RANGER AGAINST WAR: January 2017 <

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Raveonettes

In the long run,
the greatest weapon of mass destruction
is stupidity.
--Thomas Sowell
We've all gone mad
--Network (1976)

A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives
and I decline 
--The End of the World As We Know It,

I saw the sign and it opened up my mind
And I am happy now living without you
I've left you
Oh, oh-oh-oh 
--The Sign,
Ace of Base 

Lisa's post-inaugural reflections:

I spectated, agog, this political season. It was all so clear, and for speaking my truth, I was given no quarter by the erstwhile victors.

Some people once close are still angry with me. Still I am not sure why, for I was just the camera.

I saw my society in decline, born of a toxic blend of technological savvy, arrogance and entitlement. No party had a monopoly on these traits, but the party which had historically laid claim to be the protectors of the downtrodden (the Democrats) came across as impossibly smug and dismissive of those downtrodden with whom they felt no kinship. 

It was hypocrisy of the highest order, and their tone-deafness lost them the election. The sorry inability of the entitled, erstwhile thinking, people in the Democratic camp to engage in a dialog about the phenomenon unfolding before them in plain sight was shocking. 

My observations of the deracinated in our midst was met with horror by those supposedly in the know. Except, they did not know. They engaged in a robust cognitive dissonance because the plight of some did not fit in with their perceptions of "neediest cases" -- their personal tokens.

Now-President Trump revealed us to ourselves. We are angry, clannish, disputatious, and worse. We think well of ourselves when we shed crocodile tears for the right minority, and belittle and dismiss those who do not further our insular paradigm, one which is usually constructed for and received by us fairly early in life.

Over the course of the election season, I began to feel shamed for thinking myself a liberal. These were not my people, and I was now one of the deracinated.

An edition of the New Yorker magazine filled with only Trump-derision cartoons (poor ones, at that) came from a place of audacious triumphalism and hauteur, as Ms. Clinton would surely -- simply had to -- win. Given.

Mrs. Clinton in her workaday Xanthippe shroud now infamously goaded Trump in a debate, "Will you accept the results of the election?" with the affect of a gladiator entering the arena. We had seen this posture before in her "veni, vedi, vici" speech in her capacity as stateswoman following the brutal assassination of Libyan President and former Time coverboy Muommer Gaddafy. 

In retrospect, it was a marvel of ineptitude, like bringing tomato aspic to a 2nd grade Valentine's Day party. 

It was shame-faced strong-arming, straight from the Mayor Daley or Boss Tweed Machine playbook. Just like in a banana republic, she had a token opponent (Jewish socialist Uncle Bernie) . . . but, not really. Just like them, she was the presumptive shoo-in. 

Pity for the (literally) poor sops who donated their often meager holdings to his campaign coffers and who still refuse to remove their "Bernie" bumper stickers (all while the machinations of the Clinton campaign moved to discredit him, another bit of soul rot for which she, and they, will have to atone.)

My marveling continues as I read the discredited New York Times daily trying to beat its swords into plowshares.

The NYT calls their advertising spiel ("50% off new subscriptions!") their "Inauguration campaign". A few, for your amusement, with following RAW editorial comment:

"True, original, independent, always" [well, not exactly "always".]
"The truth is what we do better" [and, we do lies even better!]
"Searching out truth is What We Do" [But, it is a "search and destroy" mission.]
"Discover the truth with us" [if you enjoy solipsism, we will make it up as we go.]
"Read news that values the truth" [Tautology. Shouldn't "the news" =  "the truth"?]
"Truth: it's vital to our democracy" [Maybe so, but we won't deliver it.]
"Finding truth matters" [But even if we find it, we will not give it to you.]
"Eager for the Facts?" [Then go someplace else to get them.]

"Original"? Yeah, in terms of being divorced from reality, much in the same way that a kindergartener's lollipop drawing is an original imaging of a tree. 

"Independent"? Ditto. Actually, blandly following the party line in their construction of reality is more to the truth. Writing with egg all over their face is the fact. 

Our salvation as a nation may come (hopefully) when people don't feel so comfortable in Plato's cave anymore. However, the comfort and addiction of one's personal social media ego feed make this increasingly unlikely.

Readers of The Times and other badly skewed outlets have the temerity to laugh at Rupert Murdoch, but the lot of 'em are no better. They are just crusaders for their particular brand of lie. This writer will scan it to keep current with The Agenda, but for the news? Nevermore.

There was a time when tabloids were tabloids, and newspapers delivered facts (yes, yes -- albeit, with a slant.) No more. Election season 2016 stuck a fork in that beast.

Many years ago, as crime began to take up its cruel residency in our neighborhood, my family (like many others) took flight from the D.C. suburbs to Florida. My father left the now-defunct Washington Star (D.C.'s then conservative answer to The Post) and needed a job in a poor hiring climate, so he interviewed with the National Enquirer (the wicked pleasure of conspiracy-theorists, pre-Internet.) 

He was offered the job, but warned that the burnout rate for creating outrageously false "news" was usually two years for bona fide newsmen. It seems that caveat no longer applies. The nuttier, the better. 

Barnum and Bailey Circus recently reported that they were closing shop. As co-founder P.T. Barnum presciently said, "there's a sucker born every minute." Someone will have to take up their torch for amusing that public, and that someone may as well be fake and painfully based media outlets like the once-trusted Times.

Who wants to be told he is a bastard every day of his life? And yet, that is the average liberal's posture towards the new President. Unremitting, arrogant and entitled, as ever.

If the "Not My President" crowd could see their project with the benefit of perspective, they would know that their stance is sort of adversarial, sort of disrespectful, of the schoolyard bully variety. Adult behavior, it's not. Reaching across the aisle, it is not.

The nasty behavior is, at best, explainable as "tit for tat". But the liberals should be better than that.

They have lost the moral high ground.

It does not bode well for a healthy democracy.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Gone Girl

You shall see things, wonderful to tell.
You shall see a... a cow...
on the roof of a cotton house.
And, oh, so many startlements.
--Oh Brother, Where Art Thou (2000)

There's something happening here.
And what it is ain't exactly clear
--For What It's Worth,
Buffalo Springfield

You got the cool conversation
on your high tech telephone
But you got one little problem, baby
--You Ain't Down Home,
Julie Roberts


A non-United States citizen friend recently said to me, "I don't think Trump or anyone can make American great again -- you all are too far gone." 

I pondered this while several images coalesced in my mind, much like Douglas Adams's holistic detective, Dirk Gently.

This morning while checking online for the whereabouts of the wayward soldier Bowe Bergdahl I stumbled upon a "fake news" story put out by a satirical news site claiming that he had been promoted on the order of President Obama (a "story" which nevertheless had to be de-bunked by Snopes.)

Satire is a pleasure when it is done well, as it often is by The Onion and Andy Borowitz (when he's not inhabiting the bottom of the anti-Trump rabbit hole), but the realm of parody is now merging with that of actual news. And the consumer either does not care about or cannot discern the difference.

If a story is one toke over the line, we excuse it and blame it on the requisite hyperbole of the news cycle. Worse, we embrace it to our bosom if it furthers the agenda of our fellow cave dwellers, offering a pale "mea culpa" when it becomes too burdensome to prop up any longer.

At an I-10 exchange yesterday, I saw a hitchhiker on the side of the road sitting on his pack, taking a selfie. Mind you, he looked pretty clean, healthy and young, and his gear gotten more at Urban Outfitters than dumpster diving. Nonetheless.

Crossing Tennessee Street in front of the university, all pedestrian heads were down in the familiar smartphone scroll pose. The only place on campus where heads are reliably up is on the soccer fields.What is so important, and why must we be endlessly amused by our ego feeds?

Then my mind traveled back in a patchwork fashion. I remembered the secretary at the defunct Yugoslav-American office telling me that what most left visiting professors stupefied was when they stood before an entire aisle of (mostly) sweetened breakfast cereals in the supermarket. How to choose, and why so many?

Later, a trip to Walgreens revealed four pages of laxatives, followed by three of proton-pump acid reflux inhibitors in their sales flyer. Yup, this was just the stuff on special. Perhaps this was indicative of all of the bilge and bile we hear and disseminate?

And then I recalled my first trip to the U.K.visiting a friend in humble Llandudno, Wales. I wanted to see a field trial, so went to the phone book to look up farmers. Pages of them. I also wanted to find rambling groups, and on the way to the "R's" stumbled upon "Psychologists".

Precisely three.

People were actively engaged in doing productive things, even if that was a serious group ramble. Not too much time to wallow in self-important misery.

The Hillary and Bernie people still can't get over the functioning of the U.S. democratic process.

Junk food and laxatives, anger and therapists. Was there a connection? Are we become a phlegmatic people? Back to the old "Ridge Runner" template? Do we all need a government-mandated Bromo seltzer regime?

Surely something is wrong here.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

The Little Things

History doesn’t repeat itself.
But it does rhyme
--Mark Twain

 And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
--Circle Game
Joni Mitchell

Team by team, reporters baffled,
trumped, tethered, cropped
Look at that low plane, fine, then
Uh oh, overflow, population, common group 
--It's the End of the World as We Know It,

Mr. Obama wasn't the funniest of Presidents, but he has a toothsome sense of the ironic.

Just a little rumination, on Inaugural Day 2017 (which you might not know about if you read the New York Times exclusively.)

Last September, the President feted 1968 Mexico City Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the White House. The athlete's Black Power salute in violation of the non-partisan International Olympic Committee charter was a shot heard round the world via television. It was also to be the seminal event of symbolic terrorism in the mid-20th century.

Prior to this event, terrorist's goals were more tactically-oriented. Violence before Mexico City was for violence's sake. After Mexico City, it grew increasingly symbolic and spectacular. Terrorist events became entertainment in the theatre and the society of the spectacle.

Smith's and Carlos's theatre inspired terrorist actions from that point forward. Not that the two Olympians killed anyone, themselves. Rather, they showed that massive attention could be garnered by enlisting the electronic media in the conspiracy to commit spectacle. Simply put: their action was a fountainhead of international terrorism.

The near result was the 1972 Summer Munich Olympics Massacre of Jewish athletes by Palestinian terrorist group Black September. Eleven Olympic team members were taken hostage and killed, with the (later revealed) complicity of members of the German police force.

Subsequent actions were also media sensations, often focusing on only one building, boat or other vehicle. They were framed for the camera, just as the Olympics winner's podium provided a frame and a set-up for the Smith-Carlos photo-grab.

The athletes were not standing in the grass, but elevated and arrested in motion, calling out for the perfect shot. (Catch me while you can in my static set up; I'd like to be on t..v. tonight.)

Historical examples abound, but the Lod Airport Massacre (1972), the Raid on Entebbe (1976), the Rome and Vienna airport incidents (1985) and the Achille Lauro hijacking (1985) are a few.

The Irish Republican Army's 1982 Hyde Park bombing which killed seven Blues and Royal's horses scored front pages above the fold internationally, but not for the 11 serviceman that were killed: it was for the horses (who held no passport). Murdered animals are always a gut punch, and this was a new and novel target.

TWA Flight 847 (1985) featured the body of a USN diver thrown onto the tarmac. But the iconic image of this hijacking -- a gun being held to a pilot's head, sticking out of the cockpit window -- was committed with an unloaded gun.

The hijacker stated he primarily wanted to be on television.

The 1968 Olympic protest spectacle differs little from ISIS instantaneous uploads of their violence in Iraq, France, Belgium or Australia. We are our own publicists in this day of the social media upload.

Both murderer, set designer and photog.

The drama and symbolism always trumps the action. In order not to become hackneyed, symbolic terrorist acts always require that each subsequent act has more shock power than its predecessor.

As our consumption grows ever more savvy, we demand increasingly outrageous spectacles to hold our gaze. It is perhaps not too simplistic to trace the origins of ISIS live Facebook feeds to the 1968 initial broadcasted transgression.

It took four years for terrorists to learn and operationalize the lesson, but a profusion of spectacular media events followed.

Operating from the principle of charity, it could be said that Mr. Obama acted from an intellectual scotoma, as the first visibly black President. Everyone from Henry Louis Gates to Rosa Parks had their moment in the sun during his presidency, in the callow effort to enforce a post-racial America.

But publicly honoring the Olympic "protest" lends credence to every subsequent video violation. Euroterror and Palestinian terror groups were informed by this first act of live defiance, and learned to coalesce and to harness the power of instantaneous international news coverage.

Smith and Carlos let the horse out of the barn. The West has been opposing the violence unleashed for the last 48 years. And we now commend them.

Just how stupid and clueless are we?

We guess it's good for giving the dispirited public something to fixate upon. We all like rehabilitation stories -- even when we must construct them for ourselves.

However, it would be wise to consider that one cannot in good faith be both for protests that germinate terror activities, and yet against terror activities. Or as the late George Carlin said, "Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity."

What have the last 25+ years been about? Confronting the escalating threat of terrorist activity rising out of the Middle East.

Concomitant with and responsible for the terrorist's success is their ability to saturate the media. Ditto for the ability of the media to saturate our minds, as we grow ever closer to the much ballyhooed convergence day when our minds coalesce with our devices.

Some celebrate this "brain opera", but we must be ever-vigilant in monitoring the conductors. How to keep the mind in control is becoming an exponentially greater challenge daily. The peddlers of fake news -- an oxymoron if ever there was one -- do not want to help you.

Living in America today is a little like inhabiting an M. C. Escher drawing, or traveling a Mobius strip.  Perhaps, Hieronymous Bosch's Purgatory is the more analogous scenario.

We supposedly fight terrorism, while smiling and nodding at two men who blazed the trail for terrorists to exploit public media.

Where does it come from and where does it go?

Just an interesting little thought on this morning of the swearing in of a new President.

--by Jim and Lisa

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Goodbye to You

Nothin' more to be said
Write me a letter instead
I don't mean to be cruel
But I'm finished with you
--Talk to Ya Later,
The Tubes 

You say yes, I say no
You say stop
and I say go go go 
--Hello, Goodbye,
The Beatles 

These last few weeks of holdin' on
The days are dull, the nights are long
Guess it's better to say
Goodbye to you 
--Goodbye to You,

Capping off an evening of inanity which passes as television news today was departing President Obama's Farewell Address to the nation from Chicago. It was a self-aggrandizing wrap on a lackluster two terms.

Mr. Obama proudly proclaimed that our lives as citizens matter, while inhabiting a podium in a city which he and anyone he knows and loves would not walk the streets sans Gestapo-like personal security details. Say it all you want, but the lives of those city's residents do not matter, not so much.

His boilerplate about how our soldiers, police and security apparatus have protected us from terrorist incidents drew hearty applause, but it is unproven. Mr. Obama was pitching woo over the murders of Osama bin Laden and thousands of terrorists, but the subjects of his kill orders were never near threats to the United States.

Those killings were merely convenient distractions, of the Wag the Dog variety.

The President cannot prove that his actions prevented terrorist attacks, and Ranger cannot prove his contention to the contrary. Neither Ranger nor Obama can prove that he is correct. Both positions, simply hypotheses without proof.

We here at RAW have maintained since 2005 that there have been no follow-on attacks because there are no operational terror assets capable of such actions here in the Homeland. The worst that we can expect are pin-prick attacks by pathetic losers wrongly portrayed as credible threats.

The President talked "democracy", while bragging of killing without trial and proof of guilt. Such actions are not democratic, and look suspiciously like those of the 9th century inhabited by crazed modern jihadists. Our leader is not a monarch wielding the power of life and death. Our Constitution says otherwise.

Ironically, this speech preempted a PBS special, "Super Weapons of the Third Reich". The coincidence provokes thought.

How do the U.S. drones unleashed on terror suspects differ from the V1 and V2 rockets used by the Nazis on the people of England? The U.S. Tomahawk missiles are direct descendants of these rockets. We launch them in the absence of declared war and on people outside the jurisdiction of our legal codes.

What the President did not say about democracy was that we hold detainees in a prison called Guantanamo, and that they are held without consideration of their being Prisoners of War (POW's) nor of their not having been convicted of any crime by any federal court.

One of Mr. Obama's feted election promises -- to dissolve GITMO, remains unfulfilled. 40 prisoners remain held in this legal limbo inflicted upon enemy combatants, our term for what the international community calls POW's.

Mr. Obama was elected on a platform of "hope" and "change", a counter-balance to the legal breeches of his predecessor. As he departs for his new $5 million D.C. digs (yes, the Obama's are leasing this humble abode, but they are buying multi-million dollar homes in California and Hawaii), it seems the main and abiding change will be in his personal and familial well-being.

The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) has not achieved much for most of us, but has profited some, handsomely.

History will be the final arbiter of the actions of both President Obama and those of his predecessor.

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Monday, January 02, 2017

Welcome to the Post-Truth Era

--Schott (De Volkskrant, Netherlands)

 A half truth is a whole lie
--Yiddish proverb

Welcome to Costco,
I love you
--Idiocracy (2006)

It's a beautiful mornin', ah
I think I'll go outside a while
And just smile
Just take in some clean fresh air, boy!
--A Beautiful Morning,
The Rascals

Play that funky music white boy
Lay down that boogie and
play that funky music 'til you die
--Play That Funky Music,
Wild Cherry  

A caveat, and a wish:

Ranger and I considered this week which loss will hurt the most: the death of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) or former boy band singer George Michael. The news cycle has tended assiduously to both. But the answer is, “neither”.

The greatest loss is the integrity of the portal through we are fed such stuff. 2016 marks the death of the news media as a trusted partner in our vaunted democratic experiment. Requiescat in pace.

Yes, yes, we all know the news has always come with a bias, and even the fact of what we see is determined for us. But this year, the rust fully breached the veneer. 

It has been a long, inexorable regression. 

Newspapers have been precipitously cutting staff and shuttering operations for over a decade. Cheap, often unvetted and inaccurate content has filled the void (thank you Huffington Post for leading the way, exploiting desperate and often unpaid writers.)

Gone are most college journalism departments and their lessons of boring but stolid integrity. In their place, media studies programs where one learns the art of the package and the spectacle, how to be “newsy” and “newsish”, have bling, and get hired.

Fakirs and Magis:

In 2016, it became o.k. for "legitimate" newscasters to present a lie, provided it propped up the approved liberal agenda.

Couric edited her "Under the Gun" documentary to further the program's anti-gun agenda. Jill Stein was censored in her appearance on the PBS Newshour to make the candidate appear clueless. The reporting offenses are legion, and occurred daily through 2016 in every erstwhile legitimate news outlet. 

This year, I learned disgust for my previous go-to sites, places like The New York Times, The New Yorker and National Public Radio. Each liberal media source partook this election season in a robust and frenzied dance of “Kill the Other Candidate,” and they did so by any means necessary.

It turns out much of their “news” was fake -- misinformed or outright created to foment madness and fury. And in their mad bubble, they were wrong. (It didn't take a Carnac the Magnificent to see this.)

We head into 2017 dampened by a sour anger and a bitter fear born of their imposed and continually reinforced ideation. It is a poor way to welcome a new presidency and a New Year. 

For those who were blinkered, snookered and tribed-up, our wish and hope is that you will wake up, and not too hungover.

In the face of this loss, some tonic ideas from elsewhere:

A Swedish friend recently celebrated with me the Finnish concept of  “Sisu” (in honor of my heritage). Sisu is a national ethos, and has no English translation. Roughly, it means “grit”. Getting it done despite all resistance; seizing success from the jaws of defeat. 

Sisu is a good and noble sort of hardheadness.

We then spoke of “lagom”, the Swedish concept of “just enough” – neither too much, nor too little. Again, a concept absent from the average U.S. lexicon. 

Lagom is a sort of life art, the knowing and understanding of what is necessary for an elegantly simple life. It is a hard concept to acquire for one raised in our “more for me” society.

For good measure, we threw in the Danish idea of “hygge”. Hygge is both the having and the enjoying of simple comforts, the sort that makes a “hard rain’s gonna fall” sort of day bearable. It is neither ostentatious nor in excess. It may be private, or shared.  It is a self-comfort.

So for our readers may you know sisu, lagom and hygge as the holiday season draws nigh. May we all find a candle to light our way.

May we be grateful for the things not lost, and for the ability to apprehend and to appreciate them.

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