Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Heads Will Roll

--She wants a head

"Off with his head!" she said, without even looking round
"I'll fetch the executioner myself," said the King eagerly,

and he hurried off

--Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll

Something is not quite right here.

The Comedy Central cartoon show South Park has caved to a threat from an online Muslim group and removed all references to Mohamed from their program (past and current). For those who don't know South Park, it is a show which reveres no sacred cows -- no religion, race, sex or creed is sacrosanct. Everyone gets a pie in the face. Except, not Mohamed.

There have been rows in the past. Isaac Hayes, a recurring character ("Chef"), left when Scientology was sent up. Writer Matt Stone said,
"[We] never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."

Scientology jokes stayed; Mr. Hayes left.

NYT columnist Ross Douthat commented Sunday:

"[South Park's muzzling] is a reminder that Islam is just about the only place where we draw any lines at all.

"... Our culture has few taboos that can’t be violated, and our establishment has largely given up on setting standards in the first place.

"Except where Islam is concerned. There, the standards are established under threat of violence, and accepted out of a mix of self-preservation and self-loathing.

"This is what decadence looks like: a frantic coarseness that bravely trashes its own values and traditions, and then knuckles under swiftly to totalitarianism and brute force.

"Happily, today’s would-be totalitarians are probably too marginal to take full advantage. This isn’t Weimar Germany, and Islam’s radical fringe is still a fringe, rather than an existential enemy.

"For that, we should be grateful. Because if a violent fringe is capable of inspiring so much cowardice and self-censorship, it suggests that there’s enough rot in our institutions that a stronger foe might be able to bring them crashing down (
Not Even in South Park.)"

So while our soldiers are fighting for Muslim countries to ostensibly gain a measure of freedom, we are self-censoring at the death threats emanating from some members of the Muslim community in our own country. This I don't understand.

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones (retd.) recently headed off a talk on the Mideast Peace Process with a joke about Jewish merchants (General Jones Makes a Jewish Joke.)

Yes, the joke is an old Catskills one, and in other contexts, might be funny. But this was told by a Christian General addressing a somber meeting -- a joke which disparages greedy Jewish merchants, one of the parties which he came to discuss.

For parity's sake, why were there no Hadji jokes? Off with his head, if he tried that one.

What's wrong with this picture?

[Cross-posted at RangerAgainstWar]

Hispanics in your back yard at 3 am

Let's get this straight up front: George Will is a curmudgeonly old stick who has managed to lose whatever common sense and humanity he ever had toadying to the power brokers in today's GOP. He's become Rush Limbaugh in a tweed jacket.

Still, the man is what passes for an "intellectual" of the Right. I can only assume that this is the only reason that today's Oregonian ("We're the Worst Newspaper In the World But We're The Only Newspaper In Portland!") was willing to front up his appalling screed on the Arizona "Papieren, bitte!" immigration law.

As usual, Will takes his little conservative sawed-off shotgun of Deep Conservative Thinking, aims it at the Godless Lib'ruls, and blows off his own foot. And, no, I'm not going to link to the sunovabitch. Google "George Will" and "Arizona immigration" and you'll find his worthless ass.

Specifically what he does is he manages to completely miss the whole point of those of us who find the new law so frigging stupid.

It doesn't have anything to do with racism. Or fascism. Or anti-Mexican prejudice. Or the damn Tea Party idiots and what they do or don't believe is true.

Nope. It's in the process that's stated in S.B. 1070 in these words: "For any lawful contact made by a low enforcement official or agency...where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a resonable attempt shall be made, when practical, to determine the immigration status of that individual."

"Where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States..."

Do you see the problem here?

Let's say that I am Canadian. I slipped across the border into Oregon, applied for a state ID (which in my state does not require proof of citizenship). I have a job, a house, am in all ways indistinguishable from someone born in Portland or Gresham except that I'm not a legal U.S. citizen.

How is a Maricopa sheriff's deputy going to know that?

Should I wear a Canucks jersey? Go around saying "eh?" a lot? Wear snowshoes in Tempe and run gallumphing away when the county cruiser drives by?

Let's cut through the bullshit being spouted about this and man up to the fact that there are only two ways to enforce this law:

1. Target groups or individuals who are "likely" to be in the U.S. illegally.

This is clearly what the law intends. It is designed to smoke out Latinos; Mexicans, Salvadorians, Hondurans, Guatemalans, who are in the country without their papers. Will's column admits as much. He describes it as a "cry for help" because the feds have failed to control passage through our southern border. In the process he also makes the fairly specious claim that Democrats and liberals who are objecting to this are doing so only to win Hispanic votes, but, nevermind, it's George Will. Will makes the assertion that this is merely federalism at work, and that we who know Hispanics only as people with leafblowers in our front yards at noon - rather than in our backyards at 3 a.m. - need to get over it and let Arizona get on with the job.

(Let me also observe the nasty implicit racisim in the notion that because the Arizonans who like this law are more "familiar" with brown people they have more reason to suspect that many of them are criminals. But, nevermind, it's George Will.)

If this is the intent - which it is - the law is clearly both wrong in intent and illegal in practice. If it becomes obvious that Arizona lawmen are stopping hispanic-looking people and asking for their papers the disparity and prejudicial intent of the law will be legally unavoidable. When the first Hispanic U.S. citizen unable to produce the appropriate papers is arrested (and at least one will be - the Border Patrol and the USCIS, charged with enforcing immigration law, do this all the time) the violent and debilitating payout of taxpayer funds in lawsuits will begin. How many deputies and librarians will Arizona counties have to lay off before realizing that this is a mug's game?

2. Begin asking random individuals for their proof of citizenship.

Game over. The "Papers, please!" chestnut is the oldest shorthand for dictatorship we know. When and if this happens, Arizona will have officially become the rubber bobo head for all the dumb nativist beliefs spouted everywhere in the U.S. And yes, I'm looking mostly at you, conservatives. You've embraced this tarbaby all on your ownselves.

More to the point, none of this really has anything to do with dealing with the problem of controlling our southern border and why it is so difficult.

I have no doubt that this law has something to do with hating on some Mexicans and something to with the a certain type of person's approach to a problem being to find the biggest stick possible and beat on it. But that's not the problem.

One problem is that this law is an unenforcibly bad law; it requires Arizona cops to choose between racism and authoritarianism. It's said that hard cases make bad law. Well, bad law makes for hard cases, and this one is going to be as bad as can be. But that's not the problem, either.

The problem is that this law is a symptom. The problem is that this is a symptom of the kind of bad, stupid, things that people do when they have no patience and no intelligence to come up with a complex solution to a complex problem. The problem is that this law isn't all that much different than doing bad, stupid things like launching land wars and occupying lands in central Asia in retaliation for an act of civilian criminality by a handful of raggedy-ass guerillas. It's not all that much different from doing bad, stupid things like passing legislation that let slicky-boys run financial Ponzi schemes and then refusing to change anything when their greed and dumb stupidity impoverish others.

Back in June of 2007 I talked a lot about this. About how the "illegal immigration" problem isn't really an "illegal immigration" problem but a multi-car pileup of social, economic and political ills in Central America, economic imbalance across the Border, pig-stupid U.S. drug and labor laws, wishful thinking and reality-avoidance on all sides wrapped up in the bone-deep simplicity of the sort of people like Arizona's governor and her fellow thumb-hammerers in the state legislature. About how this does nothing more than punish people desperate to help themselves and their families while doing nothing, less than nothing, about the problems and structural instability that brought them there.

I have no hope that the sort of people in Arizona who thought this law would work will suddenly get smarter. In fact, I have little hope at all that my nation as a whole can avoid the long slide into magical thinking and stupid answers to difficult questions that this law represents. All I can do is repeat to Governor Brewer and the idiotic legislators of Arizona now what I said then:
"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 wil 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 (actual 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.

As Hadrian himself might have said: Nam tua res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet.

It is your business when your neighbour's house is on fire."
Hadrian used stone to build his wall and try and keep the Pictish wetbacks out. It was a warlike act and as such it worked for a time. But eventually the pressure from without and the rot from within knocked the rocks down.

I have no idea of what it means that the only rocks involved here are inside people like Jan Brewer's and Russel Pearce's and George Will's heads.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Whew! For a while there.....

I was concerned that the Army had kind of gotten rid of its old chickenshit ways in this brave new era of volunteer soldiers fighting interminable wars. Fortunately, it seems I was wrong. Today's NY Times has this sad article about the Army's Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Carson, CO:

Recall our discussions several years ago focusing on Walter Reed? Well, here we are again. Same shit, different day (SSDD), as another old Army tradition has it. As an old soldier, I'm especially gratified to see that the NCO Corps is keeping up that hallowed tradition for which it became so famous over the years. Am I being unfair to NCOs? Probably. After all, the NCOs cited here probably wouldn't be doing what it seems they're doing were it not such stalwart officers as Brigadier General Gary Cheek and Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Grantham. Interestingly, I've been an NCO—in fact I made it all of the way to sergeant first class, in a very short time, in wartime—and one of the reasons I chose to go the officer route was because NCOs are usually the stuckees when it comes to administering chickenshit rules. But the unfortunate fact was that in my Army too many of them always seemed to relish doing so. I'm an old Army guy, not well versed in the modern military, so I'd be interested in hearing from younger NCOs on this. Somehow I thought that with a volunteer military engaged in endless war, perhaps chickenshit had kind of been relegated to the past. And I'll say this: this isn't an NCO-bashing exercise—not at all—but I'm actually pretty perturbed about the whole idea of shooting these troops up with a whole bunch of neat drugs, expecting them to perform as anything resembling normal soldiers, and then letting NCOs treat them as malingerers. Four suicides. That's not good, Army.

Maybe these troops are malingerers. If so, get 'em out. But what's reported here doesn't support such a lede. What I'm coming away with is a real feeling of SSDD. I've seen this movie before. Macho men with no background, education or expertise in pretty complex medical issues somehow empowered to decide that soldiers who've fallen on hard times are cowards and somehow unworthy. I thought the whole purpose of this expensive exercise in "warrior transition" was to somehow make these kids whole and, if they can't be restored to active duty, perhaps get them to the point where they can be productive members of the greater society.

Sorry, Army. You lose again. Apparently you just can't be trusted to tell the truth. "Warrior transition" turns out to be some sort of boot camp for screwed up troops, while meanwhile on the other side of the world, your four-star general in charge of Afghanistan tells the US public that "pop-centric COIN" means that local nationals will be protected from bad and good guys alike, but then allows combat operations where locals are killed by US troops for no apparent reason. Chickenshit and "we had to destroy the village to save it." Still alive and well, it seems.

Shortbread Tins

This month's battle over at GFT: CullodenCome sample some shortbread and discussion...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Stupid comes in many forms

But dumb goes right to the bone

A long time ago in a century gone by a certain super power had a certain high value target in a certain country that they really felt that if dead…would more than likely end a whole series of problems that had been…um…multiplying.
So this certain country had a certain vessel launch a certain type of missile that could hug the ground, bob, weave, and dodge till it came upon its target and then explode with righteous indignation.
And so…they did.
The only problem was…the 30 min window of the launch to target time…yeah, people are not static, and time has a propensity to multiply the opportunities for a person to move.

I picked this up from Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones, and for the life of me I laughed, posted a “been there, done that” response and went about my day…but still, this lil voice in the back of my head said, “what if…”

Dear G-d, I’m thinking, they can’t be serious.
A near 30 million dollar missile being used like a sidewinder?
They can’t be that nutty…or could they?
So I dug around and sure enough I find this article…good lord, all it takes is stupid to go viral and soon it does…

The list of things that could go wrong are staggering, but I’m just flabbergasted that this is even being considered…ICBM’s are not known for pinpoint accuracy…certainly of getting to the target zone with 30m, but not for “drop-on-top” accuracy, not to mention all the other incidentals this has going for it.

I’m not sure how you guys feel about this, but for me….this has wrong written all over it…and it makes me wince thinking about all the abuses that could go with this little device since, apparently unbeknownst to moi and vu, George W. Bush wanted the same capability.
Holy shirt birds!
Really, W. wanted this capability?
With what he did?
Oh hells no!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Someone You Should Know About

I've been doing this Internet blog routine for several years now, since shortly after it all took off after 9/11, when heightened interest in the military combined with technological advances to give the great unwashed a means of expressing our thoughts about the issues of the day. Now we're all bloggers.

One of the very first bloggers I encountered way back when was Phil Carter. We all know the rest of that story, but this isn't about that.

I discovered another blog shortly after I found Intel Dump. This blog, run by a young officer by the name of Jason Sigger, intrigued me no end. Jason is a Chemical Corps officer, now no longer on active duty, so he leans heavily towards what to me has always been a pretty incomprehensible line of work. Good for guys like Jason; guys like me don't understand half of what he's talking about. In fact, the only time I dare weigh in on his area of expertise is to say something like, "I hate the term WMD because you can't equate nukes with bugs and gas." I think Jason agrees with this, BTW.

Fortunately, Jason, who's become a good blog friend, does more than bugs and gas. He makes some great catches—for example, it was Jason who alerted me to the military tea baggers and birthers—and his blog is also pretty elegant and user-friendly. What prompted me to do this unsolicited commercial was a post Jason made today referencing friend Seydlitz's excellent work on Mark Twain. Now, I'm a big Mark Twain fan. When I was a youth, I read Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Connecticut Yankee, et al. I haven't read everything of Twain's because he was such a prolific writer, but I've seen enough of his work outside of the famous stuff to know he was a serious observer of the American scene. I found something new from Twain this evening at Armchair Generalist. This prompted a post that I've been meaning to do for some time.

Go to Armchair Generalist. Read the catch on Twain/Clemons. You'll like it. And you'll understand why Jason posted it. It's relevant to much of what we discuss. And then, please, if you don't already do so, make it a habit to check in with Jason. I do it on a daily basis and he never disappoints.

Health Care Inquiry

There is not a more unhappy being
than a superannuated idol
--Joseph Addison

Each organism raises its head

over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun,

and declares life good

--Elias Canetti


Obama's new health care initiatives have Ranger questioning the continued existence of the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system.

If health care is really reformed, why not treat veterans like every other citizen? Universal access to health care should obviate the need for a separate veterans system, which would then seem superfluous.

The counter argument is that veteran's health needs require special treatment -- issues like atomic and chemical exposure (depleted uranium, for example), post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are but a few of these. Another key DVA issue is disability determination, to include service-connected compensation, but this issue could stand apart from its health care function.

Ranger requests input from those familiar with how other nations handle veterans health care issues. How are they funded, and is their treatment apart from that of the general populace? How are veterans treated specially, if at all?

Do veterans receive health care beyond that received by non-military citizens? Is the level of treatment received by veterans abroad sufficient? Does it exceed that received in the U.S. in any way?

Input is appreciated to help Ranger put this issue in a global perspective.

I'll take my answers off the air.

[Cross-posted @

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Centennial of Mark Twain's Death

This centennial caught me by surprise. By chance I noticed that the google news page for Germany mentioned this item, but there was no heading in the google news page for the US. Surprising that, or perhaps on second thought, not that surprising at all. This post is a response to something that Al commented on one of Ranger's recent posts in regards to "monochronic vs polychronic worldview/behavior" in the US. Lisa responded as well, and I have been attempting to come up with a suitable comment for the last couple of days, but have produced nothing satisfactory so there has been no comment till now.

So what does Mark Twain have to do with this? It's a bit of a long, round about sort of connection, but here goes . . .

Twain was perhaps the first American writer to achieve a "world-wide following" (the "world" was limited to the US and Europe in those days). His work also reflected a grand mixture of high satire and humor, but he was also very politically active as well, being the President of the Anti-Imperialist League of New York from 1901 until his death in 1910. His "To the Person Sitting in Darkness" is still a worthwhile text to read in regards to not only understanding the US policies of Twain's day, but our own. Some of his best writing in this regard was refused by his publishers and only became public much later.

A consideration of Twain and his life brings out many of the dubious assumptions and notions that we simply take for granted, as our "rights" even, today without ever questioning the whole fragile and contingent nature behind them. For instance, Twain who went broke in the 1890s due to poor investments, not to mention believing con artists, would never have assumed "the market" to be anything other than a crap shoot and a very crooked crap shoot at that.

Compare that to our situation today almost two years after the greatest economic collapse since 1929 and it's as if Herbert Hoover had been re-elected to a second term and instituted a program known as "the Old Deal". The market in essence has become our god and we don't question it. Any popular rumblings are quickly side-tracked to pro-status quo distractions.

The great author was also no stranger to tragedy. He buried his wife and three of his four children, and the death of his youngest daughter on Christmas Eve 1909 robbed him of the will to live, the local people said that the man had simply died of a "broken heart".

Mark Twain had a good nose for politics. Besides his clear view on the imperialism of his day, he deserted the pro-Confederate Missouri militia he had volunteered for after three weeks, leaving a humorous account, but not a real explanation as to why he had volunteered in the first place. Civil wars are like that I suppose.

So what is the connection between Twain and Al's comment? Twain was a mature human being who had seen enough of adversity and sorrow and knew that both were inseparable from life. He knew what religion was and what capitalism was and would have never mistaken the two. He knew what freedom was and what tyranny was and would never have labelled the latter with the former. He never would have allowed himself to be controlled by fear or the thought of losing his material possessions which he knew were transitory in any case. He was as adverse to jingoism as he was to hypocrisy. He knew what community was, what American values meant and that those values required struggle to maintain. He also knew the difference between truth and lies and how to think for himself. He never would have assumed that any prejudice was a virtue, let alone a strength or advantage.

Perhaps what Twain was most aware of, and what many of our coutrymen have lost sight of today, is basic human folly. The "partisans" today - although "partisan" is a poor word to describe them since there is no political ideology involved but rather confusion, narrow private interest and scape goat hunting - assume that we need only follow their simple solutions and all will be well and good, everyone will be fat, dumb and happy, smug in their own little cacoon of material trinkets and perfumed air. Never will be and never has been. The country was built on interests, but in the past those interests actually represented something: shipping, factories, plantations, railroads - real assets which did not just reflect economic vitality, they were the actual source of that vitality. Today, our infrastructure crumbles around us as the stock market soars at the news of million $$$ bonuses for well-placed swindlers. Those who orchestrated the greatest economic trainwreck since The Great Depression patch up what's left for their next go at the wheel. This all done in very deterministic fashion before our unbelieving eyes. What would Twain think if he were alive today?

He knew corruption, both economic and political, but they had always been balanced in his day by enough people who were able to put the country's interests first, before their own. These people of course were not only the common people able to agitate for their own interests, but the political elite as well. To get an idea of how our political elite has decayed consider the most significant (in terms of effect) president of Twain's day - Theodore Roosevelt and the most significant in our own - George W. Bush. The comparison and the state of decay should be obvious (if it is not for you try to imagine Bush just reading this speech coherently, let alone writing it).

To argue that one's corrupt narrow interests were actually those of the country would have gotten any politician or other crook tarred and feathered, and run out of town on a rail. We stopped treating people in high places like that long ago; in America today, only the poor and powerless "get what they've got coming, good and hard". Such is progress as we have been conditioned to see it.

When our children were small I used to read to them before they went to sleep. They heard a whole series of childrens' books, but the only novel I ever read to them was selections from Twain's, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain was the first American author (after L. Frank Baum) they were exposed to. I'm glad about that.


Twain and the two generations that followed his had a much clearer view of the human condition, including the human political condition, then ours ever will, I fear . . .

Refer to Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, 1922.

Read starting page 154, "The democratic ideal, as Jefferson moulded it", on to the end of the chapter.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sky King

From out of the clear blue of the
Western sky comes... Sky King!

--My orders came through.
My squadron ships out tomorrow.
We're bombing the storage depots at Daiquiri at 1800 hours.
We're coming in from the north, below their radar.
--When will you be back?
--I can't tell you that. It's classified
--Airplane! (1980)

Homeland Security Administration gets a lot wrong in its approach to countering the Terror threat to the U.S. The Air Marshal Service is a prime example.

Tennessee Rep. Jimmy Duncan quotes an 11/08
USA Today story on his webpage:

“Since 9/11, more than three dozen Federal air marshals have been charged with crimes, and hundreds more have been accused of misconduct. Cases range from drunken driving and domestic violence to aiding a human-trafficking ring and trying to smuggle explosives from Afghanistan.''

"Actually, there have been many more arrests of Federal air marshals than that story reported, quite a few for felony offenses. In fact, more air marshals have been arrested than the number of people arrested by air marshals (
Duncan Blasts "Useless" Air Marshal Service)."

Nice to know our tax dollars are supporting criminal enterprises beyond the mundane stealing of office pens. Rep. Duncan continues:

"We now have approximately 4,000 in the Federal Air Marshals Service, yet they have made an average of just 4.2 arrests a year since 2001. This comes out to an average of about one arrest a year per 1,000 employees.

"Now, let me make that clear. Their thousands of employees are not making one arrest per year each. They are averaging slightly over four arrests each year by the entire agency. In other words, we are spending approximately $200 million per arrest. Let me repeat that: we are spending approximately $200 million per arrest."

The cost per arrest is staggering, especially considering their low quality. Only three significant arrests since 9-11-2001, with only one conviction (Richard Reid).

Is there even a threat to our commercial aviation sector? If so, are Air Marshal the appropriate tool with which to counter the threat? Proper police and intel coordination linked with Transportation and Security Administration protocols should neutralize the threat before the security zone is penetrated by would-be hostile operatives.

The security system now has superfluous layers serving no obvious purpose. One example is screening for the components of liquid explosives which, even if smuggled aboard, could not be effectively combined to create an improvised mixture (unless a work area with scales were available.)

Explosives are not manufactured as easily as martinis that are shaken and not stirred. The realistic threat is not a James Bond type, contrary to the government hype. The types apprehended to date are pathetic, untrained crazies or wannabes posing theatrical threats -- they lack finely-honed operational skills. Yet this terror theater seems adequate to scare us witless.

The Rep questions the disparity between the threat and the scale of the U.S. response:

"Why, absent any evidence of a serious terror threat, is a war to on terror so enormous, so all-encompassing, and still expanding? The fundamental answer is that al Qaeda's most important accomplishment was not to hijack our planes but to hijack our political system.”

“For a multitude of politicians, interest groups and professional associations, corporations, media organizations, universities, local and State governments and Federal agency officials, the war on terror is now a major profit center, a funding bonanza, and a set of slogans and sound bites to be inserted into budget, grant, and contract proposals.''

After nearly a decade of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) and 40 years of experience with international and transnational terrorists and state and non-state sponsored groups it would be reasonable to expect that our government would understand what are and are not realistic tactics for dealing with terrorism. Al-Qaeda is not our first rodeo.

Ranger remembers when "CT" (Communist Terrorist) was applied to the National Liberation Front/VC of the Republic of Vietnam, a label used to demonize their nationalist, anti-colonialist Communist efforts. It did not work then, and it will not work now. Sticks and stones...

Words are only words.

[Cross-posted at RangerAgainstWar]

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Need a Virgin! STAT!

From the recent eruptions in Iceland.

Nature really is freaking cool...

A Tuppence

779th Battalion insignia

The bees work.
Their work is taken from them.
We are like the bees—
But it won't last
--Black Workers, Langston Hughes

What you gonna do
When the well run dry?
You gonna sit right down and cry
--I'm Walkin', Fats Domino

Ranger's going to take down a local feel-good story, not because he is a killjoy, but because the subtext feels very bad.

A simple gesture to ensure one soldier was not left out of a family tradition led to an entire battalion of some 2,000 soldiers in Iraq uniting for a run/walk.

First Sgt. Jay Monismith of the Tallahassee-based 779th Engineer Battalion wanted to observe April 24 by wearing a tan shirt that acknowledged the sudden death of his niece, Sarah, who died 37 hours after birth due to a heart defect in 2001.

Monismith, who's stationed in Iraq, asked his captain if the section could march in remembrance of Sarah on the day of the March of Dimes run/walk in Charlotte, N.C., where Sarah's family lives (
Soldiers of the 779th In Iraq Unite for March of Dimes.)

His request morphed into the "779th Engineer Battalion Birth Defects Awareness Day Fun Run/Walk."

Ranger is certainly not agai
nst the March of Dimes, a righteous organization if ever there was one. But the darker implications of the battalion's act are two-fold:

[1] Can we actually believe the 779th is defending anyone's freedoms if they have the time to stage Fun Runs?

If this were really war and if they were really executing an effective military mission, time for such non-military activities would not be available. Further, it is difficult to imagine physically executing a run in a hostile environment. Obviously they will run in a safe area, making the claim that they are "fighting a war to support us" questionable.

[2] It costs $1 Million per year to keep a U.S. soldier deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Since the 779th has 2,000 soldiers, we would save $2 Billion by bringing them home from a senseless, useless phony war, and
could then use that money for infant mortality issues.

This would benefit the Homeland more than 2,00o soldiers walking in the sand for nickels and dimes.

A tuppence compared to the waste to which they are made a party.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Big Bad Wolf

Ranger Bumper Sticker of the Day

I smell like I sound. I'm lost and I'm found
And I'm hungry like the wolf
--Hungry Like the Wolf, Duran Duran

The girls smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature's head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead
--Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf,
Roald Dahl

In his column, "Why We Should Worry About Violent Political Rhetoric," L.A. Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez say:

"The recent spike in violent political rhetoric coupled with last week's arrest of two men who threatened the lives of two Democratic House members has a lot of commentators worried about a surge in domestic political terrorism.

If two congressmen were to be killed, how would this be an act of terrorism? IF? How has terrorism become such a bogeyman? Terrorism: The ubiquitous Big Bad Wolf of Modernity. Terrorism is the most overused and misunderstood word in the modern American lexicon.

Every crime against the U.S. is not terrorism. The assassination of John F. Kennedy was not terrorism, though by Mr. Rodriguez's rendering, it would have been. No -- both the JFK killings and that of any congressmen would be political assassinations. Which by the way is exactly what President Obama has recently authorized U.S. operatives to do, by executive order.

Why are the death threats against the congressmen perceived as political terrorism, while Obama's actions are a legitimate exercise of presidential power?

Assassination is a crime, even when authorized by a President.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hats off to Bob Bateman

This appeared in AOL News today. It's sad that his spot on OpEd isn't being printed in every major media outlet in the land.

My sincerest and most enthusiastic cheers to Bob.


P.S. But then for every step forward, there comes someone who wants to take two steps back!

Might I add the words of an Officer's Commission from the President.

To all who shall see these presents, greetings:
Know ye that reposing special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity
and abilities of _____________________________, I do appoint (him/her) a ____________________ in the United States Army.

To rank as such from the ______________ day of ____________, two thousand and _____________This officer will therefore carefully and diligently discharge the duties of the office to which appointed by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging.

And I do strictly charge and require those officers and other personnel of lesser rank to render such obedience as is due an officer of this grade and position. And, this officer is to observe and follow such orders and directions from time to time; as may be given by the President of the United States of America or other superior officers, acting in accordance with the laws of the United States of America.
This commission is to continue in force during the pleasure of the President of the United States of America, under the provisions of those public laws relating to officers of the Armed Forces of the United States of America and the component thereof in which this appointment is made.

Done at the City of Washington this ____________ day of ___________ in the year of our Lord, two thousand and _____and of the Independence of the United States of America the _________________________

By the President: (Signatures of the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army)

A lot is written about our Oath of Office, but ever so little about the Presidential Commission that makes us officers in the US Military. Without the above, issued by the President and signed by his duly authorized representative and with the concurrence of Congress, no one is an officer in the US Armed Forces. In fact, the Oath of Office is just one of the requirements to receive a Commission. A very important and solemn requirement, but the Oath alone is insufficient to be an officer.

After six years in the Marine Corps, where every promotion was done in a public formation, and included reading the Commission (for Officers) or a very similarly worded Warrant (for Enlisted) for each person being promoted, I found the Army practice of typically just reading the brief promotion order sorely lacking. Why? Because if one carefully reads the Commission above, it is a public proclamation, not just to the Officer/Enlisted person being appointed, but to every service member senior and junior to him or her. I also found the practice of "private" promotions ceremonies quite odd, as no promotion is private. It effects the entire military.

Once I rose to company command, I would have a DD Form 1A (Commission) prepared for every officer receiving a promotion, or an equivalent Warrant for Warrant Officers (prior to the time where they became Commissioned Officers). Fully appropriate and authorized by law and regulation, but a practice that was not done. The Forms were always on hand at our servicing publications office, complete with the current Sec Army and Chief of Staff signatures, and never issued, except for "souvenirs" at initial commissioning. Since the Army did not have "Appointment Warrants" for enlisted personnel, I simply had a modified version of a Marine Enlisted Appointment Warrant read in lieu of simply the promotion order. I continued this practice through to retirement whenever I commanded or as a subordinate, could influence my commander. Further, I never conducted a "private" promotion ceremony, nor allowed subordinate commanders to do so. A few of my subordinate commanders continued the practice through their careers. Further, I made a review and discussion of our Oath and Commission a part of my regular mentoring of my subordinate officers, and expected them to do the same.

The Oath of Office and Commission tell the Officer and all service members quite clearly what their service is all about. Sadly, they seem to be seen, at least in the Army in which I served, as one time inoculations, simple job requirements or souvenirs. Every Marine I served with was able, after a year of service, to recite the words of a Commission or Warrant from memory. They were a part of our very existence. And important words they are.

Obviously, Bob Bateman agrees, at least in concept, and LTC Terrence Lakin does not.

Monday, April 12, 2010

WAR = Large Explosions = Victory?

It smells like victory . . .

Having posted a case study on the Danish campaign of 1940 and observing the response to the Wikileaks video among military related blogs - although not MilPub, which imo has been a model in how to deal with these types of subjects, more specifically FDChief's thread and the following comments. Anyway, not claiming any special or particular expertise - this goes way beyond strategic theory, to "strategic culture" I suppose - I have the following points to make:

First, we in the US equate war with destruction, period. Other methods of coercion, either violent or non-violent, let alone negotiation and providing incentives, are not something countries at war really do, let alone soldiers. Soldiers, especially US soldiers and Marines, blow up stuff and kill large numbers of baddies . . .

Second, people who don't understand this, namely "civilians" (however vaguely defined), are best served keeping their views to themselves and not becoming an "annoyance" to the military as they do/did their job.

Third, there is no connection between policy and war, war is autonomous, a thing in and of itself. Politicians who make grave (and possibly intentional, even criminal) policy errors/decisions are to be judged in the fullness of time by historians alone. We have not a Clausewitzian view, or really any coherent view of war, only of destruction and methods of achieving destruction. All claims to the contrary are essentially spin and self-serving (as in war for profit-making) hogwash.

Fourth, although the war in question may be subjectively considered "stupid" or "pointless" it is nonetheless our patriotic duty to support our troops and continue our strategy of tactical destruction operating under the patina of an ill-described and ill-filling operational concept known as COIN or Counterinsurgency Warfare as currently applied to Iraq and Afghanistan.

This leads to the final point, which is simply, the military/destruction option is the only one we have because it is the only one we know and is how we as a culture define war. War is not really a struggle of opposing wills (see Clausewitz, On War, Book I, Chapter 1, Sections 1-4), but a pair of simultaneous destruction cycles carried out by both sides. The side with the most stuff undestroyed at the end of this process "wins" . . .


Friday, April 9, 2010

Bully Pulpit


Last month General Stanley McChrystal said,

"Good leaders are more important than equipment ... more important than doctrine."

Is this true? Ranger thinks not.

Talk amongst yourselves.

The Invasion of Denmark 1940 (Weserübung Süd)

Panzerkampfwagen I of the 11th Schützenbrigade, 9 April 1940

The conquest of Denmark was the quickest campaign in German military history. In the course of one day, actually in a few hours, the German Wehrmacht was able to secure an entire country. This campaign is interesting for many reasons, but before I get into that a bit of history . . .

Denmark once controlled a vast empire, but declined in power over a long period of time. During the 16th Century Denmark fought a series of devastating wars with Sweden and by the 1700s Denmark was lucky to have escaped Swedish hegemony.

In 1866 Denmark lost a short, but decisive war against the German Confederation losing the southern province of Schleswig which was predominately German, but with a Danish majority in its northern part. The treaty of Prague had promised the Danes of Schleswig a plebiscite as to which kingdom they would belong, but the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 removed France as the patron of the Schleswig Danes and a revised treaty did away with this requirement. Between 1870-1920, Schleswig was part of Prussia and thousands of ethnic Danes served in the German Army in World War I. Prussian policy in northern Schleswig, as in Alsace-Lorraine and the Polish areas in the east was harsh in the cultural sense - German as the official language, children required to attend German schools, Lutheran pastors required to make a pledge to the Kaiser among other measures. Essentially the same as being Welsh, Irish or Scottish under the English imo.

With the defeat of Germany in 1918, Schleswig's position came once more under question. Although neutral during the war, Denmark petitioned the Allies with their claims to Schleswig to the extent that the status of the province was addressed in the formal 1919 Treaty of Versailles, Section XII Articles 109-114. This required the German authorities to vacate the province and a plebicite to be held under Allied supervision. To ensure the desired outcome the Allies stipulated that two votes be carried out, one in the predominately German south and a second in the predominately Danish north. This against German protests that the province be treated as a whole entity, which it had been for centuries. Unsurprisingly the Danes voted to return to Denmark and the German/Danish border moved south.

I add this bit of history to indicate the connection between this frontier and the hated Treaty of Versailles, particularly for Hitler and the Nazis who had promised to overturn every element of the hated document, including of course designated borders. While there was nothing like the drive to regain the former German areas of 1919-1939 Poland, the history of the plebiscite and the memory of Danish moves against a prostrate Germany were clearly in the minds of the Nazis in 1940. This history made the decision to invade and occupy Denmark all the easier.

The invasion of Denmark does not rate a lot of study in terms of military history, for the obvious reason that the combat actions were all tactical - at the most basic level - and short, measured in minutes. However for strategic theory Weserübung Süd it is extremely interesting. The Germans (basically under Hitler's orders) carried out perhaps the most bloodless victory in history. In one day they took complete control of not only the territory of Denmark, but more importantly the Danish state. The campaign includes the full spectrum of negotiation, coercion and military force, from economic incentives to destroying the Danish Air Force in a surprise attack. Denmark was necessary to conquer quickly since the much more ambitious invasion of Norway (Weserübung Nord carried out starting the same day) required German control of Danish airfields and sea ports. Effective Danish resistance, including sabotage could have compromised the Norwegian campaign from the start. As it was the Germans were successful in capturing Denmark intact, while the submission of Norway was in the balance for some time and only concluded after two months of hard fighting. From this perspective, the invasion of Norway is roughly the opposite of the Danish operation, given the conditions of 1940.

Background on the Danish Army's stand on April 9, 1940 is available for review on the net.

The Germans of course made newsreels . . . and domestic propaganda . . .

The Danish operation was conducted by General der Flieger Leonhard Kaupisch's XXXI Corps headquartered in Hamburg. The XXXI Corps comprising the 170th and 198th Infantry Divisions. The other major unit involved was the 11th Schützenbrigade (later the 11th Panzer Division) which is usually translated as the 11th Motorized Rifle Brigade but included Mark I and II tanks. Additional German Army units included a battalion of the 69th Infantry Division and unidentified Brandenburg elements, and the Luftwaffe provided a company of paratroopers, a motorcycle company from the Hermann Göring Regiment and FLAK units.

The 11th Schützenbrigade and the 170th Infantry Division crossed the border on a broad front at 05:15 on 9 April 1940. At 07:30 the paratroopers were in control of the northernmost and most important airfield in Denmark, that at Aalborg. By 08:00 the Danish Army had ceased resistance. The railroads were captured intact and the 11th Brigade was able to reach Aalborg in the course of the day. These are the military time lines.

The Luftwaffe essentially destroyed the Danish Army Air Corps on the ground at Vaerloese airfield outside of Copenhagen. The attack took place according to Danish accounts at 05:45 (the Germans put the time as later). Two squadrons of Me-110s destroyed or badly damaged 25 aircraft, mostly Fokker D-XXIs.

The naval actions started earlier when Naval Groups 7-11 left their ports in Germany and seized various important points during the hours after about 05:00 on 9 April. Group 8 which landed at Copenhagen reported the Citadel captured without resistance at 07:30. Group 8 consisted of the motorship Hansastadt Danzig carrying 1,000 troops, an icebreaker and two picket boats as escort. Earl Ziemke in The German Northern Theater of Operations, the Dept of Army "pamphlet", describes the mission of Group 8 as being "predominately political and psychological". The guns guarding the harbor had been unable even to get off a warning shot due to their barrels being too full of grease to be fired. The German Army commander of the landing force had arrived in Copenhagen on the 4th and had spent his time getting acquainted with his target. The officer, a major who was even was able to get an escorted tour of the Citadel days before its capture, met his men at the docks as they were coming ashore.

He was not alone, also Kaupisch's Chief of Staff, Major General Kurt Himer had arrived on the 7th and presented himself to the senior German representative in Denmark Cecil von Renthe-Fink at 23:00 on the 8th. Himer was able to keep open a direct telephone line with his headquarters in Hamburg and give up-to-date information of the course of early morning's actions. When the Danish government delayed in surrendering, Himer warned that the next wave of German He-111 bombers would be dropping bombs instead of the propaganda leaflets they had been dropping up to that point. The Danish government ordered a cease fire at 07:20 and surrender followed within an hour. Himer requested an audience with the Danish King Christian X right after the surrender. Kaupisch issued a proclamation that same day. The official Danish government's history of the occupation provides an accurate source of what happened afterwards. Denmark is rightly remembered for having rescued their Jewish citizens from the Holocaust.

The campaign is noteworthy for two different aspects today. First, the French especially, and later the British saw Scandinavia as a second front to distract Germany from attacking in the West. The initially effective Finnish resistance against Soviet aggression in the Winter War offered the Western Allies the opportunity of shifting the focus of the war away from France and towards a completely different theater. The British were at first adverse to confronting the Soviets, but after the strong showing of the Finns started to doubt Soviet military effectiveness (as did Hitler). The British promised 100,000 troops for the Scandinavian Front and the French 50,000. What precluded this was the Finnish surrender in March 1940. It is also interesting to note that the German Navy suggested offering the Soviets the area of northern Norway including Narvik to guarantee their participation as allies, but Hitler refused this.

The second aspect involves strategic theory rather than military history. The Danish campaign shows that the Germans in 1940 were very flexible in their use of power to achieve their political purposes, rather than instinctively reaching for the military option at every opportunity. Denmark offered a whole series of advantages to Germany, but she would have to be captured intact to achieve almost all of these, a devastated Denmark and a hostile population would not achieve German goals, not to mention would make the attack on Norway almost impossible to carry out. For this reason the full spectrum of economic incentives, assurances, coercion and force were utilized to demonstratable effect. In spite of Nazi memories of Danish exploitation of German weakness in 1920 (Christian X had been King of Denmark in 1920) there was no adjustment of Danish borders and the Danes were promised that they would retain control of their own internal affairs, a status which remained in effect until mid 1943. That the Germans were able to achieve this had much to do with their successes in Poland the previous fall which had surprised the world and awed the Danes. Coercion has to be credible to be effective, but at the same time force has its limits. Seventy years to the day after this campaign it is amazing to consider that the Nazis - of all people - were clear about this, whereas there is much to be learned by the politicians of today in the use of incentives, non-violent and violent coercion and force used together to achieve strategic goals.

In summary there are specific reasons for this remarkable German success. First, they were not adverse to taking casualties. German losses were approximately 200 KIA and WIA, whereas the Danes lost about 50 including civilians. The Germans were interested in speed and their armored cars were lightly protected and with nothing above 20mm, as were the Mark I and II tanks. The Danes had 37mm anti-tank guns which could have taken on anything the Germans had effectively. From the accounts, the Danes were not prepared for strafing by fighter aircraft and there were instances of Danish military resistance collapsing after having been strafed. The successful attack on the Danish Army Air Force was a stroke of luck. Had the Me-110s arrived 20 minutes later they would have found the Danish Fokker XXIs in the air and at an advantage against the Me-110s at low altitude. Had the artillery defenses of Copenhagen been prepared they could have wiped out the German invasion force, that is Group 8, as was witnessed on the approaches to Oslo. Had the Danes resisted longer, the involvement of Sweden could not have been ruled out.

In Chapter 3 of the Art of War, the Chinese General Sun Tzu writes:

Generally, in war the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this. To capture the enemy's entire army is better than to destroy it; to take intact a regiment, a company, or a squad is better than to destroy them. For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence.

Oh, and a hearty thanks to Zenpundit for his kind post . . . yes, we're back!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Remember The Marja!

...or...maybe not.

ISAF Policy Final Exam:

One question 100 points.

1. Arrange these words in a sentence:




Rocket Man

Let's face it: Kyrgyzstan has it cooled out when it comes to keeping and bearing arms.This dude was just doing a little urban defense as part of the latest revolution in Bishkek.

My favorite part of the image? The little urban geek tummy pack. For when you don't want to leave the iPod, American Spirits and little roll of detcord back at the crib 'cause you KNOW your bros will boost the fuckers. Maybe the riot shield and antitank rocket will get you a little harmonious bro-i-tude now...


(h/t to Unleashing Chiang - crossposted to MilPub)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Burden Sharing versus Burden Shifting

In the purest sense, health insurance should be burden sharing. Everyone pays the same amount for coverage, and everyone receives appropriate care, regardless of individual cost. It is pure and simple "socialism", and the objective is that everyone gets that appropriate care while the burden of cost is "shared" equally or proportionately based upon ability to pay. For such burden sharing to be truly a "social program", membership in the population receiving the care and paying for the benefit must be mandatory for everyone in the society.

In many areas of what might be considered "social programs" in the US, however, the cost burden and/or delivery burden is administered and collected by competing entities. And sometimes, the competing entities are really the right and left hand of the same organism. In this environment, we find "burden shifting". That is where the cost and/or delivery of social services is shifted from one subset of the population or entity to another. I would offer two examples:

A while back, the commander of a Naval Hospital received an award for the cost saving to the regional Naval budget realized by closing the hospital's emergency room and directing the sailors, dependents and retirees to the nearby civilian hospital some 20 miles away. For active service members, of course, the cost of civilian emergency room care would be borne by the regional budget, at a per patient rate higher than at the Naval hospital. But for the dependents and retirees, the cost would be shifted to TRICARE, and these potential patients outnumbered the active duty sailors by about 5 to 1. Thus, a net saving to the Naval Hospital. The decision was made on budgetary terms alone, and with no coordination with the local hospital or ambulance service, who saw the population they were to serve for emergency services more than double. Lost in the joy the regional medical command expressed over this exercise in creative accounting was that the true payer of the bill for this care was the US taxpayer, who would ultimately pay more for civilian care than that at the Naval hospital. I won't even begin to try to evaluate the effect on overall quality of care to the residents of family housing who's emergency room services just moved 15 to 25 miles further away. The end result is that the Captain got an MSM, the taxpayer had to pay more for less and patients had to travel further for care.

The second example is more recent. Miami Charity hospital found that it could no longer afford to provide free scheduled dialysis services to the indigent. However, these same patients could, when their medical state reached a sufficiently high level of danger, go to the emergency room for dialysis, which would be paid for by the State, at a rate much higher than for the cost routine treatment. So, by putting the patients at constant and recurring medical risk/danger, Miami Charity could shift the burden of indigent dialysis from their benefactors to Medicaid, and even pick up some extra bucks doing so.

In the main, the US health care industry is based on burden shifting, not burden sharing. Since there are multiple insurers and multiple populations in the pool, it is "sound business practice" to shift burden to keep the costs for any specific population pool down. Since insurers could terminate someone's coverage, that burden could be shifted to public assistance and/or the patient. Since employer provided insurance is based on a pretty well defined population, actuarial data could tailor premiums for that population and only that population, without regard to the cost of care for the general population from which the insured were drawn. Since some populations could afford higher priced care than others, providers could raise prices for health care to what the market could bear, and it would be spread . Of course, once an appendectomy, for example, is bench marked to a new higher price, pressure comes to bear for all appendectomies to carry the same price.

But burden shifting isn't just the domain of government entities. Employers include the cost of health care insurance in their operating expenses, passing that cost on to their customers. Remember all the bruhaha about the embedded cost of the "Gold Plated Health Insurance" in the price of a US union-made car when Detroit went down the tubes? Well, the consumer began to bitch about their fellow Americans shifting the burden of their health care to their fellow American. Why? Because it became visible, for one reason. My neighbors here in Greece were puzzled over how health insurance can be "Gold Plated", as to them, you are either insured and receive health care or you aren't. Try to explain deductibles to someone in Europe, and their eyes glass over.

Health care isn't the only arena where burden shifting takes place in the US. It is not uncommon for states to rely on ear marks and pork to ease their internal tax burdens. Let the folks in all the other states help pay for our roads and schools in MS. Get a state or federal grant to bring our sewers up to decent sanitary standards in our town in NY. And the burden gets shifted from one sub-population to the other. But the fact is, we are all paying for it, and sooner or later the piper has to be paid, and when that happens, it's typically a catastrophe, as is the impending case with health care. We have run out of sub-populations to shift the burden to.

What's really insane about paying for health care through burden shifting is that when it's included in the commercial price of goods and services, we not only pay the direct cost, but the enterprise's desired profit goal throughout the chain of distribution. So if health care costs $1,000 per vehicle for GM, as so often cited, GM will add X% to it's total cost to meet their profit goal, and the consumer will pay $1,000 plus X% to fund GM insurance beneficiaries. Why $1,000? Because GM can only shift that burden to buyers of their cars. Buy a Mercedes, and you may very well be getting a car made by a beneficiary of national health care and a much more efficient health system, and much less of the burden is shifted to you.

And all of this so that we can fool ourselves into thinking that we are not paying for someone else's benefits!


Monday, April 5, 2010

Hustled by the East

If you've been tooling around the blogosphere today you've probably seen this: It is apparently a gun-camera picture from one of a pair of AH-64s carrying out an attack on Iraqis in 2007.

The purpose of the release of this video is to accuse the U.S. occupation troops of a war crime. And prima facie the video looks damning - the locals are casually walking around, the helos open fire, everybody dies.

The problem for me is that it's not that simple. Guerrillas trade on appearances, and there is nothing in this video that does not say to me that these guys could not have been muj making a recon of a U.S. maneuver element. Because the video identifies two man as journos I want to see what they're holding as cameras with telephoto lensese They do NOT look like RPG-7s to me, but I wasn't there. I can see how the A/C gunner, expecting to see an RPG, could see an RPG. This video is not, to me, damning in its content.

No, to me what's damning to me is the context.

I've been saying all along that the biggest problem I have with all this fiddle-fucking around in Central Asia is not the direct cost, either in blood or in treasure. The costs in both are relatively small, both for us as a Great Power and for the locals, who have experienced more and worse in the past and probably will again, given the state of local governance. My problem with these is;

Fighting foreign locals' wars is bad for both armies and nations if the nation and its army have no intention of conquest abroad.

Western armies flourished in the Third World so long as the Western nations were willing to take what they wanted and weren't too squeamish how many natives they had to kill or imprison or starve to get them.

The Europeans figured out that fighting colonial wars after the home country had given up on colonialism was a mug's game back in the Fifties and Sixties.

It was bad for their armies, which used up much of the goodwill they had built up in WW2 becoming thugs and policemen beating down locals who wanting nothing more than the foreigners out.

It was bad for the countries, which began to routinely lie and spin the colonial wars to try and prevent their home publics from shutting the wars down and forcing the troops to decamp.

There was worse; the combined failures in Indochina and Algeria broke something within the French Army, already damaged by its failure in WW2. The treason of the OAS, and the resultant purges, were an episode that stained the forces that had been the pride of France since the days of the Capets.

There's worse than that; because of the unpopularity of killing people whose only crime is that you are squatting on their home and they want you out - no matter how loathsome those people may be in themselves - the only way a democracy can do this in the long term is to erect a complex edifice of lies that consumes the soldiers, the journalists, the politicians, the bystanders, until you enter an Orwellian world where there is almost no way to establish what is truth, or what is a lie, unless you simply assume that everything said is truth (and wear it like a magnetic bumper sticker claiming that you support "our troops" because they're good, and good people cannot do bad things) or a lie (in which case you begin to wonder what ELSE is a lie, and in the end that road lies in cynicism and disbelief in ANYthing that the government says. Even commonsensical things like regulation of piratical banks and vaccinations...).

And it's actually worse than THAT...because the lands involved are the heartland of Civilization, where the arts of political dealmaking, betrayal, trickery, strategem, ruse and deception have had millenia to ripen and mature.

And into this we've sent the most American of American institutions; our military forces. Duty, Honor, Country...the United States of the bare fist, of the patriotic country song. In pursuit of our chimeric enemies we make our "Special Forces" over into glorified door-kickers, wander around performing "presence patrols"...fall victim to every bazaar rumor, and then find ourselves having to lie our way out of the simple fact that we were outsmarted by the East into a moron-grade butchery that the most childish Waziri or Black Mountain Hazara would have laughed at.

It was one thing to slaughter Germans and Japanese in job lots: global consensus was that they had brought it on themselves.

In Iraq, and now in Afghanistan we are occupying powers in places - it's almost risible to call them "nations" - that we invaded on the slimmest of pretexts (Iraq more so than A-stan) and now occupy on the most tenuous of grounds. As such, like Caesar's wife, we MUST be above reproach.

We cannot toss off dead Iraqis or Afghans as we did the dead of Dresden or Nagasaki. We MUST, if we are to avoid the consequences of being condemned as foolish and casual butchers, consider the locals innocent until proven guilty. That's a wretched way to fight a guerrilla war, but there it is.

I joined an Army that was recovering from another senseless colonial war in Asia, a war that my Army had responded to with lies and deceptions, by inflating body counts that including everything dead and Vietnamese in any grid square as "VC", with corruption and club scandals, with combat refusals and fragging. The reality was that most soldiers and Marines did none of these things, or tried to push back against them when they happened. But the entire Army was tainted by the acts that came to symbolize the war for the insulated civilians in the Land of the Big PX, and it took my service years to recover.

The 2010 Army has learned from its Vietnam candor, and is doing better at hiding checkpoint shootings and wedding strafings. The U.S. public, without skin in the game, doesn't care. The political class, concerned only about their perks and power, has no reason to interfere.

But the bill comes due eventually for trying to hustle the East. I wonder when that bill-collector will knock..?

Market Based Health Care!

Found this on AOL News this morning:

Prescription Data-Mining Case Goes to the First Circuit

One of drug marketers' key tools in targeting physicians for increased sales is doctors' prescribing history. Using that data, marketers can see who's prescribing the competition's products and tailor pitches to convert them; who isn't prescribing much of anything and try to change that; and who are big prescribers and reward them, cultivating even more business.

Research has shown that drug marketers are successful at influencing physicians' prescribing habits, for example, inducing prescriptions for expensive brand-name drugs when effective generics are available. As a result, some states are trying to curb marketers' effectiveness, including limiting access to physician prescribing history.

The First Circuit has already upheld one such law, from New Hampshire, and now is set to hear a case involving a similar law from Maine. If such laws are routinely upheld and spread across the land, drugmakers could see profits take a hit.

Ever wonder why health care costs keep rising at astounding rates?

Friday, April 2, 2010


You are going to want to have a beer in one hand and a shot of whiskey in the other before you read this.

Key graf...

"Q: "On Escalation of force, have you considered engaging the local community on the issue? We could explain at the brigade/battalion level what behavior we find threatening, and how we are trained to react when we feel threatened. We could negotiate with the community leaders over mutually agreeable actions and reactions that are better understood by both and gives part ownership of the issue to the community and empowers them in line with our approach to reintegration."
GEN McChrystal: "That's a great point. I don't know if we have, but we certainly ought to be doing that. We have so many escalation of force issues, and someone gets hurt in the process, and we say, 'They didn't respond like they were supposed to.' Well, they may not have known how they were supposed to respond, so as they approached an area or checkpoint or whatever, they may have taken actions that seemed appropriate to them, and when a warning shot was fired they may have panicked. I think this is a great thing to do, to engage people and tell them the kind of behavior on their part that would lower the chance that they would run into problems.

"I do want to say something that everyone understands. We really ask a lot of our young service people out on the checkpoints because there's danger, they're asked to make very rapid decisions in often very unclear situations. However, to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I've been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a
suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it. That doesn't mean I'm criticizing the people who are executing. I'm just giving you perspective. We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force."

Hat tip to Josh Marshall over at TPM

My opinion...can we just throw in the towel already and say we're done?

Betrayed by a kiss, saved by a kiss

It was a bleak dreary evening and the lone figure in the garden was praying feverishly. His enemies had already made the decision, “he has to die.” And now he knew one of his friends, followers, would betray him.

He was not disappointed, he was sad…heart broken.

In the garden came the “friend” who led the armed band of temple guards to him, and though Joshua was surrounded by true friends the guards and the friends equaled in numbers.

The friend kissed him, and the guards seized Joshua…but not without a fight. As the guards seized him, a follower of Joshua pulls a sword out, obviously a zealot, and in the melee goes for a head shot, only grazing the side of the guards head, but enough to relieve him of his ear. Joshua roars for his friends to stop. Berates the guards for the mobbish thuggery, but more importantly to the earless guard bleeding next to him, reattaches his ear and heals him. The guard is most certainly not a follower of Joshua, and for the most part Joshua owes the guard nothing if not a little contempt, but even that is not given…just healing.

Thus, a scene from the garden of Gethsemane and Y’shua’s ,or Jesus’s arrest and eventual execution.

A fitting thread for the Easter Holiday.

But for most of you who do not ascribe to anything Christian you are thinking, “okay Sheer…where are you going with this?” and I would like to reassure you that this piece has nothing untoward in terms of proselytization, and if you feel there is some there…it is unintended, rather…I am drawing a comparison of two instances.

This comparison is the application of words turning into action.

The first is of course Jesus in the garden, and the second is the Hutaree militia, a cult really, had dreams of being stupid…they identified themselves as a “Christian Militia” and for the most part based on outward appearances I’m sure they made similar motions of piety that are undeniably Christian in nature.

Words and action…that is what is important here.

They wanted to start a war with the US government, and part of their strategy was to ambush a police officer. Make it look like a random act of violence. Oh pity, a police officer died in the line of duty.

Shit happens. Let’s all mourn at the funeral which will look like a Police rally.

And that is exactly what they planned for…a large gathering of Police mourners where they would all be tightly packed together in a target rich environment, and the Hutaree Militia would begin their war against the United States of America in a mass attack/ambush.

In terms of terrorism, it was a decent plan.

In terms of Christianity…it was and is completely alien to Jesus.

So, the comparison of words and action.

As the above story goes, Jesus could have laid down the law of the universe, bitch-slap the entire Jewish political hierarchy back to the Pleistocene age, dropped kicked the entire Roman world into the ashbin of “could have been, would have been!”, and brought an eternity of peace, love, and grooviness to the rest of us.

He didn’t.


Sorry, just me expressing my wish that he had…oh well…patience is such a load and half to carry…it is tiresome.

Where was I…oh yes, Jesus.

And the reason why is because he had the temerity to say, “Love your enemy, do good to those who abuse you…” as oppose to the Hutaree Militia who said, “kill my enemy” and planned to do so.

The contrast is startling, and so is the message of two competing thoughts in the world of Christianity in America…one that says, “love my neighbor as myself,” and the other that says “Every man for himself!”

Jesus was quite clear which one he advocated when it came time to put words into practice, just as the Hutaree Militia was quite clear when they were ready to put words into practice.

The Hutaree Militia was a militia for sure, but as a Christians…sorry, they failed miserably as followers of the man who had every reason to smite his enemies, and didn’t…choosing instead to heal and forgive.

Happy Easter, I hope that your children’s day of Easter is filled with cuddly bunnies, tasty candies (peanut butter and chocolate…/drool), and family togetherness.