RANGER AGAINST WAR: December 2012 <

Monday, December 31, 2012

No Taps for Ty

 Ah, but you who philosophize
disgrace and criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now's the time for your tears 
--The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carol, 
Bob Dylan 

He died drunk early one mornin' 
Alone in the land he fought to save 
Two inches of water in a lonely ditch 
Was a grave for Ira Hayes 
--Ira Hayes, Johnny Cash 

Our obituary for 2012 will be in the form of a requiem for a newly dead former Marine, Ty Ziegel.

Writing newspaper obits, one quickly comes to understand that all deaths are the same.  "He worked for ___________; he was a member of __________ church and union; he is survived by ____________."  Were this a standard obituary, that would do, but we are going to remember Ty Ziegel, the profoundly combat disfigured Marine about whom we wrote four years ago.

Ty died 26 Dec 2012, almost eight years to the day after he was wounded while on a routine patrol during his 2nd Iraq tour, when a suicide bomber blew up near his truck. Ziegel underwent 50 operations and a 19-month recovery

The grotesquely disfigured Ziegel was feted by the press for his soon-to-be failed marriage to his high school sweetheart; photographer Nina Berman won the World Press Photo competition for portraiture in 2006 for her series on Ziegel.  "Love overcomes all" was the hopeful theme.

Ziegel died after Christmas in Metamora, Illinois, after falling on ice outside of a bar.  Cause of death has not been declared, though one of two small online newspaper notices mentioned the autopsy showed that he had an enlarged heart.  In a perfunctory 12.28.12 news story in a Central Illinois newspaper, his mother and father are quoted:

"He said, 'I look like an alien,' and I said, 'Well, yeah, you kind of do.  You know?' said mom Becky [sic] "But he still had his dimples; he still had that twinkle in his eye."
"It didn't bother him, the grocery list of injuries he had," added his father Jeffrey Ziegel.  It didn't phase him a bit." [sic]

The embedded video link in the story is broken; Tyler Ziegel's Wikipedia page has been taken down.

Ty's spirit probably began its dissolution a few years back, artificially propped up by the unbidden celebrity heaped upon him.  Oprah devoted a program to him and his bride when the fairy tale was the spin; now, almost a week out, no major news service has even noted his ignoble death.

There are those who will say, "He volunteered ... hard cheese, old boy.  Those are the breaks."  Harsh, and perhaps true.  To be sure, we are all here on borrowed time. But Ty was robbed of the vicissitudes of a life in the service of a questionable national goal.

For Ty Ziegel, we could say, proximal cause of death: cerebral hematoma.  Distal cause: Unjust discretionary war. 

Call him drunken Ira Hayes 
He won't answer anymore 
Not the whiskey drinkin'
Indian Nor the Marine that went to war

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Defining the Problem


At brother site Milpub we recently had a 134-comment thread on the Newtown shooting tragedy; after 134 comments it is clear that we are neither able to define the problem nor are we able to even agree if there is a problem.

Ranger hearkens back to 1973, when he commanded the 3rd Army Marksmanship Training Unit. It became apparent to him at that time that the leadership of the National Rifle Association (NRA) was transforming itself and its magazine, The Rifleman, into a Right-wing mouthpiece for the Republican party.  The magazine shifted its focus in the 1970's from the shooting sports and gun collecting to political matters.  Soon, the agenda became aligned with the Christian Right, an affiliation which has been maintained through today.

This far-Right stance was adopted after Nixon's 1968 Presidential election politicized and radicalized a fraught nation with his law enforcement emphasis.  This focus was a thinly-veiled racial agenda since being tough on crime meant being tough on black criminals.  The nation was riven, Right and Left; the divisiveness continues today, hence the problem agreeing upon the "gun issue".

Ranger will try for a definition by asking the questions:

  • Do we have a gun problem?  Of the 300 million guns estimated to be in private hands, perhaps 30 million are "kill your neighbor" guns.  Let us assume that the 270 million collector and curio firearms are not the problem. (These guns are still regulated the same as the neighbor-killing guns.)  Therefore, is the problem with the weapon itself, or its maintenance? 
  • Do we actually have a "gun storage" problem?  Should we require legally-acquired firearms and ammunition to be properly secured away from casual contact?  Would this reduce the number of tragic random shooting episodes?
  • Should we allow firearms in households where a member is adjudicated criminally insane, or even mentally defective?  Should these homes be subjected to special regulations?  Who will define the status of the mentally defective?  Can a person be a head case yet still adjudicated non-violent and not a danger to himself or others?
  • What sorts of mental disability would invalidate one's gun rights?  Should soldiers suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) be denied gun ownership?  What about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD)?
  • Should safe handling courses and hunter safety courses be required before firearm possession?  If so, who will teach the courses and create the program?  

Well, it is a start. These are the sorts of issues that we should discuss, and probably even enact into law before considering more Draconian measures like weapons bans, magazine restrictions and all of the other initiatives being bandied about by the anti-gun lobby.

If we pass laws that require education and safe handling to include safe storage, and this does not work to mitigate the spree killings that have our public up in arms, then it will be time to consider tightening up the requirements of ownership even further.  But short of these initial efforts it seems injudicious to bypass the simplest controls which have proven effective in countries like Canada and Germany.

Doing other than this is similar to starting a presumptive war without first exhausting all diplomatic possibilities in order to avoid the ultimate conflict.

We should contemplate all possible solutions before jumping headlong into a needless battle.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Gunning for It

They're talking about things of which
they don't have the slightest understanding, anyway.
It's only because of their stupidity
that they're able to be so sure of themselves 
--The Trial, Kafka 

We didn't love freedom enough 
--The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) has spawned myths that have been sewn into our gun culture.

We were told that being alert would alleviate our fear and neutralize the threat, a threat left largely undefined.  The first reaction to the 9-11-01 attacks was to place National Guard riflemen in the airports of America to create a simulacrum safety net against the "bad guys".

From this image issued a cornucopia of terrorist TV and movie depictions of terrorists bearing old fashioned AK's and semi-auto pistols being ferreted out from behind every bush by brave Jack Bauers.  The problem with this media-driven bravado was that it did not address the actual threat.

The closest we came to suffering this sort of threat was the inside the wire shooting by Major Nidal Hasan at Ft. Hood, an event which was entirely predictable and avoidable (as were the World Trade Center attacks themselves if anyone had connected the dots.)  Terrorism was not the problem, but rather a failure of leadership.

The collective insanity of our national reaction to a containable terror threat has led to a warped perception that our safety is enhanced by firearms, a hyperbolic idea beaten into our consciousness at all levels.

The United States has not seen a significant firearms-related terrorist event and we will not because such an attack would lack the drama demanded by the terrorists.  Terror must be significant and, well, terrifying.  It is unlikely that terrorists will ever engage in shootouts in the Homeland.

We confuse the low-intensity conflict in far-flung reaches of the earth like Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, Israel, Philippines, Mexico, Columbia, et. al. with U.S. concerns at home, leading us to the false conclusion that this will happen in America.  Being so misled allows the proliferation of government security excesses and the militarization of our civilian security and law enforcement agencies.  While this does not make us safer, it does make us less free.

Imagine what our unemployment rates would look like if the people employed by the current U.S. security apparatus, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) -- as though we were Britain during the Blitz -- were not padding about in para-pornographic airport pursuits.  How many people are employed in nebulous security functions that provide no protection from any actual threat.  Security and Prisons are the only growth industries in America.

The entire system is like a metastasized cancer -- it is systemic, but we do not see it because we are in the tumor.

We fail to see the fiscal cliff that is based upon security, defense and intelligence activities that have little or any rational basis for their existence.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Making a Killing Making a Killing


Some brief thoughts on the issue of gun control in America.

There is a problem in modern society allowing for grandiose spree gun killings.  While the complicit are multitudinous, and not all (or even most) may be amended, their consideration is sophistry; something must be done in the breach.

Gun owners fear that constrictions upon ownership are but a slippery slope to confiscation of their weapons.  To the concern that no one needs a black rifle they say, "Yes, and no one needs to drink soda, but they do."  They say cars are deadly weapons, too, and can cause mass deaths; they do, but the deaths are usually unintentional.  Ditto if one decides to gorge himself on either food or possessions -- one is responsible for oneself only, and the price of such indulgence will be paid by him alone.

Murder is the ultimate deprivation of human rights; once dead, there is no amending of the action. No atonement will undo the offense.  If we claim each life is sacred, then it is grotesque hypocrisy to say that spree killing is the price of freedom.  Crimes of passion, gang killings, revenge and the whole sorry lot of it can be understood; however, random spree killings cannot be rationalized.

The gunnies will tell you the 1927 Bath school killing --which killed 38 elementary school students and six adults -- was done with explosives, and they are correct; there are many ways to kill.  But for this moment, there is a problem which may be reduced via proper control of the machine used to kill.  The United States should manage the training, licensing and authorization of those who wish to be armed. 

Just as freedom of speech is reined in to protect the innocent (with libel and slander laws), so must the right to bear arms be controlled inasmuch as possible in order to protect the innocent.  Of course laws only work as protection when society agrees to comply, but perhaps the deterrent value of guaranteed jail time would ensure that many of these weapons would not make it into the hands of the deranged or malignant.

Canada does not often get a nod from the United States, but some of their policies regarding gun ownership are correct.  Since guns are sold with locks in the U.S., it should be mandatory that they are locked once in the home, and the gun and ammunition should be secured. If there is a member of the household with a known mental health issue, there should be a special mandatory sentencing of that gun owner should that weapon be used by that household member in a criminal manner.

The Second Amendment has customarily been equated with the right to individual gun ownership. While I do not see the reason for anyone to own a semi-automatic weapon, I also support the Constitution and all rights which issue therefrom.  While the right itself should not be infringed, the manner in which weapons are licensed, sold and stored should be amended to ensure the utmost protection for our citizens, and that is not currently being done.

Mandatory firearms safety training courses for anyone buying a gun, better background checks, securing the weapon and ammunition in the home ... these are starting places, but changes must be enacted lest we are willing to live in a real-life violent video game.  The gunnies say spree shootings are a price we must be willing to pay in order to live free.

That is not the sort of freedom I recognize. 

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

--Noel 2012, Rainer Hachfeld (GER)

He's not suddenly going to become reasonable 
--House (Christmas, 2012)

Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with a duplex,
And checks.
Sign your 'X' on the line,
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight 
--Santa Baby, Eartha Kitt

Merry Christmas, Ranger readers. We wish you peace and more than a little joy this holiday season. Hopefully, you were able to breathe and take a pause from the helter-skelter that can be the holiday season, and are able to find happiness in the things you have and are.

Thank you for reading and participating in the dialog.  We are gratified to enjoy many impassioned and informed readers; your interaction enriches us and hopefully sparks some thinking beyond entrenched dogma.  We aim to be provocateurs -- thank you for joining in the project.

The goal is a better day and a better life.  Like Tiny Tim said, God bless us everyone.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Violence is Here to Stay

--Lisa and Paul

[Ranger has lots of meaty posts regarding recent events ... but as we're on the road for the holidays, posts will be meted out in a helter-skelter manner.]

Today, we enjoyed lunch with Ranger's friend Paul Longgrear and he shared his thoughts on the most recent shocking (sadly, no) school shooting.  What follows are Paul's written thoughts on the matter:

The evil, demonic-inspired massacre at the Newtown elementary school is a terrible thing, but we can prevent it from happening ever again.

Am I angry about all those dead kids? Yes, and I want a real solution.  The question is, do we want to prevent the next occurrence?  Do we want to protect innocent children and their caregivers?  Do we want them to come home unscathed at the day's end, or do we want to keep an assault rifle out of the hands of an evil nutcase?  The two are not commensurate; the first is almost 100% doable; the latter is not.  While the matter is juggled as a political hot potato, more lives hang in the balance.

In the 1950's and 60's Muslim terrorists targeted Israeli schools and children on field trips.  Yet it has been almost 40 years since the last school massacre at Ma'alot.  The Israeli's attacked the problem, not the origin of the problem. Israel saw the problem as endangered children, not assault rifles in the hands of their enemies.  

They fenced in their schools and stationed armed guards at the gates.  It is embarrassing that we do not have a politician to front this immediate solution.  The guards could be trained soldiers in civilian clothing.  It is not an impossible solution, and is one fairly quickly emplaced.

Pragmatism demands we decide: Do we love our political agenda more than we love the immediate preservation of life?  We can play politics with guns, or protect our children.  We have never been able to ban drugs, so why think we can ban anything?  You can criminalize it, but once people are dead, you cannot make them undead (no matter how many zombie films you watch.)

If you are in the first camp, brace yourself for the consequences of your inaction: decades of violence while "assault" weapons (possibly) work their way out of the system due to obsolescence.

If you want your children safe, petition you elected representatives and declare that you want their schools protected.

--Paul Longgrear, Col. USARMY (ret'd)

addendum:  Paul proposes stationing armed guards outside the school at the exterior entrances. He does not propose placing armed guards in school. LF

Ranger would add:

We already have metal detectors at most schools, but they are worthless once someone breaches the detector.  We also have Officer Friendlies on the school campus, so the idea of police has already been integrated into the culture.

The next logical step (which does not encroach upon our civil rights but DOES protect our right to self preservation) would be to secure the entrances to schools with an armed guard, either at the entrance or at a remote post.  The logical personnel for this position would be retired military veterans or Homeland security personnel.

Take some HSA personnel out of the airports and put them on-task to do a necessary job -- protecting Americans from their own.  This is the real and present danger ... not frisking citizens who might be carrying more than 3 ounces of shampoo or handing out Ziploc baggies.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse

I'm shocked! 
--Casablanca (1942) 

War is the spectacular and bloody projection
of our everyday life
--J. Krishnamurti 

When the fight was over, nothing was solved,
but nothing mattered. We all felt saved. 
--Fight Club (1999) 

Tell me with the rapture and the
reverent in the right - right.
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright
light, feeling pretty psyched. 
--It's the End of the World as We Know It,

The Global War on Terror and the predictable knee-jerk reaction to the recent grotesque elementary school shooting share similarities. Both events will have elicited emotional responses that resulted in national policy based upon a feeling of vulnerability and demand for a response.

The terrorist attacks of 9-11-01 birthed the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), a self-proclaimed generational war the hoped-for success of which is based on no solid academic study.  The 9-11 Commission's report was an emotional cover-up for the failure.  The shouts to "Remember Newtown!" will lead the march to gun control laws, which will always be ineffective.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have thrown billions of dollars at an external threat, not an existential one as we were led to believe.  The real threat was containable and achievable without the declaration of war. So too addressing the tragedy of mass murder in America will require more than curtailing gun ownership rights.

"We Need to Protect Our Children!" is analogous to, "We must fight them there to keep us from fighting them here," or, "We must not let a mushroom cloud form over our cities." Effective policy cannot be based upon fear and irrational thought; emotionalism is not leadership.

We should trust our system of government and allow the Congress to do what they are constitutionally required to do, rejecting a unilateral Executive Order which would be created from the chaos of emotional reaction.

The problem is not high-capacity magazines or incorrectly defined assault rifles -- the problem is that our culture is death-oriented rather than life-affirming.  We have weak-minded members of society playing games disgorging blood splattering heroics, so valuable that developers stay at the top of the stock market weeks after new releases and parents line up in holiday queues to gift their young ones with this antithesis to the spirit of yuletide cheer.  We love to ask what guns should we use during the zombie apocalypse, funnin' with the idea of having power enough to shoot the undead. It would seem, by all the current renting of garments, that the Apocalypse is upon us.

Even our down time -- our relaxation mode -- is spent watching or engaging in ersatz gun violence in our commerce with various forms of media. Scientists now know that on some level, the brain assimilates ersatz actions (even gossip) as actual, lived events. We swing from angst over not being able to procure these simulacrums of violence to angst over the thought of being unable to protect our children and ourselves from the actuality of the thing.

In a monumental height of hypocrisy, those same actors in the violent films, or the makers of the violent games, then campaign for gun control.  They make millions portraying gun violence then wash themselves off with their morally superior attitudes, which amounts to some more acting. An example would be Angelina Jolie who portrays gun-toting action heroine Lara Croft, and then murdered journalist Daniel Pearl's wife -- she plays both victim and perpetrator. There is no coherence here in a mind which seeks to make understanding; it is schizophrenic, at best.

All the while we wallow in violent representations our proxies -- called soldiers and contractors -- are waging actual violence around the planet while we celebrate their handiwork, the bloody and broken bodies plastered on the front of our erstwhile dignified national news magazines.We celebrate the non-judicial murders executed at the behest of our President, while crying crocodile tears when the same President abhors violence, performing as a penitent at the site of the recent school murders.

This is hypocrisy in the highest. The United States has been shooting civilian children and innocent adults since September 2001. We are no strangers to extrajudicial, indiscriminate death.

We are comfortable, or at least impassive, about the deaths committed overseas in our name, yet we get incensed when this violence settles on our doorstep. Are the lives of Connecticut kids more valuable than those of kids in Afghanistan of Iraq, or any country that carries assault rifles given to them by U.S. foreign military aid programs?  When our Defense policy is based upon the concept of overwhelming and non-proportional violence, how can we say that gun violence is a discrete and perplexing phenomenon?

We love cage fighting, and boxing and every blood-lusty thing we can sink our teeth into, yet have the temerity to act shocked when our more vulnerable members of society act out their revenge fantasies.  Maybe we should be listening and talking to each other as opposed to getting lost down the rabbit hole of self-indulgent video pursuits.  We can claim to have thousands of Facebook and Twitter friends who consume our ersatz self, but who knows our soul?  Who can feel anothers fear and react accordingly?

We are victims of our gluttony, gullibility and fear, and guns merely facilitate the problem.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Dreams of Frustration, Pt. II

Wherever I go, there you are 
--Chanel No. 5 advert, Brad Pitt 

How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart
and let me live again
--How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? 
The Bee Gees

Joey, Baby,
Don't get Crazy,
Detours, Fences,
I get Defensive 
--Joey, Concrete Blonde 

Military men are dumb, stupid animals
 to be used as pawns for foreign policy 
--Henry Kissinger

So, what is the effect of understanding that one has been used in the name of honor for a dishonorable action?  It is surreal when one understands that there are layers above (and below) one's execution which alter its effect, both in the mind of the executioner and the perception of those affected or those observing.

As with current wars, the strategic assumptions of the Vietnam War were faulty and not reality-based.  Success would be elusive and achievements overstated.  What is required for "success" in such a situation is the True Believer, the person who fills in all the ragged edges with the fluff of hope and all the other non-metrics which fuel the continuation of a failed endeavor.  Smugly, we dismiss the co-dependents among us who are in denial of their doomed D.O.A. relationships, but when this same magical thinking is applied to affairs of state, strong men are all on board.

So what happens to a soldier sent to fight a losing battle?  Does he engage in a repetition-compulsion in the local Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Post, re-living the successes, real or hoped-for in the battles of his youth, the camaraderie of a long-ago time?  Or does he strike out in fury at the betrayal of his innocence, railing to all who will hear him that things are not as they would seem?  Or, if and when he leaves that world, does he close that door and live successfully in a new milieu, untainted by his formative sad realizations?

Pragmatism calls for the latter; surely the military would be most pleased with a workforce that just blended back into the woodwork, and society can ill-afford the damage wrought by broken warriors, however, people are not pragmatic mechanisms.  They break along unforeseen fault lines, and can be pre-stressed in ways unknown to the finest therapist.  But even for the most prime, most fit subject, what does war do to him, even a "Good War"?

The doctrine of Counterinsurgency (COIN) sounds like it could be a tonic for the soldier, after all, he is after hearts and minds and building communities, yet now even the United States Military Academy is questioning the validity of COIN and its applicability to U.S. doctrine.  General David Petraeus said the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) was now a multi-generational long war, but how, when and why did that transition occur?

As with the denial of a co-dependent, stretching a failing endeavor out past one lifetime does not morph it into a successful plan.  As with the sunk cost fallacy, this policy and doctrinal mutation arises from a nation itself divorced from reality.

Playing hokey-pokey with a failure is not a way to stumble upon success.  For all the field manuals and reputations on the line, sometimes the correct move is a retrograde.  COIN is a loser.

By teaching us to hang in there for the duration of a Long War, one in which our mission is to win hearts and minds and essentially change the destructive (as we see it) behavior of the locals, the military makes co-dependents of us all.

And codependency is not the route to either clarity or good health.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dreams of Frustration

Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
My spirit not awakening, till the beam
Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.
Yes! tho' that long dream were of hopeless sorrow 
--Dreams, Edgar Allen Poe 

You will be required to do wrong
no matter where you go.
It is the basic condition of life,
to be required to violate your own identity
 --Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
 Philip K. Dick  

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool 
--The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T. S. Eliot

Ranger's dreams are filled with feelings of inadequacy and ineffectualness which run counter to the actuality of his lived experience; though a life is personal, it is lived in context and not isolation.  The frustration which cannot be cured may be the result of striving to do right in a not right situation.  To explain:

In the dreams, an inadequate Ranger-to-be is tossed out of his ROTC training due to some unperceived inadequacy despite the reality of his being a Distinguished Military Graduate who chose Infantry as his guaranteed first choice.  There are weapons failures and incorrect ammunition, events which never occurred in his reality.

Then there are the "inability" dreams in which he cannot perform his required duties.  Despite being Airborne, a Ranger and fully branch-qualified, the dreams reek of frustrated ineffectiveness.  Often, he awakes whimpering ... what is this about?

Though in the dreams he second-guesses his abilities, his nation behaved as though it never did.  Do his dreams of impotence mirror his frustration about functioning well within an ineffectual situation?   Is Ranger serving as proxy for the government manque he served? Do his dreams attempt restitution or atonement for an irredeemable situation?

What if in fact the Army is the ineffective agent, and Ranger's being swallowed by quicksand is his subconscious recognition of this?  The title effective cannot be bestowed upon a war that killed 58,000 and wounded more than 300,000 to absolutely no benefit for anyone or anything, to include the lizards (we joked that even a dead lizard accounted for a "kill", and kill ratios meant success, right?)

By his reckoning, the war was predicated upon an NVA PT boat attack upon a U.S. Destroyer, an event which may or may not have happened; our generation's "Remember the Maine".  Imagine the absurdity of a country that went to war after a massive attack on its naval fleet launching a war two decades later over a PT boat incident that did not produce even one casualty on either side.

The field of Ranger's dreams was a war that was not just, proportional or rational, in any event. Ranger's dreams were born of this frustrated event.  The dreams indict a generation of faulty institutional thought and strategic assumptions.

He is certain the dreams will endure until taps are played, such is the harvest of a misbegotten seed in the mind of a young soldier. 

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Assassin's Creed III


The video game "Assassin's Creed III" has received glowing reviews from the tech community.  A USAToday reviewer called the detailed re-creation of 18th century America, "phenomenal".

"Players follow Connor, a Native American assassin who joins forces with the newly formed American colonies to fight off the British during the 1700's  The story dives deeply yinto Connor's life, from his family history to his path to becoming an expert killer.

"The structure of the game allows players to feel like a graceful assassin, leaping between trees or rooftops as they kill Redcoats with hidden blades, bows and arrows, tomahawks and even rope darts. ..." 

"Graceful assassin" . . . one can almost picture a Rahm Emanuel or Ron Reagan, Jr., in their ballerino days (more at Emanuel), but still not a gratifying proposition.  We are not Samurai in a slow-mo Tarentino conception or a Bruce Lee film.  Assassins are not graceful in the true sense of that word, and anyway, why would someone want to be an assassin, clunky or graceful?

Molina calls it "highly satisfying action, however, the reviewer fails to note that it presents an entirely erroneous interpretation of history, leading uninformed individuals to believe that assassins helped win the United States Revolution.  Adding insult to injury, Connor is a Native American, which some reviewers actually found to be an inclusive nod to minorities.  It is not; once again, the dirty work is foisted off onto a transgressive minority member.

Assassins were NOT a tool of the U.S. Revolution, a war won by a combination of conventional and guerrilla-type warfare.  A slick and mindless violent game does not change that fact, though it does play into the current fascination with Black Ops and extralegal strategies employed in the execution of war.  Combined with Presidents who sign off on the illegality, confusion is the name of the game.

Assassination is not a soldierly skill nor should it be a tool of policy, and games should not espouse this insane thought.  Meanwhile we stand by simperingly wondering how nut jobs like the Aurora, Colorado killer get their ideas for what they must feel constitutes "heroic action". In the inspiration for the Colorado case, the film "The Dark Knight Rises" has all of the archetypal trappings of righteous vengeance wrought by a wronged entity, reminiscent of the collective U.S. mindset apres- 9-11-01.

In the case of "Assassin's Creed", the very name of the game implies that assassins live by a "creed" -- something honorable and special to an elite group; this is an enticing concept for a marginalized, ostracized individual.

Assassins should not be heralded as heroes.  If they are, all that is good about America is lost.

--Jim & Lisa

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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Out on the OP - LP, 12.9.12

European flag, 
Michael Kountouris 

Unfaithful creatures! Don't you know friendship
with the world is enmity with God.
Therefore whoever wishes to be friends
with the world makes himself an enemy of God 
--James 4:4

We hope you've had a nice weekend, everyone. 

The doctor's in -- better late than never. This is your forum to vent, express and enlighten; use it sagaciously.  Deep contemplation, shallow musings ... it's all good, as the hippies say.  Lay it on us, bro' (or sis).


Friday, December 07, 2012

A Burning Question


A salute to all veterans of World War II on this day that will live in infamy. We haven't a proper memorial post, so we will take a tangential detour.  Today we will talk of toasters.

As prelude, Lisa has a great love for functional things well-constructed, things that abide. Arctic Air oscillating fans, heavy irons and ... toasters.  While not possessed of objektophilie and really a minimalist, she likes her few possessions to be of quality.

Her '52 Toastmaster went on the fritz recently and as one cannot find a really decent, stylish toaster for under a buck twenty five (maybe a Russell Hobbs glass toaster but you can't find them stateside at the moment), the solution was to turn to the world's bazaar: eBay.

Surprisingly, there were a slew of toasters from the 1946-52 range from now-defunct manufacturers: Armaid, Camfield, Arvin, Kwikway, Knapp-Monarch, Fostoria, Walter Genter, Nesco, Heatmaster, Manning Bowman, Landers Flary and Clark, McGraw, Son Chief, Rutenber Electric, Royal Rochester, A Mecky, Marion, Chicago Flexible Shaft, and on it went. Sharp, architectural, stylish -- not silly gizmos, staunch little machines that got the job done, just like her Osterizer beehive with the "On-Off" switch (does one really need to "frappe"?)

These machines are still running great, 60+ years on.  What toaster today will be able to claim that?  Planned obsolescence is the polite name for what happens to the junk we now buy from China.

The toaster was a foundational item of the early-mid 20th century kitchen, and like many machines that kept a household running smoothly, it was valued.  It was a suggested Christmas gift for the wife who wished to set a table "with aplomb"; it would be used to prepare breakfast for "Uncle George" who boldly invites himself over.  The wife in the advert gazes lovingly at the shiny object; June brides were given dibs on production that could hardly meet demand.  One company offered a $2 trade-in off of new models. In one frisky ad, the man pulls the toast out of the slot, disburdening her of the chore.

There were toaster charms, Barbie starter toasters and oddly, toast salt and pepper shakers.  There is even a book celebrating the art of the toaster (1909-1960).  They were decorated with etchings of the Zephyr wind, wheat, daisies and World's Fair logos.  But with the advent of the 60's, we have the loss of the graceful toaster.  It becomes a box, shorn of its etching and cantileverous lines.  The chrome recedes, giving way to plastic (one can't even kid herself that it is Bakelite anymore, the darling of every Fiesta-loving mama.)

Avocado plastic has been re-purposed as the stylish "sage" in today's ads; puke yellow now becomes the palatable "butter", but these are still ugly 60's relics denoting the transitional period when "vintage" becomes "junk".  The number of stateside makers dwindled precipitously during the 1950's, leaving only a few giants in their wake.

What happened to this time of fecund production?  Surely this ramped-up manufacturing was a war dividend, but did we fail to continue to support them?  Perhaps they were victims of their own excellent product, but one would think Mr. Veblen's theory of conspicuous consumption would mandate new purchases for newness sake alone.

Where is today's war dividend?  If it exists, it will not be enjoyed by our flagging middle class.

We sentimentally render a salute to a bygone, not-so-distant time. 

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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Socialism Creep

 ~It's important to get with the majority, isn't it?
That's... oh, that's a big thing nowadays,
isn't it, Reverend? 
~That's all there is, is the majority.
The minority must have died on the cross
two thousand years ago 
--I Am the Night (The Twilight Zone)

This socialism creep is not that weird little neo-Bolshevik at the cafe.  Instead, it is the reality of modern America which most Americans fail to grasp. The bumper sticker "No Socialism for America" on a local merchant's vehicle got Ranger thinking on the topic.

  • The U.S. tax code is Socialism in action. Property taxes are Socialism.  Redistributing the wealth to pay educational costs for (often) non-homeowning baby producers.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs medical system is socialistic (though it is lauded by most as being a paragon of efficiency.)
  • Military service itself is pure socialism -- it is distributing the duty to those who cannot afford to avoid service.  If military service were democratic then citizens from all strata of our society would serve equally (which is not the case), and capital would provide neither an escape route from service, nor an incentive to enlist.  Since we have socialized the requirement, we provide socialized medicine for the veterans. 
  • Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is Socialism.
  • Pell Grants underwriting college education redistribute wealth -- isn't that socialism?  For that matter, public schools are also Socialist.
  • State-run Lottos are Socialist, if not very fair. 
  • State hospitals for the mentally infirm are Socialism, as are state-run "old soldiers homes"; our society would be much the poorer without these safety nets.
  • National disaster relief is Socialism, as is the Centers for Disease Control. 
  • Even organized religion is an exercise in Socialism: Jesus died for our sins in order to redistribute the assets of heaven, and not on a meretricious basis. 

Strangely, we champion capitalism and democracy when even our banking system is based in socialism.  The United States socialized the debt of the errant banks in 2008 and underwrote the results of their ineptitude, greed and resultant financial shortfalls with U.S. taxpayer funds.  The U.S. socialized the debt while ensuring the privatization of the profits from the governmental bailouts.

Isn't the concept of Federalism actually socialist in basis? Doesn't the Federal government redistribute the wealth of the richer states to the poorer?  Doesn't Alabama, Mississippi, etc. benefit from this socialism? 

If our citizens would stop to think for the time it takes to belch, maybe they would realize that socialism is the reality and the answer, rather than the problem. In addition, most of our major NATO allies are Socialist states; why are they allies if we are so opposed to their way of life?

When FOX news et. al. fashion socialism as the devil it keeps the plebes in line, keeps them feeling a faux solidarity against a chimerical enemy.  For example, the U.S. outspends twelve other industrial nations in healthcare, but our level of treatment is inferior.

Ours is a mangy Socialism: All of the calories, little of the nutrition. 

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