Wednesday, June 30, 2010


many soldiers eighteen years
drowned in mud, no more tears

surely a war no one can win

killing time about to begin

Iron Maiden

Last week Ranger viewed a special on Public Television featuring two fine young American soldiers suffering Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) resulting from IED attacks suffered while serving in Afghanistan. The piece focused on the collateral damage to the families of these once-vibrant young men.

The documentary opened with a voice-over regarding one soldier who had become paralyzed after his IED attack. The viewer is then told that following extensive rehabilitation, the soldier is now capable of movement, giving a feeling of hope. The camera now flashes to that young man in a wheelchair, being spoken to, vacantly staring ahead, trying to make meaning from the words being spoken to him by his father. He is not o.k.

The ramifications were heartbreaking, but that is a quality that can't be quantified; however, the financial cost can be evaluated. Private facilities charge $80,000/month to attempt to rehabilitate these men.

The cost to the Department of Veterans Affairs is $40,000 per month. Neither figures calculate the additional cost of benefits being paid to these men, who deserve nothing but the best.

The U.S. citizenry must ask: What in Afghanistan was worth the cost that is being borne by these injured young people, who number in the thousands? As a society, we fail to consider the future costs of caring for these injured shells of once proud soldiers.

Both men had Ranger and Marine flags and wore Ranger and USMC hats, which strikes Ranger in a contradictory manner. Here we are, viewing the the sad result that service ultimately entails, and this is the juxtaposed against showy pride in that sacrifice. This is fine and good, but Ranger wonders how many Rangers or Marines will ever visit these men once they return home from our far-flung, endless wars.

One would expect not often, since warriors are not known for their empathy.

We as a society are lost when we willingly accept -- and in fact, cheer on -- the slaughter and diminution of our young in wars that are questionable at best; criminal at worst. Which is worse: Having seen this on t.v., or having seen it in the wards of the 24th Evac Hospital in Long Binh, RVN?

It was just business as usual back then for a young Ranger. But to an old Ranger, the sorrow is devastating.

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Soldier's Handbook Contest Winners


This award is long-overdue, but we hope you will forgive us our many distractions the past month.

The winners of the Soldier's Handbook Errors Contest are:

1st Place: Honorary Gunner
-- Terrible, who takes it for all of his compatriots who share his hard-working, Yankee ethics. He never gave up. Churchill would be proud.

2nd Place: Honorary Assistant Gunner
-- fasteddiez, a two-time RAW winner. He's fast, he's clever, he's a natural to win, place or show.

Where Terrible is deliberate and persistent, fasteddiez is passionate and fast off the mark. Both, winners.

Now, for the prize . . .

I think both have received free Ranger bumper stickers (though we've got plenty more we'd be happy to distribute.) Participant Deryle [past winner] thoughtfully suggested some petroleum, and certainly we'd be happy to scour a gen-u-ine tarball from the local beaches, if that so floated your boat.

We are thinking, however, that the prize shall have to kept on ice, for a future, hoped-for rendezvous. The winners are promised quaffs of their choice at the local watering hole, wherever that may be. This is a promise; LTR's are so difficult.

Thanks to all for their earnest participation. We felt it was kind of like the Special Olympics, really: Everyone was a winner :)


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Scale Model

--The Treachery of Images
This is Not a Pipe),
Rene Magritte

The territory never gets in at all. ...

Always, the process of representation

will filter it out so that the mental world

is only maps of maps, ad infinitum

--Form, Substance, Difference,

Gregory Bateson

[T]he Cartographers Guild drew

a Map of the Empire whose size

was that of the Empire

-Exactitude in Science,
Jorge Luis Borges

The map is not the Territory

--Alfred Korzybski


The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have moved beyond wars of liberation -- they are
Wars of Identity.

The inhabitants of those nations are fighting to maintain their identities, and we are fighting because war has become, as Glenn Greenwald recently noted, our national identity. When non-veterans like Obama call our armed services a "warrior elite", then it is obvious we have re-defined our national ideals.

The U.S. cannot win these wars as we lack the scale to deal with them. Using military maps as metaphor, Ranger will explain his concept.

Higher headquarters, Department of the Army, Theatre, etc., use scales larger than 1:250,000 on a daily basis. Corps and Division use 1:100,000 and 1:50,000. The larger the scale, the smaller the detail, the less exact the rendering of any meaning
ful reality.

Maps of this scale are deceptive as they can show nothing of significance beyond gross features which are beyond the comprehension of the planners. On the news, it is common to see maps of the region which imply that we civilized, mechanical western men can impose our will on those borders, by means of animations showing movement and occupation.

That is the illusion of maps, which reflect terrain features but can never express the reality of the situation on the ground.
Maps are one-dimensional, hopelessly limited representations of gross outer spaces. Maps at this level are optimistic briefing points which are easily digested. They can handily represent any illusion.

The reality devolves down to the Battalion, Company, Platoon and Section, which are operationally bound to 1:25,000 scale maps for daily use. Even though these maps show features more clearly, they still do not reflect reality.

Take any fight in Iraq or Afghanistan and look at the reality versus the map. U.S. units never move without maps distributed down to Platoon, and often, section. Now we probably have GPS in every vehicle and at Platoon level, and what good has that done?

It doesn't matter what the HQ level or the map scale. The U.S. faces implacable adversaries that have no need for maps since they use local guides, have indigenous intelligence assets and are intimately knowledgeable about their Areas of Operation. Add to this their belief that they are fighting for their identity and have no place to go except their tribal homelands and it adds up to an unpleasant reality from which maps, no matter how precisely rendered, can save us.

The Afghanis and Iraqis need no maps; they will steal and extort weapons and remain willing to delay, disorganize and deceive the foreign invaders in perpetuum. That they can do this for generations is not something that can be depicted on any map in any Army HQ.

It is all a matter of scale. The President can look at his One Over the World scale map and feel perfectly in control; meanwhile, an infantryman stows his 1:25,000 and prepares for another night of touch and go.

Wars are always a 1:1 scale.

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Prayin' On It

A goal without a plan is just a wish
--Larry Elder

When you need answers

you don't go to the Lord

You've got your tarot cards

and Ouija board

--Praying to the Wrong God,

Charlie Daniels Band

Wishes don't wash dishes

--old saying


Alabama Governor Bob Riley has asked his citizens to pray “that a solution that stops the oil leak is completed soon” (Seeking God's Help for a Wounded Gulf).

Gov. Riley is following the new m.o. in our technologically-advanced modernity:
prevailing upon the Gods for a propitious outcome. Everything old is new again. Perhaps some crop circles might help speed the matter.

Isn't it strange that a U.S. government which has the power to obliterate civilization does not possess the ability to cap an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico? We destroy with more facility than we repair.

The latest news assures us our next best hope is for mid-August, when a relief well will supposedly divert the gusher; but even that is not guaranteed.

It's all wishes, hopes and prayers.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Drone Zone

A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness,

a desire to kill, to torture,
to smash faces in with a sledge hammer,
seemed to flow through the whole group of people
like an electric current

--1984, George Orwell

Number nine, number nine,

number nine, number nine

--Revolution 9
, The Beatles

Earlier this month we were provided the happy news that another #3 was gone:

"Amid environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and diplomatic disaster in the Mediterranean comes this piece of welcome news from western Pakistan: Al-Qaeda
confirmed that its No. 3 leader, Mustafa al-Yazid (also known as Sheik Saeed al-Masri), was killed in an unmanned drone strike last month" (Drones Take Toll on al-Qaeda leaders).

But why would anybody see this as Good News, sufficient to counteract the grinding destruction of the Gulf that we euphemistically call an
environmental disaster, as though another unfortunate but unpreventable happening like a hurricane? Sure, we killed another guy with a towel wrapped around his head and the media is ecstatic -- but meanwhile, back at the ranch, we still have high unemployment, failing mortgages and myriad other serious issues supposedly eclipsed by a useless drone-induced death.

Who are we kidding: ". . .al-Yazid was, by some counts, the 10th
third-ranking al-Qaeda leader killed since Sept. 11, 2001, while Osama bin Laden (No. 1) and Ayman a'-Zawahri (No. 2) Ayman al-Zawahri remain at large. Individual deaths do not summate to victory; there must be identifiable goals associated with the carnage. The purpose of war is not to kill, but to kill with a purpose.

It is doubtful that that the al-Qaida of 2010 is the same organization that executed the 9-11 attacks, since men like al-Yazid may simply be fighting a defensive battle against foreign invaders. Ranger lacks the intel to definitively state this, but numerous indicators suggest this is a reasonable assumption.

"Since 2004, U.S. airstrikes have killed 15 senior and 15 mid-level al-Qaeda leaders, plus four senior and five mid-level Taliban leaders, according to the Long War Journal, which tracks the war on terror."

"The death of al-Yazid, who acted as al-Qaeda's chief operating officer, also is the latest proof of the value of
the controversial but effective CIA program that has become the centerpiece of that strategy."

These figures may be correct, but so what? The replacement pool is adequate fill leadership voids, and nowhere do we see a cost/benefit analysis of this U.S. application of violence. It is premature to believe this program is effective; races and wars are gauged by the final outcome.

The editorial continues, "Drone attacks convey unmistakable messages: U.S. forces are always watching, and someone close to the leaders might be betraying them.
With luck, this distracts and destabilizes al-Qaeda." Luck is not a military concept, and if the U.S. is hanging it's hat on that "hopey-changey thing" -- as the inimitable Ms. Palin calls it -- we are in dire straits.

In the Vietnam War, the Phoenix Program killed 20,000+ hardcore Vietnamese Communists, yet they achieved victory. If killing the VC infrastructure did not work then, why should it work now just because we are using drones? The final outcome on the ground is the yardstick, and all the salutary Op-Eds won't change that fact.

"The strike on al-Yazid, for example, is reported to have killed his wife and at least one of his three children. The drone strikes enrage many ordinary Pakistanis, both there and in the U.S. ..." Forget Pakistan's reaction to the killing of al-Yazid's wife, kids and (unmentioned in this piece) grandkids, MY reaction is one of revulsion. Why aren't other Americans similarly affected?

The drone program is justified as "[the enemy has] no compunction about hiding among civilians." This is not a justification for accepting collateral deaths. Collateral civilian deaths are only acceptable IF the targeted al-Qaeda assets are in the execution phase of an operation and the civilian deaths are essential to kill or capture the active terrorist elements.

Killing is killing, whether done by terrorists or U.S. agents. We can only control our side of the equation, and our failure to do so will ultimately lead to our unsuccessful campaign in Afghanistan. Killing must lead to a greater good; if we do not believe this, then we are not a Christian nation (as so many of the die-hards believe), and are as criminal as the al-Qaida leadership.

The editorial falsely concludes:
"[T]he drones deliver the essential message of the war on terror: Attack the United States, and you'll regret it. If al-Qaeda is neutered and its leaders are killed or captured, others won't be eager to repeat its mistake."

Others will always be ready to
assume leadership in a struggle in which they see themselves as justified in opposing foreign invaders. Ask yourself how you'd react if the shoe were on the other foot?

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Who's in Charge?

It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to,
cry if I want to, cry if I want to

You would cry too if it happened to you

--Cry if I Want To
, Lesley Gore


Since McChrystal was the Commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, then how did Obama gain the exclusive right to relieve him?

Since this is ostensibly a NATO command, shouldn't the involved NATO members have a say in the matter? This unilateral action indicates that this theatre of action is not an allied effort.

It is an Obama show.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

A Bridge Too Far

Tried to run

Tried to hide

Break on through

to the other side

--Break on Through
, The Doors

Well I'm not the world's most physical guy

But when she squeezed me tight

she nearly broke my spine

Oh my Lola, lo-lo-lo-lo Lola

, The kinks

All men are created equal

--U.S. Constitution


Unit cohesion and morale issues are the usual arguments given for banning gays in the military, but those who take that position never explain how forcing gays to serve while in the closet improves unit cohesion.

Ranger doubts that unit cohesion is even relevant as the concept is unquantifiable, and the argument is usually delivered in an emotional, knee-jerk fashion. Surely open service would be less detrimental to morale than open-ended wars absent identifiable objectives. What is morale, anyway?

Don't Ask, Don't Tell will eventually be repealed, and the military must accept this fact. However, the typical soldierly passive-aggression will reign, and the military will stonewall any gay that identifies himself as such. This comment applies primarily to the males, as lesbian personnel have always been accepted as long as they were buff and gruff, and acted like men.

Open gay service has always been the prerogative of females; the problem has been in accepting the males. It is doubtful that most gay male soldiers can even be identified as such since gays gravitating to the military will seldom be the swishy-type. Yet these are the gays that scare the chain of command.

Nobody cares about the leather-dominant gays since these personnel will present as het males. However, there is a weakness in the male psyche that feels threatened in the face of its anima. Why would a man secure in his masculinity be threatened by a gay man

Further, why do those men often behave threatened by Ranger, who is not gay and has done the "manly things"? Why are they angered by his defense of gays?

Men are afraid their status as man would be diminished if a gay were to also perform at the same level. To be a Ranger or Special Forces is to be apart from the gender-integrated Army. It is the last bastion of masculinity in any aspect of our society.

Even if a gay soldier performs at the extremities of manhood -- more extreme than being, say, a pro football player -- his alternate sexual orientation would not be accepted. Why, when that man is performing the very same tasks as his hetero brothers? One's sexual orientation should be constitutionally protected as a right of privacy.

Even when DADT is repealed, it would be detrimental for any male in the combat arms to declare an alternate sexual orientation as the threat of less than superior EER's and OER's would loom. These would be oblique attacks that are the classic career-killers.

Can one believe that a DA promotion board would select an openly serving gay as a CSM or General Officer? DADT can be rescinded, but the institutional Army mindset will persevere.

It will be the same as when blacks were integrated into the Army by Executive Order. It took many years for a black to be promoted to General Officer. Did any black oficers win a CMH [MOH] in the Korean War? The first black West Point grad (Flipper) was drummed out of the service on trumped-up charges. The same will be the fate of gay men proclaiming their sexuality; the Army knows how to drag its feet when faced with an unpopular policy, regardless of congressional dictate.

Gays seeking a career in the Army would be well-advised to "don't tell", even when legislation deletes DADT. Regulations will not change attitudes.

For that, a societal shift in necessary. Until we integrate all members, there will always be a fracture line.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hook, Line and Sinker

New York, New York, a helluva town
The Bronx is up, but the Battery's down
The people ride in a hole in the ground
New York, New York, it's a helluva town!
--New York, New York
(On the Town)

The scientist says the plane is going to crash,

the captain says it's not.

Your vote doesn't count

because you have to side with the captain

which means it's a tie

--No Highway in the Sky

When Faisel Shahzad pleaded guilty Monday to plotting to blow up Times Square, he was engaging in a bit of hyperbole ("Times Square Plotter: 'It's a War'".)

His device could not blow up Times Square; it would take a 500-pound bomb or greater to achieve that outcome. Shahzad's incendiary device would have caused limited destruction, which is of course terrorism. But it is a long shot from
"blowing up Times Square".

"Shahzad, 30, a U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, called himself "a Muslim solder" and said he wanted to "plead guilty and 100 times more" to all of the charges.

"A federal grand jury last week indicted Shahzad on 10 terrorism charges. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said prosecutors had not reached a plea agreement with Shahzad, who faces life in prison. A sentencing hearing will be held Oct. 5."

This case proves that U.S. federal courts can handle the legal problem of terrorism. From start to finish, this case was handled in an appropriate manner since Shahzad was apprehended, questioned, arrested and charged. The case was properly adjudicated.

The interesting part is that Shahzad himself has called his thwarted effort an act of war, which it exactly is NOT. Shahzad is not a "warrior", despite his protests that he is. But who can blame Shahzad for his warrior self-image when we as a nation have adopted the same stance?

Since 9-11-01,
our leaders and the media have been preaching that terrorism = warfare, and the American people have accepted this falsehood. Ergo, their entrance into two phony wars to fight terrorism. Terrorism is NOT warfare, and the Shahzad case shows the correct response to such crimes is a legal one.

The problem now is that a large portion of the U.S. public accepts as gospel that terrorism = warfare. As infectious disease specialist
Robert Field said in Lancet when discussing the problem of getting parents to trust vaccinations again after the autism link was discredited earlier this year, "It is very easy to scare people; it's very hard to unscare them."

Warriorhood will not save us, nor will it help our adversaries.
Anyway, what makes our warriors holy and their mission sacrosanct, while theirs are vile? With Shahzad we see the equation balancing out, as the terrorists are successfully co-opting our rhetoric to keep the war project in motion.

For about $15 K a terror group recruited, trained and deployed an operative to NYC. This operative was bumbling, inefficient and totally ineffective, BUT his message is now broadcast around the world -- free advertising via the media express. His clarion call to arms is paid for by U.S. tax dollars -- his trial cost millions of dollars, and our invasive wars have cost us trillions. Pit that against a $15 K investment.

The teaching point is that terrorists need not be successful, yet they can still create their product: terror. In so doing they assist their cause with increased funding and recruitment, and they do it on our dime.

What is interesting is that we prosecute totally inept operators and act like we are striking a serious blow against terrorism. In fact, guys like Shahzad are disposable dupes, and we fall for it, hook, line and sinker.

"John Timony, a former Miami and New York City police official, said that although Shahzad failed, police should not underestimate the risk of homegrown terrorism."
The point missed is that guys like Shahzad become radicalized because the basis of our Phony War on Terror [PWOT ©] is radical. Our actions are inconsistent, lacking legal or moral cohesion.

We preemptively and electively invade countries, capture riflemen on the battlefield, and call them terrorists. This incorrect label implies terrorists can be captured on a battlefield. In fact, terrorists do not squander their assets in military operations. This is exactly why they elect to be terrorists. The two occupations are not one and the same, though there may be ideological overlap.

Sending our Armies to fight the various factions in Iraq and Afghanistan has provided these groups with a legitimacy they do not deserve. Keeping low-level shooters in open-ended incarceration in Bagram prisons and Guantanamo conversely denies legitimacy to our efforts.

Terrorism is not a legitimate tool for either groups or nations to employ. Neither group has this right, which is a consideration that we seldom entertain.

Employing Armies to fight terrorism is like asking a prostitute to sign a pledge of abstinence. It won't happen.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chrystal Clear

A clever man commits
no minor blunders

Be, all that you can be

in the Army

--Army recruitment jingle


In the past, Ranger predicted General David Petraeus would be the 2012 Republican presidential candidate running on the platform, "We lost because Obama didn't fight the good fight, etc."

It is possible that he was four stars off in his prediction? Another interpretation of the current McChrystal brouhaha is that the General is intentionally forcing the moment to a crisis, to bolster his chance to run for the presidency in 2012. What could be a better vote-getter than the game plan that is presently playing out?

New, updated Ranger Prediction: If McChrystal stands up to "I know whose ass to kick" Obama and holds his ground, then this is the opening salvo in the 2012 presidential campaign.
McChrystal knows that Petraeus will be the Army Chief of Staff and that he therefore has no chance to occupy that slot.

Why not go for the gusto?
No guts, no glory.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Spinning Wheels

Talking about your troubles and you,
you never learn

Ride a painted pony

let the spinning wheel turn

--Spinning Wheels
Blood, Sweat and Tears


Today's news is that General McChrystal has put his foot in his mouth, an action which is a perfect analog to the Phony War on Terror (
PWOT ©).

In a nutshell, McChrystal criticized Obama and special envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq Afghan Richard Holbrooke; Obama criticizes Afghan president Hamid Karzai, and Karzai continues to rake in U.S. dollars to finance his future lifestyle after he escapes to England or France.

The entire PWOT © seems like an old transmission that groans with every turn of the engine. Pretty soon the gears will become too loose or it will overheat from friction; either way, the machine will cease to function. The transmission lacks oil and fluid, and the gears don't mesh. Moreover, the driver doesn't know how to coax the old mare.

The above is a far cry from the actions of the leadership of al-Qaida, which by comparison seems to operate in a smooth manner.

That is what our PWOT has become: An old, self-destructive gearbox that will not take us anywhere that we need to go. Gen. McChrystal's mouth is the giveaway.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Lost in Translation

There's a fine line
between love and hate

--Over You, T-Bone Burnett

What was it you wanted

Tell me again so I'll know

What's happening in there

What's going on in your show

--What Was it You Wanted?

Bob Dylan

Don't spend time beating on a wall,
hoping to transform it into a door
--Coco Chanel


The recent death of an Iraqi interpreter at the hands of his own family belies the dogma of hearts and minds, and seeds of democracy and the American Way.

Winning the hearts and minds of those that hate
just will not happen. Hate has no logic or shelf life. Hameed al-Daraji, who had worked as a translator for the U.S. military since 2003, was asleep when shot in the chest and killed by his son and nephew for collaboration with the enemy [the U.S.]. The gunmen are linked to al-Qaida (Son Kills Father Who Translated for the U.S.)

Events like this show there are many hearts and minds that we failed to win. This incident -- not a unique event --shows the level of hatred towards U.S. forces.
Why do we want their hearts and minds, anyway? Ranger wouldn't want them even if they could be won, even if they were handed to him like John the Baptist's head on a platter. What would we benefit?

Invasion and destruction of a nation is inimical to the project of winning hearts and minds. To believe otherwise is naive, at best.
It is a fantasy to expect love from people filled with hatred, a hatred which is their national identity.

This rule holds fast whether the relationship is personal or national, yet many persist with the mirage.
It is the psychopathology of denial. To persist in this folly is also a definition of insanity.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hope Less

Something must be done.
This is something. Therefore we must do it

Yes Minister, Jim Hacker

Confusion has its cost

--Helplessly Hoping,

Crosby, Stills and Nash

Nor dread nor hope attend
A dying animal;
A man awaits his end
Dreading and hoping all
, William Butler Yeats

[V]ision is Obama’s thing
--Dreamer in Chief,
Charles Krauthammer


What we need in America is less hope, as it is apparent that hope is not working.

What we need is:
  • Less faith and more realism
  • less patriotism and more skepticism
  • less democracy and more freedom
  • less rhetoric and more thinking
  • less bailouts and more honesty
  • fewer laws and more justice
  • less leadership and more competence
  • less obfuscation and more directness
  • less vision and more clear-sightedness

Is anyone else down with this?

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Friday, June 18, 2010

International Declaration of Human Rights

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world



Today in 1948, the United Nations adopted the International Declaration of Human Rights establishing a
"common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations."

The 28 Articles are worth a review. They state the basic standards required for living a life, and go beyond those to ensure a measure of dignity, as well. We are still woefully behind in achieving even this basic level of humanity, but it remains a worthy goal.

The Preamble:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, and

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights resulted before and during the second World War, in barbarous acts which outraged the conscience of mankind and made it apparent that the fundamental freedoms were one of the supreme issues of the conflict, and

Whereas it is essential, if mankind is not to be compelled as a last resort to rebel against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by a regime of law, and

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter determined to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom; and

Whereas member states have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the organization, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms; and

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, therefore, the General Assembly

Proclaims this Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the people of member states themselves and among the people of territories under their jurisdiction.

Well, it is pretty to think so. As humans, we have the potential to implement these rudiments. It seems the will is lacking, blockaded by any number of limiting tenets.

Let us hope we can one day tear down those walls.

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Self Protection

Mama, can this really be the end

To be stuck inside of Mobile

With the Memphis blues again

--Stuck Inside of Mobile
, Bob Dylan

Self protection takes many different forms, be it condoms, body armor or any active measure we take to protect ourselves from any form of harm.

In my recent sojourn through some airports, I noticed the TSA and the airlines are protecting my bodily needs, but self protection requires a few steps beyond.

Some prudent measures prior to embarking on your flight could aid in your survival should disaster happen. We go through myriad showy check points, but no one tells passengers their responsibility in the process.

The best thing one can do is wear proper clothing and accouterments while aboard the aircraft. Not even the flight personnel abided by these commonsense rules.

The female flight attendants wore 2-3 inch heels and hose and synthetic uniforms. Synthtics may stay wrinkle-free, but they melt to the skin in the case of fire. Hollywood aside, running in heels is not safe.

Ranger's rules:

  • Do not wear synthetic clothing. Wear cotton, silk or other natural fibers. You may look a bit rumpled, but you can be secure in the knowledge that your clothes won't melt.
  • Wear leather shoes, preferably with ankle coverage and cotton or silk socks. This may be a hassle in our post-Reid world, but it is prudent.
  • Wear long sleeves
  • Carry a natural fiber jacket that can be wrapped around the head in the event of fire
  • Wear a hat and glasses (metal frame and glass)
  • Be aware of your surroundings and plan the route you would take if an emergency were to develop.
  • In an emergency, forget about your bags and focus on saving lives

This was written while on the tarmac indefinitely delayed out of Detroit.

Now I'm worried.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Terrorism for Dummies: Significant, Spectacular & Symbolic

The last three days

the rain was unstoppable.

I was always cold,

no sunshine

--Running Down a Dream
, Tom Petty

Day 1,000 of the Siege of Seattle.

The Muslim community demands an end

to the Army's occupation of mosques

--Children of Men

Is it Tomorrow or Just the End of Time

--Purple Haze
, Jimi Hendrix


The old expert formula for successful terror activity was that it should be
significant and spectacular. This formula was definitely in play at the Twin Towers on 9-11-01. In addition, subsequent attacks had to surpass the previous scenarios for shock effect and newsworthiness.

Today, this rule has taken an inexplicable flip-flop.

The present trend is de-escalated attacks and planned attacks that never reach the completion stage. We have had shoe (non) bomber Reid, undie (non) bomber Abdulmutallab, Zazi, Jihad Jane, the Fort Dix Six, and surprisingly,
these inept excuses for terrorists STILL cause the U.S. citizenry to overreact. Most citizens actually believe that we are at grave risk on a continuous basis as a result of these ballyhooed bombers manque.

National security policies are then enacted reflecting this unreasoned fear generated by a minimal threat. The terrorist dangers to which we are reacting are a joke when systematically examined.
Have Americans lost their ability to discern and face real danger?

As stated before, the far threat posed by al Qaeda to the U.S. is not the same as the near threat posed by that organization in Afghanistan or Iraq. In case this fact escapes our notice, neither of these locales are part of the U.S. -- not lately, anyway.

Historically, the goal of terrorism was to prove that the target population could not be safegaurded by the government. The message was that the groups were ultimately more powerful than the government's ability to counter their threat. This was true of both international and transnational groups.

Today, however, the U.S. government -- when operating in a thoughtful and deliberate manner -- is clearly able to identify and neutralize attacks before they fully develop. Since this is true, why do we still accept terrorism as a credible threat? Present policy implies and confers power upon terror groups that is NOT reflective of their actual capabilities.

This regression is the most significant feature of terrorism today, yet it escapes comment by our national security specialists and the media.

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Wounded Warrior Chairs

Grannies on the warrior chairs

The little toy dog is covered with dust,

But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,

And his musket molds in his hands.

Time was when the little toy dog was new

And the soldier was passing fair,

And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue

Kissed them and put them there

--Little Boy Blue
, Eugene Field

Soldier boy, Oh, my little soldier boy
I'll be true to you

--Soldier Boy
, The Shirelles

In the Jacksonville Airport there are about 25 rocking chairs, some with cushions, all marked "Wounded Warriors" -- what can this be about? Why rocking chairs and not wheelchairs?

Are these little feel good gestures of any practical value? Ranger is positive that there are thousands of wounded soldiers from these phony wars that will never be able to use a rocking chair, much less enjoy it. But the chairs sure look good to passers by: faux-homey, a sight that says, "Take your ease in between your delayed flights, now that you've done some terror-fighting time."

Who thinks up these happenings?


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Propagating Presumptions

Arend van Dam

Not to presume to dictate,

but broiled fowl and mushrooms -- capital thing!

--The Pickwick Papers
, Charles Dickens

Show me the money!
--Jerry Maguire (1996)

Ranger is tired of the media propagating presumptions as fact. Syndicated columnist and scholar Victor Davis Hanson gave a classic example in his recent, "President Obama: Our Chief Confessor."

Hanson says, "[O]ur president would do better to focus on ...
continued terrorist attacks in the U.S. ..." What examples of terrorist attacks have occurred in the U.S. post 9-11-01? More specifically, what terrorist attacks have occurred in the U.S. since Obama's takeover? What, when and where were these attacks? We are a nation which abuses its Freedom of the Press by abdicating our responsibility to the truth.

Irresponsibly presumptive and false statements like Hanson's fuel the endless Phony War on Terror
[PWOT ©]. While there have been low-level attempted attacks, there has been no successful attack in the U.S.

If Ranger is wrong, then please list these attacks. There is a world of difference when one omits the descriptor, "ATTEMPTED".

Hanson's piece is also contradictory in that it opens with:

"The first duty of national leaders is to worry about the self-interest of their own countries; utopian internationalism can come later. "

And concludes with:

"[O]ur president would do better to focus on the woes of the European Union, North Korea's sinking of a South Korean ship, Iran's plans to get the bomb, continued terrorist attacks in the U.S. ..."

Focusing on the EU, North Korea and Iran is exactly the Utopian humanitarianism the first sentence eschews. Afghanistan and Iraq area also bitter examples of this humanitarianism.

If the U.S. were to abandon Utopian humanitarianism, then we would no longer concern ourselves with these other "woes", and could focus on the self-interest of the American people.

Irresponsible reporting and opinion pieces fuel irresponsible reactions to a manufactured threat.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010


On a long and lonesome highway
East of Omaha

--Turn the Page
, Bob Seger

I rolled on as the sky grew dark

I put the pedal down to make some time

There's something good waiting down this road

I'm picking up whatever is mine

--Running Down a Dream
, Tom Petty

Is it tomorrow or just the end of time

--Purple Haze
, Jimi Hendrix

Our homeland is resembling Dog Patch more by the week. Is anybody in authority aware of this fact?

Example: U.S. Federal Highway 77 in Ohio, specifically from Akron to Cleveland, is in reprehensible condition -- full of potholes, cracks and shoddily-repaired areas. The rest areas are closed. What does this mean?

We see these things repeatedly throughout our daily lives, but they do not register. Highway 77's degraded condition was obvious to me because I'm an outsider.

Aside from the crumbling infrastructure, there are myriad other indications large and small that the U.S. is experiencing a comedown:

In some municipalities, government offices closed on Fridays; niceties like time and temperature services are closed; grocers are leaving items on the shelf past due dates; restaurants are substituting margarine for butter, artificial "creamer" for cream. Wait times for phone assistance are extended, and when halp arrives, it is often less-than-capable.

Things are a little less nice all 'round. If you live in a gated world, you may be immune to these changes, but for the rest of us they are unmistakable.

We are a nation-building nation yet we're falling apart at the seams. Does this make any sense?

Do our Federal overseers ever ever travel these highways and byways of a once-proud nation? If so, it is from behind shrouded glass and done by a chauffeur.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Last Stop Willoughby

--Keeping Akron safe

Mr. Williams's protection fell away from him
and left him a naked target.
He's been cannonaded this afternoon
by all the enemies of his life.
His insecurity has shelled him,
his sensitivity has straddled him with humiliation
--A Stop at Willoughby
, The Twilight Zone

--I only know you got the wrong man.
--Information Transit got the wrong man.
I got the right man.
The wrong one was delivered to me as the right man,
I accepted him on good faith as the right man.
Was I wrong?

While recently visiting my aged parents it was necessary to pass through four large airports.

There was a Transportation Security Administration warning playing on a continuous loop in each: "If you see anything strange [etc.], report this to the nearest law enforcement officer." Problem was, in two of the four airports, there were no armed law enforcement types visible. In Akron-Canton, I saw a Deputy Sheriff, but Akron is not exactly a threat environment.

The next point: What will an armed cop do to protect us from an IED, or even a camel-mounted machine gun? If a terrorist is going to conduct an attack in an airport it will be done in the blink of an eye, as it was in Lod, Rome and others. However, the reality is, we will never see such an attack in the good old Homeland.

The threat in the airports of America does not originate with the travelers, but rather with the vendors.

All of our airports have inside the security zone commercial activities that have thousands of workers who bypass the outer and inner security belts with ease. This is the weakness of our system. If there is a bomb or weapon smuggled, it will be performed by an insider who is able to bypass the TSA security theatre.

Even so, it is doubtful that any terror organization, to include al-Qaeda, has the ability or operational status to carry out such an attack at this time. For a terrorist attack to have any significance, it must be sensational and symbolic; such a bombing would lack that distinction.

Al-Qaeda will use disposable people like shoe-bomber Reid or crotch bomber Abdulmutallab as a means of keeping pressure upon our infrastructure, but that threat is consistently low order. The supposed bombers that the U.S. has arrested are naught but actors in the terror theatrics.

Actors just as surely as is the TSA organization an eye candy effort which, on a daily basis, closes the barn door after the horse is out

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Escape From Freedom

Hoping to find a friend and a lover
I'll bless the day I discover
Another -- lookin' for love.
--Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
Johnny Lee

Homeland Security rejoices when a desperate housewife like Jihad Jane is swept off the operational rolls of the nasty terrorist threat.

Forget that she is a wannabe with no operational skills or ability to carry out any type of operation -- either significant or insignificant -- against U.S. interests. She had the intent, but the capability was clearly lacking. Jihad Jane is reminiscent of another failure from the past, Squeaky Fromme.

Fromme was so bat-shit crazy that she attempted to kill President Ford with a semi-auto, but forgot to jack a round into the chamber. Like Jihad Jane, Fromme had the intent to kill, minus the capability. At worst, she too was bat-shit crazy.

These lunatics press the question as to where craziness starts, and where it ends. When the U.S. convicts people who are delusional and borderline of crimes we are buying into their insanity. Delusional, pathological thinking is a mental illness. Sending people who act out their psychopathology to prison does not benefit society.

The mental health yardstick should be applied to our national leadership and the court system, as these people are more dangerous than any two-bit Jihad Jane or Squeaky Fromm.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Cultural Trend

--Riber Hansson

Cause wishin' and hopin'
and thinkin' and prayin

Plannin' and dreamin' his kisses will start

That won't get you into his heart

--Wishin' and Hopin'
Bacharach and David

A good politician is quite as unthinkable

as an honest burglar

--H. L. Mencken

I don't think we did go blind,

I think we are blind,

Blind but seeing,

Blind people who can see, but do not see

, Jose Saramago

British Petroleum's profligate, ever-expanding oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is but a logical progression in the mindset and events of modern America.

It is the evolution of a culture which wants every benefit, but refuses responsibility when things go pear up. It is Eric Hoffer's
Momism on speed, and no one is exempt from the blame game, except those pointing the fingers. We drill for oil as cavalierly as we start wars, expecting stellar outcomes because after all, we all earned gold stars in elementary school for just showing up.

What the wars and the Deepwater Horizon rig blowout share is the opposite of provident worst case planning
. It is pollyannish to imagine that one's contrivances will go off without a hitch. Somewhere between the two approaches is a middle ground lacking in our national lives. That mid ground is based upon taking prudent risks based upon realistic assessments and assumptions.

The 21st century U.S. wars are marked by hopeful thinking and wishful planning, executed with insufficient combat power. Both Iraq and Afghanistan have been unsuccessful because realism and cold logic have been ignored.

We now invade countries without Theatre Armies or proper depth to our engaged forces. We electively fight wars beyond the capability of our on-call active forces. The same lack of foresight is evident in other areas of our public lives, including the financial crisis characterized by incomprehensible instruments like collateralized debt obligations.

Like the oil spill according to Admiral Thad Allen, or the events of 9-11 according to then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, it is all so unimaginable, except when it isn't.

The oil spill can be analogized to our Phony Wars (Phony Wars on Terror ©) in that we embraced both deep water drilling and the wars based on a hope, a prayer and a wish. It is obvious that contingency planning was severely lacking when the inevitable occurred.

Invasions of countries and
oil drilling are exactly the same functions of corporate life. If either can't be backed by realistic support and reserve forces that can block or prevent failure, then they are not plans; they are wishful thinking. Neither BP nor the DoD had the resources to successfully complete their respective missions.

Leadership and planning does not offer easy or simple solutions. There are no free lunches. Invading countries, drilling for oil and stabilizing economic systems are not simple operations devoid of risk. Our leadership deceives us and we accept their platitudes which push unreal fantasies.

Real Life doesn't end when you walk out of the bijou, even if it's the sequel.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Border Collies

Borderline …

feels like I'm goin' to lose my mind

You just keep on pushin' my love

over the borderline

, Madonna

500 miles, 500 miles

500 miles, 500 miles

Lord I'm 500 miles

From my home

--500 Miles
, Peter, Paul & Mary

Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have ridden the Reserve Forces (including the National Guard) hard, treating these part-time soldiers like they are part of the active force structure.

Not only do the reserve forces fight wars that the active military can't handle, but now they are being sent down to the Mexican-American border. This is not exactly the situation which faced Black Jack Pershing in 1916-17. Back then, the Army was sent to conduct actual combat operations against Mexican border-raiding bandits and revolutionaries. Sending in today's N.G. is not equivalent.

What happened to the Federal legal concept of
Posse Comitatus? The U.S. military is not allowed to enforce civilian law unless authorized by the President or Congress. The exception is obviously being authorized, but why wasn't it publicly discussed prior to sending in the troops?

The active military and the reserve forces are not designed, equipped or trained to be border police. Our military personnel are not authorized to arrest or detain anyone outside the force structure. The military is not a police, and waving a magic wand over these forces will not alter the fact.

It is a dangerous precedent to use the military as an enforcement agency. When will this militarization of our society end? When a supposed liberal president leans toward domestic military control of our borders, it is time to wonder where this is going and where it will end.

If the U.S. lacks the resources to control its borders, it is a fault of leadership; sticking the N.G.'s finger into the dike will not resolve the problem. We are creeping towards a future that is diametrically in opposition to the values that were historically viewed as liberal and democratic.

There are operational questions, too. Do the military commo systems interface with the Border Patrol systems? Does the Border Patrol have command and control capabilities to even coordinate the N.G. activities?

Whatever happened to the laws that mandate the use of the N.G./Reserve forces for use in National or State emergencies?

There is no state of emergency authorizing this call to activate the N.G. The Reserve force structure is not a plaything to be used at the political whimsy of the president.


Monday, June 07, 2010

A Hard Road

I'm gonna pack up my suitcase

Put my misery inside

Throw in a bit of pain and trouble

And that's the road I'll ride

--A Hard Road
, John Mayall

Bewildered, Bewildered

You have no complaint

You are what your are

and you ain't what you ain't

--Dear Abby
, John Prine

You can't handle the truth

--A Few Good Men

A lot of soldiers were in transit at the Atlanta airport last week. On layover, Ranger approached a large group of 101st Airborne troopers all of whom were all on R & R from Afghanistan.

First some sundry observations, then to the main point:

  • Many of the soldiers had tattoos on their necks and arms. No comment.
  • All of the soldiers had high and tight haircuts, not just the 101st people. Not one had hair that could be combed.
  • All of the troops returning from Afghanistan looked healthy. None appeared exhausted or in need of R & R, at least physically.

But this is the main observation: None of the soldiers had CIB's, CAB's, jump wings or any combat-associated items on their uniforms. They did have right-sleeve combat patches and unit left sleeve patches, and some had Ranger tabs.

"So why don't you troops have jump wings, air assault badges or CIB's/CAB's?" After all, they are returning from a combat zone.

Answer: They all had these items authorized, but command policy was that they were not allowed to wear them on their uniforms while traveling on Conus R & R.

WTF? These soldiers
fight, get wounded and die getting these badges and then they are not allowed to proudly wear and display them on their uniforms. What kind of wrong-headed thinking inspires such a policy?

Is the intent to hide the fact that these soldiers are in combat? If sanitation is the case and we can't handle the visual truth, then Ranger suggests it is time to just bring the troops home, rescind their awards and call it quits.
When an Army authority can deny a combat soldier the honor or proudly wearing his CIB home on leave, then that Army is dealing duplicitously.

It is a policy which has lost my heart and mind. This policy is so strange that an idiot could not have developed it; it took an Army General to devise it.