Monday, March 31, 2008

After the Love

Arming everyone to the teeth is always
the most direct avenue to world peace


War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength

, George Orwell
[co-opted as RNC motto, 2000]

For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,

At the old ball game

--Take Me Out to the Ball Game
, Jack Norworth

Despite the general good cheer in the stadium, poor George got jeered while throwing out the first pitch of the season. Dan Froomkin at the WaPo speculated today that is because people don't like him.

From this week's
The Week ("A Hot Spot that Needs No More Weapons"):

"The U.S. won’t let a pesky detail like international law get in the way of selling weapons, said Roland Heine in Berliner Zeitung. Last week, the U.S. authorized arms sales to Kosovo, the tiny nation that recently declared its independence from Serbia, even though Kosovo is still under a U.N. weapons embargo.

"President Bush claimed, preposterously, that the arming of Kosovo would 'promote world peace.' That’s easy for him to say, sitting across the ocean in the United States. Here in Europe, intelligence agencies are well aware that more than a few top officials in the Kosovar government 'double as agents of the Albanian mafia.'”

"Giving weapons to the Kosovar government, then, is tantamount to arming the drug dealers and human traffickers who have made the little Balkan nation a nexus of criminality whose tentacles can easily reach into the E.U.

"Many Europeans wondered why Bush was so insistent on recognizing the independence of Kosovo, even though the hasty move incensed Serbia and Russia and made life difficult for European diplomats. Suddenly, it’s 'not so surprising.' The American arms industry has a new client—and Europe will ultimately pay the price. "

George W. Bush is nothing if not consistent. While governor of Texas, he signed that state's first concealed carry law in 1995, saying "It will make Texas a safer place." The Washington Spectator speculated:

We can't help but wonder if the president really believes he would be safe, for example, giving a speech in an auditorium full of average people carrying guns. We'll never know, because the Secret Service wisely would never let that happen."

Doubly wise move based on his reception at the ball game.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Men of the Cloth

Friday, March 28, 2008

Deadly Sin

Kool G. Rap is about makin' armies and crews look like Girl Scouts.
Cuz when I start rappin', I keep the people clappin'

--Jive Talk
, Kool G. Rap

Tell me no secrets, tell me some lies
Give me no reasons, give me alibis

--Don't It make My Brown Eyes
Blue, Crystal Gayle

I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul

by making me hate him

--Booker T. Washington

You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist

--Golda Meir


The press and other apologists explain away Obama's preacher and mentor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's vitriolic rhetoric as being representative of black America's private dialog on race. I beg to differ.

Having attended several different predominantly black church services both at the invitation of congregants and on my own, my experience is different. The sermons were not censored for my presence; no one knew I was coming. I understand that one person's testimonial does not a weighted survey make; however, I feel moved to speak my own experience.

Never was the message one of being riven from their country. Always the message was one of hope for a better tomorrow, becoming a better person, a better neighbor, a better friend, a better servant of God. The spirituals contain the undeniable truth of a subjugated past, but the sermon's message is always one of deliverance and a better day ahead for the righteous and the meek.

That has long been the power of the black church: a deep and abiding faith in the redemptive power of belief and striving, persistence and humility before one's God, a God who sees all of his children as equals, regardless of and especially because of their all-too-human failings on this earthly plane.

Dialog about hate crimes ensued only outside of the church services. The dialogs I have been a part of on such topics have at times been raw and painful, but always with the intention of understanding. Accusations hurled without such intent are nothing but vituperative, something dangerous which unleashes anger and resentment unless carefully channeled into something productive and helpful.

Martin Luther King said in his prophetic Mountaintop Speech, "We don't have to argue with anybody. We don't have to curse and go around acting bad with our words." He knew change would be effected via direct action and righteousness of purpose, and not hateful words and resentment.

"Acting bad with our words" is the tack of the GWB administration in Iraq, as well as Jeremiah Wright. Sometimes they don't do right in Washington, and sometimes, not in Chicago -- and that ain't right.

Reverend Jeremiah Wright's anger is not simply "honest talk" representative of how blacks talk among themselves. It is how some blacks and whites talk among themselves. But it is always racist, and does not have a higher good. If you have a different experience, please share it.

And what of Obama, who claims to be a unifying force? His mentor Mr. Wright, delivers a message of dissension and anger. The two seem at odds.

A man of the cloth should be leading his flock to a higher ground.

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Surge Protection

Chambers: It's the American Dream in a goddamn gym bag!
Mitchell: You work for the American Dream. You don't steal it.

Chambers: Then this is even better

--A Simple Plan

All reports say how complicated the situation is in Iraq. Brig. Gen. Ed Cardon, assistant commander of the U.S. task force operating south of Baghdad, said the situation in the south was "very complicated" and "the potential for miscalculation is high" ("Troops Fight Shiite Militia in Iraq.")

However, nothing could be simpler.

They have got guns and they are organized. At some point they will force their will or attempt to force their will upon the Iraqi government. That means if we stay in the fray, we are caught in a civil war. Theirs, not ours.

The New York Times lede said it succinctly:
"Heavy fighting broke out in Basra and Baghdad as Iraqi forces mounted a major operation against Shiite militias" ("Iraqi Crackdown on Shiite Forces Sets Off Fighting".) Bad stuff, but not our fight.

"The Iraqi government" -- code for the U.S. military -- is going into the Shiite neighborhoods in the latest offensive, so the Madhdi's actions are defensive in nature. Why would the U.S. stir up a hornet's nest, again? A cynical person would say to ensure continued U.S. participation in their war.

The U.S. is supporting a democratic initiative to disarm Iraqi militias, an institution which used to be a centerpiece of American democracy.
Many of the soldiers invading the Iraqi neighborhoods are actually U.S. militiamen, which we call the National Guard. In other words, to deny them our 2nd Amendment rights.

Democracy either is or it isn't; it is not a pick-and-choose animal.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Going Ballistic

My ears are ringin'
Ringin' like empty shells

--Call Letter Blues
, Bob Dylan

Well, the minutes seemed like hours,

hours they seemed like days

It seemed like my good, old gal ought ta

done stopped her low-down ways
--Death Letter
, Son House

The U.S. government is concerned with the spread of nuclear weapons technology, but we're shipping nuclear triggers via UPS. But it is not the waylaid parts per se that caught our eye. instead, it was the below observation:

"Washington has hinted that it would go to war to protect Taiwan."

The U.S. is involved in the endless long war, with a military stretched to its breaking point tied in little knots in Baghdad allies. It has a chugging economy which cannot long sustain the effort without mortgaging our nation's future.

And we hint we would go to war to defend Taiwan. Paper tiger.

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All Service Provider

I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main road
Searchin' in the sun for another overload

--Witchita Lineman
, Glen Campbell


This is rich.

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Taliban attacks on telecom towers have prompted cell phone companies to shut down service across southern Afghanistan at night, angering a quarter million customers who have no other telephones.

Even some Taliban fighters now regret the disruptions and are demanding that service be restored by the companies (Taliban Attack Afghan Cell Towers.)

Ranger wonders why a COIN strategy of placing an insurgency surcharge on all cell phones hasn't been considered. It could help defray the costs of the war from the beleaguered U.S. taxpayer. War time minutes would cost a lot more than peace time minutes. That'd give those old boys something to chew on.

All that needs to be figured are the rates. How could anybody be so callous as to run a war that denies anybody their free nighttime minutes?

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One Man's Journey


Seldom does one get to read an article that is more than words slapped to paper. Fellow blogger and journalist Phil Carter's recent article in Slate is the real deal. Carter is obviously dedicated, insightful, intelligent and brave, possessing qualities that are the best of America. So how did he get it wrong?

How did America get it wrong? And what can we do to minimize the damage to America and collaterally to Iraq.

". . .I think we made a difference by training the police, equipping them, mentoring their leaders, and doing what we could to promote the rule of law."

Have we and do we support the rule of law in this endeavor? The rule of law cannot flow from an illegal, aggressive invasion and war that toppled an onerous regime, though the efforts of most of the troops like Mr. Carter are performed in the very best spirit of everything America stands for.

From the inception, the question hangs like a damoclean sword: what rule of law allows for the complete removal of one government to be replaced by another totally funded and directed by the invading power? Not an auspicious carpet on which to roll out democracy.

Counterinsurgency is a fine strategy, but why is there fighting in the first place? What America calls the rule of law is actually a veneer of U.S. dominance overlaid upon a non-unified country in name only.

We all got it wrong when we accepted the lie that Iraq was a threat to the security and safety of America. Building a new, modern Iraq in our image was a fool's errand, doomed to failure before the first troop set foot into Iraq.

The question was never about Iraq, but America.
The violence being unleashed in the area is born in America, but is played out in the streets and back alleys of Iraq.

At bottom: If you were an Iraqi of Sunni affiliation, would you support a Shite government? If you were a Shia, would you want the U.S. to leave your country? The Kurds alone have an intrinsic reason to support the U.S., and only because they seek the formation of a separate Kurdish entity.

Until the U.S. leaves the invasion and occupation business, there can be no long-term peace in the region.

What happens in Iraq should stay in Iraq, and among the Iraqis. America is what is wrong.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Romance of Ranger

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then I contradict myself,

I am large, I contain multitudes

--Song of Myse
lf, Walt Whitman

I'm just glad we're in a country,

where we're all free to choose

I was Country, when Country wasn't cool

--I Was Country, When Country Wasn't Cool,

B. Mandrell and G. Jones
Since Ranger has had Google AdSense on the site, we have been fascinated and often mystified by the ads featured. Everything from gung-ho security-type training to the Republican National Convention. Now this:

"Romantic Love Soaps: Unique Personalized Love Soaps with your message embedded inside."

Ranger never fancied himself the romantic sort, and has gotten roundly attacked from the RNC knuckle-dragging sorts. Maybe they think Rangers hang with dirty women and are only capable of grunting, then.

Taking the positive view however, perhaps being a thinkin' Ranger casts a wider net than we might have imagined.


Operational Success: DOA

What are you fighting for?
It's not my security
--Broken English
, Maryanne Faithfull

Why do something just for the sake of doing it to show face,
when it doesn't have any tactical value?
--Dogs and Ponies, "Gruntshit," The Sandbox (3/21/08)

But tactical victory did not translate

to operational success

--WWII Magazine
, April/May 2008

--VP Dick Cheney, on being told 2/3 of Americans
favor withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan

The statement from WWII Magazine grabbed my attention. The German 11th Panzer on the Chir River in December '42 fought against the odds, defeating large enemy formations. But those successes were not translated into operational successes, as the Germans had lost the strategic ability to impose their will upon the enemy.

They are parallels with Iraq and Afghanistan, but of course, neither of the latter are actual theatre Army scenarios which see conventional forces arrayed for classic ground combat. Both countries are unconventional/guerrilla warfare (UW/GW) arenas and as such operational success will not be measured by conventional yardsticks such as destruction of enemy forces and the ability and will of the enemy to engage in meaningful operations.

In fact, simply defining who or what the enemy is can be a difficult task in both scenarios. Moreover, defining the mission seems even more difficult than defining the enemy, and a clearly-defined mission statement should be the first step in any military operation.

Regardless of the nature of a conflict -- whether conventional or UW -- the mission statement lays out what the engaged troops are expected to achieve. What does success entail -- does it smell like napalm in the morning, or will it be a quiet walk in the bazaar for visiting senators?
Today's parallel with 1942 is the current inability to translate tactical successes into operational successes.

The difficulty is defining a mission that [1] entails destruction of al-Qaeda, [2] establishes functioning governments AND [3] instills democracy. That is a mish-mash. Such missions are not and can not be stated in a military manner. The destruction of al-Qaeda and the Taliban on the battlefield sounds easy ("mission accomplished"), but it doesn't translate so neatly into operational success.

You can kill the people fighting you, but you can not force them to love America or the phony puppet regimes established solely via our combat power. There is no meaningful military way to describe operational success in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if you can't describe it, you can't achieve it. What one sees is the entire U.S. Army pissing up a rope.

Without a doubt, the U.S. Army is performing admirably at the Battalion and Company level. The Brigades and Divisions are performing their assigned missions. But to borrow Mr. Cheney's unfortunate interrogative--"So?"

Operational success accrues to theatre armies and echelons above corps (EAC). The captains are successfully fighting their Companies, so too Battalion, Brigade and Division Commanders. But how is that winning an unquantifiable, undefinable war lacking a clear definition of what success would entail?

The German 11th Armor defeated an entire Russian tank army, but Stalingrad was not relieved and everyone knows how it ended. In the U.S. involvements in Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. dominated the military equation yet there is today a North Korea and a united Communist Vietnam. Close to 100,000 Americans died for those illusions. Now 4,000 have died for the current fiction that these countries are essential struggles in the survival of the U.S.

If tactical successes can't be translated into operational opportunities, then these were all meaningless exercises in futility.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Back to Black

We have ceased to be a nation under law
but instead a homeland where the withered Bill of Rights,

like a dead trumpet vine,

clings to our pseudo-Roman columns

--Gore Vidal


Religious holidays always hearken Ranger back to his formative years. Since realizing that God does not talk to me on a regular or even intermittent basis, Ranger has long-rejected George W. Bush's position that God's will favors the U.S. policy of indiscriminate forced democratization throughout the oil-rich areas of the globe.

That is the crux of his unease with those who would claim a mandate to impose their convictions anywhere. Proselytizing is the realm of the church, not the government. Ranger prefers to keep all discussions on matters of national policy on the temporal plane, and hopes the future president du jour does the same, reflecting the will of the people versus that of the divine father.

The minister-architects of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) would have us believe that a non-democratic country is
de facto evil, in the words of the Good Book. If evil, then terrorist, with the only solution being a righteous smelting until the good is rendered out, ergo, pure democracy. The simplicity is almost elegant: "evil" is good which has been corrupted. Knock off the wayward add-ons, and you are back to good (=democracy).

When democracy triumphs terrorism is defeated and ceases to exist. Wham-bam-thank you, ma'am. However, it is possible that life goes the other way. That the tendency is to rumble, and hate and distrust (hard to imagine, eh?) That in fact, democracy is the unusual impulse, the one which is added on. That instead of being pure, it is the alloy.

Terrorism is an outgrowth of democracy. There were no terrorists in Nazi Germany, but there were in the Federal Republic of Germany. Same for Italy of WWII vs. the democratic Italy of the 70's and 80's. There is no terrorism in China, nor was there in the Soviet Union. The only terrorism in Iran and Cuba is/was sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency. There is no terrorism in North Korea.

The GWOT is not and can not be a war to oppose totalitarian authority. The U.S. military and economic machines do not possess the resources nor the resolve to achieve this goal. That is, unless China will lend us the money to combat the Chinese totalitarian state.
So what are we fighting for?

Terrorism can only exist in a free and open society. If the U.S. wants to defeat terrorism, then adopting the tactics of dictators is the key to success.

Is this really a war that the U.S. can afford to fight, or one that we should want to win?

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance

We are hampered by seeing only what we choose or expect to see. If you doubt it, take this brief test. It was sent by an avid cyclist friend, but the lesson is a universal one:

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V-T Day

Happily for the busy lunatics who rule over us,
we are permanently the United States of Amnesia.

We learn nothing because we remember nothing

--"The State of the Union," Gore Vidal

If you can accept losing,
you can't win
--Vince Lombardi

Thus it is that in war the victorious strategists
only seeks battle after the victory has been won,
whereas he who is destined to defeat
first fights and afterwards looks for victory

--Sun Tzu

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken
--Sonnet 116, Shakespeare


Shakespeare was talking of love, but his description fits democracy or any true and unwavering system just as well.

After the cessation of hostilities over 60 years ago, the U.S. put V's in front of the names of the belligerents they had been fighting, and meant it. Hence
V-E Day and V-J Day. Since then however, the "V" had deserted our lexicon.

The reason V is gone is that we consistently fight elective wars that we can afford to lose. Wars should not be begun frivolously or blithely as we have seen in this conjured up Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©). Iraq is not our enemy, therefore military success in Iraq is both elusive and meaningless.

Our military hijinks in Iraq are addressing the threat of al-Qaeda to Iraq. However, any threat posed to America is from a stateless group of terrorist operatives loosely gathered under the umbrella "al-Qaeda," mainly identifiable by their capability of bringing operations to our shores.

The effectiveness of this group of actors has never been clearly defined nor enumerated by our government. As such, Ranger denies and doubts the veracity of a threat necessitating a GWOT.

Our self-annointed War President Bush says the U.S. will be victorious in this proclaimed defining conflict of the 21st century. Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is comforted by the long war and a U.S. troop presence of 100 years. This means that we will remain until democracy has taken hold, or they run out of oil.

They predict victory in the PWOT, but do not bother to describe or list what benchmarks would constitute victory, or what victory will entail. We see that the tactics include aggressive invasions, torture, unjust imprisonments of suspected terrorists, abridgment of U.S. citizen's civil liberties, tax cuts for the wealthy and military service for the poor. But they stop there, at the operations end of it.

However, military victory is only half of victory. In order to understand victory, one must examine what defeat would look like. What do you win, and what do you lose? Also, what do you lose when you win? Can we afford to win, and is winning essential for the people of America?

Wars are not about feeling good about yourself; if that is your goal, watch Oprah and vote for Obama. Wars are about addressing strategic interests that must be sustained.

Remember V-E and V-J Day? If a war is essential then a declaration of war is a definition of that interest, with the will of the electorate sustaining the effort. Minus the will of the people, all war efforts are unsustainable.

After V-E and V-J Day the U.S. engaged the former enemy states of the Nazi and Japanese alliances with a political program that expressed the will of America. We as a nation agreed on the vanquished becoming democratic states.

Our efforts were so successful that today those countries continue to resist tyranny or the overthrow of due process. The rule of law prevails in their approach to their own experiences with terrorism.

Democratic ideology is not selective. It is a constant that does not flicker in adverse times. The terrorists in these countries have been dealt with judicially. For example, in Germany, the jailed members of the Red Army Faction have since been released and reintegrated into their society.

So what would a victory in the PWOT look like? Would the world become a large secret prison in which terror suspects languish without trial, or is an equable accommodation for all parties to be reached? That, after all, is what ensued after V-E and V-J Day.

The vision for a post-PWOT world is lacking.
Our leadership must define an endgame that clearly expresses our goals and aspirations. Launching cruise missiles is neither the answer nor the tactic to achieve victory.

Sometimes victory lies in the middle ground, and the middle ground is the domain of politicians and statesman. The road to victory will not be measured by military yardsticks.

Why is there no meaningful dialog in our society or from our leaders on this topic?

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

He Is Risen


Happy Resurrection Day, y'all.
Take Your Pick.

Please vote for the Nero bunny or the Dark bunny.

Being Florida, we have no truck with electronic votes, so please register via comments.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Stimulus - Response

In a time of war, the government divorces language
from meaning. . . . They drain the blood from words

--Martin Esapada

Losing by neglect, sir!
--How I Won the War (1967)

We will not tolerate insurrection
(3/19/08 episode)

The first thing this Ranger ever learned about terrorism was that all terrorist organizations have as a primary objective the mission to create a situation which will force the target government to overreact to the actual threat posed.

This hoped-for overreaction is a force multiplier in the terrorist's toolbox, and is historically more damaging than the original terrorist incident(s). Reactionary news agencies like the Drudge Report and Fox News reliably act as unpaid shills for the terrorist's cause, fomenting as they do panic when they tap into latent xenophobia when they bang the drums of war.

However, terrorism will never topple a stable government. It is only overreaction on the part of the targeted government itself which may achieve objectives far beyond anything envisioned by the terrorists themselves. Terrorists can impose damage, but they cannot fell a government. However, a government can self-immolate in response.

9-11, the ostensible prelude to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, destroyed approximately $20 billion in resources. In reaction, the U.S. has self-incurred a projected $3 trillion debt as a result of the wars thus far. This does not factor in secret budgets and Homeland Security follies, running into the $100's of billions.

So, if this is war, who's winning?

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Radical Chic

We should transition from being nation-builders
to nation-defenders.
But the nation we should
be defending is our own
--Bob Beckel

I’ve had enough of watching
scenes of schizophrenic, egocentric
paranoic, prima donnas.
All I want is the truth
Just give me some truth
--All I Want is the Truth, John Lennon

Top U.S. commander in Iraq General David Petraeus said last Thursday that Iraqi leaders have not made sufficient progress towards internal reconciliation. This downtick in enthusiasm was in contrast to his February report (Iraqi Leaders Not Making Sufficient Progress.)

Then, following the passage of laws on the budget, provincial elections and an amnesty for certain detainees, Petraeus had said, "(T)he passage of the three laws today showed that the Iraqi leaders are now taking advantage of the opportunity that coalition and Iraqi troopers fought so hard to provide."

General Petraeus should be advised that the passage of a law in Iraq is as meaningless as a mandate to love in a massage parlor. A law that can not be enforced is falderol.

In addition, the U.S. should be asking who benefits from these wondrous laws? Is it the American taxpayers picking up the tab and/or dying for this fiction?

"Petraeus credited
both the mainly Sunni neighborhood patrols known as the Awakening and a cease-fire called by Shiite cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr with helping to bring down violence. The Awakening fighters include former insurgents who say they have turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq, a largely homegrown Sunni group that Petraeus said is in communication with al-Qaeda
leaders abroad. The United States is now paying 88,000 members of the Awakening $300 a month to take part in the neighborhood patrols."

So al-Sadr's not quite so radical now that it appears he is benefiting U.S. interests. He even gets strokes from the good General. This re-branding is a joke. In fact, this cleric owns the country; Petraeus is but a breeze blowing across the palace balcony.

Another joke: the U.S. bribing paying militiamen -- former Sunni insurgents -- $26.4 million a month to tote AK's on city streets. [Meanwhile, we can't figure if our own 200+ year old Constitution allows U.S. citizens to bear arms.]

Texas tea:

"Sunni fighters in the western province of Anbar who have joined the Awakening 'are waiting for the next opportunity,' not the next war, Petraeus asserted. 'What they want to do is get more closely linked with Baghdad so they can continue to benefit from the enormous oil revenue wealth which is pouring into this country.'"

Can I link with Baghdad for a cut? While their oil revenue flows, our tax dollars continue to foot their bills. This is like being on a really bad date, for there will be no quid pro quo; she just wants to eat dinner and be gone.

Meanwhile, no one is staunching our bleeding as a result of the petro price-gouging. For one example of the trickle-down effect, the average grocery tab rose 5% in 2007 and is expected to increase by a higher percentage in 2008. No one is remunerating me for being on the Awakening Council to this fact.

Who is drawing the connection between the real costs of this war and the suffering of the average American? There is no cause for joy at a bottomless bucket of handouts for Iraqis while the economic thumbscrews are tightened on hardworking taxpayers daily. My life is not a whit better for George W. Bush's Holy Land crusade; in fact, it is much the worse.

The U.S. is rupturing at the seams, and there are people who care about Baghdad? The chickenhawk crew opposes "handouts" to the neediest U.S. citizens yet has no problem putting Iraq on a 100-yr. dole. The flow of dollars continues and democracy with an iron fist flourishes, everywhere except into our wallets.

Who is fighting for the average American struggling to get through the month?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Knight Templar

The threat to men of great dignity, privilege and pretense

is not from the radicals they revile;
it is from accepting their own myth.

Exposure to reality remains the nemesis of the great

-- a little understood thing

--John Kenneth Galbraith

Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing

The vision of a warrior bold

Would send him dancing
--Miniver Cheevy, Edward Arlington Robinson

John Kenneth Galbraith said the above following the country's slide into the Great Depression.

Ranger, simple person that he is, has given a lot of thought to George W. Bush's statement last Thursday to troops in Afghanistan that the goat screw they are mired in is "in some ways romantic." And for once, Ranger totally agrees with Mr. Bush.

It is romantic, and Ranger learned this from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.


  • Having no basis in fact; imaginary
  • Impractical in conception or plan
  • Marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized
This definition is totally in sync with Ranger's view of the whole balagan. Now, President Bush is on board.

The last definition is, "
constituting the part of the hero especially in a light comedy." The problem is, George's most excellent adventure is neither a comedy nor a romance for those playing the parts in real life.

While availing ourselves of the dictionary, we also checked
Walter Mitty: "An ordinary, often ineffectual person who indulges in fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs."

The office of President is not a job for a Mitty or a Cheevy
. Not in real life.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Back Street Boys

Brigadier General James Milano (center)
at a project for water pumping and sewage removal

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

And you may ask yourself--well...how did I get here?
--Once in a Lifetime, Talking Heads

Though I spends me time
In the ashes and soot

In this 'ole wide world

There's no 'appier bloke

--Chim Chim Cheree
, Mary Poppins


The thought of Dick Van Dyke as Bert the Chimney Sweep comes to mind after reading this article and hearing George W. Bush speak recently of the
romance of the thing. Yes, he must 'ave had an image of Bertie singing whilst cleaning wot put 'im in mind of pining over missing the romantic side of it. President Bush is daft if he thinks such things are romantic, or he has a coprophilic kink.

Remember when Colin Powell used his head for something other than a hat rack? Loosely translated, he said, "If you break it, you buy it," and clearly it is broken. This presumes we broke it, but the Iraqi infrastructure was dilapidated when we crossed their borders.

If their state was functioning on an adequate level, then why did we break it?

U.S. News and World reports on "The Hard Slog to Restore Public Services to Iraq":

"These types of problems are [Gen. Milano's] daily grind, with an assignment that has placed him in charge of overseeing the restoration of essential services to the Iraqi capital; that includes electricity, hospitals, sewers, and drinking water."

Ranger has some questions:
  1. Why is an Assistant Division Commander of an infantry division responsible for the above functions? As ADC his job should be to assist the Division Commander in fighting his division. Combat officers are not public service souls; their jobs are to break and destroy things. So why assign him as an angel of mercy?
  2. Where is the State Department in this picture? This is their venue, so why are they MIA?
  3. Is this why we surged -- so excrement will flow in Baghdad sewers?
  4. Why is the U.S. Army performing functions that should be the purview of the Iraqi National Government?

"If the project isn't completed on schedule in August, the local residents can look forward to another sweltering summer with tides of raw sewage flowing through their streets. "If we don't get the essential services done this year, I don't know when we will ever be able to do it," says Milano. 'The infrastructure is degrading, the people have little faith that the central government can deliver, and the security window could easily close.'"

Obviously the people should have no faith in a central government that does not deliver goods and services. We will hold off comments on New Orleans at this juncture.

"The Americans want to see the government of Iraq employ members of the largely Sunni awakening groups, many now being paid by the United States to help secure their neighborhoods. Getting those men to put down their guns and accept, say, a civil service job could cement security gains and increase employment. But the Shiite-led central government is making slow work of the task. Only a few hundred have been transitioned into the police forces or the army. Fewer still have made the change to civil service jobs like picking up trash."

"The Americans want to see"? It is not about what the U.S. wants, it is about what the Iraqi government is willing and able to do. Hasn't anyone read the Petraeus COIN manual? It's not about us, it's about them.

"To resolve the endless problems, the Iraqi government has appointed a special council to oversee the process and meet regularly with Milano."

Why are the Iraqis meeting with Milano?

"Right now, the general can use any help he can get."

Why does the general need any help at all? This is not his problem, this is not his job description, this is not his country.

Gen. Milano is a combat soldier and my taxes pay his salary for him to be a combat soldier, not a garbage collector.

Ranger posits Gen. Milano get out of the way and let the Iraqis solve their own problems.
If the U.S. Army is a utilities type concern, then let us do the garbage pick up in our country where it will benefit the taxpayers.

If you want to be a street cleaner go to any metro area in the U.S. Come to the hamlets of the homeland, for that matter. And if you're successful, we will give you another star.

Right on your forehead.

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Pimp My Ride

I'm not dead yet
Well I'm a wild card hidin' in the middle of the deck

You better get a bigger gun,

you better get a bigger gun
--Not Dead Yet, Styx

While the courts concern themselves about the extent of individual gun ownership rights, the April Blue Press features this baby: a 4,000 round per minute machine gun being sold to security and law enforcement agencies.

"The Dillon Aero M134D is an electrically powered, six-barreled, Gatling gun. . .powered by DC power sources." It is chambered for 7.62 NATO rounds, with mag capacity up to 4,400 rounds.

"Initially available only to military and other government entities, Dillon Aero is now accepting orders from foreign governments, security and law-enforcement agencies, motion picture companies, and qualified collectors."

Isn't that special? You won't be so quick to walk that picket line next time, huh?

Why on God's green earth does law enforcement need such firepower? Unquestioned, while the courts examine whether to curtail your right to own a weapon. The government is worried about my Smith and Wesson, while the police have assault weapons, vehicles and aircraft. Is this power disparity what the Founding Fathers had in mind?

The courts should instead be addressing the issue of the growing militarization of civilian law enforcement.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Coven

Souls of the Gluttonous, Gustave Doré
from Dante's Purgatorio


Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold,

Molten, Graven, Hammered, Rolled,

Hard to Get and Light to Hold;

Stolen, Borrowed, Squandered - Doled

--Greed (


In the Doré illustration, the first supplicant bears a stern resemblance to FRB Chairman Ben Bernanke (sorry.)

How nice that the Federal Reserve could convene in pre-dawn hours this week to fork over money to Bear Stearns Cos., an investment bank which made some rather poor choices over the gluttonous past several years. In providing these short-term loans,
the Fed used a rarely accessed Depression-era provision ("Fed and Rival Bail Out Bear Stearns.")

Bear Stearns is the second largest U.S. lender, and if it went under
"has the potential of bringing down the whole market," said analyst Richard Bove. It would have international reverberations, as well, as the subprime securities it controlled are held worldwide.

Since the economy --which George W. Bush assures us is not in the "R" word (we presume he means we will just move straight to the "D" word) -- is a grave concern for so many, and since this is an election year and the people are looking for help in their choice of candidate, it is important to realize the president has no control over the Fed. The Fed manages the economy, and nobody manages the Fed.

As the WaPo's Robert Samuelson wrote in
"It's Not the Economy," the president has very little impact in this arena. Therefore, voting for president on the basis of economic concerns is not sound, as he or she will have little impact on the direction of the economy.

The Week magazine recently featured a good overview of the Fed, this system of 12 government banks created in 1913 to "keep prices stable and long-term interest rates moderate" (Briefing: The Power of the Fed.)

"That may sound arcane, but the Fed’s machinations affect everything from the price of home loans to whether the economy is adding jobs or losing them. When the Fed manages the economy well, said former Fed official Robert McTeer, 'fewer people go to prison, more are healthier because they can afford to take better care of themselves, even the environment gets better taken care of.'"

By those accounts, it would seem the Fed is not managing the economy well.

The Fed sets interest rates via a

"murky process mostly done in private. The decision to raise or lower rates is made by the Federal Open Market Committee, which includes the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, and five regional Fed officials. . . The Fed rarely reveals what specific data guided a particular decision, which bothers critics. 'The nation pays a terrible price for allowing this cloistered governing institution to evade serious public scrutiny,' said William Greider, author of a critical book on the Fed."

The Fed doesn't answer to elected officials and is free of Congressional control. Capitalism is the basis of the U.S., yet the Fed controls capital that is beyond the voter's control.

Why does it matter who is president if your concerns are economic;
these guys control the nation's economic life. And the Fed will not respond to the will of The People.

The will of the bankers rules.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

From Both Sides, Now

A single death is a tragedy,
a million deaths is a statistic.
--Joseph Stalin

This was just posted by AP photographer Todd Pittman on the recent loss of his friend and fellow photographer, Dmitry Chebotayev ("Friend's Death Shows Cost of Iraq War.")

Lately more of these meditations on personal loss from members of the press have been appearing in the MSM. It is a shift from statistical coverage to real losses. It is not clear whether it is a ploy to catch the eye of an increasingly apathetic audience, or something different, like a recognition of the futility of the endeavors.

Here is an excerpt from Pittman's piece:

"I was always able to leave it all behind — until Dmitry was killed.

"That day, I crossed through a kind of looking glass, and saw the war in Iraq from another side.

"To the daily churn of news, it was just one more tragic story.

"To me, it was far more profound. It reverberated through lives thousands of miles away, changing them forever.

"I think about all the stories we have written — all the headlines and statistics that comprise the daily death tolls.

"I do not look at them so casually anymore."

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I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning

--Not Waving But Drowning, Stevie Smith

Why don't they make some kinda new law

That stops making a religion out of war?
--Far Far, M.I.A

Stupidity got us into this mess,

and stupidity will get us out

The Simpsons
The wars and the economy are inextricably linked key concerns for the U.S., yet none of the presidential hopefuls draw the parallels: the failures are two sides of the same coin. Both must be dealt with concomitantly or the country will not pull out of its nosedive.

"In 2008, its sixth year, the war will cost approximately $12 billion a month, triple the "burn" rate of its earliest years, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and co-author Linda J. Bilmes report in a new book.

"Beyond 2008, working with "best-case" and "realistic-moderate" scenarios, they project the Iraq and Afghan wars, including long-term U.S. military occupations of those countries, will cost the U.S. budget between $1.7 trillion and $2.7 trillion — or more — by 2017 (Iraq Costs $12 B Per Month.)"

Historically, all wars have been financed with deficit spending. But that was then; this is now. The U.S. is no longer facing an expansive future. Now is a crucial moment of reevaluation and realignment for this nation.

From oil to the dollar to trade deficits, to mortgage concerns and private and public debt --all are immediate problems demanding answers. The leaders so far have chosen the route of ignoring the problem, or denial. George W. Bush takes his cues from Martha Stewart and simply chooses to call all bad things, good things. It is not rational nor reasonable, but it is unassailable for that reason.

The wakeup call is coming, whether our leadership decides to get real anytime soon or not. You don't have to call the concierge on this one.


Dave C. Johnson
: Ranger requests you make contact via personal email. We would like to recognize you as a friend and bring you into the wire. We appreciate your advocacy. All personal email remains as such --Ranger

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Advice and Consent

It's in the air
it's everywhere.

Ooh baby, I'm losing you
--I'm Losing You, The Temptations

What’s sauce for the goose
is sauce for the gander

Croatian General Ante Gotovina, commander of 1995 Operation Storm which ended Serbian occupation of Eastern Croatia near the end of the Balkans war, went on trial in the Hague on Tuesday for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Gotovina, "working closely with American advisers," successfully led the four-day military operation which was a "turning point in the drawn-out war" ("War Crimes Trial begins for Croatian General.")." As with every war, perspective is all; Croatians celebrated it as the "heroic recapturing of its homeland. Serbia mourned it as the single largest event of ethnic cleansing of the 1991-1995 war that broke up Yugoslavia."

While the United Nations war crimes tribunal is not disputing Croatia's right to retake its land, Gotovina and his two co-defendants, Generals Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac, stand accused of a series of war crimes, including "knowingly shelling civilian targets, and allowing their soldiers and police officers to go on violent rampages during and after the military campaign, terrorizing civilians and looting and burning Serbian homes."

The prosecutor's opening statement Tuesday said "more than 350 civilians were killed in August and September 1995, most of them not in the heat of the battle but executed in revenge actions." These are the exactly the sort of long-held animosities U.S. soldiers are expected to referee in Afghanistan and Iraq, a no-win situation for the new policeman on the beat.

"Lawyers familiar with the trial believe it may also shed more light on the little-known covert American role during that decisive Croatian counteroffensive against Serbia."

U.S. military advisers, among them retired and active American military personnel, helped plan the operation, and Americans directed unmanned aircraft over the battle zone to gain real-time intelligence for Croatian forces, Croatian government officials have said.

The United States is not implicated in any of the charges related to the operation, but some of its intelligence methods and sources might be revealed, lawyers at the court said.

If the Croatian Generals are being tried for War Crimes, and if they acted under the staff action and planning guidance of American advisers, then why are the advisers not being tried as co-conspirators?

Advisers and planners are every bit as involved in the war crimes as the generals who executed those plans. U.S. soldiers and advisers are not above the law.

There once was a time when U.S. actions defined the laws of land warfare.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Big Three

Concentration of power precedes
destruction of human liberties.
--President Woodrow T. Wilson

Every gun that is made, every warship launched,
every rocket fired signifies in the final sense,
a theft from those who hunger and are not fed,
those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers,
the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
This is not a way of life at all in any true sense.
Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
--Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953)


There are three big lies:

  1. The check's in the mail;
  2. I love you
  3. The biggie -- the U.S. can afford to fight meaningless, frivolous wars of inconsequential nature.

The $2 Trillion estimated cost of the wars projected to 2017 and beyond and the
deaths, both friendly and those of the sand nations, would not be questionable if the wars had legitimacy.

In a military that has jettisoned combat-style leadership in favor of
corporate yardsticks, it is strange that we haven't seen many cost/benefit analysis applied to these phony wars.

Citizens on the domestic front must beg for paltry benefits, justifying their
applications with reams of documentation. Disabled veterans must fight for their duly earned federal benefits, often facing multiple rejections before they receive justice. Squeezing a buck from Sam is hard work, unless it is related to war or intelligence functions.

Bob Herbert recently wrote in "The $2 Trillion Nightmare,"

"The Bush administration has tried its best to conceal the horrendous costs of the war. It has bypassed the normal budgetary process, financing the war almost entirely through 'emergency' appropriations that get far less scrutiny."

This concept of "emergency" appropriations is another big lie perpetrated on the American taxpayer. The lie is enabled by a legislative branch unwilling to broach the elephant-in-the-room question: What is the money buying for America? As long as Congress shovels out the money for these wars, the hole will deepen.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said,

“Because the administration actually cut taxes as we went to war. . . this war has, effectively, been entirely financed by deficits. The national debt has increased by some $2.5 trillion since the beginning of the war, and of this, almost $1 trillion is due directly to the war itself ..."

In McClatchey yesterday, Joel Brinkley writes,

"In the end, however, all of this number gaming is meaningless. To fight the war, Bush has not taken money intended for other purposes. He is spending money the nation doesn't have. Almost every dollar spent on the war is another dollar added to the national debt. Some in the Bush administration argue that war spending stimulates the economy, giving some balance to the equation. But if that were so, why did administration find it necessary to enact a $168 billion stimulus plan a few weeks ago - even as it s
pends $15 billion a month on the war?
As Lawrence Lindsey, Bush's former chief economic adviser, puts it: "Taking resources that could be used to build homes, manufacture appliances, or invent and develop new technologies and using them instead to make things that get blown up is not good for an economy."(Adding Up the Cost of War.)"

Pretty simple, really.

Are the U.S. leaders so isolated and financially secure that they are unaware of the plight of the majority of our citizens? Has this great nation reached a Marie Antoinette moment in which the taxpayers should be eating cake?