Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Other Deficit

{NOTE: This piece was submitted by loyal reader Bob, who drives a taxi in Tallahassee. Bob is originally from Ohio and has an avid interest in economic issues}

But it's gonna take money
A whole lotta spending money

It's gonna take plenty of money

To do it right child

--Got My Mind Set on You
Traveling Wilbury's


Who poses a military threat to the United States?

During the Cold War the US worried that the Soviet Union might take over the oil resources of the Middle East to deprive the West of them in a war, but what prospective Arab regime of any ideological stripe desires Middle Eastern oil for any reason other than to sell it?

During the Cold War our military presence in the Middle East was small. Even after the fall of the Shah in Iran, we had no significant presence on the ground until the Gulf War.

Since the removal of the Soviet threat, our Middle East presence has only grown, and it is hard to see how our policy has done anything except de-stabilize a region in which our primary interest should be political stability.

The only thing that threatens Western access to Middle Eastern oil is chaos, yet that is exactly what our policies have promoted. Our invasion of Iraq didn’t simply destroy the Iraqi government, replacing it with an uncertain regime, or foster a new generation of jihadists, it has also spawned a potential Kurdish nationalist movement that could de-stabilize both Turkey and Iran, with other negative implications for the West.

These effects are contrary to our national interests. Why has the U.S. thrown Realpolitik out the window? Why do we conduct our national affairs like an episode of the Bounty Hunter, acting like moral police going after "Bad Men" and Mad Men. It seems like something at the frontier of what Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers might contrive, yet that is what America has become.

And what about the money financing these adventures? Few discuss the “other deficit.” We hear a great deal about the budget deficit and our serious financial problems, but the other deficit -- the foreign exchange deficit -- is rarely discussed except on the business page and never in the context of our overseas military spending. Every year, this country spends about $800 billion more overseas than it takes in. Currently, the world is awash in dollars – $12 Trillion of them outside the United States. This is almost as much as our GDP and far more than is needed by foreign governments for domestic reserves.

If this trend continues (and it has been going on for at least a decade), the rest of the world may soon say, “We don’t want any more dollars; we have enough," leading to the possibility of a dollar collapse. If foreigners don’t want dollars, how will we pay to maintain American troops overseas? We won’t. We will have to bring them home.

So how do we deal with this “other deficit?” The issue is complex, but a major contributor to this deficit is the cost of maintaining American troops in over 800 bases in 130 countries around the globe. Congressmen Ron Paul and Barney Frank have co-sponsored a proposal to withdraw most of our troops from most of these countries. Some air and naval bases would remain, but the ground troops basically would all be brought home. They estimate that their proposal would save about $100 billion a year.

That is the money saved. That would reduce the budget deficit, but the reduction in the foreign exchange deficit would be far greater. All the money our soldiers spend in Berlin, Tokyo, and Seoul would be spent in the US instead. So would most of the money we spend to support them. So the Paul/Frank proposal could reduce the foreign exchange deficit by $200-300 Billion. Such a move wouldn’t completely solve the problem, but it would go a long way toward averting a dollar collapse. It wouldn’t preserve our “empire,” but it would preserve a forward defense for our republic.

The United States cannot micro-manage the political affairs of the entire world, but we can go broke trying. It’s time to bring the troops home.

--by Bob Haley

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Memorial Day Reflections, 2011


I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,

Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,

With crumps and lice and lack of rum,

He put a bullet through his brain.

No one spoke of him again.

You snug-faced crowds with kindling eye

Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go

--Suicide in the Trenches, Sigfried Sassoon

I woke up this morning,

and I just hated everything!

--Lara Croft: Tomb Raider


Another Memorial Day and another big picnic and day of shopping. But everyone -- both those who carried the burden and those who didn't -- should humbly and reverentially consider what underlies the day of leisure for so many.

It is difficult to discuss Memorial Day without discussing living veterans.
Veterans Day and Memorial day are two sides of the same coin; the continuum is brief, and we the living march to death much too quickly. It is but one breath or one bullet that separates the two.

All who served, whether volunteer or inductee, made the conscious decision to go forward and do what was required. Some of us were hurt or wounded, but all dedicated precious days in our young lives to a cause larger than ourselves. All of us relinquished our individual concerns to the greater good, which we believed was our duty as responsible citizens. We recognized that the rights of a free society were insured by the obligations of harsh duties.

Soldiers were not all born in the U.S.A. When speaking of immigrants today we forget that it was they who often carried America's wars. These immigrants, tempered by war, earned their rights to be called Americans, as was the case in Ranger's family.

As 1st and 2nd generation Americans, both Ranger's father and he served in wartime uniformed service, as did several of his cousins. (Ditto for male members of Lisa's maternal family.)
However, the present generation has seen fit not to serve, as the draft has not compelled them to do so. Neither of my nephews wore a uniform, though both of their fathers did. This is a common pattern now since we are content to say we have a professional class of warriors and service can be passed by as something someone else will do.

It is our national shame that we men have also passed this obligation onto a
female class of warriorettes, calling it business as usual. Contrary to the official p.c. version, combat is no place for a woman since they are incapable of the extreme hardships of the physical reality of ground combat. We accept women because we have not fought a real war since Vietnam, and what we now call combat is naught but a shadow of the reality.

Can anyone envision women in the defense of Corregidor, or on the Bataan Death March? What about the Battle of the Bulge or storming the heights of
Pointe du Hoc? How about the retrograde from the Chosin Reservoir? So why do we persist in the fiction that we can function as a combat entity? This is nothing but an official snow job. It's Ranger-simple: Defending the U.S. in combat is a man's job, despite any Lara Croftian hype to the contrary.

Ranger is thankful his fate never took him on a death march, before a wave of human attacks or to combat in frozen countries. The courage of those that carried those actions was so daunting that it is difficult to even weigh one's more recent service against the gravity of their campaigns.

It is unimaginable the indignities and sacrifices of our former POW's or the desperation of their service in far-flung battlefields. Whether opposed to or favorable towards our present wars, we must humbly bow our heads for those that have passed before in the inexorable march of history.

The survival of the U.S. has been carried on the backs of Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors.
Hopefully some day war will be a memory of a fighterly species evolved.


[cross-posted @ milpub]

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Never Say Goodbye

Ignatius Hruska

There in the room as I wake from sleep
this vision presses upon me;

The engagement opens there and then in fantasy unreal

The skirmishers begin, they crawl cautiously ahead,

I hear the irregular snap! snap!

I hear the sounds of the different missiles, the short
of the rifle-balls,
--The Artlleryman's Vision
, Walt Whitman

It’s winter in America, and all of the healers

have been killed or been betrayed

--Winter in America
, Gil Scott-Heron

And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly;

and his sweat as it were great drops of blood

falling down to the ground

--Luke 22:44

I asked my dad where Lily I could find

He said, "Son, now don't be silly"

"She's been dead since 1929"

--Pictures of Lily
, The Who

Our Memorial Day 2011 essay is dedicated to the memory of Ranger's uncle, Ignatius (Iggy) Hruska, WW II seaman.

Iggy has been long presumed dead, though his body was never recovered. He did not die of wounds or in combat, though a case could be made that his death was service-connected, just the same. He was a frequent and long-term patient in the Pittsburgh VA long-term care facility. Specifically, Iggy was a nasty, habitual alcoholic.

He saw much combat, but fair is fair, and his brother (my father), also a WW II combat vet, remained sober and functioning throughout his life. Ironically, my father was drafted while Iggy was a volunteer. Family lore has it that Iggy joined the Navy by fraudulently enlisting (before WW II) by tricking his Slovakian mother into signing his enlistment papers. He told her the papers were required for him to purchase a rifle (from Sears), and in a sense they were. Since she neither spoke nor read English, she affixed a signature -- so long, Iggy.

(As an aside, this unlettered immigrant (Ranger's grandmother) had four sons -- two born in the old country, two in the U.S. Both U.S.-born sons earned their rights of citizenship, a dying concept today, but that's another topic.)

Memories of Iggy are those of a young child, and include seeing him on leave wearing a black wool Navy Class-A uniform with ribbons on the chest. There is no memory of what these ribbons signified other than that he fought in the Pacific war; later he became an air crew member. He survived the sinking of his ship, though my father was told by one of Iggy's former shipmates, "You'll never see your brother alive again." In a sense, that, too, became true.

Suffice it to say Iggy was probably drunk the day he died -- a harsh way to commemorate his life and death, but there are a lot of Iggy Hruskas in the back streets and VA facilities of your hometown, and this is their truth. It's hard to pin Iggy's hard-drinking on his service experience, and it's a fool's errand to try. The fact remains, he served, and seldom thereafter had the ability to climb out of the bottle. He was probably denied reenlistment due to his alcoholism.

Ranger has had numerous friends and associates who followed the same template, and for some, it is too facile to dismiss them as old drunks. Combat stress often results in alcoholism, drug addiction and many other long-term and debilitating behaviors; what the world sees as slovenly was once a functional human being. Such was the life of a long gone sailor named Iggy Hruska.

Iggy disappeared while on unauthorized absence from the DVA hospital and was never seen again; years later, he was officially declared dead. He would never say "Goodbye" while on leave; always, "So long". He believed that if you said "goodbye" that was a jinx that might come true.
Sailors are a special breed, and most have their mojos, like ball players.

Since we can't put a flag on his grave, we will say one last thing to Seaman Ignatius Hruska -- "Goodbye".

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Friday, May 27, 2011

What is Special Ops? -- Part II

I still act, and look the same
What you see ain't nothin' new

--I Was Country, When Country Wasn't Cool
George Jones

Stray dogs that live on the highway

walk on three legs

'Cause they learn too slow to get the message

--Ballad for a Soldier
, Leon Russel

In yesterday's
What is Special Ops?, Ranger suggested that with the conversion of Special Operation Forces into a dedicated branch of the armed forces, a new monster was created, taking SF into previously unchartered territory for that organization.

Today Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are paths to the 4-Star billets, and this has compromised the nature of the beast. SOF/SF today is a special branch that cooperates with or facilitates operations that are political in nature, posing high risks but promising career payoffs. The CIA template has been placed over the SOF, therby creating a Special ops Army within the conventional force structure.
Since the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a military unit which morphed into the CIA, there has been a schism in the ranks of the National Command Authority. It is undecided whether the SOF is a CIA or a military function.

SF of the RVN variety was formed to alleviate the CIA's weakness is paramilitary operations. When the SF became the CIA's tool, they also became the read-headed stepchild of the Department of Defense. When Delta under Beckwith folded in the Iranian desert, SF was once again carrying the CIA on their military backs. Today in our endless wars, SF is supposedly back in the fold of the DoD; however, the assassination of Osama bin Laden reveals the lie.

The decision should be made to demilitarize the SOF and place them under the CIA, or to militarize the CIA, giving them the military functions of SOF. The SOF must be a tool of the theatre commander and a dedicated asset, or it will remain the plaything of politicos and will not garner the respect of either the military or the intelligence worlds.

The recent postings of Panetta and Petraeus exemplify my assertions. The CIA and the DoD are becoming interchangeable entities, and have cross-fertilized to the point that neither agency has a clearly-defined mission delineating whether they are military or paramilitary. Regardless of the wiring diagrams, these organizations lack cohesive organizational legitimacy due to the haziness of their loyalties.

Stanley McChrystal's career is an example of the problem. In the SF of old, McChrystal would never have achieved a rank above 0-6 (Colonel). He was rude, crude, and a chip off the old Charlie Beckwith block. However, today he achieved promotion beyond anything dreamed of in the old pre-tab SF days.
His conduct, as seen in his collusion in the Pat Tillman coverup, places McChrystal firmly in the position of fence-rider -- part military, part CIA.

The SOCOM/JSOC nexus has not defined the parameters of the SOF beast, and the latter will continue to be a loose cannon on the deck of a foundering ship.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

What is Special Ops?

--Sky and Water, M. C. Escher

I don't wanna do your dirty work

No more

I'm a fool to do your dirty work

Oh yeah

--Dirty Work
, Steely Dan

For a fee, I'm happy to be

Your back door man, hey

--Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, AC/DC

Neither fish, nor flesh, nor good red herring

--John Heywood


Since Osama bin Laden was killed by Special Operations Forces (SOF) earlier this month, Ranger's been mulling over the meaning of
Special Operations.

He took a trip down memory lane to 1970, when he was awarded the flash to his Green Beret. It was then an outward sign that we were MOS qualified; today's equivalent is being tabbed-up. Historically, SOF refers to SEALS, SF and Rangers, with supporting air assets. These are usually lumped under SOCOM and JSOC.

Today's focus is Black Operations ("Black Ops"), a sub-specialty of these two organizations. The question is: "How did the U.S, go from
snake eaters and Sneaky Petes to hired guns and assassins?"

Seal Team 6 (ST6) is the group credited with killing OBL. They are described as --

"a Special Black Ops unit made up of the top soldiers from each of the other nine SEAL units, operating under a cloak of secrecy
outside of military protocol and often international law. . . . The unit's members specialize in targeted assassinations, . . ." (SOF: Elite Killing Commandos, The Week).

While a correct description of Special Ops today, if they do operate outside of military protocol why are they in the military establishment? Militaries operate well when constrained by strict protocol. If these Special Ops members are not bound to international law, how are they upholding their oaths to uphold the Constitution (as treaties and international laws ratified by the U.S. operate at the same level). Extra-legal actions are not military in nature.

Why add another layer of soldiers to the Department of Defense roster when the Army SOF assets are slap-full of specially trained soldiers? Why does the Navy need these special soldiers when they have an entire U.S. Marine Corps to fill the niche?

The answer may be that we want units that conduct illegal activity; if so,
why have a Central Intelligence Agency with paramilitary capabilities? The CIA would seem to fit the bill better since they are neither military nor constrained by distracting oaths of fealty to the rule of law.

After the Vietnam War and the Desert Storm I fiasco, there was rightly seen a need for a SOCOM/JSOC type reorganization. However, somewhere along the way these military assets crossed over to the Dark Side, and we cheered, giving our imprimatur to the monstrous conversion.
The death of Special Forces came when SF became too comfortable doing CIA dirty work, thereby losing the confidence of the regular Army. After RVN, SF reorganized and tried to lose the stigma by reintegrating into the larger picture by becoming a branch specialty.

Prior to SF's becoming a branch specialty, Ranger's personal experience was one of an Infantry Officer who was shunned by his basic branch for his Sf affiliation. Infantry distrusted his loyalty, and SF had no power to promote or reward his special contributions. The creation of a dedicated SF branch was supposed to alleviate this rift; instead, it created a monster.

Tomorrow: Pt. II
, "What is Special Ops?"

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Boys will be boys, bad boy, bad boy
Always gettin' so restless, nothin' but trouble

--Bad Boys
, Gloria Estefan

I can find a lover.

I can find a friend.

I can have security

until the bitter end

, Billy Joel

If I listened long enough to you

I'd find a way to believe that it's all true

Knowing that you lied straight faced while I cried

Still I look to find a reason to believe

--A Reason to Believe
, Tim Hardin

File this: He Dogs, Men Behaving Badly, or Not Really News.

This category seemed to hit its apex in March with the publicity turned on two abusive men, Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson. Sheen was dropped from playing his alter ego, and Gibson's case settled just in time for the release this month of his film, Beaver, in which he plays a man who can only speak when his hand is inside of a beaver puppet (Really!) [Lesbian director Jodie Foster contrived this scenario, so what's that all about?] Alas, cruelty, stupidity and idiocy knows no bounds.

Within the last couple of weeks we read that International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) may have had a tryst with a New York hotel maid, and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had fathered a bastard child by a member of his household staff while married to wife Maria Shriver.

It's a sad old story of "more for me"; nothing new. People are covetous, gluttonous beings; if they were squirrels in a field of acorns, they would fill their cheeks til they looked like Satchmo, and their bellies 'til they couldn't move. Those of us with reserve are labelled "prim"; those who preen their appetitive desires, whores or earthy, depending on your perspective.

It is the spin on these predictable stories which adds another layer to our hypocrisy. DSK was moved to Rikers Island and put on suicide watch, though were no indicators that he was a suicide risk. Placing him in that hardcore prison and implying he wished to take his own life adds to the implication of his guilt.

Not that he's lily white, but what if he slipped the maid some bills for a quickie before the flight? No more savory, to be sure, but a different story. This was a $3,000/night suite, and the maid would know the resident was flush; it is not unheard of for a maid to do extra servicing in an effort to earn far more than she would changing bed linens, as it is not unheard of for unsavory attorneys to check the police books and represent such a woman.

People do not want to entertain the fullness of the problem; it is more simplistic to draw battle lines. DSK is either a demon or has been set up; if one identifies as a liberal, there is simply no choice other than the maid was exploited. My intent is not to condemn nor excuse, but rather, to look at why these miserable situations continue.

It is an old story of lust, greed, profit and power. Had DSK made a pit stop in Nevada, he could have taken his pleasure at the Bunny Ranch without penalty, such is the arbitrariness of stateside life.

Just as men flaunt their power, women can leverage their assets. Each has a need, and the business transaction often does violence to the psyche if not the corporeal body. The denial and secrecy -- often followed by the inevitable expose -- add another special layer of pain.

These men did not kill their mates, only their trust and belief. One can recover from those injuries, though too often becoming a member of the Army of the Walking Wounded, hard-forged to wreak havoc on the next unsuspecting victim.
So the cycle of misery and salaciousness continues. Good for the religion business , as both Schwarzenegger and his estranged wife turned out at the same Catholic church service last Sunday.

Good for tabloids, good for playwrights and movie makers, cinema and alcohol, therapists and every other thing that issues forth from our misguided ways.

The biologists tell us it's an urge to procreate; the psychologists say it is ego gratification. For some, it is a need to up the ante in a staid life; for others, power and dominance is a heady mix. Maybe it's hormones (whore-moans?) Whatever it is, we should never pretend to be a sublime race, exalted above the animal.

There are unfaithful men who can lie with a straight face: "
I do not have any other relationships," they protest. Indeed, they are only poking someone else occasionally (and not in the Facebook-ly way); a "relationship" is the person who does the dishes. Bill Clinton in some good faith said he did not have sex with Monica Lewinsky -- he had not intromitted his male member, so it can't be sex, right? It all comes down to words, and if one is a Rhodes scholar from Arkansas, confusion can arise. Too, this disingenuousness is not the sole domain of men.

Southerners have a saying: "He'd climb a tree to tell a lie when he could just stand on the ground and tell the truth." Why not tell the truth? If you will have sex with multiple people, do not enter into relationship or marriage (unless all parties are agreed on the open nature of things); surely there are people who will enter the game. But don't play for sincerity when your game is played on the fly.

We must ask the right questions, always. Weasels will find escape clauses; those who want to believe will twist the crumbs to their psychological benefit.

Why do people continue to hurt each other on the personal level? It is this one-on-one disdain or lack of care that enables violence on the larger plane, and it is this observation alone which makes this a worthy meditation.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

You Play, You Pay

When you win a war
you preside over a funeral.

Pay your respects to the dead

--Tao Te Ching
, Verse 31

The way you stole my heart,

you know you could have been a cool crook.

And, baby, you're so smart,

you know you could have been a schoolbook

--The Way You Do the Things You Do,

The Temptations


We always talk about THEM and how they run the government, but the question is: Why do we allow them to run the government the way they do?

For example: Most states have lotteries, which is a polite way of saying they have co-opted the functions of organized crime. Even in the God-fearin' Bible belt, they still like their gambling (often under the aegis of helping schoolchildren, you see.) God gave us free will, after all, and you're saved or not, so bring on the Lotto.

The Florida State lottery is gambling in its purest form -- state-sponsored racketeering sold as a positive, something that would benefit scholastic programs. Nobody seems to mind that the dumbest and poorest among us are the source of the increased revenue that benefited the smartest and best-educated. We pretend that bilking billions from Lotto players is different from taxation, but with the Lotto the players get zilch, whereas with increased taxation they might get something beneficial.

The lottery is a hidden tax levied upon the poorest and most desperate in our system. However, even that inequity is irrelevant as gambling was accepted as a legitimate state function for raising revenue and keeping taxes down. But the real rub of this supposedly painless generator of supplemental revenue for the general education of Floridians was seen after new Governor Rick Scott (aka Pink Slip Rick) blew into Tallahassee.

Now the funds for schools and scholarships have been cut, the monies diverted to more dire state needs (Students Rally Against Bright Futures Cuts). NO surprise as this Republican governor is opposed to all tax increases. Miraculously, Scott has actually cut corporate taxes concomitant with falling revenue at the Florida mafia (which we call the Lottery Commission.)
And a mere 65 students turn out for the rally, on their own campus!

Absolutely predictable: Revenue falls across the board, the governor grabs Lotto cash for the state -- cutting earmarked education funding -- all the while denying the need for increased tax revenue. It doesn't take a genius to see we have been hornswaggled. The lottery exists on bipartisan support, so both parties bear responsibility for this con game preying upon our poorest souls.

This sure seems like a perfect example of President Reagan's Voodoo Economics.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

I feel reality impacting here!

--Tune in Tomorrow

Ask not what America can do for you,

but what together we can do

for the freedom of man

--John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address


In Wild, Wild Midwest (5.25.11), RAW opined on the imminent slide of the U.S. towards Third World status. That piece looked at how German production giant BMW is using Americans as cheaper workers in their factories.

Today, Indian companies are outsourcing their call center help stations to the U.S. for the same reason:
cheap labor (As Indian companies grow in the U.S., outsourcing comes home). It is the perfect Möbius strip in a world marching towards a leveling beat. It will be a rude wake-up for a profligate U.S.

The WaPo article featured Mumbai-based company Aegis Communications' practice of “near-sourcing,” sometimes called “diverse shoring” or the politically dodgy, “cross-shoring”. Aegis offers some workers the opportunity to train in Goa or Bangalore, India, for a stint:

"Essar and Aegis, however, want to step up the cross-sharing this year, shuffling dozens of U.S. Aegis employees to Goa and Bangalore in India to help handle large U.S. government contracts. Aegis executives say the cross-continent exchange will help India’s call centers keep up during peak Medicare enrollment season and aid the company’s cross-cultural efforts."

"One Indian-born manager said he thinks that the U.S. standard of living has spoiled Americans and that they take less pride in their work. In other words, he says, they are lazy."

Cultural exchange from the perspective of a 2 x 4' cubicle . . . how will the Indians react to our "dress-down" days? Will they begin schlepping to KFC in Hello Kitty pyjama pants? Will a new Dilbert series emerge?

Only the Shadow knows.

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Mayday Mayday

We died and never knew,
But, well or ill,
Freedom, we died for you

Went the day well?

--John Maxwell Edmonds

But let judgment run down as waters,

and righteousness as a mighty stream

--The Bible, Amos 5-24

Take me to the water, drop me in the river

Push me in the water, drop me in the river

Take Me to the River, Talking Heads

May Day ushered in two highwater marks for America: The Great Flood of 2011 and the killing of Osama bin Laden. They are both symbolic as well as literal events.

Osama bin Laden's death is being heralded as the crown of a meaningless War on Terror.
Contrast that one death that came at such an astronomical price with the rampantly overflowing mighty Mississippi River, breaching levees and flood controls as easily as a terrorist might elude the U.S. defensive plan.

We are told the waters are being diverted to Louisiana lowlands in order to prevent New Orleans from another Katrina-magnitude flood.
Both the Phony War on Terror (PWOT©), the inundation of the '05 hurricane and now the flooding of the Mississippi show the weakness and reactive nature of our government planners, all the while feigning that we are shaping events.

Why haven't the levees of New Orleans been fortified to repel any potential floods? We are told Billions of dollars are needed for such a project, money we don't have, yet the U.S. spends $100's of Billions on operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya. Meanwhile, our people suffer grave losses because the Billions we need are not being allotted to shore up our infrastructure. Our efforts are akin to sticking our finger in a dike.

The U.S. is vulnerable and monies are not available to repair our eroding infrastructure, much less keep necessary government functions running on a daily basis. Why not pull in the perimeter and handle our domestic issues, prioritizing the welfare of U.S. citizens?

Six years after Katrina the waters are still flooding, and the best we get is half a gunfight, half a world away. The efforts to staunch the Mississippi are metaphor for our reactions to terrorism: Great efforts are undertaken to prevent terrorists from following a natural course, but regardless of our action (or inaction), they will follow a natural flow and flood the lowlands.

The U.S. spends $100's of Billions -- perhaps Trillions --on containing terrorism and find it impossible to do, while ignoring the very real destructive flows on our own soil.
The floods are neither Acts of God nor unpredictable, just like five foreigners training in a Florida flight school to fly planes but not lands them.

Instead of building new dikes along the Mississippi, why not just get a few SEALS to shoot it in the headwaters? Cheaper, and could all feel warm and patriotic.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011


[Apologies for light posting this week due to travel.
RAW is back]

I'm a soldier of fortune, I'm a dog of war

And we don't give a damn who the killing is for

It's the same old story with a different name

Death or glory, its the killing game

--Ride Across the River, Dire Straits

The first of all that fled,

, Thomas Hobbes

Oh the difference six years and a change of hat can make.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is first at war
's door today, but there was a time when Senator and former First Lady Clinton opposed even the violence expressed in video games.

In 2005, Senator Clinton partnered with conservatives Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback to request George W. Bush and Congress "launch a $90m investigation of the impact of electronic media on children’s 'cognitive, social, emotional and physical development'"

“Violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto, in which players peddle drugs and steal cars to become top gangster, have been condemned by Hillary Clinton as a 'major threat' to moral health.

“'Children are playing a game that encourages them to have sex with prostitutes and then murder them,' the senator and former first lady said. 'This is a silent epidemic of media desensitisation that teaches kids it’s okay to diss people because they are a woman, they’re a different colour or they’re from a different place' (Hillary opens up morality war on violent video games).”

Well, we wouldn't want to diss people of a different color now, would we -- just bomb 'em, right? The Hillary of today seems less kind, less gentle. Clinton is now foursquare behind bombing, Predator strikes, commando-type raids and real violence against different-colored people that eclipses the sun and the moon in today's wars.

Perhaps she felt she had to cover all her bases; if she was against virtual violence, then she had to be for the real thing. They say women are more cutthroat then men when assuming power positions. The pant suits should have been the tip-off. Why are violent video games a problem whilst endless wars are a good-to-go in her worldview?

Killing people exceeds "dissing" them, Ms. Hipster.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Entropy in FLA

Dracula: Blade, ready to die?
Blade: I was born ready motherfucker!


The darkness drops again but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle

--The Second Coming
, William Butler Yeats

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord

I've been waiting for this moment, all my life, Oh Lord

--In the Air Tonight
, Phil Collins

RAW's on the road this week, and wished to share this celebratory marquis discovered in the Jacksonville Beach area. (Note the un-posed slabside behind the sign, sans rear hubcap, and the general crummy condition of the parking lot tarmac.)

But . . . Osama bin Laden is dead, dontcha know? And even though our infrastructure is crumbling nicely about our ears without any help from Mr. bin Laden (
From God you come and to God you return), we still find cause to celebrate, like the musicians on the deck of the Titanic. We in Florida have always been privy to a certain genteel poverty, but is becoming more ubiquitous daily. But as long as they have a fight song, a team or a tribe, Floridians and much of the nation have a reason to believe.

Damn the flooding Mississippi dams, forget the BP oil fiasco, come hell or high water, there will always be a heathen hadji to fight. Hence the reason for some glee at the Pawn shop selling weapons, some to would-be Green Mountain Boys planning on going varmint hunting.

The sale wouldn't be because people lack the money to buy even those things pawned, would it?

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Going Down

I'm just trying to make it real, baby, like it is.
I mean, maybe this is what you're supposed to do,

maybe this is what you're growing to


I told you to put one in his brain,

not in his stinkin' face!

--Miller's Crossing

Define your meanin' of war

To me it's what we do

when we're bored

--You're Going Down
, Sick Puppies

Diane Sawyer, reporting on the killing of Osama bin Laden, said,
"Now that we've taken him down . . ." Excuuuse me, Diane Sawyer, but are you a news person or a Mafia gun moll?

"Take him down" -- the vernacular of our new post-racial America? Now the U.S. has an African-American acting like John Gotti and newsfolk like Sawyer cheerleading us on to the lower levels of societal conduct as we lurch towards becoming a Marvel comic version of ourselves, at least in our minds.
The vernacular of artistes like 50 Cent will lead the way; we will simply be following our president who enjoys that thug -- along with Old School, mind, on his iPod; or at least that's what he said when he was politicking.

Come to think of it, following the Mafia's lead might be an improvement as they at least try to limit collateral damage, and seldom target women or children.

Maybe Mrs. Sawyer's husband -- comic/director Mike Nichols -- is helping script a bit of dynamism in to what has been admittedly a somber business. Diane
et. al. are helping us get our war on in the coolest way possible.

Real fly, Diane.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Not O.K. Corral

--Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)

Lord, I don't care where they...
Bury my body

Cause my soul is gonna live

With God, oh, oh, oh yeah

--Bury My Body
, The Animals

There ain't no grave

Can hold my body down

There ain't no grave

Can hold my body down

--Ain't No Grave
, Johnny Cash

Ranger Joke of the Day:

There is a new drink in SOF clubs called the OBL:

It's two shots and a splash


Ever since my involvement with terrorism in the military and as a Department of Army civilian (DAC), the reaction has always been to militarize the problem, thereby simplifying it via reductionism.

The standard 0-3 reply was, "shoot 'em and kill 'em," to which Ranger would reply to blank looks,
"When was the last time a GI shot a terrorist?" The U.S. has not progressed beyond that brute reaction, and now a GI has shot a terrorist. We should consider the response logically versus emotionally, remembering that two Navy SEALS from Seal Team 6 are hardly standard issue GIs, just as Osama bin Laden was hardly a standard terrorist.

Terrorists by nature are not gun fighters. Not because they lack courage but because they have no need to be. Gun fights are simply not evocative enough for them to risk for the minimal payback.
Terrorists that use guns are devolved rather than evolved groups.

A terrorist will never willingly engage in a gunfight save in desperation. It is not to their advantage as they lose initiative, the ace-in-the-hole of a terrorist. They select the time and place of their operations, which will always be against a soft target, ensuring their success. Terrorists will always lose when engaging a government force, and will never do so willingly. This fact defines terrorism: Seeking success with minimal risk and expenditure of assets.

Compare the cost of the operations of 9-11-01 with the $100's of Billions spent to hunt down and kill OBL. The crashed helicopter alone outspent by orders of magnitude the entire operations of 9-11 -- where is the cause for rejoicing in that?

Guns are used by low-level groups for training and criminal activity to finance the group's operations. These groups and activities are easily countered, hence such scenarios are eschewed; if there is gun play it is by low-level, expendable members. Al-Qaeda training camps turn out these people on the cheap, much as Ft. Benning turns out riflemen daily.

Probably, al-Qaeda need not kidnap or rob banks as it enjoys a widespread passive support network contributing funds to its coffers. Since al-Qaeda operations are usually performed by unpaid personnel, operating costs can also be minimized. When was the last time any U.S. warrior or intel-type worked gratis?

Moreover, these riflemen are NOT terrorists -- they are utilized as insurgents and low-level guerrilla types to fight Low Intensity Conflicts (LIC), and are expendable as used condoms. They are the personnel who kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are neither Terrorists nor evil incarnate.
They can be called warriors just as easily as an Army PV3 riflemen.

We mistakenly think we are killing Terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan when we are actually just administering
post factum abortions upon militants. Militants may be affiliated with and sympathetic to al-Qaeda, but they are not terrorists -- al-Qaeda operatives are too valuable to waste in firefights. Just as the director of the FBI does not engage in street shootouts, so don't high-level al-Qaeda assets. Militants ≠ terrorists.

After Trillions of dollars expended, the U.S. is forced into basic gunfighter mode (which al-Qaeda leadership is smart enough to avoid), and is ecstatic over killing OBL in the most famous rifle shootout of May 2011.

If U.S. policymakers cannot think beyond armed response and individual gunfights, then we have lost the "war on terror". Every death we inflict diminishes the U.S. both morally and financially; each is a negative tally on our scoreboard.

If terrorism is warfare, it must be more than individual gunfights with unarmed adversaries.

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Blogger Haywire


Blogger has been a bit screwy the past few days.
It seems to be back in business today, and they promise
all comments will be restored
(we hope this is not like "The check's in the mail".)

--The Amanuensis


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Home Invasion

Do you think if you get General Aidid,
we will simply put down our weapons

and adopt American democracy?

--Black Hawk Down

Vengeance is mine, saith the lord

Romans 12:19

So you kids are, what?

Some kind of mod squad or something?

--Mod Squad (1968)


On the news program "60 Minutes" this past weekend, President Obama said of the Osama bin Laden assassination,

"Justice was done. And I think that anyone who would question that the perpetrator of mass murder on American soil didn't deserve what he got needs to have their head examined"

The words were flip and unpresidential, the sort one would expect from a Right-wing cheerleader or George Bush himself. The president is not a mental health professional and knows little or nothing about examining heads, nor does he have a grasp of what two shots to the head does to a person's head.

America was founded on the principals of free speech and thought. Last we checked, those rights are still intact, and we don't need a president shaming those of us who would dare to question his oh-so-brave decision.

Yes, Osama bin Laden was a bad actor,
but he was never adjudicated guilty, nor can we prove that his fingerprints were on the attacks of 9-11-01. Sure, he claimed responsibility, but it is the nature of a terrorist organization to take credit wherever and whenever it can. However, the claims are not credible until proven in a court of law.

Self-aggrandizement is not evidence, nor should any man be judged guilty by the president without a judicial stamp of approval which = a court finding of guilt. If OBL was such a bad actor, why wasn't he tried
in absentia and appropriately sentenced?

We are not comfortable with the adulation bestowed upon professional killers like Seal Team 6. Having professional hit men wearing our national uniform is more discomfiting than having OBL hiding out in some shit hole, backwater town somewhere west of bum fuck China. Our soldiers must kill on the battlefield, but this does not make them murderers; it makes them soldiers.

When soldiers must shoot people in their bedrooms this makes them as bad as
home invasion criminals. Ranger will be called soft in the head, but he thinks anyone favoring murder and mafia-style hit squads
is more in need of a psychiatrist than he.

One must be vigilant to rise above the seduction of mass hysteria and maintain the basic values of a humanistic society. The simplistic mantra that OBL was a "bad man" does not make his murder any more palatable.

On this same 60 minutes episode, Andy Rooney equated the death of OBL with that of Adolf Hitler -- a strained analogy if ever there was one. Hitler's wars, with our contributions, killed at least 50 million people; the atrocities of 9-11-01 are not comparable. Thousands were murdered daily in German death camps -- OBL's claimed acts, despicable as they were, pale to insignificance in the analogy.

The average U.S. citizen lacks for perspective. There was a time when advocating for the protection of Jewish lives was considered anathema in Nazi Germany. The approximately 3,000 killed in the 9-11 attacks are small potatoes compared with the number of people who starve to death each day worldwide. Are American lives more sacred than those of others?

In its most basic sense, justice is defined as the administration and procedure of law. If we are dispensing Old Testament "eye-for-an-eye", law of the jungle justice, then yes
, the president applied justice.

However, if we take our Constitution literally, Seal Team 6 was used as nothing but an instrument of vengeance.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Murder, Inc.

Well I'm hot blooded, check it and see
I got a fever of a hundred and three

Come on baby, do you do more than dance?

I'm hot blooded, I'm hot blooded

--Hot Blooded
, Foreigner

--Why'd you do it? Why did you kill him?

--He had bad breath

--Murder, Inc. (1960)

When Smith attacked Mr. Clutter

he was under a mental eclipse,

deep inside a schizophrenic darkness

--In Cold Blood, Truman Capote


February 1, 1968, B. G. Loan, Chief of the Vietnamese National Police, executed what was a guerrilla, Vietcong soldier or terrorist (take your pick, as this designation is irrelevant to this discussion.) Whichever, the recipient of General Loan's attention was shot dead on a Saigon street corner.

This was called field adjudication at the time, and in a perverse way this shooting was understandable and strangely appropriate. The killing was done in hot blood during a period of extensive combat.

However, this photo was a galvanizing moment which enabled the U.S. to pivot against the war.
From 1 Feb 68, there was not a fart's chance in a windstorm for the U.S. to win the war in Vietnam. Even though the execution was explained as a consequence of guerrilla activity and war crimes and due to a pervading wartime mentality -- despite any possibly legitimization of the act -- the pure violence was a turn-off to the American public.

The stark reality of the brutality was the final straw which broke the American voter's backs. That one death symbolized the futility of the shooting match in a black-and-white manner, in a way that no amount of debate could achieve. Gen. Loan's photographed action was the beginning of the end.

That was 43 years ago, and now
we allow a U.S. president to issue a death warrant without anyone blinking an eye. In 1968 the U.S. public recoiled from the sight of a naked street-corner execution; in 2011, we exult at a presidentially-ordered murder of a thug in cold blood, no better or worse than a VC member on some Saigon street corner.

Why the recoil then, the approval now? The only difference is that Loan had the stones to pull the trigger himself in broad daylight. Why do we glorify a once and future president when both are akin to cold-blooded killers, something we once found so repugnant in the not-so-distant past?

Are we so disconnected from our national policies that we accept this violence in passing as business-as-usual? What does it mean to be an American today vis-a-vis war and assassination?

The lesson from Loan's/Obama's assassination is that any government with a tenuous hold on a situation will resort to desperate acts. Though the South Vietnamese restored short-term order via brutal tactics, NOTE: Saigon no longer exists.

When regimes execute people on street corners the end in nigh. Gang-style executions are symptomatic of bankrupt policies. If the U.S. was being successful, it would not have to resort to such activities.

[cross-posted @ milpub]

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

OBL's Mancave

All murderers are punished unless they kill
in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets


Let us tend to our gardens

--Candide, Voltaire


It's late, and I'm a bit punchy. But my reaction to this story is rather telling about the whole shebang (for me, anyway). First, the clip:

  • Info from Osama raid shows interest in US trains (AP)

    AP - Some of the first information gleaned from Osama bin Laden's compound indicates al-Qaida considered attacking U.S. trains on the upcoming anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. But counterterrorism officials say they believe the planning never got beyond the initial phase and have no recent intelligence pointing to an active plot for such an attack.

My first reaction upon reading the head was,

"By Gawd, the poor man had a Lionel train set up in his mancave -- Lionel!!! -- and we killed him, when he really -- secretly -- loved us and our toys!

That simple reaction tells a few things: [1] What a hopeless, pathetic romantic I am; [2] How severely I distrust the news given me by most major news outlets and, [3] What a failure the entire hunt for OBL has been that his assassination leaves me with the least bit of sympathy for my sworn enemy.

Then I read the story and thought,
"This is probably hogwash to quell any suspicion that Bin Laden had in reality been largely superannuated." The whole cascade of events, from the blatant reality that our actual enemy is Pakistan and we daren't do a thing (unless we pull a Qaddafi on Zardari) to the anticlimactic assassination of OBL and Obama's fallow statement that "justice has been done" and wreath laying in NYC today -- it all strikes me as so robotic and forced, and not authentic.

When will the U.S. leave the sandbox and tend to our own gardens, which are becoming monstrously overgrown with weeds?

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The Bombardier

Everyone thinks chiefly of his own,
hardly at all of the common interest;

and only when he is himself concerned as an individual.

Everybody is more inclined to neglect the duty

which he expects another to fulfill

--Aristotle, Politics

In the councils of government,

we must guard against the acquisition of

unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought,

by the military industrial complex

--Dwight D. Eisenhower (1961)


In the Vietnam War it has been estimated that every dollar of bomb damage inflicted upon North Vietnam cost the U.S. $10.

That does not seem justifiable from a cost-benefit viewpoint, and makes Ranger wonder the cost-kill ratio of killing a suspected terrorist today. It seems the trillions spent have not dented the al-Qaeda roles; even if it has where is the data justifying this expenditure of our tax dollars?

We used to say in Vietnam, it wasn't a great war, but it was the only war we had. The idea was to keep it going since it was a great career-builder. An old soldier looks at the current three wars flapping in the breeze and concludes: The intention is not to win but merely to continue an endless campaign.

The purpose of the wars is to war,
and winning is not a consideration as there is nothing to be won. That is, unless one looks at cost-benefits, this time from the corporate standpoint. How does a war end when there is no incentive to do so?

When profits = expediency, campaigns become indefinable and peace is not a dividend that pays off.

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Manning Overboard

When the people are being beaten
with a stick, they are not much happier

if it is called "the People's Stick

--Statism and Anarchy
(1873) Mikhail Bakunin

And if you can take a man's life

for the thoughts that's in his head

Then won't you sit back in that chair

and think it over judge one more time

--Johnny 99
, Bruce Springsteen

Are you gonna pull those pistols

or whistle Dixie?

--Outlaw Josie Wales

Why is Bradley Manning being held in punitive and vengeful Federal custody? What is his crime, or alleged crime?

It cannot be espionage or treason. It is even hard to call it spying, so what is it, exactly? If Manning is such a threat, why hasn't WikiLeaks, founder Julian Assange or anyone else associated with this incident been indicted as co-conspirators? Why is Manning the only one in Federal prison? Why were none of his superiors charged with failure to secure classified data?

Manning was recently transferred to Ft. Leavenworth Correctional Facility, a Federal prison. Not only was Manning held in isolation for five months in the Marine Corps brig in Quantico where he was subjected to possible human rights violations and certainly held without recourse to a speedy trial, he is now being imprisoned without having been adjudicated guilty by any court, not even a kangaroo one.

Why this pre-trail confinement, which appears as open-ended as the Middle East campaigns? Further, why hasn't Manning's legal team filed a
writ of habeas corpus? Manning's condition is similar to that of the Guantanamo Bay detainees -- try them or release them; there is no middle ground. Manning is a U.S. citizen, and if he can be jacked around by the legal system, so too can anyone.

We owe to the rule of law to try Manning or release him -- if murderers can get a speedy trial, so can Manning. Our system of jurisprudence demands this small token of respect for U.S. legal thought, traditions and practice.

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