RANGER AGAINST WAR: February 2008 <

Friday, February 29, 2008

Out of Line?

A belligerent state permits itself every such misdeed,
every such act of violence, as would disgrace the individual

--Sigmund Freud

The present crisis is of an exceptional nature and we

. . .must either pursue the path of constant conflict

and continuous wars, which are the result of our everyday action,

or else see the causes of war and turn our back upon them

J. Krishnamurti (1948)

We are all in a post-hypnotic trance induced in early infancy

--R.D. Laing


Michael Doughty, said something provocative in a National Public Radio interview recently.

Doughty is the former front man of "slacker jazz" band
Soul Coughing and the son of a 32-year Army veteran. He was moved to write the song "Ft. Hood" following a visit with veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (
"Blanked out eyes and the blanked out sound / See them coming back, motionless, in an airport lounge.")

Doughty said,
"I am so sick of people saying they support the veterans, but not the war. That makes no sense" That makes sense.

This is not to detract from the extreme bravery of the men and women serving on the frontlines. These servicemen and women can never be remunerated adequately for the job they do -- GWB is making sure of that.

Rather, this is, at core, a rational statement -- war cannot be conducted without the participation of soldiers. So while it is a radical statement, it is also a fact:
if you support soldiers, you support what soldiers do.

The liberal mantra is, "We support the troops, but not the war."
But what if something even more radical was felt and understood. What if people said, "We support none of it; not the troops, not the war. Nothing"?

That would be something other than the traditional drone. It would not be obedient; it would be stepping out of line.

Could the discourse change?

Labels: ,


You know, that might be the answer --
to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of.

That's a trick that never seems to fail

, Joseph Heller

There is no such condition as 'schizophrenia,'

but the label is a social fact and the social fact a political event

--R.D. Laing


Like Lithuania, Ranger moves for a name change for the U.S. -- something like the U.S.S.A [United Secret States of America];the 4-letter acronym would also symbolize our kinship in the secrecy realm with the U.S.S.R. of yore.

The Supreme Court recently declined a challenge to the Bush administration's warrantless domestic wiretapping program because the plaintiffs could not prove they had been spied upon.

The ACLU brought the suit on behalf of a group of lawyers, writers and political organizations, which said the eavesdropping interfered with communication with clients and overseas contacts.

"But Bush's lawyers successfully invoked two legal doctrines making it difficult to challenge the government's anti-terrorism policies.

"First, they said, challengers must show that they had their phone calls or e-mails intercepted. Otherwise, they have no 'standing' to sue because they have no injury to complain of. Second, the government said, the entire program was secret, and under the 'state secrets privilege,' plaintiffs cannot obtain information on whether they were targeted for surveillance. When combined, the two doctrines make it almost impossible for most challengers to win a hearing in court.

"'They say you need certain information to proceed. And that is exactly the information the government won't give you,' said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's National Security Program (Supreme Court Dismisses Challenge to Bush's Wiretapping Policy.)"

In rejecting the suit, the Supreme Court is saying secrecy and spying trump the Bill of Rights and the legal process. If you think about it -- something not recommended in this Brave New World if you wish to preserve your sanity -- their stance is to construct of you a paranoid schizophrenic. However, because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you; they may be out to get you, you just can't prove it.

The Phony War on Terror (PWOT©) is being fought versus the
corpus juris which used to protect the rights of the U.S. citizenry.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 28, 2008

In Your Dreams

Why this feeling, why this glow,
Why the thrill when you say "hello"
--Sarah Vaughan, Mr Wonderful (1956)

A fine editorial from William Falk,
editor of The Week magazine:

"My good friends, I'm running for president. Let me enumerate just a few of the reasons why I deserve your vote. I am, above all, the candidate of change, much more so than my opponents; indeed, if elected, I will change everything that you, the American people, want changed, including any of my positions that I have already changed. Due to my wealth of experience, which is both unique and yet somehow universal, I will be ready to serve on day one, and to protect the nation from the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people who want to destroy our way of life because they are jealous of our freedoms, our 50-inch plasma tv's, and our very large food portions. You should know that my desperate yet selfless quest to be your president is very, very personal for me, and that I am, of course, a Christian who reads my Bible every night--not a Muslim or a Mormon, or, God forbid, a Unitarian.

"I promise to bring your job back from overseas, even is it hasn't gone there yet, to build walls and dig moats at the borders, to cut taxes, to provide universal health care, to preserve all of our government entitlements, and to balance the budget. I am firmly opposed to storing the nation's nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, or in any state that holds its primaries before, say, March. I promise to model my presidency on Ronald Reagan's, because, like me, he has good hair and was an agent of change, or, if you prefer, on John F. Kennedy's. Whichever. And please remember that by voting for me, you are also voting for yourself, your children, your gender, your race, your religion, and for unifying our great nation. Thank you."

Submitted, for your consideration.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee
--Augustis Toplady

Oh, Let us all from bondage flee
Let my people go

--Go Down Moses

It's gonna be a new day for you

A new day for you, new day for you, new day for you

--A New Day for You
, Basia

Fever in the Morning

Fever all through the night,

--You Give Me Fever
, Peggy Lee

Part the third in our Obama trilogy: He is Come.

These are dire times, trouble all across the land. Our conventional leadership has sold us down the proverbial river. A messianic fervor has taken over, and Obamania is that phenomenon.

People have always turned to saviors at such times. Moses came when the people needed liberation and freedom from bondage. The dynamism of such movements propels their prophet onto front and center stage; the problem is the mass blindness which allows this to occur.

Rationalism isn't so sexy and cannot support such a fever pitch, and it is only the fever of being on board a winning team which unleashes the mob energy. Obamania is a political Lollapalooza.

While there are prophets are on every street corner, it takes charisma plus mass desperation to mobilize the mob so they can elevate their prophet to the position of savior.

The Right wing has been playing from the End Times playbook, hastening the degradation of events in the Middle East to facilitate their biblically-ordained Rapture. They feel Armageddon is inevitable and that they will be saved, anyway.

However, the Left feels desolation in the wake of the destructive fundamentalist project in the "Holy lands." They look to Obama to free them from enslavement to this mad project, and he brings Good News -- a message of hope and salvation -- for the price of our devotion and ballot. He is a savior shilling for a vote.

The problem I have with Obamania is its Never-Never land aspect. All will be washed away if we just hop aboard that train. The fanaticism of the left for Obama is as distasteful as that displayed by the right for their presumptive messiahs. Fanatics are fanatics.

The promise of infinite potential is similar to that echoed by two books fronting the entry at my local Borders, both by other O[prah]-gurus.

Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose is self-explanatory, and Neale Donald Walsch's Happier Than God, which tells you how you can be, y'know, happier than God. Does anyone else wonder, what if your life's purpose is cleaning out sewer gratings? And is God really all that "happy," what with his immense responsibilities. So you see, even the feel-good books bring with them a sense of responsibility.

I don't mean to be a killjoy, but even the Founding Fathers didn't hand us a life purpose and happiness on a plate. All we were promised was the right to "pursue" life and happiness. Attaining them was not guaranteed.

We want a savior to "take us away" from this vale of tears. "www.Mybarackobama" tells us today that one million people "own a piece of this campaign," and that they are "disillusioned by partisan gridlock in Washington." That may be, but what they don't tell us is that a president may not remove that gridlock, photogenic and optimistic as he or she may be.

How does Obama fit the bill of savior:

[1] Obama is dashing and charismatic. It is doubtful that if he looked like his Kenyan father Obama would be rock-star material in the U.S. We are not quite that color blind yet. As it is, even Larry the Cable guys can look at him in approval, perhaps even imagining they share some of his appeal.

Hillary, however, lacks the same "twinning" phenomenon. Fewer people would like to imagine they share Hillary's flat midwestern intonation or frumpy body or over-the-hill persona. The thing she offers is her intellect, unfortunately, something which has never been a winning quality for the American voter.

[2] Obama's acceptance is unconditional. "We will do it," whatever it is. Come all ye faithful. But what we presume is, it is he who will do the heavy lifting in Washington. He asks nothing of us, just promises a new day, via our acceptance (=vote.) In this way, he is both parent and savior, which we know any good religion conflates for us anyway.

The following two points are not p.c. They are gotten from the local street, and our street is not Worth Avenue. We never promised you a rose garden at Ranger:

[3] We are finally admitting that the Savior is not really a blonde/blue Aryan as depicted on the veleteen Dollar Store paintings. Rather, He was most likely of African extraction, and Obama more nearly approximates this reality than the pasty-faced Jim Bakkers of the world.

While Obama is not running for ecclesiastical post, nonetheless, election as president is the closest we get to national ordination. The fervor behind Obama exceeds that accorded to your typical politico.

[4] Pro-ball. America has been idolizing trim, black athletes since Jackie Robinson crossed the color line. Obama is the Superbowl and March Madness rolled into one, with the invocation by team chaplain Dr. Martin Luther King.

If all else disappoints in real life, the athlete's achievement on the track or field is one of pure beauty and clarity. While Obama is not an olympian, either, desegregation and idolization on that field has allowed for his entree as rock star-candidate.

Swing low, sweet chariot, comin' for to carry me home.

Labels: ,

Republic of Gilead

Your love keeps liftin’ me higher
Than I’ve ever been lifted before

So keep it up, yeah, quench my desire

And I’ll be at your side forevermore

--Your Love Lifted Me Higher
Auto Adrenaline

I'm looking for a miracle man

That tells me no lies

--Miracle Man
, Ozzy Osbourne

I can really do wonders, I can,

If you've got the misery,

Bring your misery to me,

I'm that Hi-De-Ho Miracle Man!

--The Miracle Man
, Cab Calloway

I am the way, the truth, and the life

--John 14:6


Luuu-ceee! Remember Ricky's plaintively imploring yet reprimanding calls to his wife, Lucy? And how Lucille Ball managed to wend her way into getting whatever it was she wanted anyway, by pumping up Ricky's ego? Flash-forward 50 years and I find myself lost in any I Love Lucy script.

Obama cuts a retro figure, reminiscent of the well-spoken Malcolm X in dress and manner. And the women who flock to him serve in a behind-the-scenes way, which is also very retro, sans the aprons. Women have been abandoning Hillary, but why?

[1] Their desire for romance. Edward Kennedy suggests in Obama a recrudescence of Camelot. Forget that Camelot never was really Camelot; that is its beauty.

Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg says he reminds her of her father. Michelle Obama, Oprah, Maria Shiver and Caroline Kennedy "put on the best campaign rally" Andrew Rosenthal has seen "in 20 years of covering presidential politics ("Michelle, Maria, Caroline and Oprah on the Hustings in California.") Yes We Can campaign for a man, though he lost that one.

Three more little ladies advocated for Obama in the
Wall Street Journal ("The Obama Opportunity") -- "Ms. Napolitano (Governor of Arizona), Ms. Sebelius (Governor of Kansas) and Ms. McCaskill (D-Missouri)." (See how far we've come -- Ms. Steinem's honorific certainly has taken hold, even in a conservative paper.) The trio say we need to end "political polarization," "divisive politics" and "bitter partisanship." But Hillary is nothing if not a conciliator, so how can their stated desire tap Obama and not Hillary?

Below romance is just wanting to feel better.

Author/blogger Micki McGee says her book, Self Help, Inc., "looks at the rise of self-improvement culture as Americans have seen their economic circumstances decline." Books about feeling good are good business. If people actually did good and got better, the market would dry up.

When it comes to just feeling better on a Friday night, you are more likely to curl up with an Oprah guru, like Peter Walsh's
Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? An Easy Plan for Losing Weight and Living More than the current issue of The Economist.

Before psychotherapy went pop, there were lurid Gothic romances
fronting the impossible Fabio which secretaries would hide in their desks. This escapism has now gone mainstream via programs like Desperate Housewives and Nip and Tuck. You can escape to a desert island and feel your potentiality spread out before you, and of course, this impulse to escape extends to men, as well.

With Obama, the ticket to escape is your vote. He says follow him, "we will do it; we will change." He is your own personal coach, to help you work off all the bon-bons you ate while watching the latest installment of Lost. What's more, he'll tell you what to do so you won't be lost anymore.

[3] The desire for direction, which is an equal opportunity impulse.

Once coronated by Oprah, Obama had all but won the election. As goes Oprah, so goes the nation. Oprah ministers to all that may befall a human being, and has assured us that we are all o.k. just by virtue of being here. That is some powerful validation, gained just by virtue of sitting in front of the tube.

After Oprah midwifes you in your walk through the fire of your particular dysfunctions and your subsequent shower, Obama is presented as the man to lift you higher. It is all done for you, like those wonderful prewashed, precut veggies Oprah introduced to her audience. Her acolytes are on a conveyor belt, and happy to be shown the way. As in Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, women are mobilized to serve the Commander.

Obama is their miracle man, mouthing platitudes cribbed from Ghandi, and Krishnamurti, and MLK. Obama is like a good DJ sampling for his mix, but he gives no credit in his mash-ups ("Finding political strength in the power of words.")

It is blatant plagiarism, but I suppose he does it because he knows his demographic so well. They apparently are unfamiliar with the sources of his many platitudes, and this general ignorance saddens me as much as Obama's disingenuousness.

[4] The media has it in for her ("Rendell: The Media Does Not Like the Clintons.")

It is glaringly obvious that any move Clinton makes will be chastised. She can never win. Slate wondered if she'd "Come Undone," 2/13. Since then other major outlets have asked why she doesn't concede in a ladylike fashion, even though the candidates are in fact running neck and neck.

Presumably, the only safe stance for her is one of silent deference, in a corner, admitting that she has been bested by a man. It is cyclical American history: black men got the vote before women. A black man will occupy the White House before a woman will.

If a women came out with the vacuous platitudes which fire 'em up at Obama rallies, she'd be roundly laughed out of the room as a pollyannaish airhead.

Hillary has been painted as passe, someone who thinks "going viral" means coming down with pneumonia. If she could only play the sax, like Bill -- do something to hook into the national pulse in a visceral way. But that is not a privilege allowed to a woman of a certain age.

I am thinking of a recent ad which showed a fit 50-ish, silver-haired woman in overalls and Doc Martens, smiling. The ad recognized the revolutionary nature of her posture vis-a vis a culture which severely slots women via age. I think the only way the model got away with it was that she was identified as an artist, and we grant them their flakiness.

Hillary has forsaken her younger revolutionary rhetoric, but if you want to hear an actual and authentic challenge to be new, read Hillary's 1969 commencement speech at Wellesley, where she challenges her listeners
"to practice with all the skill of our being/The art of making possible."

I'm no feminist, but the vitriolic coverage of Clinton vs. the glowing coverage of Obama speaks volumes. The candidate's platforms simply do not differ that much, and where they do, Hillary's bests Obama's.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Great White Hope

Gamble, Florida Times-Union

Girl you're every woman in the world to me
You're my fantasy, you're my reality

--Every Woman in the World
, Air Supply

Keep you doped with religion and sex and tv
And you think you're so clever and classless and free

But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see

A working class hero is something to be

--Working Class Hero, John Lennon

The chief distinction in the intellectual powers
of the two sexes is shown by man's attaining

to a higher eminence,

in whatever he takes up, than can woman

--Charles Darwin


This is a post on confusion: why are the actual political issues in this campaign being skirted in favor of a cult of celebrity, and where did women go in our society's ostensible march to inclusivity?

Presidential candidate Obama is a rock star without music. He fills stadiums in 10° degree weather, with groupies strung around the building at 7 a.m. for the 10 a.m. show. He has earned Oprah's imprimatur, which usually goes to self-help gurus who help her and her audience feel better, folks like the elfin Eckhart Tolle and Marianne Williamson, Andrew Vachss and Dr. Phil. Former addicts, or street people, or tough-love advocates.

If you believe that Oprah's got The Secret, then O politics wins. In this age of wanting to feel good about oneself
-- the spa-entitlement age -- Obama's slot, like that of a good pastor, is to make you feel good. To give you hope in your wretched life for a new day. We want to get pumped up over something, and have a sneaking suspicion that it ought to be about something other than ourselves.

Obama's soaring rhetoric accomplishes this nicely. His is the role of the self-help guru, a genre which is bursting with titles at your local bookstore. Thousands of tracts promise to show you how to navigate your wretched spouse/parents/children. The Calgon moment has never been bested as the prescription, and Obama is the one who will take you away.

As William Kristol said Sunday in the NYT,

"So we don’t have to work to improve our souls. Our broken souls can be fixed — by our voting for Barack Obama. We don’t have to fight or sacrifice to help our country. Our uninvolved and uninformed lives can be changed — by our choosing Barack Obama. America can become a nation to be proud of — by letting ourselves be led by Barack Obama.

"John Kennedy, to whom Obama is sometimes compared, challenged the American people to acts of citizenship and patriotism. Barack Obama allows us to feel better about ourselves.

". . . Obama’s rhetorical skill makes his candidacy appear almost collective rather than individual. That’s a democratic courtesy on his part, and one flattering to his followers. But the effectual truth of what Obama is saying is that he is the one we’ve been waiting for ("It's All About Him")."

Obama is like O[prah]-guru Tolle, who promises in his latest bestseller to midwife you along to your best you in the modestly titled, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. That is, presuming there is one for you. How could there not be, after all? Aren't you the one who felt so good after all the hot rocks were aligned on your back, while ylang-ylang and chrysanthemum were wafted in the air?

We, the scions of the Me generation, seek aggrandizement of the self via Facebook and MySpace, not even shuddering from the possibility of egocentrism as a negative.
For her part, Oprah is there to salve any nagging fears we might have on the matter.

She is on the daily menu for a large number of your cohorts, maybe even you yourself. While there are the crazies who let it all hang out, like Jerry Springer's guests, there is Oprah to lead you to your higher self.

But for all her wealth, Oprah struggles. Her weight drops, only to be packed back on. She has an on-again, off-again relationship with her stately, light-skinned lover Steadman, but always the affection of her steadfast girlfriend and dogs. Oprah owns this niche; she is Black Like Me.
She is everywoman, as Obama is everyman.

This is not a racial screed. It is a lament for a society which disallows honest, non-racist, non-sexist consideration of the very real political topics at hand.
It is a lament for a provincial society stuck in its -isms, which harbors a real and barely latent disdain for anything other. A society that wishes to feel good by covering up these tendencies and gloating about how inclusive it has become by fronting a non-musician rock star for president.

It is odd to see Hillary's all-but-inevitable moment be so cruelly quashed. It seems women are denied the parabolic peak. Their ascent looks like a mined West Virginia mountaintop--flat. A good place for a golf course.

The first female candidate for president was Victoria Woodhull in 1872 on the Equal Rights Party ticket, with a black man, Frederick Douglass (Up From Slavery) as her running mate. Race is again on the table today, but it seems gender is the more onerous issue.

White women have written many of the seminal tracts in the feminist movement.
Gloria Steinem, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Freiden, Irigaray, Klein and Horney and many others have all written grounbreaking works on the stature of women in society. We still go to white women for financial advice (Suze Orman, Maria Bartiromo et. al.), presumably because they can do the heavy lifting on boring fiduciary matters.

Geraldine Ferraro had a run at VP and we all knew she wouldn't make it, but felt it was only a matter of time. It seemed for a time Condoleeza Rice was on the fast track, being groomed as a possible presidential contender. But her star has fallen, and recently she was consigned to introducing a display explaining the obtuse symbolism on the back of the dollar bill.

One wonders why Hillary is so suspect, why her detractors so
viscerally despise her. I have spoken with numerous people who admit they cannot put their finger on the reason why; they simply hate her.

What has this admittedly wanting-for-charisma woman tapped in the national psyche?
It appears that even her husband, former President Bill, sabotaged her efforts early on with some notably non-charismatic additions. Hillary stood by her man, but he has not stood by her.

It is not that she is part of a "Clinton dynasty" as the press is hectoring. If that were so, democrats who were pleased with Bill would be pleased with Hillary. And political dynasties are nothing new to U.S. politics.

Presidents, no matter how high-minded, have only limited power to bring about change. They may encounter not only inertia but, more often, its exact opposite: an active, self-interested opposition, frequently fronting a broad constituency. Seeing this reality, one should choose a conciliator for president, not a firebrand, if change is what is actually sought.

I have heard well-intentioned liberals discuss the fact that Obama will make a fine role model for young black males if elected. But that is not the reason we elect someone president. That is the reason to join your local Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Obama has been successfully branded -- he is hot, and he is cool, while Hillary is not. She is just another politician, who tends to spreadsheets and fiscal data, nothing that makes you want to get up and scream; she possesses nothing like Obamania.

Hillary simply doesn't rock, and we want someone to rock our world. Just look at who can run for president -- little Ray-Ray from the Chicago hood, who made it through his AA at community college.

Well, not actually.

correction: Frederick Douglass
's autobiography is, A Narrative on the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, My Bondage and My Freedom. Thanks to vigilant reader Minstrel Boy.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, February 25, 2008

Good News

In the absence of justice,
what is sovereignty but organized robbery?
--Saint Augustine

After fifteen minutes I wanted to marry her, and after half an hour
I completely gave up the idea of stealing her purse
--Take the Money and Run (1969)

recently featured a University of Minnesota report suggesting that those who possess the concept of free will behave in a more ethical way than those who believe in fate ("Destined to cheat? New research finds free will can keep us honest.")

Of course, this is counter to the teaching of many mainstream Christian churches which teach that people are either "elect" or not, and that election is preordained. No amount of good works will save you from an afterlife of eternal damnation.

According to them, your free will is precisely this: to choose salvation via proxy. You cannot do it for yourself. On your own, you are wicked and easily misled, tainted as you are by Original Sin. Your only hope of escaping the fire and brimstone is to accept the savior and hew closely to the proscriptions laid out in the scripture.

If you do not "choose life" via abdication of your absolute freedom, and instead opt to go it on your own, the halo which might have awaited will drop from your head and a whole string of events will ensue resulting in your inevitable Fall.

One would think at that point the "in for a penny, in for a pound" mentality might kick in: may as well go whole hog with the project since you are now on the highway to hell anyway.

But instead of good behavior issuing from the idea of fate, a positive correlation was found between fatalistic beliefs and unethical behavior.

On the other hand, if the study participants had the notion that they were in control of their actions, they tended to behave more ethically than if they thought things were beyond the reach of their control. "The results of this study point to a significant value in believing that free will exists."

This ties in to the previous post. Much as a patriarchal church makes of its parishioners children or lambs who are to be led by a shepherd, so an authoritarian government treats its constituents like juveniles, in need of indoctrination and censorship.

The problem is children are not very nice at times, owing to their extreme egocentrism. So the problem with the authoritarian and censoring government is that it engenders some unsavory behavior from its charges. According to this study, if deprived of free will, subjects will sneak what they can, letting their egos take over.

Secrecy is not such a good thing for fostering a robust and ethical democracy. If I don't have much agency over what happens, I'll take all that I can get, because I cannot make a good outcome; I can only appropriate from what I see.

Food for thought.

Labels: ,

Boys Gone Wild

If you see oppression of the poor, and justice and righteousness
trampled in a country, do not be astounded
--King Solomon


Ranger understands fuzzy math -- that is numbers and calculations that require removal of the boots. But fuzzy logic has no place in a paper like the Wall Street Journal ("The Bush Secrecy Myth.") I see Mr. Murdoch has done his magic as this article is slap full of it. To call the consistent and intentional obfuscation by Bush and his administration a myth is illogic, or just a downright lie.

I know it is like shooting fish in a barrel, but I just had to plow through it and untwist some of it. Like slopping the hogs, then taking a shower:

Using Speaker Pelosi's decision to suspend action on FISA revisions as example, the editorial argues for the confinement of "policy alternatives. . . to small groups of reliable officials." And who would ordain these latter-day Solomons?

That is not the way democracy works. It is a garden best tended in sunshine, and via consensus.

What evidence exists that FISA revision is urgent? One would think that capturing Osama bin Laden would be much more urgent. FISA's suspension was another check removed from an administration gone wild, running roughshod over our civil rights.

"Our democracy faces a challenging conundrum. On the one hand, openness is an essential prerequisite of self-government."

"On the other hand,
secrecy is an equally essential prerequisite of self-governance."

Huh? You can't have it both ways.

"When one turns to the extraordinary business of democratic governance -- self-preservation carried out through the conduct of foreign policy and the waging of war -- the imperative of secrecy becomes a matter of survival."

Closed doors
and secrecy are not the same concepts. Decisions made behind closed doors are reported in the Congressional Record when those decisions become law.

These are the arguments used to perpetuate ths Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©). But there is no evidence that the survival of the U.S. is contingent upon the PWOT. Only a delusional fool doped up on a steady stream of FOX news drivel would subscribe to such hogwash.

"But there is an element of this war on secrecy that is extra-legal, and that has already endangered American security: namely,
leaks of classified information to the press."

Uh, yeah --like the Valerie Plame outing? But if the White House leaks, it is good; if it is done in the name of the People, that is bad. It ain't called "white" for nothing. Every illegality perpetrated by this administration thus far has gotten the whitewash.

"As in the Nixon era, America today is a country deeply divided over a controversial war. Today, as then, there is no shortage of disgruntled present and former government employees willing to dump secret documents into the public domain. Today, as then, these malefactors are aided by a press eager to glorify their actions."

Why are the documents classified? To hide secret prisons, torture, rendition and secret unwarranted surveillance until a group of unctuous lawyers can contort the torts til they look like a good thing? Secrecy is legitimate only when it is legal.

"Also, foreign governments cannot depend upon the U.S. to protect their secrets, and therefore cannot share them. When that happens, communication even among friendly states, a vital part of intelligence, dries up."

Much of what is called intelligence generated by friendly states is actually self-serving garbage that is intended to influence U.S. policies. Kind of like Colin Powell's United Nations presentation in the run-up to war. What credence does any intelligence have that is generated by Saudi Arabia or Egypt? The U.S. should rely upon information that its own agencies gather.

"What's more, leaks aimed at influencing policy subvert the rule of law and the democratic process." Democracy is controverted if it is conducted in secret. The secret diplomacy following WWI producing the miasma that is the Middle East serves as an example. That imbroglio shows that secrecy and democracy do not mix.

"Decision-making that is supposed to be the work of a democratically elected government is supplanted by the decision-making of anonymous officials and Pulitzer-Prize seeking journalists -- individuals who have private agendas." Politicos don't have agendas? George W. Bush's egocentric, imperial style lacks for democratic features.

The piece ends saying "the American people have assigned their elected officials the responsibility of keeping secret the information vital to their safety." However, most of the secrecy is not the result of actions by elected officials, but rather the Executive branch and the military/intelligence communities.

Secrecy is not the answer. If it were, then what is the question?

Labels: , ,

Sunday, February 24, 2008

So Long, Friend


Lisa wrote her farewell to fellow blog writer Lurch a week ago. This is mine.

What Ranger knows about Lurch is very little. We met once, and John told me he was an E-5 Team Leader in the 101st Airborne in the Republic of Vietnam, ca. 1968. John had a Bronze Star for Valor and a Combat Infantry Badge. He was also Airborne-qualified (not all 101st were.)
Although he was a new acquaintance, his wisdom and insights will be missed roundly.

He told Lisa that he understood me. In turn, I knew him. he was a type of soldier that no long exists in the U.S. Army. He was draft-era unit who was inducted, trained and deployed to a very nasty little war, and he performed his assigned duties with the normal dignity of U.S. troops.

But he was never totally owned by the Army. His greater allegiance was to America. The Army owned his body but not his soul.

Ranger remembers that long-ago draft Army, which was unlike today's. Draftees are led differently than professional bought soldiers, and Lurch remained a draftee soldier to the end. He dared to question when the troops around him had buttoned up.

Lacking the words or eloquence to eulogize Lurch adequately, I'll borrow some verses from the Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms:

Some day you'll return to
Your valleys and your farms

And you'll no longer burn

To be brothers in arm

Through these fields of destruction

Baptisms of fire

I've witnessed your suffering

As the battle raged higher

And though they did hurt me so bad

In the fear and alarm

You did not desert me

My brothers in arms

There's so many different worlds

So many different suns

And we have just one world

But we live in different ones

Now the sun's gone to hell

And the moon's riding high

Let me bid you farewell

Every man has to die

But it's written in the starlight

And every line on your palm

We're fools to make war

On our brothers in arms


Charlie Wilson's War

And God saw everything that he had made,
and behold, it was very good
--Genesis 1:31

I still think politics is about who's getting screwed

and who's doing the screwing

--Molly Ivins

Purple haze all in my brain
Lately things just don't seem the same
--Purple Haze
, Jimi Hendrix

When Ranger was a young man the argument against drug usage was that drugs distort reality and are therefore harmful. However, long-term U.S. policy is so out-of-touch with reality that it seems to operate on a psychedelic plane.

Exhibit #1:

"The new provincial government is expected to be led by the Awami National Party (ANP), a left-leaning, secular group that backed the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan in its war against U.S. and Pakistani-backed Islamic guerrillas in the 1980s (Voters in Pakistan Reject Religious Extremists.)"

ANP is now seen by the U.S. policymakers as a viable counterbalance to the religious extremists, which favor groups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But look at this historically, and darkly, through a State Department prism:

  • The USSR invades Afghanistan -- this is bad.
  • USSR policy marginalizes religious extremists -- this is bad.
  • U.S. backs the Taliban, war lords and drug deals -- this is good.
  • The Taliban and al-Qaeda types shoot USSR aircraft out of the sky with U.S. missiles -- this is good.
  • The ANP supports the Soviet incursion -- this is bad.

Fast-forward 25 years. . .
  • The U.S. invades Afghanistan -- this is good.
  • The U.S. marginalizes religious extremists -- this is good.
  • The U.S. opposes the Taliban and al-Qaeda -- this is good.
  • The U.S. supports the war lords and drug lords -- this is good.
  • The Taliban and al-Qaeda shoot U.S. aircraft out of the sky -- this is bad.
  • The ANP opposes the Taliban and al-Qaeda -- this is good.

Well, Ranger doesn't use drugs or even get drunk, but this is mind-bending stuff. U.S. policy is as fickle as presidential hopefuls.

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hail Mary, Quite Contrary

I was gambling in Havana
I took a little risk

Send lawyers, guns and money

Dad, get me out of this

--Gambling in Havana
, Warren Zevon

Concrete shoes, cyanide, TNT

(Done dirt cheap)

Neck ties, contracts, high voltage

(Done dirt cheap)

--Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,

I'm a fool to do your dirty work oh yeah

I don't want to do your dirty work no more

--Dirty Work
, Rene Froger

Under the category, Hypocrisy (under which most things George Bush reside):

If Castro and his Cuba are depraved and vile entities, as all things Communist are wont to be, then why does the U.S. deal favorably with other scum-sucking Commies, like China and Vietnam? The U.S. even deals with North Korea as an international player. And let us not forget all of the sand and -Stan nations that kindly receive U.S. foreign aid and are anything but democratic.

What has Castro done that is so terrible? Is it the universal health care, or perhaps the 100% literacy of Cubans that frightens our Miami-led Cuban nation in exile?

The trade embargo with Cuba is wrong, and should be ended. Millions of Cubans live in the U.S. after successfully turning tail from the mess that was 50's and 60's Cuba. If all of these millions and stayed to oppose Castro the U.S. wouldn't have to do all their heavy lifting. The U.S. is not responsible for protecting people that will not bear arms in their own defense.

In 2008 we find ourselves fighting two phony, nation-building wars, or so we are told. Same-same in Iraq and Afghanistan as for Cuba. The Afghanis and Iraqis expect the U.S. to do all the heavy lifting. If they can not protect their own freedom, Ranger concludes they are not ready to be free. There is no democracy before its time, to borrow from the Gallo Brothers.

Cuban fat cats wouldn't fight for their country and now they are hijacking mine, while protesting Mexican immigration. Now that Castro has stepped down, it is possible we can return to the pre-59 Cuba in which drugs, whores and gambling rule. And of course, the Mafia will be there to ensure the pimps trade democratically.

Ah, for the good old days.

--Comrade Hruska

Labels: , , ,

Leaving On a Jet Plane

Who's making love to your old lady
While you were out making love
--Who's Making Love
, Johnny Taylor

There's so many times I've let you down

So many times I've played around

I tell you now, they don't mean a thing

But, I'm leavin' on a jet plane

Don't know when Ill be back again
--Leaving On a Jet Plane
, John Denver

Poor Mr. McCain; you tussle with pigs, you get dirty.

"McCain wrote the letters [to FCC commissioners] after he received more than $20,000 in contributions from Paxson executives and lobbyists. Paxson also lent McCain his company's jet at least four times during 1999 for campaign travel (McCain Says Report on Lobbyists Not True.)"

When was the last time you heard about someone lending a jet to anybody but a legislator? Jet planes don't go lending themselves out to just anybody. Senator McCain said "Riding on the airplane was an accepted practice." Maybe. . .for people who are in bed with the right folks.

We'll call it the Republican's Nuremberg Defense -- "everybody was doing it." It doesn't exactly make it right, but at least he didn't say he was only following orders.

But down to the nitty-gritty. McCain is a big boy, and Ranger doesn't care where he plants Old Glory; it is his flagstaff. But it does seem strange that the party of family values is again backing a divorced candidate. And if he did choose the French way, at least the Repubs can be thrilled that McCain allegedly chose a consenting adult female.
That is almost a family value in the party of pederasts, toilet-trollers, page-stalkers and AB-DL perverts.

McCain obviously lives by the code, "What happens at Tailhook stays at Tailhook. To the young punk who asked him if he thought he was too old to be president I say, if he's healthy enough to jump the fence, he's healthy enough to be president. But if he does influence-peddle, then it is we the citizens who are getting the bone. And that's not good.

"McCain and four other senators were accused two decades ago of trying to influence banking regulators on behalf of Charles Keating, a savings and loan financier later convicted of securities fraud. The Senate Ethics Committee ultimately decided that McCain had used "poor judgment" but that his actions "were not improper" and warranted no penalty."

Hanoi couldn't break McCain, but Washington did. He may be hoist by his own petard.

He may have been imprisoned for many a long year, but McCain was maturing during those promiscuous flower-child days. "And if you can't be with the one you love / go ahead and love the one you're with
(Love the One You're With, C,S,N,Y)." Right-on, baby.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 22, 2008

Let the Sunshine In

"What do you think the President's biography should be called?"
"Exercise, Exercise, Exercise."

--former secretary of State Madelaine Albright,

Commonwealth Club of California, 2/14/08

I think war is a dangerous place

--George Bush

The painful task of thinking is mine, and mine alone

--Admiral Sir George Rodney


The U.S. doesn't like it when the terrorists exploit mentally deficient individuals, but our military has no problem reserving slots for Category IV enlistees. Category IV encompasses the lowest scores on the achievement exam used for entrance into the armed forces (the bottom 10-30%), and up to 12% of recent recruits have been from that grouping.

"Terrorists reached new lows of ugly behavior in Baghdad last week by remotely detonating the explosives-laden bodies of two mentally challenged women. Now, it is bad enough when terrorists knowingly sacrifice themselves to cause murder and mayhem. But when they manipulate others into doing their evil bidding — in this case, as unwitting suicide bombers — their actions are doubly despicable (Terrorists Stoop to a New Low.)"

We are now told
that the "female suicide bombers who killed nearly 100 people in Baghdad this month . . . suffered from depression and schizophrenia but [not] . . . Down's syndrome (Files for Suicide Bombers Show no Down's Syndrome.)" So in other words, they felt like a lot of your fellow Americans today.

But back to our exploitation. Why does the Army even consider using candidates from the 10-30th percentile? It is challenge enough training personnel from the lower end of the normal I.Q. spectrum.

Of course, what the articles on recruitment of Cat IV's fail to discuss is the dirty fact that because these soldiers are borderline educable (think Forrest Gump), they will be used and then dismissed when time for re-enlistment comes around. They are fodder.

General technical scores are evaluated when reenlisting, and the requirements for retention are higher than for initial recruitment. Intelligence, as measured via the GT score, does not miraculously increase by virtue of Army service.
Cat IV's may make serviceable lower enlisted men, but does this nation want Cat IV's to be Squad, Platoon and 1SG's? Can one imagine a CAT IV Regimental Sergeant Major?

The Army used to attempt to increase the scores through training programs like Basic Skills Education Program (BSEP). But when the soldiers are in BSEP, they are not performing their assigned duties. In effect, the Army has made of the Cat IV's an experimental social program rather than a mission-oriented component.

Forrest Gump may make for a cute movie, but he doesn't add to unit effectiveness. The military that Ranger served in taught
"the unit is as strong as its weakest link." Has this rule lost its relevance in this brave new world?

The Army should not recruit any soldier that would not or could not reenlist.
It is cruel to allow anybody to join the Army if that person does not have a chance to rise to the top. And nobody of sound mind should want a CAT IV to rise to the top.

This could be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Perspective is everything. Kind of like the U.S. Air Force dropping cruise missiles and smart bombs is democracy in action, but suicide bombers are terrorists. Any violence that kills innocents is terrorism, even if it is courtesy the red, white and blue, thank you very much Toby Keith.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Yellow Brick Road

One day the war will be over. And I hope
that the people
that use this bridge in years to come
will remember
how it was built and who built it.
Not a gang of slaves,
but soldiers,
British soldiers, Clipton, even in captivity
--Colonel Nicholson, Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)

I'm on the highway to hell
Highway to hell
No stop signs, speedin' limit

Nobody's gonna slow me down

--Highway to Hell, AC/DC

Since a recent post on Afghanistan, the forgotten / introductory / trial war ("Achtung, Baby"), a little bug has been crawling around in Ranger's Asperger-type brain.

The one achievement consistently lauded is the prodigious rate at which the U.S. is building highways in that country. But are these highways really such a great indicator of success in this counterinsurgency?

A road is a high-speed avenue of approach. This a double-edged sword, for that which facilitates your operations also becomes a danger road when exploited by the opposition.

Think back to March and April 1975 in the Republic of Vietnam. The North Vietnamese armor juggernaut rolled over the country with a blockbuster attack. And what facilitated this blitzkrieg? That's right, folks -- hard-top, all-weather roads provided by the stalwart U.S. taxpayers at Uncle Sam's behest. Bridges are included in talk of roads.

Ranger is not so foolhardy as to indicate that the Taliban will use these roads to facilitate armor attacks, but roads are not the answer in a primitive, rough-ass country. Roads in fact channelize friendly operations and provide a target-rich environment to any anti-government forces.

Another consideration regarding the utility of the touted road system is the fact that traditionally the Afghan nation and people are too poor for extensive motor vehicle usage.

So why all the roads?

Join the


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

America in Denial

No, they wouldn't do that to us
--America in Denial
, Elmer Creek Conspiracy

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent
about the things that matter

--Martin Luther King


One of our faithful readers, tw, was kind enough to send a gift recently of his CD. It is folk / jazz / pop fusion (hope you don't mind the slotting, tw), in the best spirit of American protest music.

He and his fellows are self-proclaimed amateurs doing what they can to have their voices heard. It is both funny and heartbreaking. Give it a listen here.

All the tracks are spot-on. Here's an excerpt from one,
Bring Back the Draft:

You know we really don't care what's going on overseas
Cause we're over here living the life of ease

As long as it don't affect me or you

We really don't care what they do

Bring back the draft

Let rich America join in the bloodbath

Don't let just the National Guard get the shaft

Bring back the draft

Good work, tw and gang. Woodie Guthrie would be proud.



And I'm waiting
And I wait in vain

Nine while nine and I'm waiting

For the train.....

--Nine While Nine, Sisters of Mercy

Talk about a-travellin'
She's the fastest train on the line

It's that Orange Blossom Special

Rollin' down the seaboard line

--Orange Blossom Special
, Johnny Cash

Not. From the annals of "needless efforts":

Our beloved hapless national rail system, Amtrak, which is struggling merely to exist, has just added another layer to their operating costs.

"Amtrak passengers will have to submit to random screening of carry-on bags in a major security push that will include officers with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling platforms and trains, the railroad plans to announce today
("Amtrak to Beef Up Security.")"

The last two times Ranger used Amtrak, the trains were over 7 hours late. Amtrak could not have a better protective posture than their own laggardly train schedules.

Randomness is key to preventing terrorist or other criminal attacks. Amtrak's schedule is so helter-skelter nobody would plan an operation against them.

Furthermore, a terrorist organization is unlikely to target inland areas trains service, which have limited ingress and egress. Peoria and Kansas City need not sweat a major incident. The threat remains to the central coastal hubs: Boston, New York, Miami, L.A., Seattle or San Francisco.

Terrorists will not target areas that cannot accurately be reconnoitered or prepped via intelligence gathering. Even al-Qaeda does not have the expertise or assets to carry out unrealistic attack scenarios.

An honest an unbiased assessment of 9-11 would lead to the logical conclusion that al-Qaeda expended a generation of operational assets with their balls-to-the-wall attack scenario. There have been no further 9-11-type attacks because al-Qaeda does not have the assets to carry them out, not because we have been frittering away our precious human and economic assets on two senseless wars. They may have the intent, but they do not possess the capabilities.

Once again the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is perpetrated upon the American taxpayer, who pays with very un-phony tax dollars. This denial of his freedom is a far greater terror to him than that ostensible one which he is forced to protect himself against.

Labels: ,