RANGER AGAINST WAR: October 2012 <

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Boss Tweed, Florida-Style

 --Manny Francisco (Phillippines)

"It was not your fault that you
got too much Social security money" 
--Quotation from SSA letter to Ranger
Do you think this country
was founded on informed ideas? 
--30 Rock 

Ranger continues the slog through the Social Security Agency (SSA) behemoth, continuing his 19-month effort to get the matter of a $10,000+ erroneous deduction from his earnings resolved.  It was at his most recent meeting in his local SSA that Ranger was possibly subjected to voter coercion, whether known or unbeknownst to the perpetrating agent.

It was a routine visit to try and decipher wildly conflicting letters from the Great Lakes Program Center office (which sounds suspiciously like a training facility for inner-city youth); some indicated a portion of the funds had been remanded to his account, where others thanked him for discharging his "debt".  Actually, the grammar from that last correspondence deserves to be read by a wider audience (adding credence to the perception of the Program Center-as-training facility):

"We have review [sic] our record [sic] an [sic] found that you already refunded the $10,724 back in 2011.  We have removed the overpayment from your record."

What does this mean ... and why did it take until October 2012 to realize this factually untrue statement?  The trudge through the labarythine bowels of the SSA has been wickedly frustrating, but that is not Ranger's point today.

The point pertains to the upcoming Presidential election.  Local SSA Representative Smith told Ranger that he would not be allowed to read or review SSA regulations in their office nor would they provide him copies of the regs pertinent to his case, "until the presidential election is over."

How does the election equate to Ranger's monetary saga with the SSA?  What is the mystical connection between the two?  Ms. Smith claims it is SSA policy, but could it merely be a field office's effort to influence the election by withholding information from one disgruntled voter?  Inquiring minds want to know.

This appears to be illegal withholding of information to a taxpaying citizen based upon the intent of special interests hoping to influence and election.  Why would the two weeks leading up to an election be different from the time before or after?

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Borrowed Time

Gay people here won't come out of the closet
[in Texas] for fear people will think they are Democrats 
--Shrub, Molly Ivans

Bullets change governments
far surer than votes 
--Lord of War (2005)

Our congressman Southerland has hopped on the austerity bus hawked by Republicans from presidential candidate Mitt Romney all the way down the line, and he has done so in the down-home way the locals love, surrounded my mom and girl kids, but the main problem is not the corn pone -- it is that it is a totally disingenuous position in direct opposition to the tenets of our Founding Fathers.

His daughter says that daddy (Southerland) won't allow them in Congress to spend money that they do not have.  It sure sounds good, and it is even fine practice to teach young 'uns who put their pennies in the piggy bank.  People can and should live within their means, and so many of their financials woes might have been avoided by more prudent financial behavior.  But governments are a different beast.

The American Revolution was funded and executed on borrowed money.  The Revolutionary War was fought on deficit spending, though that term was not in vogue.  We borrow to survive; we always have and always will.  Sometimes we are in the black, but often in the red. The current  focus should be on reviving our economy, not cutting spending, which motivates naught in the homeland.

If we borrow money, it should be for growth and not retrenchment. Spending money "we don't have" can lead to growth, if the money is soundly used and provides a good return.  Investment does not equal irresponsible spending.

War spending reaps nothing but loss and destruction, save for the builders of the war machine.  The people cannot eat war.

Note: If The People have their wits about them, the destruction from this week's storm should give them pause regarding the Romney campaign stance of off-handing disaster relief efforts to states and private agencies.  Such disasters require quick, coordinated response; they are national in impact. 

Oh, and they require a National Guard at home and on-station.

Lisa has betting in her blood, and will revise her earlier election forecast based on storm Sandy: Obama gets the bump for acting Presidential and the nation sees itself, if only for a moment, as a union; Obama will score 54% and win a second term. Forward.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Majority of Americans are Racist

An AP poll posted on Slate this Weekend confirms what I wrote this week (Sad Lisa): 51% of Americans have anti-black prejudice, up 3 points from 48% in 2008.

I'm not pleased about it, but I observe it.  I've been called out by various readers for being "backwoods" or insulated for holding such unsatisfactory views, but I'm afraid it's mostly my coastal readers who have the pleasure of living in free-thinking enclaves who are the insulated ones:

Poll: Majority of Americans Are Racist

President Obama could lose an estimated two percentage points of the popular vote due to anti-black attitudes

In the four years since the United States elected the country’s first black president, a majority of Americans express outright prejudice toward blacks. Perhaps even more surprising though is that the numbers have slightly increased since 2008. A full 51 percent of Americans explicitly express anti-black prejudice, up from 48 percent in 2008, according to the Associated Press. When an implicit racial attitudes test is used the number increases to 56 percent, compared to 49 percent four years ago.
.  .  .

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Land of Nod


Our little piece of redneck heaven is probably not so different from your neck of the woods perhaps only in this way alone: Politicians lie.

Media ads here in the Panhandle have our Representative Steve Southerland (R.) accusing his opponent of -- horror or horrors -- supporting Obamacare.  We ask: Is this an indictment?

Did not both the House and Senate approve the bill, and did not the President sign it into law?  Did not the Supreme Court uphold the constitutionality of the law?  Are not congressmen sworn to uphold the law of the land?  Obamacare is the law of the land.

NOTE: For all freshmen Republicans hoping to win votes via posturing for retroactive rescindment of passed legislation:

The way it works in this here democracy is, legislation is presented, debated and then voted upon in a legally constitutional manner.  We -- all of us -- must then accept approved legislation as the law (until and if such a time when the legislation is legally rescinded.)

We understand it is scary to know that your predecessor (Blue Dog Democrat Alan Boyd) rang his own death knell by supporting the bill, and after six terms, the guillotine came down for him.  But you do not get to ride by acting like the one who voted against it, thereby gaining the approval of the local yokels who each cut off his nose to spite his face; it was law before you got here.

Such mindless negative politicking insults the electorate and promotes divisiveness, insulting the democratic spirit of the integrity of the rule of law. Southerland's campaign stresses that he "takes care of people" (and what politician would say otherwise?), but how is opposing universal access to healthcare "taking care of people"?

So why would your opponent's support of the law be a negative thing?

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Torture and the Myth of Never Again

This fine piece on sentenced torture whistleblower John Kiriakou was written by friend and fellow blogger Peter Van Buren, and published on his site -- We Meant Well:

Torture and the Myth of Never Again: The Persecution of John Kiriakou

John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, pleaded guilty October 23, 2012 to leaking the identity of one of the agency’s covert operatives to a reporter and will be sentenced to more than two years in prison. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped charges that had been filed under the World War I-era Espionage Act. They also dropped a count of making false statements. 

Under the plea, all sides agreed to a prison term of 2 1/2 years. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema noted the term was identical to that imposed on Scooter Libby, the chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was convicted in a case where he was accused of leaking information that compromised the covert identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, though Libby’s sentence was commuted by then-President George W. Bush.

Here is what military briefers like to call BLUF, the Bottom Line Up Front: no one except John Kiriakou is being held accountable for America’s torture policy. And John Kiriakou didn’t torture anyone, he just blew the whistle on it.

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away

A long time ago, with mediocre grades and no athletic ability, I applied for a Rhodes Scholarship. I guess the Rhodes committee at my school needed practice, and I found myself undergoing a rigorous oral examination. Here was the final question they fired at me, probing my ability to think morally and justly: You are a soldier. Your prisoner has information that might save your life. The only way to obtain it is through torture. What do you do?

At that time, a million years ago in an America that no longer exists, my obvious answer was never to torture, never to lower oneself, never to sacrifice one’s humanity and soul, even if it meant death. My visceral reaction: to become a torturer was its own form of living death. (An undergrad today, after the “enhanced interrogation” Bush years and in the wake of 24, would probably detail specific techniques that should be employed.) My advisor later told me my answer was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise spectacularly unsuccessful interview.

It is now common knowledge that between 2001 and about 2007 the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) sanctioned acts of torture committed by members of the Central Intelligence Agency and others. The acts took place in secret prisons (“black sites”) against persons detained indefinitely without trial. They were described in detail and explicitly authorized in a series of secret torture memos drafted by John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury, senior lawyers in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. (Office of Legal Counsel attorneys technically answer directly to the DOJ, which is supposed to be independent from the White House, but obviously was not in this case.) Not one of those men, or their Justice Department bosses, has been held accountable for their actions.

Some tortured prisoners were even killed by the CIA. Attorney General Eric Holder announced recently that no one would be held accountable for those murders either. “Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths,” he said, “the Department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Jose Rodriguez, a senior CIA official, admitted destroying videotapes of potentially admissible evidence, showing the torture of captives by operatives of the U.S. government at a secret prison thought to be located at a Vietnam-War-era airbase in Thailand. He was not held accountable for deep-sixing this evidence, nor for his role in the torture of human beings.

John Kiriakou Alone

The one man in the whole archipelago of America’s secret horrors facing prosecution is former CIA agent John Kiriakou. Of the untold numbers of men and women involved in the whole nightmare show of those years, only one may go to jail.

And of course, he didn’t torture anyone.

The charges against Kiriakou allege that in answering questions from reporters about suspicions that the CIA tortured detainees in its custody, he violated the Espionage Act, once an obscure World War I-era law that aimed at punishing Americans who gave aid to the enemy. It was passed in 1917 and has been the subject of much judicial and Congressional doubt ever since. Kiriakou is one of six government whistleblowers who have been charged under the Act by the Obama administration. From 1917 until Obama came into office, only three people had ever charged in this way.

The Obama Justice Department claims the former CIA officer “disclosed classified information to journalists, including the name of a covert CIA officer and information revealing the role of another CIA employee in classified activities.”

The charges result from a CIA investigation. That investigation was triggered by a filing in January 2009 on behalf of detainees at Guantanamo that contained classified information the defense had not been given through government channels, and by the discovery in the spring of 2009 of photographs of alleged CIA employees among the legal materials of some detainees at Guantanamo. According to one description, Kiriakou gave several interviews about the CIA in 2008. Court documents charge that he provided names of covert Agency officials to a journalist, who allegedly in turn passed them on to a Guantanamo legal team. The team sought to have detainees identify specific CIA officials who participated in their renditions and torture. Kiriakou is accused of providing the identities of CIA officers that may have allowed names to be linked to photographs.

Many observers believe however that the real “offense” in the eyes of the Obama administration was quite different. In 2007, Kiriakou became a whistleblower. He went on record as the first (albeit by then, former) CIA official to confirm the use of waterboarding of al-Qaeda prisoners as an interrogation technique, and then to condemn it as torture. He specifically mentioned the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah in that secret prison in Thailand. Zubaydah was at the time believed to be an al-Qaeda leader, though more likely was at best a mid-level operative. Kiriakou also ran afoul of the CIA over efforts to clear for publication a book he had written about the Agency’s counterterrorism work. He maintains that his is instead a First Amendment case in which a whistleblower is being punished, that it is a selective prosecution to scare government insiders into silence when they see something wrong.

If Kiriakou had actually tortured someone himself, even to death, there is no possibility that he would be in trouble. John Kiriakou is 48. He is staring down a long tunnel at a potential sentence of up to 45 years in prison because in the national security state that rules the roost in Washington, talking out of turn about a crime has become the only possible crime.

Welcome to the Jungle

John Kiriakou and I share common attorneys through the Government Accountability Project, and I’ve had the chance to talk with him on any number of occasions. He is soft-spoken, thoughtful, and quick to laugh at a bad joke. When the subject turns to his case, and the way the government has treated him, however, things darken. His sentences get shorter and the quick smile disappears.
He understands the role his government has chosen for him: the head on a stick, the example, the message to everyone else involved in the horrors of post-9/11 America. Do the country’s dirty work, kidnap, kill, imprison, torture, and we’ll cover for you. Destroy the evidence of all that and we’ll reward you. But speak out, and expect to be punished.

Like so many of us who have served the U.S. government honorably only to have its full force turned against us for an act or acts of conscience, the pain comes in trying to reconcile the two images of the U.S. government in your head. It’s like trying to process the actions of an abusive father you still want to love.

One of Kiriakou’s representatives, attorney Jesselyn Radack, told me, “It is a miscarriage of justice that John Kiriakou is the only person indicted in relation to the Bush-era torture program. The historic import cannot be understated. If a crime as egregious as state-sponsored torture can go unpunished, we lose all moral standing to condemn other governments’ human rights violations. By ‘looking forward, not backward’ we have taken a giant leap into the past.”

One former CIA covert officer, who uses the pen name “Ishmael Jones,” lays out a potential defense for Kiriakou: “Witness after witness could explain to the jury that Mr. Kiriakou is being selectively prosecuted, that his leaks are nothing compared to leaks by Obama administration officials and senior CIA bureaucrats. Witness after witness could show the jury that for any secret material published by Mr. Kiriakou, the books of senior CIA bureaucrats contain many times as much. Former CIA chief George Tenet wrote a book in 2007, approved by CIA censors, that contains dozens of pieces of classified information — names and enough information to find names.”
If only it was really that easy.

Never Again

For at least six years it was the policy of the United States of America to torture and abuse its enemies or, in some cases, simply suspected enemies. It has remained a U.S. policy, even under the Obama administration, to employ “extraordinary rendition” — that is, the sending of captured terror suspects to the jails of countries that are known for torture and abuse, an outsourcing of what we no longer want to do.

Techniques that the U.S. hanged men for at Nuremburg and in post-war Japan were employed and declared lawful. To embark on such a program with the oversight of the Bush administration, learned men and women had to have long discussions, with staffers running in and out of rooms with snippets of research to buttress the justifications being so laboriously developed. The CIA undoubtedly used some cumbersome bureaucratic process to hire contractors for its torture staff. The old manuals needed to be updated, psychiatrists consulted, military survival experts interviewed, training classes set up.
Videotapes were made of the torture sessions and no doubt DVDs full of real horror were reviewed back at headquarters. Torture techniques were even reportedly demonstrated to top officials inside the White House. Individual torturers who were considered particularly effective were no doubt identified, probably rewarded, and sent on to new secret sites to harm more people.

America just didn’t wake up one day and start slapping around some Islamic punk. These were not the torture equivalents of rogue cops. A system, a mechanism, was created. That we now can only speculate about many of the details involved and the extent of all this is a tribute to the thousands who continue to remain silent about what they did, saw, heard about, or were associated with. Many of them work now at the same organizations, remaining a part of the same contracting firms, the CIA, and the military. Our torturers.

What is it that allows all those people to remain silent? How many are simply scared, watching what is happening to John Kiriakou and thinking: not me, I’m not sticking my neck out to see it get chopped off. They’re almost forgivable, even if they are placing their own self-interest above that of their country. But what about the others, the ones who remain silent about what they did or saw or aided and abetted in some fashion because they still think it was the right thing to do? The ones who will do it again when another frightened president asks them to? Or even the ones who enjoyed doing it?

The same Department of Justice that is hunting down the one man who spoke against torture from the inside still maintains a special unit, 60 years after the end of WWII, dedicated to hunting down the last few at-large Nazis. They do that under the rubric of “never again.” The truth is that same team needs to be turned loose on our national security state. Otherwise, until we have a full accounting of what was done in our names by our government, the pieces are all in place for it to happen again. There, if you want to know, is the real horror.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sad Lisa


Maybe it's premature to borrow Cat Steven's song title.  It's spoiled sport to say "I told you so". The United States may be post-courtesy and post-propriety -- its own unique manner of being "post-Puritanical", as the erosion of the superficial reveals our asperity -- but it is not yet post-racial.

The Presidential election of 2008 should have been a runaway for the Democrats; the people were tired of the failed wars and the abysmal economy.  Because the party took a chance on candidate Obama, it was not a runaway, though it was a win.  Today, many seem to have all but forgotten what party delivered us into the chasm, and they are ready to swing back, for visceral reasons.  If Romney wins, it will not be the 1% who elect him.

Because it was President Obama who presided over a country in duress, it is he who will be blamed for not turning it around (a trick probably no president could have accomplished in one term.)  Because it was he, he will be judged doubly harshly.  Because he has actually ascended the American throne of power, he has stupefied and angered those with entrenched prejudice, those who think white men speak for them (even when they don't.)

Listening to Cat Stevens last night brought the thought to mind.  Despite his unquestioned excellence as a musician, when Stevens converted to Islam in 1977 (becoming "Yusuf Islam"), he endured no end of disdain.  No doubt part of that was spawned from fans who wanted Cat back, but there is also no doubt that disdain and intolerance of The Other played a part, the fear that such a great guy had been so readily "brainwashed".

Many of you voted President Obama into office, but you may not be able to keep him there, and that thought does not please me.  One of the deciding factors may be because his race has put a stick in the hornet's nest of latent American racism, and it is easy to lump our current failures upon his perceived inabilities.  For some people, their disappointment is independent of race, but not for a great many others who see Obama's background as a community organizer as a pander to special interests, which means, not them.

If he wins, it will be in the sort of squeaker John F. Kennedy pulled out over Nixon. (Per our own experience with voting here in Florida, if you're the distrusting sort, beware -- the Romney's own an interest in a voting machine company.)  Some will say Obama deserves to lose based upon his performance, but surely this is a case where there is no magic fairy in the wings to make things any better.  Things are already very tough for the average American, and further compassionate austerity measures as promised by the beaming, lying Romney will only further harshen the lives of the average citizen.

Unfortunately, per usual, our eyes are taken elsewhere, to topics that do not directly affect us, and the charlatans perform their legerdemain as if to a metronome.  And the people, those who listen, sit awash in a welter of lies and bad information.

Ultimately, as they always do, they will default to their primitive calculus that will produce for them no matter how uneasily, at least the ersatz image of a President to take them through the next term.  Each voter's ability to imagine depends upon how far evolved he is from his received self-image; most people cleave to those images that proved at least the semblance of security, and that usually means someone who looks and sounds like them, no mater how marginally.

What the people now know most is, it will be a rocky next four years; they will all be, as we have become acclimated to that expectation.  They hope the price of gas will not rise too much, but they know it will spike and fall in response to the vagueries of the trading markets.  Even many of those with conviction are willing to let their environmental sensitivities erode, a bit, if it means the oil will keep flowing, petroleum addicts that we are, and like addicts everywhere, the pushers do not care that we get better.

Our science is reduced to a shell game, global warming, a mere theory.  Of course, even if the harbingers like this year's massive crop failures turn out to be a one-off, why not prepare by putting on the petro brakes and really trying for a shift?  Instead, the 50% (more?) of Americans who do not wish to be weaned (who have had too much taken from them already) cry out that coal and oil can fuel us for, why, the next 100 years!  At least that.  And somehow, when they turn of the lights and nod off, they feel better with that thought.

Here are the betting margins from the South (and you should not dismiss this as being a representation of solely the "Ricky Bobby" South), where even (and especially) the power elite will muse on game day (that's football), "I wonder if our niggers will beat yours?"  It may be the older generation which says it aloud, but the tension remains in their scions.

Many have opened their hearts after a lifetime of seeing the inequities, but many, too have fallen victim to the equal opportunity policies they once championed.  Changing one's bedrock thought, the thing that allows one to maintain his identity in a tumultuous life, is a difficult thing.

Hollywood is doing its part, but some resent the patronization.  We now have Latina and black glamor with J-Lo and Halle Berry and all who have followed, and stories like Monster's Ball.  This is not Rita Hayworth (Margarita Carmen Cansino) anglicizing her look by dying her hair and doing electrolysis on her hairline  -- this is a celebration of otherness.  However, it has all passed relatively quickly, and the anguish portended by Thomas Jefferson still perdures, namely, that slavery will be the burden of this nation.  So it is.

Last week I read a book review of the last known lynching in America which took place in 1934 Marianna, a little town to the West of Tallahassee.  Friends have shared with me stories of being invited to lynchings to the East (in Live Oak), and of the KKK parades down main street.  The people who share these stories have opened their hearts and grown to one degree or another, but by their own admission, their fellows have not.

My mother moved to Miami in the early 1960's and was amazed to see "WHITE" and "BLACK" signs over the washing machines in the laundromats.  She thought, "How neat -- they keep some washers for white clothes, some for darks." Then someone told her the truth: The signs were for the color of the people, not the wash.

Why do people hate?  I have no answer, but it perdures like the hardest things in nature.  Nations (people) have always warred over land to which they feel entitled, deciding the current inhabitants too stupid or venal to be allowed to continue.  That disdain is based in long-held prejudices based upon religion (ironically), race or creed.  Our story of the Hatfields and the McCoys provides a sad slogfest embodying the persistence of hatred, it's power to drive even mindless self-destruction.

Self-destruction.  There is something seductive and dark about the impulse: If I can't have it, you can't either.  Some people see Obama as Other, Romney as Self, even though it is not remotely true.

These people will not be able to see Obama as one of them, as an American, and they will vote against their interests in order to dislodge the Interloper, as they see it.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Liberal Do-Gooders

--the hideous 1976 AMC Matador Coupe,
the beginning of the end

The atom bombs are piling up in the factories,
the police are prowling through the cities,
the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers,
but the earth is still going round the sun
--Some Thoughts on the Common Toad, 
George Orwell 

Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
And whatever comes our way 
--Born to be Wild, Steppenwolf

Just an ironic aside:

In last night's third Presidential debate, candidate Mitt Romney said he did not want to see car companies fail, giving by way of explanation the fact that his father George once headed one.

Mr. Romney the elder left the helm of American Motor Company (AMC) in 1962 to become governor of Michigan leaving his his successor, Roy Abernathy, to compete with the Big Three.  But I especially liked this description of the typical AMC customer:

From a book reviewed in Esquire ("Cool Cars Nobody Wants") author Alan Wellikoff describes the 1974-75 AMC Matador as heralding the car company's inexorable decline:

"long considered the automaker to geeks, American Motors began its slow decline, we believe, when the liberal do-gooders who made up its core market began earning enough money to buy Scandinavian cars."

It is hard to make the leap from the Matador to Scandinavian sensibility, and amusing to consider that the senior Mr. Romney was once the pied piper of "liberal do-good" style.  The author of the Cool Car piece articulates the crux of the biscuit, really: When your liberal do-gooders move up and out into that Scan style, your home-grown products are sunk. 

Who would have known that Scan design from the likes if IKEA would one day be a Chinese stepchild?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Peace Train

An MQ-9 Reaper, a hunter-killer surveillance UAV

All our times have come
Here but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the reaper 
--Don't Fear the Reaper, 
Blue Öyster Cult

Now I've been crying lately,
thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating,
why can't we live in bliss?
--Peace Train, Cat Stevens

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Across the River, III

--AP/Getty file photo, 10.6.12

I think we should remove ourselves
from Afghanistan as quickly as we can.
I just think we're killing the kids that don't need to die
--Congressman Bill Young (R - FL) 

The United States will always do the right thing --
when all other possibilities have been exhausted 
--Winston Churchill
[Note, per Rep. Young's quotation: Some rare times a Floridian will get things right. Staff Sergeant Matt Sitton wrote his Rep. Bill Young June 2012 about the dire trajectory of military operations as he saw it in Afghanistan (The Soldiers Who Don't Need to Die); he concluded, "Thank you again for allowing soldiers to voice their opinion. If anything, please pray for us."  SSG Sitton was later killed in action, and Rep. Young decided to speak up.]

The above AP photo heading the news item on the most recent two Special Forces troops killed by insurgents in Afghanistan shows another danger area which is a trail or a dirt road.

The troops are bunched up and are a prime target; following normal lines of drift can get you killed.  There is not all around security and the troops are on their knees rather than dispersing and forming a hasty perimeter.  This is a potentially deadly mistake in patrolling technique, reflecting criminally poor training training and execution at squad level.

A shooter with a Dragon Soviet semi auto sniper rifle or (X)M21 system could render this team toast; ditto if the trail is rigged for explosion -- a Claymore or light machine gun would do the same.

This is strange behavior for Special Operations Soldiers; it is exactly the same as that exhibited by a recent group of young, drunk AIT Infantry soldiers on a balcony of a Columbus, Georgia motel.

Except, despite the bars on the businesses behind the motel, the AIT Soldiers were not in a war zone.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Perspectival View

--Obama Squared

Everything is relative (fr. Lew Rockwell).

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Beanie Babies

 Vengeance is mine; 
I will repay, saith the Lord 
--Romans 12:19 (KJV)

In the political circus we call nomination season, Vice Presidential nominee "I'm very fit and Catholic" Paul Ryan ended his first debate with VP Joe Biden with a comment on his 7-week-old Beanie Baby, implying that even the life of a bean is sacred.

Ranger wonders why an avowed Catholic would have a 7-week-old fetal ultrasound unless it was to discern any early possible problems with the fetus, and wouldn't that open the possibility of medical abortion of grievously damaged or non-viable beans?  Or is viewing the ultrasound just feel-good entertainment for self-involved pro-lifers? 

The same week a YouGov.com survey showed 69% of Americans favor assassinating know terrorists; 41% approve of using torture on suspected terrorists (Torture Creep).  Interesting that assassination is acceptable to a larger portion of respondents than is torture -- could this have something to do with the queasiness of facing the consequences (the tortured), versus the comfortable finality provided by death?

Glenn Greenwald notes, 

"It is often noted that the Catholic Church stridently opposes reproductive rights. But it is almost never noted that the Church just as stridently opposes US militarism and its economic policies that continuously promote corporate cronyism over the poor (Martha Raddatz and the Faux Objectivity of Journalists)."  

Our candidates all claim to be religious and presumably moral men (two Catholic, one Mormon, one, a pastiche) for whom assassination is acceptable while abortion gives them the willies.  Perhaps for them and the rest of the 69%, death by Hellfire missile is more moral than an abortionist's curette; it certainly sounds more apocalyptic.

So, Americans like Ryan oppose abortion, but are o.k. with blasting terrorists (=fully formed fetuses) into the great beyond.  What is missing from the debates and the party platforms are discussions of torture and assassination, and a coherence with the feel-good bean comments. 

The U.S. Army Military Police school used to teach that all life is sacred to an officer of the law, including that of the perpetrator. It is a clear and unambiguous statement, and forms the basis of federal law enforcement policy and doctrine.  It is not muddied by terms like "suspected perpetrator". 

Simply, the life of a terrorist is to be respected in the United States legal system.  But grasping this idea would require an honesty and intellectual rigor which has succumbed to visceral reactions.  Instead, the U.S. body politic operates as a blob of amoebic protoplasm, reacting to the light by lurching away.

How can a journo like Raddatz or politicians like Biden or Ryan or the lot of them look themselves in the mirror and imagine themselves to have done well by the people they supposedly serve?

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Blaze of Glory

Look around, leaves are brown
There's a patch of snow on the ground 
--Hazy Shade of Winter,
 Simon and Garfunkel

We did not get an "OP-LP" post up this weekend, but in its place Jeff Scher's "Leaf and Death", perfectly set to a 1929 recording of “My Heart is Saying”.  Enjoy a couple of minutes spent admiring those heralds of the cold days ahead.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Hamster Wheel of Despair

 Walkin' like a one man army 
Fightin' with the shadows in your head 
Livin' up the same old moment 
Knowin' you’d be better off instead 
If you could only 
Say what you need to say 
--Say What You Need to Say, 
John Mayer 

The word is a force;
it is the power you have to express and communicate,
to think, and thereby to create the events in your life…
But like a sword with two edges,
your word can create the most beautiful dream,
or your word can destroy everything around you 
--The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz 

A prudent question is one-half 
of wisdom 
--Sir Frances Bacon

It is hard for me to summon up much interest in the upcoming Presidential elections -- this from one who was once most enthusiastic and involved in the whole campaigning shtick.  But it was hard to resist taking a peek at last night's Veep debate, and I was rewarded for my curiosity by a feeling of being intellectually sullied.

Everything about the event disappointed, from the vapidity of the moderator's questions to the insincerity and alternating inanity of the participant's responses.  My country's real color travails were buried under faux "painful" non-topics like abortion, and the rebuilding needs of other nations who do not love us, but love our vanity for the largess it funnels their way.

Ranger said that he understood from the debate that Vice President Biden had expressed that since there was no more mission in Afghanistan, that we should pull out.  While I heard Biden express the former, I did not hear the latter. One may not infer anything, especially from those who have been less than forthright in the past; especially, not from a politician.  One must be immaculate with one's word, and brave enough to ask the questions.

I winced as Joe Biden rolled his eyes in the dismissive gesture which helped Al Gore Lose a debate and an election.  In the United States it does not matter that your foe is an idiot or disingenuous -- we are a nation that defends one's right to be wrong.  In a better world, one's power of reason would surmount any feelings of revulsion or disdain.

Understood that Biden is fighting to appear viable in a world where "D'oh" suffices as a rejoinder; still, it was sad to not hear him counter Martha Raddatz's hokum question about abortion by putting her and it in its place: Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, and we are a law-abiding nation. Period. Biden's and Ryan's perspective are non-starters.

Instead, we were treated to Ryan's pablum about watching "The Bean's" heartbeat during the sonogram, and Biden's attempt at Catholic parity with Ryan.  How refreshing it would have been to turn from the politics of vested interests to those of a nation in great need -- the true domain of The Executive.

Whatever happened to the concept of the Presidential debate?  Going back 52 years to Nixon and Kennedy, ones hears actual topics of national import being discussed.  True, Nixon may have lost due to his ominous 5 o'clock shadow, but still, the candidate's rhetoric did not fail.
Succumbing to the politics of appearance in 2012, Ryan appears to me, a zombie.  As in Night of the Living Dead, all he and his sort need do is perdure; theirs is the future.  There is something appallingly messianic in the posture of such ones.

I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  Everybody likes him a little salvation.

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 --substitute any Administration here

She's a bad drunk
She's a good time girl
She has an illegitimate child
So she'll be sticking 'round town for a while
She is America 
--American Miracle, Rust Belt Music

While the people charged with interviewing our President-to-be think the woes of the Middle East, Asia and and abortion rights are the main issues of concern for Americans, this blip appears in the State section of USA Today:

The Cleveland city council reported it could take 22 years and $4.5 billion to clear all 8,500 vacated houses that need to be razed in the city. The price tag includes the cost of keeping the properties free from vandalism (The Plain Dealer).

Ohio, like so many states, suffers from a form of MPD; Dennis Kucinich would never be elected by the conservative Western farm belt, who sees its problems as differing from those of the city-dwellers.  Winning elections should be about representing and governing the entire electorate, and not just those most likely to vote for you or to vote at all.  Instead, we all know the pull of the vested interests.

Being from Cleveland, the 22-year estimate seems rosy; the house in the slums are not getting any newer, and the maintenance is not getting better.  Why does neither party espouse a Federal reclamation project to destroy these homes while salvaging recycled items of value?  Copper, bricks and aged hard wood do not grow on trees.

The United States transfers $300 billion from the public coffers to the various civilian contractors providing security alone in shit holes around the world.  Why not spend our hard-earned, newly-minted tax dollars on our own U.S rust belt shit holes?  Cleveland's plight is that of every Rust Belt city in America, an everyday slog not called "hope".

Ten steps above the existence of most rust belt denizens is the life led by most graduates of Ohio's nearby Bowling Green State University, but even their latest alumnae newsletter (Fall '12) sounded the alarm of another ecosystem in it's death throes:

Walking toward the shores of Lake Erie during the summer, it is easy to imagine visiting a sparkling tropical ocean. The turquoise water glimmers in the sun as gentle waves lap at the white beach. A capricious breeze carries the animated sounds of birds chirping among the reeds and grasses.

Upon closer approach, however, it becomes clear that all may not be as sublime as first envisioned. Lake Erie water should be a deep, dark blue — the turquoise hue is actually the result of toxic blue-green algae blooms. The white beach is the effect of invasive zebra mussel shells that litter Lake Erie shores. The aggressive flowering rush and other invaders are overtaking native reeds and grasses, home to hundreds of bird species.

Lake Erie is the 12th largest lake in the world and the most biologically productive of the five Great Lakes, which contain 20 percent of the planet’s surface freshwater and supply drinking water to more than 35 million people. ...

"Sublime" ... not a word Ranger often associates with much of Ohio, but his state is not alone in its quagmire.

Does Mr. Romney or Mr. Obama have a plan for Ohio, beyond offering its residents fallow, puerile hope or the insulting kick in the teeth that is the conservative's "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" claptrap?

No, we did not think so.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Across the River, Part II

 --Jungle Warfare Training Center at JWTC 
(Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa) 

When we're on the march we march single file,
far enough apart so that one shot
can't go through two men
--Major Robert Rogers (1759)

This post is the follow-on to "Across the River".

First, the winner of "Across the River" contest: ANON Anon, please send us your mailing address [to: admin-at-rangeragainstwar-dot-com] and we will post your prize to you. (FDChief wins Honorable Mention hands down, but we figured his knowledge is so encyclopedic his library so full that would already have the prize book.)

Ranger chose the photo for critique because it was so Hollywood.  (Above is a similar photo from the magazine, "Special Forces -- America's Elite.")

The main failure was the dispersion of the soldiers: One booby-trapped 81 mm mortar round would take out three men.  After all of the IED deaths in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), while do our men still bunch up and present a valuable target outline?

If this is a combat patrol, the troops are traveling light, and their weapons discipline is negligible.

Personal preference: I do not like gloves even in a jungle -- what do you do when someone gets wounded?  Where is the Individual Combat Compress?  Where are the night vision goggles? (Didn't we learn anything in Mogadishu?)  It is correct procedure to carry the devices even if it is a daytime action since becoming pinned down and fighting at night may become an eventuality forced upon a patrol by an enemy action.

Further, it seems ridiculous to have a $1,500 ACOG optic sight on a battle rifle when it is used at ranges less than 75 meters -- do these troops not feel proficient in close quarters combat?  Do they not use instinctive shooting?

Why does the lead trooper not have his finger in a ready-to-fire position?  Why is his weapon pointed away from his visual sweep?  Where are their grenades?  Radios?

There is much to this topic, and it is difficult to make comments from a simple photo.  But even civilians know that bad things happen to slack soldiers when crossing water -- think Bridge on the River Kwai, Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far, Band of Brothers, etc.  Simply, a water obstacle is always a danger area and must be treated as such.

The photo from the new Special Forces magazine depicting small unit tactical skills is abominable:

  • There is no all-around security
  • No Tailgunner
  • No dispersion
  • No staggered dispersion
  • One round would get them all

When the Kachin Rangers, Merrill's Marauders or Carlson's Raiders bunched up crossing rivers, they had far security and were using speed to lessen the danger.  Why would the Jungle Warfare Center teach soldiers to bunch up, as in this photo?

Have we lost our basic soldiering skills? If our Special Operations Command types ignore the old rules then we should reevaluate what the word "Special" signifies.

This post outlining the importance of enlisting one's skills when crossing danger areas may be an exercise in futility, but it was done in order to keep Major Rogers from turning over in his grave.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

License to Kill: Part II

 Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama becaus
he was more energetic in distorting the significance
of their miniscule differences
--Robert Scheer

 Since when do we have to back our President,
or should we, when the President is proposing 
an unconstitutional act
--Wayne Morris (D-OR)  

The issue of gun control parallels those of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), Counterinsurgency and nation building. Throw in the economy, unemployment and immigration, too.  The similarities are both constitutional and perceptional.

We spend billions of dollars for intelligence to guide us, and proceed to not employ the data in intelligent ways; emotions trump rationale.  Emotions keep us in thrall to a Big Brother (fill in the blank: government; medical system; etc.)

The statistics on gun control are confusing as the players have an interest in obfuscating what should be simple facts.  Ditto the other areas of concern.  The National Rifle Association, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, Department of Justice, anti- and pro-gun lobbies all utilize agit-prop to the limits of their budgets.  Along with a complicit media, the citizens are left unable to ascertain the facts which might lead to a reasoned position.

Our understanding is constrained by the quality of the input received; we only know what we are told, and that is seldom exclusively based in objective reality.  Because I lack all of the facts, I cannot make an intelligent estimate of any given situation.

Just as no one can prove that George W. Bush's presidential policies were idiotic (though surely criminal), nor can we verify the logic of our gun control protocol.  None of the vested interests are willing to provide un-spun data.

The only reasonable position in such a quagmire is that of the skeptic.


Monday, October 08, 2012

License to Kill

 The personal is the political
--Carol Hanisch

That second dose of soma had raised
a quite impenetrable wall between
the actual universe and their minds 
--Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

A few additional thoughts on the recent mass killing in Aurora, Colorado (Spree Killers follow-on):

The main question that should arise from such events is not, "Why are we so well-armed?" but rather, "Why are we so violent?

From that compelling and inscrutable question to some particulars, the answers to which have also been kept opaque.

[1]  News accounts say shooter Holmes  possessed "explosives", but give no details.  There are allusions to "fire works" rigged as booby traps, but fireworks are not "explosive devices"; fireworks and gunpowder (propellants) are not even close to being explosives, so why the hyperbole?

This crazy could have done just as much damage with his shotgun or pistol alone, yet the press fronts the assault rifle angle, adding to and exploiting the mystique of a tragic situation.

[2] It is reported that Holmes possessed a "gas canister" but what exactly was this cannister?

[3] If Holmes was kitted out in body armor and helmet, then why did he not engage the police in a gun fight? Why wear armor to kill soft targets?

[4] Holmes' AR-15 assault rifle jammed, preventing him from emptying its 100-round magazine. Ranger consistently writes that people who use hicap magazines are amateurs, and this situation bears this out.

If 100-round magazines were reliable than the military would use them.  Losers like Holmes do not know this fact.

[5] The Denver Post reported that the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) that expired in 2004 would have prevented the sale of the AR-15 rifle used in the shooting, and the 100-round drum magazine attached to it.  In fact, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban is a cruel hoax played upon the American people -- there has never been a viable assault weapons ban.

The Executive Order (under George H.W. Bush) banned only the import of assault rifles.  Additionally, assault rifles are like pornography in that they both defy description and logic in U.S. Code.  Until 1994 there was no assault weapons definition in U.S. Statutes.  They were still produced domestically.

The 1994-2004 AWB was a cosmetic ban only which did NOT remove AR-type rifles from the marketplace; manufacturers simply removed the telescoping stocks, sometimes pistol grips, bayonet studs, flash hiders and grenade launching capabilities.  (Incidentally, assault rifles historically were by definition selective fire, which means "auto-semi-or safe"; U.S. law ignores this fact.)

The 1994 AWB applied only to the citizenry, and not to police or security agencies, a bit of hypocrisy.  As well, the AWB did not remove "kill your neighbor" weapons from gun shops, so the law did not do much to keep us citizens "safe" from weapons harm.

The usually incendiary William Saletan of Slate online wrote that "Someone pulling a firearm on Holmes could have triggered an even wilder shooting spree," a totally useless bit of baseless conjecture.  A trained gunman with a concealed carry permit (CCW) could have neutralized the gunman.  Or not.

We cannot know since it did not happen.  However, a cinema showing a midnight film not equipped with an off-duty police presence for security detail is a real failure, with a real tragic outcome.

The AWB of 1994 was ineffective in terms of reducing gun-related crime.  Historically, the AR15-type weapons constitute less than 2% of gun crime statistics, so it is hard to understand the argument against black rifles.  They can be had for $200 and are cheap and prolific; the cheap SKS rifles are not assault weapons by U.S. standards, anyway -- they just look the part.

It is the ubiquity of cheap weapons which is the key to gun control, since most criminals cannot afford expensive weapons like the AR-15, at $1,200 to $3,000.  If they could afford fancy guns they would be collectors, and not criminals

Again the question, not "Why are we so well-armed?" but rather, "Why are we so violent?" As on the national, so on the personal level.

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Sunday, October 07, 2012

Tree of Liberty

Since when do we have to back our president, or should we,
when the President is proposing an unconstitutional act?
--Wayne Morris (D-OR) 

But hear, O ye swains, 'tis a tale most profane,
How all the tyrannical powers,
Kings, Commons and Lords, are uniting amain,
To cut down this guardian of ours;
From the east to the west blow the trumpet to arms,
Through the land let the sound of it flee,
Let the far and the near, all unite with a cheer,
In defence of our Liberty Tree 
--Liberty Tree, Thomas Paine 

"Expecting Deltas to know what liberty is!
And now expecting them to understand Othello
My good boy!"
--Brave New World, Aldous Huxley 

It is difficult to describe the concept of "liberty", but the United States began with the symbol of a strong tree to denote the concept: Firmly rooted, needing water and nourishment in order to grow and withstand the winds of time.  A tree, nonetheless, which may sway and not be uprooted.

This got us thinking: What liberties do we actually possess?  Are liberty and freedom the same thing?

Do we possess liberty and freedom as a result of democracy, or are they by-products of capitalism?  Are they pre-requisites of capitalism, or is it a reciprocity?  Or are systems like "democracy" and "capitalism" limiting factors on our intrinsic liberty and freedom?

Can liberty and freedom be "rights of man" alone, or need they be enforced by government or religious fiat?  Rousseau may have imagined a romantic "natural man" who answers to and for himself, but is that possible or even desirable within a society?

Are democracy and capitalism synonymous? Does democracy stymy capitalism or enhance it, and to what degree, either?

But back to the tree.  It is common to see a strong old tree wrapped in parasitic vines, some of which strangle the tree outright, some which harbor pests ultimately deadly to the tree.  These vines must be dug out from the roots, and the vines chain sawed from around the tree if it is to live.

It may be idealistic to maintain a non-judgmental, all-inclusive state ethos, but for the sake of maintaining a heritable civilization, that idealism may not be possible.