Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Need a Dump Truck Mama to Unload my Head

You say tom-a-to, I say tom-ah-to
You eat pot-a-to and I eat pot-ah-to

Tomato, tomato, potato, potato

Let's call the whole thing off

--Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
George & Ira Gershwin

Gleaning, that's the old way.

My mother'd say,

"Pick everything up so nothing gets wasted."

But sadly we no longer do…

--The Gleaners and I

There are no seasons in the American supermarket.

Now there are tomatoes all year round,

grown halfway around the world,

picked when it was green,

and ripened with ethylene gas.

Although it looks like a tomato,

it's kind of a notional tomato.

I mean, it's the idea of a tomato

--Michael Pollan,
Food, Inc (2008)

Whatever you say, take a look at the dump truck full of tomatoes taken in Ranger's town. It reflects the bounty of our truck farming system (and ancillary pesticides, herbicides and other toxic things.)

But these tomatoes are deemed unfit for market as they might have a small patch of red or pink on them, and are bound for disposal. Only hard, green balls will be shipped throughout the nation, to be displayed under plastic at market as genuine "Florida-grown" tomatoes. Before that time, they will be gassed in order that they appear pink or reddish; they will be mealy in flavor but provide the necessary color for a salad, which the American food gods have deemed will be light Iceberg green and red (heaven forbid we should have refulgent, juicy foods which would wake up our palates.)

In the packing house they separate the unripened green balls from those fruit which had the misfortune of beginning to ripen on the vine. The latter are not for consumption, and are dumped in a lot to rot. 30,000 pounds of the unsuitables are dumped every two hours during harvest season, and these truckloads run all day.
And that is the waste from one packing house, and there are about six in town, making the total about 180,000 pounds per 2 hrs.

In the old days, pinhookers would salvage the reject (= ripe) tomatoes and sell them on street corners. This practice is no longer allowed.

Here is where Ranger goes all weak-kneed and decidedly un-teabagger, yet he realizes he can't go full-bore because he is writing this from the obscene bounty of an all-you-can eat buffet. Well, that is America -- a place you can talk about poverty and hunger while chowing down. That is what makes us so great, and so contradictory.

We have such plenitude that we dispose of it by the dump truck load, but have hunger in our community at the very same time. Do the growers care? Obviously not. The bounty of the field is left to decay, while food stamps buy the owners a meager ration at the market. As an aside, there is a small initiative amongst some farmers who sell at local farmer's markets nationwide to allow food stamp users to double their rations as incentive to help them buy local healthy foods (The Food Trust); there is only one Florida member, in Miami. Though it is a great idea, we doubt it will go far as it competes with Big Agra, and his pockets are deep.

The Agnes Varda film, "
The Gleaners and I", peers into the world of people who use the imperfect, and how the farmers can protect their interests at the same time. The USDA estimates 130 pounds per person - up to 1/5th of our food - ends up in landfills each year.

In France and other countries where gleaning behind the harvest is allowed, there are strict rules about how the process may be done. The plants must be respected, to allow for future harvests. If we in the U.S. could cultivate that respect, both for gleaning as a project and amongst the gleaners themselves, we could have a more efficient consumption cycle.

Unfortunately, we have somehow efficiently dismissed bartering and gleaning from our behaviors, in favor of constantly upgraded, purchased possessions. But this is not the only way, and many advanced societies have several days a year when they put discarded but usable items on the sidewalk for others to claim. Now that is an environmental initiative.

Christians have their Bible as road ma
p for harvesting: "Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:19).

Whatever your creed, consider whether there might be a better way to utilize the goods available to you.

--Jim and Lisa

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tuesday at Publix

I don't mind stealing bread

From the mouths of decadence

But I can't feed on the powerless

When my cup's already overfilled

--Hunger Strike
, Temple of the Dog

We're oppressed and impressed by the greedy

Whose hands squeeze the life out of the needy

When will we learn that wars, threats, and regrets

are the cause and effect of living in fear

--Looking for Angels
, Skillet

Tuesday night @ Publix:

I had the pleasure of checking out with a friendly woman, middle-age, who had greeted me with a hearty hello as we passed earlier in the aisles. We had time to chat, as the bagger (who happened to be a night manager) left to check a price.

She smiled at my Biscoff biscuit purchase: "Oh, I love those with my coffee." "Yes," said I, "Just perfect. Remember where they're from? These were the original aircraft treats -- 'Biscuits with Coffee'?" She smiled, recalling the 2-pk foils they would come in.

I jested that since the price was so high I was not tempted to overindulge, so as to wheedle a few more serving out of the package. At this her face turned dark.

"I know what you mean. I work hard, and you expect to be able to treat yourself well as a reward. I can't do that anymore. I don't shop for clothes because I can't buy them. I have a grandbaby on the way and I can't buy the gifts I would like."

I know just what she means, but was taken aback by the swiftness of her felt words. I offered that Ross and Marshalls usually have some nice baby things, "but you have to search for them." The manager came back with the news that only the vanilla version of another biscuit was on sale, not the chocolate which I had purchased (a writer needs her treats, after all.)

The checker had been emboldened, and she offered, "I guess they're going to start charging us by the ounce for any chocolate content!" The manager was perplexed by the sale bias and offered the chocolate version at the sale price.

As I made to leave, she said, "Somebody can sure afford to fly planes and drop bombs, but I can't afford to fly!" An elegant and impassioned woman, and she was not the only one that night sharing that sentiment.

Mark Bittman, food columnist for the NYT, started a fast on Monday to protest House budget Bill H.R. 1, writing today,

"The budget proposes cuts in the WIC program (which supports women, infants and children), in international food and health aid (18 million people would be immediately cut off from a much-needed food stream, and 4 million would lose access to malaria medicine) and in programs that aid farmers in underdeveloped countries. Food stamps are also being attacked, in the twisted “Welfare Reform 2011” bill. (There are other egregious maneuvers in H.R. 1, but I’m sticking to those related to food.)
"These supposedly deficit-reducing cuts — they’d barely make a dent — will quite literally cause more people to starve to death, go to bed hungry or live more miserably than are doing so now. And: The bill would increase defense spending."
"In 2010, corporate profits grew at their fastest rate since 1950, and we set records in the number of Americans on food stamps. The richest 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all American households combined, the effective tax rate on the nation’s richest people has fallen by about half in the last 20 years, and General Electric paid zero dollars in U.S. taxes on profits of more than $14 billion. Meanwhile, roughly 45 million Americans spend a third of their posttax income on food — and still run out monthly — and one in four kids goes to bed hungry at least some of the time."

Bittman ends his column quoting Reverend David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World who is leading the fast:

"Though Beckmann is too kind to say it, he and many other religious leaders believe that true worship can’t take place without joining this struggle: “You can’t have real religion,” he told me, “unless you work for justice for hungry and poor people.”
"I don’t think you can have much humanity, either."

You decide.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pears for Petunia

Just remember, if you're not one up
on the other fellow, then he's one up on you

--School for Scoundrels

But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well.

You see, ya can't please everyone,

so ya got to please yourself

--Garden Party
, Ricky Nelson

If you want to know the taste of a pear,
you must change the pear by eating it yourself.
If you want to know the theory and methods
of revolution, you must take part in revolution.
All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience
--Mao Zedong

The Rules are Different Here

--Defunct Tourist Board slogan


The Sunshine State has long been the favored land of grifters. These carpetbaggers speak the tongue of the Northern retirees, and can fleece the defrosted, deracinated rubes with ease.

If your aspirations are small, a pickup truck, 5-gallon bucket, some tar paper and book of receipts for promised driveway or roof repairs never made, and gas to hoof it back to Michigan by the end of spring will suffice. But for those with bigger dreams, the large population of retirees is also ripe for health care fraud, and the permutations seem endless.

Lisa knows two cases personally. The smaller involved a group home in Ft. Lauderdale for developmentally-challenged adults, funded by Medicare and "run" (a term very loosely used) by a known drug dealer; the larger, a multi-hospital scam of substance abuse programs run by a friend's father for many years before being busted. Now, our own Governor Rick Scott proves in a uniquely Florida Horatio Alger-esque way that every malefactor may one day grow up to be head criminal.

Ezra Klein described Scott last week as "
one of the most entertainingly shameless figures in American political life." Not only did Scott manage to resign before the $2 Billion judgment against his Columbia/HCA Healthcare, he is managing a "second act":

"Before running for office, he turned his $62 million stake in Solantic, the urgent-care clinic chain he founded after resigning from Columbia/HCA Healthcare, over to a trust in his wife’s name. Solantic doesn’t take traditional Medicaid, but it does work with the private HMOs that, under a 2005 pilot program, were allowed to contract with Medicaid. And Scott is now pushing a bill that would expand that program across the state making those HMOs — the ones Solantic works with — the norm for Medicaid.

"Asked about the apparent conflict of interest, Scott said, “If you look at everything that I want to accomplish in health care in Florida is basically what I’ve believed all my life. I believe in the principle that if you have more competition it will drive down the prices.” And I believe him. But he could have sold his stake in Solantic when he got into government. Since he didn’t, the fact remains that Scott is pushing a policy his family stands to profit from immensely . Which is, for Scott, real progress. In the 1990s, he made his money off single-payer health-care programs by cheating them. Today, he’s making his money off single-payer health-care programs by running them. No matter how you look at it, it’s a step up" (Rick Scott's Extremely Profitable Policy Proposal).

Is it coincidence that Solantic is an anagram for stoical? We see the new governor as intransigent in his view that Florida is the land of opportunity for those clever enough to exploit it. No qualms about privately profiting off his decisions as a public servant; stoicism is a great trait to possess in order to pull off the big swiz.

How could people elect a governor on the platform of reducing taxes when our state government is running a severe deficit? From whence will the needed funds arrive?

Governor Scott was elected on the basis of his contrived 12-Step-ish campaign ads explaining how he'd learned a lesson from his previous run-in, with mama by his side. Yeah -- like in every school for scoundrels, his criminality taught him how to do it better next time. Southerners do love them a good come-to-Jesus story, though.

Our fellow citizens voted for a known criminal, so good luck to them.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

4 Dead in Ohio

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

--The Hollow Men
, T.S. Eliot

What you do speaks so loudly

that I cannot hear what you say

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

All the stories have been told

Of kings and days of old,

But there's no England now.

All the wars that were won and lost

Somehow don't seem to matter

very much anymore

--Living on a Thin Line
The Kinks

If I listened long enough to you

I'd find a way to believe that it's all true
--A Reason to Believe, Tim Hardin

While U.S. warplanes are supporting Libyan rebels, democracy is shriveling to a husk on Pennsylvania Avenue:

"More than 100 anti-war protesters, including the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers {Daniel Ellsberg], were arrested outside the White House in demonstrations marking the eighth anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq."

"Hundreds of protesters attended the rally and marched around the White House, but the crowd — which included many military veterans — thinned considerably as the U.S. Park Police warned that they’d be arrested if they didn’t move. As officers moved in with handcuffs, one protester who clutched the gates outside the White House shouted, 'Don’t arrest them! Arrest Obama!” and “You’re arresting veterans, not war criminals!'"
(Anti-war activists arrested near White House as they mark 8th anniversary of start of Iraq War.)

Ellsberg, former military analyst who leaked what became the Pentagon Papers in 1971, participated in a similar protest last year, but the MSM decided it was not important enough to cover, and the story was covered only by foreign press, NPR and blogs.

U.S. taxpayers are buying bombs which support Libyan rebels defying their government via armed rebellion -- a fact alone which betrays democracy in action.
The rebels are part of the violence equation, and the U.S. is amping up that violence, hardly a definition of peacekeeping.

The hypocrisy is deafening.
The U.S. became involved in airstrikes over Libya ostensibly to protect innocent civilians. This has now morphed into possibly providing these rebels munitions with which they may kill members of their sovereign government. What sense is that? Killing is killing.

We support a revolution abroad, while arresting U.S. citizens at home for exercising the rights of free citizens. The right is that of peaceful assembly to express a legitimate viewpoint -- that of anti-war sentiment. Peaceful protest is punished, but damn the torpedoes for violent protest.

Why do we commingle with the violence of the Libyan rebellion while denying rights to our own citizens?

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Them who has gets
and them what don't, won't

and what he don't take

the undertaker takes as you exit

--Them That Has, Gets
The Andrew Sisters

The dice was loaded from the start

-Romeo and Juliet, Dire Straits

Maybe it's just the whole world

is like central casting.

They got it all rigged before you ever show up

--They Shoot Horses
, Don't They? (1969)

We’ll never be sick a day in our lives my love

simply because we can’t afford to be

--Mink River
, Brian Doyle


Sunday Homily:
The Fallacy of Christian Emotionalism.

Mr. Doyle's characters live on the edge, as do the one of six Americans at or below the poverty line. Their willing health is romantic, but life doesn't deal out romance. Hard facts dictate limited resources, and
everyone doesn't get everything.

Thing is, we know it. That is why everyone is afraid to make a move regarding actual health care reformation. We are all very grateful for the drugs we get and the five minutes of the doctor's time. None of us wants to be thrown on the ash heap too soon, and somewhere along the way someone instilled the idea that we have a purpose for roaming this earth (even though for many, that seems to be little beyond patronizing Costcos to lay up 128 oz. bags of artificially-colored chips.

If we would look at our existence rationally, there are only so many resources, and they are not apportioned equally. You and I both know that we do not get Cadillac health care. We accept something middling if we are fortunate to have some sort of coverage. If we choose to show compassion, we feel for those unfortunate enough to never have been at the receiving end of the bennie chute and so must trudge along with bad teeth and pulling ramps from the side of the road in the hopes of building concoctions to keep them going.

Instead of fearing "death panels", Ranger would welcome them, both at the state and federal levels -- death panels based upon medical realities, based in logical thinking, shucked of the emotionalism and false Christian ideas which swirl about any current efforts to address the thing.

We will not spend much time deconstructing the religious hypocrisy, but if one were to live by The Word, one would not lay up material things and would be buried in a pine box or incinerated (
ashes to ashes, dust to dust). How is it the deceased enters the natural flow when hermetically sealed in a locked vault? Jesus does not speak of prolonging life in perpetuity on this physical plane. The Lazaruses and Methuselahs are few and far between. So, perpetuation of life beyond reasonable means is not a part of scripture.

Mercy, compassion and love are, however. The question is, how best to show those qualities? Is it always shown through keeping the organism alive through superhuman means, even when the sentience (soul?) has left the building (=body)? That may be interpreted as a selfish cruelty on the behalf of those who cannot let go.

The system bears a heavy burden during the final days, weeks, months and even years prior to the expiration of a critically ill person. Most Medicare costs are seen then. We prolong life that will benefit naught, except to line some health executive's pockets, and we do it unquestioningly, meeting any opposition with fierce and unthinking opposition.

"All life is sacred", is it not? If so, then we needs define "life", and perhaps differentiate that from existence
in extremis. If mercy is the prime objective, that would seem mandatory.

As it stands, emotion and prejudice rule what should be the most rational of decisions. This is not a question of choosing who lives and dies; this IS a question of applying a medical protocol to determine what intervention are not merely heroic, but in fact, futile, and which may bring benefit.

It seems most of us would prefer to reach a reasonable end, knowing that death and taxes are the only sure thing, without extreme measures to extend our lives when there will be no further quality to be wrung from extending the quantity. Death panels could help revitalize our medical system by prioritizing and categorizing states of being and allocating resources in an equable manner. This would be a step in reining in the health care behemoth.

The NYT's Paul Krugman calls us out this week:

"A serious fiscal plan for America would address the long-run drivers of spending, above all health care costs, and it would almost certainly include some kind of tax increase. But we’re not serious: any talk of using Medicare funds effectively is met with shrieks of “death panels,” and the official G.O.P. position — barely challenged by Democrats — appears to be that nobody should ever pay higher taxes" (The Austerity Delusion).

Krugman concludes, "The confidence fairy (= hope) won’t save us from the consequences of our folly." So we languish in a head lock we won't get out of because who will let granny die, or the hydroencephalocele baby who is doomed to die anyway, but who will undergo extravagant outlays of medical resources and funds during its brief existence? Because somewhere in the arcana, Christianity demands that hydroencephalocele's keep breathing until superhuman efforts fail to continue to enable that possibility.

Meanwhile, Ranger has an associate who is caught up in the folly of a poorly administrated health care system of limited resources. She is medically disabled but fairly young and in fairly good health. A recently FDA-approved drug might provide the help she has been seeking to become a more productive member of society.

However, that drug is caught up in a precious Big Pharma + drug manufacturer monopoly: It is not covered by her plan's formulary, and must be ordered by the doctor from the manufacturer (even though FDA-approved.) Someone stands to benefit from this Rube Goldberg distribution scheme, and it is not her. It will cost hundreds of dollars per month, and she will probably not be able to afford this. Yet we choose to afford to allow people like her -- prospective contributing members of society -- to limp along with the minimal resources currently provided.

We live in a country where medical caravans visit the most under-served parts of our country a few times a year and must turn away hundreds each time for the most basic of health care. Ranger contends that precious medical resources like health care professionals should not be providing frivolous services like nose and boob jobs and penis implants. What a revolution THAT would be, if we trained our attention on things that actually mattered.

It is the most human of all questions: What constitutes a life? It is our contention that being brain dead and on life support is not living.

--Lisa and Jim

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wild, Wild Midwest

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.

But it was there then,

In front of me,

Bright like a sun--

My dream.

--A Long Time Ago
, Langston Hughes

These cinders need more to be a fire

While the ghosts of the soldiers

That lived there before us

Laugh with their guns by their side

--Life in a Tenement Square
Flogging Molly

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own

Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?

What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child

There is power in a Union

--There is Power in a Union
, Billy Bragg

You gals who want to be free, just take a tip from me;

Get you a man who's a union man and join the ladies' auxiliary.

Married life ain't hard when you got a union card,

A union man has a happy life when he's got a union wife

--Union Maid
, Woody Guthrie

A Wall Street Journal report this week hails Detroit as a Nuevo Ghost Town, with a population at the city's 1910 level. Even Eminem's scowl can't save it from that plight (Detroit's Population Plunges).

According to the census bureau,
"The number of vacant housing units doubled in the past decade to nearly 80,000, more than one-fifth of the city's housing stock." While blacks and whites continue to flee, the Hispanic population is increasing.

Of course we all know the once-proud Motor City has been falling apart for some time, manufacturing jobs drying up, the mortgage crisis providing the
coup de grace. But foreign powers see opportunity in our degradation, with BMW's Greer (S.C.) campus employing 7,000, and generating thousands of other ancillary jobs.

The non-union autoworkers at the U.S. BMW factory earn $15 an hour, about half of what their German counterparts earn.
"'We are a low-wage country compared to Germany,' said Kristin Dziczek, director of the Labor and Industry Group at the Center for Automotive Research, ", which means the middle-class to which manufacturing workers once aspired is now a pipe dream (In its biggest foreign market, BMW gets skilled workers for Less.)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the U.S. rebuild Germany after WW II? Ditto Japan and Korea. The facts of globalization are evident and painful. We have become the Turks working for non-American industrial giants. That has certainly worked out well for us.

What were we fighting for? Wasn't it the right of labor to unionize -- an absent feature of totalitarianism? Didn't the trade union movements, opposing oppression, first crack the facade of communist controls in Poland and elsewhere? It wasn't U.S. military might or Uncle Ronnie that achieved this objective.

"[An]Obama administration commerce official who visited the [BMW] campus last week, Rick C. Wade, called the plant an "example" of what is possible to move toward the president's goal of doubling exports in five years." But, 70% of the vehicle manufactured in the Greer plant go to Germany, so how is this a win-win as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.) would have it? We are out of control when our losses are scored as wins.

What if the administration had used the auto bailout money to buy out BMW, Toyota, Kia and Hyundai, and then legislated trade barr
iers for the auto industry? The business of America is business, but shouldn't that industriousness benefit America? Ranger news flash: Superpowers do not have foreign factories flourishing within their borders, while their own companies flail.

The Obama administration may try an sugar coat this, but the bitter pill is a death knell to our working class once grounded in the factories of America.
This is a harbinger of our future, which will be union-free and management-friendly because labor has become beggars at the global banquet.

The death of unions = the death of the middle class.

NOTE: Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire which killed 146 mostly young immigrant women, and gave the impetus for factory workers to unionize. The ensuing labor movement bettered worker's conditions substantially.

--Jim and Lisa

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Keeping Mum

I'm a mummer, you're Moammer,
wouldn't you like to be a mummer, too?

--Possible North Atlantic Counsel recruitment jingle
The Libya Show

(stolen from the Dr. Pepper commercials of yore)

As I rained blows upon him,
I realized there has to be a better way.

--George Costanza (Seinfeld)

Are you president of the United States,

or president of the world

--Ali Abdullah Saleh, to Obama


Sorry, I just don't get it. The U.S. is for militants (in Libya), except when we're not (in Iraq and Afghanistan):

AP - U.S. warplanes will keep flying strike missions over Libya even after the U.S. relinquishes the lead command role to NATO as early as this weekend in the fight against Moammar Gadhafi's forces, the Pentagon indicated Thursday.

In addition to bombing yet a third country in a decade, the U.S. via its NATO affiliation is soon to enforce a "no-drive" zone upon Moammer, to be known as DWM (Driving While Moammer):

NATO also agreed to launch military planning for a broader mandate, including a "no-drive" zone that would prevent Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's armor and artillery from moving against rebels his forces had been routing before the coalition's air assault began late last week. The North Atlantic Council is scheduled to meet on Sunday to consider the plans (NATO takes command of part of Libya operation.)

And what's with the new spelling, "Gadhafi"? The guy's only been running Libya for how many decades, and we still don't know how to spell his name? The U.S. and its military are acting like a bunch of loose cannons.

How can we keep the faith when we don't even know what it is?

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Oh, Ralphie!

I've never seen you looking
so gorgeous as you did tonight

I've never seen you shine

so bright you were amazing

--Lady in Red
, Chris de Burgh

He thinks he is a flower to be looked at,

And when he pulls his frilly nylon panties right up tight,

He feels a dedicated follower of fashion

--Celebrated Follower of Fashion
The Kinks


On the B-side of The Week magazine featuring Muammer Q. was this advert for Ralph Lauren Polo. It upset Ranger (note his marginal comment: "I'd rather be shot dead than dress like this.")

He was recently perusing some photos of himself at about the same age as this model, and none featured the cultivated accouterments, like pink shorts or waspish waistcoat. Probably the fact that he wears simple, block-colored RL shirts concerned him most, as he wonders if this is the new updated version of manhood, 2011-style. If so, definitely not his steez.

His summary comment: "This is a girly-boy, and he gets laid more than any soldier, I'm sure." Is "getting laid" vernacular for something more, like the pleasures of female company in a more catholic sense? As his demeanor is in the mold of the strong-and-silent Gary Cooper, the answer to that question shall remain an enigma.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Trickled Down Done Trickled

--Dollars, Andy Warhol

I prefer to regard a dessert as I would imagine
the perfect woman: subtle, a little bittersweet,
not blowsy and extrovert.
Delicately made up, not highly rouged.
Holding back, not exposing everything
and, of course, with a flavor that lasts
--Graham Kerr

As a culture I see us as presently deprived of subtleties.
The music is loud, the anger is elevated,
sex seems lacking in sweetness and privacy
--Shelley Berman

You know the nearer your destination

The more you're slip slidin' away

--Slip-Slidin Away
, Paul Simon

My own experience this week at our local grocer of note (Publix) -- is a good follow-on to yesterday's soap piece.

I have few vices, among these, a nice, not-too-sweet pastry with coffee to round out a day. Picking one up at the grocery's bakery is a convenience, and it has been my disappointment to see the more refined choices dwindle over the months: No more coconut pasteles, no more apricot danishes. What is left to me is the almond bear claw, a sturdy and reliable option. Except not this Thursday.

Confused by the lack of of usual choices, the bakery worker explained that Publix is in the process of reifying their formula for the amount of items they bake. Their goal, to have less waste at the end of the day. If that means that I, at 5 p.m., don't get my danish, so be it.
Only, the implications are broader.

Leftover baked goods used to go to the food bank -- less baked means less for them, too. Fewer pastries reminds me that we are seeing less of everything involved with our servings. Wait staff at most establishments has been reduced and ambient temperatures have been reduced or raised to the point of discomfort to save money (though usually under the guise of a broken system, or a manager with a faulty set-state).

Condiments at many restaurants are being reduced in quality:
half-and-half become coffee creamer with corn syrup; honey disappears; butter goes in favor of "butter blend" and orange juice become orange drink. In baked goods, sugar become High Fructose Corn Syrup and butter is replaced by hydrogenated corn oil. Of course, most hungry people do not notice, but being a bit of a foodie, these are all disappointments.

A conspiracy theorist might say these are savvy attempts to keep the diabetes industry a cash cow; more likely, it is probably just economics and a poor national palate. These amount to the same result anyway.

The trickle down faucet is drying up.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nickel and Dimed

Grandma's Lye Soap labels,
March 2011 & Jan. 2011

There's an old joke about a whorehouse called "Granny's Place" made of the usual dirty stuff with the punchline, "You just got screwed by granny!" That was then, this is now.

It is a small point to make but illustrative of the larger realities in the U.S. (
Higher Food Prices are Here to Stay). A Cracker Barrel product will be our example, as that establishment portrays itself as the purveyor of all things down home (ignoring for the moment the fact that most of the tchotchkes they sell, like quilts and harmonicas, are actually Made in China.) But witness, Grandma's Pure Lye Soap, which is usually in Ranger's soap dish (not the SF variety).

The soap appeared more petite in size this month, and the label told the story: Within three months, Granny's soap has
downsized 9%, from 6.6 oz. (185 grams) to 6 ozs. (170 grams) -- but with no concomitant decrease in price. This is a surreptitious example of 9% inflation, and this is not an isolated event.

Examples abound
everyday of getting less but paying more (or the same), therefore we are suffering devaluation of the dollar on a micro level with every reduced-size purchase. This is such a clear example of hidden daily inflation, yet we are told there is no inflation and therefore, no forthcoming Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).

We are being treated to the Chinese death of a thousand cuts through this nickle and dime-ing. We are all getting screwed by Granny. and there is no indication we will pull out of this nosedive anytime soon.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

10,000 Maniacs

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts

--As You Like It
, Shakespeare

If I could change the world,

I would be the sunlight in your universe

You would think my love was really something good

Baby, if I could change the world

--If I Could
, Eric Clapton

In bitter defiance

she's spitting the corps

she's wet a brood short league for combat

my mother the war

Well acquainted with sorrow,
well with grief

--My Mother the War
, 10,000 Maniacs

Yellow journalism is alive and well, and MSM is a willing tool for politicians to incite the masses.

Witness The Week cover featuring Muammer Qaddafi as a maniac on the loose, his keffiyah fashioned into sort of a baseball cap turned backwards, making the sparsely-mustaschioed Qaddafi look like a renegade punk in a Tonka truck (with Latino overtones.)

The thing is, while Muammer has always been a maniac, he is not on the loose -- he IS exercising his sovereign right to deal with rebels in a civil war. Is this not exactly what Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Army did in the U.S. Civil War? Did we not rain brutality down upon the rebels?

Bringing U.S. actions up to today, our Counterinsurgency policy (COIN) has established two new governments following our invasions which resulted in Civil Wars. The U.S. response was to brutally suppress the rebels in both countries
-- so how does the U.S. condemn Qaddafi for exercising his own legitimate response to quell an uprising?

Muammer Qaddafi is in his own country and not rampaging half a world away. Even were there 2,000 rebel deaths, this is irrelevant when weighing Qaddafi's against U.S. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, campaigns far more brutal and lacking in legitimacy.

Like Qaddafi, we killed rebels in Iraq and Afghanistan,
after our actions created them. Libya and Qaddafi has a more legitimate basis for military intervention than do the corrupt, manufactured governments of Iraq and Afghanistan.

If Qaddafi is a madman for seeking to suppress a rebellion, then we must apply the same descriptor to U.S. presidents. At least Muammer Qadaffi is contained, while U.S. powers roams the world like a hungry beast.

U.S. policy in the Middle East reminds Ranger of the Southern saying, "When you yell "fart", everyone comes running to get a whiff." We run to the fart every time one is loosed anywhere in the region. That's not being a smart feller, as Dad would say, but a fart smeller.

Why does the U.S. concern itself with every scenario blossoming on the world's stage while ignoring the stark realities within our own borders? I do not care if Libyans are killing Libyans or if the Shias or Sunnis rule Iraq. What need I care who rules Afghanistan since all of these problem areas are far from my hometown?

Let these countries fight their own Civil Wars as we did, the chips falling where they may. We fought a Civil War without a No-Fly zone.

Simply, the U.S. should not be in the Civil War business. COIN and Civil War are sides of the same coin.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Soldier Citizens


The topic of Soldier's freedom of speech is a major concern of Ranger's. The Army recently released a 37-page handbook covering online social networking platform communications for Army personnel.

Much of it is common sense, like not using the geo-tagging feature to betray troop location.
It is a given that Soldiers should not release sensitive information, but what about the restriction that they may not speak negatively about Commanders or the chain of command? The muzzling of Soldier's opinions on their leadership still sticks in Ranger's craw.

"Soldiers are also cautioned to watch that what they say doesn’t violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice. While social media encourages soldiers to speak freely, soldiers may not speak negatively about commanders or release sensitive information" (Handbook to guide GIs on social media usage).

Historically, U.S. soldiers have always enjoyed the right to criticize their commanders; this was a reflection of the egalitarian nature of U.S. society. If a unit elects their officers, then unit members obviously were free to comment on both the positive and negative attributes of those officers. Officers in today's Army are still elected by the men, albeit in a different manner.

Any leader that lacks the faith of those under him will end up under the bus; this is a negative election of officers. A popular example is that of Captain Sobel in Stephen Ambrose's The Band of Brothers. The unit, to include the Company's 1st Sergeant, did not accept Sobel as a combat leader and so cast a no-confidence vote which reverberated up to Regiment. When it bounced back down the chain the result was Sobel's transfer.
The unit NCO's selected their next leader by cutting Sobel off at the knees.

Examples of soldiers criticizing higher ups abound in history. LTC George Custer's officers actually wrote letters to newspapers criticizing his leadership. With such a history of free expression how have we come to restrict the speech of our soldiers? When did criticism become an illegal activity?

Since we are a nation of laws, what constitutional authority restricts military free speech? Military law is based upon the Constitution, and the basis of that document is that all citizens have the right of free speech. The strength of a democratic Army is that the men know how to think, improvise and act when officers are not present.

Unlike totalitarian armies, we are flexible and individualistic -- a positive feature -- yet now we are telling Soldiers to put a cork in it. We say that we train them to think but then punish them if they do so in written or oral expression.

Why was there only one Lieutenant Watada in opposition to an illegal war? Why did not one other officer refuse to participate in a war of aggression against two nations? If free speech is a guaranteed right of citizens, then it cannot be taken away; if it can be stripped, then it was not a right. If soldier's free speech can be curtailed, why not that of civilians?
If the argument is to maintain order in the ranks, then why not the same argument for maintaining a disciplined civilian society?

If a soldier is sworn to uphold and defend The Constitution, it follows that same Constitution would insure a soldier's right to free speech. The U.S. does not have two separate Constitutions - one for soldiers and one for civilians.

When did our leaders become tin gods exempt from human interaction and criticism? Soldiers become second-class citizens when they are denied the rights of free speech, perhaps the most precious right which they are charged with defending.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

War Irony

Breaks down easy fits into a pram
A child can carry it do it no harm

Armalite rifle and the holy trinity

It’s used against you for Irish jokes and the BBC

--Armalite Rifle
, Gang of Four

They call me Desert Eagle, semi-auto with lead

I'm seven inches four pounds,
been through so many towns

Ohio to Little Rock to Canarsie, livin' harshly

--I Gave You Power

Witness the bottom, right T shirt in Beretta's Spring 2011 Catalog: "Defending America for Over 25 Years" (p. 37).

Beretta is proud to have been America's standard service sidearm (M9) for the last 25 years, and they are celebrating that with a T shirt listing its service "in dozens of wars and skirmishes. Tours of duty are listed on the back." Among the 40+ dust-ups listed are Bangladesh (1991); Adriatic Sea (1992-present); Central Africa (1996); Congo (1998); Indonesia (1998); Peru-Ecuador (1995-97); Cote d'Ivoire (2002) and Suriname (1994-95). Who even remembers these things?

In the catalog's introduction, Beretta President Cav. Ugo Gussalli Beretta apologizes for the fact that not all gear will be manufactured with the sleek Italian touch: "It is true in this day and age, that we cannot manufacture all our products in Italy",
ergo the International origin of the T's -- read "China" (or Bangladesh, or Vietnam.)

So the irony is, we buy these M9's and go tromping around the world, but we can't even make the T's that celebrate all of that spent treasure that shall never come back to enrich these United States.

Yet ... we will buy their tees to celebrate our profligacy, which has made us unable to manufacture the tees.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Winners and Losers

DAV Magazine (Mar/April) p. 22

Long way from my home

Sometimes I wish I could fly

Like a bird up in the sky

Oh, sometimes I wish I could fly

--Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
Van Morrison

There's nothing sacred

Breathing hatred

We have to face it

No one can take it

And feel no pain

--Feel No Pain
, Sade


This picture from the March/April 2011 DAV Magazine shows USMC Cpl. Tim Jeffers being visited by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos. The article is on the long-term effects of traumatic amputation resulting from war.

Ranger was affected negatively by the photo as it forces him into the position of that of the collective crazies picketing military funerals. How can any sane patriotic American say anything negative. It is
outre to criticize the dead military personnel or those broken beyond any useful functions. But that is not what this is about.

This photo shows two strong Marines in clean, straight up uniforms in a sterile, emotionless room talking to a remnant of a former Marine, the helmet on the corporal's head telling the entire story to include the prosthetic legs. The strange part of such photo ops is that the editors think somehow that this will be uplifting, to which Ranger says, bollocks.

Why do we continue to sacrifice fine young troopers like Cpl. Jeffers? He is too valuable an asset to waste; why does the DAV Magazine and other sources continue to portray these needless wounds as a patriotic endeavor when it is actually an exercise in futility?

It seems ghoulish to even comment on such a photo, but it evokes too many visits to cold and sterile DVA hospitals and wards. The broken Marine is a commodity, easily discarded after his usefulness as a photo prop. Will his Company, Battalion or Brigade Commanders ever visit him in the future, or will he sit in a lonely VFW or American Legion bar on weeknights remembering what he was before the event that made him what he isn't? Let's get real: Will his old Platoon leader even visit him after he is discarded?

Let us go a step farther, and consider the wounds beyond the loss of limbs. What damage has been inflicted upon his brain? A blast that rearranges body parts also rearranges the functions of a brain. There is more to a photo than pixels.

Ranger wishes the best to Cpl. Jeffers and nothing that I say diminishes his valor, nor has it been our intention to belittle his sacrifice. The comments are about us rather than him, since we all bear responsibility for his damage.

The eagle has left the building.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Emerald Warriors

--Green Lantern & the Emerald Warriors

--It's the full support of the community
that allows us to do this
--Major David Wakefield

We in North Florida now have the Emerald Warriors in our midst:

AdTech AdMilitary choppers fly in training exercise

Military helicopters will be landing at the Florida Public Safety Institute this week for a special military training exercise known as the Emerald Warriors, officials said. The training maneuvers are part of a combined exercise for future deployments by the Army's Special Operations Command and Air Force Special Operations Command in six states, said U.S. Army Maj. David Wakefield, a company commander. In the first phase of the three-week exercise, participants will train on FPSI's shooting ranges, rappel tower, driving course and tactical entry facility. The total contingent is about 140, and they will be housed at the institute's dormitory.

As a young Special Forces officer, Ranger used to train in the national forests of America; this was appropriate, as soldiering for the federal government meant that federal lands and assets could be used.
However, state law enforcement facilities -- built with Florida tax money -- were not built for federal soldier training. Federal soldiers are for national defense; law enforcement, for public safety. These are discrete functions.

Why are these Special Operators training at state police facilities for "future deployments"? The state has National Guard assets for local emergency use. We have military posts out the yazoo where SF assets can train. If the national government cannot provide training facilities for our special assets, then it is time to quit fighting endless wars.

This looks like the further militarization of our police forces when the military cross-trains in their facilities. Allowing SF assets to play Cowboys and Terrorists in Florida is not a law enforcement priority. Further, are Floridians being reimbursed for US troops using our facilities?

Ranger does not agree with training troops in our civilian facilities. Where does this stop?

Life is not an endless loop of "The Unit".

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Escape from Detroit

There are no guards inside the prison,

only prisoners and the worlds they have made.

The rules are simple:

once you go in, you don't come out

--Escape From New York


Uneasiness about what the army

sent into town to "keep the peace"

--WaPo neologism contest

(Placing the first letter at end of word

to form a new meaning

"Imported from Detroit" ad was meant to inspire pride in a badly beaten city.

But depressed Rust Belt cities really
are a world apart from the rest of civilization which thus far muddles through sans the appearance of too many ramshackle ruins in the neighborhood. It really is us and them, and "import" is a meet term for transporting items out of an area largely cordoned off from the rest of the nation, its inhabitants like some exotic residents at a zoo.

Escape from New York 2011-style could be, "Escaped from Detroit".

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Paddington Bears

They're funny things, Accidents.
You never have them till you're having them

--The House at Pooh Corner
, A. A. Milne


While we go padding about airports in our socked feet thanks to Mr. Reid's failed Shoe Bomb, and have our skivvies virtually invaded due to the ingenious crotch bomber
manque Abdulmutallab, things that could really bring a plane down badly -- like air traffic control errors -- have increased 81% from 2007 to 2010 (Reported Air Traffic Errors Rise 81%).

Says USA Today, "More than 1,800 errors by air-traffic controllers — including 43 most likely to cause a midair collision between planes — were reported to the Federal Aviation Administration last year. The agency says that points up the need for greater safety steps." But in the same breath, the FAA says we needn't worry too much as things have probably always been this bad, "insist[ing] the numbers are the result of several years of effort to improve reporting."

Apparently, the reporting of near-misses has been rather dodgy in the recent past, so this 81% uptick is being cast as good news, y'see, because we are ferreting out liars. The report notes there has been "a steep rise in on-the-job training of new controllers in recent years" which may also bear upon the poor performance. The National Air Traffic Controllers assures that the increase is nothing to worry about.

This current quagmire brings to mind Saint Ronny's union-busting move in 1981, when the president fired over 11,000 members of the air traffic controller's union, PATCO. It took more than 10 years to bring that force up to snuff. It also showed private employers that it was o.k. to go up against unions.

As we watch our safety compromised by foolish distractions, and our middle class slowly ebb, this tidbit of news proves a most instructive crossroads.

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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Shower Point

You're a dirty, dirty man

You and that other woman, you're two of a kind

But you forgot one thing baby when you were doing me wrong

That I'm a good house keeper

I'm gonna take my broom and sweep

All of the dirt out in the street

--Dirty Man
, Laura Lee

Don't need a man to treat me mean

I need a man to help me clean

Someone who's heaven sent

Someone to help pay rent

Someone to share dreams and wishes

Someone to help me do the dishes

, B-52's

Are you is a quandary over laundry?

Is your residence teaming with pestilence?

Frau Klaus cleans your house . . . with discipline

--Used Condoms in the Trash,

Farces Wanna Mo

Cleanliness is next to Godliness


One of the luxuries of America -- Ranger's America -- has always been hot water and hot showers. This became his passion after being overseas for two years: Enjoying hot water (literal, not figurative.)

Fast-forward to 2011, and America is the sole Superpower, which should imply it is the leader of the First world. With that charge comes the responsibility to be exemplary in the basics of a civilized life. Sanitation would seem to fall in that category and yet . . . there is no hot water in our state-run Rest Stops (those which have not been shuttered) or in our state buildings.

Call us idealistic, but being a Superpower means being able to properly wash and rinse our hands after a toilet stop. In addition to no hot hater, the limited-use water faucets have such poor water pressure it is questionable if germs are flushed from our hands when we do bother to brave the icy water.

When confronting cold water in the bathrooms of a local restaurant, the manger said the health code was that hot water must emerge after 30 seconds of running the faucet. Who waits 30 seconds, and why the waste of water?

We have the greatest Defense (Offense?) budget in the world and on the State level we can afford to give tax breaks to corporations, yet ignore the first responsibility of a social order -- to keep clean.

Ironically, while contemplating this Ranger met an Assistant General Counsel for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration who expressed that not only do the toilets in her State building have no hot water but the soap dispensers are often empty as they are only filled weekly. This is the AHCA for a key state in the world's only Superpower.

To borrow from Mr. Coleridge, Water, water, everywhere / nor any adequate to kill germs.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states: "It is well-documented that one of the most important measures for preventing the spread of pathogens is effective hand washing." Hot water is necessary to remove the surface oils which retain dirt and bacteria and viruses.

Implication of cold water taps? We don't know: Hand washing is only a token gesture? It is a cabal to keep the health care industry packed with individuals sick with E. coli infection? Those sanitary hand wipes that Monk uses and waterless alcohol gel hand cleansers will be a hot new commodity (and investment)? But ... what if they are manufactured in China, and the alcohol content is below 60% -- not sufficient to kill germs?

So you get ill, and hope your bacterial strain is not resistant to the effects of the prescribed antibiotic. Lest you get caught in the maws of the health care behemoth.

All for the lack of a little hot water.

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