RANGER AGAINST WAR: April 2008 <

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Obama Rallies' Feinted Faints?

To like an individual because he's black is just as insulting
as to dislike him because he isn't white.

--e. e. cummings


Bring me little water, Sylvie

Every little once in a while

--Bring Me Little Water
, Sylvie, Leadbelly

You call that a preacher?

No, no

He scandalized my name!

--American spiritual


Lord loves a workin' man; don't trust whitey;

see a doctor and get rid of it

--The Jerk
(1979)

__________________

I know of an amateur videographer who has captured Obama's Oral Roberts moment in two different campaign rallies. It sounds like Elmer Gantry, redux.


Twice, a young women has fainted at Obama rallies, in approximately the same area of the arena. As the kerfuffle unfolds, from the stage Obama raises both hands shoulder height, a la Rev. Wright and in his stentorian voice calms the crowd: "Do not worry -- she has only fainted. She needs water. Someone please bring water." Subsequently, she revives.


It is right out of the tent revival circuit. The only thing missing was the KFC bucket for the contributions, but that would be simply gauche amongst his latte-swilling demographic.


Two possible explanations come to mind: [1] The faints were scripted, or [2] He is accustomed to women swooning in his presence, and so takes it all in stride. If so, perhaps the campaign should travel with smelling salts.


I thought we'd already laughed the millenialists off the stage after Y2K. Yet after suffering through 7+ years with a born-again fundamentalist president, we are now being cadged by this tent revival hokum from the democrats?


I guess to someone who's never been to a revival, this all sounds very new. And to those who do know the revival circuit, very familiar. Obama is playing a winning hand among the dupes.


Carolyn Glick writing at RealClearPolitics.com took a compelling look at "Obama's cult of personality." Following is an excerpt:

OPPONENTS OF Clinton claim that she is a soulless woman who will do whatever is necessary to have power, because she likes power and wants it. But if this is true it is hard to see why a power-hungry president is worse than a president who believes that he is the people's redeemer. It is hard to see why a leader who wants power because she likes power is less reasonable than a president who thinks he has a right to demand that the American people follow his lead and fix their souls in the name of unity. In the former case, opposition to the leader is a policy dispute. In the latter case, it is apostasy.

Speaking in February of the man she knows better than anyone else does, Michelle Obama said that her husband, Illinois Senator and candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination Barack Obama, is the only candidate for president who understands that before America can solve its problems, Americans have to fix their "broken souls."

She also said that her husband's unique understanding of the state of souls of the American people makes him uniquely qualified to be President. . . He can heal his countrymen's broken souls. He will redeem them.

But then, saving souls is hard work, and Mrs. Obama won't place the whole burden on her husband. He'll make the Americans work for him. As she put it, "Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zone. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed."

At base, Mrs. Obama's statement is nothing less than a renunciation of democracy and an embrace of fascism. The basic idea of liberty is that people have a natural right to live their lives as usual and to be uninvolved and uninformed. And they certainly have a right to expect that their government will butt out of their souls.


It is the ultimate PoMo hagiography, a total mashup: Obama will enter the white house and make it white again. He will wash you clean, pick you up and give you faith. A preacher-man politician. He listens to Jay-Z on his i-Pod, but listens to Old School, too. He is a 12-Step program for the nation. Because we are guilty as sin. Of course, we started out that way, according to the Good Book.

You're paying five bucks for a blended Frappacino, when you know the hard-working brother down the street is going to Micky D's. Worse yet, fixing his coffee at home. Maybe even instant. Do they even make that anymore? You don't know, so you follow Michael Moore's admonition to atone for Dred Scott in the 19th century -- maybe before your people even came here. It doesn't matter, for you go to Panera Bread, and that can't be all good.


You are weaned on Oprah, and have never been to a tent revival, so the gesture seems redemptive and new, and all the New Age sages want to help you to be your best self, and here he comes. Presto-chango! Hop on the Obama train and vote for a new and better you.


The religious pander is especially unctuous. Redemption blather has no place in the American political circuit. Our Founding Fathers were fairly stern on the matter of separating church and state.

The savior choreography simply grates, probably because of the contradiction between the posture and the reality. The iconography is so simplistically rendered -- how can a thinking person fall for it?

Hillary's tossing pack boilermakers renders her the workingman's pal, but that construction is more easily borne than that of messiah, for the latter engenders an unquestioning herd mentality, as Glick says.


It is more than a little terrifying to see Americans so accustomed to being pumped up -- whether via Prozac or Oprah or whoever the cheerleader du jour might be -- that they now take their self-improvement fix even from politicians. Is the raft of self-help books at Borders not enough?


Rick Warren, where are you now?

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Criminal Minds

Everyone body sitting down, stand up!
And kill the right people

Lend a hand, Lend a killing hand

And kill the right people

--Kill the Right People
, Flaming Fire
____________

It's t.v time again!

This time it is the program Criminal Minds (4/23/08), which is a riff on the Dexter theme of homicidal maniac made-good. Everybody has a role to play in the newly fascist U.S.A.

Two girls are kidnapped, with one being killed and the other held hostage. Hands are lopped off and all the other gory things which have become workaday components of television today, nicely blurring the line between reality and reality t.v., or at least, the ubiquitousness of such depicted desecrations would lead one to imagine this sort of thing going on all the time.

All this right before bedtime, no less, insuring that you better ask for that bottle of Lunesta they are advertising on the break. (The face of "branded advertising" 2.0 ?)

As an aside, the father of the hostage is a Witness Protection Program (WPP) member. You don't get to be in the WPP unless you've had a brush with some nasty behavior, and this man is your run-of-the-mill contract killer.

As you might have guessed, he goes freelance and hunts down the hostage-taker. He kneecaps one bad guy with a shotgun and obtains the hostage location. As always, it is location, location, location.

This killer then coldly executes the hostage-taking killer. Tit for tat, fade to black. Next scene: Father and ex-hostage daughter are happily settling into a new home in Atlanta, back in the WPP.

The take home? Paid professional killers are necessary to set things aright. Things will go horribly awry because there are bad men out there, but thank goodness there are equally bad men who will do the right thing and neutralize them, vendetta-style. You would not know from this program that our system had evolved from the Magna Carta.

Also, there is a subtext of collective zombiefication. We, as a nation, are not swift, smart or clear enough to be able to deal judiciously with bad guys. Instead, they must be dispensed with a form of frontier justice, lest they rustle up some horses and abscond under cover of night before their hanging. It is a posture of sheer, terrified impotence.


But this is all to the good, as it helps lighten the court docket, relieves prison overcrowding and basically gives us a chance to cheer for our bad men. They are mercenaries sanctioned and welcomed in the civilian world.

Why do all of these programs read from the same sheet of music?

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The Screw Job


When trouble comes like a rainy day
I run to our secret hideaway and listen

You tell me what to do

--Secret Hideaway
, Crystal Lewis

I got me a Chrysler, it seats about 20

So hurry up and bring your jukebox money

The Love Shack is a little old place

where we can get together

--Love Shack
, B-52's

There's a small hotel

With a wishing well

I wish that we were there together

--There's a Small Hotel, Rodgers and Hart

____________


The Bush administration is seeking to sequester White House visitor logs for a decade, while two dozen news agencies have filed for their release under the Freedom of Information Act ("White House Challenges Release of Visitor logs.")

According to Seymour Hersh's book,
The Dark Side of Camelot, John F. Kennedy's Secret Service-abetted trysts with prostitutes were kept secret so as to prevent public scandal. After all, Catholics only screw to procreate, or so the Pope tells us.

45 Years later, White House denizens again want to keep hanky-panky out of the headlines. Except this time, it is the U.S. taxpayers who are getting the screw job.


"If released, the documents would show how often prominent religious conservatives visited the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's residence. . ."

Today's prostitutes -- the "prominent religious conservatives" -- are every bit as practiced as Kennedy's Ms. Exner in separating a fool from his money. The problem is, this time it is our money.


We're getting taken for a ride, but it is not a pleasurable one.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Jealousy

Jealousy, George Cruikshank

O! beware, my lord, of jealousy;

It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock

The meat it feeds on.

--Othello
, William Shakespeare


No diet will remove all the fat from your body

because the brain is entirely fat.

Without a brain, you might look good,

but all you could do is run for public office.

--George Bernard Shaw


JILL: I'm upset you are upset

JACK: I'm not upset

JILL: I'm upset that you're not upset

that I'm upset that you're upset.

--Knots
, R. D. Laing

_____________

Ranger often ponders: why is U.S. policy always anti-Iranian, anti-Russian, anti-North Korean and anti-Cuban? Is the U.S. jealous?

All of the evil empires have commonalities, among them:

  • They all go their own way, without regard for or guidance from Washington. For better or worse, they keep their own counsel.
  • They care little for nor do they request foreign aid from the U.S. In fact, they could care less if they ever have to deal with Washington.
  • The Russians have oil and nuclear weapons. Iran has oil and wants nuclear weapons. Have both denies U.S. hegemony on the world scene.

It looks like we are jealous because they are not jealous of our (once) jealously guarded values. Imagine the emptiness which must be felt by evil empires that lack for gangsta rap, Britney Spears, Tomkat, Brangelina, Paris Hilton, Victoria's Secret, NFL, NBA and Reality t.v.

This self-containment - contentment is clearly anti-American.

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When Crime Pays

Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!
One; two: why, then 'tis time to do't. Hell is murky.

Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and afeard?

What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our

pow'r to accompt?

--Macbeth
, Act V, scene i

Beware of pretty faces that you find

A pretty face can hide an evil mind

Ah, be careful what you say

Or you'll give yourself away

--Secret Agent Man
, Johnny Rivers


The good life was so elusive
Handouts, they got me down
I had to regain my confidence
So I got into camouflage

--I Love a Man in a Uniform
, Gang of Four


The best political weapon is the weapon of terror.
Cruelty commands respect. Men may hate us.
But, we don't ask for their love; only for their fear
--Heinrich Himmler

____________

Central Intelligence Agency director General Michael Hayden announced Wednesday that he was retiring from the Air Force this Summer (CIA Director Announces He'll Retire from Air Force.) He will continue at his CIA post as a civilian.

His picture is inspiring -- he is clean, fresh, manicured, and in his pretty blue uniform. Try as Ranger may, the image of Nazi SS Leader Heinrich Himmler flashes before his eyes. Both Hayden and Himmler were mild-looking men hiding grotesque criminal acts behind a tidy uniformed veneer. Patriots, they were.


Pretty uniforms and phony patriotism were the hallmarks of Nazi Germany, and now America is falling for this same seductive formula for instant success and surface sterilization.


But even the tidy uniform won't help Hayden brush off some actions. As director of the National Security Administration post 9-11 he allowed that agency, which is a Department of Defense asset, to be turned against the American citizens. While there, he allowed warrantless electronic surveillance of the communications of U.S. citizens.


For this egregious violation of our collective civil rights, this criminal was awarded a 4th star on his shiny uniform. And thus, any question of mafeasance endeth.


While choirboy director at the CIA, he oversaw implementation and consequent cover-up of secret prisons, extraordinary rendition (=kidnappings) and prisoner murders under interrogations by CIA operatives or their contract employees.


The party line is that the CIA doesn't torture or even waterboard, but keeping prisoners without trials for unlimited detention in solitary confinement is a definition of torture. These CIA criminal actions are probably the tip of the iceberg, as we the trusty taxpayers only get the facts when they are forced out of the administration.


So how does Hayden pay? He doesn't. We the taxpayers are about to pay $204,000 year for his military pension, while he continues to earn $172,000 for his fine work as a CIA salariman extraordinaire.


Who says crime doesn't pay? Especially when it is draped in a flag and pretty blue uniform.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

God the Father, God the Son


America! America!
May God thy gold refine

Till all success be nobleness

And every gain divine!

--America the Beautiful (1893)


And we are sick and tired of hearing your song

Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong

cause if you really want to hear our views

You haven't done nothin'!

--You Haven't Done Nothin',
Stevie Wonder

But these rose colored glasses, that I'm looking through

Show only the beauty, cause they hide all the truth
--Rose-Colored Glasses, John Conlee

Mister Herbert Hoover

Says that now's the time to buy

So let's have another cup o' coffee

And let's have another piece o' pie!

--"Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee"
, Irving Berlin
_____________

Completing the Trinity we go outside the Bush Clan: Michael Chertoff looks like the Holy Ghost, but there are just so many contenders in this administration. We welcome your vote.

A Sunday sermon for our readers, entitled, the Miracle Worker:

George W. Bush has often said that freedom is a gift from God to man. In this fairy tale of his making, God is the manufacturer of a democracy, which all men will accept and revel in. Mr. Bush knows this because he, like Moses, has spoken to God.

In effect, God and His Kingdom have become a democratic ideal that has become a tool in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©). It is a childlike fantasy from a weak individual who envisions himself as a Prophet (Profit?) President.

However, the historical God has not been friendly to the concepts of either democracy or freedom. Certainly, such a high muckety-muck who ordains what his minions shall and shall not do, and what days they must take off, would never give either of those possessions, for that would be to loose anarchy upon the world. He is more like the celestial High Police Commissioner than a proto-Bertrand Russel.

Freedom and democracy have always been wrested from the hands of unwilling leaders, both church and secular. The very concept of God is not a democratic principle, as it demands obeisance to a power hierarchy. If He or She exists, god is omnipotent, omnipresent and immutable, and His actions are not subject to polls or purple thumbs.

Freedom is a hard-won possession in a social construct, and one usually independent of God. God is a limiting concept on human freedom, because if you buy into it, the only freedom you have is what is dispensed to you from on high. He circumscribes your actions, sanctifying or damning them. He does not unleash you from controls, because in that system, you are as a child, and children would do themselves great harm without rules.

Freedom is not free--this is true, because Ranger saw it on a bumper sticker. But if it is not free in America, then why is it a gift to Iraq and Afghanistan? One of the basic tenets of American capitalism is that there are no free lunches. If it is worth having, then it is worth working for. We all possess the ability to actualize our dreams by the sweat of our brow.

So how has George Bush effected the transubstantiation of "freedom" into a god-given "gift"?
Any how did he become the FTD man who would deliver this bundle of joy to the ungrateful recipients?

This gift supposedly has devolved from a God that oversaw the decline of the Roman Empire, the rise of the Dark Ages, and intentionally fought the introduction of reason into the political discourse. The same God that now prompts President Bush and his lackeys to deny the validity of the scientific principle of evolution. That God gave man freedom?

You can not give freedom to a people. Freedom cannot be dropped like a cluster bomb. It doesn't arrive signed, sealed, delivered from a drone. One does not peel back the lid from a repressive regime and find freedom lying in the bottom of the tin.

The Pope continually favored the kings of old and defended their divinely ordained right to rule. God, through the church, has supported manifold undemocratic institutions, and to this day remains non-democratic. The Pope retains his "infallible nature," a concept arising from anything but an impulse to freedom. It is dictatorial, sexist and arrogant.

None of the other religions are any better. The early religious sects which migrated to the U.S. did so to escape religious repression, then proceeded to set up repressive societies disallowing religious freedoms to others. The Salem witch trials were democratic versions of The Inquisition.

The first thing the Spaniards did in the New World after stealing all that wasn't nailed down and selecting slaves was to impose their God upon the native population. They were free to do that, so hegemony confers freedom, but only upon those in the power position. The "freedom" they might confer is dilute, by virtue of their ability to dispense it.

Manifest Destiny and the City on the Hill and all the rest of the God-given propaganda sanctioned our imperial expansion and theft of Mexican and Native American lands. We gladly imposed our God upon those heathens, and though through conversion they too could gain God's favor, they were latecomers to the table.

As a result, they could only gain secondary democracy and freedom, which is to say not really freedom at all. They could get God, yes; democracy, no. At least not until the next life. You snooze, you lose.

Somehow Americans have come to accept Mr. Bush's fantasy of the feasibility of forcefully exported freedom and democracy. Moreover, they call it a virtue. But if this freedom is free, why are the American taxpayers footing a $3 trillion debt for this divine intervention?

Why do Americans accept such fantastical leadership? It would be acceptable if Bush were multiplying the loaves and fishes while the American public struggles to meet their exponentially rising grocery bills.

George Bush doesn't believe in evolution, but his God seems to have evolved from a tyrant to a benevolent custodian of free peoples inhabiting democracies.

This is not so much evolution, but a collective delusion; the result of living in a closed system called Fantasyland, under the dogma of your choice.

--Jim and Lisa

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Variable Equation


Toad saw that he was trapped. They understood him,

they saw through him, they had got ahead of him.

His pleasant dream was shattered.

--The Wind in the Willows
, Kenneth Grahame

It's long past time for the President to be honest

with the American people:
Under what circumstances
could our troops come home?
Under what scenario could this war end?

--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

________________

George Bush is fond of reciting the litany: he -- or at least the people he has placed in harm's way -- will not leave Iraq until he has achieved victory. But the U.S. will never win an insurgency because we are on the wrong side of the equation.

The issues pertinent to winning an insurgency are different than those that allow a pro ball team achieve a winning season. They outstretch a balance sheet that leads a corporation to prosper. Insurgencies are not readily quantifiable, unlike classic wars or business ventures or ball clubs. All of the latter are guided by cost/benefit analysis. Not only, "Can we
kill the enemy," but, "Can we afford to kill them?"

Even with "victory," a country may founder. The British empire won WWI and WWII, but the empire did not prosper. Wars must benefit the country or they should not be fought.
Why fight and expend treasure for no beneficial return?

For this reason the concept of frivolous (elective/preemptive) war defies reason. The war in Iraq is this type of war. No nation enters a war with the idea of losing, but who precisely is winning, and what are they winning?
What are we to achieve in Iraq?

The insurgents are not fighting for profit. They will not stop when the cost/benefit ratio becomes unfavorable to them, because that is not their motivator.

We will not win, because ultimately we cannot afford to win; we are on the business model. As with Bear Stearns, there will be an intervention and a bailout when things get too dire, even if stocks go at $2 a share. They, however, can not afford to lose. They are on the right side of the equation for winning this insurgency.


Five years and several lynchings later, Iraq is anything but stable or democratic. Democracy = instability in Iraq.
Democracy will never equal stability in Iraq. Stability will only be achieved via harsh, suppressive measures, which are not hallmarks of democracy.

The pundits are fond of saying that Iraq is complex, but Iraq is simplicity itself. The complexity is introduced because the U.S. cannot define what we are are, what our goals are and what Iraq should be. And we are using our metrics, which may not be the same measurements used by the Iraqis.

Saddam Hussein was also a simple quantity: a dictator controlling the diverse and hostile population of a make-believe country. The U.S. threw him out and has proceeded to reprise Saddam's role by trying to force the Iraqi people into a compliance.

The U.S.'s problem is they lack Saddam's legitimacy, who was of and by Iraq. A bad man, but at least he was their bad man. We will never get a compliance because we are on the wrong side of things. The right side to achieve that goal is to be a harsh overlord, but that contradicts our claim that we are there to outlaw that sort of thing.


The U.S. is hypocritical and will not gain success because we lack unity and consistency. The U.S. doesn't know what it is anymore
.


The Bush administration has compromised the nation's integrity. The image that comes to mind is that of a man sinking in quicksand, barking orders to everyone else, who may or may not also be sinking.
The U.S. is forcing its world view on Iraq, without holding a clear definition of that view. Now, that is complex. More to the point, confused.

The U.S. mission is impossible to reconcile; we cannot prove them wrong because we cannot prove ourselves right. Be free the way we want you to be free, but that freedom is an ever-changing quantity. At home, those vaunted freedoms are ever receding and being redefined. What is it we seek to export? U.S. democracy ala 1989? 2006, post-Yoo?


There is a cosmic joke hidden somewhere in this phony war. The Iraqi people do not need America in their lives or future. They are independent due to their oil reserves. However, the U.S. does need the Iraqi oil.

Balance that equation.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Whores and Pimps

Toad, from Wind in the Willows,
Arthur Rackham illustration


The world has held great Heroes,

As history books have showed;

But never a name to go down to fame

Compared with that of Toad!

--The Wind in the Willows, Kenne
th Grahame


When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of,

he always declares that it is his duty

--George Bernard Shaw


The true hypocrite is one who ceases to perceive his deception,

the one who lies with sincerity

--Andre Gide

_____________

The New York Times ran a feature 5/20 on military talking heads -- experts who whore to the media for the Bush administration (Behind Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand.) These experts are just Pentagon toadies.

"Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

"The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air."


Is this the logical extension of the Officers Corps' Honesty Above All Else motto?

On a personal level, we have received numerous attacks both from individuals and groups casting aspersions upon Ranger's character and legitimacy. Always ad hominem, they boil down to calling Ranger a "phony" and a "turncoat." In effect, a REAL Ranger and officer would neither question nor object to a phony war.

Oddly enough, the most recent vitriol came with an invitation to join their group's site. One semi-clearheaded member of the merry band wrote to say that though Ranger was welcome on their site, he will be roundly trounced should he join. They must think all Rangers are masochists.

In effect, President Bush remains for them the Commander in Chief (though many have been out of uniform for a while), the C in C is a fuhrer, and their blood oath to him is inviolable. One group actually invited Ranger to their bar/bunker to sing German drinking songs. God bless the netizens.

It does not matter that my oath was to the Constitution and transcends all personalities, both mine and theirs.

Ranger is not paid and does not shill for anyone. All the military talking heads get paid big bucks, and are presented as all-American and impartial experts; they are anything but. They are money-grubbing whores in power neckties.

Though on reflection, that is to do an injustice to whores, who at least possess a level of honesty these pukes don't possess or comprehend.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Killing Fields

You teach a child to read,
and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test

--George W. Bush

_______
________

Amidst the current electioneering, one topic which seems to get short shrift is the U.S. public education system. The Bush boys' "No Child Left Behind (NCLB)" initiative has been a spectacular failure.

It degrades the teacher, handcuffing him or her to a system which allows little room for creativity. It demands the proverbial "teaching to a test," which pleases only the teachers who find comfort in rote recitation.


The students are placed in a nearly constant state of anxiety, as they now know they are part of a herd, which will be thinned via failure if they fail to tick off the state-mandated road markers. Analytical thinking is not as prized as rote memorization and drill.


This week marks the 25th anniversary of a national report, "Nation at Risk," which warned in 1983 about the deteriorating state of public schools. Today, our society is showing the returns on roughly 40 years of failed academic experiments, first committed in the name of raising student's self-esteem (letting students find their "own their voice," no matter how pitiful the grammar with which they expressed it), now in the name of raising the state's self-esteem (or more correctly, ability to earn funds.)


The problem is heartbreaking, and maybe even nation-breaking. But for those who will fill the nation's boots, higher thinking may not be a priority.


In an insidious aside, the Air Force recently said their slick ad campaign was really aimed more at adults, who might then speak with the younger generation about the service. And next week we've got a "BG from the Pentagon" coming right here to River City. Gonna visit one of our toughest high schools next Tuesday to give ROTC members a pep talk. 10:1 the talk is not going to be about book learnin'.


There is no formula for creating an excellent teacher, nor an excellent student. It has something to do with preparation and care, and outside support.


Students do not arrive at school in a vacuum. Social milieu matters.
It is a far different thing to walk to school past armed guards and through a metal detector than it is to pass smiling moms volunteering with coffee dollies, two extremes in our town. The high school the BG will be visiting is one of the former (surprised?) No coffee for him, but maybe a Coke from the padlocked vending machine.

The Head Start program helps mitigate the disparity, and it is a crying shame that such programs are continually nickled and dimed while there is always money for the killing business.


in "Education Lessons We Left Behind," George Will quotes Chester Finn, author of,
Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik", who says NCLB "got things backward":

"'The law should have set uniform standards and measures for the nation, then freed states, districts and schools to produce those results as they think best.' Instead, it left standards up to the states, which have an incentive to dumb them down to make compliance easier."

Bob Herbert also wrote an excellent piece on the topic, "Clueless in America," in which he says,

"Roughly a third of all American high school students drop out. Another third graduate but are not prepared for the next stage of life — either productive work or some form of post-secondary education."

A recent survey of teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900.

He ends saying, "We've got work to do." But that work does not seem to be prized nor prioritized. There are educational initiatives in place, such as Americorps and Teach for America, but these programs which could actually do some good always get the short end of the funding stick.

Working in an urban classroom must not be as romantic as fighting halfway across the world.

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Kiss and Make Up

If you really wanted to screw me up,
you should've gotten to me earlier
--High Fidelity (2000)

[Carole King] was a muse who had turned a man —
just for the space of a song — into a woman.

And that may be even harder than changing the world.

--Stephanie Zacharek on Girls Like Us
___________

To any men I may have offended with an earlier post,
I just wanted to say that I really do empathize.

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Coward of the County


So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides
that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is

always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear.

But let us never fear to negotiate

--John F. Kennedy


Somebody once wrote:
"Hell is the impossibility of reason."
That's what this place feels like. Hell.

--Platoon
(1986)
______________

Cops and robbers, Cowboys and Indians. If she didn't get to play in the schoolyard, she is making up for lost time now. Everyone gets to play in Georgie Bush's playhouse:

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mocked anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a coward yesterday, hours after the radical leader threatened to declare war unless U.S. and Iraqi forces end a military crackdown on his followers
(Rice frames al-Sadr as Coward.)"

Ranger remembers 9-11 and the immediate aftermath. Both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney availed themselves of Cold War bunkers, holing up in "undisclosed locations" to protect themselves from airplane hijackers. Of course, both these sniveling jerks are heroes in Condoleeza Rice's book. That makes her one confused woman.

Now she calls al-Sadr a coward. Is this the State Department equivalent of putting panties on his head and sexually humiliating him? Is this a diplomatic initiative? New State Department etiquette?

Reuters reported yesterday, "
China must stop cursing the Dalai Lama and talk: U.S." Right. Do as we say, not as we do. Works well with children -- why not apply to the rest of the world?

"Public vilification of the Dalai Lama will not help defuse the situation," [Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte] said of China's angry tide of statements since protests erupted across Tibet in March."

"Through outreach and genuine dialogue, China and the Dalai Lama. . . can begin to bridge differences, explore the meaning of genuine autonomy and address long-standing grievances," he said. "

Sounds like the Deputy needs to advise the Secretary.

The U.S. claims it wants to facilitate consensus in Iraq but words and actions indicate otherwise.

--by Jim and Lisa

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Koan


There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear

--For What It's Worth, Buffalo Springfield

_____________

60 Minutes last Sunday featured two stories which sat in absurd juxtaposition.

The first was the problem of rapidly escalating food prices and shortages, and the resultant starvation plaguing the world.

The second was about farmers in Pennsylvania cashing in on natural gas exploration funds to keep their barely profitable farms afloat.

So here in the U.S., farmers cannot make ends meet while the world starves. How can this be?

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

51st State


It's not personal, it's only business
--The Godfather III,
(1990)


When a
war between nations is lost
The loser we know pays the cost

--Now That the Buffalo's Gone
,
Buffy Ste-Marie

_______________

Some congressmen are considering floating a law which would require Iraq to contribute its windfall oil profits to finance their country's rebuilding (Democrats, Republicans Coming to Agreement: .) At first blush this sounds reasonable, but then not.


[1] Iraq did not request nor concur in the unilateral decision that opened their sovereign nation to the pillaging Armies of the Great Coalition of the Willing. Since they had no input, why should they provide output? Did they sign onto a
pre-invasion finance plan? 90-days, same-as-oil?

[2] How can the U.S. Congress pass a law that commits the sovereign nation of Iraq to a financial course of action? U.S. Federal laws bind our citizens and states, but they cannot control the actions of other countries.

What will Congress do if the Iraqis won't pony up. Will we invade them to collect the cash and fuck up their country?

It seems that Congress views Iraq as the 51st State. Not.

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1,000


I just want to celebrate
another day of livin'
--I just Want to Celebrate, Rare Earth

______________

We at Ranger humbly celebrate our millennial post today.

A heartfelt thanks to our faithful band of readers, old and new, and your comments. We have met some super people -- true world citizens (including Americans) -- and made some friends. We look forward to more dialog.


When standing with incredulity before the newspaper each morning, it is heartening to know you are not alone, cathartic to get it out and illuminating to get feedback from multiple points of view.


What's gonna change in the next 2 1/2 years? A return to democracy here at home? Only the shadow knows. Whatever, we will continue from our critical posture on the current audacity of the inanity.


Here's to the next millenium. Cheers.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day


What is the use of a house if you haven't got
a tolerable planet to put it on?

--Henry David Thoreau


Elvis is in your jeans
He's in your cheeseburger

Elvis is in Nutty Buddies
--Elvis is Everywhere,
Mojo Nixon

--I want to say one word to you.
Just one word. Are you listening?
--Yes, sir.
--Plastics
--The Graduate (1967)
_____________

It's not all guns and roses here at Ranger. We care about the environment, and this is a post to recognize Earth Day. The ways in which we are blighting our planet are manifold. Botanist Michael Pollan says in the New York Times Magazine's Earth Issue we need to live lighter and be more self-sufficient, thereby becoming an example to others.

It is questionable whether monastic chic will catch on here. Because the topic is so daunting, I will just share a simple thought, a dabble in conspiracy theory. It is a tale connecting plastics to the virtual game, Second Life.

On the same day last week two stories were featured in the MSM and a connection was formed, as writing on this site has taught me to make linkages, however tenuous.

First, it was reported that a compound found in plastics, bisphenol A (bis A), was possibly detrimental to human health, an endocrine disruptor linked to various reproductive abnormalities; Canada would be banning it. The four New York Times links are here.

It has been linked to insulin resistance, which may be why we are so fat; it may stimulate, or suppress, the immune system, resulting in a rash of autoimmune diseases; it may result in a host of reproductive failures, including cancers and impotence.

Like the ubiquitous Elvis in Mojo Nixon's song, bisphenol A is everywhere: it's in the cups and bottles from which you drink, it's in the lotions contained in the bottles, it's in cosmetics, baby bottles and sippy cups, it lines the cans of canned food, ad infinitum.

In addition to bis-A, phthalates are another component of flexible plastic goods which may cause similar problems when ingested.

The reports did not go into detail about the reproductive problems, but among these are undescended testicles and micropenis, in boys.

A micropenis makes it hard, as Ranger would say, to get the hose to the fire. This brought to mind a male friend 15 years ago speculating on the reason behind his smallish member. A finer soul you could never hope to meet, and he thought perhaps the wearing of too-tight Spiderman Underoos in his youth might have been to blame. Now, I am thinking maybe the plastic baby bottles had something to do with it.

What's a boy to do?

Well, one solution is just live another life, a Second Life. The New York Times featured an article the same day on The Sims, a computer game in which players create a virtual life. While this game appeals mainly to teenagers, it brought to mind the virtual world game Second Life, which has become an obsession for many adults. A WSJ article from last year lays out the problem (Is This Man Cheating on His Wife?)

Why not trade the micropenis and pot belly (not a winning combo) in for a ripped bod and become a philanthropist-capitalist? Dudes at the bar will envy you; chicks will dig you. Take on a wife -- there are no obligations. You can even take on a few. Be a jet-setter. Earn the big bucks. You can have anything you want at Alice's Restaurant. But only on the 15" screen.

You can attend virtual anti-war rallies at the village green; socialize at the clubhouse later, all from you computer screen whilst huffing down frozen calzones and Milky Ways and Mountain Dew in your tattered skivvies, trash bucket nearby in which to chuck the empties. You feel like you are actually doing something. Like Steve Martin's character Navin in The Jerk, you too can Be Somebody!

I am not alone in my theory. Dr. Leonard Sax also sees an environment dripping in xenoestrogens and pthalates as possibly driving boys and men to live in these virtual worlds as they become more and more like Peter Pans.

Now you take it to the next level. Let us say you don't want troublesome people protesting in the streets. Might you then give them Nalgene bottles and virtual streets?

It's just a theory, mind. But if you had the materials and tools, wouldn't you build a real house?

Just sayin'.

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How's the Weather Underground?

Got some, dirt on my shoulder,
could you brush it off for me

--Dirt Off Your Shoulder
, Jay-Z
__________________

The New York Times' MoDo of all people picked up on Obama's unspoken reference to Jay-Z's rap recently but I don't think this one is so easy to brush off (Brush it Off), despite the urging of the press that anything negatively related to Obama really is insignificant.

Once upon a time in a long ago and far away place called America there was a revolutionary organization called the Black Liberation Army (BLA). A terrorist organization, their purpose was nothing less than violent overthrow of the government.


People named Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn had organizational and operational links to the BLA. People who are now associates of presidential hopeful Barack Obama. The WaPo even wrote an apologia for the two last week, replete with dorky picture of Ayers with wife and unrepentant fellow revolutionary, Bernardine Dohrn (Former 60's Radical is Now Considered Mainstream.)

Ayers and Dohrn were also members of the radical leftist Weather Underground Organization (WUO). In the WUO position paper, signed by Ayers and Dohrn, they described themselves as a
"white fighting force" to be allied with the "Black Liberation Movement" and other "anti-colonial" movements, to achieve the goal of "the destruction of U.S. imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world Communism."

(With their racially separate but equal "fighting forces," I guess they didn't quite get the idea that Plessy vs. Ferguson needed to go, too. I'm sure as the victorious, racially divided armies stood around, they would have figured that one out.)


They carried out a domestic terror campaign of bombings, jailbreaks and riots. However, the WaPo depicts Ayers and Dohrn as the most assimilated of 60-year-olds. Silly to make a flap over. Surely they wear Birkenstocks on the weekend and probably drive a Prius and drink soy lattes at the corner Starbucks.

They portray the WUO as a bunch of largely ineffectual white dweebs. But what these dweebs had planned was anything but mild.

WU
Member Brian Flanagan said a planned bombing of U.S. military non-commissioned officers' dance at Ft. Dix had been intended to be "the most horrific hit the United States government had ever suffered on its territory." How does that strike you? It was foiled only due to an earlier explosion at their safe house.

Bill Ayers, now a respectable university professor said in a New York Times piece (9/11/01) that he does not "regret setting bombs. I believe we didn't do enough."

Yet the WUO seems to have acquired a patina of inexplicable respectability today. Something quaint and nostalgic for a colorless time. And though WUO never killed anyone outside of their group with their bombs, the BLA with which they were affiliated, did. Specifically, two police officers and an armed guard in a Brinks robbery near Nyack, NY, in 1981.

The memory of the WUO's extreme left wing ideology seems remote. Obama opts out by saying he was only 8 years old at the time, and attending a madrassa in Indonesia.

The MSM never raises the linkages and crossover activities of Ayers and Dohrn, people with whom Obama has enjoyed personal home visitations.

Does this make Obama a BLA terrorist or supporter? Maybe -- maybe not. But it is worth exploration before this election proceeds further.

The press ignored President Bush's purported drunken driving, and it is now evident that he has been driving this country while drunk.

Do we want Obama to drive the country while being black and sympathetic to Black Liberation Army ideology?
His rageful mentor of 20 years, anti-American cleric Wright, is not encouraging. Obama had a choice between mild-mannered preacher and revolutionary, and he chose the latter.

We as a nation are acting as an individual leaping into a rebound relationship, and those rarely work out well. This is a time for considered introspection, not flip-flopping over into the thing that looks to be the opposite of the pain-inducing relationship [= the past eight years of George W. Bush & Co.]


We are in a Phony War on Terror [PWOT©] and fear is the daily product sold to the American taxpayer. We are told that al-Qaeda sleepers and undercover agents are in our very midst.

If so, then is it not possible that Obama's associate Ayers -- who has never recanted his violent activities -- and Dohrn are long-term BLA sleepers?

Their linkage with Obama needs to be explored.

--Jim and Lisa

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Down and Dirty


There is no doubt in my mind when history was written,
the final page will say: 'Victory was achieved by the

United States of America for the good of the world

--
George W. Bush, to Gen. Petraeus
______________

President Bush is speaking in the tantalizing past tense here, like some kind of modern-day Nostradamus. Perhaps he doesn't really know something we don't, but simply chose the wrong verb tense. Happens even to the best of us.

Take a look at this ROVER JTAC system -- a small computerized laptop radio and all the goodies. And what does the Air Force do with this high-tech contraption? That's right, sets its all down in the dirt. Somehow that seems contraindicated for a piece of equipment with such refined tolerances.


The caption reads:


"Joint terminal attack controller Master Sgt. Chris Thompson communicates via a remotely operated video enhancement receiver recently in Southwest Asia. The ROVER, a small laptop with an external antenna, allows the JTAC to see from the eyes of the pilot, ensuring minimal collateral damage (Lifting the Fog of War.)

Of course, ROVER can only "see" if it is fully operational. Now, you can put a Ranger in the dirt and he will function just fine.

But that is not the way to treat a computerized attack control system.


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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rent-a-Soldier


Nothing succeeds like success
--Alexandre Dumas

______________

U.S. Defense secretary Robert M. Gates said this week,

"rapidly building up the armed forces of friendly nations to combat terrorism within their borders was 'a vital and enduring military requirement' — and one that should be managed by the Defense Department (Pentagon Seeks Authority to Train and Equip Foreign Militaries."

Yep, and why not? It has been such a tremendous success thus far in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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Woolgathering


The world is a beautiful place to be born into
if you don't mind some people dying all the time
or maybe only starving some of the time
which isn't half so bad if it isn't you.
--Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lester: You don't think it's kinda weird & fascist?
Carolyn: Possibly, but you don't want to be unemployed.
Lester: Oh well, all right, let's all sell our souls
and work for Satan because it's more convenient that way
--American Beauty (1999)

"So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?
or 'What are we to drink? What are we to wear?' . . .
-- Matthew 6:31
_____________

But what are we to eat? What are we to drink? Well, thank goodness such questions don't distract those running for high public office in the U.S.

John McCain released his tax returns Friday, but they "don't provide a full picture of his wealth because they don't include his wife's income."

Cindy McCain is the chairwoman of a huge Phoenix-based Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship, Hensley & Co., which her parents founded. She may be worth more than $100 million, according to some analysts' estimates ("McCain releases tax returns but leaves out rich wife's Data.")

The Clinton's have earned $108 million since leaving office, and Obama and wife pulled in a tidy $4.2 million in 2007, according to the L.A.Times. Our current President Bush enjoys being a part of a family with no worries about how to make the monthly electric bill, thanks in no mean part to the warm petroleum relations between the house of Bush and the house of Saud.

But Americans are visual creatures. George Bush with a large belt buckle gathering brush on his Crawford ranch; Hillary throwing back boilermakers; Obama assuring us he worships our lord Jesus Christ. All very necessary for constructing the pastiche which constitutes our hopes and dreams, the golem that will become our savior and advocate.

Obviously these households are just like yours and mine. Ranger is sure that they all can absorb the spiraling cost of living handily, while still managing to present themselves as just another Ossie and Harriet.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Picky Picky


Red rover, red rover, send
air strikes right over

--British Bulldog, game


But you're not talking to a soldier now,

you're talking to an expedition. I'm an expedition!

--Gunga Din (1939)


What we have here? A bunch of fig-eaters wearing towels

on their heads,trying to find reverse in a Soviet tank.

This is not a worthy adversary.

--The Big Lebowski
(1998)

______________

Continuing Air Force week comes this from an article on the ROVER program (Litening-AT targeting pods) in "Lifting the Fog of War" in Citizen Airman, April 2008:

As the Global War on Terror evolved into counter-insurgency operations, the importance of hyper-precise airstrikes and minimizing collateral damage demonstrated the need for a tool like ROVER to aid in the decisions to release weapons from aircraft, Colonel Arthur said.

This is a statement of the actuality of the GWOT [Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©)] which is never officially acknowledged: the PWOT has evolved into counter-insurgency.

The U.S. military is being used to subject and force the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan to bend to our will. If they do not do so, then send in the A-10's.

The wild blue yonder meets Gunga Din.

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A Special Breed of Man


Joseph W. Urbas, 1948-2008
____________

Presented is a picture of my friend 1LT Joe Urbas, 12th Special Forces Grp (Abn.) sent to me by his sister. The picture was featured on an Army recruitment poster for its "Special Breed of Man" campaign, and taken early-mid 1970's in Montana or Wyoming on a field training exercise.


Ranger especially liked this picture and the accompanying text. As stated in my previous post on Joe (DLIC), we grew up in the same ethnic neighborhood in Cleveland, later both attending Bowling Green State U. and enrolling in ROTC there. Joe was commissioned as a 2LT/Inf/OCS Ft. Benning, 1970, and served 1 CAV Div (Airmobile) RVN.

This photo is a proud testimonial and crawled into my dreams last night. The photo and letters from his sisters tell me a lot about Joe's life. He was not a fortunate son. His lifelong home was 72nd Place off St. Clair in Cleveland, Dennis Kucinich's old neighborhood.


No fancy digs there, but I know he was there because that is where he wanted to be. The picture makes me proud because I also know he wanted to be there, doing what he was doing.


Joe always wanted to be a soldier, but I also know that there were dimensions to his being that transcended that reality and level of existence. During my last two visits with Joe he knew he was dying and that he would eventually succumb to cancer, but he hadn't given up his attitude. He wasn't balls to the wall but rather accepting of his condition.


Ranger plans to attend Joe's memorial celebration, but if this doesn't happen let's hope these memories will suffice.


Goodbye, Joe. A salute to a fine soldier and friend.


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