Friday, December 30, 2016

31 December 1941

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz took command of the US Pacific Fleet on this day 75 years ago.  His change of command ceremony was held on board the submarine Grayling, SS-209 moored alongside the submarine base wharf.  The crew then hoisted his brand new four star flag on the Grayling’s mast.  Normally a Fleet Admiral would have raised his flag on a battleship but of course there were none available.  But there were sentimental reasons for the choice of the Grayling also as Nimitz had served in subs earlier in his career, commanding the Plunger, Snapper, Narwhal and Skipjack.

On 7 December Nimitz was Chief of BuNav, aka the Bureau of Navigation, and was soon tapped by SecNav Knox and President Roosevelt to take over the fleet in Pearl Harbor. Being in a desk job at BuNav may not sound like preparation for a fleet commander, but at that time it was accountable for much more than sextants, star catalogues, and oceanic charts. It was the primary naval organization responsible for procurement, training, promotion, assignment, and discipline of officers and sailors. In that job Nimitz had jurisdiction over the Naval Academy at Annapolis, the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (of which he was a founder), boot camps, and other Naval training facilities including technical ones. It was a job for an officer with outstanding people skills. Nimitz had those, even though he also had noticeable engineering skills. He had been a pioneer in adopting diesels for US subs. During WW1 he had developed one of the first ever UNREP, or Underway Refueling Systems, for cross Atlantic Navy combatants. Not long after WW1, as a young Lieutenant Commander (Major to you grunts) and with only a staff of four Chief Petty Officers, he built the sub base at Pearl Harbor. Much of the material he had to get through the cumshaw efforts of his four Chiefs who requisitioned it at midnight from stateside Navy Yards.

After Pearl was attacked Nimitz spent 12 days working around the clock at BuNav and at the Navy Department across the Potomac. He implemented the plan he had himself devised to bring the Navy up to a war standing. Then on 19 December he left Washington by the B&0 Capital Limited train for San Diego with just one Aide. No need for staff as there would be many officers in Pearl at loose ends who had no ships. He travelled incognito as Mr Freeman, his wife’s maiden name. In San Diego he boarded a Catalina flying boat. They left at 4pm on Christmas Eve. The Admiral apologized to the crew for taking them away from their families. He arrived at 7AM Christmas morning. After inspecting the damage in the harbor he had a late Christmas dinner with Admiral Kimmel and Admiral and Mrs Pye. Both Pye and Kimmel were senior to him and would be until he pinned on the four stars of CincPac. He was saddened to learn that a good friend of his, Admiral Isaac Kidd, was KIA on the bridge of the Arizona.

A lot has been said by historians about the good fortune of America that the Japanese raiding forces at Pearl primarily focused on battleship row and neglected to bomb the fuel farms just over the hill, and that the US carriers were at sea and unaffected. But at the time here was a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat at Pearl. You would have thought the Japanese had already won the war. Nimitz turned out to be critical in raising hopes. Over the next few days before taking command he attended many briefings and conferences, and conducted surveys of the damage. Those inspections included the harbor, damaged ships, salvage operations, dry-docks, warehouse, hangars, machine shops, communication facilities, offices and barracks. After a tour of harbor salvage ops, a coxswain asked: "Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?" He is reported as saying the Japanese made several huge mistakes surprising the sailor and the staff officers that were also aboard. He then expounded on the target opportunities the Japanese raiding force had missed.

"Not only were the fuel farms and the carriers saved".

”They attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk--we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,000.”

”When they saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking them, that they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed those, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised.  One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And we already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.”

”Their tunnel vision kept them from bombing the machine shops and warehouses in the Navy Yard. With those assets we will put the fleet back in order quickly."

”They also neglected to target the sub base and the subs tied up and helpless at the wharf. They will pay for those mistakes.”

That story spread around Pearl like wildfire. Everyone from the highest staff officers to the lowest swab jockey and paint chipper heard that tale. Morale skyrocketed and the depression evaporated, everyone turned to. 

His people skills also served him well dealing with hard-headed subordinates like “Bull” Halsey, “Howling Mad” Smith, and “Terrible” Turner (from FDChief’s fair city of Portland) – and dealing with prima donna peers like MacArthur – and dealing with superiors like the crotchety CNO Admiral King. He also was a leader who believed in second chances. That was probably due to his running a destroyer aground outside Manila Bay in 1908 as a young Ensign, he was court-martialed and reprimanded but given another chance. I cannot imagine that happening in todays risk averse military.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Heavy Heart

We lost another  good one, a 94year-old veteran, just a couple of days ago.  Happening just before Christmas, it was a hard blow to his family.  I can't say we were close friends as we only talked maybe two or three times a year for the last dozen years.  And he was a generation older than I.   But it hit me hard too.  He was a good man, cordial, generous, and courteous to all - a gentleman of the old school.  Had a wonderful sense of humor, laughing at himself, not at others.

He had served on Guadalcanal 74 years ago in the same year  I was born.  He was with an artillery battery serving on the gun line.  First with 75mm pack howitzers.  Later with 105s.  Those guns provided direct support for not only Marines but for a North Dakota National Guard Infantry Regiment that he and his battery mates christened the '164th Marines'.   

His favorite story was the several weeks they had not much to eat but captured Japanese Army rice.  It was a bit moldy, and full of weevils but when he complained to the mess cooks they told him it was good protein and don't waste it, so he ate it and said it wasn't half bad.  He laughed even more about that.   Once at a gathering after being introduced as a member of the 'greatest generation', he chuckled and told everybody how great his grandsons and granddaughters were.  "Head and shoulders above me", he claimed.   When we called him a hero, he would laugh and say: Oh hell, "I was just a gun bunny."

He  was a hero to our little corner of the world.  He will be missed.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Heros never die!

I think this coming spring I may just do a "battles" piece on the fight for Maeda ("Hacksaw") Ridge on Okinawa, April-May 1945, the subject of the new film glorifying Desmond Doss, the medical aidman who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during that period. Here's CPL Doss with his cute wife, Dotty, right after his award:
Not that Desmond really needs "glorifying"; dude had medicine-ball-sized brass spheres for testicles, given his actions in late April and May up on that horrific escarpment. There are seldom "bad" Medals of Honor but Doss' is SO good that it's kind of hard to imagine acting as he did. He was such a beast that Mel Gibson - and this is Mel Gibson, mind you, not a man with an obsessive attachment to facts - left out one of the most brutally heroic things Doss did on Maeda Ridge because Gibson flat-out didn't believe that other people would buy it as non-fiction.


The reason I posted this was not so much as a "battles" trailer or a tribute to Desmond the Medic (yay, medics!) but as an awed tribute to Desmond the Man. Because after poor Dotty passed away in the early Nineties Desmond got remarried.

Now...keep in mind ol' Des only had one lung and was on 100% disability by that time.

And he was 74.

Goddamn it, now THAT's optimism. Desmond was my kinda medic; Hooah! Get some, doc!

Ni hao, me hearties!

If this drawing is correct...
...this seems very much like a...not-good thing.

First things first: the "vessel" in question wasn't a "vessel" but an submarine drone. This isn't the Mayaguez here. And we can't be sure that this drone hadn't been reconning one of these many islets that the Chinese have been fortifying or otherwise doing some sort of snooping that the PLAN got shirty about. There are no captive sailors, no hostages or capital ships held without cause.

But,'s one thing for the PRC to be muscling into sea rocks in the middle of the South China Sea. But this? Hell, it's damn near riht smack insides the old drydock at Subic. If this is now the extent of what mainland China considers its "territorial waters"..?

Is this a one-time "signal" to young Mister Trump for questioning the sacrosanct "One China" policy? Just some PLAN captain feeling frisky? Some other, more opaque sort of skulduggery? this possibly something that signals a genuine foreign policy shift for the PRC.

Let's just say that I can't think of a better way to pick a fight between the PLAN and a whole bunch o' folks, including our own USN, than staking the far end of China's maritime frontier at the eastern edge of the South China Sea.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Adios, Fidel!

In memory of the old caudillo, this month's "battles" post at GFT is the twin engagements of Yaguajay and Santa Clara, December 1958; the end of the Batista Era and the final military acts of the Cuban Revolution.

Bearded revolutionaries, rum and coke, sugarcane, makeshift tanks and mountains and sinister secret policemen...
"In his triumphant entry to Havana on 8 JAN, Fidel spoke to the nation. "We can not become dictators." he said "We shall never need to use force because we have the people, and because the people shall judge, and because the day the people want, I shall leave."

One of the many "war criminals" given a show trial and executed was COL Rojas, the badass copper of the Santa Clara police station. He insisted on giving the final words of command to his firing squad in the tradition of firing-squad-heroics everywhere. Here he is, poor sod, his hat flying off as the bullets rip into him.

The good colonel wouldn't be the last man to die "for the revolution" and, as we now know, Fidel left, feet-first, just this autumn, long after I suspect the Cuban people would have been pleased to see the back of him.

For all the good that he may have done - and he DID do good, in his autocratic manner - Caastro's legacy is in the main part no less dictatorial and no less unjust than the man he replaced this month fifty-eight years ago.

Supposedly COL Rojas is said to have given his killers a warning of this, on that day he faced the line of rifles, that sounds in retrospect, frighteningly prescient.

The last words he said - before giving the command to fire - were: "Muchachos, ahora tienes tu revolución. No la pierda."

"Boys, now you have your revolution. Don't lose it."

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Future Guiding Principles for US Policy???

Have at it gentlemen.   Knock some holes in this strawman.  What has been left out?  What should have been left out?  What needs more explanation?  Is it unsound to not specifically mention Iran, Syria, Ukraine, North Korea, Israel, et al?    Non-proliferation?   Don't be shy, I have thick skin.

1] For any offensive military operations the president should explain clearly the threat to our national security, specific objectives, and the desired end result.

2] Preserve and exercise the right of self-defense.

3] Commit to strategic superiority in nukes, space, cyber, and technology.

4] Honor treaty commitments but not for the elective wars of our allies.

5] Clarify relationship with the many recent  members of NATO that are protectorates in reality rather than true allies.

6] Clarify commitments to non-treaty allies.

7] Act vigorously against terrorism, but only that terrorism which is international in nature and a direct threat to our national security.

8] Seek cordial but non-conciliatory relationships with China and Russia.

9] Improve cyber security.

10] Maintain border security.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Cane Syrup

Isla de Vieques was the closest I ever got to Castro's Cuba back in 62 during the crisis.  Beautiful place back then even though it was being used as a bombing range and an amphibious exercise area.  It must be twice as beautiful now that much of it has been turned into a national wildlife refuge and the landing beaches into tourist havens.   I have a hankering to revisit, who wouldn't?  Balmy Caribbean breezes, latin music, PitoRico rum with lime juice, palm trees, sandy beaches, snorkeling,   Although I would not want to go back through the surf inside an AmTrac.  Or by C-130 either, the cattle had to be chased off the dirt strip that served as an airfield before take-off or landing.

And it was where I first heard the sweet songs of Celia Cruz also known as <i>La Cubanisima</i>.   Not this particular song perhaps, but many like it.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sweet Onions

I may have posted this previously?  Or something like it?  The story might have changed slightly based on my 74-year-old neuronal connections.  But Thanksgiving is all about myths and tradition, so no harm.

 In 1969 on Que Son mountain, our Thanksgiving Dinner was flown in by CH-46 along with ammo resupply, PRC batteries, more Cs, and a latecomer finally released from the Regimental aid station.   The dinner was cold turkey sandwiches on white-bread, bare with no mayo.  Although they did include several heads of lettuce, many tomatoes and 'huuuge' onions. 

The onions were great.  Sweet!  We ate them and the tomatoes like apples.  Those onions must have been from either Maui or Walla Walla.  We cut the lettuce heads into wedges with K-Bars.  The sandwiches?  Not so good!  Many of us tossed those pale white spongy slices and gobbled up the turkey 'sans pain'.  They had also sent some #10 cans of dehydrated shrimp.  One of my compatriots gobbled down many of those crunchy delights without first soaking them in water.  He was a skinny little guy weighing maybe 130 or 140 pounds soaking wet, but after his stomach liquids started re-hydrating those shrimp he looked nine months pregnant and eventually had to be medevacked.  He along with another who had a broken collar bone, but that's a story for another time.

I stay away from shrimp to this day.  But I loved those onions and never found any to compare, though I have looked and tasted over the past 40 plus years.  But perhaps I have been limiting my choices.  I need to start investigating other areas:  Vidalia onions? Mattamuskeet Sweets from Coastal Carolina?  Corsican?  The Canary Islands?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Light Reading

Some five or six years ago, I stumbled across a WWII historical fiction title, available on my Barnes & Noble NOOK reader, titled "Billy Boyle (A WWII Mystery)".   It was at an introductory price of $1.99, so I figured what the heck.  Well, librarian and author, James R. Benn, was wise to get folks hooked on the first of a series that he was writing.  Even Mrs Av has enjoyed reading the Billy Boyle Series, and we have both looked forward to each new volume's release, although volumes 2 through 11 have not been $1.99 specials.

If you like historical military fiction, the Billy Boyle series is a treat.  Somewhat similar to W.E.B Griffin's continuing tales, but lighter in nature.  But well tied into actual personages and events of WWII as seen through the eyes and adventures of a young and unlikely hero, Lt. Billy Boyle.  At the end of each volume, Benn explains the events relevant to the book, along with historical parallels, if you may not have recognized them.

The books are available in print and electronic (Kindle & NOOK) form.

The description of the first book is:

What’s a twenty-two-year-old Irish American cop who’s never been out of Massachusetts before doing at Beardsley Hall, an English country house, having lunch with King Haakon of Norway? Billy Boyle himself wonders. Back home in Southie, he’d barely made detective when war was declared. Unwilling to fight—and perhaps die—for England, he was relieved when his mother wangled a job for him on the staff of a general married to her distant cousin. But the general turns out to be Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose headquarters are in London, which is undergoing the Blitz. And Uncle Ike wants Billy to be his personal investigator.
Billy is dispatched to the seat of the Norwegian government in exile. Operation Jupiter, the impending invasion of Norway, is being planned, but it is feared that there is a German spy amongst the Norwegians.
Billy doubts his own abilities, with good reason. A theft and two murders test his investigative powers, but Billy proves to be a better detective than he or anyone else expected.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Six Battles of Karbala

The Arba'een pilgrimage to Karbala has  been underway since 10 October.  It will grow in number rising to perhaps more than 25 million people a few days before America’s Thanksgiving.   It is the largest annual religious pilgrimage in the world, bigger than the Haaj to Mecca, and, dwarfing the ‘Way-of-Saint-James’ pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.  The pilgrimage is in mourning of Husayn ibn Ali (sometimes called Hussein), the grandson of the prophet Mohammed.  The vast majority of the pilgrims will be Shia, but a small percentage will include Sunni, Christian, Yazidi, Sabaean and others.  The Vatican has sent delegations in the past, and perhaps Patriarch Kirill of Moscow will send a delegation also.  Most pilgrims walk 85 kilometers (~52 miles) over several days from Najaf.  Some walk in crutches.  Some will walk all the way from Basra.  Many will come from India, Africa, Europe, southern Russia, Central Asia, and the Americas.  There will also be smaller versions in London, Toronto, Dearborn and Los Angeles.  The one in Karbala itself will be a major target for Daesh or other Salafists, and maybe the overseas ones will also be targets of terror.  I wonder if the Iraqi Army and Iraqi state sponsored militias will hold off on using more units in retaking Mosul until after Arba’een is over so they can provide security in Karbala and Najaf?  Or conversely, will they perhaps try to speed up Mosul Ops to declare victory before Arba'een is ended?  But I don't believe they have enough time to do that before the 20th.
It all started with the Battle of Karbala.  Not the latest one in 2007, when the Mahdi Army clashed with gunmen of the Badr Brigades.  That fight was essentially a power struggle between Muqtada al-Sadr and Nouri al-Maliki as to who would provide security for the pilgrims from the danger of Salafi jihadist bombers.  They and their followers essentially went to war with each other for the honor of who would be the ‘Defenders of the Faith’.

Not the one in 2003 when the 3rd Infantry Division and supporting armor and air fought the Medina Division in the Karbala Gap and the 101st Airborne took the city itself from the Fedayeen Sadaam and foreign volunteers and mercs.  An American strategic deception operation had been put in place to convince Sadaam that the 4th Infantry Division would assault northern Iraq from Turkey.  That deception apparently worked as Qusay Hussein ordered many of the Republican Guards to be re-deployed from Karbala to the north of Baghdad.  Lt. Gen. Ra'ad al-Hamdani, who commanded the Karbala Front, protested and presciently predicted Baghdad’s quick fall because of Qusay’s order.

Not the one in 1991 when the Medina Division shelled Karbala with tanks and artillery for a week in order to suppress Shia uprisings.  They destroyed entire neighborhoods, killing thousands.  That was one of the incidents that led to Operation Southern Watch which imposed a useless No Fly Zone below the 32nd Parallel.  That NFZ was ineffective because there were no friendly units on the ground below it to keep Sadaam's ground troops or attack helos from persecuting the Shia again.   The NFZ over the Kurdish regions in the north worked much better as the Peshmerga could counteract Sadaam's ground actions.

Not the 1849 siege by the Ottoman army in order to reassert the Sultan's authority over the city.  They killed approximately 15% of the city population.

And not the 1802 sack of the city  by 12000 Wahhabis.  They killed a few thousand residents, ransacked Husayn's tomb, and needed 4000 camels to carry home the loot.

The original Battle of Karbala took place over 1300 years ago in the year 61 of the Islamic Calendar (680 CE).  Husayn, his family and a small group of followers were defeated by a several thousand man Syrian Army of the Umayyads.  Husayn and at least 72(?) were beheaded.  14 of the 72 were liberated slaves including a Christian, John bin Huwai, who died fighting for Husayn.  The name the “Prince of Martyrs” has long since been a title given to Husayn.  That battle has been made the subject of a historical religious movie by award winning Iranian film director Ahmad Reza Darvish.  It has English subtitles.  Darvish also had help from major British film studios and Academy Award nominated Indian film editor Tariq Anwar.

There are also scores of videos on YouTube showing more detail on the actual Arba'een pilgrimage walk.  One worth seeing IMO (and less than four minutes long) is

Friday, November 11, 2016

War as a "Home Game"

We have discussed at length, Prof Andrew Bacevich's comment that for Americans, war is a "spectator sport".  Considering that some 94% of the US adult population has not served in uniform, those spectators haven't even been in the stadium for the many "away games" the US military has fought, no less on the field.  Rather, they witnessed those games via TV, war stories and the like.

For the past 11 years, we have lived where war has been fought as a "home game", and there are still some folks alive who were on the field during those home games.  Our little island was occupied, and there were skirmishes between partisans and the occupying Germans, and resulting executions that were part and parcel to German occupation.  Across the country, there was considerable damage to homes, villages, etc, and some 4% of the population died as a direct result of the invasion and occupation.  The majority of them civilians.   Meanwhile, during that same War, in the US, one military base was damaged and just under 1/2 of 1% of the population died as a result of military action.

I'm not going to discuss the heroism of the Greek people during WWII.  The examples of their resistance to the Italian and German occupiers, and the brutality the occupiers displayed, is well documented, to include notable incidents on our little island.  However, what I share is my anecdotal experience, as a US combat veteran living among people for whom war is not a spectator sport.

When asked by Greeks what I did in the US, I simply respond that I was a soldier.  That usually results in the question, "What did you do in the Army?".  I reply that I flew helicopters.  Of course, taking in my age and MOS, they immediately ask if I flew in Viet Nam.  When I answer, "Yes", the normal reaction by anyone over 30 is along the lines of "How sad".  At first, considering that I had told them that I was a career soldier, I was a little taken aback.  But it wasn't long before further conversation on the subject made it clear that they were commenting on what I had witnessed, not particularly any danger I may have faced or US foreign policy.  They were saddened by the death and destruction I had to witness.  Virtually no questions of the right or wrong of our involvement.  Just compassion for what I saw first hand and how it must have been terrible.  And, of course, folks my age or older actually commiserated based on their first hand experience of the tragedy of war for all involved, to include the innocent.

Now, when an American would learn that I flew in Viet Nam, the reaction was quite different.  For non-veterans, there was often a voyeuristic obsession with what is was like to kill or blow things up.  Many wanted to know if I flew "gunships".  "Did you get shot down?"  Those who might have been anti war might comment on that aspect, but never in terms of my witnessing the horrors of war, but perhaps being responsible for them.  It was the rare, no very rare person who expressed sadness for the Vietnamese or for my being witness to it.

Point is, war isn't glorious, manly, fun or anything of the sort.  It is mankind at its basest.  It is a breakdown of civility and mutual respect.  I am not glad that I ever had to fire a shot in anger or help those that did.  I chose a career and accepted the good with the bad.  And I grieve for the Vietnamese who suffered through it all.

The last Veterans Day before moving to Greece, a 28 year old hot shot approached me after church services and did the obligatory, "Thank you for your service".  But the proud GWB sycophant with his flag pin on his lapel took it a step further and said, "I guess you wish you could be in the thick of things in Iraq."  I smiled and said, "No more than you seem to be."

To my comrades in arms here at MilPub and everywhere, I wish you a peaceful Veterans Day.  Been almost a century since the end of The War to End All Wars, and it seems not much has been learned.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Monday, November 7, 2016

campaigning is illegal on election day

Voting has started.  Can we get off politics and get back to this blogs original purpose: the military?  The good parts, the bad parts, and the ugly parts of  military, operational art, equipment, logistics, administration, generalship, history, etc.

But I would guess not.  There will be to many whiny losers out there no matter who wins.  So perhaps we are going to be stuck in a time warp, reliving the past horrific year for the next four or worse for  the next eight.   I for one am sick of it.  Have been for a year.

 We should, I agree, put up political posts regarding the new president's decisions that affect war and peace,  choices of cabinet members, military equipment acquisition, veteran issues, and both trade & diplomatic & economic initiatives.  But can we wait for that until he or she takes office on 21 January, or at least until there are announcements of who will be who in the next administration, instead of immediately predicting doom based on todays vote count? 

Or am I dreaming?  The answer to that is probably yes.

The Gig's Up

 --hookah-smoking caterpillar advises Alice

Half a pound of tuppenny rice
Half a pound of treacle
That's the way the money goes
--Pop Goes the Weasel

When making a business decision,
the only color that matters is green
--He Got Game (1998)

Fair is foul, foul is fair

In the year 3535
Ain't gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies.
Everything you think, do and say
Is in the pill you took today
--In the Year 2525,
Zagar and Evans

How could the Democrats have missed this?

From a pop cultural perspective (and despite the press’s narrative), Hillary Clinton is the throwback, and Donald Trump, the contemporary.

As early Baby Boomers, the candidates are chronological contemporaries. But only one has evolved to fit the Millennial milieu.

Trump is the reality show Boss who tells you “You’re fired!” playing the role with all the faux-gravitas required to please the gaming generations. He's got the girl. He does not “talk down”. He is disdained by the press and his own party for his lack of polish.

Clinton’s tightrope walk is to maintain a disdainful posture towards that guy, while taking photo ops at gritty diners where that kind of guy (minus the bucks) eats. Her position is irreconcilable.

Hillary Clinton is a relic, an artifact of another time. As a feminist, she symbolizes a cohort that will not be progressing much beyond the mandated gains made during the Civil Rights era, not anytime soon. And that was 40+ years ago -- eons by today's measure.

Today’s issues have devolved to hardcore survival ones. The quaint ideology of Clinton’s feministas is demode in our gig economy. Women are not fighting the man, for he is scrabbling, too.

For all the 1960’s Civil Rights legislation, this is precisely where we are: women are still objectified, and the races have not achieved a détente. Further, the middle class which propped it all up is disappearing.

Perhaps this is why the press disdains Mr. Trump. He is a handy repository for our collective angst, a living embodiment of the DWM who is the liberal's scapegoat for every intractable social ill.

My Cleveland friend Chris just sent me the apex of the pity: Hillary must stoop to conquer by praising the vulgar and misogynistic Jay-Z at a Democratic rally there. After attacking Mr. Trump for his views on women, surely this must bite if Mrs. Clinton retains a shred of dignity.

Ironically, it was Mrs. Clinton’s husband Bill who transformed the media relationship between a presidential candidate and the public.

When candidate Clinton blew his sax on Arsenio Hall’s show, he removed the invisible wall between the political caste and the folk. Mrs. Clinton has drawn the curtain down again, and appears dowdy for it, at best.

Clinton’s predecessor, George H.W. Bush, said he would not pander to the press: "I don't feel the compulsion to be the glamour, one shot, smart comment kind of guy." He was a one-term leader.

Hillary lacks Bill's accessibility, therefore, she is pre-1992. She is in the mold of G.H.W.B., an outre stance in 2016 (if understandable one for a former spook director.)

In contrast, President Bush fils tried his hand at a glamor shot with his comico-magnificent landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln, flying through the air on guy-wires a la Mary Martin in “Peter Pan”.

Backed by hand-painted banners proclaiming “Mission accomplished!”, the landing had that Hollywood “boy-makes-good” grittiness to it. But it wasn’t true, a fact which tarnished the spectacle.

President Obama isn't exactly a Shake-and-Bake kinda guy, but he has continued to approximate that "Everyman" protocol set by Clinton, appearing on various programs and going out of his way to tell us that he has both Old School and new music on his iPod. He was seen not only playing golf, but shooting hoops, too. Everyone's happy.

While Mr. Obama lacked Clinton's charisma, he played the public game with apparent bonhomie. Neither black nor white, he was to be the harbinger of “Hope” and “Change”.

Unfortunately, he did not deliver much of either.

With race relations at a nadir and much of the nation unmoored from their traditional belief systems, The People realize that images do not account for much. Because they participate daily in the charade of creating an identity and a meaning from the bits and pieces they upload to their social networking platforms, they know there is not much solidity behind the appearance.

Mrs. Clinton has eschewed the good-natured play of her predecessors. She is a Serious Woman, and she is an abject failure on the media performance platform. 

Her demeanor is not appealing, and we are all too savvy to believe that there is anything behind the curtain. So what is left?

She offers nothing beyond the hackneyed boilerplate of decades of Democratic platforms. She has neither the fun nor the promise of a new tomorrow (as did Presidents Clinton and Obama). Her gravitas hides a multitude of questionable behaviors.

This does not make me happy. I would like to vote for a good Democratic candidate, but Hillary Clinton is not that.

Mrs. Clinton is a pop culture "fail". In the age of the spectacle, that is unforgivable.

[cross-posted @ rangeragainstwar.]

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Puling Back the Curtain

--Pulling back the curtain

  I really mean to learn
'Cause we're living in a world of fools
Breaking us down
when they all should let us be 
--How Deep is Your Love,
 Bee Gees 

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
Going to the candidates' debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose
Every way you look at this you lose 
--Mrs. Robinson,
Simon and Garfunkel  

All you got is this moment
The twenty-first century's yesterday
You can care all you want
Everybody does yeah that's okay
--Need You Tonight, INXS

We like to keep things Ranger Simple, here. Simplicity, if not elegance, Leads The Way. Jes tryin' to wrap our helmet around things . . .

So we have some Ranger questions:

1) Why is candidate Trump lashed for looking toward favorable relations with Russia and her president, Vladimir Putin?

Did not the United States wrap up 60+ years of a costly and contentious Cold War with great hopes of normalizing relations one day with Russia (much as Nixon and Kissinger achieved with China)? What was all of that "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!" shtick about, after all?

First, the Nixon-era thaw (détente), then Mr. Gorbachev's Perestroika and glasnost. What -- all gone like so much pipe smoke? Back to frenemies, or worse? Why are we demonizing Russia?

Politics is about statecraft, and that used to be about realpolitik. It doesn't matter if they are Bad Men ™ . President George Bush, et al., were Bad Men from many people's perspectives. But you must deal, and politics is the art of the deal, with a good measure of craftiness, shrewdness and charisma, for good measure.

Would it not be a good thing if Trump were to enter Office with a favorable view towards one of the world's major players? To extend the thought on Mr. Trump's appeal to members of the Old Boys Club, he would probably do great with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, too, thus knocking out two Bad Guy ™ threats with one stone, as it were.

Like Dennis Rodman, Trump has that yellow mop reminiscent of David Bowie in his Man Who Fell to Earth phase. Send Mr. Trump a-visiting NOK with a nice boxed set of Emmenthalers and a stadium parka and insignia ski cap -- like Vice President Cheney wore at Aushwitz -- and you have now lowered the world's fear from two of its Big Bad Bears.

--VP Cheney dressing down at Auschwitz

I can see a Trump success with both leaders. If they are the major amorphous threats that the news would have us believe they are, that would be a coup for the new administration and our nation.

2) Why the misinformation that Trump would be a loose canon on the issue of a nuclear first strike?

All liberal news outlets allude to this supposed threat. However, the fact is that Mr. Trump has uwaveringly said he would NOT make a nuclear first strike. His opponent Mrs. Clinton refuses to say the same thing.

As Andrew Bacevich wrote, "Hillary Clinton chose a different course: she changed the subject. She would moderate her own debate.  Perhaps Trump thought Holt was in charge of the proceedings; Clinton knew better."

The closest Mrs. Clinton comes to addressing the nuclear issue is to say that when the President hits the button,"there are four seconds to detonation," and further, that the ten people overseeing the warheads like her better than Trump.

Go figure. The job of overseer must be a boring one, and the prospect of "lighting them up" must provide some interest.

3) Donald Trump is our Boris Johnson (sans Eton).

Mr. Trump is an American Goniff, and Americans like that. The people like humor and accessibility, qualities which Mrs. Clinton lacks in spades.

Mr. Trump has given 80 interviews over this election season to The New York Times; Mrs. Clinton, two. She does not open her plane to journalists, a long-standing practice of Presidential candidates. She is closed to The People, a cipher.

4)  Why are smart people cowing other smart people who like Trump?

Why the infinite jest? Perhaps this a function of everyone having a megaphone (i.e., a media feed and a social platform).

People think they are part of the newsmaking apparatus. Because their particular shtick streams to them personally each day, they feel on par with those newsmakers who unload their opinions. The recipients then perpetuate the shtick-as-fact.

My father writes for the media (not political), and he called the election for Trump over a year ago. My mother has a visceral dislike of Mrs. Clinton. My parents are both predominately Left Independents. So for me, keeping an open mind is not difficult.

However, over the past few months in my university courses, professors have been shamelessly deriding Mr. Trump. They have encouraged their students to get out the vote (for Mrs. Clinton, of course.)

Last week my instructor asked if anyone would be attending the anti-Trump protest rally in town; if so, class would be dismissed early. I was dumbfounded, and felt like perhaps someone in a fascist society might feel. Certainly, it was not a safe environment in which to offer a dissenting opinion.

It's really all about what we will allow. Will the dynastic hopefuls fall in line and support a President Trump, giving him all the support and goodwill needed for a successful administration should he win the election?

Not if the press has anything to do with it. But the press is like the police: there are many more of us than them.

If we can re-inter our brains in our braincases, we will vote our conscience and react to the election results like sane citizens used to do. We would tell the screeching harridans of the press to piss off.

The man Trump is a serious candidate. What is so good about Clinton; what is so bad about Trump?

If we were better than we are, we would turn away from the spectacle, eyes firmly affixed to real life.
Which is to say, to life.

[cross-posted @ Rangeragainstwar.]