RANGER AGAINST WAR: December 2013 <

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mano a Mano

{Look for the 3rd and final installment of the brew-ha-ha, "Duck Trois Gras," next}

Today: Mandela, in Perspective

 --Mbeki, Mandela, Tutu, 
Rainer Hachfeld (Neues Deutschland) 

 We have now sunk to a depth at which
restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men
--George Orwell

Recently deceased South African activist Nelson Mandela was revered by many as a person who shifted a society away from apartheid, a repressive policy of racial separation. Mandela spent 27 years in prison based upon the fact that he founded, supervised and led the guerrilla wing of the African National Congress (ANC) movement, Umkhonto we Sizwe (abbreviated "MK"), translated as "Spear of the Nation".

Mandela was given a life sentence for his direct involvement in bombing campaigns, among other forms of terror and violence. The Mandela that emerged to be lionized by the West was this former Communist who grew capitalist spots.

Mandela was a bomber, a favored activity of terrorists and militants as it is cheap and effective, creating terror due to its spectacularly violent, random and indiscriminate nature. Onto the kindly-looking elder statesman Mandela it is easy to project the myth of the long-suffering inmate, but this image belies the other Mandela (South Africa in the Shadows.)

Our relationship with terrorists is ambivalent. While we choose not to negotiate with them, we do accept them as world leaders. Why were they bad then, and good now? Are there good terrorists and bad ones, and where is the dividing line?

In an absolute sense, if terrorism is "evil", then time does not ameliorate that evil. An evil act remains so in perpetuity. Good does not emerge from evil -- is this not the basis of western legal thought?

Are we willing to see someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) as a freedom fighter, versus a terrorist? For surely as god made little green apples, he is that to his acolytes.

When terrorists used airplanes as bombs and attacked the World Trade Center, the U.S. began 12 years of continuous warfare resulting in an unknown number of casualties. History has shown that Mandela was an existential threat to the continued existence of South Africa, while the al Qaeda threat to America was a pinprick, in comparison. Yet which nation reacted in a more tempered manner to its threat?

The United States sentenced Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to death and terminated him for roughly the same type of activity for which Mandela served 27 years. PVT Manning has been delivered a 35-year sentence, eight years more than Mandela received.

Was Manning's threat to the existence of the U.S. as significant and effective as that of Mandela's to S.A.?

The facts:
  • Manning was not involved in espionage, nor did he work for a worldwide Communist or terrorist organization (as did Mandela)
  • Manning never used violence
  • Manning was not dedicated to the destruction or overthrow of the U.S. government. His actions were not tactically or strategically significant

In Ranger's opinion, Manning was railroaded in comparison to Mandela, who received a fair trial. So how do Americans justify calling Mandela a "symbol of Freedom" while throwing Manning into a black hole for 35 years?

Did Manning receive a fair trial, or has our justice system been subverted by trumped-up security concerns posing as justice? The 35-year sentence (which was noted as being "light") is Kafkaesque, while the whitewashing of Mandela as Ghandi-esque freedom fighter is like something out of a DC Comic story line.

Mandela's conviction was proportional to his crimes, while Manning's was not, and it was the result of a punitive show trial. Manning will never be a hero of mythic status. If a society is known by its enemies, we chose a poor example with Manning.

Further, how did Mandela, Sadat, Begin, Gerry Adams and before them, myriad Nazis transform themselves by entering the historical dry cleaners, emerging as clean world leaders? Where and when is the pivot point at which terrorists become no longer terrorists? Or is it that our memory is short, or that we no longer care?

In an absolute sense, if terrorism is "evil", then time does not ameliorate that evil. An evil act remains so in perpetuity. Good does not emerge from evil -- is this not the basis of western legal thought?

When U.S. national leaders praise a futile Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) while concomitantly praising a terrorist like Mandela, perhaps it is time to reevaluate our policies and practices vis a vis terrorism.

[cross-posted @ milpub]

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Nigger Jim

--A young CPT Jim, 
who thought he'd always have a seat at the table

Here was a free nigger there from Ohio --
a mulatter, most as white as a white man 
--The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 
Mark Twain

Stalag 13, Part Two: Nigger Jim

RAW reader "tw" asked why Ranger would even care to belong to the American Legion (Stalag 13). Simple: because their congressionally-mandated charter assures him a seat at the table. The Executive Committee's rejection of Ranger's petition for membership is denying him his civil liberties.

Following the Legion's refusal of Ranger's application, he asked his attorney if he had any legal recourse; the attorney demurred. Ranger then wondered if his protest was petty, and it was only after discussing the issue with others that he realized his desire to press the issue was entirely appropriate. (The attorney is a good old boy not wanting to upset the apple cart.)

The point of the exercise is that of the 1950's and 60's Freedom Riders. Ranger's petition for membership is equivalent to that of a negro sitting at the lunch counter of a 1963 Birmingham, Alabama soda shop. He is the Little Rock Nine against Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus. He is Rosa Parks refusing to sit at the back of the Montgomery bus. He paid for his ticket.

Whether the people who constitute its membership are largely out of step with his beliefs is not the issue. Whether he wants to sit and drink with them is not the issue. He does not have to like them, nor they, he. The point of a Democracy is that all have equal access and opportunity in the municipal realm. Additionally, that is the only way for ideas to evolve and fraternity to have any hope of flowering: by the abutting of conflicting views in a neutral, respectful setting.

The Legion is congressionally-chartered as a fraternal organization which welcomes all who qualify into its meeting halls. There is not a separate American Legion for disgruntled vets who feel their government has shafted them. There is no "American Legion for Embittered, Screwed Up Vietnam Vets," and one for the happy sots. There is only the one, who's strength can only be had in true fellowship and acceptance. There is no room for acceptance based upon murky liturgical guidance; we have the rule of law to ensure equality for all. Not separate but equal, as Plessy v. Ferguson decided. There is no such animal.

If the Legion is not admitting eligible veterans on the basis of their beliefs, then it is operating in contravention of its charter. If it turns away a needy vet with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) who might then find himself hanging, his blood will be on their hands, for while they are not a medical organization the brotherhood and guidance they are tasked with providing could be a lifesaver, but only if the life raft admits all.

The American Legion, like so many groups in The United States, has lost its way by operating in an emotional and irrational manner, contrary to its mission. The Legion, like our government, has subverted the foundations of democratic thought. It adopted the exclusionary motto "For God and Country" in McCarthy's 1950's, in reaction to the feared godless menace of Communism, forgetting the basis of our Democracy is separation of Church and State. That separation ensures both freedom of religion, as well as freedom from it.

The Executive Committee of American Legion Post #13 is behaving like the Comintern. Ranger thinks the majority of the Legion members would be appalled by their exclusionary actions, or at least, he hopes so. He was good enough to offer his mind and body for his country and fellows, but not good enough to sit with them as a civilian.

This is not the end of the story.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ducks, Redux

--Prefer your hunters look like Fernando Fernandez?
by Leonard Nones, GQ (1968)

I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, 
with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition,
and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.
--W. T. Sherman, Major-General

Now I don't mind choppin' wood,
and I don't care if the money's no good
Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest
But they should never have taken the very best 
--The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, The Band

~“Officers, what offence have these men done?
~Marry, sir, they have committed false report;
moreover, they have spoken untruths;
secondarily, they are slanders;
sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; 
thirdly, they have verified unjust things;
and, to conclude, they are lying knaves. 
--Much Ado About Nothing; William Shakespeare

How embarrassing, predictable and perfectly-scripted is the outrage to the religious and social comments voiced by a character (Mr. Robertson) on the Duck t.v. program. If you played any part in this, you are being manipulated and are perfect pawns of the power brokers. Your outrage to an imagined offense is energy dissipated.

Not that this silly t.v. episode is of any import, save for the fact it shows the hatred, derision and bigotry which has riven our nation.

The producer's shameless manipulation in their construction of the Ducks (=Robertsons) as god-fearin' is a way to conduct a free Nielson-type survey. They -- whoever they are -- are gauging your tolerance for the exercise of your freedoms. Predictably, the good liberals are howling with disdain for the Duck brand of Christianity, which is to say, Christianity. They are persecuting the "dynasty" in their own bloodless and craven way.

Do you want to reform Christianity? Send the Ducks to a re-education camp? If so, what side of history are you on? Are you shocked and awed that Christianity is so judgmental? Outraged? Did you not know that Christian dogma rejects homosexuality, and that this is why a church wedding service for gays makes no sense? Are you Christian and finding yourself drawing into fellowship with these erstaz t.v. bumpkins by necessity?

Do you believe in the Constitution, and find your mouth agape at the insanity of the virtual lynch mob of the supposed best-and-brightest, the compassionate liberals, who are tripping over themselves to show their intolerance and distrust of their own constitutional rights?

The furore which erupted in the liberal commentariat, the palpable anger and hatred towards the actor, a stereotypical redneck, is ridiculous. Hatred is hatred -- it is absolute, and there is no "good" form. It is corrosive to fraternity and cannot survive a genuine impulse to brotherhood, which is the thing we most lack today.

The producers of the Duck program are forcing and revealing your bigotry to you. Is every effort by a white man to express his experience with a black person, without genuflecting, to be condemned? If so, kiss your democracy goodbye. 

What part of freedom of speech and religion is too unpalatable to the mostly white liberals? From whence this white liberal fear and anger, and why the thought that muzzling one's non-hate free speech is the way to a better society? The liberals chomping at the bit to curtail and discredit this character's speech wish to trample our Constitution as badly as do the neo-Cons. 

Our collective movement seems to span the small metronomic arc of a couple of thousand years (if that), and we are now back to persecuting Christians. It all looks very familiar, and we are not past our bloody-minded urges. The bible is the guidebook for Christians, and it proclaims, "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" (Leviticus 18:22) That's simple and clear. Now, you can deride those you think gulls who believe it's the word of God, but for them, it is.

The nice thing about our separation of Church and State is that one may believe or not, and the State may not intrude into that realm. (Separate is that fact that in a democratic society gay couples in civil partnership deserve all benefits accruing to any legal domestic partnership. You may think Chrisianity is old-fashioned, but most other faith systems aside from from Islam, Baha'i, Mormonism, Urantianism are even older. If you're a totemist, wiccan, pagan, polytheist, polyandrist, etc., you're beliefs are even more antiquated than those of Christians.)

If you're in a persecutorial mode, you can find succor with like minds in The Inquisition and the Joe McCarthy trials, but please do not fancy yourselves enlightened or democratic. What has you in a lather is not hate speech, but the personal views of a member of your society voiced on a television program.

If you are railing against this t.v. character's views on anything (religion, race relations -- anything), you are drawing into a safe community of like-minded bigots who would seek to curb another's speech and try him in the court of public opinion (never a reliable inquisitor.) Who are you to label someone as a cad, fool or liar? Worse yet, a t.v. persona, an unreal thing.

Why does the liberal commentariat feel it is their obligation to protest a white man's declaration that he worked in the fields with black men and did not see his black co-workers singled out for mistreatment? In the quote, Mr. Duck did not use a racial expletive when speaking of his experience ("I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once"), yet the liberals are on him like hyenas (much to the delight of the program producers.) The unenlightened arrogance is unsavory. 

This is the vitriol that creates a polarized society. In the past several years, I have seen Baptist friends who were once proud of and involved with their society's move to inclusivity now too drawing in amongst their own, feeling the burn of marginalization which the Tea Party and their too-ready liberal antagonists fan.

We have lived through ten years of war. Try and let go your anger as a gift to yourself, your country and your world.

I am loathe to call myself "liberal" against such a wave of fetid and naked bigotry.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, December 23, 2013

Walks Like a Duck

 --graphic from RAW friend Alan Cring 

Because you can’t starve us out
And you can't makes us run
Cuz we're them old boys raised on shotgun
And we say grace and we say Ma’am
And if you ain’t into that we don’t give a damn 
--Country Boy Can Survive, Hank Williams, Jr. 

Everything represented in the media comes with spin engineered to make the viewer feel one of the basic emotions (sad/mad/happy). Concomitant with this is the catharsis achieved by feeling like one is among the elect for understanding and identifying with the right side (the side to which one chooses to cleave.)

What masquerades as debate today erupted this week over a television character's opinion that homosexuality was disordered behavior, akin to bestiality. The media feigned at being aghast, stating that this point of view was "un-Christian". 

Sadly, no: In fact Mr. Duck was echoing exactly the Christian party line. In fact, it forms one of the pillars of belief in our main faith system in the United States. The problem is, proclaiming one is anti-homosexual is a bit embarrassing today when government agencies are recognizing homosexual partnerships as being a valid route to conferring employment benefits and inheritance. It is a bit démodé, quaint, to be polite.

The offending character was the patriarch of the Robinson family, a redneck family represented by a group of ZZ Top look-alikes who supposedly represent the Tea Party archetype in rural America. To some, they are subjects of derision, others doubt their veracity. Still others identify with them, and find kinship with their guns-and-god stance. Why did some t.v. executive feel these American Taliban look-alikes would make for good programming?

Further, why does anyone watch this? Is this a subtle joke, reflecting America's zealotry and in this way, kinship with the Taliban, back at us? (That seems too subtle a project.) Is it a bone thrown out to the marginalized backwoods of America, egging them on to be just who they are, then flogging them when it seems appropriate to do so? 

Is this spectacle a cultural expiation on a grand scale? Is wearing Mossy Oak tree bark the new scarlet "A"? In a theatrical biblical flogging, Mr. Duck the elder has been banished from his eponymous program -- ostracism and scapegoating for the new American project.

Whatever the Ducks are, the patriarch exactly voiced not just Right-wing zealotry when he disparaged homosexuality, but in fact the stance of mainline Christianity vis-a-vis homosexuality. As the late Christopher Hitchens wrote, you either are or you aren't. Cafeteria Christianity is no Christianity at all. 

The text for Christians, the bible, is clear in its stance against homosexuality. Therefore -- why would someone be ostracized for being Christian? Or are we so hypocritical that we hold these views, but may not voice them? Does constitutional freedom of speech no longer cover freedom of speech and religion?

Just last week it was reported that a Presbyterian minister was defrocked for wedding his gay son to his male lover. Show me the mainstream Christian church that marries gay couples and I will agree that Mr. Duck Sr. is being un-Christian. Until that day, he is being exactly Christian, and being ridiculed for it. Were he in a Brooks Brothers suit at the Washington National Cathedral, no one would bat an eye. 

New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz hops on by writing in his fake story, "Scalia Calls 'Duck Dynasty' Decision Unconstitutional": 

He warned that the suspension of the "Duck" star would have a "chilling effect" on freedom of speech in America: "If Phil Robertson can be muzzled for expressing this perfectly legitimate view, what's to prevent the same thing from happening to, say, a Justice of the Supreme Court?

But Borowitz's attempt at satire is not. Mr. Robertson's "perfectly legitimate view" is not only that, but it is the raison d'etre for his hiring by A & E, and the exercise of those American rights which he is supposed to embody (free speech and religion).

It is completely disingenuous to feign disdain over his doctrinal thinking. It's a travesty for the media to yank us about, and for us to spend time doing anything but feeling disgust for the tripe we are mainlined on network t.v.

U.S.A. -- Ducks are us.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A License to Kill

--Bring out your dead!
 --Here's one
--(feebly) I'm not dead!
--Well... he will be soon-- he's very ill 
--Monty Python and the Holy Grail 
He said, "Call the doctor. I think I'm gonna crash."
"The doctor say he's comin', but you gotta pay him cash" 
--Life in the Fast Lane, The Eagles

Back in 2001 the United States began a Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) motivated by the death of 3,000 people in a terrorist criminal attack. The response was a flawed logic which called for a military response to a civil criminal action.

At the end of 2013, The Week published a precis that almost half a million people die needlessly in U.S. hospitals annually:

The third leading cause of death
About 440,000 people die as a result of preventable error in U.S. hospitals every year, a new study in the Journal of Patient Safety found. That means one in six deaths can be attributed to mistakes in hospitals, making them the third-leading cause of death.

Why do we get all squidgy over 3,000 deaths yet accept this murderous travesty, marching on like Rangers with their faces to the icy wind. Using PWOT© logic, we should bomb hospitals, kidnap doctors off the street and torture them in dark site prisons. (Tangentially, this could provide the basis for a new dark side version of Scrubs.) But what should we do about this rampant medical incompetence?

We also get emotional about gun control and the ~30,000 annual gun deaths, but this is paltry compared to the negligent medical deaths, deaths for which we pay (though under the impression we would get to live after forking out the bucks.) Of course, deaths by medical error are nothing new, ditto gun deaths.

Why do we ignore some deaths while accepting others? Drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria, deficient medical procedure, drunk, aggressive and distracted drivers and unsanitarily raised and slaughtered meat are all more present and dangerous threats to our nation than terrorism. Why does militarizing the least threat comfort us while the manifold daily actual threats get short shrift?

We shunt funding from agencies which could address these actual real-life killers while accepting the diversion of our attentions to foreign endeavors which will never deliver safety here at home. Why?

In Vietnam the soldiers would alternately say of their posting, "This is nowhere, man" or, "This is Disneyland." How prescient that dismissive workingman observation of their confusing situation in Southeast Asia would turn out to be for America, 2013.

This is Disneyworld.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stalag 13

--Capt. Hruska and LTC Minh, 
showing respect in Vietnam, 1970

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you 
--Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen 

Every revolution evaporates
and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy 
--The Castle, Franz Kafka

The last time we mixed politics with religion,
people got burned at the stake 
--seen on a bumper sticker 

Ranger has hesitated to write this as the subject is so repugnant to him. This is an effort to disgorge the offense.

Background: The American Legion is a congressionally-mandated fraternal organization created in 1919 and tasked with providing fellowship and counsel (when needed) to veterans. "To cement the ties and comradeship born of service; to consecrate the efforts of its members to mutual helpfulness and service to their country." Membership is open to anyone who served in the Armed Forces during a wartime period.

Anyone except Ranger it seems, for his local American Legion Post #13 refused his application for membership, despite the fact that he meets all requirements for membership.

His application was rejected by the Executive Committee, a subset whose actions are not vetted by the membership at-large; no formal rejection letter was provided. The Sergeant-at-Arms (James Steele) simply returned his application and dues, with no action taken. He said the Committee had determined that Ranger was UNPATRIOTIC.

Members have suggested to him that he was black-listed because he writes a liberal-leaning blog, which is to say a thinking blog which toes NO party line. In today's America, such a stance is not brooked and a veteran who does not hew to the conservative is seen as a Benedict Arnold.

Ranger is what the Congress chartered the American Legion to be: he is a non-partisan, true patriot. Yet his his anti-war stance resulted in his denial of Legion membership. Ranger feels the secretive actions of his American Legion post are corrosive, irrational and childlike -- surely not soldierly.

The executive committee -- whoever and whatever that body is -- has gravely offended the concept of veteran brotherhood and has acted in an exceptionally un-American and unpatriotic manner, in violation of their Congressional charter and contrary to their stated goal of 100% support of all things American.

The preamble to the American Legion's constitution states, "For God and country we associate ourselves ... to uphold the Constitution ... to foster and perpetuate a 100% Americanism ... to combat aristocracy .. to make right the master of might ... to promote goodwill ... to promote to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy."

Who upholds the Constitution with more vehemence than Ranger? His entire working life was in service to his country, first as a soldier then a government employee, both times subject to the laws based on our Constitution. An aristocrat he is not, and he aims to spread goodwill like Johnny Appleseed. Ranger's your man if you're looking for a crusader for justice, freedom and democracy -- even if he doesn't have an "S" on his chest.

But it seems the American Legion can only go so far with this "freedom" bit. As if to put the final nail in the coffin, Legion scuttlebutt is that Ranger crusades for the rights of gays to be in the military, and this is one point which earned him the irrevocable black spot. Word was that Ranger's blog ran a graphic of two Marines in pink undies (high apostasy, but also an untruth).

Beyond that, it may be distasteful to the N. FLA American Legion membership that Ranger does not cleave to any religious organization.

In fact, neither Ranger nor any American soldier raised their right hand and swore to defend anything but their country and its Constitution. He swore as a patriotic American to fulfill his duty to citizenship, and did so voluntarily, but God had no part in this equation. The military itself recognizes this by the fact that a soldier may list any religious belief on his dog tags, including "No Preference". God is a separate notion from Ranger's patriotic status, as the Constitution is a separate document from the bible, by design. There is no correlation between patriotism and religiosity.

The Legion has been hijacked by a god-fearing ideology, which taints its non-partisan stance. A group cannot be non-partisan while also hewing to a belief in a conservative god. The confluence of words like "patriotism" and "god" have corrupted our thinking, divided our nation and dismantled our fellowship.

Ranger for one feels that less godliness and more critical thinking would improve our lives, serving as a check on emotive institutional thought gone wild. If this desire for an inclusive and rational civil and political life makes Ranger unpatriotic, than we are certainly no longer "100% American".

Ranger is a free-thinker, champion of the equal rights of all citizens, and celebrates his American right to freedom from religious coercion -- a robust triumvirate of Americanism, something the American Legion claims to be all over (not).

This American Legion Post is violating its charter by using partisanship as an exclusionary device . In the U.S. government, an NGO may still not go rogue. American Legion Posts are subject to Congressional oversight to ensure they are fulfilling their charter.

American Legion Post #13 is not.

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 13, 2013

Apocalypse, New Jersey

  As her young man dies,
On a cold and gray Chicago morning,
Another little baby child is born
In the ghetto 
--In the Ghetto, Elvis Presley

Matt Taibbi has a good piece at Rolling Stone on societal degradation outside of the Rust Belt in his, "Apocalypse, New Jersey." Go read if you'd like to understand how a good portion of your fellow Americans live.
An excerpt:
Any reporter who's been embedded in Iraq or Afghanistan will find these scenes extremely familiar - high-speed engagements backed by top-end surveillance technology, watched by crowds whose reactions range from bemusement to rage to eye-rolling disappointment. 
In that latter category is Bryan Morton, a fortysomething community leader of sorts who still lives in the North Camden house where he was born. Morton went away in his youth for eight and a half years for armed robbery and drug dealing, got out, went straight, got his college degree, worked for years running local re-entry programs, founded a North Camden Little League, and had things looking up for himself, before he was laid off last May. Fortunately, he'd bought a food cart six years before that, which he left in his backyard as a backup plan; he now drives across town before dawn every day, setting up next to the McDonald's in Camden's pinhead-size "downtown."
.  .  .

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Paeans to the Peons

What I learned is the four basic needs—
food, house, clothes and medicine—
must be cheap and easy for everybody. 
That's the civilization. 
But if we make these four things hard for people to get, 
that's uncivilized. 
 So I feel like now is the most uncivilized era
of humans on this earth 
 --Life is easy. Why do we make it so hard?, 
 Jon Jandai  

Their world didn't allow them to take things easily,
didn't allow them to be sane, virtuous, happy.  
--Brave New World, Aldous Huxley


How does this sort of thing strike you? Take the Crate and Barrel Holiday Gift Guide 2013:

Page 21 features the "Alpaca Animal Ornament" suite, featuring a "Chubby Schnauzer Dog," "Chubby Husky Dog," a "Jailbird Penguin" and "Winter Cow with Scarf", hand-knit by peasant women in the Lake Titicaca region of Peru, "empowering the crafters to earn a sustainable income to provide their families with food, shelter and healthcare."  

That would be what we call "subsistence level", and doubtfully most of the crafters are "chubby" or own chubby animals. But we are and do, and can afford to hang little sweater representatives of our ampleness from our trees (or possibly from the faux-tree triangular structures they also sell.)

Below the fat animals are a set of skeletal euphemistically-named, dark-skinned "Natural Fiber Bicyclists" made by "small family groups of artisans" also trying to "earn a sustainable living," i.e., genuine Skinnies in Kenya. Ironic, no? But thanks to our largess and holiday desires for bright and shiny things, some Mexicans, Peruvians and Indians can stave off food insufficiency for awhile.

Also odd is the car featured alternately carrying a tree or wrapped boxes -- what appears to be an early 60's Studebaker Lark. What does this nostalgia say about festivities in 2013? Is something missing when Black Friday shopping is conducted on Thanksgiving Day?

And then there are the children's play shelters featured in CB's sister catalog, The Land of Nod. The "A Teepee to Call Your Own" at $159 (see below) costs more than the cardboard homes of many who live on the street in Bangalore or any other blighted city, and probably outstrips the annual income for many who live there.

What is interesting is that the "artisans" creating the work featured in many hipster catalogs like CB2 are either endlessly reproduced "reproductions" of someone else's design, or they are manufactured by denizens of women's shelters or prisons, or are the result of some effort by a blighted member of a Varying Disabilities school population. 

Is this the legacy of Ruby the Painting Elephant, or Warhol's elevation of the mundane to art status? Is it the manifestation of Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"?

In any event, while we apotheosize the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) industries, it seems we are outsourcing our art or marketing bright scribbles packaged by those who handle the unfortunates who "create" it (the wardens, special ed teachers, etc.) Not that what Rothko or Lichtenstein did was much different, but they got paid well for it.

The New York Times asked in a recent editorial if the age of Liberal Arts education was over. Florida's Governor Rick Scott convened a task force last year recommending that students majoring in liberal arts and social sciences should pay higher tuition fees, arguing they were “nonstrategic disciplines” (Humanities Studies Under Strain Around the Globe). 

A liberal Arts education will not guarantee great art or literature, but it can provide the fodder out of which such things grow. Without that, see the holiday catalogs of Crate and Barrel and CB2 for a glimpse of your future in art and design: gaudy, garish and bright. All gash, no flash.

Don't get me wrong: bright and colorful can be wonderful. But the artists who design and create these works of art should be remunerated accordingly, and there should a place in society for them so that they may live above the subsistence level Crate and Barrel crows about.

With governors like Rick Scott that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

NEXT: Ranger's outrageous rejection by the American Legion

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, December 06, 2013

Eyes Wide Open

Never underestimate the difficulty
of changing false beliefs by facts
--economist Henry Rosovsky

 An electric light is a nocturnal joy to an honest man,
but a scarecrow to a thief   
--Proceedings of the National Electric Light Assn.

The U.S. is in negotiations with Afghan President Karzai (he of the very cool yak cap and silk cape, the Afghan mafioso uniform) to extend the presence of United States troops in his country through 2024.

For this privilege, the U.S. is willing to pay for the upkeep, maintenance, equipage, training and provisions for the Afghan National Security forces. (Sorry, Detroit, it's not your day.) In return, we get the right to kill Al Qaida members in that country.

This is a sucker deal for the U.S. which serves neither the security interests of the U.S. or the burgeoning and dire needs of our own society.

The U.S. will support the security forces of arguably the most corrupt nation in the world ©, while here in America we have cut federal funds for domestic food stamp programs and our citizens go homeless, cold and hungry, stuck in a cycle of poverty which capitalism aids and abets. They are given Medicaid, while few doctors will accept the coverage.

This is called the sunk cost fallacy which any freshman logic or economics class will tell you, is a losing proposition.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Patsies Are Us

Boring damned people. All over the earth.
Propagating more boring damned people.
What a horror show. The earth swarmed with them
--Charles Bukowski

 In a mad world only the mad are sane
--Akira Kurosawa

 One likes to imagine institutions like the military have a file for "lessons learned", yet here we are approaching the 100th anniversary of WW I and the 72nd anniversary of the United States' entry into WW II, and what did we learn?

Today in the China Sea somewhere, the Chinese and Japanese have a controversy over a newly-declared air defense zone, and the U.S. military is sending its planes in defying China's request for notification. We should be mindful of the reasons we fought the Japs. Of course now the Japanese are our friends and protected by a treaty binding us to their defense.

And in Europe, the U.S. is bound to assist those nations by virtue of its membership in NATO. But why are we committed to the defense of places like Slovakia, Croatia, and all of those other non-essential states to the defense of the USA? Why do we care about defending other people -- especially when things are not exactly normal here in the U.S.?

Before agreeing to defend others on the other side of the world, should we not sort out the divisiveness here at home: over health care, domestic spying on our citizens, unemployment, hunger, education, infrastructure, pollution and petro addiction? How about our prison ovecrowding and the excessive criminalization of sectors of our society? Before we commit to defending Japan shouldn't we first tame our national budget?

Why rattle sabres when you cannot afford to draw them?

If we learned anything from World Wars I & II it is that entangling alliances and subsequent treaties do not prevent wars, but rather ensure that wars escalate as allies are drawn in rather than being kept to regional conflagrations. Why not return to a posture of neutrality in international relations as we lack the power to force our will upon the world?

The U.S. should not be wasting its precious resources fighting other people's fights, and then rebuilding them when they are done. They wouldn't do it for us.

Labels: , , ,