Thursday, March 23, 2017

Good question...

Back in February we talked about the possibility that the Department of Defense might get a massive infusion of taxpayer bucks under the GOP, although said Department had neither requested such largesse nor seemed to know exactly what to spend it on.

One day after our post went up here a U.S. Army major laid out the most important problem with this war-fattened budget:
"In fact, money is not the solution — it may actually be contributing to our problems. Enormous budgets and unclear strategy allow us to ignore hard choices. Since the advent of the All-Volunteer Force (AVF), America has skipped the “guns vs. butter” argument entirely. Instead of hard choices, America used debt to outsource its wars to a small cadre of competent, capable, but increasingly distant professionals. Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates once remarked that we spend more on military bands than diplomacy. Too much money has allowed the military to dominate what should be whole-of-government decision making."
Many of our bar staff here have hammered on this point - I'd give Ranger Jim the Employee of the Month award for constantly reminding us - that tactics aren't strategy and warfighting isn't policy.

It is abundantly clear that Trump hasn't a clue here; he says himself that he gets his military information mostly from television shows (largely Hogan's Heroes and F Troop, from the look of it...) so if there's going to be an actual strategy guiding all this spending it won't come from the Oval Office. And, as we discussed here a little while ago, it appears that the grown-ups like McMaster and Mattis aren't getting listened to; it's All-Bannon all the way down, whispering in Trump's orange ear like a dyspeptic-looking Grima Wormtongue.

At this point is there a chance that all this extra cash for things that blow up won't be used to keep pointlessly blowing things up? And, if so, how? What could possibly break the "Washington Rules" and end the seemingly unending search for monsters to destroy?
I don't see anything, but I'm a pessimistic old sergeant. Anyone out there see a glimmer of hope?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Not the cu-ra-tor of anything

In the movie Ragtime there's a scene where the wild-eyed anarchists/terrorists are holed up in a library and Jimmy Cagney - in his last film role, BTW - as the police chief is trying to organize his guys to deal with this problem. As he's trying to make some order out of this chaos up comes this painfully earnest scholarly type who announces that he's the curator of the library's priceless collection and that this situation must be handled with the utmost care.

Well, replies Cagney (in that terrific back-o-the-yards Cagney snarl), why don't you go in and tell those guys that?

Are you joking? replies the librarian.

My good man, says Cagney, so long as those guys are in there, you are not the cu-ra-tor of anything.

So, with that in mind, I guess we're beginning to see the answer to the question of "Will having H.R. McMaster as NSA have the effect of bringing some sort of adult supervision to the foreign policy/national strategic thinking of the Tangerine Toddler?"

I note in passing that FOX spokesmodel/Islamophobic-Amway salesperson K.T. McFarland is still in place at the NSA, as well.

Oh, well. It was a nice thought while it lasted.

Update 3/26: Fred Kaplan at Slate has a worthwhile discussion of this issue.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Where is the modern "Der Schokoladenflieger" when we need him?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Rise and Shine

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you,
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
--If, Rudyard Kipling


If you or anyone you know has been severely wounded or injured in mind or body and are looking for inspiration and one man's path navigating the healthcare behemoth, I highly recommend a new Audible release of the book Rise and Shine written by my dear friend Simon Lewis, and read by actor Kelsey Grammer. (We have mentioned the book previously at RAW, but this is a new and updated version, accessible to those who cannot read.)

Here is a clip from the Audible book discussing Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

In a terrible instant, Simon went from being a rising Hollywood producer, to learning to speak again via Disney children's films. Following many years of excruciating effort and assistance from an eclectic group of resources, and against all odds, he regained his former 150 I.Q. and learned to walk again.

Due to the permanent TBI damage, he has sensorimotor and vision deficits. He calls the ever-present now in which he lives, "flat-time".

But Simon's fortitude, wit, erudition and unflagging courage will make a meet traveling companion for those who are treading the same arduous "hidden path", as he calls it. This book will lend you the courage and insight on how to bear it out against all odds.

Like Simon himself, Mr. Grammer lends dry humor, a sense of irony and gravitas to this dire yet tremendously inspirational story. As the reader writes on the Audible site:

"It reminds me of a line from Prometheus Unbound by Shelley — 'To suffer woes which hope thinks infinite' — surely Simon's story measures up to that description. That he emerged victorious, in the face of such travail, is a testament to his courage ... [and] is an inspiration to all."

Mr. Lewis is a tireless advocate for clients who are often discharged too early from treatment, to expect more. Through unceasing exploration, he asserts that answers can be found.

"No one will tell you everything," he writes; of course, the corollary is, "No one knows everything" -- not by a long shot.

Bravo, Simon, and to everyone who is fighting a similar battle.

[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar.]

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Possibly the Trumpiest thing yet.

His Fraudulency wants to throw money at the Pentagon by hoovering out the bank accounts at State, the EPA, and other non-kinetic federal agencies.

And when I say "throw" I mean THROW; this projected budget is almost 10% higher than the final Obama Defense budget. We had an increase that big in the early Reagan years, and I might remind you that there was this thing called the "Cold War" back then and we needed to protect ourselves from the bear in the woods, as the kidz say nowadays. The most recent big DoD hikes were back in the early Bush era, when Dubya and Dick wanted new guns to overawe the heathen Afghans and Iraqis and, again, in their last year when they needed to spend some of that money they saved by not rescuing black people in New Orleans or something.

But setting aside OTHER numbnuts Republicans...that's a big sweet slug for the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.

Setting aside the ridiculous notion that what the U.S. really needs now is a bigger armed force the really Trumpy piece of this that that the proposed increase - about 50 billion - has no ground in actual delineated military need. There's no "plan" here outside "let's throw cash at the DoD" and we all know how well that works...

Let me throw something near to my heart out as an example.
The field artillery branch of the U.S. Army currently employs two primary 155mm gun systems; the M109 "Paladin" series self-propelled howitzer and the M777 towed howitzer. The M777 is a relatively recent design, but the M109 is on the last of a series of upgrades of a system that was designed in the 1960's. While neither is an exceptional design (and by that I mean neither exceptionally good nor bad; they're both fairly middle-of-the-road FA systems) it's worth noting this statistic:

M109A7 maximum range - conventional projo 18km, RAP (rocket-assisted) projo 30km
M777 maximum range - conventional projo 24km, base-bleed projo 30km, "Excalibur" (guided/enhanced range) projo 40km
G5 (South Africa towed cannon system) maximum range - conventional projo 30km, base-bleed projo 39km, V-LAP projo 50km
G6 (SA - SP cannon) maximum range - conventional projo 30km, Base bleed 39km, V-LAP: 52.5km, M9703A1: 67km

The G5 and G6 gun systems were designed in the Seventies...but they still outrange the most recent U.S. FA systems in all categories of projectiles.
This is not to say that the Army FA is some sort of Third World shitshow. But...the mech and armored divisions have been waiting for a new SP system since the Crusader (XM2001) was cancelled in the early Oughts. So if you wanted to throw some money at the Army the notion that the U.S. might spend some money on upgrading the SP FA system to at least the ability to shoot out as far as an almost-fifty-year-old South African system seems like a not-unreasonable idea.

But...will that happen?

Who the fuck knows?

After all...this is Trump. The guy seems to make decisions based on who licks him the most like a triple-scoop of butter-brickle. IMO it's entirely likely that some conman shrewder than he is will slip in and sell him on some Ronco potato-gun contraption that works about as well as the infamous "Sergeant York" antiaircraft system...

So it's not just a question of "do we really need to throw more money at guns?" although that's really a good question. The problem with THIS throw-money-at-guns gimmick is that it's no more well-thought-out than the goofy Muslim ban. It seems designed after the way the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq usta threw money at stuff; just fly in pallets of dollars and start spreading 'em around.

After all; what could go wrong?

And, pull this cash from State? Hell, Trump's own SecDef explained the arithmetic of that little transaction to the Congresscritters thusly:
"When Mattis was a four-star Marine general in charge of U.S. Central Command, he told a congressional committee, “If you cut the State Department’s budget, then you need to buy me more bullets.”

More and more it seems like every time these gomers do something it seems like - assuming that they've put any thought into it at all - they've studied the issue and cudgeled their brains as hard as possible to find the answer to the question "How would I do this if I were a fucking moron?"


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lt. General Snowden and Iwo Jima

 --General Snowden, before a plaque signed
 and presented to him by the last Japanese Emperor
 of the Empire of Japan (Hirohito)

Strangers on this road, we are all
We are not two, we are one
--Strangers, Golden Smog


[NOTE: An officer and a gentleman died this week in our town. The date was 18 February 2017, one day before the start of the Battle of Iwo Jima, in which Lt. General Snowden led his men with great honor. We are running this re-post so that his memory may not be in vain.]

We recently had the pleasure of meeting a hometown hero, Lt. General Lawrence "Larry" Snowden (R) who, at 93, is the senior survivor of the protracted and bloody World War II Battle of Iwo Jima, a climatic event of WW II in the Pacific lasting from 19 Feb 1945 to 26 Mar 45.

The General was wounded twice in the battle, leaving the hospital against medical advice and hopping a mail flight in order to get back to the island to command his men. He participated in eleven campaigns over the course of a career in which he saw action in three wars (WWII, Korea and Vietnam).

But Gen. Snowden is neither your typical military man nor retiree in a conservative part of the country.

Mr. Snowden traveled to Iwo Jima again last month, as he has every year for the last 15 years, to lead a "Reunion of Honor" with both his fellow survivors from the U.S. Marines well as the Japanese soldiers whom they fought. His mission is a solemn one of reconciliation with men who were once his mortal enemies but, as the widow of the Japanese commanding general said to him, "Once enemies, now friends."

As Snowden told a local journalist last year, "Those men didn't want to be here any more than we did. They were doing their duty. You don't hate anybody for that" (After 68 Years, the Battle of Iwo Jima Stays Fresh.)

When we asked how he reached this enlightened state, he smiled and gave his mother credit. He recalls being a pugilistic young man engaging in "fisticuffs" with his fellows and going on about "hating" someone. She told him that he didn't "know enough about anyone else to allow [him] to feel hatred," and that he could find another way of dealing with his anger. He got the idea then that the head could rule the emotions.

With recent attention to the concept of "moral injury" amongst soldiers, the idea of recognition, understanding and forgiveness between fighting men seems an essential move towards healing.

Snowden has commanded every level of combat unit from Rifle Company to Regiment. As a General Officer he served as Chief of Staff HQ, USMC. His route to reconciliation began during the Korean War when he worked alongside his former Japanese adversaries while coordinating logistical efforts flowing through Japan destined for the Korean peninsular effort. It was his first recognition that men need not retain hostilities, and that life had an ebb and flow.

He next bumped up against the idea of reconciliation when  he returned to Japan in 1972 as Chief of Staff, U.S. Forces, Japan (a Joint Services Command.) During that three-year posting he liaised with the Japanese government, becoming familiar with and appreciative of Japanese society. He left Japan for Washington D.C. in the final posting of his 37-year military career, serving as Chief of Staff HQ, USMC.

Upon retirement he returned to Japan as a civilian representative for Hughes Aircraft, focusing on production and economic matters while living in Tokyo for the next ten years. He also served as the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

This is the backdrop to the genesis in 1985, the 40th Anniversary of Iwo Jima, of the idea for the Reunion of Honor, and the General has been involved in the annual event since that time. Notice there is nothing about warriorhood or grand patriotic celebration surrounding the event. It is simply a somber recognition of men who did the heavy lifting for their respective nations.

A Buddhist priest who survived the fighting and the widow of the Japanese Commanding General, along with the General's son, deliver a solemn presentation. Following this, Mr. Snowden and his fellow survivors ascend Mount Suribachi; they then come down and the Japanese survivors then go up.

"I make the same speech three times: in Los Angeles, in Honolulu and Guam. I tell everybody there will be no T-shirts, no hollering and victory celebration. From the very beginning we have pledged that we would not ever, ever crow over our victory there. And we've never had any problems with that." So much for the Toby Kieth brand of patriotism.

  --This painting is a retirement gift commissioned for General Snowden
by one of the riflemen he commanded on Iwo Jima

Ranger asked the General if he had seen the film, "American Sniper". He looked down and said his friends were always after him to see the latest war film, but that he usually demurred. 

"I have seen everything they could possibly put into one of those films, and I have no desire to see it ever again."

Semper Fi, Lt. Gen. Snowden.

Coda: As we were leaving, Gen. Snowden received a call from the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame; he would be nominated as their newest inductee.

Has has Ranger's Army vote.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

¡Fuera de acá!

I hate to even admit this.


I'm not TOTALLY hating on the totally-expected roundup-the-wetbacks directive from the new Administration.

Yeah, yeah, I'm a Trumpkin. I want to Make America Great Again. Ugh. I know.

Bear with me for a moment, though.

Now. Don't get me wrong. This thing will suck for millions of people whose crime is trying to get a piece of the American Dream for themselves and their families. I hate that on a purely personal, I-don't-like-to-make-things-suck-for-innocent-people level. As a person, I hate it.

As a citizen, as someone who thinks about politics and governing...well, let's start with this; to be a stateless person, a non-citizen, in a foreign nation is not a good thing.

It's not good for the person, who has no civil rights, who is outside the protection of the civil law, and who is, therefore, hideously vulnerable to all sorts of malefactors.

And it's not good for the nation, that has this indigestible mass of non-citizens within it prey to crime and violence, exploited by employers and living in fear of taking part in the civil life of the community.

So. The bottom line really is; if you are a citizen of Mexico, or Ireland, or belong in Mexico, Ireland, or Bali unless you are a legal resident or visitor of where-ever-it-is-you-are; in this case, the United States.

(In case you're interested, I wrote a loooooong post over at my other joint three years ago where I discussed what I see as the vast, almost insoluble complexity of this problem, which concluded with the following:
"The real issue - the one Which Dare Not Speak Its Name - is that the institutional poverty, misgovernance, and social maladjustment of most Latin American countries is so profound and so destructive that to address it would take every penny that the U.S. has spent on poorly planned foreign adventures and more. Much more.

So instead we get this idiotic argument that all we need to do is fence these little heatherns out and everything will be Good. God will once again be White and in His Heaven, the food will magically get harvested, processed, cooked and served by "Real Amurikans" (that is, legal citizens) who will suddenly, magically, want to work for the pittance we want to pay for these jobs to prevent our food, clothing and service costs from reflecting what it would cost to pay humans actually living wages to do these things."
But this post isn't about those things; it's about the Trump-promising-to-deport-the-beaners-and-going-ahead-and-doing-it.)

As opposed to the ban-the-raghead rule, which really was poorly thought out and complete geopolitical foolery, the idea that the United States should police its borders and return those who have entered the country illegally to their homelands is not, on its face, as freakishly boneheaded as most Trump stuff.


(...and you KNEW there'd be a but, here, right, because, well...Trump.)

Here's the problems I DO have with this.

First, I can see a gajillion ways that this is going to be a fucking total shitshow. American citizens will be grabbed up and deported by mistake. Sweeps will result in a seething mob of people shoved into FEMA trailers without any sort of organization or preparation. Screening will be a disaster. The optics - "jackbooted ICE agents handcuff adorable tiny Latino kiddies" - will make the Land of the Free look like the Land of the Assholes. People will get stranded in Mexico City airport with nowhere to go and no hope of relief.

I can see about a dozen ways this will be a smoking crater - it's Trump, for one thing, who seems to have a gift for employing people who couldn't run a child's birthday party - that will make the Iraq War look like VE Day.

Second, I can also see how this could turn into something far nastier and far worse, along the lines of the Japanese internment of 1942. There's always been a hell of a strong strain of race hate and xenophobia in America (as there is in about...well, pretty much everywhere humans live...) that could take this from a calmly conducted law enforcement process into a screaming ratissage against every person or group of people that every whacko wingnut hates and freaks out over (Hello? Alex Jones? Hello?).

And, finally, I think that, even if this isn't a dumpster fire, that the results will be at best underwhelming. The promised Day of Alien-Free Jubilee will turn out to be a quiet monotone of unpicked crops, uncleaned hotel rooms, unwiped asses, and uncooked meals.

The result of all this huge slug of spending - surely paid for by a tax hike, right? - will be, outside of personal hardship for those involved, a vast expanse of...very little.

What do you think?