Friday, April 30, 2010

Humans as Ants

Hey you! Get back to work!
--Modern Times

They're not creatures you can fight--

they're an elemental--an 'act of God!'

Ten miles long, two miles wide--ants, nothing but ants!

And every single one of them a fiend from hell;

before you can spit three times

they'll eat a full-grown buffalo to the bones

--Leiningen Versus the Ants

A fascinating little time-lapse video of life at a 24-hour Walmart.
Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times" has arrived.

Found via GlobeSt.Com's blog "Counter Culture":

This is what happens at a 24-hour Walmart. It's happening right now. And it will never stop. Things are surprisingly busy at Walmart around 2:30 in the morning. Think of this as an ode to the engine of consumerism. (from Bernstein & Andriulli, created for Fortune magazine.)

Stephen Wilkes - Time-Lapse: A Day at A Walmart Store from BERNSTEIN & ANDRIULLI on Vimeo.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010


Close your eyes
Have no fear

The monster's gone

He's on the run and your daddy's here

--Beautiful Boy
, John Lennon

The roman promoters really did things right.

They needed a show that would clearly excite.

The attendance was sparse so they put on a fight

Threw the Christians to the lions, sold out every night

--Give the People What the Want
, Ray Davies

Is being a citizen a case of believing, or is it simply one of suspending disbelief?

Listen to General David Petraeus: He seems calm, intelligent and reasonable, but what he says is absolute insanity. Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) the loss of sanity, or the exact opposite?
Ranger asks because he cannot accept the exhortations of Gen Petraeus as sane.

Petraeus was interviewed on Charlie Rose 4.22.10, and Ranger left the late night program impressed with the General's demeanor. It was not until the day after that he realized he had listened to, what the Southerner's call, "a mouthful of mush." It was beautiful piffle. A trifle. He wore the suit well is the best that could be said.

Has the Phony War on Terror
(PWOT ©) become our national entertainment, our own home-grown reality show --
"Survivor Afghanistan"? PTSD is reality-oriented, versus the talk of Petraeus which merely presents the illusion of sanity.

Our leaders actually feed us a malignant reading of events which poses as sanity; in comparison, even the occasional paranoia of PTSD is sane as it has basis in actual lived events.

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Heads Will Roll

--She wants a head

"Off with his head!" she said, without even looking round
"I'll fetch the executioner myself," said the King eagerly,

and he hurried off

--Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll

Something is not quite right here.

The Comedy Central, distributor of cartoon show South Park, has caved to a threat from an online Muslim group and removed all references to Mohamed from the South Park program (past and current). For those who don't know South Park, it is a show which reveres no sacred cows -- no religion, race, sex or creed is sacrosanct. Everyone gets a pie in the face. Except, not Mohamed.

There have been rows in the past. Isaac Hayes, a recurring character ("Chef"), left when Scientology was sent up. Writer Matt Stone said,
"[We] never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."

Scientology jokes stayed; Mr. Hayes left.

NYT columnist Ross Douthat commented Sunday:

"[South Park's muzzling] is a reminder that Islam is just about the only place where we draw any lines at all.

"... Our culture has few taboos that can’t be violated, and our establishment has largely given up on setting standards in the first place.

"Except where Islam is concerned. There, the standards are established under threat of violence, and accepted out of a mix of self-preservation and self-loathing.

"This is what decadence looks like: a frantic coarseness that bravely trashes its own values and traditions, and then knuckles under swiftly to totalitarianism and brute force.

"Happily, today’s would-be totalitarians are probably too marginal to take full advantage. This isn’t Weimar Germany, and Islam’s radical fringe is still a fringe, rather than an existential enemy.

"For that, we should be grateful. Because if a violent fringe is capable of inspiring so much cowardice and self-censorship, it suggests that there’s enough rot in our institutions that a stronger foe might be able to bring them crashing down (
Not Even in South Park.)"

So while our soldiers are fighting for Muslim countries to ostensibly gain a measure of freedom, we are self-censoring at the death threats emanating from some members of the Muslim community in our own country. This I don't understand.

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones (retd.) recently headed off a talk on the Mideast Peace Process with a joke about Jewish merchants (General Jones Makes a Jewish Joke.)

Yes, the joke is an old Catskills one, and in other contexts, might be funny. But this was told by a Christian General addressing a somber meeting -- a joke which disparages greedy Jewish merchants, one of the parties which he came to discuss.

For parity's sake, why were there no Hadji jokes? Off with his head, if he tried that one.

What's wrong with this picture?

[Cross-posted at MilPub]

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dire Straits

--From Here to Eternity (1953)
[updated, 4/2010]

We're all doomed, you know.
The whole, silly, drunken, pathetic lot of us.

Doomed by the air we're about to breathe

--On The Beach

There let the way appear, steps unto heaven;

all that thou sendest me, in mercy given;

angels to beckon me
nearer, my God, to thee

--Nearer My God to Thee
Adams and Mason

There's a fragrance that's here to stay

and they call it... Charlie.

Kinds fresh, kinda now, Charlie.

Kinda new, kinda WOW, Charlie!

70's fragrance jingle

As our investments begin to grow,
to quote from Davey Crockett at the Alamo,
"Will everyone here kindly step to the rear
and let a winner lead the way!"

--How Now Dow Jones? (1967)


The Gulf Coast faces a dire situation in the upcoming weeks and months with the fast-approaching oil slick from the sunken Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Conservative estimates say 42,000 gallons of crude (1,000 barrels) are being spilled into the ocean daily, and the slick is over 300 square miles and growing (Oil Slick Probably Won't Hit Florida Beaches this Week.)

The Coast Guard will be burning the oil, which may remove between 50 and 90% of the petroleum distillates at the time of the burn, says Rear Adm. Mary Landry. However. she acknowledged the spill will still impact the shoreline:
"It's premature to say this is catastrophic. I will say this is very serious," she said.

Efforts to activate a shut-off device that would halt the flow of oil on the sea bottom 5,000 feet below have been unsuccessful. The only alternative to staunch the oil flow is to drill a relief well nearby, which will take weeks to complete.

Transocean Ltd
., owner of the lost rig, will begin drilling this week. This catastrophe was not supposed to happen according to all reassurances by the oil companies over the past 25 years. It now appears drilling in the Gulf is as safe as buying derivatives from Goldman-Sachs.

Our own Governor Charlie Crist seems to be channeling Christ at this desperate moment, always a good move in the Deep South and right before his election bid as a possible Independent.

It's in God's hands now," Crist said after surveying the spill, possibly referring to the prevailing winds; possibly referring to the whole mess (Christ Tours Oil Spill Threatening Gulf.) Mr. Crist is also known to "pray away" hurricanes (see here).

In any event, neither would be a result of divine intervention. This tragedy was man-made; the winds are a meteorological phenomenon.
That IS why we went through The Enlightenment, after all, that grand expansion of thinking which gave birth to our nation's Founders.

Now the taxpayers, through the Coast Guard and other government agencies, will be paying for the cleanup.
The corporations skim the profits, while we pay to skim off the sludge from their mistakes.
The AP reports the Coast Guard has not yet reported its expenses.

Channeling the public's fear mode,
Sen. Mike Haridopolos, a Merritt Island Republican who is the Senate lead for proposed offshore drilling, said he wants to find out if this was "sabotage". Who is he kidding?

How now, Mr. Obama? Still going to allow drilling off our coast, after the unsinkable has sunk?

UPDATE, 4.29.10:

Gulf of Mexico Oil Slick Is Five Times Bigger than originally reported, releasing 5,000 barrels of crude oil into the Gulf for the next three months. This could shut down fisheries for years.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Protocols of the Elders of Terrorists

Race baiting, through the decades

What's up with this photo?

This week's The Week news magazine (4/23/10) shows a robed and sandled character carrying a spiffy Zero Halliburton aluminum briefcase housing the expected bomb. He looks suspiciously like the corrosive caricatures featured on the favorite forged blood libel document of the militia crowd -- the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (which the first two images accompanied.)
It could be Osama bin Laden, but it could just as easily by Israel's Netanyahu or Iran's Ahmadinejad.

Why this smear? The U.S. has no proof that the al-Qaeda gang has anything like a sophisticated suitcase nuclear bomb, so why suggest it on the cover of a respected national magazine?

Is the magazine currying favor with the conservative crowd who are convinced "the enemy" has the same toys as the U.S., or is it mocking the zanies who would circle around such projections? Hard to tell.

The fact:
The nuclear nightmare
is composed of the U.S., Pakistan, India, China and Russia, not some raghead.

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Pathetic Fallacy

Ray Walston,
--My Favorite Martian

--You fiend.
--I, a fiend? I am a soldier of our planet.

I, a fiend? We did not come here as enemies.

--Plan 9 From Outer Space

Heeere's Johnny!

--The Shining (1980)

I don't know which species is worse.

You don't see them fucking each other over

for a goddamn percentage

--Aliens (1986)

I like Stephen Hawking, but his latest pronouncement is disheartening. Sunday's UK TimesOnline says Mr. Hawking warns us off of talking with aliens. No, not our friends South of the Border, but the sort they're seeing each week in Cleveland (Don’t talk to aliens, warns Stephen Hawking.)

Hawking reasons that some aliens could be intelligent, thereby posing a threat, and believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.
He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Sounding much like the 2008 Pixar animation Wall-E of rapacious and enervated earthlings-turned-scavengers, Hawkins vision is either shockingly limited in its anthropocentrism, or he is waging an ideological challenge. Has he been tainted by the terrorist bug, too? Is he Hobbesian, and is it really a war of all against all?

Have the Somali pirate tales gotten to him? Can he honestly believe intergalactic pirates would wish to plunder our paltry bounty?

One thing is certain: This is a message guaranteed to curry favor in certain quarters that would disfavor expansion of the space program. It panders to an us-against-them mentality, and can be used by those who wish to safely draw in their borders.

Stephen Hawking, this doesn't seem to be your finest hour.

[Cross-posted at Big Brass Blog.]

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Cops Texting

We're gonna take you back, to the year 1939
when Charlie Chaplin and his nazi regime

enslaved Europe and tried to take over the world...

But then an even greater force emerged, the U.N.

and the U.N. un-nazied the world - forever


Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy
--George Bernard Shaw

Ranger Question of the Day:

Why do cops get discounts at restaurants

while veterans usually do not?

Haven't we both served our country?


The NYT acknowledged Oprah's commendable campaign against texting while driving by running her opinion piece this weekend (Dnt Txt N Drv.) [Ranger gave Oprah her props here.]

Florida is considering a ban on texting while driving, which is only sensible. But what about the police? Will they be required to stop and park before they use the computers mounted right next to their driver's seat?

The police clearly use these instruments while they are in transit, in addition to cell phones. If a law is enacted outlawing texting while driving, then police agencies should be restricted from such potentially deadly distractions as well as the general citizenry.

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Sky Pilot

As the young men move out
into the battle zone

He feels good,

with God you're never alone

--Sky Pilot
, The Animals

I know my place inside your heart

The painted figure that glows in the dark

No you're not mysterious now

I don't worship that sacred cow

--Sacred Cow
, Crowded House

Ranger Question of the Day:
If God created the earth,
and we are the sole intelligent life in the universe,

What are all these other planets about?
Why do we need all this other stuff?


We have discussed the efficacy of the Federal Air Marshall Program (Sky King), now let's look at the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO)Training Program which has made 85 - 90,000 pilots and crew members eligible to be armed and trained in the use of handguns in commercial aviation.

Ranger opposes the cost and utter mindlessness of this program. Air crewman are not law enforcement, nor should we want them involved in airborne shooting scenarios; they have more important flight duties. One can be a gunfighter or an air crew member, but one cannot be both at the same time.

All of this training for naught. Not once has a gun been properly used to suppress any terrorist activity on an aircraft. In fact, not one Federal Marshall has used his weapon for anything more than impressing a steward or stewardess. Policies are implemented and money spent on counter-terror measures without oversight or reevaluation of the basic premise for the expenditures.

The word terror now incites terror; it is become our sacred cow.

Going now to ground level gun toters in the name of averting terror: Federal law has authorized retired law enforcement officers to carry their weapons concealed upon retirement. When has any retired officer used his weapon to deter an act of terror here in the Heartland.
Answer: NEVER.

U.S. Counter-terror policy is based upon a total misunderstanding of the supposed threat and is managed by those with cowboy mentalities. Let's disarm the flight crews and retired law enforcement officers as both policies are ineffective and pointless.

If the U.S. wishes to play
cowboys and terrorists let us just arm everybody, creating an illusion of security (which would soon fall as human vice and folly took over.)

Considerations of reality do not seem to be steering the ship of State these days.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sacrilege Sunday

Obama and Graham, 4.25.10

She swore, in faith 'twas strange,

'twas passing strange ;

'Twas pitiful. 'twas wondrous pitiful

, Shakespeare

Your eyes will see strange sights

and your mind imagine confusing things

--Proverbs 23:33

But baby, I am not your deceiver

or your eloquent liar

Your jealous heart is tearing us apart,

turning love to ashes

--Walking Through the Fire
Mary Chapin Carpenter


Forgive me, but the AP coverage of Saturday's deadly tornadoes in the Southeast is rhetorically fascinating, if only for the head alone --
"Saviors as tornado hit: A table, a wall, a freezer" -- for surely turning inanimate objects into saviors is akin to Jesus's turning the water into wine.

Ron Sullivan, owner of Sullivan's Crossroads Grocery, said, "I was levitated and flew 15 feet over there to the back wall." Levitation is a supernatural activity. Only "Some jars of pickled eggs and pigs' feet" survived -- what can one make of such wondrous happenings?

Gov. Haley Barbour said the twister wreaked "utter obliteration"; I can't imagine another kind, can you?
Meteorologist Jered Allen in Jackson, Mississippi, referred to the enormity of the storm, thereby imparting a malevolent nature to the beast.

Dale Thrasher, 60, survived under the communion table at
Hillcrest Baptist Church. Today, a member Yazoo City church was said to have found amidst the debris a hymnal opened to the song, "Till the Storm Passes By." Not to be outdone, at the Hillcrest Baptist church, "about three dozen members stood in a circle and sang 'Till the Storm Passes By'."

The report ends explaining that Hillcrest is a survivor. "They rebuilt after their building was destroyed by arson about 10 years ago.

"The Lord brought us through the fire, and brought us back bigger and better,"
Thrasher said. "The Lord will bring us back bigger and better this time, if we stick together."

The AP is giving us a message:
We may be down, but not for the count. This, too, shall pass. Ain't no jobs, but boy howdy we're gonna call it a recovery. We're prayin' on it.

The AP also reported today that President Obama
concluded his vacation with a "pilgrimage" Sunday to Billy Graham's mountainside home in Montreat, N.C.

"Billy Graham's son Franklin said. 'When the president got ready to leave, the president prayed for my father, my father prayed for him.'

"Graham said his father prayed for the nation and that God would give Obama wisdom in his decisions. The president prayed to thank God for Billy Graham's life, Franklin Graham said."

I do not appreciate biblical overlays on meteorological happenings. I also did not know that U.S. presidents made pilgrimages to ministers -- did you?


Saturday, April 24, 2010

No Limits

Yeah. That's it. More.
That's right! I want more!

--Key Largo (1948)

Everything in the universe has a purpose

--How to Be A No Limit Person,

Wayne Dyer


CBS has launched a new series about, well, series. It will give you "more", and will be available on "multiple platforms, including the web, mobile, streaming radio and on the CBS Times Square billboard. Videos can be seen at: http://www.cbs.com/originals/tv_briefly/video/."

TV BRIEFLY "will help extend the show experience by giving fans new information about their favorite shows beyond what they see on TV," said Jeff Clark, Vice President of CBS.com. "Through these fun, bite-size videos featuring relevant news and trivia, we give fans a more interactive and complete look into their favorite programs."

But entertainment is not news. I remember when the mash-up began, with the television tabloid Entertainment Tonight hosted by John Tesh, who presented as a respectable news anchor. The legitimization of pablum-as-news had begun. Infotainment became news. Now the transition is complete: People discuss their favorite characters as though they are entities, and this suffices as discussion today.

"We wanted to provide a unique experience for CBS fans that also aligns with our goal of enabling people to live life without limits," said Tariq Hassan, vice president of worldwide marketing for the Imaging and Printing Group at HP. "With TV BRIEFLY, we've created a fun and engaging experience that gives fans more of the content they crave and multiple ways to easily access that content."

Is sitting, mouth agape, watching people create a fantasy "living without limits"? Is this "content we should crave"?

Who has the time for junk television, much less junk about junk?

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Sobering Earth Day

If we are forced, at every hour,
to watch or listen to horrible events,

this constant stream of ghastly impressions

will deprive even the most delicate

among us of all respect for humanity

--Marcus Tullius Cicero

You live like this, sheltered,

in a delicate world,

and you believe you are living

--Anais Nin


Just on time for Earth Day, an massive oil rig suffered a blowout and sank in the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night, probably leaking 8,000 barrels of crude oil a day with 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board (Burning Oil Rig Sinks, Setting Stage for Big Explosion.)

The focus is on the 11 men probably killed (115 were evacuated), but few are speaking of the environmental impact
(As Oil Rig Sinks, Hope Fades.) Oily water is less sexy than dead people. However, since President Obama just gave the go-ahead to drill off of our Florida coast (something even President Bush refused), this aspect deserves far more attention than it is getting.

Sadly, the ramifications are usually only known by the science geeks or serious adventurists, whose hobbies will be impacted. Another accident at sea came earlier this month, when a Chinese-registered coal-carrying ship ran aground on
Australia's Great Barrier Reef, destroying perhaps 10 miles of that World Heritage site, just before precautions to prevent such an eventuality were to have been put into place (Australia Rushes to Contain Barrier Reef Spill.) The wages of not taking precautions.

Sobering news for Earth Day 2010.

[Cross-posted at Big Brass Blog.]

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Baby Steps

Northern Korengal valley

Defeat is a thing of weariness,

of incoherence, of boredom. And above all of futility

-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can,

only as one who has seen its

brutality, its futility, its stupidity

--Dwight David Eisenhower


U.S. military forces left the vulnerable Korangal Outpost in Kunar Province --the "Valley of Death" -- last week, the third to be closed in eastern Afghanistan in as many years, a place in which the executive officer said,
“We’re not really overwatching anything other than safeguarding ourselves.”

The early "baby steps" pap towards winning hearts and minds has failed at Korangal.
Korangal, where Michael Patrick Murphy in June 2005 became the first person to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan, will be no more.

"There have been only two missions to the valley’s southern end since 2005, said Maj. Ukiah Senti, the executive officer of Second Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Lethal, which oversees Korangal and neighboring areas. He said the antagonism from local Taliban and insurgents was so great that it would have taken a battalion-size force to make a foray there"
(U.S. Forces Close Post in Afghan 'Valley of Death'".)

The hostility of the valley's inhabitants to outsiders was evident from the beginning -- this was the "cradle of jihad" -- the first area to rise up against the Soviet occupation in the 1980's.
"The Korangalis speak a language unrelated to Pashto or Dari, the two main Afghan tongues. They practice a conservative brand of Islam and have repeatedly rebuffed American offers of aid" -- not a winner out of the gate.

Winning Hearts & Minds would also seem to be inconsistent with Task Forces named "Mountain Warrior" or "Lethal". Major James Fussell, a former Army Special Forces soldier who spent nearly two years fighting here and recently co-authored of an analysis of the mission said, "[T]he Korangalis were by no means part of the insurgency. Unfortunately, now they are, because they were willing to accept any help to get us out.”

“'The whole point of counterinsurgency is that by securing the local population, you legitimize the government of Afghanistan,' said Major Fussell. 'But the thing about the Korangal and Waygal Valleys is that they don’t recognize any government beyond their little village, and when you go to them and say, we want to secure you and offer you a road, they say, we don’t want a road.”

“I would argue you couldn’t find a single Korangali who wanted any outside assistance (Leaving the Korangal Valley.)”

It can't be said the U.S. achieved nothing;
it animated the local population to ally with the insurgency. The U.S. did this not only through the use of provocative warrior names, but also by dispossessing local leaders of their main resource, a local sawmill.

"The sawmill and lumberyard run by [local Taliban leader] Hajji Mateen was seized by Marines to build the Korangal outpost in April 2006. The troops had set out to penetrate the six-mile-long valley, but never made it more than halfway." Is this a surprise? The Marines gave them quite a "hello".

Seizing the local lumber mill and disrupting the local economy is not a tactic to win hearts and minds. How can U.S. leadership even see this action as legitimate?

Maj. Fussell says, “We had the best intentions, but when you don’t fully understand the culture” it is impossible to make the right choices." And when you're talking about a sparsely populated valley unconnected to the country's government, what could be a "right choice" for the U.S. military?

Of the withdrawal General McChrystal said, “There’s never a perfect answer."

Maybe not, but there were a lot of perfect questions ignored on the path to this phony war.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Health Care Inquiry

There is not a more unhappy being
than a superannuated idol
--Joseph Addison

Each organism raises its head

over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun,

and declares life good

--Elias Canetti


Obama's new health care initiatives have Ranger questioning the continued existence of the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system.

If health care is really reformed, why not treat veterans like every other citizen? Universal access to health care should obviate the need for a separate veterans system, which would then seem superfluous.

The counter argument is that veteran's health needs require special treatment -- issues like atomic and chemical exposure (depleted uranium, for example), post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are but a few of these. Another key DVA issue is disability determination, to include service-connected compensation, but this issue could stand apart from its health care function.

Ranger requests input from those familiar with how other nations handle veterans health care issues. How are they funded, and is their treatment apart from that of the general populace? How are veterans treated specially, if at all?

Do veterans receive health care beyond that received by non-military citizens? Is the level of treatment received by veterans abroad sufficient? Does it exceed that received in the U.S. in any way?

Input is appreciated to help Ranger put this issue in a global perspective.

I'll take my answers off the air.

[Cross-posted @

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Everybody Knows

Happy Earth Day!

We have shot an astounding number of people

--Gen. Stanley McChrystal

Everybody knows that the war is over

Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

--Everybody Knows
, Leonard Cohen

All frauds have a purpose,

mostly to relieve the unwary of their wealth,

though occasionally to launch some foreign adventure

--Conn Hallinan


Ranger has largely avoided the hyped Battle for Marjah since there is little of strategic or military importance linked with the endeavor; it is not the moral equivalent of the Soviet victory at Stalingrad.

Secretary of Defense Gates says the U.S. now owns the battle space, whatever that means. Ranger remembers how important were the Korean battles that preserved the South Korean state, but sees no benefit to America other than the Korean wives brought home by U.S. servicemen. These women seem to be the backbone of the AFES PX system, without whom the PX's would not function.

The same could be said of Vietnam. What did the U.S. benefit, save for a plethora of nail salons now evident in every mall in America (next to the also ubiquitous empty storefronts.)

And now General McChrystal is trying to sell us on the upcoming push into Kandahar. But why are the U.S. and NATO planning the action? Why can't Afghanistan secure its own cities?

Global Post
ran an incisive essay (4.8.10) on the shell game that is Marjah (Behind the Afghan Fraud.) Author Callahan says, "When the Obama Administration demanded that the Karzai government reinstate an independent electoral commission, plus end corruption—in particular, dumping the President’s larcenous half brother Ahmed Wali Karzai who runs Khandahar like a feudal fiefdom", Karzai went off to Teheran to embrace Iranian President Ahmadinejad, and he further threatens to join the Taliban, "not a happy moment for the Potomac."

Our analysis: Karazai must be on drugs. But maybe Wally K. is the shape of things to come. Maybe ... it is just their country after all, notwithstanding battle space gibberish.

So what is our goal? To solidify the stranglehold of the Karzai family on the country, or to benefit the Afghan people? Is it to benefit the U.S. taxpayers?

Why do Americans continue to support this war that will never produce anything of consequence to America? The war aims and the political ramifications defy logic.

U.S. citizens seem to have more important concerns than who rules Kandahar's feudal kingdom.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sky King

From out of the clear blue of the

Western sky
comes... Sky King!

--My orders came through.

My squadron ships out tomorrow.

We're bombing the storage depots at Daiquiri at 1800 hours.

We're coming in from the north, below their radar.

--When will you be back?

--I can't tell you that. It's classified


Homeland Security Administration gets a lot wrong in its approach to countering the Terror threat to the U.S. The Air Marshal Service is a prime example.

Tennessee Rep. Jimmy Duncan quotes an 11/08
USA Today story on his webpage:

“Since 9/11, more than three dozen Federal air marshals have been charged with crimes, and hundreds more have been accused of misconduct. Cases range from drunken driving and domestic violence to aiding a human-trafficking ring and trying to smuggle explosives from Afghanistan.''

"Actually, there have been many more arrests of Federal air marshals than that story reported, quite a few for felony offenses. In fact, more air marshals have been arrested than the number of people arrested by air marshals (
Duncan Blasts "Useless" Air Marshal Service)."

Nice to know our tax dollars are supporting criminal enterprises beyond the mundane stealing of office pens. Rep. Duncan continues:

"We now have approximately 4,000 in the Federal Air Marshals Service, yet they have made an average of just 4.2 arrests a year since 2001. This comes out to an average of about one arrest a year per 1,000 employees.

"Now, let me make that clear. Their thousands of employees are not making one arrest per year each. They are averaging slightly over four arrests each year by the entire agency. In other words, we are spending approximately $200 million per arrest. Let me repeat that: we are spending approximately $200 million per arrest."

The cost per arrest is staggering, especially considering their low quality. Only three significant arrests since 9-11-2001, with only one conviction (Richard Reid).

Is there even a threat to our commercial aviation sector? If so, are Air Marshal the appropriate tool with which to counter the threat? Proper police and intel coordination linked with Transportation and Security Administration protocols should neutralize the threat before the security zone is penetrated by would-be hostile operatives.

The security system now has superfluous layers serving no obvious purpose. One example is screening for the components of liquid explosives which, even if smuggled aboard, could not be effectively combined to create an improvised mixture (unless a work area with scales were available.)

Explosives are not manufactured as easily as martinis that are shaken and not stirred. The realistic threat is not a James Bond type, contrary to the government hype. The types apprehended to date are pathetic, untrained crazies or wannabes posing theatrical threats -- they lack finely-honed operational skills. Yet this terror theater seems adequate to scare us witless.

The Rep questions the disparity between the threat and the scale of the U.S. response:

"Why, absent any evidence of a serious terror threat, is a war to on terror so enormous, so all-encompassing, and still expanding? The fundamental answer is that al Qaeda's most important accomplishment was not to hijack our planes but to hijack our political system.”

“For a multitude of politicians, interest groups and professional associations, corporations, media organizations, universities, local and State governments and Federal agency officials, the war on terror is now a major profit center, a funding bonanza, and a set of slogans and sound bites to be inserted into budget, grant, and contract proposals.''

After nearly a decade of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) and 40 years of experience with international and transnational terrorists and state and non-state sponsored groups it would be reasonable to expect that our government would understand what are and are not realistic tactics for dealing with terrorism. Al-Qaeda is not our first rodeo.

Ranger remembers when "CT" (Communist Terrorist) was applied to the National Liberation Front/VC of the Republic of Vietnam, a label used to demonize their nationalist, anti-colonialist Communist efforts. It did not work then, and it will not work now. Sticks and stones...

Words are only words.

[Cross-posted @ MilPub]

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Monday, April 19, 2010


779th Battalion insignia

The bees work.
Their work is taken from them.
We are like the bees—
But it won't last
--Black Workers, Langston Hughes

What you gonna do
When the well run dry?
You gonna sit right down and cry
--I'm Walkin', Fats Domino

Ranger's going to take down a local feel-good story, not because he is a killjoy, but because the subtext feels very bad.

A simple gesture to ensure one soldier was not left out of a family tradition led to an entire battalion of some 2,000 soldiers in Iraq uniting for a run/walk.

First Sgt. Jay Monismith of the Tallahassee-based 779th Engineer Battalion wanted to observe April 24 by wearing a tan shirt that acknowledged the sudden death of his niece, Sarah, who died 37 hours after birth due to a heart defect in 2001.

Monismith, who's stationed in Iraq, asked his captain if the section could march in remembrance of Sarah on the day of the March of Dimes run/walk in Charlotte, N.C., where Sarah's family lives (Soldiers of the 779th In Iraq Unite for March of Dimes.)

His request morphed into the "779th Engineer Battalion Birth Defects Awareness Day Fun Run/Walk."

Ranger is certainly not agai
nst the March of Dimes, a righteous organization if ever there was one. But the darker implications of the battalion's act are two-fold:

[1] Can we actually believe the 779th is defending anyone's freedoms if they have the time to stage Fun Runs?

If this were really war and if they were really executing an effective military mission, time for such non-military activities would not be available. Further, it is difficult to imagine physically executing a run in a hostile environment. Obviously they will run in a safe area, making the claim that they are "fighting a war to support us" questionable.

[2] It costs $1 Million per year to keep a U.S. soldier deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Since the 779th has 2,000 soldiers, we would save $2 Billion by bringing them home from a senseless, useless phony war, and could then use that money for infant mortality issues.

This would benefit the Homeland more than 2,00o soldiers walking in the sand for nickels and dimes.

A tuppence compared to the waste to which they are made a party.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

China Town

Paresh Nath (UAE)

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,

where moth and rust doth corrupt,

and where thieves break through and steal

--Matthew 6:19

I don't know if I'm unhappy
because I'm not free,

or if I'm not free because I'm unhappy


Son of a bitch!

Goddamn Florsheim shoe!


As Ranger stares into his bowl of WonTon soup, his mind floats to China's role in the U.S. trade deficit (doesn't everyone's?)

The U.S.-China relationship seems to mimic that of the Dutch settlers to the native inhabitants of Manhattan, from whom they "bought" the island for $24 worth of trinkets and beads. We buy trinkets, toys and non-essential beads which we don't need and can ill-afford, committing the next generations to pre-existing debt based upon the accumulation of those meaningless trinkets.

While we pile up tchotchkes, here is what China is doing: Pursuing a strategy that will gain them trade and new resources from Africa and other emergent markets. They are filling voids that U.S. policy is creating.

While the U.S. bogs itself down in ideological wars posing as counterinsurgency, the Chinese are growing, expanding and beating the U.S. to the ground in formerly colonial areas.

These simple observations lead one to speculate that the Communist system of China has produced greater thinkers and leaders than have the vaunted systems of democratic nations. The Chinese are not wrapped up in a ball over al-Qaeda and terrorism and fighting non-growth-making wars.
Our leaders are bush league in comparison, when considering the welfare of the nation.

China's leaders are not distracted by distractions. They are rolling down the 8-lane highway to modernity, high-speed, while we are locked into securing alleyways in sand box nations. China is overflowing with optimism, of a sort it is hard to find in the U.S. today.

So, are second-class minds running our country, or are we all second-class thinkers? We base our national existence on concepts of terrorism that are unverifiable and contrary to logic and reason. Contrast this with the reality-based leadership of China which deals in reality benefiting their society.

China is moving forward, while we march in place. We are witnessing the death of optimism, which is the wellspring of capitalism.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Show & Tell

Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me

So you can see

What's going on

--What's Going On?
, Marvin Gaye

Being born is like being kidnapped.

And then sold into slavery

--Andy Warhol

When you're born you get

a ticket to the freak show.

When you're born in America,

you get a front row seat

--George Carlin


A simple observation: To get a new Driver's License one must show a birth certificate. This is one of the new requirements dictated by Federal mandate, yet our President will not produce his bith certificate.

This is bothersome. So the latest installment involving Army doctor Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin's refusal to deploy to Afghanistan intrigues.

Lt. Col. Lakin, derided by the left as a "birther", wants to see Obama's birth certificate proving that he was born in the U.S. and is therefore his legitimate commander in chief and can therefore legally order him abroad. Lakin failed to report to Ft. Campbell, KY, this week, remaining instead at his job in a Pentagon clinic
(Obama Birth Certificate – Controversy Over Document Causes Army Doctor to Disobey Order.)

Whatever one's political orientation, it seems reasonable that the president could simply display a piece of paper that would put this issue to rest.

A simple piece of paper.


"The Hawaii Legislature is close to passing a law that would allow the state to ignore repeated requests for to produce the document" -- Why? (Hawaii Considers Law on Obama's Birth Cerificate.)

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Smoke 'Em If You've Got 'Em

--Nuclear World, Peray (Thailand)

as if all the unsung
debasements of the past may one day come
rising to the surface once again—
worked its filthy way out like a tongue
--Welcome to Hiroshima, Mary Jo Salter

It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long way to go.
It's a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know!
--It's a Long Way to Tipperary

Yeah, we're goin' nowhere, fast

, Lady Gaga


President Obama's recent summit on nuclear security is classic fear-mongering and misunderstanding of the actual threat posed by terror groups. However, as friend Sheerahkahn said recently, terrorism is "the currency of politicians who are trying to galvanize popular sentiment in a particular direction."
Obama said,

A terrorist group in possession of plutonium no bigger than an apple could detonate a device capable of inflicting hundreds of thousands of casualties" (Summit Endorses Obama Call on Nuclear Security.)

FACT: Possession of a plutonium core does not mean a group can produce a high-order nuclear bomb. It is a long way from plutonium to a high-yield explosion.

FACT: Nuclear waste will produce a dirty bomb, and is much easier to procure than plutonium

FACT: The plutonium could be used just as effectively without building it into a fissionable weapon

FACT: No intel indicators have been released showing any group capable of producing a plutonium bom

Rogue elements in Pakistan are more likely to give advice and consent to a group than is any non-state terror group

Obama also said,

"Terrorist networks such as al-Qaida have tried to acquire the material for a
nuclear weapon, and if they ever succeeded, they would surely use it."

Yes, surely they would use such a weapon if they got access. History has proven this point.

Just ask the survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Big Bad Wolf

Ranger Bumper Sticker of the Day

I smell like I sound. I'm lost and I'm found
And I'm hungry like the wolf
--Hungry Like the Wolf, Duran Duran

The girls smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature's head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead
--Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf,
Roald Dahl

In his column, "Why We Should Worry About Violent Political Rhetoric," L.A. Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez says:

"The recent spike in violent political rhetoric coupled with last week's arrest of two men who threatened the lives of two Democratic House members has a lot of commentators worried about a surge in domestic political terrorism.

If two congressmen were to be killed, how would this be an act of terrorism? IF? How has terrorism become such a bogeyman? Terrorism: The ubiquitous Big Bad Wolf of Modernity. Terrorism is the most overused and misunderstood word in the modern American lexicon.

Every crime against the U.S. is not terrorism. The assassination of John F. Kennedy was not terrorism, though by Mr. Rodriguez's rendering, it would have been. No -- both the JFK killings and that of any congressmen would be political assassinations. Which by the way is exactly what President Obama has recently authorized U.S. operatives to do, by executive order.

Why are the death threats against the congressmen perceived as political terrorism, while Obama's actions are a legitimate exercise of presidential power?

Assassination is a crime, even when authorized by a President.

[Cross-posted at MilPub]

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Father's Face

Son of a woman
And a man who lived in strife.

He was tired of being poor

But he wasn't into selling door to door


--You heard what the Father said.

There's no future for what you joined except hell.

--Well I'm a miner now.

I'll be traveling in that direction anyway, just out of habit

Molly Malguires (1970)

Then there was the whole concept of coal mining,
which is a culture unto itself,
the most dangerous occupation in the world,
and which draws and develops a certain kind of man
--Martin C. Smith

If capitalism is fair then unionism must be.

If men have a right to capitalize their ideas
and the resources of their country,

then that implies the right of men to capitalize their labor

--Frank Lloyd Wright

It is one of the characteristics of a free and democratic nation

that is have free and independent labor unions

--Franklin D. Roosevelt:


The recent deaths of 29 coal miners in the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia and at least at least 35 the same week in China's Shanxi province brought thoughts of my father to mind.

The NYT reported, "The mine owner’s dismal safety record, along with several recent evacuations of the mine, left federal officials and miners suggesting that Monday’s explosion might have been preventable," and Technology Review states, "existing technology could make
coal mining significantly safer--if only it was used" (Tools Exist for Safer Coal Mines.) It seems coal miners have always been low man on the totem pole.

There was no United Mine Workers union for these dead men, a tragedy in itself.

My father was a coal miner from 1940-56, with a short interlude when he went to war (during which time he earned two Presidential Unit Citations and a retroactive Navy Combat Action ribbon.)
His years in the mines left him no awards, and left him scarred lungs.

Although his entry physical into the WW II Navy clearly indicated lung scarring, he was still inducted and just as strangely, as an old man, the government has disallowed his claim for Black Lung compensation. But that is not this story, though it is a story. The story is his life.

He was the son of immigrant stock, his education limited and work opportunities restricted, so he did as his father before him and entered the mines of western Pennsylvania. His father died young, necessitating an early entry into the realities of survival. All four of the brothers entered the mines, but my father also got a respite when he worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps Camps (CCC) in Virginia working on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Little is really known by me about my father. He has always been an unknown and mostly distant, generally silent part of my life. But it is impossible not to think about his reality. He faced enemy submarines in the Atlantic and his ship [DE 149] saw intense close combat with German U boats. However, he has never set foot in a Department of Veterans Affairs facility in his life.

For Ranger, it has been difficult to understand his long-term employment as a coal miner, a job where safety and wages were both shaky propositions. Being a miner was as dangerous but much dirtier than being a sailor. When sailors die it is over in minutes, but for miners it is a long, drawn-out, terror-filled event.

Ranger now understands the distance and silence of his father. These things are evident when looking into a mirror, one of the many things a Ranger can do with a mirror -- a place where many images converge over space and time and become something that sometimes comes to the surface without any thought.

Ranger cannot say that he understands his father, but he appreciates the forces that influenced his life and times.

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