Friday, July 30, 2010

Thinking Afghanistan

Cover of 7/26 Newsweek. Subheading: "Nation Building Isn't Working. New Strategies for the War on Terror -- Richard N. Haass."

The word "Rethinking" has a mis-used prefix. It implies a prefatory condition. It is doubtful that the War on Terror was thought out prior to the U.S. invasion.

(And anyway, Haass, as president of the Council on Foreign Relations, should get on-board with the new name. WOT is sooo yesterday! It's gone past "Overseas Contingency Operations" -- it's now "CVE":
Countering Violent Extremism. It's not just your backyard, garden-variety extremists anymore.)

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No COLA For You

Since a politician never believes
what he says, he is quite surprised

to be taken at his word

--Charles De Gaulle

A dream is a wish your heart makes

when you're fast asleep

In dreams you lose your heartaches

Whatever you wish for, you keep

--A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

The shape of things to come

--advert for TR-7 (1974)


The story of postage hikes to take effect Jan. 2012 just reminds us of the imbalance in our current abysmal economic climate.

Fighting to survive a deepening financial crisis, the Postal Service said Tuesday it wants to increase the price of first-class stamps by 2 cents — to 46 cents — starting in January. Other postage costs would rise as well

. . .

The price to send periodicals would go up about 8 percent, and other rates for advertising mail, parcels and services would rise by varying amounts. ... [P]ostage costs would rise an average of 5 percent (
Stamp Prices Going up Again -- 46-cent Rate Asked).

The USPS is a microcosm of things to come. At our local postal station, waits can be upwards of 45 minutes, even during off-ours. This is due to staff reductions -- a cost-saving measure you see implemented at numerous businesses. Now, we get to pay more money for a reduction in services.

Meanwhile, Social Security recipients suffer
no Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2010 or 2011. The story is, there is no inflation, even though the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 5.9 percent in fiscal year 2009 -- the index which COLA is usually tied to. This is the first time in 35 years there has been no COLA.

Sadly, the official line is belied every time one empties one's basket and runs one's good through checkout in the supermarket. But politicians don't engage in such quotidian tasks, so -- pity -- they don't understand the hits the average consumer feels on a daily basis.

Why does the USPS get, in effect, a COLA because they cannot make it, yet the fiction is imposed that a COLA is not needed by Social Security recipients?

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Panopticon

The means of defense against
foreign danger have been always

the instruments of tyranny at home

--James Madison


Dear Abby,

"What is the difference between a prison, a detention center and a camp?"

Being as we are playing out summer and the last of the marshmallow roasts at Camp Kookamunga will soon come, the news of the closing of Baghdad's Camp Cropper brought the question to mind.

The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) has muddled the meanings of many words, including terrorist, insurgent, militant and prisoner of war. A camp could also be a euphemistic term for an internment camp, where people are confined sans the niceties of trials.

The AP reported "[T]he U.S. handed over the last
detention facility under its control to Iraqi authorities" July 16, 2010. A detention center conjures images of people in transit, being temporarily housed, but many of those at Camp Cropper have been there since the facility's inception. The Iraqis will rename the facility, the al Karkh prison.

At the request of the Iraqi authorities, U.S. wardens will continue to guard around 200 of Cropper's 1,500 detainees, including al Qaeda militants and henchmen of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

. . .

Neither [Major General Jerry] Cannon [deputy U.S. commander of detainee operations in Iraq] nor Iraqi Justice Minister Dara Nur Addin provided an explanation for why the 200 had been singled out (US Hands Over Last Iraq Jail but Keeps 200 Inmates).

Are these 200 people detainees or prisoners? Are they both? What legal definition applies, or do we even care about the legality of these undefinable locations?

--Signed, Bewildered, perplexed and confused

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Define Patriotism

~~NOTE (8.3.10): Contest extended an additional week~~

Sometimes you feel like a nut,
sometimes you don't

--Mounds/Almond Joy candy bar commercial

I'm a stranger in paradise

All lost in a wonderland

A stranger in paradise

--Stranger in Paradise,

Europeans, you must open this book

and enter into it. After a few steps in the darkness
you will see strangers gathered around a fire;
come close, and listen, for they are talking of the destiny
they will mete out to your trading-centres
and to the hired soldiers who defend them

--Wretched of the Earth,
preface (Jean-Paul Sartre)

Short human words were like

trying to lift water with a knife

--Stranger in a Strange Land,

Robert Heinlein


Today's contest should be a meaningful one for every American, and really, every citizen anywhere.

Patriotism: How do you define it?
This may be as personal or as objective as you wish it to be. Contest ends Wednesday (8.4.10). Talk amongst yourselves.

The idea came from a recent Schott's Vocab -- a Miscellany of Modern Words & Phrases at the New York Times on defining "courage". Many of the responses were most impressive, and can be seen HERE. Maybe we will have our own contest later for the definition of courage. RAW has a rarefied group of readers well-qualified to tackle that topic.

The contest will be co-adjudicated by Ranger Andy, and the winner may choose an item from Ranger Andy's International Society of Dysfunctional Veterans site. We are not affiliated in any way, but he is a good guy who has come to some hard lessons in life. His website begins, "In 1976, when I left the Army and the 75th Infantry Rangers, I felt like an astronaut on a weird, alien planet. ..."

Ranger Andy and his lovely wife are good people, and we are pleased to have him aboard for this contest.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Common Courtesy

Mister Herbert Hoover

Says that now's the time to buy

So let's have another cup o' coffee

And let's have another piece o' pie!

Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee,

Irving Berlin

Can't help but wonder

what's happening to my companions

Are they lost or are they found,

have they counted the cost

it'll take to bring down

All their earthly principles

they're gonna have to abandon?

--Slow Train,
Bob Dylan

It was terribly dangerous

to let your thoughts wander

when you were in any public place

or within range of a telescreen.

The smallest thing could give you away.

George Orwell

Ranger is abrupt and direct, but strives not to be rude. This often takes great effort.

On the road last week, and as often happens when taken out of one's comfort zone, he noticed a new decline in civility all 'round. There were very few exceptional moments to compensate for the overall comedown in courtesy.

All service industries seemed to be manned primarily by people with surly attitudes who take their jobs with a grudge and a chip on their shoulders. The companies -- everyone from Verizon to airlines to the U.S. Postal Service -- have stripped their personnel to a minimum, and the tension and resentment is palpable.

If one has a problem, service from a real online representative is almost non-existent. Police are smart-mouthed and antagonistic, as they and we know their job is now to fill the city's coffers.

In restaurants one is barraged by loud and obnoxious cell phone conversations, forgetting the onslaught from the multiple televisions and stereos imposed by the businesses themselves. It is as though it is all engineered to stop conversation. If there is conversation at a table, it is most likely not with the individual's seatmates but rather, his Blackberry.

The same is true in theaters and shows, where audience members text and answer cell phones incessantly. The once-soothing escape into the dark of the anonymous theater is now denied by a sea of incandescent lights eerily illuminating the wired user's faces.

There is a definite lack of courtesy in our society, and it overflows to politics, network news and every aspect of our daily lives. It is an insidious comedown.

How have we gotten to this point? Will courtesy return?

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Bombs Away

Pakistan Pipeline, Arend van Dam

Q: Did you hear about the terrorist

that tried to blow up a car?

A: Yeah -- he burned his lips on the tailpipe


This post is about bombs and bombers, one in New York City, one somewhere in NW Pakistan.

"Investigators secretly detonated a working replica of the car bomb used in the failed Times Square terror attack, creating a large explosion that destroyed other vehicles and scattered flaming debris, law enforcement officials said Tuesday

"The test in central Pennsylvania showed that the homemade bomb,
had it been constructed and detonated properly, could have killed or wounded an untold number of pedestrians and damaged buildings along the block where the car was abandoned by Faisal Shahzad on May 1, the officials said.

"'It would have been extremely deadly,' Police Commissioner Raymond Kelley said Tuesday ..." (Officials: Replica shows NY Bomb Could Have killed.)

So here we have a test that proves absolutely squat. Of course
IF the bomb were to have been constructed properly, it would have/could have caused serious problems, but the point is: It WASN'T constructed properly. Therefore, it was an ineffective device.

Th tests of correctly-built bombs prove nothing regarding the "failed Times Square terror attack". It was a dud, plain and simple -- a dud which indicated the level of sophistication of the bomber -manque Faisal Shazhad. Ranger's rule is: If it don't go *BOOM*, it ain't a bomb! Ranger-simple.

The reconstructions prove only one point: Bombs cause terror even if they do not go boom. The authorities staging their little display only reinforce this point. Bombs also cause terror because they are indiscriminate but this is a two-edged sword, as demonstrated in the Pakistan part of our story.

"A government official says a local Taliban commander and his aide died when a bomb they were constructing in the militant chief's home in northwestern Pakistan exploded.

'Syed Ghafoor, a local official, says Thursday's blast in the Bajur tribal region also wounded several members of commander Irshad Khan's family.

'He says Khan was behind several attacks on troops in the region and had contacts with top Taliban leaders in nearby North and South Waziristan" (2 Militants Die While Building Bomb in NW Pakistan.)

Before discussing Irshad Khan, let's talk about sophisticated groups.

Advanced terror groups have a hierarchy and a division of labor, as there is in U.S. military units. In neither organization would there be a commander either building or planting bombs. In addition, the bomb-maker is never operational, as his specialized skill is too valuable to risk losing.

The Khan scenario says simply that he was, in the final analysis, as inept as Shahzad was in NYC. Khan was using his home as a bomb factory -- what is more amateurish than this factoid? What advanced bomber would jeopardize his safe haven by compromising it with easily-found bomb components?

The Khan incident also shows that Pakistan police, intelligence and military authorities are asleep at the wheel when someone as basic as Khan is called a "Taliban leader" and that he could be building bombs in his personal quarters. An E-5 in a Ranger or Special Forces unit is more proficient at bomb-making than are these supposed Taliban experts.

The threat is not the inept bombers but inept police and intel agencies that fail to neutralize even a low-level operative. The threat is overblown (no pun intended).


RangerAgainstWar will have a word contest this Wednesday --

be there or be square.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ramping Up Operations

Jews wait for the Lord,
Protestants sing hymns to him,

Catholics say mass and eat him

--Love in the Ruins
, Walker Percy

I know you're all a little down

because Lindsay Lohan is in jail.

But look at it this way:
Our streets are once again safe

--Late Show with David Letterman


82nd Airborne Sgt. Chad Stewart, from Detroit -- one of America's Guards of Honor -- stops a boy and his burro at a checkpoint (U.S. Ramps up Afghan Operation.) Don't that just say it all?

Detroit -- once-proud Motor City -- lies in ruins, while one of its sons spends his days checking burros halfway around the world. Drones, satellite signal intelligence, blast-resistant vehicles, sophisticated communications, and it boils down to a burro at a checkpoint. If one believes the Bible, then our soldiers are not that far removed from the Roman legionnaires or King Herod's soldiers, who faced another boy on a burro.

Burro checkpoints ... it sure makes me sleep more soundly knowing that threat has been neutralized.

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Time in a Bottle

Wooden ships on the water,

very free, and easy

Easy, you know

the way it's supposed to be

--Wooden Ships

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

(V, v), Shakespeare

Remembrance of things past

is not necessarily the remembrance

of things as they were

--Remembrance of Things Past,

Marcel Proust

Longer boats are coming to win us

Hold on to the shore,

they'll be taking the key from the door

--Longer Boats
, Cat Stevens

Sunday Meditation: This too, shall pass.

Almost two weeks ago, excavation "at the site of the underground vehicle security center for the future World Trade Center hit a row of sturdy, upright wood timbers, regularly spaced, sticking out of a briny gray muck flecked with oyster shells" (
18th-Century Ship Found at Trade Center Site.) This brought Ranger to some philosophical thoughts, waters he occasionally treads.

First is the transitory nature of life and mankind's persistent survival. Layers of life flourished and survived on this site, and will continue to do so. The events of 9-11-01 will not and could not be the final act of sorrow, life or death played out on this little piece of real estate.

Life, society and civilization are a continuum and flow inexorably through time.
The only significance is that which we place on the event.

Wooden ships and fallen buildings are the same when looking at the march of time.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Devil's Island

--I'm gonna escape and come back
--Escape and
come back . . . ?
--Ah, yes--escape, come back,

wipe this place off the face of the earth,

obliterate it . . . and you with it

--The Prisoner

It is not necessary to accept everything as true,

one must only accept it as necessary

--The Trial
, Franz Kafka

It is good news that the U.S. is handing over to the Iraqis Camp Cropper, the last prison under its control (US hands over last Iraqi prison under its Control). Good, because the U.S. military should not be in the prison business. But there's bad with the good:

"The US transferred the last detention camp under its control in Iraq today as it continues to wind down its military presence in the country.

"Iraqi authorities are to rename Camp Cropper Karkh prison.

"Major General Jerry Cannon, the head of US detention facilities in Iraq, said the US would continue holding 200 detainees – out of 1,500 prisoners – including eight former regime members. They will be held in a separate area of the prison known as compound five."

"Major General Jerry Cannon, the head of US detention facilities in Iraq, said the US would continue holding 200 detainees – out of 1,500 prisoners – including eight former regime members. They will be held in a separate area of the prison known as compound five."

Why will the U.S. keep 200 prisoners, and where is "Compound Five"? Upon what legal authority does the U.S. imprison anyone at the behest of the Iraqi government? This is not the way justice is served in a democracy -- trials and Geneva Conventions are the order of that day. We are becoming what we ostensibly set out to destroy: An arbitrary dictatorial power.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are gone, but their policies live on: We still throw people in jail without trials or end dates. Callousness is not the sole domain of the Republican party.

Reuters reported, "Neither [Major General Jerry] Cannon [deputy U.S. commander of detainee operations in Iraq] nor Iraqi Justice Minister Dara Nur Addin provided an explanation for why the 200 had been singled out."

"Those who stayed with the U.S. forces might be handed over to us. Maybe they want to see the
formation of a new government, maybe they will be handed over within days," Addin said at the handover ceremony. "The issue is not clear yet."

If the issue is not clear after seven years, when will it be?

No prisoner is so dangerous or important that we should suborn our values to slap them away in unending incarceration.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No Country for Old Men

Ranger Word of the Day:

Fasthideous (df.)--
The dour new architecture of pseudo-stucco
ghettos in purple and orange, usually composing the

facades of hastily-built condos and CVS drugstores

Is the war across the sea?

Is the war behind the sky?

Have you each and all gone blind:

Is the war inside your mind?

--No Man can Find the War
Tim Buckley


Here's the bad news:

"American forces suffered a deadly 24 hours in Afghanistan, with eight troops killed in attacks including an audacious Taliban raid on a police compound in the key southern city of Kandahar, officials said Wednesday (Afghan attacks kill 8 US troops in 24 hours)."

We all understand that eight troops (= people) are dead, and will remain so. But remember that for every death there are usually ten other wounded. This implies 80 more veterans for the U.S. to take care of for the next 70 to 80 years.

This tail of wounded is not a good thing, though predictably the media will try and morph the extensive therapy and prosthetics as some sort of national good, something to be proud of. But this is not the main issue with the latest attack. This, however, is:

"Three U.S. troops, an Afghan policeman and five civilians — three interpreters and two security guards — died in the attack, but NATO said the insurgents failed to enter the compound."

The irrelevance of this statement shows the NATO representative has a complete lack of understanding of insurgent warfare. It does not matter that the attackers did not enter the compound -- they completed their mission when they killed eight friendlies! A more sobering thought: What if this was only a training mission for the insurgents?

The terrain is meaningless, as is the Marjah offensive and the Kandhar campaign. We may attack and we may hold terrain while we cover it by fire, but that is not a measure of success. Rather, it IS a measure of defeat when an occupying power of the Afghan government must launch offensive operations in major portions of their own country.

If territory is so contested, then so is it obvious the illusory nature of the shadow national government (theirs) which must wrest legitimacy before it can claim nationhood. The only thing that is being accomplished by NATO/US forces in Afghanistan is the continuance and escalation of the violence level suffered by the Afghan population.

If a government cannot command the ground or control the population, then it is not a government -- merely a roving band of killers little different from war lords, drug kingpins or taliban or al-Qaeda operatives.
Same tactics, different masters.

Violence is violence, regardless the source or propaganda spouted by the engaged factions.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Being I.D. Compliant

--Do you want to see my ID?
--No need, sir.

--But I could be anybody.

--No you couldn't sir. This is Information Retrieval.


Ranger recently violated Rogers Rules for Rangers by losing his wallet (his wallet wasn't the thing he was hoping to leave behind.) This led him through the Brave New World portal known as I.D. Compliance.

To be I.D. Compliant is to be in compliance with Homeland Security regulations, which in Florida is heralded by the clunky slogan, "GatherGoGet" -- in other words,
FETCH! Florida prides itself on being one of the first states to make hurdle-jumping for a license the order of the day.

Once one presents documents from all three sections, one is rewarded with a
gold star, which is imprinted on the license. All supporting documents are maintained in a central data bank.

At first it was suggestive of the gold stars the teachers would affix to our foreheads in kindergarten. But is perhaps more reminiscent of the other gold stars -- the ones the Nazis affixed to Jewish clothing to identify the wearer to police and neighbors. Stars to keep you in; stars to keep you out.

The regulations are ostensibly aimed at denying terrorists U.S. driver's licenses, but the most recently accused "home grown" terrorists also possessed all of these supporting documents. So basically, this is more bureaucratic hoop-jumping, and collateralization of our data.

Possession of a U.S. birth certificate proves nothing, since procurement of said is the first step in creating a false identity. Also, there is a lack of reciprocity with the Federal i.d. system. Strangely, federal photo i.s. is not accepted by the state system, via Federal Homeland Security mandate.

Likewise, though the I.D. compliant state license proves one has all of the other identification, the Army required me to bring two i.d.'s, including an additional photo identification to replace my Army I.D.

(Strangely, denizens of the gun world so opposed to central recording of gun purchases don't make a peep about this central record keeping aimed at legal citizens obtaining driver's licenses.

Incidentally, Non-Driver State I.D. requires the same documentation and costs $35. This seems absurdly high, considering that most people without cars are too poor to have them. Apparently, the state doesn't think them too poor to fork over the 35 bucks. Oh -- and they don't accept plastic.

These new regs close the barn door after 9-11-01, ignoring the realities of 2010.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

The Constant Gardener

Flower Garden, Klimt (1905)

A Plowman on his legs is higher

than a gentleman on his knees

--Poor Richard's Almanack

And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins

--At Parting
A.C. Swineburne

Il faut cultiver son jardin

(One needs only cultivate one's garden)


Whose garden was this?

It must have been lovely.

Did it have flowers?
--Whose Garden Was This?,
Tom Paxton

I live on a spread of North Florida dirt and read Mother Earth News. It is a constant struggle to keep my homesite from growing back into a wilderness state. If one wishes to improve and maintain a garden bed, fertilizing and weeding is the name of the game.

Risking sounding like Sellers' pseudo-brilliant Chance the Gardener, Ranger sees a correlate between gardening and Counterinsurgency and nation-building. Yardmen who just mow may keep the level of foliage down, but the mowing is constant and yields no improvement; nothing lovely will be created, and the weeds await takeover.

When leaders and generals function like ordinary yardmen, the terrain may be kept to a certain level of damage, but all of the invasive weeds, seeds and roots are still there, ready to overtake the terrain once the weekly mowing ceases. We wonder how many of today's leaders and generals have hoed a row themselves, for if they did, they would be able to import some very important life lessons.

The only way to create a garden is to follow the farmer's rules.

[1] You must begin with fertile ground, or enrich the soil

[2] The ground must be properly prepared prior to laying in a crop, which includes tilling and elimination of all roots and weeds. Mowing and weeding is futile without root extirpation. You can't cut down a tree without grinding the stump.

[3] The crop must be compatible with the soil in which it is to be sown (siltiness, ph, etc.), and the available sunlight.

[4] The garden must be protected, either by enclosure or other preventative measures

[5] Your neighbors cannot walk or play in your garden

[6] Crops must be watered and fertilized

[7] If seeking to profit, you will have a market for your crop

[8] Not all crops develop and mature (which is why commercial farmers have crop insurance)

[9] You should have all tools in place before breaking ground

[10] You must use quality seed

[11] You must plant within the optimum time frame

These basic farming rules are transferable to the endeavor of nation building, the growing of a society. For what is a culture but an aggregate of individual gardens?

--Mr. Green Jeans

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Fourth Musketeer

Jim, Lisa, Pappy (2007)

If your life is a leaf
that the seasons tear off and condemn

they will bind you with love
that is graceful and green as a stem
--Sisters of Mercy
, Leonard Cohen

I've seen fire and I've seen rain

I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end

I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend

But I always thought that I'd see you again

--Fire and Rain
, James Taylor

Let's not unman each other - part at once;

All farewells should be sudden when forever,
Else they make an eternity of moments
And clog the last sands of life with tears
(V, i), Lord Byron


My friend, William Hurt Thornton, died May 16, 2010. He was a good SFC and a good Tennessean, and much more.

When William ("Pappy") Thornton retired in 1975, Four Musketeers celebrated with a night on the town. Present for general carousing duty were Staff Sergeant Melvin Thomas [deceased, suicide]; Master Sergeant (ret'd) Warren Wiley [deceased, lymphoma]; Sergeant 1st Class (ret'd) William Hurt Thornton [deceased, cancer]; myself.

Now I'm the last Musketeer.

I always called him Pappy, even while a young Lieutenant playing Army, and that's what it was for me much of the time. But Thornton was always the definition of
soldier, and never played at anything.

Pappy had three awards of the Combat infantry Badge, a Distinguished Service Cross, four Silver Stars, Eight Purple Hearts, two Soldier's Medals and a whole showcase full of other medals. His DSC was won in his 3rd war, Vietnam.

He was especially proud of his Distinguished Rifleman Badge, and his President's 100 Tab was one of the few he wore on his uniform. Pappy lived by the rifle in all senses of the word. It is also safe to say Pappy died by the rifle, even if indirectly.

In later years his old wounds caused a myriad of problems, but it was cancer that made the kill which had eluded many enemy soldiers.

His cancer was presumptively service-connected, caused by Agent Orange exposure in the Republic of Vietnam where he served with the 101st Airborne Division. (In the Korean War, SFC Thornton served with Task Force Smith, the first U.S. Regimental Combat Team to counter the North Korean invasion of South Korea.) Four enemy Armies couldn't kill him, but Agent Orange combined with a botched VA procedure did the deed.

During my last conversation with Pappy he was matter-of-fact and knew where he was headed. He had faith and did not fear.

The last thing I said to him before we broke the connection was, "Pappy, you know that I love you?", and he said, "Well, sir, gotta go now! See you later." Not that Ranger is very touchy-feely, but we were in different generations.

I certainly hope he received my transmission.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

All Trivial Fond Records

While reading a review of Hamlet's Blackberry about the perils of navigating a life of perpetual connectivity (Born to Check Mail), this sketch on another once-new technology came to mind. It is a clever take on our equally perpetual state of incredulity: The Medieval Help Desk (Norwegian, English subtitles), in honor of our friends over at Norwegianity.

Like Roseanne Roseannadanna said, It's always something; if it's not one thing, it's another.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Jihadist Contest Winner


The winner for RangerAgainstWar's heretical contest, "You Know You're a Jihadist If ..." is ...

avedis, who, in the spirit of RAW, did not let being politically correct hold him back.
Things would go a lot more smoothly in life if people could just lighten up a bit.

So avedis, if you will kindly post us your address (click on our names in the sidebar for email), we'll get that coveted
Gitmo coffee cup to you faster than you can shake a nanny goat's tail.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Can Haz Guns

And when I feel my finger on your trigger

oh yeah!

I know nobody can do me no harm

oh yeah!

--Happiness is a Warm Gun,

The Beatles

Surely there shall not one of these men

of this evil generation see that good land
which I swore to give to your fathers

--Deuteronomy 1:35

We perceive an image of the Truth

and possess nothing but falsehood

--Blaise Pascal


The U.S. Supreme Court has recently ruled that Americans in all 50 states have a constitutional right to possess firearms for self-defense (
McDonald v. City of Chicago).

U.S. citizens now have a court-mandated right to do exactly what what our Federal government does in the name of defense: We have an inalienable right to shoot others. It's official: We now have a license to kill in in self-defense -- not a news flash to those who have seen Charlie Bronson or Clint Eastwood movies.
(It seems Afghanistan arrived at this moment somewhat in advance of us.)

This is an interesting decision as it removes the myth imposed on gun ownership since around 1940 that personal weapons were mainly for hunting purposes. This had became a national attitude following the gangster era and the sensationalized Valentine's Day Massacre.

On the wave of public outcry, the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) disallowed the citizenry from owning military-type weapons, and U.S. vs. Miller (1939) was the first address by the Supreme Court of the Second Amendment. The "sporting function" of weapons was becoming institutionalized.

In order to reflect that sporting standard, assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and sniper rifles were officially frowned upon. But in truth, firearms laws mainly covered only the cosmetics of weaponry: No high capacity magazines, no bayonet studs, no flash suppressors. Non-sporting weapons were still legal, though suspect.

Now, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed the Founding Fathers by acknowledging that we can kill people with our firearms, be it rifle, pistol or shotgun; we may kill to protect ourselves. It follows that we are legally permitted to possess and carry non-sporting weapons.

Florida was avant-garde in this respect (though almost no others) when, under former Governor Jeb, we saw the passage of Castle Doctrine. This decision sanctioned the use of weapons against those who would trod uninvited upon a man's, um, castle.

You could shoot him, though the rules did not address whether one should shoot to kill. Nonetheless, he became fair game, changing the perception of fair game from those with feathers and fur to those lacking said cover.

It would be absurd to say that we have the right to defend ourselves via firearms unless we also have the right to bear those same arms.
The two concepts must necessarily co-exist to have practicability. This then has further ramifications.

If I have the right to defend myself with a firearm, how do the states justify forcing citizens to pay fees for their right to exercise their freedoms? Paying for the right seems alien to the concept of rights.

At least now I can legitimately own guns for the sole purpose of killing my fellow man, no longer having to justify the
rifle by my bed as a squirrel gun.
--by JIM

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Persistent Illusions

There's not a fight
And I'm not your captive

, The Firm

Deterrence is the art of producing

in the mind of the enemy... the FEAR to attack
--Dr Strangelove


At the May UN conference on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the U.S. via Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continued its efforts to rally the UN Security Council to impose new sanctions on Iran for its uranium enrichment program.
President Dmitry Medvedev said this Monday that Iran is close to having the potential to build a nuclear weapon (Russia Warns Iran Mean Near Nuclear Weapon Potential).

Meanwhile, the U.S. reports the size of its nuclear arsenal at 5,113 weapons, an 84% reduction from the 1967 peak of 31,255 warheads. Though a reduction, surely enough to destroy civilization many times over. Even in the case of a misfire, surely this is a superfluous amount of nuclear weaponry.

With this sort of overkill potential, how can the U.S. claim moral authority versus Iran's efforts to gain or build a nuclear weapon? What allows the U.S. to have such a stockpile while denying the same sovereign principle to any other nation?

The percentage of U.S. reduction in nuclear weapons is meaningless, as the number still exceeds rational levels. In fact, if one is Pro-Life in any sense, having any nuclear weapons is an irrational concept.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Field Dressing

You and me against the world
Sometimes it feels like you and me
against the world
--You and Me Against the World,
Helen Reddy

Then put your little hand in mind
There ain't no hill or mountain we can't climb
--I Got You Babe, Sonny & Cher

A sucking chest wound is nature's way
of telling you to slow down

This entry was inspired by a talk with Joe Lama, former Infantry Lieutenant, Vietnam.

We were discussing the short life spans of infantry lieutenants in ground combat when former Lt. Lama commented on the field dressing that every one of us carried on our Load Bearing Equipment [LBE], today's LC-1 Alice pouch. He mused upon the fact that we were trained and expected NOT to share this item with anyone else.

Field dressing was a uniquely personal item of issue. If you used it on someone else and then got a serious wound yourself, you were in a world of hurt.

This fact had escaped my memory, but Joe was right. We were taught that our prime duty was to take care of ourselves first, and preserve our own lives. We as Infantry are trained to share our food, water and ammunition, but we were NEVER give up our field dressing.

We did not share our field dressing, and this message must have had some subliminal effect upon our minds.

But what was the effect?


Monday, July 12, 2010

Hard to Know

[R]ight, as the world goes,

is only in question between equals in power,

while the strong do what they can

and the weak suffer what they must

--History of the Pelopponeasian War,


I been talkin' to playwriters

I been workin' on words, phrases

--Running Back to Saskatoon,

The Guess Who

The only way to predict the future

is to have power to shape the future

--Eric Hoffer


It's hard to tell which is the worse way to enter sleep: To watch the Charlie Rose or Jerry Springer Show.

Charlie Rose has pretensions of being a serious news show, but he and his guest can be disturbing in the depth of their credulity. Recent guest Colonel Peter Mansoor (ret'd) -- former Executive Officer to General Petraeus and director of the Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center at Fort Leavenworth (Kansas) -- said Afghanistan and Vietnam cannot be compared because the Afghan people unanimously want the U.S./Karzai leadership and consistently oppose the Taliban. This is a false construct.

One cannot put faith in any opinion poll coming out of Afghanistan. If a majority favored anti-Taliban efforts, then the effort to pacify the country would be entirely possible, which is not the case.

In the Republic of Vietnam there was similarly little verifiable proof other than propaganda to express what percentage of the population favored Communism over force-fed democracy, but we went with documentation which favored the U.S. cause.

Historically it does not matter what the majority of the population prefer because revolutions, wars of independence and insurgencies are not democratic.
Rather, they are directed by the power and organization of the participants.

The U.S. won its independence from Britain without majority support for the Union. A majority of the Colonists favored remaining a British ally, but the power went where combat led it. The same is true of the Soviet Revolution and subsequent takeover of Russia.

The Bolsheviks prevailed through organization and cunning, though having only a small minority of the population in their corner, but that segment included the former Czarist Army. Revolutions and insurgencies are not won or lost as a result of surveys and opinion polls.

Majority rule is an abstract concept: When does rule become "the majority"? Pre- or apres-battle? Does it hinge on who takes the polls, and who participates in them? What about the wording and interpretation, and perception of coercion?

The concept of majority support is really nothing but conjecture and emotion disguised as intelligent discourse. All the questions and answers are irrelevant, as
it doesn't much matter what the Afghan or U.S. populations desire: Both will be force-fed a U.S. policy which is independent of our control.
(Similar behavior in the sexual realm is called "rape", which I learned on Jerry Springer.)

We accept falsehood as truth and package it as democracy, or Counterinsurgency [COIN], which is a mockery of liberal democracy -- a mockracy. U.S. security estimates are always couched in a miasma of jibber-jabber. No one explains how Afghan or Iraq will benefit U.S. security or return an investment to the U.S. people.

The wars are mirror images of the discredited Domino Theory -- the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) predicted the dominoes would fall toward democracy once the Arab world saw the benefits of the Home Shopping Channel, only it didn't pan out that way.

Why have the establishment of Quisling governments in Afghanistan and Iraq taken precedence over the actual welfare and freedom of the American taxpayers? The continuation of democracy in the U.S. is more urgent than fighting to impose ersatz democracies in theatre.

Both Afghanistan and Iraq are dysfunctional states created by dysfunctional U.S. policy. The U.S. can't introduce democracy because we no longer understand the term.
We have forgotten That freedom is not spread by firepower from without. Freedom is an upwelling from within.

Oh, and to the initial programming comparison. Jerry knows he he is a clown, and has no pretensions to anything more meaningful. He has also nicely orchestrated the circus that is becoming the U.S., updating the Greek tragedy for modern times. He even offers a moral, however simplistic, at the conclusion.

Charlie Rose might have won 15 years ago, when his style was one of non-engagement -- simply letting the guest spool out his or her story. These days, he has become like every other talking head, interrupting and installing himself in the story line.

The content of both programs is disturbing, but I'll vote for Jerry on the basis of his lack of pretense. It is what it is -- no unraveling needed. The guest do that nicely all on their own.

Cut. Lights down.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Good Samaritan

Educated in a small town

Taught to fear Jesus in a small town

--Small Town
, John Mellencamp

Last week when gassing up at the local truck stop I was greeted by a disturbing sight.

The denizen derelict who usually begs for money while people are cornered at the gas pump was lying comatose in the 100-degree heat four feet from the front door of the store, seemingly invisible to the truck stop patrons. Like all the crazies, beggars, bums and losers in the lottery of life, he simply did not exist.

I, too, walked past his prostrate form to pay, much as did the passengers in the van next to me from the New Hope Baptist Church. Not one of these virile young people infused with the Holy Spirit bothered to help their fellow Child of God. So much for the lesson of the Good Samaritan.

Well, my mind caught up with my ass and I stopped, parked and went to see if the body was alive.
Confessedly, I only stopped because my friend Jim Reid died of heat stroke in the June sun in a diabetic coma. There was a pulse, and spittle drooling from the mouth; other than that, not much. I went to the management and asked them to call an ambulance. They hemmed, and I asked, "What if he dies on your doorstep?" They seemed to move to call the ambulance.

I noticed the license plate of the van as it departed: "Choose Life". It's one of Florida's big sellers.

We claim to be Christians but lack a basic compassion.
In losing our humanity, he lost his. He was akin to a cord of wood or a stray Burger King wrapper.

This wasn't a Haitian or an Afghan, but a fellow American, and nobody gave a damn. Charity begins at home. He was dirty and bedraggled, and we guess it looks better to bring the tchotchkes home from a week-long mission in Guatemala.

Religion is organized hypocrisy.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bad Faith

You either got faith or you got unbelief

and there ain't no neutral ground

--Precious Angel
, Bob Dylan

We sing about beauty and we sing about truth

At ten thousand dollars a show

--On the Cover of the Rolling Stone

Dr. Hook

Those who have crossed

With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom

Remember us—if at all—not as lost

Violent souls, but only

As the hollow men

The stuffed men

--The Hollow Men
, T.S. Eliot

Do or do not -- there is no try

--Yoda, Star Wars


Friend Publius recently commented that recently demobbed General Stanley McChrystal, he of Rolling Stone infamy, may have unconsciously wished to be relieved of command.

What if McChrystal DID unconsciously engineer his dismissal due to the stress and internal confusion caused by executing an immoral, illegal and pointless war? What if his conscience is in revolt?

What if
General Petraeus passed out while testifying in congressional hearings fainted because his conscious mind is rebelling against his subconscious knowledge that he is a hollow man laden with meaningless medals that signify naught. What if his mind just shut down from the psychic overload of the reality versus the lies?

What if the famous West Point Honor Code crept into his brain and overwhelmed his imposed and constructed beliefs? There is a place where reality (truth) and lies intersect, and this place is psychosis.

What if the U.S. currently resides in a state of national psychosis?
What are the current wars if not a manifestation of collective psychosis -- wars which defy rational thought and will never achieve anything of merit?

What if logic and clarity of thought are no longer a leadership requisite? What if our leaders and their re-election reflect nothing so much as our ignorance and mass hysteria? What if we have approached an episode of national schizophrenia, sometimes defined as stimulus overload?

When is too much? We are on a treadmill of input, trying to filter out the extraneous or downright lies, but the feed never stops. News programs assault us with pugnacious opinionators, while dissonant feeds scroll across the bottom of the page. It is like some horrific dystopian world in which words are our SOMA.

When the psyche is overloaded, the organism enters a state of struggle for definition. It rarely heals without a period of rest and/or intervention. It does not look like the media onslaught will abate anytime soon.

As a nation, we are a bunch of re-actors. We vote to the swing of the pendulum, in anger and without much deliberation. Logic and orderliness of thought does not seem to be the order of the day. We prefer the antipodes, but cannot decide which reflects our best national interests.

The U.S. is a nation in opposition to itself and its national values, or what we
thought were our core values. The decisions of our Supreme Court reflect this ambivalence. Engineers of state torture -- Bybee, Yoo and Addington -- were recently cleared of charges because they believed in the righteousness of their decisions. And so passioneering takes the torch from disinterested rationale.

What if we are so morally bankrupt that we have actually adopted a Warrior Code, and war has become our national identity?

We are acting from Sartre's
mauvaise foi (bad faith). For the world's freest nation, saying "You made
us do this" is poor form. "You won't you let me (be a democratic nation; honor our civil rights, etc. . . .)" -- is the cry of spoiled child. We do or we don't, we are or we aren't.

Perhaps the Generals know this, and their innards are staging an externally-witnessed revolt.

--Jim & Lisa

Last day to exercise your franchise!!!
You must vote in the 5 categories marked with an asterisk (+ #18, in which RAW is also competing).


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Friday, July 09, 2010


Risky business
Crossing the border

--Crossing the Border,
Kris Kristofferson


[Conus Border Control]: This is Ranger's new acronym for a new application for the National Guard.
This new governmental behemoth agency will further be divided into --
NOCONBOCON = Northern Command
SOCONBOCON = Southern Command
This is in keeping with the concept of Overseas Contingency Operations. The advantages of a Northern and Southern Command is obvious, since it provides justification for two new 4-Star General Officer billets.

Just a Ranger thought to start your day somewhere on the borderline.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Time Warp

You're there in the time slip
And nothing can ever be the same

You're spaced out on sensation,

like you're under sedation

--Time Warp,

Rocky Horror Picture Show

Those who can make you believe absurdities

can make you commit atrocities



There is an unwritten rule among competent soldiers that says, never criticize your contemporaries. This is both self-serving and prudent, as have all done something that can be seen as deficient.

So what did McChrystal's unidentified aide mean when he criticized General George Jones as being "a clown" who was "stuck in 1985" (
The Runaway General)?

Presumably the criticism meant that Jones was still a proponent of Cold War methods and ideology [1985 was the year Jones entered the War College, while McChrystal
took command of the 75th Ranger Regiment.] The implication is that Counterinsurgency (COIN) and Counter Terrorism have superseded the Cold War mindset.

the Cold War mentality is still alive and well in U.S. foreign and military policy. From Colin Powell to Condi Rice to Hillary Clinton, we are still playing the containment game with Russia. Even after the collapse of the Soviet empire, the U.S. still aims to isolate Russia, thereby curtailing her efforts at military expansion.

The problem with this approach is that Russia shows little desire to engage in military adventurism. That is instead a role the U.S. occupies in today's world arena.

Our military forces are addressing a Warsaw Pact that no longer exists. So while the comment of McChrystal's henchman was true, there is an odd and disingenuous ideological grafting which is prevalent in the COIN crowd: They justify the continuation of the war in Afghanistan using Cold War logic, and the same language which justified the U.S. occupation of Korea for 60 years.

They speak of The Long War with glee, but to use Korea as justification is an absurd position. The North Koreans are a tad more of a threat than
are the al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, which total probably less than 200.

The bold Coindinistas are, like the General they dismiss, caught in a Cold War time warp; they just don't know it.
It made more sense back when Communism was they bogeyman; at least then it was nation-states against each other. Now, it is a nation-state opposing less than 1,000 people.

The COIN proponents are too stoked to see what an ideologically odd gryphon to which they pay homage.

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