RANGER AGAINST WAR: January 2009 <

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rout Step Unit

--Christo Komarnitski (Albania)

You know I'll always be your slave
Till I'm dead and buried in my grave

--Bring it on Home
, Sam Cooke

Well ain't your President good to you

Knocked 'em dead in Libya, Grenada too

Now he's taking his show a little further down the line

Well, 'tween me and his people,

you're gonna get along just fine

--Snake Oil, Steve Earle

There is a condition worse than blindness,

and that is seeing something that isn't there

--Thomas Hardy


Though the term "WOT" may be OBE, the war in Afghanistan is about to be ramped up. What and who will gain?

We know the War on terror is a phony construct, and President Obama
is wise to scrap it, yet the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are very real. Since we agree they are not "Wars on Terror," then what is their purpose?

Supposedly, they are COIN or nation-building efforts, but after seven years, those are obviously losers. So why continue the effort?

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan follow the same concepts as the financial bailouts: the U.S. throws money and lives (theirs and ours) down a bottomless pit with no chance of a successful outcome. Seen in this light, the rebel leaders in Afghanistan are the realists and the U.S. is operating squarely in the Twilight Zone. You see, the Afghans are defending their way of life, and that's always a winner.

For some reason, America has embraced the concept that the Federal government should be in the toxic asset relief business, and
that is what Afghanistan is -- a toxic national asset.
U.S. leadership says "economic and military reality be damned," and continues the march as if they are actually counting cadence.

The U.S. has become a rout-step unit, incapable of a national cadence.
Our national policy reminds Ranger of the saying, "It's like putting frogs in a bucket," or maybe it is like controlling a Wal-Mart crowd during an after-holiday sale. Neither the frogs nor the crowd are containable, yet that is the crux of our policies.

The problem with COIN is that our policies fail to embody the reality of America, which is that of a country not endlessly flush. Our leaders too often live in bubbles of affluence, enjoying nice perks, and thinking that all of America is like that. Even Green Daddy Gore couldn't cite the cost of a gallon of milk when called upon to do so by a reporter.

The U.S. should not be projecting this image of a flagrant excess which cannot even be sustained homeside.
What a fraud to perpetrate upon poor peoples elsewhere.

Our leaders live a top-drawer lifestyle which the rest of America struggles. This is the reality, yet what happens? We continue to up-armor the fight in Afghanistan, because it is a beautiful smokescreen that hides the even uglier realities from our glaucomic eyes.

The basis of COIN is that we are selling hope, growth, freedom and improved lifestyles to a foreign population. Meanwhile, those selfsame things are wilting on the vine in our own backyards.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

All You Need is Love

Time, 2/18/57

This is a simple post to uplift you.

Today, my friend Mark showed me the above
Time magazine cover inscribed by the Reverend Martin Luther King to his late father, Dr. Evans. It was in an envelope including 51 other (mostly) autographed cover pages, including those of Marilyn Monroe, Sergeant Shriver and Lyndon Johnson.

Mr. Evans, the president of a small college and active with the local Boy Scout troop, had a simple and brilliant idea: He wrote to the personalities on the cover of each issue for one year. On behalf of the Scouts, he asked for an autograph for their troop house and advice on how to succeed in life. (Below is a snippet of his solicitation letter.)

Dr. King wrote the following on his cover:

"Love is the highest good in the universe. This principle stands at the center of the cosmos. God is love. He who loves is a participant in the being of God. He who hates does not know God."

Simple, right? I guess there are a whole lot of false Gods out there, or false adherents.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Down the Rat Hole

You can ask about it,
but nobody knows the way

No breadcrumb trail

to follow through your days

--All This Beauty
, The Weepies

A few sundry thoughts as we pass the first week of Mr. Obama's presidency.

VP Joe Biden said we will continue to support and ramp up the war in Afghanistan (
"Biden Sees Afghanistan 'Uptick'.") Mr. Biden is being as disingenuous as any politician by casting the situation as a case of "reclaiming" lost territory, the prefix "re-" presuming a prior situation.

The administration's stated goal is not only to deny terrorists safe haven, but to free the people
from corruption, warlords and druglords. An ironic goal as it does not jibe with the other stated goal of bringing democracy, for the freely-elected government is run by and with the support of drug lords. Warlords are US, could well be their motto, and sharing kinship with the Central Intelligence Agency and Special Forces.

As Obama said, he won, but
in continuing the futile war in Afghanistan, he is playing politician, which means following certain preordained rules in order to curry favor. He will not make the same mistake that Clinton made alienating the Department of Defense out of the gate.

Clinton's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy effectively destroyed his credibility as Commander in Chief, tacked on as it was to his early anti-war stance and his clumsy handling of Mogadishu. He sat squarely behind the eight ball with the military after that.

Obama will not allow this same strategic blunder, even if it means that Americans will continue to fund, fight and die in another phony war.
Helen Cooper in the New York Times questions even what the mission is (Fearing Another Qaugmire in Afghanistan.) Andrew Bacevich said,

"'There's clearly a consensus that things are heading in the wrong direction. What's not clear to me is why sending 30,000 more troops is the essential step to changing that. My understanding of the larger objective of the allied enterprise in Afghanistan is to bring into existence something that looks like a modern cohesive Afghan state. Well, it could be that that's an unrealistic objective. It could be that sending 30,000 more troops is throwing money and lives down a rat hole.'"

How can the American people end this elective war? As
WaPo's Dan Froomkin put it, "Congress -- that dysfunctional and widely despised institution that by all appearances still lives and breathes partisan politics" won't do it.

Meanwhile the U.S. government spends $100's of billions on foreign and domestic intelligence, yet we the people never see the data on the actual threat posed by al-Qaeda, including those elements in Afghanistan. U.S. policy continues to react to emotion and political considerations, versus hard intel.

The new president promised transparency and reckonings -- lay on, Obama. Why does no one in the National Command Authority give the American people a realistic appraisal of al-Qaeda's capabilities and intents?

This is not the change the people had hoped for.

--Jim and Lisa

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When Terrorists Rule the Coop

There is no clarity if you are clear about economics
and totally unclear about the ways of your own thinking

--Jiddhu Krishnamurti

Q: How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg?

A: Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one


New Middle East envoy George Mitchell can probably hootch up with Tony Blair and sandbag their windows for all the good they are going to do. Just because Mitchell thinks he knows something of Northern Ireland does not mean that knowledge can be generalized to the Hamas situation (Old Hand for an Old Mission.)

Northern Ireland could be viewed as a legitimate insurgency. Hamas is not comperable because they lack historical validity, coupled with their stated goal of obliterating their opponent, Israel. This is a different thing than the goals of the IRA, which wants England to leave Ireland and/or share power. Israel, unlike England, has no retrograde position.

While Mitchell is credited with the successful resolution to Northern Ireland's civil war in the Belfast Agreement, that is not a given. We really do not know that there has been a successful conclusion the The Troubles, nor do we know if it was a civil war. As usual, the terms are oblique.

Was Northern Ireland a civil war or a war of national liberation? Was it a war at all? Did Irish Republican Army prisoners enjoy the rights of the Geneva Convention?

In fact, IRA operatives were assassinated, tortured and jailed in somewhat barbaric fashion. They suffered the same confusion of categorization as the U.S.'s detainees: were they criminals or prisoners of war?

Was the IRA terrorist, or a legitimate unconventional asymmetric combat force? Were the British a legitimate force or a foreign occupying Army, a colonial vestige of subjugation? Or were they forces of democracy?

Point being, it is difficult to define the problems of Northern Ireland, yet it is clear that people of the same religion and culture cannot, could not and would not live side-by-side in peace. Christians whose enmity reaches back to before the Battle of the Boyne (1690) still hate one another, regardless of Mr. Mitchell's efforts.

Hamas and Israel is another case of intractable hostilities with little agreement upon terminology. Terrorist group Hamas is now legitimized in its freely elected role in the Palestinian parliament (thank you, George Bush), and has progressed through the spectrum of conflict into a military organization.

Since it represents a state, albeit a dysfunctional one, Hamas is a legitimate representative for Palestinians in Gaza. The problem is that Hamas uses terror tactics to achieve its goals, which unlike those of the IRA, are not the expulsion of the perceived occupiers, but rather, their total destruction.

The IRA does not wish to destroy England, but Hamas does wish to destroy Israel. For Israel, terrorists -- especially state-sanctioned ones like Hamas -- are an existential issue. For England, they are a political problem. For the U.S. versus al-Qaeda, it is a criminal matter.

What is clear is that Muslims, Christians and Jews will always be killing one another, in any combination thereof, and always for their God.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009



One fact to emerge from Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is that the U.S. wants to follow a "war model," but doesn't want to apply the Geneva Conventions (GC's) in its execution. In that vein, it designated a new adversary, the illegal "enemy combatant."

But what to do with the detritus of war -- those arrested and swept up in wholesale prisoner snatches, kidnappings, renditions and the like? Before the PWOT and Jack Bauer, we operated within a worldwide accepted legal framework; we investigated, charged gathered evidence and presented it in courts.

In 2009 we don't have a clue what to do. After closing Gitmo, then what?

One thought is to add terrorism to the GC's and regulate the capture, rules of evidence, trials and procedures for dealing with that threat. Another possibility is a United Nations definition and international legal approach to solving the dilemma.

Something must be done to break the logjam, but the Bush administration was too indolent to clearly define the facts pertaining to terror threats.
The terms insurgent, enemy combatant, coalition forces, warfare, terrorist, unconventional war and guerrilla war have become so muddled as to be useless.

The terms must be defined in order to properly litigate or enact international legislation. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as a type is not just a threat to America, he is a threat to all civilized societies
. But without clear and basic legal approaches we cannot defend ourselves realistically.

We will be the ones always operating in a shocked and awed mode, though the threat is clear and present.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Hanoi Rush

I hope he [Obama] fails
--Rush Limbaugh

Throw your hate at me with all your might

Hit me cause I'm strange, hit me!

You tell me I'm a pussy

and you're harder than me

, Korn

Yankee doodle dandy Rush Limbaugh said of president Obama on his circus radio show, "I hope he fails" (Limbaugh's a Clown.)

Since by patriot Limbaugh's reckoning we are at war -- something he has said often -- then
isn't his statement an act of treason?

Limbaugh's damnation issued to his yellow-ribbon bedecked, zombiefied faithful is worse than anything Jane Fonda ever thought of doing. If Limbaugh speaks for a sizable portion of the U.S., then we truly are a lost nation.

Knowing as we do that Limbaugh's cohorts see Iran weapon-selling Ollie North as a True Patriot and Uncle Ronnie as some sort of brave, deep-thinking icon
, it is a pitiable thought.

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Uh, Except for That One. . .

--Cardow, Ottawa Citizen

The nation cannot prosper long

when it favors only the prosperous

--President Obama,
We Will be Held to Account

They tried to make me go to rehab

but I said 'no, no, no'

, Amy Winehouse

Fake anti-fascist lie,

I've tried to tell you, but

Your Purple Hearts are giving out

, Slipknot

Bush's claim to fame is that no Americans have died in The Homeland by terrorist activity. Of course, except for those unfortunate ones who were killed in the events of 9-11, which did occur on his watch.

Ranger asks, which is worse:

Citizens being killed by mindless foreign terror activity, or, the Constitution being killed by a mindless response to terrorism?

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Next Step

How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

--Maria, Rogers and Hammerstein


It is all fine and well that we close the Gitmo detainee facility, but what do you do with truly dangerous men like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM)?

KSM can never be prosecuted in Federal court because his treatment following capture would outrage the court and the world. Therefore, he will never be legally convicted.

To boot, he is not a prisoner of war, so what to with him?

Option I: Send him back to Pakistan for legal resolution.

Option II: Release him. And do it right the next time.

Option III: Shoot him when he is trying to escape.

Option IV: Drown him for real.

Option V: Hire him as a Central Intelligence Agency consultant (assuming he is not already on the books.)

These are just options, but it is not in our democratic tradition to keep him locked up indefinitely without charges or a fair and transparent trial. Ranger sees no option but to release him or turn him over to Pakistan. Even the Pakistan card is a weak one.

And since there was no conviction, let's get the reward money back, too.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Acid Bath

Only a crisis produces real change.

When that crisis occurs,

the actions that are taken depend on
the ideas that are lying around

--Milton Friedman


While it is a proud moment to see that President Obama has the moral courage to sign an Executive Order rescinding "harsh interrogation methods," it is also sad to realize that it must be officially reaffirmed that the U.S. is a law-abiding nation.

Also, no one calls it "torture" now. It is only known by its euphemism,
"harsh interrogation methods". It is rather like the George Carlin skit comparing baseball to football. Let's hope that the current unwillingness to call a spade a spade is due only to the odious nature of the thing.

Ranger was exposed to FOX coverage in a doctor's office (not VA), and one of the patients my age spontaneously said, "The terrorists are not warriors. We should've killed the terrorists instead of capturing them." Well. . .he's got part of it right, but probably without knowing it.

Terrorists of course are criminals, and not warriors. But when he said we should have killed vs. capture them, he was not actually speaking of the operative 9-11 terrorists (who were incinerated upon impact.) Most likely, he is talking of the melange of people the U.S. military is confronting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The "Kill them all, and let God sort them out" mentality.

What was this man thinking? Was he thinking of saving the nation the money it would've cost to bring the perpetrators to trial? Was he regretting the subsequent military adventures? Was he just feeling visceral hatred? Some Americans still do not get it -- maybe most.

My procedure was an acid painting before laser removal of pre-cancer cells. America will be passing through a similar process as the current administration seeks to excise the malignancies laid in during the Bush administration. We wish Obama well in continuing his efforts to help reconstitute the nation. We hope he does not falter.

Possibly a bag of frozen peas on the face will help us feel better through the ordeal.

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We're Very Hopeful

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.

--"Hope" is the Thing with Feathers,

Emily Dickinson


Ranger will shelve negativity when dealing with the Obama administration. Although hope is not a Ranger word, we sincerely hope that hope will prevail. As weak as this sounds, it is furlongs ahead of anything felt in the George W. Bush era.

America is stuck on a battlefield that in many respects is of our own choosing. The criminal activity of 9-11 did not necessitate a march to war, but that is the road our leaders chose, and the nation fell into lockstep support.

Today brought good news of Obama's intended reversal of Bush policies on detention and interrogation. But Obama is still espousing a surge in Afghanistan, and this is one point on which we strongly disagree. This is exactly what 43 wold have done. But it is early, and Ranger will shelve it until the situation develops.

All tactically proficient commanders know when to delay
, advance, defend or retrograde. Military moves must be dictated by realistic considerations; if they are not, then reality will inexorably shape the plans.

Commanders either act or react, either controlling events or being controlled by them.
Since the U.S. is at a "change of command" mode, now would be the ideal time to reevaluate and ramp down activities in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

All indicators are the Obama is a thinker and capable of bold action. Ranger's hope is that he will draw down in Afghanistan. Surely Obama and the U.S. must realize that the health and economic welfare of America must be placed ahead of Iraq and Afghanistan false hopes.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How Green was My Valley

Rainer Hachfeld,
Neues Deutschland

I kick arse for the lord

--Dead Alive

You get
nothing! You lose! Good day sir!
--Willie Wonka
and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

But look at Epitaph. He wins it by a half
According to this here in the Telegraph
"Big Threat" -- "Big Threat"
--Fugue for Tinhorns
, Frank Loesser


Ranger had a dream recently that America was in a deep valley, an impossibly steep crevasse. Try as they might, the people could not scale their enclosure.

This scene of desperation sent him into a reverie on American pathology, via media feeds:

1. If the U.S. were an NCAA team, it would be sanctioned for contrived unnecessary roughness, and letting the water boy take control of the team.
2. If the U.S. were a church, it would be sued for child abuse.

3. If a family, Family and Child Services would intervene and force the parents into counseling. The children would be given supervision and assistance in daily living issues. Outside professional help would be mandatory for the entire dysfunctional family system

4. If an individual, the person would be adjudicated "incompetent" to handle their personal affairs. They would be given a court-appointed guardian. As with #3, counseling for personal and life skills would be emphasized.
5. If a business, it would be in receivership or bankruptcy.

6. If it were an organized crime syndicate, it would break more legs.

7. If a medical patient, he would be in Intensive Care on life support. If a Living Will mandated it, we would pull the plug. The patient is currently only alive via feeding tubes and external life support systems.

8. If a reality show, the country would be voted off the island.

9. If a Dancing with the Stars episode, we would be a solo clogger, since all our partners would have moved on to new partners.

10. If an episode of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, we'd be exhausting the Lifeline option grasping for answers.

11. If a game of Jeopardy, we'd be in the minus figures, and would not make it to Final Jeopardy.

12. If a game of Wheel of Fortune, we would not know any words, even if they were missing only one vowel.

13. If we were in court, the judge would be absent.

14. If a bank, we would solicit loans from the customers.

15. If a horse race, we would be riding a jackass.

16. If it were a movie, there would be no happy ending (if a porn flick, no erections.)

17. If we were on The Biggest Loser, we would be.

In a phenomenal bit of conspiracy theory, Political Ponerology, the author asserts,

"A pathocracy is a social movement, society, nation, or empire wherein a small pathological minority takes control over a society of normal people. The pathological minority habitually perpetrates evil deeds on its people and/or other people."

I know neither what constitutes "normal" or "evil," nor if said "pathocracy" could flourish in the midst of such an allegedly psychologically healthy constituency. One thing is certain.

We have yet to collectively arrive at the mountaintop.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In the Name of Love

Manny Francisco, Philippines

Tell me, how does God Choose?
Whose prayers does he refuse?
--Day After Tomorrow, Tom Waits

Love is but the song we sing,
And fear's the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
--Let's Get Together, The Youngbloods

In the name of love
What more in the name of love?
--Pride, Bono

Ranger will spare you the inaugural "groan-inducing imagery," as Slate calls it.

He suggests that Inauguration Day be moved to coincide with Easter, so filled with the rhetoric of rebirth and salvation is it. The hype leading to all inaugurations is the same, and the let-down comes almost as quickly as do the endings of New Year's weight loss resolutions.

The words are always inspirational and uplifting, but the facts are hidden. Today, a bi-racial man is The Man, and there is nothing but adulation and rejoicing, resounding with the ubiquitous evocations of Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln.

Meanwhile, on the other side of D.C., one of our nation's murder capital cities, you will see another side of life. Having a black president will not mitigate their sorrows, any more so than having black mayors has done for those unfortunate dwellers of our many degraded inner cities.

Behind the facade of today's messianic fervor lie some very ugly truths of our nation not getting it together. We will not wake up tomorrow and find ourselves in the Promised Land.

Tomorrow will be business as usual.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Bull in a China Shop

[George Bush] is a baffled little creep
--Hunter Thomspson

And now you're stuck with a castrated leader

And I hate the creep

, The Who

Start a better country where we can get things done

Make a fortune turning sand to silicon

--Desert Island
, Magnetic Fields


The head of the convening authority of military commissions was the first to admit last week that the U.S. tortured Saudi national Mohammed al-Qahtani, that his testimony was coerced and that she would not allow his prosecution to proceed.

The WaPo article covers the string of abuses to which al-Qahtani was exposed (Detainee Tortured, Says U.S. Official.) Head Susan Crawford spoke in direct contravention of President Bush's previous statement that "The United States does not torture." Crawford says the torture "has tainted everything going forward." She also said "it may be too late" to rehabilitate the system which she oversees to fitness, at least in the eyes of the world.

In May 2008, Crawford ordered the war-crimes charges against Qahtani dropped but did not state publicly that the harsh interrogations were the reason. Crawford, a life-long republican, though serving now in a non-partisan position, said:

"It did shock me. I was upset by it. I was embarrassed by it. If we tolerate this and allow it, then how can we object when our servicemen and women, or others in foreign service, are captured and subjected to the same techniques? How can we complain? Where is our moral authority to complain? Well, we may have lost it."

The harsh techniques used against Qahtani, she said, were approved by then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. "A lot of this happened on his watch," she said. Last month, a Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded that "Rumsfeld's authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there." The committee found the interrogation techniques harsh and abusive but stopped short of calling them torture.

A side note in the case is that al-Qatani was denied entrance to the U.S. Aug 4 01 by a suspicious immigration inspector. Of al-Qatani Crawford said, "There's no doubt in my mind he would've been on one of those planes had he gained access to the country in August 2001."

The actions of this inspector show that a proactive, protective posture is the first step to successful terrorism counteraction. This was not Counter-Terrorism nor a direct armed action, but it was this nation's first line of defense.

If all U.S. officials executed their protective functions at even a negligible level, 9-11 would not have happened.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

It Vas My Duty

The people can always be brought
to the bidding of the leaders.

That is easy.

All you have to do is tell them they are

being attacked and denounce the pacifists

for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.

It works the same way in any country

--Hermann Goering

I've accomplished my duty as a State worker.

If you condemn me you have then to condemn

thousands of other workers

--Wilhelm Frick, hanged 10/16/46, Nuremberg

He gave us the orders.

He kept saying that it was all his responsibility.

--Wilhelm Keitel, hanged 10/16/46, Nuremberg


President Bush gave a farewell speech proclaiming that he made the tough choices. We beg to differ.

"I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions," he beseeched The People. We do not agree.

The tough choice is not always the choice to act tough. The hard choices are always the moral choices, which are more nuanced than bringing a down a preponderance of force. U.S. leaders took 9-11 as a license to ignore the moral choices.

No Mr. President, your choices were simple, once you negated facts which might have complicated matters. You chose for an aggressive war and torture and to turn a blind eye to the rule of civilized law.

You chose the easy route, and the fast-track to disaster and those choices have shamed us all. What will be hard is living with the consequences of your decisions.

All war criminals say the same thing. Nuremberg was filled with such guilty apologists.

"I only did my duty, and it was hard."

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Gulf War Illness: D'Oh

The unseen presence of victorious corruption,
the darkness of an impenetrable night

--The Heart of Darkness
, Joseph Conrad

In typically belated fashion, Disabled American Veterans [DAV] magazine (Jan/Feb 2009) has just gotten around to reporting that Gulf War Illness is real, two months after the 452-page federal report was released.

The report found that one-fourth of the 697,000 U.S. veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War suffer from Gulf War Illness [GWI]. It has taken Gulf War I vets 17 years -- about as long as it took Vietnam vets to be recognized for Agent Orange exposure

Committee member Anthony Hardie, a member of the advocacy group Veterans of Modern Warfare, called it a "bittersweet victory" because, "Years were squandered by the federal government ... trying to disprove that anything could be wrong with Gulf War veterans (Gulf War Illness is Real.)"

reported last November that the "U.S. military mistakenly poisoned its own soldiers with two chemicals during Operation Desert Storm, leading to a number of debilitating symptoms (Gulf War Illness.)" The main culprits are pesticide neurotoxins and non-FDA approved Pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills, taken by troops to protect them from effects of nerve agents. Turns out the cure may have been as bad as the poison.

The DAV article quotes Assistant National Legislative Director Adrian M. Atizado as saying their illnesses have been "studied and researched" for nearly two decades. However, Time makes it clear that the studies were dwindling to nothing before the report findings.

"Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the DOD has slashed funding for Gulf War research from nearly $30 million annually to less than $5 million in 2006."

Basically, the Department of Defense was tossing what amounted to a few minutes of funding for the current wars to annual medical research budgets, money which could have helped improve the lives of soldiers wounded in the last war. However, Gulflink, produced by the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War illnesses, features a number of Rand reports for affected vets perusal. Good luck on that.

Waiting for an Army to Die
is a book about vets exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. As with the nuclear exposed vets of WWII, the Iraqi War vets are being swept under the bureacratic carpet. They will suffer and die, but the NOK's will get a neatly-folded flag.

In the same issue is an article cautioning vets of the lastest go 'round in Iraq who served at Joint Base Balad [formerly Logistics Support Area Anaconda] that they "may have been exposed to cancer-causing dioxins and hazardous medical waste (p. 32)."

The exposure came from the open burn pit, into which went any number of toxins,
"including amputated limbs." DAV quotes Military Times (comments here), which called it an "acute health hazard."

The movie
Apocalypse Now ends with the comment, 'The horror! The horror" (from Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" upon which the movie is based.) This suggests the darkest deeds emanate from the human heart. None of these maladies and disasters afflicting these Gulf War servicemen included one enemy round. Instead, they were all self-inflicted by a negligent military hierarchy.

Over 17 years later, the the Department of Veterans Affairs still fails to grant presumptive disability for Gulf War I Veterans.

This we call patriotism.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Uncle Sam's youngest son,
Citizen Know Nothing
An August ruling by the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review upholding a Bush administration program of warrantless surveillance was revealed Thursday (Court Ruling Endorse Bush Surveillance Policy.)

The court "embraced the Protect America Act of 2007, which required telecommunications providers to assist the government for national security purposes in intercepting international phone calls and e-mails to and from points overseas." The 2007 Act protects Americans from knowing anything which might give them dyspepsia, should they not already be dosed with candy-colored Tums and proton pump inhibitors.

Any why is it we even have a 4th Amendment? Are any issues worthy of Supreme Court review?

The 4th Amendment provides citizens protection from governmental intrusions; it has nothing to do with time sensitive or national security interests. But the FISA court ruling nicely eviscerates the citizen protection aspect of the amendment.

Another civil right inverted to serve the desires for covertness of the ersatz servants [= government], rather than the need for transparency of their employees [= citizens.]

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fleecing the Lambs

Oh, I don't claim to be no gambler people

Oh, I don't know much about the dice

--Gambler's Blues
, B.B. King

Here's a lovely bit of hypocrisy from the Sunshine State.

It concerns absconding with people's hard-earned money, writ small. These are not Wall Street deals, but they are transacted every week at your local grocery or convenience store. The big tabs ($50 and up) occur on paydays. This is how you fleece the lambs -- the lottery, or, the poor tax.

The Florida Lottery's Homepage is like a blaring, flickering Pachinko machine. The
Lottery Department's annual report shows total assets at the end of fiscal year 2007 of $2.8 B (down from over $3 billion the previous year.)

To counter addictions to such losing propositions is the
Florida Counsel on Compulsive Gambling. The counsel makes do with donations and a $1 million budget from the state appropriated from Lotto earnings. That's roughly .ooo3% of the Lotto's annual take.

There are those who argue that people should be allowed to be as stupid as they want to be. But in the current atmosphere of astronomical bailouts going to those who knew better but did not act better, one wonders how much aid should also be sequestered for those who will never be in that league but nonetheless pay a disproportionate amount of their income in this poor tax.

Lotto's advertising budget wasn't clearly available on their annual report, but we'll wager it's a damn sight more than the pittance given to the gambling help association. Governor Charlie Crist has
proclaimed the second week of March as Problem Gambling Awareness Week within the State of Florida.

What more could he possibly do?

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

Look here, Mr. Hoover, it's see what you done

You went off a-fishin', let the country go to ruin.

Now he's gone, I'm glad he's gone.

--White House Blues
Why are we here? Where are we going?
It's time that we found out
We're not here to stay;
we're on a short holiday
--Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries,
Brown/Henderson (1931)

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!
--Brother, can You Spare a Dime?,
Harburg/Gorney (1931)
The banking behemoth Citigroup lost billions this last quarter. . .despite $45 billion in bailout monies. The $700 billion TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program") is looking like it's a day late and a dollar short.

Throwing good money after bad
is how they used to say it. People who had been through The Great Depression coined all kinds of quaint monetary phrases to help keep one's financial house neat -- "penny wise, pound foolish, "A stitch in time saves nine," "A penny saved is a penny earned." It amounts being thrifty, but not miserly. They could form the nucleus of a good introductory finance course for college business students.

If change is what we are after, why not implement the economic stimulus in reverse? Give the money to the lower echelons of the societal food chain. We know they would spend the money on consumer goods, and not try to buy banks with it.

Instead, we are giving 100's of billions to the wealthy and it is not trickling down. Why not try a "trickle-up"?
Senator Tom Harkin (IA) sees the only solution to the economic crisis as getting Americans back to work and insured. He doubts that, "If we just put it in at the top, it’s going to trickle down.” As coulumnist Bob Herbert wrote, "Been there. Done that. Didn’t work" (Obama's Biggest Challenge.)

However, the highly entitled top of the economic food chain will not allow anything but the old paradigm. Sorry Mr. Bentham, but
we are not a nation of the greatest good for the greatest number, though it makes us feel righteous to think so. We are a nation that shovels $100's of billions to the very banks and corporations that cause the problems, thus passing for a solution in the "greatest democracy" in the world.

NYT Economist Paul Krugman says
pshaw to talk of "jump-starting" the economy via business and payroll tax cuts. Reviving the economy will be long-haul business.

"Money not squandered on ineffective tax cuts could be used to provide further relief to Americans in distress — enhanced unemployment benefits, expanded Medicaid and more. And why not get an early start on the insurance subsidies — probably running at $100 billion or more per year — that will be essential if we’re going to achieve universal health care? (Ideas for Obama.)"

Krugman quotes a report released by Obama's future head of the Council of Economic Advisers and the vice president’s chief economist who wrote,
“a dollar of infrastructure spending is more effective in creating jobs than a dollar of tax cuts.”

Democracy in America is a Wall Street orchestrated Ponzi scheme.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Risky Business

Demoralize the enemy from within by surprise, terror,
sabotage, assassination. This is the war of the future.

--Adolph Hitler

An ideal form of government is democracy

tempered by assassination


Beneath this mask there is more than flesh.

Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy,

and ideas are bulletproof

--V for Vendetta

When is it right to use violence against a government? When can an individual or a group decide to kill a head of state and be morally justified?

The U.S. was conceived and born in a violent rebellion. Some argue the American Revolution evolved through the spectrum of conflict, ultimately ending in a conventional war decided by the force of arms. But it began as criminal activity against the Crown which developed into full-blown insurgency versus the legitimate authority of Great Britain.

The 20 Jul 44 plot to assassinate Hitler by a group of disaffected Germans depicted in the current film Valkyrie brings the topic to mind. In our own history, a U.S president sponsored a plan to assassinate Cuban president Fidel Castro, as well as authorizing a U.S. Embassy to support a coup in a foreign friendly government that ended in the assassination of President Diem of the Republic of Vietnam.

The Central Intelligence Agency has also sponsored and executed political assassinations in the past. Being a friendly head of state can be risky business.

We in the West have a Just War theory with implications extending to individual political murders. But whose yardstick for the execution applies? Do we use ones such as Cheney, Yoo, Addington, George Bush, Libby, Liddy, and North as our compass, or do historical prohibitions apply?

Post 9-11, the U.S. has openly employed violence in a reactive and knee-jerk manner. Could this approach ever apply to a justifiable political assassination? What are just causes to assassinate? Is it morally acceptable to terminate a national leader who has:

  • Run the national economy into the ground?
  • Aggressively invaded foreign regimes?
  • Established secret prisons?
  • Sanctioned torture in home country facilities?
  • Delivered prisoners to be tortured abroad?
  • Denied civil rights to citizens?
  • Unconstitutionally spied on his citizens?
  • Denied court access to prisoners?
  • Abrogated applicable treaties and conventions?
  • Transferred large sums from the treasury to private contractors?

When can there be said to be a preponderance of justification for such a radical action? Are there some few things that would absolutely break a Kantian contract with the governed? Or is assassination never a justifiable act?

Ranger does not espouse violence, but the question is a valid one.

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Payday Loans


George Bush jogs by a boy who has a box of puppies for sale.

Whaddya call your puppies?


Delighted, the next day president Bush brings one of his jogging buddies with him.

You gotta hear this: "Son, whaddya call yer puppies?
Whoa, yesterday you told me they were "Republicans".

Boy: Yeah, but today their eyes are open.

Take this job and shove it

I ain't workin' here no more

--Take This job and Shove It
, Johnny Paycheck

We are as a nation of confused puppies with unopened eyes. We are blindly probing for the teat to suckle, but it is not easy to find.

Why do we have a Democracy in the first place? Why not a dictatorship, or Communism or Socialism? A government should serve the following goals:

  • Protect and serve the citizens
  • Provide services
  • Pass and enforce laws for the common welfare
  • Provide economic and physical security

These functions provide for the exercise of freedom. Minus any of these legs, the government is out of balance, regardless of what form of government exists.
The hungry are not really thrilled that their kids could grow up to be president.

The current U.S. economy shares something with hungry Americans. It is living from payday to payday, taking out loans in order to make ends meet. Both the Right and the Left have eschewed a middle ground, and hatred and fear have replaced those vaunted democratic ideals of security and social well-being.

The distractions and fear-mongering began this administration with the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), a misguided campaign which has added trillions of dollars in present day debt, and untold future debt yet to be incurred. An undertaking with no benefit devolving to the average citizen.

In fact, the U.S. now faces the fact that it can no longer afford to occupy Germany, Japan and Korea. In our newly frugal times, NATO membership should also be questioned, as it is no longer a mutual defensive alliance (if it ever was.)

But if the Payday Loan sharks keep lending Presidents newly-minted bills, what motivation is there to moderate? Government these days is accustomed to doling out money on shrink-wrapped pallets, weighed rather than counted. Money is no longer a precious commodity; it grows on trees. Traditional accounting principles no longer apply.

It seems like the U.S. lacks for long-term fiscal planning; economic and military plans are ad hoc. For many good Americans, those "bad men" (who downed the planes) really are the problem. "Didn't you see them? They laughed in court," one of my well-meaning conservative friends pleaded. But while he and his brethren's eyes are turned to Ring #3, the real action is happening under the Big Tent, only we're not allowed in there.

Obama gives lip service to following George Bush's template, throwing money that we don't have at still opaque problems. No one speaks of Plan B, if the stimulus packages fail. Our plans lack depth and continuity, and fail to address future contingencies.

If the U.S. ceases to be solvent, it loses.
To borrow a concept from Paul Simon, there must be 50 ways for the U.S. to lose this endeavor. Some are non-existential -- like loss of world prestige -- while others are non-negotiable, like entering an economic depression.

If the U.S. does fall that far, everyone may say Osama bin Laden is to blame, and they would be correct, though for different reasons. George Bush sunk the country in a fool's errand. Whether the fool was in earnest or not is moot.

In a beginning chapter from Terrorism 101, al-Qaeda prompted a lavish overreaction from our callow leaders who swallowed the bait, hook, line and sinker. So today we are told Baghdad and Kabul street corners are kinda getting a little safer than they were after our invasion.

But this thrills Ranger not at all when Detroit and Cleveland are dying.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Truth or Consequences

Private Vices by the dextrous Management
of a skilful Politician may be turned into Publick Benefits

--fr. Fable of the Bees
(1714), Bernard Mandeville

The FBI is adding 850 new agents to the bureau, and so far they have over 20,000 applicants (Wanted: 850 New FBI Agents). Of those, historically 30% will fail the lie detector portion of the hiring process.

This prompted a few thought questions:

Why aren't our elected official required to take lie detector tests prior to running for or assuming office? Would Blago or Bush have been in that number?

Further, why or how can a lie detector test be used to eliminate an FBI candidate when these tests are so unreliable they cannot be used as evidence in a court of law?

We would like to ask future elected civil servants:

  • Will you uphold the Constitution?
  • Will you oppose U.S. participation in preemptive wars?
  • Will you consider the welfare of Detroit above that of Baghdad or Kabul?

We suffer layer upon layer of hypocrisy in our democratic principles. The integrity and truthfulness of our leaders is never put on the Black Box, yet the worker bees are always suspect. More important that the President be put on the black box than an entry-level GS-5 agent.

What kind of democracy is this?

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The Chaplain

How long -- can you hear someone crying
How long -- can you hear someone dying
Before you ask yourself why?
--How Long, Jackson Browne

Q:If you’re going to make a parachute jump,
at least how high should you be?
A: Three days of steady drinking should do it
--Charley Weaver (Hollywood Squares)

Sister Christian
Oh the time has come
And you know that you're the only one
To say O.K.
--Sister Christian
, Night Ranger

This weekend Ranger met another Ranger wearing an EIB, Junior Jumpwings and Air Assault Badge
. His hair was high and tight and he wore the new Army Combat Uniform. He also was a chaplain.

This Ranger began his usual conversation with a new Ranger buddy expecting the usual outcome, but always hopeful anyway when meeting a man of the cloth.

Ranger opined that chaplains -- as non-combatants -- should neither receive nor wear Combat Action Badges since their mission was one of Christianity or godliness. Further: "Do you primarily serve God, or the Army?"

New Ranger: I serve both.
Old Ranger
: What would you do if you saw a soldier torturing a prisoner?
New Ranger
: Soldiers do not torture prisoners. We are done here -- the discussion is over.

Dismissed, without so much as a blessing. Ranger was left to ponder the exchange. He left thinking: one of these Rangers is seriously off-base.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009


Man buys ring woman throws it away
Same old thing happens everyday

I'm down (I'm really down)

I'm down (Down on the ground)

--I'm Down, The Beatles

And the world looks just the same

And history ain't changed

'Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war

--Won't Get Fooled Again
, The Who


Ranger lives in redneck Baptist heaven, said with the restrained affection that comes with the appreciation of just how many generations of inbreeding go into the gestational pot to produce a bona fide tree bark-wearing person of diminutive thought processes, out of all actual size to the specimen itself.

These are the people to whom Ann Coulter, witchy pied piper of that crew, says hopefully, Sarah Palin could be the next Ronald Reagan .
“Raise your children so none of them turn out like Ron Reagan Junior, and be a good governor, and then I think she could be another Ronald Reagan..." (Ann Coulter: Palin Could be Next Reagan.)

So if she reads The Federalist papers for the next decade (saith the witch), Ms. Palin could be in league with The Gipper, becoming the Right's next know-nothing bauble-head. Just brilliant.

Yeah, but no Ron Reagan, Jrs., fer chrissakes. Bad enough Dick Cheney's got a lesbo daughter. Boys as ballet dancers = bad, unless of course, you're Mikhail Baryshnikov. One wonders how Reagan even became Reagan, saddled as he was with a prancing faggot for a son (I'd really like Ms. Coulter to explain that one.) Hockey's the thing.

And for them, the political philosophies of America are conceived, drawn and executed by Ivy Leaguers. In this way, George Bush was masterfully drawn, and his patrician background was subjugated to allow his ascendence to the position of Redneck in Chief.

The iconography was all right: ineloquent, tumbleweed mover, big belt buckles and boots, brother who ran for Florida Governor under the banner "JEB!"
Those who do not hail from the swamps think it's a hoot, and understand that images must be tweaked in the name of expediency.

Similarly, Bill Clinton was drawn to ensnare the largest demographic, emphasizing the Good Old Boy persona over the Rhodes Scholar. Clinton (
The First Black President), however, coming as he did from modest means rather than a dynasty, was the more authentic of the two men.

Now, we confront a change of administration, historic we are told in that the new President is a person of color. However, his $5,000 Hart Schaffner Marx suits belie the fable that he is one of us and might have people named "Pookie and Ray-Ray" living on a mattress in the back room who need to be kicked every four years into the voting booth. Obama is still an Ivy League man. The color may be new, but the song remains the same.

Ranger says this in the face of Obama's tapping Brent Scowcroft and Robert Gates to play on his team. They do not represent the change that the voters thought they would get. Both are George H. W. Bush's tarbabies, and they are being thrown back into this Democrat's briar patch

Scowcroft is a fine, intelligent and loyal American, but he is tarred and feathered by his former affiliations. If one were looking for geneological linkages, one might wonder if this is a way for Obama to embrace the H. W. crowd. Like in a game of basketball, Obama is picking up 41 as his mentor where 43 dropped him in favor of his Spiritual Father.

The redneckiness of America is assuaged by this unholy pastiche of Mr. Obama + Bush
père. Every legitimate redneck family has one in the woodpile.

--Jim and Lisa

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