RANGER AGAINST WAR: January 2012 <

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Trash Talking

If they ever come up with a swashbuckling school,
I think one of the courses should be

"Laughing, Then Jumping Off Something
--Jack Handey, SNL

The devil went down to Georgia,

he was looking for a soul to steal.

He was in a bind 'cos he was way behind

and he was willin' to make a deal

--Devil Went Down to Georgia,

Charlie Daniels Band

... there was no difference in how Democrats and Republicans

conducted the business of government.

The game stayed the same:

It was always about favors and friends,

and who controlled the dough.

Party labels were merely a way

to keep track of the teams;

issues were mostly smoke and vaudeville.

Nobody believed in anything

except hanging on to power, whatever it took
--Sick Puppy, Carl Haissen

While duking out in last week's debate here in Tampa, the mighty Republican contenders pandered to the Cuban bloc by venting their supposed white-boy bile over 85-year-old Fidel Castro.

Mitt Romney hoped for Mr. Castro to “return to his maker,” while Newt Gingrich outgunned him by saying he hoped Castro would go “to the other place” (we guess that with his now being a good Christian that it is not polite to take Satan's lodging place in vain.)

But Romney ratcheted up the ante: “If I’m fortunate enough to become the next president, it is my expectation that Fidel Castro will finally be taken off this planet,” he said. But what does that mean? Will he become a spirit child and be sent to the planet Kolob? We know it is not considered very politically-correct to play with another's cosmology, but it's also not nice to hint one will assassinate another.

Even as late as U.S. ca. 2008, it was unseemly for a candidate to say such a crass thing as, "(W)e'll take him out," but such was the rhetoric of then-candidate Barack Obama (“If the United States has al-Qaeda, bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take him out”). Despite, or because of, that tough-talk, Obama won the election.

Still, it seems awfully puny and anti-climactic to suggest he, Romney, might be the one to take Castro off the planet. What might have been sporting back in JFK's day is just not really cricket today, but catch phrases win or lose elections.

Remember Ronald Reagan's disparaging dismissal to the callow Carter? "There you go again!" he would chide Carter as being the inappropriate little upstart, and all that followed was reduced to a whimper. Today, one must be hard-charger to compete with men like those of Seal Team 6. Sarah Palin was cute trying on the role in her moose-and-woodland pattern way; Hillary is simply a woman in man's clothing (or vice versa), and we do not like it much -- you just KNOW that she could NOT fire an RPG if her life depended on it; maybe not even a six-shooter.
Despite any of his other failings, Ron Paul cannot win in Republicanlandia because is will not WAR.

We are now post-Sopranos, and trash talk is the order of the day. But what did Castro do to merit everlasting damnation?

Was it achieving a literacy rate surpassing that of the U.S.? Perhaps it was the universal health care he delivered to his island nation? Could it be their
1.6% unemployment rate? Maybe it was that Castro didn't wear the fancy suits pretending to be what he wasn't, yet actually did represent the Cuban people.

Maybe these men are just pissed that the CIA couldn't take him out, so they fancy with an insertion by that crack assassination team ST6 they just might be able to take that glory for themselves.

Hopefully one day soon, that feigned machismo will become a faded and degraded form of glory.

--Jim and Lisa

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Newt is Us

A shilly shallier is a dilly dallier,
a dilly-dallier hems and haws

--Shilly Shallier
children's song

Territory folks should stick together,

Territory folks should all be pals.

Cowboys dance with farmer's daughters,

Farmers dance with the ranchers' gals


There is no deadline

There is no schedule

There is no plan we can fall back on

The road this far can't be retraced

, The Mountain Goats

Well, it was kind of cold that night

She stood alone on her balcony

Yeah, she could hear the cars roll by

Out on 441 like waves crashin' on the beach

--American Girl
, Tom Petty

The snake oil salesmen are working their way through our state now, home of grifters and get rich quick schemes . . . the gentlemen are in their milieu.

Newt is positively brilliant in terms of capitalizing on his pasty-faced doofusness -- it is image-maximization, 2012-style. He has co-opted Sarah Palin's extreme mediocrity, parlaying it into a battle cry for dis-informed Republicans everywhere: I am YOU; we are reactive and ill-informed, but emotional, and Romney thinks we are stupid!

It is the I know you are, but what am I children's game. Gingrich knows we are stupid, too, but he has enough savvy to ally himself with the numbers. In other words, Romney is a cad for being grossly elitist, and therefore not patriotic (Newt to Voters: Romney Thinks You're "Stupid".)

We are Americans, and therefore, covetously mediocre in an aggressive sort of way. Don't you say it though, but we'll walk out in our pyjamas, thanks, because WE are NOT French! (But, this non-royal WE also fancies they are not welfare hootchie mamas, either, and so assiduously takes pains to rein in their brand of mediocrity; they will not share their bloc.)

Newt is their poster boy. It is Newt who petitions for our rights to clap and laugh at rallies, and generally act like the cowman and farmers at a house-raising in Oklahoma! We are just
that sort (or like to think we are). We do not like France and we do not wear lycra padded racing shorts. Do not! Look at the man ... could you even imagine Newt in John Kerry's shorts (figuratively, of course, though he is a Republican)? Could it have been such a vision which has caused Callista's eyes to remain perpetually agog?

asks, since
both Gingrich and Romney are both consummate insiders. So why is only Gingrich able to portray himself as an outsider? It's image, stupid. It's pretty clear Romney follows a diet and works out, and that is not the American Way (see "Twinkies to Fuel"), unless you're some East or West-coaster. While they correctly note, "The economic diversity at the top of the Republican field runs the gamut from A to B", it is not the reality but the patter that matters. He is a simulacrum populist, and that's good enough for us.

Now Florida is somewhat more diverse than South Carolina, and though
Newt may be able to carry the day on the back of his bumpkin-ism, Romney will give him a run for his money because he resonates with the strivers in the middle-class -- those who fancy they can one day afford membership at the country club but meanwhile manage greens fees at the municipal course for the day. They get to play golf, when they are not slaving away at their tenuous jobs. That makes them look like arrivistes, and that makes them feel good.

Romney is what the middlin' folks hope to be but probably never will, so in Florida that means he'll take much of the Latino vote in South Florida, too. He dresses well, and Newt is a schlump. Not for them is a candidate who looks like he could go to Walmart in his p.j.'s; alas, Callista's Tiffany jewels cannot make up for the failing of his shape.

Despite the fact that Florida has the highest rate of chronically unemployed (and the fifth lowest rate of unemployment benefits), the thing that fires us up are the quaint and reviling notions that reek of an empire in decay, Gothic issues, like suppressing the Copernicus's of the world:

"Speaking at a Baptist church in Winter Park on Saturday, the former speaker received a standing ovation when he declared that embryonic stem-cell research amounts to “the use of science to desensitize society over the killing of babies" (Gingrich vows to ban embryonic stem-cell research, questions in vitro practices).

Facts are quite immaterial here -- facts like no babies (or fetuses) are getting killed; facts like stem cells may be extracted from the umbilical cord after birth (in other words, from medical waste). Facts get in the way of passion, a good rumpus, and that's what Newt gives.

We are not talking rationale -- we are talking hootenanny, here. And if there is one thing most Floridians love, that's a swamp fete ... a tailgating party or a hog roast. Yee-haw. Newt is all that and more; he's the whole kit and kaboodle.

In our neck o' the woods, people hop on motorized carts at Walmart whether they need to or not. It is both sport and sloth, for some. These are not fit people and would in fact do well to walk, but have bought into a society which has effectively rendered them hostage to Big Pharma and Big Agra. They feel impotent -- often are -- and out of frustration will vote on seeming kinship alone, so disenfranchised are they from the system. Maybe someone who looks like he has to take the same statin drugs or eats the same fast food will feel their pain. (It was in this way that Bill Clinton was exceptionally successful.)

As Joel Achenbach noted in the WaPo yesterday, a lot of us don't even know there is an impending election. If we muddle off to the polls, for the majority of us, it will be to check the box for someone who looks like us, and that is not necessarily good.

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Carl Clark's Recognition

Carl Clark receiving his
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal,

17 Jan 12

What we create with our hands,
what we offer from our spirits

may not end racism or stop injustice,

but it may just help keep our culture human

--Rev. Malcolm Davis


95- year-old veteran Carl Clark received his Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal January 17, 2012 -- 66 years after his heroic action in WW II (66 Years After He Saved a Navy Ship, Another Battle Is Won).

"On May 3, 1945, in the Battle of Okinawa, Japan, six kamikaze planes hit the U.S.S. Aaron Ward, engulfing the ship’s deck in a deadly inferno. As the fire approached an ammunition locker that would have exploded and destroyed the ship, Mr. Clark — who broke his collarbone in the attacks and was the only survivor of a damage control team — grabbed a hose typically operated by several men and doused the flames.

"His actions saved the vessel, but they were not mentioned in the battle report. In the deeply segregated Navy of that time, Mr. Clark was just a servant — a ship’s steward — and it was common practice then for the heroics of blacks in the military to be ignored or discredited ..."

It was by chance Mr. Clark received the medal, as he participated in a living-history project at a local college which was then brought to the attention of his representative, who then asked the Navy to investigate. Rep. Eshoo said, "Racism robbed Carl of recognition," but Ranger would like to add to that explanation.

This month's
Purple Heart magazine mentions Bill "Doc" Lynne who, also after 66 years, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for actions in Okinawa. He received the award on 10 Sept 2011, and died five days later. Many of us know men like Lynne who fought through and endured extreme privations and yet never received a personal award beyond the Purple Heart for their selfless acts of bravery.

Surely racism played a part in Clark's failure to receive an award, but that is not the whole story. Personal awards were the exception, not the rule, back then. None of the services saw fit to award the average fighting man with a personal award. In an attempt to right this wrong, in 1964 the Army belatedly awarded the Bronze Star Medal to all WW II recipients of the Combat Infantry Badge. Ironically, the Navy never did the same for their veterans who had earned the Combat Action Ribbon.

I salute Mr. Clark and proudly acclaim his bravery and service, and in fact suggest that the medal awarded is somewhat insulting to the man and every veteran. Surely the Navy could have appropriately awarded a more significant award. The problem of correct recognition seems to remain. It is a small and correct thing to recognize exceptional performance.

In Ranger's opinion, Sailor Clark deserved at least a Silver Star or a Navy Cross for his ship-saving action.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Original Terrorism

Ideology is abstract.
Hardship is lived concretely
--The Americans No One Wants to Talk About,
Michael Gerson

A "war against terrorism" is an impracticable conception

if it means fighting terrorism with terrorism.

--Where There's a Will ...
, John Mortimer

Terrorism, like viruses, is everywhere.
There is a global profusion of terrorism,
which accompanies any system of domination
as though it were its shadow,
ready to activate itself anywhere, like a double agent
--The Spirit of Terrorism, Jean Baudrillard

Sunday homily: Original terrorism.

Ranger has often discussed the fact that terrorism is the symbolic use of violence to affect an audience beyond the immediate target. Plain and simple.

Is being thrown out of the Garden of Eden a form of symbolic violence? What about Abraham's impending sacrifice of son Isaac? How about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? The great flood of Noah? The Crucifixtion of Jesus? The martyrdom of early Christians? The Inquisition or the modern day death penalty? All of these actions suggests an inherent deterrent value along with the more direct punitive one.

How about bombings like those of London, Warsaw, Dresden, Hamburg, Nagasaki and Hiroshima? The bombing of Hanoi? Shock and Awe 2003? Predator missiles?

These examples suggest both religious and governmental groups utilize terror tactics.
When and why is terror sanctioned, and when is it not? When administered by an authorized agency, do such tactics gain validity de facto?

Why are we comfortable with a God or a country employing symbolic violence, while terror groups provoke such an extreme emotional response?

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Friday, January 27, 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth

I could say that my name was Bonaparte,
and show you Napoleon's tomb;
that wouldn't make him my grandfather would it?


Makes me feel quite dirty,

Though we all do sometimes

--I Wanna Be a Cowboy
Boys Don't Cry

Oh. Um, l-- look, i-- i--

if we built this large wooden badger ...

--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Ranger often quips that he was Special Forces before SF was cool, before it earned its "O".

In his day, joining SF was a career kiss of death for an Infantry Officer, as it was often viewed as
abandoning ship. The Infantry's main focus was, "Clank clank, I'm a tank" and the Fulda Gap. The war in Vietnam was just a live fire exercise which Ranger called the field Army in the ambush; the events in SE Asia were mostly seen as a distraction from the Cold War (anyone remember that one?)

Fast-forward 2012 and everyone is GAGA over Special Operations Forces. Poster child Seal Team 6's exploits are touted as the best thing since sliced bread (and since Wonder Bread's going bankrupt, it's nice that we can have a replacement.) The new Bill of Goods says Special Ops are the wave of the future, but this is hype based on showboat moments.

Recent vaunted ST6 actions are not military in nature. Similarly, the killing of Osama bin Laden was a simple assassination, gussied up for American consumption as a heroic military operation. However, wars are not won (or lost) via assassinating individuals; if they are, Ranger would suggest that this is a war he would rather not fight.

How about the recent ST6 rescue of two hostages in Somalia? Portrayed by the administration as a military operation, again this was simply the killing of eight pirates hoping to negotiate for somewhere between their requested $10 million in ransom and the $1 million offered. The WaPo reported, "U.S. officials said there was no evidence that the hostage-takers had any connection to the [al-Shabab militant group which is said to be allied with al-Qaeda]". Shabby brigands who understand Westerners are flush and so want to steal a little; you'd think they'd studied the banker's handbook.

So they rescued a couple of hostages -- a Jessica Lynch moment for sure, replete with blonde captive Jessica Buchanan, reminiscent of other constructed American Teutonic heroes like "Lucky" Penny, the would-be downer of ill-fated Flight 93 (
Sorry, Shoshanna, we have not forgotten you). But how does this translate out to war fighting?

This is not exactly Guns of Navarone or the Son Tay Raid, or Desert One. This was simply a feel-good raid against a small band of bandits -- anything but prime troopers. This action was not Anzio or Pointe du Hoc or the Great Raid featured in Ghost Soldiers. This was not a Studies and Observations Group mission against superior enemy forces; not the Hammelburg Raid, alas.

So why do we get our peckers hard about a chicken shit live-fire practice raid?

For SOF assets to contribute anything of value the assets must be part of a Theatre Commander's strategic plans and must work as a force multiplier to synergistically enhance the overall mission objectives. Crummy little raids like these need not apply.

In the 1980's Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) had raids and target folders that identified and delineated targets 450 kilometers to the rear of the forward line of troops (FLOT). This meant that troops had to insert by fixed or rotary-wing flying over enemy-controlled terrain and then conducting the operation, followed by an attempt to return to friendly lines -- a far piece from fighting drug-dazed bandits.

How does a raid against OBL or a rag-tag bunch of pirates contribute anything beyond enhanced recruitment for the SEALS? It is all movement with no progress. One more dead guy (even OBL) or 20 more bandits is hardly a strategic event.

We are so desperate to call the Phony War on Terror (PWOT©) a real war that we stretch the reality of ancillary actions to the breaking point? Why not just dress the teams as United Parcel Service deliverymen and hide them in the back of the truck? Why not use aTrojan Horse or a Trojan Rabbit?

Our operations mimic those of a bi-polar amoeba. One wonders if the good folks at DARPA have studied that application yet.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Battle of the Bulge

Hudson Valley Grade A Duck Foie Gras
fr. dartagnon.com)
$109.99 per 1.8 lbs.


[Addendum to From Twinkies to Fuel]:

Lipofuel is actually a serious proposition, and quite reasonable, once we get over ourselves.

One of its major attractions is that it's fully renewable, especially if it were possible to re-mine living sources. In the distant future when we have depleted other extant sources of fuel we will see that re-purposing our own "waste" matter will be a logical decision, and will be divested of any prurient scatological associations.

Much as with electric cars, the people whose fat is farmed might submit to periodic suctionings. Obviously, they would incur no cost for the liposurgery, and as a donor they would enjoy the very lucrative benefit of grazing copiously and being able to shed themselves of their avoirdupois as it became burdensome. Each may divine the line of sloth for himself, and decide whether the transgression can actually be transmogrified into a good.

Lipo would no longer be relegated to the back rooms of shady plastic surgeons but could become a perfected art, the domain of top surgeons and not just inferior pimple doctors. There would be no more jokes about "did she or didn't she"; yes -- she did give to her country, much as a blood or plasma donor does today. Instead of a little blood drop stick pin, a little golden fat globule to wear proudly, like the "I Voted" sticker.

Perhaps not to you, but to some people, that freedom to graze would be felt as a great blessing. For those amongst us who are weight-challenged, the battle of the bulge can become a debilitating daily fixation. The types of diets are legion, and sadly, science is telling us that once grown the fat cell never returns to a slimmer state. For the person who has shed weight, her newly lean cells are simply fat ones in hiding --imposter thin cells -- ready to chow down on any calories thrown their way. Ingest all the Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HGC) you may, a fat cell is a "fat" cell. It will always have space to grow.

Rather than occupying space as inert lumpen who may only use their minds or physical exertion to produce meaningful results, why not farm the last readily-accessible frontier -- the human body -- and allow people to produce? Why can we only accept organ donation upon death? Why these odd lines? If organ harvesting is for a good purpose, then so tissue farming (blood is a "tissue").

Unfortunately, humans are wont to ideate and fall into the slippery-slope fallacy that if fat were farmed from corpses -- and perhaps willing live donors -- than it is just a hop away to breeding humans who would sit inertly in a lab and be force-fed like like geese to produce fois gras, except they would be sucked of their fat.

Here is a perhaps vulgar thought question, but
what is so different from the human who goes from cubicle to home office, sitting before a screen all day and ingesting chips and soda which the body converts to fat, and the immobile goose force fed to produce its succulent fois gras?

We think nothing of re-producing offspring -- expulsing genetic material into the world. Why not put some of our inert matter to good use? Instead of having it sit in front of Facebook 24/7, give a little back to the world.

If we think nothing of mining the liquified remains of long-dead animals processed naturally, then why not our own?

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Vehicle Overrun

The Week (1.27.12)

Last week, somebody on a motorcycle stuck a magnetic bomb to a car carrying Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, deputy director of Iran’s Natanz uranium-enrichment plant, killing him using Euroterror tactics.

The vehicle overrun depicted on The Week's cover is reminiscent of the tactics of Spanish and Italian groups ("A Death in Tehran: Is it moral to kill Iran's scientists?"). The Greeks also used it, with a slight variation. Nothing is new under the sun.

This was not a Tallahassee drive-by by T-Pain. Whoever committed the act is expropriating techniques from the terrorist handbook. The reason is because they are effective, cost-efficient and easy.

As David Frum
(TheDailyBeast.com) points out, both the U.S. and Israel have denied a part in the bombing; both he and Jonathan Tobin (CommentaryMagazine.com) suggest that targeting specific players may be the least deadly of all the potentially deadly options.

But if the U.S. condemns terrorism, we should not behave as enthralled masses at a Roman circus applauding this criminal violence. One cannot condemn terrorism while cheering on the use of terror tactics.

Can you spell h-y-p-o-c-r-i-s-y? It starts with a "U", and it has an "S" in there somewhere.

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Politicking as Warfare

The question is, why are politicians

so eager to be president?

What is it about the job

that makes it worth revealing, on national television,

that you have the ethical standards

of a slime-coated piece of industrial waste?

--Dave Barry

A politician needs the ability to foretell
what is going to happen tomorrow, next week,
next month, and next year.
And have the ability afterwards to explain
why it didn't happen
--Winston Churchill

Political language . . . is designed to make
lies sound truthful and murder respectable,
and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind
--George Orwell

Just a little tidbit on the impreciseness of our press, from the New York Times online. My comments concern only the front page lede:


Gingrich and Romney Trade Jabs as G.O.P. Race Rolls On


The intensifying duel between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich was shaping up as a proxy battle in the fight between their party's establishment wing and a grass-roots insurgency.

How can a race be a "duel", "proxy battle", "fight" or an "insurgency"? Could they have stuffed more battle words into that simple sentence if they had tried?

Can you even picture Mr. Romney or Mr. Gingrich executing an actual duel? Can we correctly characterize ANY politician as performin
g battle? Since it would be a metaphorical one, wouldn't they have to possess an ideological conviction? Aren't these men -- most politicians -- actually more correctly analogized to actors?

As such, would not terms like "dancing", "posturing", "capering", "strutting" and the like would be more well-suited?

Must every human endeavor be militarized?
Is that now the gold standard for meaningful action?

If so, what does that say about our society?

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

From Twinkies to Fuel

--Human adipose tissue

It's people.
Soylent Green is made out of people
--Soylent Green (1973)

Lay on, Macduff,
And damn'd be him that first cries,
'Hold, enough!'
--Macbeth, Shakespeare

Some folk built like this, some folk built like that
But the way I'm built, you shouldn't call me fat

Because I'm built for comfort, I ain't built for speed

But I got everything all the good girls need

--Built for Comfort
, Willie James Dixon

I've seen every blue-eyed floozy on the way

But their beauty and their style

Went kind of smooth after a while

Take me to them lardy ladies every time

--Fat-Bottomed Girls
, Queen

A loyal reader asked that we might lighten up a bit, so in keeping with Ranger's challenge to the politically-correct of the world, he proposes a new green initiative based on his observations of people and their ever-present need for fuel: Render their fat upon their expiration.

Human fat -- adipose tissue -- could be sourced from both the living and the dead to manufacture any number of products, much as whale tallow keeps entire societies alive. Perhaps the thought of rubbing it on your skin as an emollient is unpleasant, though many pay dearly to do just that with human placenta.

The urge for the fountain of youth is a powerful motivator. Geraldo Rivera had his buttock fat injected into his face for a more comely appearance (the jury is still out). The poet William Butler Yeats had monkey testes implanted in his scrotal sac in his quest for potency in his twilight years (though some argue they were goat testes.) Sometimes, one just needs a little push to mount the hill of resistance, and vanity is one of those.

But forget vanity as the lead motivator. Fuel to power our motoring needs could be the primary use. America is slap filled with fat people: The Centers for Disease Control says about one-third of us are obese, which the CDC defines as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher; another third of us are overweight, making for a gravy train of adipose. If their fat were to be rendered, we would have an excellent source for bio fuel.

IN fact, Beverly Hills liposuction doctor C. Alan Bittner, M.D. did just that (Forbes reported on it in 2008). Dr. Bittner removed the unwanted fat from his patients, processed it, and used the resulting biodiesel "to fuel his Ford SUV and his girlfriend’s Lincoln Navigator." That's a lot of fuel consumption, and he introduced his success to the world at his now-defunct website, lipodiesel.com.

Unfortunately, California had a legal proscription against using "medical waste" for fuel purposes, and the good doctor is reported to have fled the country. (Maybe not such a good doctor, as he also tended to "over-render his patients," making for a lumpy result).
Can't get greedy.

The time for creating truly sustainable energy resources is now.
How can anyone get excited about the thought that
fracking might provide 100 years of fuel? OK -- what then? "Oh, I'll be dead, then", y'say? Well, part of life is aspiring not to leave it much more effed up than when you entered it.

Fuel is but one possibility: cosmetics, soaps (the Nazis innovated that), enviro-friendly candles -- every petroleum-based product could be tweaked to use this seemingly limitless resource (well, not in Somalia, maybe.) Reports of a Peruvian black market for human fat erupted in 2009, and then disappeared from the news. Were the Peruvians doing something beyond selling the fat to fancy European cosmetic manufacturers?

Rendering people's corpulence would make of them national assets, rather than the butt of jokes, and give them much-needed self-esteem before they enter our gas tanks. The Hurley's of the world would give far out of proportion to their person and as such would be saluted, rather than maligned.
Wanna stop bullying? Render the hefties! From Twinkies and margarine back into fuel source -- this is the miracle we have been waiting for.

The benefits would spread everywhere: As they would be corporally leaner at death, the donator's caskets or vaults could be made smaller, for instance. This would be an apres-death reduction of their carbon footprint. Although one of the 12-Step programs could be eliminated, that would still leave many other 12-step programs at which the predatory may hook up with the stability-challenged of the world. (And there are always yoga classes and the Self Help section of the bookstore, if any of those survive the Kindle.

It's time we get over being squeamish over our bodily emanations. Landfills, barges, tugboats and mountains have hid our waste for some time, but as we and our waste products multiply, the day of not seeing is nigh upon us.

Devastatingly large and toxic "garbage islands" exists in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Eastern Pacific Garbage patch is twice the size of Texas. C'mon, people, time to face the music and pay the piper!

A recent update on Swift's Modest Proposal from WaPo's humorist Alexandra Petri suggested eating old people (
Eat the elderly! Except Warren Buffett. He knows where they hid the money. Sure, they’re old. They’re wrinkly and taste sort of gamy, with a hint of talcum powder), but we think food production is not as threatened as fuel sources.

We are not ready for pure cannibalism, but we have been cannibalizing (sourcing) parts of the human body for a while now. This is simply an extension of being an organ donor; tissue harvesting already occurs.

This is no time to stand on fallow ethics or haughty revulsion. Ranger's proposal is a win-win for all.

--Jim and Lisa

[see "Battle of the Bulge" for concluding thoughts.]

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The Enchanted Forrest

--The Birdcage, by Squirrell

Civilizations die from suicide,
not by murder

--Arnold J. Toynbee

Depression is rage spread thin
--George Santayana


A follow-on to PFC Hutson's suicide as told in Peter Van Buren's book, We Meant Well.

How does a person get to the point that they are willing to "eat their weapon", especially a young and healthy trooper? Was it disenchantment that the Magic Forrest promised by recruiters was not all college fund tuition access? Was it reality, or unreality, which became too much?

In Ranger's day we said, "This is unreal", when it actually was very real; sometimes so much so that reality did approach the surreal. Possibly we Americans live in unreality and are therefore unable to cope with the reality that is every day fare east of Eden.

My thoughts go to command responsibility in these suicide scenarios, responsibility from E-5 up to 01-0 level. Suicide, like terrorism, can be countered by proactive procedures the lessen the likelihood of an incident. Suicide, like terrorism, has distinct signature events leading up to the finality. Neither happens without a lead-in.

Clearly, happy people do not commit suicide. Unhappiness is often signified by depression, so when a soldier is depressed command should order an intervention. Meddac has counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists and a dispensary full of appropriate drugs. Having young, un-individuated people with access to firearms demands careful command supervision.

Unhappy, depressed soldiers are as easy to spot as a drunk in a choir, so these preventable suicides cannot be blown off. Of course some will fall through the cracks, but an active suicide prevention program could head off many tragedies. Unfortunately, the culture which blithely accepts combat deaths is often not exactly concerned with one extra combat or non-combat death, more or less.

It was reported in November that a veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes, making for 18 deaths a day (A Veteran Commits Suicide Every 80 Minutes). If 18 veterans were killed in action every day, these wars would be shut down right quick, as the public would most likely not have the stomach for 540 deaths per month. Nice little memorial ceremonies cannot gloss over a glaring problem which could be honestly addressed.

May all our lost soldiers rest in peace. Their deaths will be meaningless until we apply lessons to mitigate such needless losses, and prevent future meaningless wars.

Unfortunately, this is not likely to happen soon enough.



Monday, January 23, 2012

Memory of the Army

Statue inscription:
"Cemetery for the Memory of the Army"
(trans. by Phil Nguyen, Morrow, GA)

This picture of the Vietnamese "Cemetery for the Memory of the Army" was snapped in 1970, and Ranger has never seen the subject in any of the photo histories of the Vietnam War.

This cemetery was the Vietnam equivalent of our Arlington National Cemetery. Note the caretaker squatting at the left of the statue. There was also a religious shrine at the rear of the statue, on a hillock. It was located in Tu Doc on the road to Saigon, South of Long Binh and Bien Hoa. There is a military base to the right and rear of the highway.

Always one of my favorite photos, the cemetery was a scene that few U.S. soldiers saw or appreciated. The South Vietnamese lost many men in the "American War", and this burial place commemorated their losses.
I passed by often but rarely saw anyone visiting the grave sites.

Ranger has never seen a war memorial which features a sitting soldier. Does this symbolize the exhaustion of a nation which had been fighting for decades at that point? Is it a gesture of reverence?

I won't know, because fellow veterans returning to Vietnam as tourists report the graveyard has been bulldozed, and is now planted with fruit and nut trees.
The symbol and artifact has been lost to history; the bodies must still be interred there.

There are no bitter memories or hatreds associated with my experience in that foreign land. I have always wanted to share this view of the other side's trauma, which no doubt looked very much like ours when you get to the level of the dirt.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Good Day to Die

Hueys at Camp Lang Thanh (CLT)
Clockwise: Cpt. Jim Hruska (with sunglasses); SFC Corey (black hat);
Lt. Edwards (hands in pocket, back to camera);
SFC Johnnie K. Berry (squatting, back to camera);
SFC Brockelman (sitting in profile to camera);
SFC Kenneth Lovelace (standing in front of Hruska, hand on back of head)
photo taken between June and September 1970

His nature is too noble for the world:
He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,

Or Jove for ’s power to thunder

(III, i), Shakespeare

Ranger looked at this photo for 40 years before realizing that Lovelace was in the frame. It is the only picture he has of him and a poor one at that, and an internet search revealed no more.

It was a beautiful day on 21 Jan 71, much as in this photo, on the day Lovelace died. Ranger wishes to remember his friend who was killed on that date, but first some background prompted by the photo.

We are here conducting an Airborne operation (note parachutes on ground). SFC Corey is wearing a CLT Vietnamese camp unit patch on his left pocket. Instructor S-3 section Lt. Edwards was not camp personnel, but he was present for training. Notice his cut-off sleeves and our lack of headgear; we did not always hew to standard uniform niceties.

SFC Berry was assigned to Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observations Group (MACVSOG) HQ at Pasteur Street, Saigon. SFC Brokelman was an instructor S-3 section in the Combat Reconnaissance Course, also called One-Zero School (see,
Down in the Zeroes), along with SSG Lovelace.

We appear casual, but we were doing the job. I am reminded of our comfort with each other, and the lack of feeling crammed even when working in close proximity, which was often required. We appear to be problem solving in this photo. These men are mentoring me and are patient in so doing. It also shows the young bloods of that era, like myself and Edwards, integrating with more experienced members.

Lovelace, Corey and Brockelman were low-key professionals, confident but with no need for showboating. I remember marveling at SFC Corey's weathered 40-ish face, and remember telling him he looked like he got shot by the wrinkle gun. As a First Lt., Corey was my primary instructor in 1-0 School. Ranger was required to graduate in order to be assigned to staff functions at CLT/B53.

As mentioned yesterday, the 1-0 course was modeled on the Ft. Benning Pathfinder course, with the addition of in-country experience. Men like Lovelace, Corey and Brockelman were fine examples of the expertise and professionalism which
brought this training to the next level.

Now to 21 Jan 70: As mentioned, it was a clear blue sky day, and the men had just returned following a successful mission; all was well in the world.
We were happy to be there.

I don't know if Ken was talking to me man-to-man or soldier-t
o-soldier, but he mentioned he was short-timing and didn't like the idea of going to the the field before his Date Estimated Return Overseas (DEROS). I felt he had a foreshadowing of his death, which made his death all the more poignant.

The last time I saw him all that I would recognize was the tattoo on his arm.

Kenneth Lovelace was from Bellefontaine, Ohio. The only data given online differs somewhat from Ranger's recollection of the day, to include the date of death. There are no personal recollections of Lovelace on any of the military boards, only this:

KENNETH LOVELACE SSGT - E6 - Army - Regular Special Forces; tour began 27 Mar 70; Casualty was 22 Jan 71 In BIEN HOA, SOUTH VIETNAM. Age 27, DOB 21 Feb 43. He was married with children.

The 5th Special Forces Group left country five weeks later, and SOG remained operational for about another year. The deaths of four men on a lovely day in January 1971 are of little import to the planet's transit and were not the result of a great battle. They were in a desperate encounter ending in death, and such is the way most soldiers die. (As an aside, in WW II 15,000 airmen died in training in the U.S.).

Soldiers die daily and most of us fail to notice. More soldiers die in nasty little battles than are killed in the big named conflicts, especially in Low-Intensity Conflicts.
Their deaths are the deaths of a 1,000 cuts, so inconsequential as to be unnoticed by a great nation.

Except ... every now and then, someone stops to think that all these deaths are too many to count.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Down in the Zeroes

Camp Long Thanh, B53, 5th Special Forces Group,
1970. The bottom shows our DZ for airborne training;
top shows the North Airfield; Main Gate is in the NW corner,
leading straight to Bearcat
Rappelling -- this shows the vulnerability of the
Huey when used as a rappelling platform
CLT team, in training with full equipment, helicopter
is operational. This is how the team looked 21 Jan 71
(all photos from Ranger's private collection)

All greatness, all power, all social order
depends upon the executioner;

he is the terror of human society

and the tie that holds it together;

Take away this incomprehensible force

from the world, and at that very moment

order is superseded by chaos, thrones fall,

society disappears

--Joseph de Maistre

"I wanted an ideal animal to hunt,"

explained the general.

"So I said: 'What are the attributes of an ideal quarry?'

And the answer was of course:

'It must have courage, cunning, and,

above all, it must be able to reason.'"

--The Most Dangerous Game,

Richard Connell


Ranger will discuss the One-Zero School of MACVSOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group) in Vietnam as prelude to an upcoming piece.

May 1970 was when Ranger attended the officially-designated "Combat Reconnaissance Course", an innocuous-sounding DD-214 designator for a course which anything but. It was the only Army course ever conducted that had an actual combat mission as a graduation requirement; but that is not solely what distinguishes the 1-0 School.

One-Zero taught its students to perform and to survive while being hunted by superior enemy forces -- it taught its students how to be prey. This is a different thing from the aggressive can-do attitude associated with the combat arms. They were trained NOT to fight, unless running for their lives.

If memory serves, 14 SOG Reconnaissance Teams disappeared from the earth during that war. Teams disappeared because the enemy was so overwhelming while the teams were tight and compact, and not arrayed for action. Additionally, they operated in denied areas. One team member's loss jeopardized the entire group.

This behavior is counter to the civilian's perception of the Infantry, and is difficult even for most soldiers who were not in SOG to grasp.
Many missions were doomed before they were launched. The North Vietnamese Army had trail watchers watching every LZ in the area, so many teams were compromised from the point of insertion. For this reason, Ranger believes that Lt. Murphy's Medal of Honor scenario in Afghanistan resembled the SOG template; it failed because the members of the team were compromised, as was often the case with SOG. They tried to fight when they should have run.

Knowing they would be hunted and trailed by trackers and hounds requires a great deal of reserve, courage and devotion to duty. Ranger has always thought that level of danger to which these teams were exposed unacceptable for a mission; fortunately he has never had to cross that border.

Tomorrow: A requiem for a One-Zero school friend

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Equal Opportunity Equivocator

There's not a dime's worth of difference
between the republicans and Democrats

--George Wallace

Then with the boiler about to explode
from eight years of blather and neglect,
Humphrey's cold-war liberals could have fled
down the ratlines and left the disaster
to whoever inherited it

--The Great Shark Hunt,
Hunter Thompson

Too real is this feeling of make believe
Too real when I feel what my heart
can't conceal
--The Great Pretender, The Platters

Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual
and lost the original black box
they still remembered to use the stones

--The Lottery
, Shirley Jackson


On this not politically-correct Wednesday, Ranger extends his assertion that Obama is George W. Bush in black face to his white bread sidekick, Hillary Rodham Clinton, but in obverse: Ms. Clinton is Condoleeza Rice in white face. As she is the most likely person to replace Joe Biden for term two of Obama's administration, it is a worthy consideration.

Much as Obama emulates the white king, so Clinton channels the black Queen of Mean. Yup, Ranger really said that. What did we get in the 2008 election that met the bar for HOPE or even CHANGE?

Secretary of State Clinton
is in fact more hawkish than was her predecessor in America's leading Equal Opportunity slot. Being a dove her entire life, she must fight harder to play a hawk, which is hard to do when she cannot rock the Neo Matrix coat and boots of the ironically-named Ms. Rice (remember the Kennedy-Lincoln naming coincidences?)

How can we pretend that we have a two-party system when there is not an RCH's difference between the contenders? More precisely, there isn't much difference after they assume the Office; moving in changes everything. Why have elections -- why not just lotteries?

Yesterday, the Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi gave a chart showing big machers like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JPMorgan et. al contributed to George Bush's campaign as well as Barack Obama's, as well as Romney's . . .

It looks like we have choices, but they are all front men for their handlers. Color and shape may differ, but your mileage won't vary; they are all the same under the hood. How can one feel anything but discouraged when an ostensibly liberal Democratic administration has a Secretary of State to the right of a Republican right-wing conservative Christian sabre rattler?

What do you think -- are there simply no options in this plutonomy, or do the people get what they want (and hence, deserve)? Is there better out there?

Or are we destined to live in the Twilight Zone and call it a day?

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Did We Really?

--Pee, Luojie (China Daily)

And my eyes couldn't stand the strain

Of that promised love

All the way from America

--All the Way from America
Joan Armatrading

It is a popular delusion that the government wastes

vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth.

Enormous effort and elaborate planning

are required to waste this much money

--Parliament of Whores
, P. J. O'Rourke

The street game is the only game

the white man can’t control

--American Pimp

If U.S. policy makers would listen strategically to rock-n-roll lyrics, they would realize that promised love is not the same as received love. Further, winning hearts and minds is not the same as a Love Fest, as we have re-learned in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©); even if it were, the results are destined to end up as disastrously.

We have mentioned Peter Van Buren's trenchant comic-tragic book,
We Meant Well, when discussing the tragedy of suicide amongst the ranks. Van Buren, a career Foreign Service officer sent to help administrate a Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT), offers a series of surreal vignettes displaying one man's view of the misled efforts of the State and Military Department in Iraq.

The very title is a challenge: Does invading and occupying a country, destroying its infrastructure and imposing the foreigner's concept of needful activities equate with well-meaning?
The book dovetails well with Ranger's perspective of the PWOT ©, so he will offer some quotes from this fine primer on the failure of counterinsurgency to win hearts and minds.

The players and materiel are dissected rapier-style: KBR contractors are "fat as sheltered ponies"; "The DVDs all came from China. After oil, it seemed like illegal DVD sales made up the other half of the Iraqi economy." The milk episode embodies the entire debacle within a few pages, as a good parable might.

More observations, though each page is quotable,

"The Army and Embassy public relations people ordered the term [triangle of death] embargoed once they wanted us to seem like we were winning."

"The [U.S.] Army held elaborate ceremonies to "gift" the palaces back to the ungrateful Iraqis after they were done with them." "The programs they had initiated reflected months of constantly changing guidance from the Embassy ... To me, these were by and large people aggressively devoted to mediocrity, often achieving it."

"This is what the military would look like without NCOs -- a frat house with guns."

On Iraqis:

"There were Iraqis who worked for us ... our own imported Iraqi Americans. ... Many of them had not lived in Iraq for years yet we used them as cultural advisers. No one will ever know how much of our failure in reconstructing Iraq was caused simply by bad translation and subject matter ignorance, but it would be a decent percentage."

"Now there was literally more money than we could spend ... we wondered among ourselves whether we shouldn't be running a PRT in Detroit or New Orleans instead of Baghdad."

"A Commander could himself approve projects up to $200,000 with almost no technical or policy oversight. ... a 2009 audit ... found the Army could not account for $8.7 Billion in finds."

"Military units were graded on how much cash they spent ... spent meant more kudos on evaluation reports."

This random selection brings to mind the Social Security Administration's mistake with Ranger's benefits causing him to now owe them $10,740. (Their mistake was discussed HERE.)

Situation recap: A 65 y.o. U.S. pensioner who devoted his entire adult working career to the U.S. government and who, from 11 May 11 - Nov 2012 will not be receiving his Social Security benefits. My income will be docked due to their error, but every page of We Meant Well documents examples of fraud, waste and myopic policies that squandered U.S. tax dollars to phenomenal -- criminal -- levels, if the concept of criminality retains any meaning today.

100's of Billions of dollars were thrown down a shit hole, yet my government chicken shits me and others like me with a petty (for them) debt caused by their ineptitude. If we had applied this conservative approach (demanding strict oversight and accountability) to Iraq, we might have achieved something of value, though what that would have been remains undefined. At least, we would not have lost some things of irretrievable cost.

Ranger is torqued that his country busts him for a paltry sum, while his Army and State Department wiped Iraqi asses with newly-minted benjamins. Why embark on a foreign policy dependent upon gaining the hearts and minds of Iraqis? Ranger doesn't care if they love or hate us -- no American soldier's life should be spent on such a meaningless goal.

Our government should focus on its own citizen's hearts, minds and bodily welfare. When one sells love, one is pimping or whoring.
WOT also means "War on Truth", and a war on truth equates well with a reign of terror.

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