Friday, February 16, 2018

More fucking thoughts and prayers

I see it's time to drag this one out. Again.

I know this has nothing to do with the results of the 2016 elections, yet I look around and what I see is just a part of the toxic stew of the very worst of my country that seems to be bubbling cheerfully on every stovetop; arrogant, corrupt, ignorant, splenetic...it makes me think of the piece of Robert Graves' I, Claudius where the cunningly-not-really-a-gimping-halfwit emperor turns his appalling heir loose on Rome, whispering "Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out."

What hits me hardest about these nutter shootings is how they never change anything because of the magical incantation "the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" as if the whole "well-regulated militia" thing was a fantasy and the U.S. Constitution is some sort of Holy Writ, handed down on gold tablets never to be altered or re-imagined.

Well, the Constitution once said that black people were 3/5ths of a registered voter, and that it was illegal to drink a beer.

Both of those ideas were fucked up. So We the People changed the Constitution.

So far, the score of the Second Amendment is "resisting tyrannical government", zero; "butchering other Americans", about a gajillion. I note that all these ammosexuals with their arsenals seem curiously mute about "tyranny" like the idea that the government can freely spy on our communications, or take our stuff if we get arrested - not convicted, mind you, just arrested - for smoking weed. So I conclude that the notion that the "right to keep and bear arms" has pretty much zero percent to do with the sort of people doing actual tyranny-resisting and 100% to do with the sort of fucking people who get a woody out of busting out more than thirty rounds a minute.

But who gives an actual fuck?

Nobody is going to do anything about this. Tomorrow another nutter will take another semiautomatic weapon into another school and another N > 0 number of kiddies and teachers and random poor sonsofbitches will die or be hideously wounded. And we'll hear that there's nothing we can do - in the only industrialized nation that this happens regularly - and we need to have more mental health care (but fuck-all funding for it), and we need to send our thoughts and prayers to the new set of grieving parents and lovers and brothers and sisters whose beloveds have been blown away so I can go to the range tomorrow and bust out 200 rounds of 5.56mm in fifteen minutes.

So, fuck it.

Here's a cute fucking picture of a cute fucking cat.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ruminations

Canal Competition?   Excavation via nuke instead of pick and shovel, a la 1963: 

https://twitter.com/wellerstein/status/963433378098884608



Alpini Sappers in Erbil Iraq:

https://www.dvidshub.net/image/3958634/italian-army-trainers-lead-coalition-c-ied-training-cjtf-oir



Another parade that I want to ignore.  Unless of course they get a prominent slot in five-deferment-Donnie's parade in DC with Stormy Daniels as Drum Majorette in the lead:

https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/nude-parade-San-Francisco-Valentines-Day-Gypsy-12562561.php

Friday, February 9, 2018

Another Anniversary - Stars and Stripes



Another historical milestone passed. 

Stars and Stripes newspaper was one hundred years old on the 8th of February.  Starting out in France as the voice of the American Expeditionary Force.  A hybrid or perhaps a mongrel, it now operates within the Department of Defense but DOD has no editorial control.  Congress has guaranteed its freedom of speech.  Its first editor Harold Ross later founded and published the New Yorker magazine.


Its most famous contributor was of course Bill Mauldin during WW2 with his Willie and Joe cartoons and his lampooning of the upper brass.  General Patton accused him of being an anarchist and wanted to lock him up in the monkey house.  He was saved by Ike who told Patton that Stars and Stripes is the soldiers’ newspaper and we generals will not interfere.  My father, who fought in Italy, swore on a bible that he personally knew the GI upon who Willie was based.  His favorite Mauldin cartoon was the mud-slinging staff officer's jeep shown here on the right.


Back in 1918, another famous illustrator Cyrus Baldridge, was with Stars and Stripes.  His most famous illustration in the paper is titled ‘The Noncombatant’.  The paper is still going strong in the digital age:  four daily print editions, one each for Europe, the Middle East, Japan and South Korea; a weekly in the US; seven digital editions; and seven blogs.  They still publish Doonesbury despite the push to get rid of it by the right wing, but I think it is only re-run mode.  Plus I have not seen anything recent or Trump in the Stripes, so maybe the first Amendment rights safeguarded by Congress have been put on the back shelf.  Sad as someone in the WH might say.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Oh, just go ahead and rename the goddamn thing "The Trumpian Republic of Reaganstan" and get it over with.

FFS!
"President Trump’s vision of soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the boulevards of Washington is moving closer to reality in the Pentagon and White House, where officials say they have begun to plan a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of America’s armed forces.

Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon’s tank — a room reserved for top secret discussions — marked a tipping point, according to two officials briefed on the planning."
Here's an idea.

Let's exhume Ronnie's dead ass and build a honkin' big mausoleum for him on the White House lawn, overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue. We can prop up his embalmed corpse in there as a reminder of how we started down this idiot path.

We can make it Republican red, too.

And then on Lincoln's Birthday or John Birch Day or something, some sort of GOParteitag, anyway, all the bigwigs - the Ryans and McConnells and the Sean Hannitys and Rush Limbaughs and Joni Ernsts, forchrissakes, can join Trump on the reviewing stand on top and salute the forces as they goosestep past. And Napoleorange can salute, too, just like he learned in the little military school where he got the bone spurs that kept him out of Vietnam and safe and rich until he could get elected to play "Commander-in-Chief" and send other poor, dumb bastards out to kill and die for him.

This is what you want, America?



Seriously?

By God, I've lived too damn long.

Update 2/8: Jim Wright lays some wood on a GOPandering twit:

Sunday, February 4, 2018

30 January & 2 February

Two observances last week.  Seventy five years ago on 2 February was the final day of the Battle of Stalingrad.  And fifty years ago on the 30th of January was the start of the surprise Tết Offensive by the North Vietnamese Army.    I am not comparing them, the two do not come even close in scope - 1.75 million casualties versus a mere 195 thousand.  But they both foreshadowed the end of a war.


Last Friday Russian citizens celebrated the Stalingrad victory by marching in Moscow, St Petersburg, and many other cities including Stalingrad itself (now Volgograd).    I'm not up to describing that five-month battle.  We danced around it here back in January 2017:  http://milpubblog.blogspot.com/2017/01/old-pics.html#comment-form.    
And there are scores if not hundreds of books, articles and websites describing the action better than I ever could.   A great website for that time in history is at:  http://facingstalingrad.com/.  
It provides not only a snapshot of the battle with fairly good maps, but also interviews with a dozen German and Russian survivors.  If you do not read all of the interviews, at least read that of Gerhard Hindenlang and that of the Faustova/Voronov married couple.  Hindenlang was a regimental adjutant in the 71st Infantry Division.  He had set up regimental HQ in the basement of the Red Department Store, where in the last days of battle they were joined by General Paulus and his 6th Army staff of 120 when they had to evacuate southern Stalingrad.   Maria Georgievna Faustova was a 20-year-old radio operator with the 131st Rifle Division.  Aleksandr Filippovich Voronov was a 22-year-old commander of an anti-tank battery.  Both sustained wounds there.  Another good read is Deutsch Welle’s English language website:  
http://www.dw.com/en/russia-marks-stalingrad-defeat-of-nazis/a-42344954




Seeing that Tet is now 50 years old, the CIA and other intel agencies are going to review selected documents from that era for possible declassification.  Unfortunately the first release will not be until July.  I'm looking forward to that event.     https://www.intel.gov/tet-declassified
There was almost complete surprise even though the NVA telegraphed their move and there were many indications and warnings.  Westmoreland is said to have been informed that attacks "may" be coming, but if he knew of the scope he did not communicate it well to his subordinates and his superiors in Washington.  And reportedly there was major turf battles going on between General Westmoreland's MACV intel staff and the CIA regarding the number of personnel available to the NVA and the VC.  The evening of the attack, 200 MACV intelligence staff officers were at a pool party.  James Meecham, a MACV CIC analyst was at that party and said later: "I had no conception Tet was coming, absolutely zero ... Of the 200-odd officers present, not one I talked to knew Tet was coming, without exception."   Westmoreland seemed to be convinced that attacks were a diversion and the real target was Khe Sanh.  Actually it was the other way around, Westy was snookered by Generals Giáp and Thái.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Amerika Erwache!

I couldn't sit thru the whole thing, but between what I saw, the transcript, and the analyses I am a bit amazed at how blatantly fascist - as in "right in ol' Schicklgruber's wheelhouse" fascist - a big chunk of last night's State of the Union speech was.

Not the part about the Leader's iron will or fluffing the Party's program; that's just bog-standard political theater, which is all this silly speech ever is, really, and why I usually don't bother to watch or read much about it. It had more chest-beating than usual but, sheesh, Trump, so, yeah.

No, specifically it was the MS-13 horror stories, the part about how the herrnvolk are endangered by a hidden swarm of dusky, violent untermenschen - and nefarious Auslandische foreign powers - and that only the Leader, and the Party - and only by their being hard, hard as Krupp steel (but fair! Fair, mind you, so long as you're not one of the dusky traitors within!) - can save us from their evil.

The fluffing of the Party's program did have some extra GOP lies how they're not selling the country to their rich pals, but, whatever.

But the stuff about America Awake! to the danger of The Eternal Immigrant was such a pure, uncut Steven Miller hommage to the Fuhrer, vintage Adolf whine in a new orange bottle, that I wonder how many people missed that.

Perhaps we've gotten so used to these speeches promising fierce resistance to the Terrorist Foes that we didn't notice how this one slipped into genuine Silvershirt "domestic-enemies-abound!" territory. Another own-goal for the Phony War On Terror. Thanks loads, guys.

Whooda thunk that when it came fascism would neither be wrapped in a flag nor carrying a cross but in the form of a bloated orange real estate grifter, wrapped in a badly tailored but expensive suit and too-long tie, and carrying a Big Mac. Say what you will about the original Nazis, at least they were snappy dressers.

I'm not sure whether I'm more pissed off that the cousin-marryin' hillbillies foisted these downmarket fascists on me, or at how goddamn downmarket the fascists are. Steve Bannon? Seriously? Dude always looks like he's coming down off a three-day cheap-vodka-and-Red Bull bender. Hell, how embarrassing is it that even his Leader, our orange fuhrer, looks like a divorced car salesman shopping for laxative suppositories at WalMart?

Even our Nazis are low-rent.

Sheesh.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Blind Man's Bluff

Fred Kaplan at Slate has a fairly decent summary of the problems facing the current U.S. administration's conduct of the legacy wars in the Middle East and southwest Asia. The tl:dr is that 1) for all his bluster about "dealmaking" Trump has no geopolitical knowledge or understanding, and 2) the flag officers that comprise his geopolitical team are deeply sunk in the sunk-cost views of those wars.

The black hole at the center of this mess is that the U.S. policy- and decision-making apparatus has been and remains exceptionally poor at analyzing strategic situations, teasing out what the U.S.'s actual "vital interests" are in them, and then formulating approaches to those situations that have a genuine potential for succeeding in advancing those vital interests.

Instead, that apparatus seems to latch onto whatever short-term enthusiasm dominates the U.S. domestic political scene. In the Middle East it started with enthusiasm for Israel in the Forties, graduated to suppression of what looked like local "Communist" impulses in the Fifties and Sixties (that led to steps like the Iran coup in 1953), then to support of local dictators like Saddam in the Seventies and Eighties to counter the "Iranian menace", then to a fixation on Saddam's Iraq in the 90's and Oughts. Since then, of course, it has been the "War on Terror" with the sort of nonsensical geopolitical decisions that a conflict based on "fighting" a tactic implies.

One thing I should note from the Kaplan piece is that when he asks "...one wonders what happened to the Donald Trump who decried the former war as a “total disaster” and bellowed over and over “It’s time to come home”—and who pledged to do nothing in the latter war but “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” Kaplan, like an unfortunately large group of other citizens, is taking the Tangerine Toddler's mouth noises seriously, which is always a mistake.

Remember, Trump remains what he always was; a real estate grifter and Ponzi schemer whose "brand" depended on distracting the rubes while he mulcted his cut out of whatever enterprise he was running into the ground. I mean, the guy went bankrupt running a fucking casino, a "business" where people give you their money. It takes a special breed of schmuck to do that.

So Trump's blather about "coming home" and those wars being "total disasters" were the distraction, simply his usual bullying towards his Democratic opponents and especially Obama and Clinton whom he loathed personally. He had no particular geopolitical conviction on the subject; he just wanted to mulct domestic political advantage by convincing the rubes he did. How could he? He barely knew enough to find the places on a map. He believed that thousands of Muslims had danced on rooftops as the Twin Towers fell. He hated and feared all foreigners outside of nice white Norwegians as he is supposed to hate and fear sharks and germs. He was, and remains, a bloviating fool.

So on the subject of Middle Eastern wars he is a toddler, being fed and diapered by the same sort of people who ran with the Bushies when they went into Iraq thinking that they could create their own reality. Trump, for all his bluster, is monstrously ignorant of the world outside his Twitter feed. His mind, as we have seen over the past year, is rutted into a handful of vindictive, white-nationalist, egotistical tracks that make it nearly impossible for him to gain the sort of knowledge, let alone the wisdom, that would allow him to climb out of those tracks and assist in remaking the U.S. foreign policy apparatus into something less shortsighted.

How can a blind man teach blind men to see?

These mess-o-potamias are not of Trump's making. But it is long past the time to abandon the idea that somehow Trump will "tell it like it is", will "shake things up".

He can no more see his way out of these disasters than a child blind since birth. In this sting he's not just the con man; he's the mark. He's conning us as he's getting conned by both his generals and his enemies. He's hustling us while he's being hustled, by the East and by his own people.

So, nope. Unless We the People stop kidding ourselves about electing these sorts of people - and by that I mean not just Trump but the sorts of people who think that fighting a "war on terror" is an actual good idea - we will remain as we are now; so, so, so, SO fucked.