama's template, he should take a page from Lincoln's approach to the Civil War. He tried to contain the hostilities rather than expand them, endeavoring to keep many of the states out of the war. Expanding theatres of operations is not an
economy of force measure.

Not wanting to look like a wuss, Obama says his cause is "just," "And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you."

O.k., Commandante O.: Assuming the U.S. defeats the Taliban and kills every al-Qaeda dipshit in the theatre of operations, there is but one question which persists:

How is the victory to be paid for? Are we planning to extract their gold teeth?

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Once More With Feeling

--American Stock Exchange,
LeRoy Neiman (1986)

A plague on both your houses.

They have made worms' meat of me.

--Romeo and Juliet
(III, i)

The end of our story

Is there on the door

A cottage for sale

--A Cottage for Sale, Billy Eckstine

A major feature of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) is recurring nightmares that plague the mind. There are parallels to current life in our late, great nation.

The country voted for change in '08, but all we see is George Bush's shadow -- Groundhog Year, '09. The economy is dying, yet the administration has not turned its face from the same old programs and soporific words. In an
argumentum ad antiquitatem we are told: "The bankers are screwing us, but we must bail them out so they can continue to screw us." Uh. . . and why might that be?

Ditto the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©): the change we are getting -- mission creep into Pakistan -- is not the change we wanted. Our reality has become a looped nightmare.

Here are the pertinent intelligence questions which should be answered prior to the employment of another troop or dollar in the

  • Is the Taliban threat to the Afghan government also a threat to America?
  • Has al-Qaeda been isolated from the Taliban in Afghanistan?
  • Is the threat to Pakistan al-Qaeda or Taliban, or a combination thereof? If emanating from both, are the threats discrete or linked?
  • Where is the proof that al-Qaeda is planning future 9-11-type attacks on the Homeland? If the president utters such fear-mongering comments which serve as justification for the War in Afghanistan, then he can also provide proof of these speculations. We do not need any more WMD moments.
  • If the U.S. destroys al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, what is the next step in the PWOT? Since al-Qaeda can move safe havens at will, then why are geographical wars an imperative? Terror groups like al-Qaeda are not tied to nation-state boundaries.
  • If terrorism is an international concern, why doesn't the U.S. employ the United Nations in a constructive manner?

These questions have not been raised, let alone discussed, by our wartime Commanders in Chief.

If the U.S. really wanted to show al-Qaeda they don't mean diddlysquat, we would walk away. Our actions validate their institutional goals.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

But Wait -- There's More!

Tell them that brave it most,
They beg for more by spending,
Who, in their greatest cost,
Seek nothing but commending
--The Lie, Sir Walter Raleigh

At the end of the storm

There's a golden sky

And the sweet silver song of the lark

--You'll Never Walk Alone,

Rodgers and Hammerstein

It could probably be shown by facts and figures

that there is no distinctly native American criminal class

except Congress

--Pudd'nhead Wilson
, Mark Twain

Today's world is rife with sensory overload.

Forget the hopeless muddle that has become Lost and the 5-second cuts in almost every domestic cinematic production -- the bailouts and stimulus bills + two wars
provide more than enough distraction for one country. Add to that a President who is not quite ready for Prime Time and whose message of Change is melting faster than a double-dip of Rocky Road in a Tallahassee August and you get -- pressure.

In psychology, it is hypothesized that schizophrenia is caused by the inability to filter out the extraneous stimuli that surrounds modern man. This personal psychoses could be extrapolated to our entire society.

The problems are so great and manifold that the organism (=society) enters a shocked, protective posture which is called mental illness when manifested in the individual, but market anxiety or any number of euphemisms when characteristic of a society.

The cures that are being thrown at the problem also seem schizophrenic, or at least overlaid with a heavy veneer of denial. Paul Krugman wrote today, the Obama administration seeks to maintain the current financial system, "albeit somewhat tamed by new rules," whereas he [Krugman] sees the "failure of a whole model of banking
(The Market Mystique)."

We give away the farm, then criticize a wolf (A.I.G. executives) for killing a chicken.

Analogizing the U.S. banking system to that of a distressed patient in crisis, early intervention went lacking, so the patient's condition is now stat, on its way to being code. What do the professionals do? That's right -- administer a heavy-duty palliative, like morphine. Everything feels better, while on the way to the morgue.

If the patient should survive, he can be warehoused on life-support for some time, albeit in a radically underfunctioning state. To vie with the president's recent crass comment on disabilities, The Really Too Big To Fail banks become like Jerry Lewis's Muscular Dystrophy poster children: they will never walk alone. (But we won't call it socialism, no sir.)

And all the while, the taxpayers are ridden for all they are worth while they get to "hold" some of these toxic assets; yet if any profit is to be made from this situation, it will go back to the private investors who will take a soft "risk" by buying them back. So the bankers will further profit from the problem they caused.

But what is to be done when the citizens see the irony of their situation through little glimpses like the A.I.G. brouhaha or Mr. Madoff's scheme? Those were ones we saw, but how many have gone unseen? The Congress, President and Secretary of the Treasury act duly outraged toward the bonus-takers, but it was their policy which enabled the rip-offs.

This can only happen because members of Congress are in bed with these guys, though we have the illusion of their separateness. However, all one must do is filter the chatter and isolate the facts. Facts -- unlike politicians -- do not lie.

The fact is that everyday loyal, hardworking taxpaying Americans are the victims of our government and financial institutions, both of whom prey upon our lives. The taxpaying citizen is the pivot man in a national circle jerk. We have reached a point in our history where being a pimp is more honorable than being an investment banker.

At least with a pimp, you know you're getting taken for a ride.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tortured Logic

There is no such thing as a difficult dog,
only an inexperienced owner

--No Bad Dogs
, Barbara Woodhouse

I'll be all in clover and when they look you over,

I'll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade.

--Easter Parade, Irving Berlin


Nothing piques Ranger more than listening to a non-combatant sissy like Dick Cheney say that torture was necessary to preserve America's safety in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©).

He's right, of course. We should torture people like Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perl, et. al. -- all the patriotic proponents of the feel-good elective wars. Heck, the CEO's of Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater and A.I.G. could even take their turn in the barrel. Their bitchassness has earned them entre to a healthy dose of enforced reality therapy to enlighten their syphilitic brains.

Americans just don't get it, but the rest of the world has a clue. The U.S. government is a greater threat to the security of the world than is any mindlessly violent terrorists. At least the terrorist's violence has operational limits.

The U.S. government has killed untold numbers in the PWOT. We also arm the world facilitating ongoing violence, and then act incredulous when hideous violence flares up outside of our venue. For instance, the government now pisses and moans because U.S. civilian weapons end up in Mexico.

Nobody articulates the fact that the corruption rampant in Mexico is the direct result of repression and power enabled by weapons and combat vehicles provided to the Mexican government courtesy the U.S. A. A few smuggled guns is not the brunt of the problem. The U.S. officially floods the government with kill-your-citizen weapons -- that is a problem.

Yet Americans swallow the propaganda as easily as we did the necessity of the "righteous and just" torture promoted by our vaunted leaders and financed with our tax dollars.
The criminals that we elect to be our designated torture directors also do a crack job at arming anybody with just about anything, as long as it is cash on the barrel head.

Hell, shaky credit will do (we're used to risks), and if this is unavailable, we just give it to them. The U.S. is an Equal Opportunity weapons supplier. We call it foreign aid, but in reality, it is an arms dealer's wet dream.

But back to torture. It is more amusing to discuss than watching t.v., and it beats the hell out of listening to our leaders explaining how we have become accomplices in the WOT (World of Torture). As Ranger has previously stated, the torture advocates are nutless wonders lacking the courage to serve in the combat arms, but just brave enough to pimp out torture to sub-contractors. They are only giving orders, you see.

The most shameful part is that the U.S. military helped create and perpetrate this illegality.
The convenient disregard of internationally accepted concepts of decency and prohibitions against torture effectively turned the U.S. forces into state-sponsored terrorists.

Terrorists kidnap torture and kill. When done under the aegis of state, we hypocritically call it COIN. The entire War on Terror could be shrunk into one of those hooah military novels, and we could charitably call it, "When Good People do Bad Things."

Which reminds us of Rabbi Kushner's book,
When Bad Things Happen to Good People, making us wonder why no house of God inveighs against this national policy. This Christian nation seems eerily silent on the moral aspects of the conduct of these wars.

It appears that the followers of Jesus, a man tortured before being killed, do not care to address the fact that the U.S. government has done the same thing as policy. It is all so biblical, as we have washed our hands of the mess.

In a giant step for mankind, we have decided to no longer call them enemy combatants, and the wars are no longer "wars" -- they are
"Overseas Contingency Operations" (Global War on Terror is Given New Name.) There -- that feels better.

"GWOT" and "Long War" was so Old School.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Abject Zombies

Rainer Hachfeld (Neues Deutschland)

The purpose of Man’s life is to become an abject zombie

who serves a purpose he does not know,

for reaso
ns he is not to question
For the New Intellectual, Ayn Rand

Hiding places are innumerable, escape is only one,

but possibilities of escape, again,

are as many as hiding places

--Franz Kafka

Now over at the temple

Oh! they really pack em in

The in crowd say its cool

To dig this chanting thing
--Rock the Casbah
, The Clash


The Battle of the Casbah is a memoir by General Paul Aussaresses, who served as lead military intelligence officer for the French Army unit fighting the FLN in the Algierian War from1955-7.

The book is described as a "disturbing and sensational memoir" by The Wall Street Journal. It is that, but they declined to draw the clear parallels from Aussaresses' interrogation procedures in the 1950's to those of the U.S. today.

The book is disturbing precisely because this is where George Bush & Co.
wanted to take America in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT©). The narrative details the military aspects of Counter Insurgency, but quickly passes into the illegal activities growing out of that process, like kidnapping, assassination, torture and execution.

The saddest part of
Casbah is that General Aussaresses is not only unrepentant, but actually quite boastful about participating in these events. As a French officer who also fought the Nazi's, it is ironic that he cannot see he is importing the German's savageries upon his own subjects, the Muslim Algerians.

Also interesting is that all of the pictured insurgents appear westernized. This parallels the current reality of the al-Qaeda operatives who actually pose a credible threat to America. They are westernized and can navigate our pathways.

The simple rilfleman and military arm of al-Qaeda training and graduating from the supposed military camps are not a significant threat to the U.S. The skill sets are not interchangeable.

General Aussaresses espouses a combination of intelligence work, torture and summary executions to suppress an insurgency. Though he admits torture is a particularly cruel form of psychological terror, he fails to connect the dots equating French tactics as being every bit as cruel and inhumane as those of the terrorists against whom he is working.

Writes Aussaresses, "The methods that I used were always the same: beatings, electric shocks, and, in particular, water torture, which was the most dangerous technique for the prisoner. It never lasted for more than one hour and the suspects would speak in the hope of saving their own lives. They would therefore either talk quickly or never (128)."

The cruelties expressed in this book are totally reprehensible. As we know, water boarding was also a U.S.-approved method of extracting cooperation form "suspects".

At least Aussaresses knew when to call it a day.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Booty Call

Sin, Sin, Sin! You're all Sinners!
You're all goin' to a painful,
everlasting, fiery Hell.
It's all there is. It's all there is

--Sinners, Inc
, Rob Zombie

It really makes you think
there must be something wrong

--Rep. Henry Waxaman, (D-CA),

on Peanut Corp of America getting "superior" ratings

despite vermin and salmonella findings

[Nestlé's Inspectors Saw Rat Droppings]

You got that right, Henry.

The New York Times editorial says,
"After four bailouts totaling some $170 billion, the American International Group has finally answered some of the questions about where the money went" (The Gift That Keeps on Giving).

"Altogether, the disclosures account for $107.8 billion in A.I.G. bailout money. Which leaves us wondering about the rest of the money. Another $30 billion was added to the A.I.G. bailout pot this month and must be accounted for as soon as it is spent. That leaves some $32 billion unaccounted for. Where did it go?"

Sounding a lot like Deputy Dawg, where indeed. "Untangling all the entanglements is not only essential to understanding how the system became so badly broken, but also to restoring faith that government is up to the task of fixing it." But why would Congress close the barn door after the horse is out? Shouldn't the investigation have begun before the $170 Billion went trotting down the road

Everything in this bailout business is backwards. The banks are given hard-earned tax dollars to wheel and deal in the manner of their choosing. They are back at selling Lennox Ave. properties couched as the hoped-for Park Place. Nobody really the value of the paper which they are hoping will be purchased like mystery bags at a church raffle.

Congress is incredibly stupid and irresponsible to throw money into the wind which is never going to do anything beneficial for the U.S. economy. While this money is bailing out the money men, who's gonna bail out the taxpayers?

The $165+ Million bonuses is not outrageous (Political Heat Sears A.I.G); that is how the game has always been played. Ranger is chafed at the $58.8 Billion ending up in overseas banks. The only difference between the U.S. government and the Boy Scouts is that the Scouts have adult leadership.

Ranger gives a loud and clear vote of No Confidence to the bailouts and stimulus package. Both the Bush and Obama White houses are marked by reactivity and being controlled by events. Somebody needs to get ahead of the problem (see The Big Takeover, courtesy Juan Moment).

The U.S. has put the cart before the horse and like a martyr, complains about its burden. The fact is, people who earn $165 Million in bonuses can hornswaggle poorly paid government officials any day of the week.

That is how they earn their bonuses. They are clever boys.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Got No Game

When making a business decision,
the only color that matters is green

--He Got Game (1998)

The awful thing about life is this:
Everybody has their reasons.

--The Rules of the Game

I've got a brand new pair of roller skates

You've got a brand new key

--Brand New Key, Melanie Safka


Another general subjective reaction to the new millennia of U.S. government and its leadership, that is, the "We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For" ®.

In 2000, and again in 2008,
we The People elected presidents that were required to have training wheels. Both Cheney and Biden were sold as the solid base of experience and knowledge that would keep the younger, inexperienced presidents on the Right Track.

Yup, they were the training wheels alright, but the bike of state still looks wobbly. It is common to hear that Obama is young and inexperienced, but that he will mature and grow while in office. Ditto George Bush, and he never did achieve statesman stature.

Why do we elect presidents expecting them to grow into the job? This is not an on-the-job type of position. This is a job with nuclear capability.

It escapes our reason as to why the American people would elect Bush over Al Gore, who was light years ahead of Bush in experience, brains and rationality. It seems the media, which delivers the viewer 5-second cutaways, has made the public happy with the quickest snippet. Who looked best in the 5 second shot: exerciser Bush in his cowboy boots, or rigid, tubby Gore. No battle there, sadly.

Americans must begin electing mature (not necessarily aged) intelligent and government-savvy leaders. A president must be on top of his game first day out.

Since '00 the score hasn't moved.


Join Ranger on the radio today, 9:00 p.m. EST.
Full details here.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Terror Radio

Lights out guerrilla radio
Turn that shit up
--Guerrilla Radio,
Rage Against the Machine

Ranger is back on a new BlogTalkRadio show, Today's Political Landscape, to air Monday at 9:00 p.m. EST. Call 646-595-3281 to participate in the topic, "Preventing terrorism at home and abroad," with security professional Joe Bechtold.

Topics include:

Domestic Terrorism:
  • Who/what is the real threat to the USA?
  • What is the best way to counter the threats?
  • What can we do to improve the systems we already have in place to counter terrorism?
  • Is our money being spent in the best way to accomplish these goals?

International Terrorism:
  • America’s current response to eliminate terrorism abroad is to wage war on nations, what are the problems with this plan?
  • Who are our enemies abroad?
  • What kind of threat do they pose to us as a nation?
  • What is the most effective means of stopping terrorists attack in the United States by foreigners?
  • Is our money being spent in the best way to accomplish these goals?

During the show you can post questions here.

E-mail address to submit questions before the show is
joe@freeworldradionetwork.net. Put "Ranger Against War" in the subject line.

Should be a good program -- hope you can participate.

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Ramblin' Man

"What are you fighting for anyhow?"
his captors asked, looking at him.

They were genuinely puzzled,

for he obviously owned no slaves

and could have little interest in

States Rights or even Independence.

"I'm fighting because you're down here," he said

The Civil War, Shelby Foote

Just some subjective impressions of current events:

Since 2000, the U.S. has lacked a clearly-articulated national economic policy. The bailouts and stimulus packages eating our tax dollars are the indicator.

While Bush may be history, Obama's White House follows closely his example. U.S. fiscal policy is purely reactive. During the days of the campaign we were asked to have great hope, but with the installation of institutional thinkers throughout the Cabinet, that request seems disingenuous now.

In addition, we are not told of Plan B's. In the event of failed bailouts, the taxpayers have no idea what to expect as the next move. This is our money, after all, so we have a right to know its application.

Ranger wonders why we still cling to the myth that there are two actionably distinct political parties in America. It is hard to see any major policy changes, beyond the rhetoric.

Both parties love to spend money we do not have and cut taxes while concurrently increasing Federal spending. That is madness, and tax cuts are not fiscal policy.

Obama, like Bush before him, strikes Ranger as more of a cheerleader than a national leader. They were both cheerleaders in business suits. Does this guy ever tire of preaching to the television cameras? The cadence works well for a one-hour church service, but it is becoming tiresome as a matter of public policy.

It seems that both are empty suits, the only difference being that George Bush knew he was dumb.

Obama revs up the war in Afghanistan though the war in Iraq is not wound down. How will the U.S. deal with the Taliban when we have no definition of how we are to deal with the Afghan government? Seven years into a nasty little punitive, regime change war, and we have no Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the quisling Afghan government.

A SOFA should be in place if Afghanistan was in fact a sovereign nation. We cannot win a war in Afghanistan when we cannot enumerate legal responsibility with the host nation.

What's on your mind?

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Saturday, March 21, 2009


--When I get to likin' someone, they ain't around long.
--I notice when you get to DISlikin' someone

they ain't around for long neither

--The Outlaw Josey Wales

The exit of George Bush did not signal the end of an ideological presidency.

Specifically, Ranger refers to the ideological posture of this White House
vis-a-vis gun ownership. Obama skirted the issue during his candidacy, but it seems that through Attorney General Eric Holder the country is being presented with another challenge to our constitutional rights.

There is a serious divide within the U.S. We fear a few al-Qaeda terrorists as though they can destroy us, yet fail to bring together the divergent elements in our own society. The gun crowd is Right Wing and militarily patriotic; many have served in the military and fill most police institutions. Liberals seldom soldier or become law enforcement types, which is not to say they are not patriotic.

Why is Obama, through Holder, alienating the conservative segment of the population by threatening assault weapons bans and other infringement of 2nd Amendment rights? Mr. Holder says we are cowards in the discussion of race, but this administration is cowardly in its avoidance of a discussion on firearm ownership. This is causing dire fear and hatred to brew from the Right. Why would they do this?

This is a battle that need not be fought and is destructive to the cohesion of the nation. A more restrictive stance on gun ownership will produce a pendulum reaction, putting a Republican back in the White House in 2012.

Mr. President, wake up and smell the cordite.

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Captain Midnight


NPR broadcast a show recently on which the topic of "decoder rings" came up. Somebody objected and the term decoder ring was dropped from the competition.

It was technicality. They were not actual "rings," but structurally they were a ring. Ranger got his in 1955 from an Ovaltine box. The Captain Midnight Show broadcasted the "secret message" weekly, and only those with the decoder were in the know.
Ranger faithfully decoded the message weekly, which was usually a preview to the next episode.

If our leaders were good Boy Scouts, and used their decoder rings faithfully and correctly, they would know what is coming up. The decoded message would be:

End the wars.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Zuni Bird

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
--The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats

I used to look down on the world for being corrupt,
but now I adore it for the utter magnificence of that corruption
--Richard J. Needham

It's easy to understand why the cat
has eclipsed the dog as America's favorite pet.
People like pets to possess the same qualities they do.
Cats are irresponsible and recognize no authority,
yet are completely dependent on others for their material needs.
Cats cannot be made to do anything useful.
Cats are mean for the fun of it.
--P.J. O'Rourke

Ranger is confounded as to why Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac are restructuring mortgages for those unable to maintain their payments (Fannie Mae Refinancing Volume Jumps to $41 Billion in February.)

It is regrettable that people lose their homes, but they have been losing homes since day one and nobody cared. It is called Social Darwinism, and sometimes, capitalism. If people take out mortgages that they cannot pay, that is not the taxpayer's concern.

At most, the government should a one-time 6-month grace period for specific emergency situations. No big deal -- cut a homeowner slack if he comes up against unforseen circumstances to allow time to regroup. If they cannot regroup, then allow the mortgage to lapse.

Ranger is a feeling, thinking entity and was raised in a company house in a mining town. He is no fortunate son, and does not remember anyone's concern about coal miners not having homes. One cuts it, or one doesn't.

There are more things at stake here than mortgages. This is really about the soul of America. Are we to be responsible for our individual actions?
If the answer is "no," then can we take the next step and expect our government to be responsible for actions taken in our behalf?

The problems of America are being caused by overreach, excessive frivolous consumption, elective wars funded by emergency bills, and a gimme attitude, top-to-bottom.

Ranger is reminded of the Zuni bird described in the old Army. This mythological bird flies in ever-decreasing circles until it disappears up its own asshole.

Our circles are getting disastrously smaller and smaller.

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Death Dividends

We can find meaning and reward by serving
some purpose higher than ourselves—
a shining purpose,
the illumination of a thousand points of light
--George H. W. Bush,
State of the Union Address (1991)

Let us tend to our garden
--Candide, Voltaire

Dilli Doorsth (Dehli is a long way off)
Sufi saint Nizam-ud-din Auliya to his followers,
assuring them that
though impending attackers
had the will, they had not the means

If we're here to "help others,"
what are the others here for?

The Serve America Act which just passed in the House would triple the current number of positions in the AmeriCorps volunteer program, adding 175,00 new participants. The cost will be $5 Billion, and the Senate votes on it next week (Hatch-Kennedy Service Bill Clears House.)

Of the act President Obama said, "If you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country,we will make sure you can afford a higher education."

AmeriCorps partcipants are paid a weekly living stipend equal to that of the members in their service community. Generally, this amounts to a year living at or below the poverty level, and is similar to a Peace Corps assignment in this way. Occasionally, barracks housing is provided, and members may avail themselves of community health clinics for health care needs.

Following the completion of a year of 40-hour/week service, the volunteer is awarded a $4,725 voucher to be applied to college tuition (within seven years of separation from AmeriCorps.) This amount is prorated for part-time work.

Those volunteers in Americorps/VISTA who do not wish to attend college will instead receive the equivalent of $100/month for each month of service. However, this option is not available to non-VISTA Americorps workers

Despite Obama's assurance,
$4,725 will not cover a year of college costs in most places. T
he program itself is a noble one, but was gutted under George Bush's tenure, and some Republicans argued that a "volunteer" program should not be paying any funds at all to the participants. At least funding may be returned to the program to get it back on its footing in the Clinton administration.

But back to the funds, or lack thereof.

While both parties now generally support the bill, the problem is funding. When the money is for killing, emergency funding bills sail through Congress. Money for warfare is always somewhere to be found, but social programs always go begging.

On the same day, papers reported:

"A missile fired by a U.S. drone killed at least four people late Sunday at the house of a militant commander in northwest Pakistan, the latest use of what intelligence officials have called their most effective weapon against Al Qaeda (Drones: The Weapons of Choice in Fighting al Qaeda.)

The U.S. killed people at the home of a "militant commander," he without any proven ties to al-Qaeda. Yet in the same sentence, we are told these drones and missiles are our "most effective weapon against Al Qaeda." One does not follow the other in this case, but the weasel words "terrorist" or "al-Qaeda" must always be dropped into a sentence to justify U.S.-imposed casualties.

We know how to kill them at millions of dollars a pop, yet their link to international terrorism is questionable at best. We are using million dollar missiles to kill the human equivalent of a coyote

"U.S. Air Force officials acknowledge that more than a third of their unmanned Predator spy planes — which are 27 feet long, powered by a high-performance snowmobile engine, and cost $4.5 million apiece — have crashed, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan."

". . .13 of the 70 Predator crashes have occurred over the last 18 months

One third of the birds are lost, at $4.5 million each. This seems a low-ball estimate, but Ranger will accept the figure on faith. 70 x $4.5 Million = $315 Million.

The exact cost of the missiles is unknown to Ranger, so $1 Million will be my SWAG guesstimate. Add on the 244 times these Air Forces critters fired in Iraq and Afghanistan and you come up with an additional $244 Million. (These figure exclude CIA-funded missiles and Predator losses in Pakistan.)

Adding it up, you get $569 Million -- that's right folks,
over half of the way to a year of funding for over 260,000 volunteers to help patch up America.

There ain't anything in Iraq or Afghanistan worth a plugged nickel. Let us rearrange our priorities
and spend money to help Americans help other Americans, paid for by American taxes. Now that would be something Made in America.


And as the Obama administration prepares its first budget, officials say they plan to free up more money for simpler systems like drones that can pay dividends now..."

Uhhh, does anyone actually believe that weapons systems which kill people by remote-control "pay dividends"? Dividends are about money, not killing. Nobody asks what goes undone and who goes wanting, that might actually pay dividends if attended to.

The article indicates the fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan is intensifying, and of course it is. However, it is the provocation of the U.S. sending more fighters into the fray that causes this intensification.

A nation must prioritize its energies in order to survive economically and militarily. It must ask how and why killing people is in the service of the nation's better interests. The current crop of video game weapons are dealing death at an extravagant cost.

The military tech sites say "Wow", but we ask, "Why"?

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Red Herring

--fr. Mother Goose,
Christopher Rule,

Old Mother Hubbard

Went to the cupboard,

To give the poor doggie a bone:

But when she got there,
The cupboard was bare,

And so the poor doggie had none
--Old Mother Hubbard

The pound of flesh which I demand of him

Is dearly bought, 'tis mine, and I will have it

--Merchant of Venice, Act IV, sc. i

The A.I.G. bonus issue is a red herring.
The real question is: Why is so much of the bailout money going to foreign banks? This fact should outrage the U.S. taxpayers more than $165 million, which was contractually promised and is chump change in the whole scheme of things.

A.I.G. went under because one unit was corrupt, bringing down the entire structure. This calamity parallels that of America since 2000.

The entire country is being brought to its knees by a corrupt Executive branch that took the lead in starting two elective wars (without having a solid fiscal policy, a policy still lacking), deficit spending, and cutting taxes in the face of runaway government spending.

The actions of the Executive branch, with Congressional complicity, is worse than anything done at A.I.G. or any other corporation. The Executive has run the country into the posture of that ruined unit.

The A.I.G. bonuses are meaningless when looking at the big picture. The Executive branch is cutting off such big pieces of America and giving them away, that there will be nothing left to distribute.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fired Up, Ready to Go

--Meaningfulness, Parvez Taj

If everyone is thinking alike,
someone isn't thinking,

--General George Patton, Jr.

You don't need to think. You need to drive.

You need speed. You need to fire it up.

--Talladega Nights


H & I is not a street corner in D.C. -- it is the use of artillery called "harassing and interdicting fire". U.S. forces have used this technique since Christ was a corporal.

Simply stated, artillery fire is put out onto likely enemy avenues of approach and likely assembly areas on an intermittent and unpredictable manner. Now it seems in the
Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) the U.S. has taken this concept to another level.

In the Vietnam war, H & I was a daily occurrence and was based upon the assumption that anything moving at night was hostile, and therefore should be served up a healthy dose of U.S. firepower. If the Commies didn't understand the joys of democracy, at least they would enjoy our death-dealing firepower.

The only problem was, everything that moved at night wasn't Vietcong or North Vietnamese. Sometimes, the citizens of a country want to move about in their own country. Call it, the audacity of hope.

Now in Pakistan and Iraq, CIA Director Leon Panetta says drone
missile strikes have been "successful at disrupting insurgents" (Drone Attacks Inside Pakistan Will Continue, CIA Chief Says.) He also said "U.S. aerial attacks against al-Qaeda and other extremist strongholds inside Pakistan would continue, despite concerns about a popular Pakistani backlash. "

Mr. Panetta, with little experience and seemingly less brains is
disrupting insurgents, which translates, killing their hadji asses. For good measure, he throws in the "T" word just to keep us shivering in our boots:
"Nothing has changed our efforts to go after terrorists, and nothing will change those efforts."

Just as with Mr. Bush, nothing can stop a policy, certainly not an intrinsic flaw. We are so enamored of the HOW of killing people that we fail to ask, WHY?

All extremists are not insurgents, all insurgents are not terrorists, all terrorists are not al-Qaeda. [Big green print, for St. Patrick's Day, and our Ranger readers -- this means key point, o.k.? Charlie Mike!]

What is the relevancy to the PWOT? Why are we killing insurgents who may or may not be a real threat to America? They may be anti-American, but possibly this is a reaction to our in-country policies (just imagine Predators flying over your next party.)

Historically insurgents have been communist, socialist, nationalist or religious, so it is meaningless to lump the players into such a nebulous pulp, which is a fiction. Whatever their affiliation, the extremists in Afghanistan and Iraq are not capable of projecting their hatred and violence to The Homeland ®. It is questionable that they are thinking that far into the future.

The focus in the PWOT should be the destruction of al-Qaeda and its leadership, which should be clear and distinct. This clarity is compromised by the Panetta types who do not grasp the problem, nor the concept of realistic threat analysis.

Capability --> intent --> why? This is the basis of all mission analysis and assignments, and this is exactly why the U.S. will destroy istelf fighting the PWOT. We lack the focus and unity of al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda's actions are pinpoint and have a unity of action, where ours are willy-nilly and similar to the proverbial bull in the china shop.

Where is the progress in our vaunted
war fighting abilities? We now have a non-military entity like the CIA killing people with million dollar missiles -- wouldn't an artillery round be much cheaper?

The U.S. answer to terrorism is as screwed as our response to the failing banks. Reality is not our focus, and one day the money will run out.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Passing the Buck

A man with a briefcase can steal millions
more than any man with a gun

--Don Henley

The best, first stimulus may be money policy

--Paul O'Neil

Ranger is not an economist -- that is only one aspect of modern America he does not understand -- but he really does not understand the interest-only mortgages that were so popular and which helped fuel the subprime mortgage meltdown.

The subprime mortgages were a Ponzi scheme enacted by bankers and facilitated by government encouragment and negligence. The mortgagee could not afford a prime mortgage or saw fit not to use one (flipping) based upon the assumption that holding the property for a short period would ride the spiralling market to a big paper profit. Money for nothing.

It was part of a New America where profits grew on mortgages that one could not afford, yet felt entitled to. Those with interest-only mortgages were making money with funds they didn't have on certificates they could not pay when the imaginary profits failed to materialize. The only way they could pay is if they "flipped" the property, continuing their small part in the pyramid project.

This was all done with government concurrence and sponsorship. The same government that recently indicted Mr. Madoff for doing the very same thing.

When it was reported A.I.G. would pay $165 million in bonuses to executives in the financial products division -- the unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year -- Edward M. Liddy, the government-appointed chairman of A.I.G., said "at least some bonuses were needed to keep the most skilled executives"
(AIG Bonuses).

Liddy wrote Treasury secretary Geithner, “We cannot attract and retain the
best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury”

One could substitute "slimiest weasels" for best and brightest. (The financial products division "wrote trillions of dollars’ worth of credit-default swaps that protected investors from defaults on bonds backed in many cases by subprime mortgages.") Maybe we need to let the rats jump ship.

Yet America hopes not to rock the boat too much. It had a great scheme going for a while, until they didn't. Richard Cohen wrote in the
WaPo, "The financial instruments that Wall Street firms were both peddling and buying are the functional equivalent of particle physics. To this day, no one knows their true worth" (Don't Blame Jim Cramer).

Many would like to build the same house up again. However, like so many children's building blocks, they are destined to tumble down again.

It seems to Ranger that
the stimulus package and bailouts are exactly the same thing as interest-free loans to private borrowers. Our elected leaders are attempting to build or salvage a national economy with money that we do not have on businesses which have already failed, hoping that when the note comes due the people will be able to absorb the note.

We do not have the money to finance the stimulus program, nor does it appear that any thought is being given to the pay-off on the note -- the looming balloon payment. The printing presses roll on, the national debt increases, and we cannot even pay off the interest.

The U.S. is operating as the citizen who finds himself at the Payday Loan Office, or signing that interest-only mortgage.

What is left to cover the balance due? Politicians always pass the bill, and accountability remains for some down the road moment. This is why Madoff went to jail; his scam caught up with him.

Our national financial policy is like the interest-only mortgage. The $787 Billion is not correcting the core problem. It pays the interest on a loan we cannot amortize.

How do our politicians differ from the infamous Mr. Madoff?

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