Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Get Out the Vote

For the past couple of weeks I've been calling and walking my precinct as the officially elected Democratic Precinct Committee guy ( that and 2 bits still won't buy you a cup of coffee :) ) and also walking the streets to help some other of our Democratic candidates out. They all are good people who want to make our community, state, and nation better.

The other side has good people, too, who believe what they are doing is for the public good, and I trust that they have good intentions, but I also believe from ideology and practical experience that they are wrong. I do believe that until I see evidence to the contrary. However, we do have one fellow, Kris Kobach, who is running for Kansas Secretary of State and who is notorious for his involvement in writing the Arizona law about illegal immigration. And our present US Senator Sam Brownback is running for Governor, opposed by Tom Holland. Brownback has done some good things for our state, but, like every other one of his Republican colleagues in the US Senate, he voted NO! on President Obama's stimulus package and then turned around asking for a piece of the money pie for Kansas, because, as he writes, it does for Kansas what he said on the floor of the US Senate it would not do, create jobs for our people.

Duplicity, however it's explained, is not on my list of character traits of someone I'd vote for.

We've all had this conversation ever since our Intel-Dump days, where some of us are done with politics, no one is worth supporting with time and money, much less actually voting for. At my part-time job when I've asked my co-workers there if they plan to vote, overwhelmingly each says no. These are folk who aren't doing very well on the economic scale and I can understand their point, that no matter who's elected, they will not see a benefit.

Who can argue with reality and the Here-and-Now about some vague future when a candidate will be chosen to run government? Yeah, I know, Life is not fair.

But that's the way Democracy works. We will never get all that we want to see in our society, and much of the time we get the exact opposite. Democracy and voting is a perpetual struggle to get the leadership and policies we want. A better world for our descendants will never be born without the sometimes back-breaking and soul-crushing exertion we do now.

I cannot imagine being in South Carolina having to choose between Greene and DeMint. But many times there are good and decent local candidates who desperately need our votes in this Mid-Term election, a time in which historicly not even half the electorate gets off their collective asses to vote. Voting, even for just one decent candidate, is true Love of Country and Devotion to America.

So this is my pitch for doing what we all do need to do.

Vote next Tuesday, and if you've got friends that think like you do, kick their butts to do the same.

Courtesy driftglass:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Out of touch with Reality??

Read an interesting paper this morning.

Seems that Americans:

1. Wildly underestimate the concentration of wealth at the higher levels
2. Find a much more egalitarian distribution of wealth to be the ideal
3. When shown the US and Sweden's actual distribution of wealth without identifying the country, see Sweden's (Heaven forbid!) as significantly more acceptable than the current US distribution

The chart below summarizes one part of the study. The first bar is the actual US distribution of wealth in 2005, the second is what the respondents estimated the distribution to be, and the bottom bar is what they said would be "ideal". Note that in the "Actual" bar, the bottom 40% do not show up, as they hold only 0.3% of the nation's wealth.



Even when you break it down by respondent demographics (income, voting choice or gender), people are in rough agreement!



In many threads in the past, you guys have raised the notion of the people starting to revolt. Well, if the bottom 40% of the economic ladder have such a grossly understated view of their status, from whence comes the incentive to revolt? If the rest of the population also thinks things are much better than they are, from whom would the bottom draw support?

FDChief went to great lengths to discuss "lies, lies, lies". Sadly, the people are not in contact with the "Truth", even when not lied to. Even the "Truth" about themselves does not compute.

As long as the general population lives in "Fantasy Land", the rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer, big money will own our government and wars like Iraq, Afghanistan and the like will blithely go on, and on, and on.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sigh

So the Wikileaks people have done another infodump regarding the Seven Years' War in central Asia, a.k.a. the Third Gulf War (counting Iran-Iraq as one and 1991 as two) or, if you insist on the silly DoD "code name" (a "code" which would have a hard time fooling Shaggy and Scooby), Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As usual, there is no shocking revelation here. There is nothing we haven't heard of, seen, or suspected, since the days when the shock came with a side order of awe.What is just depressing to me as an old soldier, though, is the pure predictability of the information we're seeing in the sitreps and TOC logs the Wikileaks people have amassed.

1. Iran was heavily involved in messing with our operations in Iraq. I'm shocked, shocked! After the way the Chinese left us alone in Korea in the Fifties and the Chinese and Sovs stayed out of our hair in Vietnam in the Sixties and Seventies, who'd have thought it?No wonder the finest geostrategic minds within the Beltway were utterly blindsided by this!

2. The Iraqi "government" we sponsored - in a crude, post-Ottoman, ethnically-divided, bitterly impoverished, historically kleptocratic- and thuggish pseudostate, mind you - turned out to be as or nearly as brutal and arbitrary as Saddam's.Well, DAMN!

Didn't see that one coming.

3. We killed more hapless civvies at places like checkpoints and from the air than we did the muj. I predicted this one from back in '03, knowing what I did about our Army's obsession with force protection. If you capped an Iraqi mama-san you risked at worst a slap on the pinkie. If you let a car-bomb do one of your roadblocks? Kiss that OER goodbye, sir. So we capped assloads of innocent people.

No, duh?

The cumulative thing that makes this frustrating is the same-same-ness of it all. Back in the Seventies Dan Ellsberg took a pretty huge personal risk to expose the mountain of lies that the Vietnam War was built over and the national response was a collective yawn.

Now we're reading - again - that this fucking Mess-o-potamia was built on lies and lies about lies.

Don't get me wrong here. My country has lied its way into war, lied about its conduct in war, time and again. No, the Mexicans didn't invade the Nueces Strip, the Spanish didn't sink the Maine, and the the Vietnamese didn't attack the C. Turner Joy, either. Yes, we bombed civilian targets in WW2, we burned out downtown Panama in 1989 and lied about it. Churchill, no stranger to the politics and strategems of war, said that in it truth needed a bodyguard of lies.

But, as these documents remind us - again - this damn war didn't just have a bodyguard of lies. It had a recon and security screen of lies - lies about smoking guns and mushroom clouds and model airplanes filled with death from above. It had a main line of resistance of lies, lies about flowers and candy, lies about easy peasy, lies about body counts, lies about Iraqi exiles and Iraqi politics, lies about reconstruction and "coalition" provisional authorities. It had reserves of lies, lies about Shiites and Sunnis, lies about weapons and where they went, lies about Al Qaeda and muj and Sadrists. It had a logistical and support base of lies, lies about no-bid contracts and mercenaries and political and diplomatic conditions. It had a no-bid contract of lies, an entire Third Shop of lies, a theatre-level of lies, an entire Base Section, MACOM, and CONUS-full of lies and spin and bullshit.

And all these lies, for what?

Yes, Saddam is gone. In 1918 many an Englishman or Frenchman would have told you that the defenstration of the Kaiser was the best thing that could happen to Germany and that they couldn't imagine anything worse, and many a Russian, a Pole, or a Ukranian would have told you that the fall of the Tsar was a victory for Everyman everywhere inside the old Russian Empire.

And within twenty yearstwo menwould make those wishful-thinking optimists long for the old autocrats.

We had an uneasy arrangement with Saddam for decades. It wasn't good, it sucked for the Iraqis, it was expensive and irritating and we wanted things to be better. So in a moment of hubris and willful ignorance we kicked it to splinters and had to lie our asses off to do it and what did we get in return?

I don't think we even know yet. I think we will have no idea what we will see there for a decade, or two, and whether it will make us long for Saddam's mere brutality as a zek perishing in Stalin's lead mines may have pined for the Tsar.But this leaked pile of crap reminds us that what we do know is that whatever rough beast is slouching towards Baghdad to be born was engendered and midwived by lies, fucking lies, piles and heaps and mountains of lies upon lies.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Fail's




Post script picture, and just because a picture is worth more than a thousand opinions...here you go Andy...just for you...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Now they have.

"Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim gun, and they have not."
(Hilaire Belloc)

Jason over at Armchair Generalist has a good little discussion about the icon of modern rebellion, the AK-47. Jason objects, sensibly, to the sensationalist journalism that labels the rifle a "weapon of mass destruction" but points out that
"What makes the AK-47 such a distinctive weapon system isn't its accuracy or the number of widgets that you can add onto the rifle. It's a cheap, long-lasting, low-maintenance system that has an overwhelming abundance of available ammunition (that is )not the best weapon to use against other militaries, but works fine against noncombatants and poorly-armed security forces."
For what it's worth, I would opine that the combination of the cheap, rugged, low-tech automatic weapon and the mine are what has made colonialism such a mug's game since the middle 1940's.Back when it was us having the Maxim gun and they had not it was pretty simple to run an empire on the cheap. But now every dimestore Westbumfuckian Liberation Front can lay their hands on a couple of shiploads of AKs and a bunch of PMD shoebox mines (or just some Semtex and a Palestinian- or Iraqi-for-hire to show them how to wire the things for sound) and all of a sudden the White Man's Burden becomes hard for low-population-growth, expensive Western volunteer armies to bear.As the Sri Lankans showed us, crushing these groups is possible, but you have to be able to use genocidal-level force, and for a Western occupier in the age of CNN/Al Jazeeera I'm not sure that's possible anymore.

So the Sunni rebellion in Iraq is controllable, either by buying out the rebels as "Sons of Iraq" or by arming their Shia and Kurdish rivals and letting them do the genocide. But absent a truly competent government, and given the strength of the rebel forces on the outside, this may not be possible in places like Afghanistan or Pakistan, and for the Western press and governments to pretend otherwise seems extremely irresponsible.

Obviously it's hard to predict the arc of competence here, but I would suggest that if the ANA/AP haven't managed to outperform their rivals after eight years of Western instruction the window for their doing a Sri Lanka on the Talibs is closing fast.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Fail's

Teh Stoopid - It Burns! (Part 3)

WTF?

"WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is meeting with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to talk about a pending arms treaty with Russia and other issues."

Look, I understand the part about putting aside partisanship to drink deeply at the well of wisdom of the sages that have preceded you in office.

But.

Condi Rice?

Condi Rice???

Possibly the most inept National Security Advisor in the brief history of the nation? Forchrissake, Obama, if you want advice on military affairs would you want to talk to the commander of the Iraqi occupation forces in Kuwait in '91? If you wanted advice on marriage would to want to talk to Newt Gingrich? If you wanted advice on clowning would you want to talk to John Wayne Gacy?

I know Condi was supposed to be an expert on the Soviets, but she's been out of that game for two decades. Her performance as SecState was centered on the Middle East, Iraq, and Afghanistan where her "Transformational Diplomacy" was initially a bust and then something of a mean joke. She was constantly outplayed by Cheney and Rummy, and her reorganization of State was a fairly massive fail.

You want to suck up to a Republican? George Schultz is still alive, and his record with the Sovs is way better than Condi's. Jim Baker did a hell of a job during the Second Gulf War. Even Maddie Albright, not my favorite diplomat by any means, has a better vita than Condi!

Is it utterly impossible to fuck up SO badly as to become unwelcome inside the Beltway? What the hell do you have to do to wear out your welcome inside the Oval Office, become a divorced homosexual Green hippe?

What?

عناقيد الغضب

I can't imagine this is a good thing.When I was in the MFO-Sinai back in the 1980's one of the missions we were tasked with was escorting Egyptian mineclearing teams in the US Sector. This was one of those dangerous-but-boring things that soldiers do a lot of, peacetime or wartime, and we used to spend a lot of time sitting in the white quarter-ton jeep, the lieutenant, the RTO, and the medic (which was me), talking about anything and everything to pass the time, both to try and ignore the fact that the Egyptians were tossing the damn things around (which was part of their mineclearing "technique") as well as to kill the long stretches where the Egyptians were doing nothing at all (which was another part of their "technique").

At any rate, one long afternoon the Egyptians piled up a truly mountainous pile of mines, everything from US M-21 antitank mines left by the Israelis through cheap n' nasty wooden PMD-type shoebox mines left by the Egyptians themselves. It was a hell of a monument to the hatred between the two nations as well as a reminder of how many times the place we were in had been fought over. But the sight made Lt. Parker, who was a pretty good military historian, ruminate on wars in general and Middle Eastern wars in particular.

I still remember him shading his eyes as he watched the Egyptians wire the massive pile of useless junk for demo.

"It's pretty amazing how many reasons that people around here can find to kill each other." he said, "Land, oil, religion. Fucking amazing."

He thought about this for a moment, and then added;

"But when they start fighting over water...that's when it's really gonna get brutal."

So who knows - we may not have seen the worst the Middle East has to offer.

Yet.

Teh Stoopid - It Burns!! (Part 2)

From last night's debate between Harry Reid and Tea Party fave Sharron Angle:

Angle: "...we need to support our military with all of our resources, not only our military in service right now, but those veterans and their families as well. That’s one of those priorities in the enumerated powers of our Constitution. We should be setting our priorities on our military.

But when you said this war is lost and said that General Petraeus was dishonest, that emboldened our enemies, dis-, demoralized our troops, and endangered them, and you need to apologize to them, Senator."

Hmmm. Let's see:

1. Disarm Saddam's weapons of mass destruction? NO GO - he didn't fucking have any, we knew that, and lied our asses off about it, ruining our credibility and staining our national honor. Big fucking NO GO.
2. Remove Saddam? GO - we did that
3. Install democratic pro-American regime in Baghdad? NO GO - at least so far, we have installed an Iranian client/theocratic kleptocracy
4. Reduce tensions in region? NO GO - still as much of a fucking powderkeg as ever, if not more.
5. Reduce the need for U.S. forces in ME? NO GO
6. Improve the lot of the Iraqi people NO GO - at least for now; the jury's still out on how this will play out. In the short run, a fail, given the immense death and misery the war produced.

That's one "GO" out of six tasks.

And I loves me some soldiers and some veterans, but "supporting them with all our resources" is an enumerated power of the Federal Government? What the fu...?

Article 1, Section 8, says that Congress has the power to:
"...declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water; raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; provide and maintain a Navy; make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; and to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;"
That's it. Nothing in there about vets, nothing in there about the degree to which the Congress and People of the U.S. are obliged to "support our military".

Christ, this idiocy makes me go all drill sergeant. Word up to young Private Angle: the armed forces of the United States are there to protect and defend the Constitution and the lives and, at the direction of the Congress and the orders of the officers appointed by the President, defend the lives and property of the citizens of the United States.

It's not the other way around, dummy. When the state exists to support the armed forces it called "fascism", knucklehead.

As I used to tell my trainees, "PVT Angle, you are a "NO GO" at this station. You have the option to retest imediately, or you will be retrained and retested at a later time.

What is your option?"


And what is OUR option? Congresscritter drone Reid versus this nutjob?

WASF.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Teh Stoopid - It Burns!

I don't think it's a big secret that I am not impressed with the "Tea Party" "movement".

From its rhetoric to its heroes, this camorra has always seemed to me to be nothing more than the more gooberist elements of the Republican Right whose desire not to pay taxes for anything while continuing to fund everything they enjoy (killing Muslims, subsidies for "small farmers", that sort of thing) exceeds even the fairly fantastic complacency of the less-unhinged elements of the GOP.

But this is really idiotic - GOP candidate and Tea Party flavor-of-the-week Christine O'Donnell;
"Well if you remember when we were fighting the Soviets over there in Afghanistan in the '80s and '90s, we did not finish the job, so now we have a responsibility to finish the job and if you are gonna make these politically correct statements that it's costing us too much money, you are threatening the security of our homeland."
Before we can have any sort of sensible discussion about our Little Wars in central Asia and the Middle East we need to have, at the very least, a grown-up understanding about What They Are and What They Are Not. And one thing - the most central thing - they ARE NOT is about the "security of our homeland".

The Taliban, including all its permutations, is not and never will be an existential threat to the continental U.S., Hawaii, Guam, the U.S.V.I. or anything else underneath our starry flag. Ain't now, never was, won't be, until the moment the Taliban High Seas Fleet hoves into view off the Virgina Capes or the Taliban Air Force pounds San Francisco flat (though given their philosophical differences O'Donnell would probably give the Talibs the City by the Bay...).

I'm not saying that there is NO argument for pursuing a conventional war on the Asian mainland or in the Middle East. But I am saying that if you try to halt the argument by saying that making a cost-benefit analysis of fighting cabinet wars is the equivalent of surrender then you're not arguing seriously, and, in fact, your credibility as a particpant in the entire discussion is in serious jeopardy.

I think that the Bush years have badly damaged the GOP and that is a problem, because the United States does need a party to speak for the political, economic, and social conservatives. But these Tea Partiers are starting to move - have moved - beyond the sort of crony-capitalist, national-security-state-Washington-Rules sort of intellectual poverty that dominated the GOP after two terms of Dubyism into real tinfoil hat territory. And if they come to dominate the party we as a nation are in real trouble; first because they will shift the national conversation WAY over towards Teh Crazy, and second, because their insistence in the political purity of their positions makes them ever less unlikely to accept compromise than when Karl Rove used the term to mean "bend the Democrats over and show them who runs things in D.C.".

I wish I could retire this term but, shit...WASF

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bizarre Footnotes to History

Did you know that the Federal Republic of Germany settled the last of its WW1 reparation debt last Sunday?

Seriously. That's what happened.Well.

There's that done.

Completely aside from the utter oddity in the final payment of the Kaiser's punishment coming from the post-reunification, post-denazified, post-a-whole-'nother-world-war Germany, the thing that this strange little news item makes me think of is the almost unencompassable effects that dismal war has had on human history. When you think of what might have been had the European Great Powers not hurled themselves into war through a combination of hubris, stupidity, patriotism, ignorance, and animosity, of the impact the War had on people's lives, and in some ways is affecting them even now...well, perhaps the final payment may even have been a little precipitate.

In human history there have been many great hinges of Fate. But I honestly can't think of one greater or more terrible than the First World War.And as a soldier, I always think about the First World War whenever someone quotes to me Bobby Lee saying "It is well that war is so terrible - otherwise we would grow too fond of it." Now, I'm a military history buff and I understand the pre-industrial context and the tradition of Heroic war that Lee's statement embodies. But I can't imagine anyone but a fool or a madman saying that after the Somme, or Verdun, or Passchaendale, or Chemin des Dames. He was fifty years ahead of his time, but it was 1914 that finally killed off Lee's notions of war and replaced them with Bill Sherman's;

"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out."

Friday Fail's

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Crazy train...your ticket awaits you...

All aboard! Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaa!

Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay

Crazy, but that's how it goes

Millions of people living as foes

Maybe it's not too late

To learn how to love
And forget how to hate

Mental wounds not healing
Life's a bitter shame

I'm going off the rails on a crazy train
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train

Let's Go!

I've listened to preachers
I've listened to fools


I've watched all the dropouts
Who make their own rules



Mental wounds still screaming
Driving me insane


I'm going off the rails on a crazy train
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train

I know that things are going wrong for me
You gotta listen to my words


Yeah

Heirs of a cold war
That's what we've become
Inheriting troubles
I'm mentally numb
Crazy, I just cannot bear
I'm living with something' that just isn't fair

Mental wounds not healing
Who and what's to blame

I'm going off the rails on a crazy train
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train

Ahahahahaha...hahaha...haha...ha...ha

/sigh

How do you define "Strategy"?


It's a simple question folks. "Goals" or "Process"? "Individual" or "Collective"? And indication of "weakness" or "strength"? Give me your own definition if you would like to share it . . .

It might just provide us with a perspective of what US "strategy" is today . . .

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Mexican Suitcase





A valuable historical treasure has been found recently and is now on display in New York's International Center of Photography.

Gerda Taro, pictured above, was killed just before her 27th birthday while photographing the Spanish Civil War. Her boyfriend, Robert Capa, photographed the iconic picture of the falling soldier at top.

Go see.

http://museum.icp.org/mexican_suitcase/

The SCW is remembered as the inspiration for some of the greatest world art in recent time.

Friday Fail's

I have decided in the spirit of the "Friday" light-heartedness, and that we tend to delve into some pretty serious stuff, that we need to laugh a bit.
So, today, I start Friday Fails.