RANGER AGAINST WAR: November 2011 <

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Like, Totally

--Rick Scott at Naples homeless shelter
on Thanksgiving thinking,

"What are those things in her hair?"

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch

You're the king of sinful sots

Your heart's a dead tomato

splotched with moldy purple spots

You're a three-decker sauerkraut

and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!

--The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

"It is required of every man,"

the ghost returned,

"that the spirit within him should

walk abroad among his fellow-men
--A Christmas Carol
, Charles Dickens

"Me and my old school pals

had some mighty high times down here

And what happened to you

poor black folks, well it just ain't fair"

He took a look around, gave a little pep talk,

said "I'm with you" then he took a little walk

--How Can a Poor Man Stand
Such Times and Live?,

Blind Alfred Reed


If there's one thing Lisa cannot countenance, that is hypocrisy (OK, and lies, and willful ignorance, and cruelty . . .).

Governor "Pink Slip Rick" Scott is so utterly unctuous, so venomous to those most vulnerable in his state that it defies description. Posing for a photo op at a Naples shelter providing Thanksgiving meals, Scott said he "cared completely" about programs for the homeless, but his care is in the form of de-funding them so, presumably, they (the homeless) will go away (maybe to Missouri -- isn't that where they sent a lot of the Katrina refugees?)

Says Scott,
We've got to make this a place people can do well.” Apparently, there is no room in that plan for rehabilitation or giving someone one-down a leg up.

One Jacksonville homeless shelter official noted that Scott “zeroed out all homeless funding” — $7 million worth — in his budget proposal. That funding supported programs dedicated to homelessness prevention, housing initiatives, and programs that “re-house” people once they’re on the street. “Not only that, he took out the line items so it can never be funded again,” said the official.

To show how much he cares about the homeless, Scott went further by vetoing $12 million in funding that state legislature had passed to support homeless veterans. There are an estimated 17,000 homeless veterans in Florida — the second highest in the nation. Overall, a record 17.2 million Americans went hungry last year (Rick Scott says "I Care Completely" About Homelessness).

Earlier this year, Scott meanly proposed to eradicate Homeless Awareness Day and eliminate the $7 million funding for the Office of the Homeless which worked with housing coalitions around the state to innovate solutions for the state's estimated 58,000 homeless.

Meanwhile, 16.1% of Floridians suffer "food insufficiency", a nice way of saying they go to bed hungry, and there has been a surge in the numbers of children eligible for free school lunches. Florida was one of 11 states that had over a 25% increase in program participation over the last four years.

The NYT's reports, "Millions of American schoolchildren are receiving free or low-cost meals for the first time as their parents, many once solidly middle class, have lost jobs or homes during the economic crisis, qualifying their families for the decades-old safety-net program" (Lines Grow Long for Free School Meals, Thanks to Economy). It is a federal program, but I'm sure Mr. Scott, caring so completely in his own special way, would ax it if he could, in the name of making this a place "where people can do well."

The thing Scott misses is, the state needs to create a middle class to patronize the businesses he has so unspectacularly not drawn to the state. It should be in his state's interest to support those in need of the social safety net lest they go under completely.

To those staunch Objectivists: Your gated communities will not keep you safe from the abject desperation of your fellows.

[h/t to reader Deryle for the Thanksgiving piece.]

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The $800,000 Question

National Priorities Project

Well we're droppin' our bombs

In the Southern Hemisphere

And people are starving

That live right here

--Love and Happiness,

John Cougar Mellencamp


Some sundry figures: It costs $800,000 per year to house one prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, per Mother Jones (11/10/11); Eurasia Review cites a $1 million figure for each cleared Gitmo inmate. The inmates have no date of release.

Compare those figures with the $47,102 annual cost for incarcerating an inmate in a California state jail (
lao.ca.gov). The sites says, "[o]ver two-thirds of these costs are for security and inmate health care" ($19,663 and $12,442, respectively.) Annual incarceration fee per prisoner at Supermax is estimated to be $76,000.

So here is the $800,000 question:
Why does the U.S. still have prisoners at Gitmo and why are we, the U.S. taxpayers, paying this money to keep them there (especially since the closing of Gitmo was one of President Obama election promises . . . how soon the honeymoon promises are tossed aside)? What are we getting from this expenditure to house cleared prisoners? Why do the incarceration costs at Gitmo far exceed the rates at other state and federal facilities?

And what of the benefits from any of the human detritus we have swept up? We paid a cool $25 million for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (forgetting all of the incidental costs leading up to his capture.) The U.S. has spent at least $7 million to maintain him, and to what purpose and what gain? KSM has never stood before a federal judge, so what form, justice?

The Supercommittee could not arrive at a
budget agreement, but we never put the wars or the panoply of related costs on the chopping block.

Consider the very small issue of the incarceration cost of one cleared Gitmo prisoner. Assuming the average citizen pays $5,000 is taxes annually, this means 160 individual annual taxes go to house one prisoner incarcerated in a phony war. Multiply that by the 170 prisoners currently in Gitmo and you see that 27,200 citizens pay their entire taxes to house Gitmo prisoners.

In Ranger's grid square of the Military-Industrial complex in impoverished Northwest Florida, the $800,000 it takes to house one prisoner could fund a full-time homeless shelter or several youth centers. It costs $2.50/visit to the local municipal swim complex. $5/wk for ftwo visits would be beyond the reach of an impoverished child or a citizen living on meager disability funds, and yet those citizens could most benefit from access. Why aren't our municipal facilities accessible by all citizens? And no, there are no provisions to allow reduced fee access for our neediest.

The local Big Bend Homeless Coalition
disburses a federal grant for homeless people providing $550 in rent and $113.10 for utilities to cover about 120 apartments -- a supply far underserving the need. As the citizens gain income, they then pay a pro-rated amount. Our local Section 8 Housing Program is an absolute wash, with needy citizens routinely turned away and told to try back in a month, and then another month; a program representative said they are working on logs from three years ago.

Back to the prisoners: The Israelis recently released 1,000 truly dangerous fighters in exchange for one Israeli soldier, and they released them knowing they were still military assets that would take up the cause.

The British released IRA military personnel from prison when they signed their cease-fire. At some point, all of these dangerous men must be released. A liberal society cannot keep people interminably incarcerated sans fair trial. That is not the way we roll.

Gitmo is not Dachau.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Freedom Riders

Suddenly it's repression, moratorium on rights
What did they think the politics of panic would invite?

Person in the street shrugs -- "Security comes first"

But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse

--The Trouble With Normal
, Bruce Cockburn


Ranger is still discombobulated from the Veterans Day effluent, which gave a tiny up to all things war. Every newspaper I read had an article to the effect that our troops are fighting for our freedom, liberty and our very way of life.

This hogwash beats me down. There is no way the Phony War on Terror
(PWOT ©) is about our freedoms, rights or way of life (unless one is speaking about their corrosion.) The terrorists -- whomever they may be -- may be able to cut off our oil flow or even knock down the World Trade Center, but they can never take away my rights and liberties.

Only my country can do that to me.
Our sacrosanct rights are precious but are only as strong as the covenant in which they appear (The Constitution). Sans that legal document, there really are no divine rights, which is why it must be so fiercely protected.

To the degree that my country encroaches upon my constitutional rights, the terrorists win.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Noora Update

--Noora and her father, Afef

Just a little update from Noora this morning, who is back in Portland to have her 15th operation after being shot in the head by a sniper's bullet in Iraq in 2006. Hers is a little side story of war that doesn't get much past the Portland (Maine) Press Herald or the group that helps facilitate her operations, No More Victims, or the Ronald McDonald House that kindly houses Noora and her father:

"Hi everybody. I get out of hospital and I am happy. I had two balloons at my head. My Dr Attwood he make me surgery and I stay a little bit to get the balloons off and I go to my family and after that I go to New York to make hair. I feel fine. I'm having fun. My family when I leave they get sad....everyone. I think just it. I love everybody."

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Friday, November 25, 2011

No Extradition for You

--h/t Dark Wraith
(yes, it's the Union Jack)

Sure they got their national health care

Cheaper meds, low crime rates and clean air

Then again well they got Celine Dion

--Canadian Idiot
, Weird Al Yankovic

Late breaking story on the CBC

A nation whispers,

"We always knew that he'd go free"

--Wheat Kings
, The Tragically Hip

Blame Canada! Shame on Canada for...

The smut we must cut

The trash we must bash

The laughter and fun must all be undone

We must blame them and cause a fuss

Before somebody thinks of blaming us!

--Blame Canada
, South Park

The Canucks may not be able to manufacture a decent Skill saw, but they stand on principle. Since they have a conservative at the moment, this decision is probably not simply to spite the Yanks.

That was $500,000 poorly-spent.

The Week magazine:


Khadr not extradited:

The Canadian Supreme Court has blocked the extradition to the U.S. of Abdullah Khadr, a Canadian accused of supplying al Qaida with weapons. Khadr is the brother of Omar Khadr, the youngest detainee in Guantánamo, and the son of Ahmed Khadr, an Osama bin Laden associate killed in Pakistan in 2003.

The CIA paid Pakistani authorities $500,000 to abduct Abdullah Khadr in 2004 in Pakistan, where he said he was held for 14 months and tortured. Last year, a Canadian court ruled against his extradition, citing the
“gross misconduct” of U.S. authorities in allowing him to be mistreated. The top court last week declined to hear an appeal of that ruling, and Khadr is now free in Canada.

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Gott Mit Uns

Everybody's talkin' about Bagism, Shagism,
dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism,

This-ism, That-ism

--Give Peace a Chanc
e, John Lennon

We guard our world with locks and guns

And we guard our fine possessions

And once a year when Christmas comes

We give to our relations

--Rebel Jesus
, Jackson Browne

Ranger hangs out at a coffee shop adjacent to the American Legion Post 13, and recently noticed a sign on the Legion's bulletin board: "For God and Country".

This concept is in their constitution and some of their goals are the furtherance of Judeo-Christian values like family, daily prayer and attendance at weekly church services. This post has monthly in-house church services.

The Legion's position dovetails nicely with a House of Representatives that recently paused from attending to issues like the budget deficit, soaring unemployment and myriad other Gordian Knot problems
to reaffirm in a 396-9 vote that the U.S. national motto is "In God We Trust" (reminiscent of the motto on every German soldier's belt buckle in World War II.) Our Founders de facto motto, E Pluribus Unum, got ditched around the time of the McCarthy era Commie scares.

The American Legion is also devoted to 100% Americanism, a volatile cocktail of God-isms and patriotisms.
As a former Army man, why do I not remember taking an oath to any God when I joined the military? This prompted the following thoughts:

[1] Ranger is a full patriot, but resents the Legion forcing a god upon me. While I do not believe in god, this does not make me any less of an American.

[2] If there were a God, why would we think He or his Son would particularly favor the U.S.? Is God political? The basis of Christianity is love thy neighbor as thyself, and the U.S. has flubbed that up on numerous occasions. Furthermore, shouldn't that neighborly love be extended to nasty Islamic hadji terrorists? How does the Legion's faith in doctrine -- turn the other cheek, for instance -- comport with modern warfare?

[3] Did God or His Son tell us to preemptively kill, or to torture and kidnap? How do we deify a tortured guy hanging on a cross and not feel empathy for those we torture?

[4] How did my country get hijacked by the God crowd? What do they do with a person like me?

Godliness and patriotism are not synonymous. If one were godly, patriotism would be a foreign concept.

[6] Why do we struggle with aborting a fetus and ramp up the faithful by ascribing
personhood to non-people, but have no problem dropping bombs on real people? Is the fetus sacred and actual life, not?

[7] Why would a God of a nomadic, Semitic tribe relocate to America and favor white-skinned people?

Before devolving into absurdity: Why is our nation great because it recognized the need to separate church and state, yet our congressionally-established fraternal organizations force the concept of god down our throats?

That just feels unAmerican.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011


Where there is life,
there is hope



Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Today is the national day we give thanks for the multitude of good things in our lives: thanks for those who help us, thanks for the blessings of liberty, thanks for being alive and doing fairly well.

The Times ran a "Serving of Gratitude" this week which suggested,

“As a culture, we have lost a deep sense of gratefulness about the freedoms we enjoy, a lack of gratitude toward those who lost their lives in the fight for freedom, a lack of gratitude for all the material advantages we have,” he says. 'The focus of Thanksgiving should be a reflection of how our lives have been made so much more comfortable by the sacrifices of those who have come before us.'”

We are thankful this day for so many things, among them our good readers, with whom we may share one of our greatest blessings, that of freedom of speech.

May it ever be thus.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


--fr. anthrax letter

I don't think we did go blind,

I think we are blind,

Blind but seeing, Blind people

who can see, but do not see

, Jose Saramago

When a war breaks out, people say:

"It's too stupid; it can't last long."

But though the war may well be "too stupid,"

that doesn't prevent its lasting.

Stupidity has a knack of getting its way;

as we should see if we were not always

so much wrapped up in ourselves

--The Plague
, Albert Camus

"What on earth prompted you to take a hand in this?"

"I don't know. My… my code of morals, perhaps."

"Your code of morals. What code, if I may ask?"


--The Plague
, Camus

Discover magazine touts the film Contagion as a "must-see", a "taut pandemic thriller made extra-terrifying by a global outbreak scenario too plausible for comfort."

But when we see movies like Contagion we know they are entertainment, which elicits a different reaction than things like the Anthrax attacks of the early years of the Phony War on Terror
(PWOT ©), back when wars were things that lasted years versus generations.

Contagion concerns a viral outbreak transmittable via several vectors, like influenza. In Contagion, the infected suffer a 30% mortality rate -- better survival odds than those of inhalation anthrax victims (
75% death rate with inhalation anthrax). Here is how the two scenarios differ:

  • anthrax is easily identifiable
  • anthrax does not produce contagion
  • anthrax is highly regulated and secured
  • anthrax requires extremely sophisticated production facilities
  • anthrax must be delivered to its target
  • anthrax can be countered by existing medications
  • the anthrax strain used could be genetically isolated

The above leads Ranger to conclude that the
2003 Amerithrax scenario was overblown and played to exaggerate the threat. New information indicates the anthrax crimes remain unsolved, and the source of the anthrax used in the attacks, unknown (Frontline - The Anthrax Files; The Wrong Man.)

The most troubling aspect of the case is how easily security clearances were granted years before the crime to the two primes suspects in the case. Both men had flags that should have precluded their clearance and subsequent access to a Top Secret and above facility. How did these men pass security clearance? Oddly, this question is not addressed in the coverage of this incident.

Additionally, there is no proven link either domestic or foreign Terrorism, despite the oft-shown "handwriting" on the letters. This attack is troubling as it shows the ability of Federal law enforcement to railroad any suspect upon the slightest circumstantial evidence.

Both of the latter two irregularities are more troubling than the actual incidents, for they are a wide-open breach for further failures, whether perpetrated from without or within our system.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

The Bells

--Bluebells, Challock Wood,

We cherish too, the Poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies

--Moina Michael

Hear the tolling of the bells -

Iron Bells!

What a world of solemn thought

Their monody compels!
--The Bells
, Edgar Allen Poe

And now abideth faith, hope, charity,

these three; but the greatest

of these is charity
--1 Corinthians 13:13

This a minor observation, but needing to return to a store twice today reminded me of how oblivious or robotic people can be.

The Salvation Army bell-ringers are out with their little red metal pots seeking change outside of grocers. It's not much to place your spare change in the pot, and it is for a good cause. But I witnessed at least 40 people walk past and give nothing. Some made eye contact with the bell-ringer, many had children with them, some were sure to look the other way.

On my second exit from the store almost everyone in my cohort smiled at her as they walked passed, but not one offered anything. As she forced a smile back, it seemed she was thinking the same thing as I. These were often well-dressed business people, so money cannot have been an issue.

When I was child, my mother made it clear what the money was going to and always gave me change for the bucket and taught me that it was bad form not to give something. She said it was a rather thankless job, so the least we could do was smile and give something.
It was a lesson in inclusivity, no matter how small.

But nobody was taking this moment today to teach her kids. It reminded me of the many small humanities from my childhood which I do not see today, like little red poppies for the lapel on Memorial Day. It was just understood -- it seemed like everyone bought and wore one on that day, and it was another teaching point for me, the idea that some things were to be remembered and consecrated.

Unholy consumer pilgrimages like "Black Friday" were shunned.
Like every kid, I was greedy for the latest greatest toy, but was taught that I'd become bored with it within an hour, and to stick with amusements that would go the distance like art and books. It really wasn't so bad, and I don't recall the profusion of gaudy and meaningless stuff that surrounds most kids today.

So back to the people blithely passing the bell-ringers: Do they think the people with the Santa caps are just part of the
mise-en-scene, and their life is a big festivity devoted to their own distraction? Do they resent the intrusion into their lives? Do they think anything?

This is the Deep South, and southerners do tend to have a scarcity mentality. But some of the people exiting that store were surely parishioners of some church, and isn't charity part of the lesson?

I understand the new watered-down biblical versions which they probably follow in the Baptist church have replaced "charity" with "love", but surely they are not thinking solely of love incarnate, like Edward in Twilight . . . or, are they?

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Yesterday's Gone

Suddenly I'm not half the man I used to be
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly
--Yesterday, The Beatles

'My head hangs weighed with snow.'
And when I hearken to the Earth, she saith:
'My fiery heart shrinks, aching. It is death.
Mine ancient scars shall not be glorified,
Nor my titanic tears, the seas, be dried.'
--The End, Wilfred Owen

It has been over a week now. The Veterans Day parade came and went, and Ranger wonders how many folks in long-term Department of Veterans Affairs care were visited by any patriots in their fervor on that day.

The floats and flags are now stowed and those of us veterans with disabilities continue to do what we do since we are obligated to be disabled 365 days of the year. Even watching a fancy parade down main street will not un-disable us. The problem is, we hide on the side streets and back alleys beyond the recognition of society.

Aside from the photo ops fronting the local section of the paper on such days that make us feel like we are actually recognizing in any meaningful way the life of a soldier, most of us keep to ourselves because you do not really want to know what's behind that grand concept, patriotism. So veterans become this shunted off group of untouchables who fraternize at hooches and tell tall tales and drink too much, or they shop late at night to avoid too much sensory input, or, after a period of alienation, manage to compartmentalize war and not look in that room too often, if they are lucky.
Then they look like you, and you feel more comfortable.

That is where the parades pass us by. They are taking us to the wrong destination, a Disneyland called "Patriotic".

Ranger calls it "idiotic".


NOTE: If you want to actually meet a veteran and have a DVA hospital or outpatient clinic in your area, we highly encourage you to visit and volunteer, if you have that leisure. You will learn far more about the patriotic experience than any parade will give you.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sneak Attack

The boss told me I'd get paid weakly
and that's exactly how I'm paid

--Another Day, Another Dollar
Porter Wagoner


What is the furor over Iran's reported attempts to build a nuclear weapon and calls to preemptively strike Iran's production facilities?

Many are with the New York Post which declares with alacrity, "a short, concentrated [U.S] arial and naval bombardment" would make short-order of the situation. Some believe the preemptive strike should be farmed out to Israel (in the spirit of off-shoring, which has worked so very well for us in the economic sphere.) The Iranian weapons are being presented
as terrorist nuclear weapons when there is no proof backing up the allegation.

Ranger's Question of the Day:
How does a U.S. or allied preemptive strike differ from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor? That attack was opportunistic and elective, but at least Japan declared war, something that the U.S. has relegated to the quaint file. Can the U.S. in good faith lay wreaths at the USS Arizona monument while executing non-declared preemptive wars?

In response to the U.S. allegation, Iran's President Ahmadinejad recently stated that the U.S. possesses
20,000 high-yield nuclear weapons, leading to the question, would anyone in Iran be foolish enough to employ a nuclear weapon for any offensive purpose?

It is difficult to understand the U.S. concern in that theatre. The U.S. is the wild card causing disruption and destabilization, and even our own purported allies have stated they would ally with others, given the opportunity. Yet we are willing to create another major state type war over what?
Isn't there enough disruption here in The Homeland ™ to garner our attention? (The thought of Cain, Bachmann or Romney running our nation should be cause enough for massive alarm.)

Where is the America that used to consider the welfare of Americans as Job 1? A war with Iran would be as disastrous and pointless as have been our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya.
What "make benefit" has been gained by any of it, aside from the sordid improved job opportunities for physical therapists, prosthetic manufacturers, and any of the other profiteers of war?

How often will the U.S. ignore concepts like "wars of aggression", instead executing discretionary preemptive wars sold as cakewalks, which are anything but.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Choose Your Battles

Normality highly values its normal man.

It educates children to lose themselves

and to become absurd, and thus to be normal.

Normal men have killed perhaps 100, 000

of their fellow normal men in the last fifty years

--R. D. Laing

He who would turn himself into an angel

turns himself into a beast

--Blaise Pascal

If I go there will be trouble

An’ if I stay it will be double

So come on and let me know!

--Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The Clash


Ranger takes issue with a local Veterans Day editorial supporting our troops since "America is at war today" where they are fighting for our "freedoms and liberty" (Brothers Who Went to War).

With all due respect to the editor, while we are engaged in combat we are not at war, be it legal or moral. Wars can be won or lost, but the combat in which our soldiers are engaged can never gain victory. Iraq will remain destabilized whether the U.S. stays or goes; one certitude is that neither the Iraqi people nor their government are pro-USA (aside from some Western-educated elites who spoke so glowingly of the invasion on various U.S. talk shows in 2003).

Afghanistan is clearly lost when President Hamid Karzai said last week his country will join with Brother Pakistan should the U.S. ever invade that country. Neither the people nor the governments of AFPAK are our friends, and the next elections in Pakistan will surely usher in more anti-US representation.

But that is elective government, and we are fighting for these countries to be able to choose against their occupiers (=us) -- is this nihilistic act that of a sensible nation? The War on Terror has been a lose-lose for the U.S.. Field Marshall Rommel said in World War II, Don't fight a battle if you don't gain anything by winning. We ignore that seemingly obvious dictum to our detriment.

What rights are we fighting for when our police now cow protesters exercising their rights of free speech and assembly? We began to lose our grip on our vaunted rights when we entered the dark world of torture, rendition and suspension of habeas corpus. The loosing continued with the trampling of the Geneva Conventions. Now our Presidents put out hits on U.S. citizens suspected of being terrorists, sans trial (see Anwar al-Awlaki).

Our soldiers may be fighting, but it is not war. This fight does not reflect the legal, moral or spiritual values of our once-great nation.

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