Tuesday, March 07, 2017

¡Fuera de acá, abuela!

Frank Moraes makes a good point that draws me back to the Trumpkin War of Wetback's Ear currently now being waged against Scary Brown People that I talked about last month.

Frank's post itself is worth reading, but he makes a hell of a great point; one huge reason that the Immigration troopers just luuuurve this Trumpy open-season so much is that it makes their jobs ridiculously, like slam-dunk easy, because:
"...they don’t have to go looking. It’s also easy because they don’t have to worry that the person they are arresting is violent. Just imagine if 90 percent of the work you have to do in your job was lifted. You’d be very happy.

For the managers at ICE, this is fantastic. Now they can catch more people and get credit for doing a great job. They’ll hear, “Wow! You doubled the number of people you deported!” And they’ll think to themselves, “It was easy! I used to have go after violent criminals, but now I capture housewives and grandfathers.” There will be nowhere on the reports they file to indicate what percentage of the people they captured were “bad hombres.” A 55 year-old father of four with no criminal history is as good as a gang leader captured after shooting the graveyard clerk at the local 7-11."
My conclusion in the earlier piece was that this Mexican ratissage would do very little other than make some innocent people's lives pretty miserable. But Frank's conclusion is, now that I think about it, even more likely to come true and even less palatable when it does; that people will be harmed because fewer ICE resources will be used to try and catch MS13 gangsters when nabbing old granny from the corner bodega counts just as much.

AND...that when one of these MS-13 "bad hombres" does something predictably awful it will just provide the Tangerine Toddler and the Fraudulency Administration with more justification to kick granny back to Sinaloa.

It's the lickiest of self-licking ice cream cones.

Isn't THAT fucking dandy..?

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Fifteen

Well.

It's that day of the year again, isn't it, love?

That day where once, or twice, or a handful of times I stop and really think about you.

Not in the usual sort of passing way that has become your visits to me of late; the random idle wonder at the sight of a dark head in a gaggle of teenage girls, or the fleeting memory of a still small bundle of yellow flannel jammie.

But a dead stop remembering you as you were, and remembering me as you were to me.

Not the tiny day-old baby girl that was all that you would ever be. That was your mom, who carried you all those long and fretful months. But to me; the gangly girl you might have been, or the petulant and angry teenager I hoped you'd avoid becoming, or the compact dark young woman who would one day stand over my grave and remember me.

Instead I got to stand over yours, and now I am almost all there is; your mother and I and a handful of our friends, to remember you.

I'm sorry you never got the chance to grow up into all those dfferent people, darlin'. I miss those people and all the other people you might have been but never could be. I wish that I was going home tonight to find you pissed off and arguing with your sullen little brother and pushing aside your goody-goody little sister and shouting at you to lighten up and lay off your siblings, which says something pretty brutal about how much I miss the you I'll never get to know.

I do enjoy our little visits on this day, troubling as they are at times.

I wish you could stay for a while longer. But tomorrow you'll be gone. Again. As you were, and as you always will be, even though in your quiet and ephemeral way you'll be here as long as I am. That doesn't really count. Not next to the you that isn't here with me.

And, look; it's time to go already. Yes, I'll miss you. No, I'm sorry, you can't stay longer. Yes. I'll think of you again.

I always do.

Goodbye, love.

Goodbye.

Bryn Rose Gellar
March 1, 2002 - March 2, 2002

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

¡Fuera de acá!

I hate to even admit this.

But.

I'm not TOTALLY hating on the totally-expected roundup-the-wetbacks directive from the new Administration.

Yeah, yeah, I'm a Trumpkin. I want to Make America Great Again. Ugh. I know.

Bear with me for a moment, though.

Now. Don't get me wrong. This thing will suck for millions of people whose crime is trying to get a piece of the American Dream for themselves and their families. I hate that on a purely personal, I-don't-like-to-make-things-suck-for-innocent-people level. As a person, I hate it.

As a citizen, as someone who thinks about politics and governing...well, let's start with this; to be a stateless person, a non-citizen, in a foreign nation is not a good thing.

It's not good for the person, who has no civil rights, who is outside the protection of the civil law, and who is, therefore, hideously vulnerable to all sorts of malefactors.

And it's not good for the nation, that has this indigestible mass of non-citizens within it prey to crime and violence, exploited by employers and living in fear of taking part in the civil life of the community.

So. The bottom line really is; if you are a citizen of Mexico, or Ireland, or Bali...you belong in Mexico, Ireland, or Bali unless you are a legal resident or visitor of where-ever-it-is-you-are; in this case, the United States.

In case you're interested, I wrote a loooooong post at this joint three years ago where I discussed what I see as the vast, almost insoluble complexity of this problem, which concluded with the following:
"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 will 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" (that is, legal 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."
But this post isn't about those things; it's about the Trump-promising-to-deport-the-beaners-and-going-ahead-and-doing-it.

As opposed to the ban-the-raghead rule, which really was poorly thought out and complete geopolitical foolery, the idea that the United States should police its borders and return those who have entered the country illegally to their homelands is not, on its face, as freakishly boneheaded as most Trump stuff.

But...

(...and you KNEW there'd be a but, here, right, because, well...Trump.)

Here's the problems I DO have with this.

First, I can see a gajillion ways that this is going to be a fucking total shitshow. American citizens will be grabbed up and deported by mistake. Sweeps will result in a seething mob of people shoved into FEMA trailers without any sort of organization or preparation. Screening will be a disaster. The optics - "jackbooted ICE agents handcuff adorable tiny Latino kiddies" - will make the Land of the Free look like the Land of the Assholes. People will get stranded in Mexico City airport with nowhere to go and no hope of relief.

I can see about a dozen ways this will be a smoking crater - it's Trump, for one thing, who seems to have a gift for employing people who couldn't run a child's birthday party - that will make the Iraq War look like VE Day.

Second, I can also see how this could turn into something far nastier and far worse, along the lines of the Japanese internment of 1942. There's always been a hell of a strong strain of race hate and xenophobia in America (as there is in about...well, pretty much everywhere humans live...) that could take this from a calmly conducted law enforcement process into a screaming ratissage against every person or group of people that every whacko wingnut hates and freaks out over (Hello? Alex Jones? Hello?).

And, finally, I think that, even if this isn't a dumpster fire, that the results will be at best underwhelming. The promised Day of Alien-Free Jubilee will turn out to be a quiet monotone of unpicked crops, uncleaned hotel rooms, unwiped asses, and uncooked meals.

The result of all this huge slug of spending - surely paid for by a tax hike, right? - will be, outside of personal hardship for those involved, a vast expanse of...very little.


What do you think?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Falling Timber, Green Shoots

I've been working out of town steadily for the past several weeks, so my home life has been reduced to weekends.

The only problem with that is that, when I get home...I don't want to just sit at home.

My Bride, dearly as I love her, doesn't have "get-out-of-the-house" sorts of interests. She likes to sew, and she is part of one of our local rowing clubs. She loves "binning", going to the infamous GoodWill Bins that I wrote about back on '09. And re-arranging the living room furniture.

My kids have videogames (for the Boy) and crafts, stories, and all sorts of creative fun (for the Girl).

But I like to get out a bit.

So this morning we loaded up the car with wife and kid and friends-of-kid and drove up into the Coast Range, into the Deep Woods, to the annual "Blessing of the Log", the ceremonial Choosing of the douglas-fir Pole that will serve the Timbers soccer club's lumberjack mascot as a tally for goalscoring and goalkeeping (when a Timber scores - or a Timbers keeper keeps a clean sheet - the lumberjack saws off a slice from the log, a tradition going back to the Seventies).

The day was cool and damp but not raining, and the roads were quiet all through the farmlands that cling to the west edge of the Tualatin Valley and up into the wooded hills of the Coast Range. Dark firs and bare maples dripped steadily as we passed through the Sunset Corridor, as the state calls Highway 26 that is named for the old 41st Division of WW2.

I have been this way many times and it has changed very little in the almost thirty years I have lived here. The clearcuts wander about, appearing suddenly where a stand of heavy timber was the winter before, then gradually blurring away as the new crop of future dimension lumber, plywood, and paper pulp grows over the bare hillsides rugged with stump and slashpiles.

An early stop for coffee and cocoa help quiet the drive out to the morning's meetingplace at Camp 18.

As I was writing this I looked back through the GFT archives and discovered to my surprise that I have never really talked much about this joint. It's...well, it's a fascinating mashup of genuinely worthwhile roadside attraction, good restaurant, and kitschy tourist trap.

The building itself is a treasure, a huge log cabin complete with enormous single-tree ridgepole and massive old-growth timber front doors. The huge stone hearths help take the chill off a winter's day, and the food is plentiful and savory. If there's anything my Girl appreciates it's a good tuck-in, and she and her pal Lulu got around the outside of a hell of a lot of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and the immense cinnamon rolls that the Camp is known for.

After the breakfast - and a visit to the gift shop and a stroll around the old logging equipment that serves as part of the museum to the old life in the Coast Range woods - it was time for the annual Blessing of the Log.
This event is the ceremonial start of the Timbers' soccer fan's season. A piece of a raw douglas-fir log donated by one of the local timber companies (this year it was Hampton Lumber of Willamina; thanks, guys!) is brought to Camp 18, where an assembled group of fans, and their friends, kids, and even their pets troop out into the chilly morning to offer up their hopes for the coming year. One of the song leaders - the capos - leads the group in the "blessing"...

"May your home be strong of beam,
Firm of wall and rafter,
Built with Timbers from a dream,
Girded well with laughter.
May your home have a winding stair
With a lovers landing,
Windows to let in fresh air
With the light of understanding.
May your home have a roof of faith
For every change of weather
And love upon your hearth
To warm your years forever."


...that concludes with a roar of "Go, Timbers!"

That was enough for my kiddos; they weren't prepared to stay longer and plant trees so full of lumberjack breakfast and companionship our group returned Bob the Subaru through the wooded hills and spitting rain back to Portland again; the kids to their busy-ness, my Bride to a nap, and I to a quiet afternoon, dreaming dreams of future glory.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Where have you gone, Mark Hatfield..?

Back in October I wrote a post about the Trump "wing" of the Republican Party. In it I said:
"I think that regardless of whether the media comes down hard on the Trumpeters after November that this hard core of Jacksonians will not dissipate, and the United States will be, in effect, dealing with the same situation that broke the nation in 1860; there will be a large, indigestible, irredentist minority that will never, NEVER accept the legitimacy of their opponents. No non-Jacksonian/Trumpeter will be allowed to govern. Obstruction will be the order, not just of the day but of the week, the year, the decade.

Eventually the American public will look for a “savior”, and a Man on Horseback seems all the more likely to be that "savior"."
At that time I, like many other Americans, simply assumed that, regardless of party affiliation, Trump himself was such an appallingly loathsome example of a human being that not even the loopiest wingnuts would be able to bring themselves to vote for him, and I was worried about more, and worse, of what we'd seen during the Clinton and Obama years.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Boy fuckin' howdy was that joke on us...

Since then the administration of His Fraudulency has shown us everything we knew about the Tangerine Toddler: his viciousness, his stupidity (or, at least, his lack of knowledge and information, which is almost as troubling), his insensate rage, his childlike impulsiveness, and his overall love of brutal authoritarianism. His cabinet and his inner circle is full of horrors, ranging from Christopathic Amway grifters to greedy robosigning banksters to open neo-Nazis. He is, so far as anyone can tell, either playing patty-cake or simply in the pocket of the Kremlin.

His initial flood of executive orders range from simple nonsense to brutal stupidity, and his frantic tweetstorms paint a picture of a man who would be unprepared to run a child's birthday party, let alone the most heavily-armed industrial republic on Earth.

And then there's this:


That's His Fraudulency's "approval rating" on February 6, 2017.

Yes, overall it looks ugly, but look at the Republican column.

Ninety percent positive.

Ninety percent.

Think about that for a moment.

So I posted a discussion of the Flynn Fiasco at my geopolitical blog MilPub and got immediate pushback on my assertion that the single biggest political crisis we're facing is a monolithic GOP all-in on Trumpism, which is to say fearmongering about Mexican rapists and Iraqi jahadis, whackadoodle conspiracy theories, and a mad intent to create a New Gilded Age.

Not so! the respondent cried. Both Side Do It! The Corrupt Duopoly! Two Sides of the Same Coin! Imperial presidency! Drone war! Washington Rules!

My rebuttal was while, yes, the corporate wing of the Democratic Party was part of the problem, the Our Revolution wing (i.e. the Sanders movement) was proof that the Left has a faction fighting against the sort of imperial presidency and money power that brought us Iraq and Citizens United and the surveillance state.

And DeVos, and Flynn, and moronic Muslim bans, and deporting Mexican teenagers.

But, I asked, where are our allies on the Right?

Where are the genuinely "principled conservatives" who also hate crony capitalism, imperial cabinet wars, unrestricted plutocracy, and the sort of idiocy we're seeing now from the Trumpeters?

Right now those of us on the outside are looking at these Trumpeters and seeing gibbering, hateful, ignorant loons. Neo-nazis and conspiracy theorists that make the Bushies look like MENSA. But when you look at the arc of the GOP this is the culmination of the project that starts with Goldwater; the Bircherization of the GOP. Proudly resistant to any ideas outside their dogma, dismissive of disagreements, rigid, angry, and vituperative...the perfect distillation of hate radio and Breitbart.

Almost half of the U.S. electorate want this, though. Or , at least, has been conditioned and shouted at and lied to to want it.

Almost half the nation is FOX News, and, as driftglass says, no nation can exist half-FOX and half-free; it must become all one or all the other.

Is there any hope left that the GOP can be anything else? It was once; my pop (and I, as a young man) were Rockefeller Republicans. But Reagan and Gingrich and Limbaugh and Palin...years and years of nonsense and lies and fakery and magical thinking...drove us both out.

I guess my fear is that there is no return.

So I'm asking; what sort of Republicans would that take? How could that happen? Are there any left out there? Is there a chance that the GOP can be more than hysterical fear of Muslims, gays, free health care, and gun control?

Because, frankly, if not...I don't see anything other way than deeper into this fucking Trumpenmire.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Yakla: Arabic for Dieppe? Normandy? Neither? Who knows?

It will surprise no one here that my general opinion of the not-even-a-month-old reign of His Fraudulency is a mixture of disgust and contempt; disgust for the greedy, mulcting brutality of the Grifter-in-Chief and contempt for an "adminstration" that is barely capable of incompetence, let alone anything approaching a grasp of the actual complexity and difficulty of running an immense industrial nation.

But...since this is supposed to be a blog about military affairs and geopolitics...let me concentrate on one specific issue involving one single episode in this farcical miniseries and what is says, not just about the Barely Sentient Administration but about the whole business we've been doing in the Middle East since 2001; the raid on the village of Yakla in Yemen.

And the issue is this: "winning"
Specifically, the new President seems to be furiously irked that anyone questions that this particular operation was a "win" for the Forces of Goodness and Peace (i.e., the United States, by definition the Good Guys, amirite..?)

"...a winning mission..." is the exact phrase that the Tangerine Toddler Twitterblurted out (attributing it to his SecDef, mind you).

Now.

AI have no idea what the actual objective(s) of this raid was or were, and, second, I have no idea whether that objective or objectives was or were achieved. And, indeed, if it was in intel-gathering operation we will probably NEVER know, and rightly so. Whatever intelligence was obtained will be hidden and used to guide future operations, as it should be.

If the intelligence desired was obtained, then, in the strictest sense even a raid that seems to have fallen apart tactically, cost over 100 million dollars as well as dozens of lives - innocent, friendly and enemy - and has provided cause for at least one of the "governments" of Yemen to first revoke and then to request a "review" of U.S. ground operations in their portion of that wretched land can be called a "success".

But..."winning"?

The entire farrago about this mission "winning" or "failing" just point out to me two problems.

First, and specific to this administration, that Five-Deferment Donnie has no more idea of how actual military operations, campaigns, and wars work than a fucking Jersey cow knows about the proceedings of the Council of Trent. The "winning" nonsense is that's just how a simpleminded derp thinks war works, and the orange Amway salesman has never been closer to combat than the concession line where American Sniper was playing, so that's just how he thinks.

But people like Mattis should know better, and tell him so. I suspect that he did, and that the joker didn't listen, or understand.

Second, and worse, generic to our nation and our foreign policy, that we're even debating about whether some piddly-ass little airmobile raid was a "win" or a "failure" points out the degree that ALL of us; the press, the public, the military and civil authorities in the United States have no real fucking clue what the fuck we are doing in the Middle East.

Because, quite simply, this Yakla raid is part of a much larger, much more complex...something. A "(Sort of) War on (Certain Kinds of People Who Use Certain Kinds of) Terror". A "clash of civilizations". A Great Power cabinet war gone out of control. A...well, I have no fucking idea, actually, and what pisses me off is that I'll bet you and Joe and Molly and Steve Fucking Bannon have no fucking idea, either.

The Yemen raid was something of a tactical mess. But, more importantly, we don't know what our actual goals are in Yemen and whether (or how much) this raid got us closer to them, or not.

In August of 1942 the Brits attacked the French Channel port of Dieppe. The raid was a fiasco, thousands of Allied troops were killed or captured, and the Nazi hierarchy exulted in their success. But the Allies learned a ton from Dieppe, so the next time they came ashore in France it opened the road all the way to the Elbe.

Is this raid Dieppe, or Normandy, or what?

We have no context. We can't possibly know.

And that's a huge problem. If you have no idea what your end-state is (or, worse, if your end-state is something utterly impossible, such as "the utter defeat of radical Islamic terrorism") then how the hell do you know when you've reached it. How do you know whether Operation Yemen Derp, or whatever, has gotten you closer, or further away, or sideways, or where the hell you are?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dopeslap

I can't really do better than Ben Wittes on the horrific clusterfuck that is His Fraudulency's executive order barring entrance to the United States of nationals (including resident aliens and persons with valid visas) from seven Muslim-majority nations.
"But in the rational pursuit of security objectives, you don’t marginalize your expert security agencies and fail to vet your ideas through a normal interagency process. You don’t target the wrong people in nutty ways when you’re rationally pursuing real security objectives.

When do you do these things? You do these things when you’re elevating the symbolic politics of bashing Islam over any actual security interest. You do them when you’ve made a deliberate decision to burden human lives to make a public point. In other words, this is not a document that will cause hardship and misery because of regrettable incidental impacts on people injured in the pursuit of a public good. It will cause hardship and misery for tens or hundreds of thousands of people because that is precisely what it is intended to do."
But I do want to stop for a moment and point out one specific point from this tissue of diaper gravy the Tangerine Toddler seems to have scraped out of his britches that pounds home the points that 1) this was not intended as a national security measure, and 2) if it was intended as a national security measure as such it is a complete, utter, moron-grade-stupid fail;

Iraq.

Why the fuck, if you had so much as a functioning hindbrain, would you put all Iraqi nationals on an "anti-Islamic-terrorism" no-entry list in 2017?

Iraq is, at the moment, at least notionally a fucking U.S. ally. The U.S. spends millions subsidizing the Iraqi government and military. Thousands of GIs are now, right now, at this very fucking minute, in the field alongside the Iraqi Ground Forces, fighting those very booga-booga Islamic bad guys the Islamic State.

A tenth of a second of real thought - which appears to be a tenth more than the Fraudulency Administration put into this goddamn thing - would reveal that any Iraqi national holding a U.S. visa, or a green card, or applying for refugee status, has about a 99.9% chance of being or doing so because he or she worked for the U.S. government. Translator, liason, contractor...the chances are fucking impossibly huge that anyone you'd catch in your cunning terrorist-catching net would be some former heroic translator who had spent years risking his ass alongside those troops you purport to support and love.

I could go on. Why the hell throw Iran into this pottage and leave off Pakistan and Saudi; chock-full of wahhabi madrassas cranking out fundamentalist kooks by the turbanful?

But screw that. It's Iraq on this idiot bucket list that tells me that this had nothing to do with actual security. It was just about Il Douche and his merry band of Trumpeters taking their Islamophobic dicks out for a bit of a wave.

I lived with asshole officers for twenty years. Interspersed with true combat gods a lot of these jokers lived to thrill themselves with their own importance, showed a ridiculous enthusiasm for getting their troops killed for Duty, Honor, Country, and whose shoulder insignia often looked to my lowly enlisted scum self a hell of a lot like chips.

I got used to the idea that I could get killed because somebody in command of me was an evil, callous, careerist assholic sonofabitch.

But stupid?

I always resented and still resent the idea that my life could be endangered because one of these fuckers was just too bone-stupid to walk and breathe simultaneously.

Maybe that's why I'm more irritated by this as an example of His Fraudulency's stupid incompetence rather than his evil racism, xenophobia, and authoritarianism.

I can hate Darth Cheney as an slimy immoral bastard and yet in a backhanded way respect and fear him as a true Evil Boss, a dangerous and wily enemy.

But Trump just makes me want to shift my rifle into my off hand and dopeslap his idiotic toupee off the back of his head like Moe does the other Stooges, growling "Get your shit together, you stupid fucking oxygen thief! How the hell did you get this job, you goddamn brain-dead numbnuts?
Update 2/1: As just another example let me throw in this story from Tucson, Arizona, about a little family that barely beat the ban into the U.S., but whose extended family is now stuck on the outside.

Why is this another dopeslap on Hair Furor and his Bannonidiot?

Because the people are Syrians, yes...but they're Syrian Kurds.

For fucks sake! The Kurds - in case you've been asleep for the past, oh, fourteen fucking years - have been the U.S. most effective and consistent military and political partner in the Fertile Crescent of Iraq and Syria.

Keeping Kurds out of the U.S. because they're Syrian makes as much sense in 2017 as forcing Free French back to Vichy made in 1942.

How the fuck does His Fraudulency and his idiot band manage to keep from lighting the whole damn White House on fire?

I have no damn idea.