Wednesday, August 29, 2012


 I just need a little guidance
Show me your teeth 
--Teeth, Lady Gaga

Rather petty, but RangerAgainstWar is not above it sometimes.

We caught a snippet of Ann Romney's speech in which she earnestly channeled Sarah Palin's homey mannerisms (sans the you betcha).  Mrs. Romney mentioned that she understood how families struggle and hope to be able to help their children attend college, and the thought of what she envisioned that might look like came to mind:

Precisely, an 18-month radiology or dental hygiene degree at the local community college.  

"And one day, you, too, might be able to clean my or Mitt's wonderful teeth after graduation."

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sitting Ducks, Pt. 3: Johnny Got His Gun

It's a beautiful night, 
We're looking for something dumb to do 
--Marry You, Bruno Mars 

We knew you would leave because you could leave. 
We lived here; we couldn’t leave 
--Vietnamese diplomat to Robert McNamara

Upon seeing a recent photo of the M240 and the M-249 machine guns with which we are arming the Afghan National Army, Ranger returned to the 50% poverty rate of Athens County, Ohio, home of Ohio University, a small town remembered in its better times over 40 years ago.

Two of these weapons cost almost as much as the annual income of the folks of Athens Co. Why did we give an enema of democracy to those who do not love us in Afghanistan, giving away weapons to people who will never defend democracy or add to the security of Americans dancing on the edge of the volcano that is poverty.

It is hard to understand how the good folks of Athens will benefit by this huge outlay of materiel.  But the boys still love to get the plastic guns at Walmart, preparing for their role in the grand drama.  It is hard to see what all of this outlay will buy for Athens, aside from some more names for a war memorial; perhaps a few more families who can feel conflicted about the good their family's ultimate sacrifice has achieved.

When we leave, as we will, it will be as it was when the Army of Vietnam fell.  There the U.S. left behind 22,000 M60 machine guns, which were then flung worldwide into various camps hostile to U.S. interests.

Thank you, Uncle Sam.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

We're Back, Sort Of

Hi Ranger Readers,

We have been offline awhile due to some confusion with our blog account, but we are now back with the dedicated help of a wonderful assistant on the Blogger team, and hope to do a post tonight.

--The Staff


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sitting Ducks, Pt. II: Reagan Re-Ducks (Redux)

 Well we're living here in Allentown
And they're closing all the factories down
Out in Bethlehem they're killing time
Filling out forms
Standing in line 
--Allentown, Billy Joel

When the facts change, I change my opinion. 
What do you do sir?
 --John Maynard Keynes

We spent time in Athens, Ohio, home of Ohio University (OU).  Athens has a permanent population of 21,342, with about the same number of students attending the university; Athen County has a population of about 65,000. 51.9% of the population of Athens County, a former coal mining community, live below the poverty line; over 94% of Athens Co. is white.

$333 million in Federal Stimulus money has been spent in Athens since the inception of that program, or $111 per year (data from Athen's Visitor's Guide.)  Ranger thought to juxtapose the privations of a small Midwestern town with the $45 billion spent since 2007 on the MRAP vehicles alone.

Remember when a presidential race was won with the phrase, "It's the economy, stupid?"  This truism defeated a President (George H. W. Bush) who doted upon foreign policy versus the economy of his nation. While 2012 United States languishes in the same condition as then, President Obama leaves his foreign policy to Secretary Of State Clinton and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

And foolish as this seems in terms of not addressing the dire needs of the nation which elected him, it may be savvy politicking: Whoever can out-Reagan Reagan will win.  Romney (and whomever the Republican machine would have tapped for candidate) must design himself as a Nuevo Reagan ... Reagan Redux.  The Democrats are also charged with meeting this bar, and Obama is coming fashionably close to out-gunning Mittens.

Considering what a sub-standard president Reagan was, his iconography is all the sadder.  But the Democrats have not found a viable contender to the Reagan brand and electioneering is acting, and no one out-acts an actor.

Of course, regardless of who out-draws whom, 50% of Athens County will still meander in the miasma that is poverty.  In this way alone, perhaps, they will share the situation of their elected leaders: Both will be signing checks on accounts with insufficient funds. 

(As an aside, the quick check cashing storefront in Athens features a colorful children's Playskool table and chair in the lobby; children should not have to be in fast cash establishments which charge their parents usurious 30+% interest.  It is not a good teaching point.)

No astrologer is needed to tell us too many of us are drawing on an NSF account.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Sitting Ducks

We gotta take these bastards.  
Now we could do it with conventional weapons,
but that could take years and cost millions of lives.

 No, I think we have to go all out
I think that this situation absolutely 
requires a really futile and stupid gesture
 be done on somebody's part! 
--Animal House (1978)

USAToday argued this week that the expensive MRAPS (Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicles) have saved far fewer troop's lives than reported by the Pentagon -- perhaps 2,000 to the military's estimate of 40,000. The Pentagon stated that classified data was unavailable to the author of a Foreign Affairs study which gave the lower figure.

Rather than quibble over a few tens of thousands of lives, the question actually is: Why are our troops tooling around in these death traps at all?

An MRAP, contrary to popular belief, is NOT a combat vehicle; it is just a big truck, up-armored to resist blast damage.  The same is true of the Humvee which it replaced (which replaced the Jeep) -- these are troop-transport or mobility vehicles.  No one would expose either the Humvee or the MRAP to enemy direct fire weapons except in extreme circumstances, yet somehow they have become fixed in American minds much as the horse was for the mounted gunfighter.

The misconception probably began when the TOW anti-tank system was mounted on the Humvee.  This resulted from the MP Corps insistence that they could fight the RAP (Rear Area Protection) battles by killing tanks in the rear.  (Of course, no one explained how enemy tanks could get into the rear without the front either collapsing or contracting.)

This Corps scenario conventional thinking miraculously regenerated in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) when United States Forces deployed Humvees as road-cruising vehicle in threat environments.  The battlefield with clearly-defined boundaries was dismissed as a doctrinal concept, and vehicles were employed as they were never intended.  "Combat" became road-running and detonating Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and hoping to escape the ensuing explosion with the minimum bomb damage.

The question not asked: How or why can armored trucks win an insurgency war?  Why are U.S. forces tasked with this basic support function of keeping the roads open?  Why doesn't the Host Nation secure its own borders?  Why are U.S. soldiers running a daily gauntlet?

The Pentagon has spent $45 billion on MRAPs since 2007, a price tag criticized recently in an article in Foreign Affairs, the magazine published by the Council on Foreign Relations. The trucks do not perform significantly better than Humvees, the cheaper vehicle they replaced, according to the article's authors, who based their findings on Pentagon data.

Former Defense secretary Robert Gates said in a statement to USA TODAY that it was impossible for anybody, including the authors of the article, to determine how many lives had been saved by MRAPs (Tally of Lives Saved by MRAPs Lower).

The discussion over cost and effectiveness of MRAPs versus Humvees is a distraction from the essential question which is: What will troops so engaged accomplish?  

The insurgents -- who have now been re-tagged as "gunmen" in the media, neatly conflating their actions with every other gunslinger out there -- will adapt their tactics to neutralize the MRAP's capabilities, like moving their operations to rough terrain disallowing MRAPs from traversing the terrain.

The Pentagon disputed the article's findings, saying classified data unavailable to the article's authors prove the safety of the vehicles used in Afghanistan. In July 2009, Gates ordered more MRAPs to Afghanistan, including 5,200 of a new MRAP variant specifically designed for Afghanistan called the M-ATV.

Why offer MRAPs and M-ATVs to the Afghanis when they lack the logistical and mechanical capability to sustain the vehicle?  Why is this data classified?  Surely the enemy cannot use these statistics as a battlefield tool.

The U.S. has the best airlift capability, a plethora or support and supply and our weapons systems are the most sophisticated  ever seen on the battlefield.  But we will still lose, regardless of the superiority in materiel.  Money and sophistication will not trump the advantage of a people wearing shower shoes and toting AK-47s on Vespas.

It is their country, a fact that MRAPs nor any of its next generation can alter. 

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Coming off the Mountain

 You can't be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you're thinking that
you're leaving there too soon 
--Sugar Mountain, Neil Young

Oh I'm bound to go
Where there ain't no snow
Where the rain don't fall
The winds don't blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
--Big Rock Candy Mountain
Harry McClintock

We are bidding adieu to Avery County tomorrow, the cool air has provided welcome respite.  Some sundry observations:

--The pool at our lodge played reggae at the pool Tiki bar on an almost continuous loop.  The Tiki bar was somewhat dissonant in the heart of dulcimer and mando folk music, until I looked up into the mountains and thought of Jamaica. Save for the entire milieu and demographics, I might have been in the Blue Mountains; just close your eyes and imagine.

--The local Sugar Mountain featured another odd music festival last weekend featuring dub and crunk, and the aficionados were young mostly white people sporting dreads and pjs, nuevo-Deadheads, we guess.  Ranger sang "Sugar Mountain", Neil Young's song about the need for young people to grow up.  These dub-heads did not appear to be leaving the "mountain" anytime soon, an interesting and somewhat ubiquitous phenomenon of arrested development amongst a contingent of today's youth, supported by entitled Baby Boom parents.

Lastly, dinner tonight at the lovely farm-to-table the Frog and Monkey.  Ranger unfortunately informed the gentle waiter what the crude term "RCH" meant, and asked him if he had been in the service. "No, sir, they wouldn't want me," which met with the retort, "They took me!"

Finally, come dessert time, the chap tried to entice with, among other properties, a cupcake.  Mind you, it is not an adult food, and Sex and the City is probably to fault for the ubiquity of this piffle.  Came Ranger's vociferous reply, "You couldn't PAY me to eat a cupcake!"

"No, sir -- I wouldn't think of it," and the sun began to set on old Appalachian mountains.

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Monday, August 13, 2012


 Okay, then give me the cheese sandwich 
without the cheese 
--Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina
in the morning   
--Carolina in the Morning, Al Jolson

RAW has yet to ramp up to "provocative", so another slice of a day in the life.  Since we're culinary, geological, sociological and architectural travelers, today: food.

Traveling anywhere that Whole Foods is an unknown quantity rarely bodes well.  We conceived of the idea of a "Resto Red Cross Kit" for getting over the hump: Turbinado sugar; butter, HFCS-free preserves, Half-and-Half tubs, honey packets.  It is not that we are food snobs, it is just that the weight of poor food options is overwhelming many places.  A saving grace is finding an Ingles market along the way; often, it is Bi-Lo and Dollar Stores.

Today, the lunch special was soup and grilled cheese sandwich.  We both ordered the same, but Ranger wanted toast with his soup, only.  He was charged more for his indiscretion. I recommended he pull a Nicholson and order the special, but hold the cheese; he demurred.  He is inexplicably retiring at times.

Evening provided its own special sort of awe.  Resort areas often try and clip the rubes -- no surprise there.  But we had scored an honest freebie: Free desserts at The Painted Fish Cafe in the Sugarfoot Shops in Sugar Mountain, N.C.  Delighted to use the free dessert coupons -- "one per entree" -- we indulged in something we rarely do: Two desserts.  Why not ... free, no?  Sadly, not when the rubber hit the road.

Owner Tom Jancovics decided that the coupons (available widely throughout the area) had been "misprinted"; he did not actually mean one per entree (as stated), but merely one per TABLE.  Helpfully, Lisa offered to split the bill to more closely approximate the clearly stated promise on the coupons.  Unfortunately no, Mr. Jancovics could not find it in his restaurateur heart to honor his coupon. 

(Embarrassingly, he had a stack of the coupon booklets outside of his resto and had razored page 49 (his coupon) out of each!  Tsk, tsk, Mr. J -- that's not cricket!)

Sorry Mr. Jancovics, you get two big thumbs down for propriety.  You are on RangerAgainstWar's less-than-impressed list.  The quality of your food is for naught; if the entire experience is not good, it is not good.  In addition, what good resto serves a cheesecake made with Krispy Kreme doughnuts?  What kind of poverty of imagination is that?

The Painted Fish stinks.

Tomorrow is another day in the North Carolinian highlands.

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

On the Road

 --Workmen on precarious improvised foam-ladder support,
somewhere in Asheville
And it seems like it goes on like this forever
You must forgive me
If I'm up and goin' to Carolina in my mind   
--Carolina on My Mind, James Taylor

[Sorry ... we have been laggards; no excuses.  We will begin some posts of substance after THIS weekend, promise.  This is just to update you, 
--the amaneunsis.]

RAW has made it through N. Georgia none the worse for wear.  All hopes of non-fried veggies, and ANY veggies besides overcooked greens beans, mashed potatoes and okra cast aside long ago.  We bade Bogger Hollow and its "fried pork fat" breakfasts goodbye (fried pork fat being "bacon + 1", we imagine.)


Current stop: Asheville, if only for the farm-to-table ethos and microbreweries.  Think of it as a very mini Portland -- the only one in the Southeast, really.  {Above is the board at Early Girl -- it is so gratifying to see grain and seed pancakes with real maple syrup -- no more Martha White wallpaper paste.}  For us coming from The Swamp, it is a relief to enjoy creative breakfasts that veer from eggs + meat.  The dress is retro-Haight-Ahbury-meets-hillbilly: dresses (ladies and some men), leg tats and boots, Frye And otherwise.
Here is Jim enjoying breakfast at Early Girl, and a typical look, which is to say, staring at the waitresses, um, garb, while being spoken to.  There is another photo which is more typical and may be posted later.  Below is the daily food board at "Homegrown", a local favorite.

 --Lisa on Wall Street, N.C.-style

 These are the small happenings of a day in Asheville: Jim engages the next table, from Ireland, in a discussion of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), saying he likes the group.  Startled, the young man says, "Ah, you must like their tactics."  After engaging them for 10 minutes at 8 a.m. on the topic of terrorism, Lisa suggests we let the lovely people enjoy their vittles.

Stopping at a thrift store benefiting breast cancer research, Jim asks the women if they will discount a jock strap as he has only one testicle.  They fail to find any humor and charge him full price.  Lisa enjoys an apple strudel at the "European Bakery", a hole in the wall which is surprisingly good.

We are off to Jack in the Woods Pub for some bluegrass (when in Rome ...).  There's a Doc Watson retrospective this weekend.  Saturday is annual "Wood Day" featuring, well, people who work with wood. Banner Elk next, then West Virginia to experience some hollers.  Like I say, real thinking coming up ...


Saturday, August 04, 2012

Out on the Op - LP: 4 August Edition


Open season: What's on your mind?


Friday, August 03, 2012

The Pause That Refreshes

I'm so dry I'm spittin' cotton, 
--Bus Stop (1956) 

The cups that cheer 
but not inebriate 
--William Cowper

NOTE: RangerAgainstWar will not publish 'til next Monday.  RAW's "Out on the OP - LP" feature will be back for those seeking advice or wishing to share sundry thoughts.

It is beastly hot here in the swamp, a real swelter --  still 90 degrees at 9 p.m.  The moon even looked like it was melting. One survives on that abomination -- iced tea (but not the Southern sort, superaturated with sugar) -- and only has so much energy at such times, so we're taking a little break.  RAW will be taking it on the road next week, seeking a respite of even a few degrees.  We have lots of thoughts brewing, so please stick with us.

Meantime ...

"Cabana boy, could I get that Mojito, now?"

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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Unsafe at Any Speed

--Sea Battle, Kandinsky

On est à l’abri nulle part
(“there is no shelter anywhere”) 
--“Murder in a French Village”, 
Roger Cohen 

why, why, why, why start it over?
nothing was lost, everthing's free
i don't care how impossible it seems 
--Girlfriend is Better, Talking Heads

"to wear an improper expression on your face...;
was itself a punishable offense.
There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime..." 
--1984, George Orwell

I stay with Yahoo! because, like President Obama, I'm Old School, too. I just wanna send some data, sans bells and whistles. I was not much wooed by Gmail when it first arrived as "invitation only"; I do not need to be part of a club. When Blogger offered a truncated address to cut out the "Blogger", in order to make your site look like a paid custom one, I demurred. Why the pretense? I like being frugal and appreciate the free platform.

But Yahoo has been pressing me the last few days to upgrade to the new with the following come-on:

Yahoo! Mail is now even faster, safer, and easier to use. Yahoo! now automatically identifies items such as words, links, people, and subjects from your email to learn what matters to you so that we can deliver exciting new product features and relevant ads.
 Before you can access Yahoo! Mail, we need your consent to our new Terms of Service and the Yahoo! Mail Privacy Policy. Learn more about how we protect your privacy.

So Yahoo! will now rifle through my private correspondence to "identif(y) items such as words, links, people, and subjects from your email to learn what matters to you" and pimp it to advertisers and god knows who else, AND will "protect (my) privacy". These two agendas are at loggerheads, nu?

Motto of the 21st century: Stop making sense.

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