RANGER AGAINST WAR: October 2010 <

Saturday, October 30, 2010


now that the war is through with me
I'm waking up, I cannot see

that there's not much left of me

, Metallica

Whenever I take up a newspaper,

I seem to see Ghosts gliding between the lines.

There must be Ghosts all the country over,

as thick as the sand of the sea....

We are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the light

, Henrik Ibsen

We say the world has moved on;

maybe we really mean that it has begun to dry up

--The Dark Tower
, Stephen King

We’re Americans. To be critical in time of war?
Even the democrats are smart enough
to keep their mouth shut on this
--Boston Legal
, Witches of Mass Destruction


Where does hope begin and pessimism disappear? It's a fine line, but for Ranger, pessimism is the order of the day.

Where are we as a nation, and is it even appropriate to call our polyglot population a society? What is our national identity?

Historically, multi-cultural national entities dissolved, breaking into smaller, ethnically-identified groups. The Roman, Holy Roman Empire, French, Napoleonic, Ottoman, Hapsburg, Austro-Hungarian, Czarist Russian, Soviet Union are examples. The nations of Europe are currently struggling with the concepts of human rights and dignity, while eschewing immigrant populations.

How will Europe and the U.S. absorb immigrants while maintaining a national identity? Germany's Chancellor Merkel spoke for many recently:

"Speaking to a meeting of young members of her Christian Democratic Union party, Merkel said the idea of people from different cultural backgrounds living happily 'side by side' did not work.

"She said the onus was on immigrants to do more to integrate into German society."

"This [multicultural] approach has failed, utterly failed" (Germany's multiculturalism has "Utterly failed").

Immigrants are and should be welcome, but there is also an expectation that that they integrate and elevate themselves to the values of Western society. It is reasonable that host societies dictate the terms by which these people are accepted as citizens.

The expectation has always been that the language and customs of the host nation be assimilated by the new citizens. In addition to rising to the best levels of the new society, the immigrant can and should add their own positive value to their adopted homes.

The strife host nations like the U.S. feel arises from the fact that so many of our jobs are being exported and lost. Globalization is killing our industry and negatively impacting our trade balance. While it is not they who outsourced our jobs, that combined with a high unemployment rate for our citizens make hard for many to see the good in integrating 20 million + illegals.

Democracy cannot thrive when we have so many unemployed and so many more losing their tenuous grip on a middle class existence as the dire economic situation grinds on. Assets and resources trump philosophy at such times. As in the Gunslinger series, the world has moved on, yet we remain the same, losing ground daily to those powers fast on our tail.

So we distract ourselves
with something we can do well -- firing weapons that go "boom", and preening our machismo. But how can the U.S. successfully fight wars to impose a de-centered concept of democracy? Coming from a crisis mode, the U.S. foolishly (cavalierly?) tries to deliver the democracy slipping through our fingers into the clenched fists of reluctant and unwilling societies.

Here's the pessimism: How can we believe that globalization is an absolute good for
us when the facts indicate otherwise? Our high and recalcitrant unemployment rate is the result of removing trade barriers -- the U.S cannot compete with Chinese or Third World peasant-captive workers.

Housing, banking and the economy more than shaky,
Our infrastructure is crumbling, yet the wars are the one thing pressing on, unwaveringly. Our national identity is out of focus, yet the ship of state founders on, seemingly rudderless.

Are we becoming a ghost ship?

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

All Aboard

--L'Ange du Foyeur, Max Ernst

Honey, honey, can't you hear?

Funny, funny music, dear

Ain't the funny strain

Goin' to your brain?

--Everybody's Doin' It Now
Irving Berlin

One of these things is not like the others,

One of these things just doesn't belong,

Can you tell which thing is not like the others

By the time I finish my song?

--The Sesame Street Song


Why does the media spread hype about terrorism versus the actual facts?

The hype has perhaps seen its apotheosis being woven into the plots of most criminal television programs with the latest fad -- the
terrorist takeovers of schools. Surely this is crime most heinous, yet it is naught but a hotch-potch of fiction seasoned by a smidgeon of outdated news.

But that is adequate to strike fear in the average viewer, who hasn't much time to fact-check before bedtime and the morning alarm.
People watch these programs feeling uneasy that they are viewing something familiar ... and they are. But Hollywood is constructing this toxic brew serving to keep everyone all aboard the war bandwagon -- liberal Hollywood!

NCIS, Blue Bloods, The Unit and Flashpoint are each complicit in serving us this horrible fantasy: The terrorists are here, they're strac and they want your children, now.

What is the point of this fantasy? Is it the sublimation of exhausted, hyper-vigilant helicopter parents? The resolution always involve bloody fights won by assault teams. The program "Criminal Minds" gave the same unrealistic scenario, except with serial killers. Ranger predicts the next trend will be serial-killing terrorists.

These shows are so far from reality that they should be viewed after dropping acid, in place of a planetarium visit. There have been two isolated incidents of terrorists attacking schools: The 1974 Ma'alot Massacre off 22 Israeli students by the PDFLP, and the 1977 Moluccan hostage crisis in the Netherlands in which the terrorists did not kill any of their hostages, but two students died in a subsequent police raid.

Terrorists soon realized that attacking schoolchildren will not generate sympathy and erodes the aura of the group,
and so this activity was not repeated. It is simply not conducive to gaining funds and new members, which is the goal of most terrorist activity.
Also, terrorists will not waste their assets on a schoolhouse attack because there is no way to extricate their assets; a professional operative is not suicidal.

Terror has a purpose beyond the simple violence suffered by the target group: it is symbolic and aims to spread fear beyond the target audience. If it does not accomplish that goal, it is simply crime. What would any terror group hope to achieve by killing children on U.S. soil?

If the answer were as simple as the war hawk/fundamentalist crowd claims, we would imagine their purpose would actually be eradicating Americans. But that would an arduous way to go about the task of winnowing down a nation of 300+ million people; there are simply too many of us. (The 22 Israeli students killed was a far greater actual loss to a small nation like Israel, so the PDFLP attack could be seen as achieving both ends, though the publicity was a negative gain.)

These t.v. programs are simply hawking fear in the guise of machismo.
The writers shamelessly conflate news of actual school murders -- like those in China, Scotland, Chechnya, Columbine and Pennsylvania -- taking the onus off the crazy one-off shooter and institutionalizing it in the form of a well-oiled generic terrorist machine; it just ain't the reality.

The U.S. media consumer is never exposed to the facts on terrorism, which can easily be found in non-classified United Nations or State department reports. Why? Put in perspective, so many more of your fellows are killed each year by auto accidents and medical mistakes as to make the actual threat of terrorism pale.

But that wouldn't generate the kind of mass paranoia that needs to be kept on a low simmer to fuel the complacency of the average citizen, Democrat and Republican, alike.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Middle of the Road

There's nothing in the middle of the road
but yellow stripes and dead armadillos
--Jim Hightower

In the middle of the road,
You see the darndest things.
Like fat cats driving around in jeeps through the city,
Wearing big diamond rings and silk suits.
Past corrugated tin shacks holed up with kids
--Middle of the Road, The Pretenders

"Oh, Balls!" cried the Queen.
"If I had 'em, I'd be King"

...and the King laughed.
Not because he wanted to,
but because he had two
--The Night of the King's Castration

Glory days, well they'll pass you by

Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye

Glory days, glory days

--Glory Days
, Bruce Springsteen

There is a 65-year-old dude at the coffee shop who is very vocal in stating that he was a Vietnam War draft resister and an anti-war protester. God bless him.

But I wonder why such a morally committed man was these things back then, but does nothing in the present to oppose two foreign interventions every bit as senseless as VN, and probably moreso.
Why then and not now? Is he resting on his laurels, and his conviction has gotten lost when it pertains to the lives of other young men?

Forget the coffee shop hero and let's look at a real hero who once had the force of conviction in his voice, Senator John Kerry. His testimony in the
1971 Winter Soldier hearings was both eloquent and moving. He said:

In our [returning Vietnam Veterans'] opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam, nothing which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart.

Each day to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of Vietnam someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn’t have to admit something the entire world already knows, so that we can’t say that we have made a mistake.
Someone has to die so that President Nixon won’t be, and these are his words, ‘the first President to lose a war.’

The film of these hearings, which took place in a small conference room in Detroit, was broadcast twice in our city over the past few years. I (Lisa) attended both viewings: at one, I was the only attendee; at the other, the amphitheatre was mostly empty save for out-of-town veterans advocates trying to make connections.

Terribly moving presentation, the words as applicable today as then, but who cares, really? Even though the showings were free -- practically nobody attended.
Kerry's protest was a political kiss of death, and he is left languishing to appease a base lacking all conviction.

The Republicans are our attack dogs -- tough for America, and yet it was Nixon, a Republican, who brought the U.S. out of the Vietnam quagmire. Whatever works, they are the expeditious party. The Democrats haven't a clue.

The anti-war stance today is as popular as Gulf of Mexico seafood. Kerry wasn't popular for his stance then, and he's not now. Pity. Since he won't be king, it would be nice if he could lead the way out. I guess it's hard when working under gutless Nancy Pelosi as queen.

No one of any political or military substance has jeopardized his position by opposing the wars, a startling fact that should be countered with a simple word:


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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Terrorist Catwalk

--Edgar Ramirez,
as Carlos the Jackal

We have begun to change
Into the worst kind of people

So unkind

Oh apologies? No apologies

--High Life
, Counting Crows

My name is Carlos -- 
you may have heard of me?
--Carlos the Jackal

Screws fall out all the time,

the world is an imperfect place

--The Breakfast Club


Time improves wine and the legends of terrorists.

Sundance presented a three-part miniseries, Carlos, last week. The trailer featured the much handsomer Edgar Ramirez in beret and leather jacket, soaked in a blood-red filter, caption:
"Only one man would hijack the world".

The real Carlos the Jackal was a classic fuck-up who nonetheless has gained mythic status and is being immortalized in a 5 1/2-hour film, as well. A breathy Boston Globe review says the film "
brings real terror to the screen." The average viewer, if he even knows about Carlos, will imagine him as the sexy and iconic ideolog CHE, whose image is printed on the front of T's in Target. The truth is far less ideal.

Carlos was an ideological mercenary moreso than a terrorist as he performed his services for monetary gain. One of his acts was to kill two unarmed French intelligence-type uniformed gendarmes and a former PFLP informant. Not a smart move, and totally counterproductive. Police don't appreciate such activity and it does not pay to alienate an entire national police force.

Carlos failed an assassination attempt in England of an Israeli diplomat as he failed to double tap his target. No professional shooter should make such a mistake.

The most significant operation of his career was the takeover of the OPEC oil ministers in Vienna, 1975.
However, he was later kicked out of the PFLP because he hadn't killed two specific OPEC ministers, in violation of his orders. There was also the matter of claiming to have misplaced some of the funds he was to have disbursed.

There was a suspicion that Venezuelan representatives gave Carlos the details needed to carry out this operation. Ironically, Carlos killed the security guard of the Venezuelan representative to the conference. (A mistake?) His taking of a Saudi Royal family member was also a strange action, as the Saudis supported the Palestinian causes for which Carlos worked.

Another high point was Carlos' RPG attack at Orly Field that was more flash than dash. A professional would have used a Redeye-type missile, which could have blown an aircraft out of the sky. Instead, a few RPG rounds blasted down range in what was something of a joke.

It is 2010 now and Carlos sits in a French prison, where he has been since 1994 and where he shall remain for life. Yet he is being touted in Western culture as a mythical, prototypical terrorist, and this is hype. Carlos did not "hijack the world", and his feats were short of world-shattering.

The key lesson from Carlos should be the networking of terrorist groups and their cross-fertilization. Al-Qaeda fits the mold, as well. We should not be wowed by any one man or group. Their behaviors are archetypal and are firmly set in precedent. Carlos looms large in Carlos's mind, but he should not in ours.

The groups become more lethal as they cross-fertilize and exchange operational lessons. Unlike Carlos, most terror operatives maintain a low-profile and prefer anonymity. Even a terrorist is well-advised to limit and control his level of violence.

In addition to turning the French against him, he also alienated and made enemies within organizations sympathetic to and supporting terrorism. For all of his failures, present terrorist operatives are less dangerous than he as they lack the state sponsorship to finance their operations or provide intelligence and weaponry. Carlos was financed by a large network of national interests opposed to Israel and the West.

Ultimately, his downfall was his hubris. Carlos was no Otto Skorzeny.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Heart-Shaped World

The heart dies a slow death.

Shedding each hope like leaves,

until one day there are none

--Memoirs of a Geisha

Put your seat belt on, boy.

I don't ride with anybody

'less they wear their seat belt.

--Repo Man

Over under sideways down,

Backwards forwards square and round.

When will it end, when will it end,

When will it end, when will it end

--Over Under Sideways Down
The Yardbirds


Speaking of gender bias ...

Afghanistan's President Karzai recently bemoaned the fact that "Our sons cannot go to school because of bombs and suicide attacks"
, a succinct summation of an almost decade-long fiasco (Uncertainty Over US Plans as War Enters 10th Year). Happy 10th Birthday, Afghan War. We love you like a child.

Gone missing from Karzai's statement is any mention of the rights of females to an education. He did not use the grammatical masculine in a universal sense -- this was a statement specific to the young men of his country.

Kind of flies in the face of U.S. propaganda that we are there to defend women's rights to equality.
"Three Cups of Tea" is a quaint story for the ladies' book clubs, but it doesn't seem like the country's education minister is on board with that point of view.

We understand the President's concerns. We guess that when you're
bacha baz (as half of Mr. Karzai's Pashtun tribal peeps are), you don't want a dope beside you; that is why they shun the company of unlettered women, we presume. In the best tradition of the oiran or courtesan, a boy player should provide some sort of substantial company.

The U.S. has found, upon returning its attention to Afghanistan after the unfortunate Iraqi distraction, that Counterinsurgency doctrine does not actually win hearts and minds. It does, however, offer the indigenous a swift learning curve on how to exploit the largess of the occupiers.

Anyway, why is the U.S. concerned if the Afghans love us, for such a goal -- were it even possible -- has no military significance. Further, why should the U.S. love the Afghans? It is clear we and our phony Afghan allies are on two separate sheets of music. The U.S. gains naught even were the Afghan people to overflow with adoration for us.

Our initial war objectives should be critically examined for internal validity. Neither the Afghan people nor their leaders will ever adopt a Western liberal philosophy, and it is futility to make this an objective in a low-intensity conflict.

The War in Afghanistan is like the U.S. housing market: It is underwater and not worth the money invested in the purchase. The only logical solution is to declare bankruptcy or let the bank repo the structure. The U.S. will not get its equity out of that mess. Why can't the president see that?

This Ranger for one cares not one iota for the hearts and minds of anyone other than my fellow Americans. Let the Afghanis be whatever they want to be and if they become a realistic threat, deal with them in an old-fashioned punitive campaign.

Shoot and scoot.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bugger All

--Eddie Long, heady with power

I've run a twisted mile

I'm a stranger in the eyes of the Maker
--The Maker, Daniel Lanois

Women are for children, boys are for pleasure
--Afghan saying

Christianity might be a good thing
if anyone ever tried it
--George Bernard Shaw

The only way I can lose this election is
if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy
--Edwin Edwards

... After a few seconds' pause to give muscles, intestines,
anus, rectum, due time to assume their orthodox positions
once again, there invaded him that intimate rejoicing
at a duty fulfilled and a goal attained,
that same feeling of spiritual cleanliness
that had once upon a time possessed him as a schoolboy
at La Recoleta, after he had confessed his sins
and done the penance assigned him by the father confessor
--In Praise of the Stepmother,
Mario Vargas Llosa

And Jesus, when he had found a young ass,
sat thereon
--KJV, John 12:14

Sunday Meditation: Buggery.

What is it with all the buggery in the media?
Though this topic seems sexual in nature, it is actually about power, violence and violation, personal behaviors which parallel war in the macro sense.

We have long read of the offenses in the Catholic church (buggery-cum-pedophilia), and recently a civil suit was brought against the minister of Atlanta mega-church Baptist New Birth, Eddie Long, for sexual offenses against several young men in his LongFellows (stop the chortling) Youth Academy, a story which will probably disappear into a hefty out-of-court settlement.

Aside from his breach of trust, it galls that those who would condemn homosexuality are often among its more avid participants: "In 2004, Long led a march to Martin Luther King Jr.'s grave site in support of a Georgia constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage" (
Eddie Long Isn't Practicing What he Preaches).

Cultural critic Susie Bright says, "One thing that's interesting to me is that even when that hypocrisy is exposed, it doesn't seem to do much to change the minds of their followers." Long likens himself to the Biblical David fighting Goliath. Please! Why when people are outed do they take recourse to cries of persecution? Just because the jig is up doesn't mean you've been persecuted.

When one lives in contradiction, the two paths are feign to join at some point. But for the New Birthers, there will always be a new birth. The lord loves a sinner. It is a win-win. Is there ever a comeuppance?

Long will artfully and remorsefully spin the young men as envious and power-hungry, and himself as an unwitting participant, lured in by youthful artifice. He will wail and throw himself upon the mercy of the congregation, and they, practicing their Christian mercy, will welcome him back, fallen and even stronger. He will wear a black veil for a time, wringing all the drama the situation can bear.

And what of the young men? Their faith and identities shaken by a very powerful, older spiritual adviser? What reward for them? Some paltry monetary recompense, out of court, never to speak of the shameful incident again. And that is how it goes in this great land, with such a magnanimous God and such overflowing plates.

But for men (and women) who have been used in such ways, there is no easy forgiveness, no return to unsullied time. Their abridged faith will always be worn as a rent in their soul --
for how do you undo betrayal

And then there are the young
dancing boys kept by many Afghani men for their hinder pleasures:

"For centuries, Afghan men have taken boys, roughly 9 to 15 years old, as lovers. Some research suggests that half the Pashtun tribal members in Kandahar and other southern towns are bacha baz, the term for an older man with a boy lover. Literally it means boy player. The men like to boast about it" (Afghanistan's Dirty Little Secret).

So American and NATO soldiers are fighting and dying to protect tens of thousands of pedophilic sodomists engaging in what a State Department report called a "widespread, culturally sanctioned form of male rape." And thousands of boys will grow up damaged in the process, with no redress at all.

But like so many Western males on the down low, these Afghan men don't consider themselves homosexual as they claim they do not love the boys. But it is hard to presume they do love their wives.

Why do men bugger other boys and men in secrecy, and yet have women as their societal mates? Surely there is a disconnect here, unless we are willing to say that a man cannot be satisfied with a female mate, in which case the whole argument for biological perpetuation of the species falls flat and man becomes some sort of genetic mutation maladapted for survival.

And William Saletan joyfully reports in Slate that a recent sex study shows more women than ever are engaging in anal sex. He calls it a triumph for variety's sake, and quotes the stat that 40% of women between ages 30 and 40 have tried it.
He seems to want to convince us that, um, women really love it. It's not just for paid porno stars, anymore.

But the stat is misleading as it does not equate to continuing experimentation, and only 3-4% of women participate in the practice in any given month. (Saletan later backtracks in his enthusiasm and reports the dangers involved.)

Why the gleeful reportage? This is a factoid, like any other; statistics gleaned from a self-survey, and neither good nor bad. Could it be a back-door way of saying there is nothing too aberrant about buggery, ergo, nothing's wrong about homosexuality? A "look, everyone's doing it" sort of thing?
Given Saletan's celebratory presentation, it would be easy to see it that way. Or it's a thumb's up for pornographers everywhere (*wink*wink.)

I don't know how or if this would play into the satisfaction of the men who are coveting their fellow's bottoms. It is just interesting to juxtapose it with the other reality. Do some women consent because it would make them more enticing to certain men, and is that good or bad?

What if some of us really are licentious, libidinous, lascivious pansexual apes? Religion, or laws or whatever hold back the floodgates, but what if we could speak the truth? Maybe those pansexual types could couple up accordingly, rather being "un-gayed" in the Christian camps, ultimately leaving trails of human flotsam in their wake. What if we could admit the truth: That this behavior is not as aberrant as we would like to think.

Homosexuality is a biological dead-end (unless you're into parthenogenesis), so why does it persist? If it were due to only occasional genetic mutations, it would not continue in such numbers. It is because men like Bishop Long here has four kids, in addition to his tangential matings.

For the conservatives, a great way to find out if homosexuality is by choice versus nature would be to sanction same-sex marriage. If no one coupled heterosexually out of family or church obligation, and no offspring ensue, one would presume eventually a reduction in homosexuality's incidence in the population. It is as good a theory as any: If homosexuality is biologically determined, then some gay genes are being propagated through enforced heterosexuality.

A conundrum for the Family Values crowd.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Larry and Me

Former U.S. Army troop, Larry

Ranger Question of the Day (R.Q.O.D.):
What happens when a soldier

is no longer "Army Strong"?


This is Larry. He lives on a park bench outside of the local VFW post, which happens to also be near a coffee shop I frequent. He served in the U.S. Army during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

He is not quick to socialize, and is easy to miss in a crowd. Larry has severe palsy and skin problems, the latter which has earned him a 10% disability from the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). he receives treatment for his skin problems at the local VA Outpatient Clinic.

Larry can barely speak, so it is hard to know why he is living on a park bench and not receiving additional support.
He seems to have brain problems.

Sometimes I wonder what separates a guy like Larry from me. Does he have physical or mental or physical problems which are insurmountable? Does he have no one who cares for him? How was and is he damaged? Is he depressed? Angry? Has he chosen this way of life?

Larry is one of the veterans in the "We Support Our Veterans", only he doesn't seem to be getting much support.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Survivor Values

--Jews being rounded up in the Warsaw Ghetto (4/43)
for deportation to Nazi death camp

Monsters exist, but they are too few in numbers

to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are…

the functionaries ready to believe and act without asking questions

--Primo Levi

Live as if you were living a second time,
and as though you had acted wrongly the first time
--Victor Frankl

[we must raise people] so as both to delight in

and to be pained by the things that we ought

--Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle

Political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis
where you don't address reality

--Juan Williams, on the Bill O'Reilly program


Let it never be said that RAW suffers such paralysis.

A strangeness has settled over America, making moral navigation hazardous. A recent television promo for the program "Survivor" was unsettling and a harbinger of ill.

The group has a young woman with an artificial, hi-tech prosthetic limb being jumped and wrestled to the ground by a pretty African American lass who says she will do anything to win, to include ripping the limb off her opponent.

We realize this is Hollywood, but that substitutes for many a life in the U.S. today. So, is that what being a survivor is all about -- winning at any cost? Did survivors of death camps persist because they became savages, or because they retained their humanity? Do combat soldiers survive because they became animals, or because they cohere around the shared goal of survival?

"Fierce" is the new hot word for that supposed-survivor's attitude. Co-opted from the gay male fashion scene
to describe unusual quality, it is now back to its more animal meaning, ferocious. It is not so much "brave", but it sits in for that quality. It brings with it its runway roots: catty, cut-throat, to seem the best via outrageousness or bravado.

The survivor's comment suggests a new direction in American social evolution. Have we come so far that anything justifies winning? And have we come so far that watching this inhumanity is called entertainment, one which obviously appeals to the mass audience of reality television.

If this is reality, I'd rather be in a monkey cage.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Business as Usual

--Growing New Terrorists, Arend Van Dam

It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part

of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate

and highsounding promise of release from penalty

--95 Theses
, Martin Luther

To worry, worry, super-scurry

Call the troops out in a hurry

This is what we've waited for

This is it boys, this is war

--99 Luftballoons
, Nena

A government big enough to give you everything

you want is a government big enough

to take from you everything you have

--President Gerald Ford


What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45, Mayer, Milton


More thoughts on (non-) representative democracy:

We have come to reflect the Afghan and Iraqi reality when we have elections for representatives that fail to implement the will of the people through policy and doctrinal changes. Elections are not the yardsticks of democracy, but rather a simple tool for effecting democracy.

How can we talk of a two-party system when both parties are opposite sides of the same coin? Democracy is not working for the benefit of the common man, hardly a newsflash. Many of our Founders were suspicious of the party system for the very real reason we are suffering today -- the polarization of the nation. For that reason, George Washington never declared a party affiliation. He was the president of the entire United States.

Not only are we polarized, but we are so to no good effect. Neither party seems capable of defining fiscal responsibility. Though neither party can balance the budget or reduce unemployment, both parties favor tax reduction while conducting two wars, and allowing predatory mortgages and credit card rules.

Obama's policies differ little from Bush's, aside from his vaunted Obamacare -- a supposed insurance reformation in which the insurance companies rather than the citizenry are the actual beneficiaries of a mandatory windfall. Ditto the Medicare Drug Program under George Bush. Ditto the Homeland Security apparatus gaining windfalls from the Phony Wars on Terror (PWOT ©) With both parties, the winners are the corporations.

The erosion of our personal liberties continues in the name of fear and incompetence, and neither party will try in a court of law (or release) prisoners held without any provable offense. Both parties agree on the question of assassination and dropping missiles on suspected terrorists. Both parties fail to afford presumption of innocence when considering extrajudicial death sentences upon U.S. citizens.

Why do we vote and persist in the illusion that we are a representative democracy?

We are too big for representative democracy, and representative democracy is not too big too fail.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

War Between the Sexes

--Jeremiah Johnson (1972)

Was he at hand with a word of good cheer?

To bring back a smile or banish a fear?

--The Measure of a Man
, Anon

In all of living have much fun and laughter.

Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured

--Gordon B. Hinckley

Grace is the absence of everything that indicates pain

or difficulty, hesitation or incongruity

--William Hazlitt

By “guts” I mean, "grace under pressure"

--Selected Letters, Ernest Hemingway

Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body

--A Painful Case
, James Joyce

What is the measure of a man?

That was the question posed by the recent post, Metrosexuals. It prompted the following off-site dialog, which seemed worthy of sharing. One could say the topic is a breather from more dire discussions, but maybe not. The philosopher Krishnamurti said
we carry war within us: War is the spectacular and bloody projection of our everyday living.

What if we could extinguish that antagonism and turmoil, within and between us? We not only need to fully inhabit ourselves, but also bridge the chasm between us. Ranger never weighed in on the topic, but I will.

A man is a joy to those whose lives he touches. He is helpful and straight. He does not whine or complain. A man does the right thing, and is not resentful in the doing.

I know two men exactly the same age (they are not young) but diametrically opposite in demeanor. One brings strife wherever he goes, and keeps the focus on himself. The other said recently, "I continue to grow and improve . . ."

His life is one of service, bringing happiness if he can to those with whom he comes into contact. He is productive and happy. He furthers himself and seeks pleasure, but does not seek it by wringing the joy from others. The world is a little better for his having been here. (If you are reading this, Captain, it is you. My hat is off.)

Now to my dialog with reader Jay. As always, interaction is welcome:

Dear Jay,

I hope this find you well. I wanted to say "thanks" for joining the recent chat. We needed a woman's perspective, and what you say is spot-on:

. . .

"A man fulfills his duty even when that duty is burdensome and unwanted. man has an understanding of personal honor (integrity or principle) and tries to keep his honor intact. A man tries to be rational and just and that usually is demonstrated as generosity in fact and in spirit.

"I must have led a very peculiar existence as I have never found "anger" to be a male characteristic."

Brava! Anger is most definitely not a good male (or female) characteristic. I would call foisting one's anger upon another -- whether by raised voice or gesticulation -- violence.

Some women demonstrate the drama queen/Barbie thing, and so some stupid men presume tantrums = true emotion (they do not). I have seen this, so can vouch for it. It is either in emulation of a former "baby doll", or it is of their own creation, born of hatred and disregard of the other, who is simply a receptacle for all of that ugliness. I notice the one who dishes it out feels much better afterward; the vessel, worse.

I have found the only solution is to walk away from it. Anger is living and seething, and it seems to burn out. Sad thing is, it's seeds remain, so it lives to rear its ugly head another day.

But no, if you have not seen angry men, then you have been blessed to see only "real men", which I think was the point of this exercise, as we all know what brutes look like.




As to defining men.... I think that most of the good qualities are shared by men and women but are sometimes expressed a bit differently by the sexes. A good/real woman fulfills her responsibilities, has integrity and honor, and tries to be rational, just, and generous but it sometimes looks a little different when done by a woman.

I really do think of simple, direct speech and action as a primarily male characteristic. Women are certainly capable of it but, in my opinion, it is a male characteristic. Male = Action. :)

My little story would be that if you have some difficulty in your life and tell a man, he immediately casts about for a way to act so as to resolve the problem. If he cannot take action on the problem, he will probably feel uneasy and would prefer not hear more about it. The same story/problem told to a woman will elicit sympathy and reassurance and she will not feel uneasy about not being able to correct the problem. Voila! The difference in men and women.

As for "good" or "real" men. I've certainly never known a perfect one and that's a good thing. Why would a perfect man even speak to such a flawed woman as I! Everyone has a flaw and a vice and usually more than one of each. The important thing, for me, is will the flaws and weaknesses undermine his character in such a way that he cannot be trusted at all? It is my belief that we can only be trusted in those areas where we are strong and it's a fool's game to trust a person where he has a known weakness.

For instance, if a man is a womanizer it is entirely possible and even likely that you can trust him with your money, your valuables, your children, and your reputation - just don't trust him with women. Simple. If a man's weakness is money, he can probably be trusted with women but not your money. I'm sure you get my idea.

Perhaps because I am a woman, I usually find it easier to "read" men than women. Maybe I don't actually read men that well; it could be that I am just more forgiving toward men than I am toward women. By the way, I think that cuts both ways. I believe men are more forgiving toward women than they are toward other men.

Anger... Surely, surely not a "male" characteristic. There are far too many angry women for this to be foisted off as a male characteristic. *I'm not talking about being a little short-tempered. Anger is an abiding and corrosive thing if it is diffuse and a personality trait. Anger has its proper place as a reaction to gross injustice and cruelty.* I've heard for decades about "angry" men and always been a little nonplussed. Did this start with the women's lib activity in the late 60's and through the 70's? I really don't know.

However, it did seem to me that men were put in an impossible position and anything they might do was subjected to intense and withering criticism. I think there is continuing sniping at men that undermines their best intentions and best efforts. Of course, I'm really partial to men and they have always had my genuine sympathy because the burden of action falls on them. I could probably write a chapter on "anger" but I contend it is not a specifically male characteristic.

I confess that I view malice, whining, backbiting, etc. in men as "feminine" characteristics. :) I can hear the scream of protest from here! :) A nice autumn afternoon, a bottle of excellent Margaux, a pack of cigarettes for me, and I would tell a few of the experiences that brought me to this point of view. :)

I've known a few really excellent women. I've known many really excellent men. We've all heard "a good man is hard to find." Well, a "good woman" is damned rare!

Big grin... Had about enough of this, have you?

P.S. Brutal men are weak men who are careful to bully and brutalize those who are weaker than they and vulnerable - NOT good breeding stock.


I agree -- good men and women share most of the same qualities. The difference is in expression and coping mechanisms. I really like this:

"It is my belief that we can only be trusted in those areas where we are strong and it's a fool's game to trust a person where he has a known weakness." The proof's in the pudding. Your concept of being more forgiving of men is interesting. I believe we are raised to see men as flawed (for instance, my grandfather was a profligate womanizer, but mom says, "Well, he must've had the testosterone of 10 men!") So, it's their hormones, you see? This may be because we needed their protection. Humans are nothing if not resilient and ingenious with explanations/coping mechanisms (denial, anyone?!!)

And I guess we do the same for women, expecting them to be touchy, hysterical, whatever. However, in my fantasy, people respect each other enough to react with sensitivity to other's needs, or express their need directly.

"Anger is an abiding and corrosive thing if it is diffuse and a personality trait. Anger has its proper place as a reaction to gross injustice and cruelty" -- Amen, sister! No sex has sole ownership of this toxic emotion, most often set to wring the joy from a life when habitual.

"I confess that I view malice, whining, backbiting, etc. in men as "feminine" characteristics. :)" Again, brava! I cannot bear entitled drama queens of either sex. Oh, the Margaux could be supplied -- I'd love to hear your tales :)

The 3rd point we agree on: Good women are HARD to find! I have few, but they are gems. Sober and real people. I can't bear tittering and posturing...

My theory: About 70-80% of men are in the acceptable range, far as decent habits and morality; only 30-40% of women can pass muster, IMHO! Hormones are but a small part of it; socialization, designing behavior, nattering ... Just plain not interesting, how 'bout that! Okay, so the men on the tales of my bell curves might be a little dull, but they're sound, do-right men. Women often lack a core of integrity, and again, this may well be socialization: They are pragmatists, trading up when they can, improving their position by hook or by crook.

Women, due to their egos and silly vulnerability to flattery, will turn hither and thither, ruining many a good man in the process. Many of the bad men out there are the flotsam and jetsam of their process, and are left as buckets of fear and insecurity as a result. Now -- bad men can do the same to a women, but generally, I feel men favor the fairer sex. I have not met many unkind men, but I have met or heard of many unkind women.

Oh, I've enjoyed this little jaunt into the behavior of the sexes -- thanks for indulging me. Looks like we're on the same page pretty much. Love your p.s., btw -- spoken like a true farmer!



[Just visiting our old correspondence here, and wondered if you would be opposed to my posting it to the site? IMHO, there is much here, and I'd love if anyone else got on board, an addition to our two level heads :) ]


It is my stripped down opinion that men are breeding males like all other mammalian breeding males and have the same basic instincts and behaviors. I really believe that most of what we are individually is less reason and more hard wiring than most of us like to think. We flatter ourselves that we decide and choose mindsets and behaviors and I suppose we do within fairly narrow limits. Hardwiring determines and defines the array of choices available to each person.

Yep, I come down hard on the nature side of the nature vs nurture argument - an opinion radically different than the one I held from teen years through my twenties.

I could talk about this for many long afternoons and evenings and enjoy myself thoroughly. :)

P.S. Be aware that my perspective on men and definition of a good man is modeled on my father, his close friends, my uncles, brothers, cousins, etc. It seems reasonable to me that I defined a "man" by my father at such an early age that such conscious thought was beyond my ability but the template was set nonetheless ???


I, too, am a staunch naturalist. It's not too p.c., but if one reads the studies it is obvious that one can only shift so much from one's genetic set-point.

We're an upright (though not always straight-up) chemical soup that runs about like squirrels after nuts, yet we fancy we're each quite unique. Now, I do believe we are strongly impacted by our programming (which alters our genes). So, one may exit the hamster wheel with GREAT effort; few do, I feel.

I am amazed at the brilliant and kind people I have met via this military boys site



Okay, so there are two women's points of view. (Sorry -- didn't mean to imply military boys were not thinkin' sorts.) What have we missed?

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Monday, October 18, 2010

A Spoonful of Sugar

The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship
is that in a democracy you vote first

and take orders later;

in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting

--Charles Bukowski

Most new jobs won't come from our biggest employers.
They will come from our smallest.
We've got to do everything we can
to make entrepreneurial dreams a reality

--Ross Perot

Economic history is a long record of

government policies that failed

because they were designed with a bold disregard

for the laws of economics

--Ludwig Von Mises

Government is not the solution to our problem.

Government is the problem
--Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural address (1981)

Ranger Quote of the Day (RQOD):

If we say we are capitalists,

then let the capitalists run the thing


Reader Avedis recently offered a challenge, and Ranger will pick up the gauntlet: How to remove the bloat from government?

The plan is nothing short of revolutionary (much as anything qualifies for the term, today), its goals, twofold: Make the State the primary governmental entity and eliminate city and state legislative bodies
and rendering all civil servants state employees. The goal is elimination of redundancy and uniformity of services and codes.

While one man's fat is another's meat -- and this plan would eviscerate redundant positions -- the country cannot afford such redundancy either in terms of monetary outlay or manpower lost to The System. Those workers brought up to the light of day from the bowels of the local and county Systems would have to be re-processed into meaningful work, and this is where the new state Creative Class will have to innovate.

Ranger's revolutionary idea is to
nix the superannuated concept of direct democracy. Removing the pretense of fair representation would allow for the the reduction of layers of bureaucracy, eliminating redundant management.

Once we can relinquish our grip on this quaint chimera, government could be restructured to represent the better interests of all. This may all sound a bit Benthamitic, but what's so wrong with that?

The key is recognizing that true representative democracy is gone; we have grown too large. Therefore, the key to an efficient government is a limned-down version guided by realistic economic principles. State and Federal Government remains, but municipal governance would be largely dissolved, replaced by State administration, assisted by a county manager.
This would eliminate county and city taxation issues, concentrating taxes at the state level.

voting has become a chaotic, narcissist's catwalk, all local politicking would be abolished and all local civil servants would be directly under the State's aegis.

In its place would be a State decision-making body something like Solon's Council of 400 and the boule. Each state would identify it's top 100 citizens, selected from among banking, corporations, academia and the professions. George Will said Capitalism is a government program, so let us select successful management, competence, compassion and innovation as the criteria for selection, and applicants would be selected by portfolio.

These 100 citizens would function as a House of Representatives, and they would elect the governor. They would also select the State Senators and Representatives, either from among their lot or from any sector of the state's population.

This would eliminate the facades we choose from today, in which posturing masquerades as policy.
In this new plan, the State would be the primary functionary, chosen by appointment. City and County elected positions would be eliminated. All housekeeping and public safety functions would be performed by state employees. This would remove unnecessary petty politicking on the city level. It would largely do away with lobbyists, as there would be no local pork projects.

Each county would have a county manager functioning like the ancient Greek
archons, and overseeing something like a boule, who would coordinate state-administered operational funds to the cities. This would eliminate county and city taxation issues, concentrating taxes at the state level.

The State 100 could be selected by a simple majority from among ballots cast by county managers. (The selection process for the county manager is undecided by Ranger. Possibly, he would be chosen by county plebiscite.)

The states could be divided into quarters for ease of selection of the State 100, with each county archon choosing the top 25 candidates from their region. Ultimately, the region's 25 representatives would be determined by a collated tally of the regional archon's ballots and a simple majority.

To enable the removal of a representative due to either incompetence or venality, every member is subject to impeachment by a vote among his peers, similar to the Greek's ostracism, a heavy smite to a businessman upon whose reputation rests his fortune.

The State would be standardized pay rates, taxes and services, the latter commensurate with the populations being served. It would then become possible to unionize the state worker in an efficient and realistic manner. All licensing would be at the state level.

All law enforcement and public safety functions would be consolidated. The Highway Patrol and Sheriff Departments are quaint holdovers from the past. A State Police Department would eliminate the redundancy. County courthouses would become State Courthouses, with judges elected by the state's legislature.

The National Guard's Federal function would be eliminated, making them a non-deployable state resource for emergencies. All combat functions would revert to the Federal Army.

The purpose of the plan is streamlining government. We have been limping along with a semblance of representative democracy for a long time -- this would trade in the appearance in return for superior management and integration of and equitable distribution of resources.

It would allow for the possibility of a truly creative class in government, something sorely needed in our 21st century of diminishing resources and dissociated governmental bodies

[Tackling national government is for another day.]

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Saturday, October 16, 2010


Everyone avoids me like a cyclone Ranger
That's why I'm turning Japanese
I think I'm turning Japanese
--Turing Japanese, The Vapors

strange rangers

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Don't, don't you want me?

You know I don't believe you

when you say that you don't need me

--Don't You Want Me
, Human League

I didn't mean to hurt you,

I'm sorry that I made you cry,

I was feeling insecure,

You might not love me any more

--Jealous Guy,
John Lennon

All you pretty women,

Stand in line,

I can make love to you baby,

In an hour's time.

Now I'm a man

I spell M-A-N...man

--I'm a Man
, The Yardbirds

(The middle photo shows Mr. Obama trying to navigate a gate in New Orleans, 8/28/10. The L.A. Times ran a salient group of questions in the link to accompany the difficult scene.)

It plays into Ranger's experience at the recent Old Airborne Instructors Association reunion in Columbus, Georgia, where most of the usual members were in attendance, though the ranks are thinning.

The ages ranged from a 91-year-old paratrooper to the Vietnam vets, usually the youngest group. Most of these old troopers had their Master Parachute Wings before Ranger was out of the 4th grade. These are the men that trained and mentored many a young troop of my cohort.

They continue to inspire and awe, leading to today's topic:

What defines Manhood today?

Looking at and listening to the congregation of old troopers, one needn't mince words. Their manhood has slumped their shoulders and damaged their spines, demolished their knees and left behind the ravages of time, yet they still stand as tall.

But what is it that constitutes a man? Let's look at our recent top dogs: Are Obama, Bush or Clinton exemplars of manhood? What about the vaunted scholar-General Petraeus? What about the assassin McChrystal? Do our leaders have a confidence inspired by action, exuding from them like sweat on a trooper's brow?

Could anyone imagine any of our congressional leaders leading an assault on a bunkered up machine gun? There are a few exceptions -- Bob Kerrey, John Kerry, Daniel Inouye, Bob Dole, John Murtha, John McCain, Jim Webb, our own Alan Boyd -- but they are the exceptions in the upper echelons of our government.

Can you imagine President Obama humping a ruck sack or eating MRE's for six solid months? With nary a leaf of arugula in sight? In "Moral Clarity in the Age of the Metrosexual", Bernard Goldberg described Obama as
"more of the risotto with green apple kind [of man]." Or, is this not the measure of manhood? Perhaps we are firmly ensconced now in the era of "feeling one's pain" versus sharing it.

A scan of manhood depicted in film and t.v. presents an abysmal portrait of inane ineptitude and buffoonery. What movie shows us how to man-up? For every film that displays manliness, there are 20 that show man to be craven and clueless.

The animated programs The Simpsons and Family Guy paralleled the come down (predominately) of the white male in other media. The popular t.v. show
2 1/2 Men features three Peter Pans -- alcoholic and clueless pussy hounds. Like the leads in Boston Legal, as often as not they conclude the program in their own company with an alcoholic beverage, sans the solace of their supposed goal, a female.

This in itself reveals a societal trend as some of the males have sired offspring, but none manages to cohere the family unit. Their lust for sexual gratification begins and ends there, their offspring becoming a chiding inconvenience, nonetheless accusatorily standing as representative of what was once a more mainstream view of manhood. For these men it is all of a piece: A woman or a drink -- something to slake their loserly essence and remove them from their resistance to mature.

Another in this genre --
Rules of Engagement -- labels men as either fey metrosexuals or boorish brutes, whom the women spend their their time either trying to model or escape. It is I Love Lucy, 2010-style, both sexes jockeying for their best position, the men usually on the losing end of the stick. This program is followed by "The Big Bang Theory" which is lacking for Big Bangs, but not short on brilliant but clueless nerds.

We suppose it is G(r)eek tragedy in action: Every man has his Achilles heel. But these men have no anchor, their manhood, unballasted. It is as though they are taking clues from fashion magazines or Marlboro cutouts on how to be a man, and the result is an unappealing thin semblance of manhood.

Programs like
MI-5, 24 and The Unit, all masculine names or numbers (which are presumably, also masculine) offer the opposite extreme of ballsiness, lacking for any middle ground. Where is a man, or at least, a Hollywood facsimile of such? Where is the template that a young man can apply to his life to help him determine how to assume his manhood?

Ranger has been advised by women that a man should be
macho while also possessing the attributes of tenderness and emotion. Using this definition, he concludes that women want men to behave like butch lesbians. Women want us to be both tough and feeling, and these qualities seem contradictory.

Maybe this is a moot
point when Lady Gaga represents femininity (though Camille Paglia compellingly argues that she represents the Death of Sexuality.) Maybe men have been superannuated.

Nonetheless, we are game if you are:
What is your definition of manliness
? (this is an Equal Opportunity contest, prize as-yet to be determined.)

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