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.]

Saturday, November 5, 2016

You heard it first on MilPub

This morning, while enjoying our coffee, the view of the beautiful Agean and reading our emails and news, Mrs Av looked up from her tablet and said, "This article from Reuters sounds just like something you told me that one of your friends on that military blog said a while back."

And so, being a dutiful husband, I switched from reading an delightful email from a high school classmate to my Reuters app, and lo and behold, found that Bill Schneider was saying what either Publius or FDChief had said a few years back.  The GOP's reaction to losing a Presidential election is to immediately begin trying to "nullify" the President, except in Schneider's terms, paint the President as "illegitimate".

In Bill Clinton's case, Ken Starr spend millions to finally expose a truly criminal attempt by Clinton to cover up that he got a blowjob from a White House intern.  Yup, lying about a consensual, adulterous blowjob is a high crime or misdemeanor worthy of tying up the Congress for an impeachment proceeding.  I'm sure that Baylor coeds wished that sexual assault by football players rose to the same level of concern from Mr Starr.

Barak Obama faced the same nullification attempts from the GOP. First was the "Birther" movement.  Then, of course, was Mitch McConnell's infamous statement that it was the first priority of the GOP Senate to insure that Obama was a one term President.  And, of course, the ludicrous claim by the GOP that a President cannot nominate a Supreme Court Justice in the final year of his term.

And now, we have nullification before the election is even held.  John McCain has publicly stated that his party “will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were President, would put up.”  In short, the GOP has openly declared that the legitimate, Constitutional requirement that a President will nominate SCOTUS Justices is null and void when that President is a Democrat.  So it is not the merits of the candidate that should be considered, but the person making the nomination that is the deciding factor.

And, of course, there is the growing chorus of GOP claims that if the GOP candidate loses the election, it is because the system is "rigged", and voter fraud stole it, but if the GOP candidate wins, well that's because there was no fraud.  Claims from the masters of voter suppression and gerrymandering.   Will Ken Starr return from retirement and shame to investigate her if she wins?

So, if Clinton wins, the stage to nullify her Presidency  has already been set.

What a great country.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Watching the Wheels

--Alice considers the matter

But I don't want to go among mad people,
said Alice.
Oh, you can't help that, said the cat. 
--Alice in Wonderland,
 Lewis Carroll 

Ah, people ask me questions
Lost in confusion
Well, I tell them there's no problem
Only solutions 
--Watching the Wheels,
John Lennon 

Our time is limited, we forget that
--Anomalisa (2015)


Subtitle: Lisa in Wonderland.

This week The NYT reported above the fold:

Hillary Clinton in Des Moines on Friday. Her advisers said they were not changing her strategy or schedule because of the emails.
Hillary Clinton Assails James Comey, Calling Email Decision 'Deeply Troubling'


Mrs. Clinton's campaign opened a coordinated attack on Mr. Comey, the F.B.I. director, accusing him of smearing her with innuendo late in the race.
Hillary Clinton assails the Director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and calls his actions, "deeply troubling", as though she is a person of some legitimacy. As though the "investigation" is the problem, and not the problem.

As though even the President of the United States, if he comes under investigation, has the right to shut down a legal investigation into possible criminality associated with his person. (See former President Richard M. Nixon vis-a-vis Leon Jaworski.)

The takeaway is clear: The next President calls "foul" on a police agency for investigating her possible malfeasance. Mr. Comey's action is basically like a gnat on a cow's patootie. A "swoosh" of the Clinton-DNC machine's tail, and it goes away. A done deal.

Just like CNN's Donna Brazile got thrown under the bus for secretly funneling debate questions to Mrs. Clinton, so Mr. Comey's time may be drawing nigh. Lots of people have to exit stage right to pave the way for Mrs. Clinton's ascendency to the Presidency.

Understand: it is not the actuality of the investigation and the very real possibility of serious wrongdoing on Mrs. Clinton's behalf which should trouble any of us. It is the temerity of the F.B.I. director to do his job.

Not allowable! Now, of course, compare Clinton's entitled posture to that of an excoriated Trump who would not say if he would concede the election if he were to lose when asked the question by Mrs. Clinton in a debate.

Mr. Trump is skewered as being a dangerous obstructionist to the result that must occur; he is, in so many words, off his rocker. And of course, the same question is never put to Mrs. Clinton, because we all know she will be/is the next President, right? No election needed.

For perspective, if Mr. Trump is accused of groping by a much lesser preponderance of evidence than that held by Mr. Comey, he simply IS a groper. And that's about the baddest thing a person can be, in this time of Nirvana. Q.E.D.

This is because he has the temerity to run for the highest office in the land without the correct associations.

My liberal friends point out that candidate Trump feels the press is against him, therefore he is paranoid, therefore he is mentally ill, therefore, he is a fascist. It all makes perfect sense to them.

I am reminded of the saying, “Is it paranoia if they really are out to get you?”

I suddenly had a vision of myself like Heinlein's Stranger from a Strange Land, dropped into this country one year ago. I envision myself with antennae with golf balls on the ends; I eat only a food spread, like Nutella or Vegemite -- straight from the jar.

I am familiar with the history of great nations over the past 200 years. I am told to make sense of the news coverage of the U.S. presidential campaign:

It is clear that a man named “Trump” is an unwelcome intruder to the process. There is only one electable candidate, Mrs. Clinton. 

It appears that Mr. Trump has her by the snatch, like an Iron Maiden, and she is trying to escape. He is large and threatening, like King Kong, and the press wonders how he was “created”, much like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster.

He is a Bad Man ® -- a title given to other national leaders who were “taken out” over the previous 13 years. Against the odds, he has crawled out of the primordial ooze to become his party’s candidate (though mostly, they do not recognize him.)

If elected, he will upset the international clock. Planes will fly backwards and the dead will emerge from their caskets, ready to danse macabre in celebration of Klaatu.

The great horror will occur at his swearing in, when he will unzip his human carapace and reveal himself to be one of David Icke’s Lizard People. (Yup, I’m ready to rack muck for Gawker or HuffPo; no pay, thanks.)

Only the voters who favor him see him. However, they are being vigorously prodded to see the light and understand that they cannot vote for him.

This is obviously a time of revanchist goddesses, led by a matriarch with an unfortunate stridulous quality to her voice. The fact that there is only one viable candidate is reminiscent of Stalin's USSR. Oddly, this nation fought a 60+ year Cold War against that Soviet system. 

Well, that was scary. When I re-inhabit my body, I see a country in denial. They have surmounted the last great civil rights barrier in 2015 when gay people achieved the right to marry. There are no more Great Rights Issues to be won. And yet, the country is a far piece from Nirvana.

That unrealized dream may be what irks them the most, and that is why there must be a Trump scapegoat.

So the crusaders must now turn their walrus tears to the inhabitants of other nations. They must act as if the Civil Rights era was a great success. 

Somehow a person called Donald Trump made it through the chicken wire. He is a threat to the simulacrum of the dream, and so he must be crushed. 

Presumptive-President Clinton proclaims in her mincing, screeling voice that she will stomp all over wid her "nasty feet". The image of her and BFF Liz Warren tripping the light fantastic in their sensible shoes is almost too much.

Poor Lisa, in her red, bill-backwards “Trump hat”. Poor, provincial Lisa, drinking the berry Kool Aid. Actually not, thanks.

It is just all very strange to me.

[cross-posted @ Rangeragainstwar.]

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Help with historical comparisons

Recently, I got done reading this story about the US government sending 1.4 million weapons to Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade plus.  While the authors acknowledge that there are conflicting accounts on the exact total, they've got a pretty decent rationale for those numbers.

What I'm most curious about is if folks here would know if that's historically a lot or a little.  Did we ship more to Vietnam for our war there?  Or to Afghanistan and Iraq before our wars there?  Or more to Europe during or after either of the World Wars?  Or if this is a constant amount that varies in where it is directed?

There's a number of historians in this group, so if you have advice on where to find the information, that would also be of use.  I'm thinking specifically about small arms mostly because that's the comparison point, but context on heavier weapons too is welcome.

Thanks folks.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

In the Beginning

--Alice in Wonderland,
John Tenniel  

And we'll never be royals
It don't run in our blood
That kind of lux just ain't for us,
we crave a different kind of buzz
--Royals, Lorde

 Then with the boiler about to explode
from eight years of blather and neglect,
Humphery's cold-war liberals could have
fled down the ratlines and left the disaster
to whoever inherited it 
--The Great Shark Hunt,
Hunter S. Thompson 

Television is not the truth!
Television is a God-damned amusement park!
We're in the boredom-killing business! 
--Network (1976)

After a year of malignant hauteur vis-a-vis candidate Trump the talking heads ask in play-befuddlement of the Republican Presidential candidate: “How did HE happen?”

In their arrogance, the press created a simplistic constituent of angry and bigoted American bumpkins wielding pitchforks across the land who supposedly comprise the majority of Trump’s supporters.  Presumably feeble-minded and easily suckered, their sad domain is the “flyover states”.

Surely fools all, they will fall in embarrassment when we knock their candidate around a bit. Surely he cannot stand up to a "real" candidate, like Mrs. Clinton -- "real" today meaning a lawyer, someone who has earned his bona fides by treading the muck of Foggy Bottom.

That is the sort you may vote for, because, well, they are practiced in the sleazy craft of treading muck, and politics is a dirty business. Not for the likes of you and I. It is heresy to think it might be otherwise . . . and yet, here it is.

The press would have you think the poor sots who think otherwise are the people candidate Obama disdained in 2008 as the “guns and Religion crowd”. (Ironically, then-candidate Clinton called Mr. Obama, "elitist and out of touch" for his disdain.) And those who would feign shock at Mr. Trump’s success? 

They would do well to look to Mr. Obama for the germ of candidate Trump's success.

At a 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association Press Dinner, President Obama slapped candidate Trump down in front of a televised world audience. Lauded as "cool" by the cognoscenti, it was actually an evisceration.

President Obama did not deliver his remarks in the spirit of peer-to-peer bonhomie which such occasions demand. Obama dismissed Mr. Trump in his entirety.

It seemed Mr. Obama (to paraphrase the man's own words) held "antipathy to folks who aren't like him."

This additional moment of un-Presidential hubris consolidated the phenomenon that would deny the nomination to 16 party-sponsored GOP candidates. Trump was supposed to be the provocateur; he was not a favored party son.

So what else has enabled Mr. Trump’s very credible bid for the White House -- aside from the very real sense of deracination among a large contingent of U.S. citizens? 

Hatred bit the Good Liberals on the ass. Personal animosity has no place in national discourse, yet the press's covered has been deeply personal and mean-spirited, often malicious and contemptible. (How someone who produces such grotesque hatred as a Charles Pierce can sleep at night mystifies.)

Further, the attacks have been relentless, fairly toothless, and a sort of “vile fatigue” has set in for many who resent their arms being twisted into voting for what they are told is the only one viable candidate.

Much as bombs and terrorist attacks have become background noise to our daily life, so the single-minded disdain of Mr. Trump is a simmering constant in the media. For a thinking person, this enforced press agenda rankles.

The harridans of the press may talk good, but their bought-and-paid for agenda is transparent to a disillusioned populace. The only ones who follow the bait without suspicion are those inclined to believe as they do a priori – the Party Men.

The President (a haughty skinny Boss Tweed), Mrs. Obama (an angry disparaging one) and Joe Biden (who does what he’s told) have joined in swinging at the Trump piñata on candidate Clinton’s behalf. None convince because we know they have not done what they said they would. The “hopey-changy” thing lies lifeless, like roadkill on the MSR.

(Noteworthy: former President Bill Clinton is in hull defilade, improving his overhead cover, just enjoying life from his Harlem offices.)

And in a sense, perhaps the essential difference between the candidates is expressed in Mr. Clinton’s demeanor: Mr. Trump exudes an enthusiasm born of his success. Contrast that with Mrs. Clinton’s sour, entitled didacticism.

Who feels more like America 2016? Mrs. Clinton, the 1910 school marm hypocritically dispensing recitations from her McGuffey reader ("Do as I say, not as I do"), or Donald Trump, the reality show Boss in a world lived in the simulacra of the hyperreal. You decide.

We are 14 years into a war that leads nowhere, and bodes no good for the U.S. (aside from padding the pockets of military contractors.)

The U.S. supports Iraqi militias and calls them an Army. It fights and Army (ISIS) and calls them terrorists. Our foreign policy understands only war – its continuance and expansion.

We have a Homeland Security apparatus that secures nothing, and we have a Homeland devoid of democratic principles.

Is it any wonder the people want something different?

 [cross-posted @ Rangeragainstwar.]