Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Envoi

Well, it's time to admit it; this has officially become a "ghost blog".

The proof, for me, anyway, was the post about my old Honda getting stolen, pimped-up by the tweaker that bought it, and then recovered, to the disconcertion of everyone involved. I drafted the thing up back in the doldrums of summer and then...it just sat there. I honestly tried to work up the interest to finish and publish it, but just couldn't find enough give-a-shit.

I write soccer for Stumptown Footy and politics and military affairs for http://milpubblog.blogspot.com/. I have run out of battles to write up, other than the odd one or two. So what's left for this joint?

I don't have anything worth reading to write here anymore.

I won't say definitively that there will NEVER be anything new here again. I'm sure at some time I'll come across something or other that tickles my fancy or irks the shit out of me and I'll come here to talk about it.

But daily content? The sort of thing that makes a blog a living thing and not an artifact? I just don't have it in me anymore.

I've enjoyed the ten-plus years here. I've done some damn fine work. I'm currently in the process of collecting the "battles" pieces with the idea of putting together some sort of submittal for publication. I've enjoyed writing about Northwest geology for you, too. And I hope that you've enjoyed the smaller bits and pieces, too.

And those will, I hope, always be here. I hope you who come to visit enjoy them, and leave happier and, perhaps, a little wiser, or more thoughtful than when you arrived.

But for now I say; goodnight.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

All hat, no head

His Fraudulency has pardoned the two arsonists, poachers, and thieves whose criminal careers were the ostensible cause for which the Malheur Moron Mulisha justified their treason in arms back in 2016. Undoubtedly because these "fine people" will vote for his ass (as will the others who love these skeevy bastards; the lunatic "sovereign citizens", Tenthers, ammosexuals, and "wise use" nutcrackers that seem to begin where the Clackamas County sidewalk ends).

This is unsurprising but still immensely irking. For one thing, both of these people are fairly worthless shitheels, welfare ranchers of the worst sort, whose careless stupidity makes it harder for other people who try to make a living out of the hard land in Harney County.

Here's what the Wikipedia entry says about them:
"Two months later, Hammond and his son Steven obstructed the completion of a refuge boundary fence intended to keep their cattle out of the refuge's protected marsh and wetland, prompting their arrest by federal agents. The fence was needed to stop the Hammonds' cattle from moving onto the refuge after the ranchers had repeatedly violated the terms of their special permit, which limited those times when they could move their cattle across refuge property. Officials also reported that Dwight had made death threats against refuge managers in 1986, 1988, 1991, and 1994; and that Steven Hammond also made incendiary remarks against them. In 1999 Steven started a fire, intending to burn off juniper trees and sagebrush, but the fire escaped onto BLM land. The agency reminded him of the required burn permit and that if the fires continued, there would be legal consequences.

Both Dwight and Steven Hammond later set more fires, one in 2001 and one in 2006, that would lead to eventual convictions of arson on federal land. The 2001 Hardie-Hammond fire began after hunters in the area witnessed the Hammonds illegally slaughtering a herd of deer. Less than two hours later, a fire erupted, forcing the hunters to leave the area but also intending to conceal evidence of the deer herd slaughter. Steven's nephew Dusty Hammond testified his uncle told him to "light the whole countryside on fire," and that he was "almost burned up in the fire," having to flee for his life. The 2006 Krumbo Butte fire started out as a wildfire, but several illegal backburns were set by the Hammonds with an intent of protecting their winter feed. The backfires were set under the cover of night, without warning the firefighters they knew were camped on the slopes above. The fires threatened to trap four BLM firefighters. One of those later confronted Dwight Hammond at the fire scene after he had moved his crews to avoid the danger. Two days later, Steven Hammond threatened to frame a BLM employee with arson if he didn't terminate the investigation."
Fine, fine people there.

The other is that this crap really needs to be crushed, because it harms all of us. The GOP encourages people like these idiots because it knows that they're worthless except as cannon fodder, the enfants perdus of the plutocrats' assault on the public lands. The rich men who own the GOP know perfectly well that these gomers and the people like them, like the Bundys, can and will threaten and bully everyone else off the lands that belong to all of us for their own greedy purposes. They will strut and preen, king shits in their own little turdhills...

...until the really big boys come along and take them out behind the barn and put two bullets in the back of their heads. There will be no public weal to care about, no government to push back. The big animals will just eat the little animals, chew up their sad little cow farms and shit out the residue, and then do whatever mining or drilling or whatever the hell they want. The Hammonds will have already taken the public lands for them; it will simply be big thieves taking from little thieves.

If these Hammond idiots are lucky they'll get jobs working as porta-potty suck-truck operators for the mining operation. Careful with the shitty end of that hose, there, boys.

When all the Malheur moronity went down two years ago I was furious because people like these Hammond scum, seditious bastards whose entire life is a massive poke in the public eye, would get off easy. Back in 2016 I wrote:

"I will make two predictions now, and remember them;

These people will pay no price for their treason, and

We, the rest of us, will rue that we did not crush this seditious villainy when it was but small and could be crushed.

The law should have been pressed on the Bundys and was not. The law will not be brought to bear on these swine. Instead they will walk away, boasting, and the poison they bear will spread.

And so it will."


And so it did.

Monday, July 09, 2018

This IS who we are.


No, we're not "better than this".

This is who we are now. This is the nation I served for 22 years. This is the country I swore to protect and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

This is the country that sends small children to "court".

If We the People do not hold the people who are doing this, and the people who want this, as the "domestic enemies" of this nation, then that IS who we all are.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Errata

I don't have much of anything to add or detract from my post of yesterday, except this:
THIS is Nitty Kitty sleeping on the deck. At the time I wrote the post I hadn't downloaded the correct cat photo, so I went with one I had, showing Drachma the Merkitty sprawled on the front steps the previous week. He stretched out there in the heat of the afternoon and just lay around for an hour or so until the shadows moved and he had to retreat from the sunshine. Never did go inside the air-conditioned house.
Goofy cat.

And, though I don't want to rant more about the loss of the America I thought I knew, I came across this piece today:
"Some immigrant U.S. Army reservists and recruits who enlisted in the military with a promised path to citizenship are being abruptly discharged, the Associated Press has learned.

The AP was unable to quantify how many men and women who enlisted through the special recruitment program have been booted from the Army, but immigration attorneys say they know of more than 40 who have been discharged or whose status has become questionable, jeopardizing their futures."
The Army I knew was always hurting for linguists. With a gajillion cabinet wars going on all over the global South as well as southwest and central Asia I can't imagine that things are any better.

So why this, now?

You know perfectly well why, and so do I.

What baffles me is this seemingly insane pursuit of "immigrants", from wanna-be recruits to legal residents with old infractions on the books. This isn't going after badass gangstas. This is exactly what I predicted the Trumpkins' henchpeople would do; pluck all the low-hanging immigrant fruit. Granny in the bodega. Achmed the janitor.

Melania the mail-order bride...no, wait...

But all those little, harmless people would go first. Why risk your ass shooting it out with Hector the Vato when you can just walk up to Nonna Sissi and huck her in the back of the truck and she counts just the same?

If there was some sort of genuine, real, scary social problem here I could almost get it.

Almost; the way Orange Foolius and his mouthpieces are yakking this up as OMFG Alien Carnage!!! is still some seriously fucked-up neo-Nazi shit right there.

But this is a complete nothingburger. There's no "immigrant crisis". Immigration, legal and otherwise, doesn't produce any quantifiable "problems". No crime, no poverty, no threat of insurrection, nothing.

This is government-by-the-fucked-up-things-old-white-people-get-off-FOX.

That's ridiculous, but that's the way my country works right now.

So, just some cute cat pictures and your daily reminder;

Ceterum censeo GOP esse delendam.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Can you see..?

The morning of the 242nd Independence Day is cool and cloudy in Portland. The little house is quiet; everyone, including Nitty Kitty curled on the hard planks of the deck outside, is still asleep. I'm at the table in the front room with my coffee and my work laptop, listening to the muted sounds of the summer morning and wondering about my country.
Or, to a great extent, how much there is of "my country" that remains this day in the New Gilded Age.

Almost two years ago now I wrote about my anger and fear of the terrible course my country had embarked us all on.
"I am now too old to really hope or fear for my country. But I have hope, and fear, for my children's country. And if, having listened to the foolish ranting of this president-elect, having seen the parade of grifters, unhinged racist loons, incompetents, and Bush-era retreads he has threatened to employ, you are "happy" about that, Jim, then I'm afraid I will have to sadly lower my opinion of the pre-VOLAR SF officer selection process.

Had I lived in 1896 or 1916 I would hope that I would have been attacking the Pinkertons or the troops suppressing the striking workers. I hope I would have been writing flaming rants in the pages of the Socialist press, and excoriating the bosses and the corrupt politicians like Trump who suckle off them. I hope I would have been unhappy - hell, I hope I would have been furious! - that millions lived and died in poverty and misery so that a handful enjoyed luxury in the "land of the free".

And in 2016 I see that we have been handed over to those who would love to return to those Gilded Age days. I am unhappy and furious about that, and if it shows through the screen from this place, well...then I have done good work here."
Since that time I have seen everything I hated and feared about the unmitigated rule of the GOP come to pass. Just this past Saturday Nazis - actual Nazis! - fought street battles in my home city, not much different than the brawls the Spartakists and the Freikorps fought in the Weimar cities.

The fuck..? I have fucking freikorps in my home?

All of this leads back to the other evening when I went to a Portland Thorns match against the NWSL team from New Jersey. I got there a little late because I had work that ran long, and I was in the line for a beer when I heard the tannoy announce the entrance of the teams and the preparation for the Patriotic Ritual that We the People have - to my mind freakishly - decided with which to begin every meaningless sporting event.

And my weary thought was, well, fuck. I'm glad I don't have to stand for that and pretend to be a Hearty Patriot.

Because my nation sure doesn't feel much like the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave to me right now.
And, worse, because there seems to me to be nothing but disastrous choices open to fight the "conservative" scum whose ideal is a return to the ways and times of 1929, or 1899. I am too old and fragile - and too central to my family's security - to fight, actually fight, the Nazis in the street. My vote, coming as it does from distant blue Oregon, seems a frail reed, flattened in the storm of plutocratic, racist nativism my enemies are bringing to the battle. All I have is my words on this page, and those seem now like shouting into the empty air, unheeded and useless.

All this past month I've been reading Barbara Tuchman's The Proud Tower, her popular history of the pre-WW1 Western world. In it I'm reminded of why the New Dealers did the New Deal. The original Gilded Age and it's comet-tail that lasted until 1932 was an unspeakable horror for people like me, people without money and power, people who would have been forced to beg and scrape for a living knowing that once we were too old, or too damaged, or simply unlucky we were ensured a slow death from poverty and immiseration.

That's why the first Gilded Age was full of violent rage. Presidents, kings, ministers of state were murdered by "anarchists" who were, largely, simply men who were furious at the knowledge of that coming slow death and chose, instead, to visit quick and violent death on others they felt were responsible.

The lives and homes of most people like me were in the ever-present shadow of sickness from foul air and filthy water, from disease and injury for which they could not afford treatment. The great and the good would glide past them in effortless majesty, sleek, replete, shining and happy - at least, from afar - and healthy while all the then-me could have done was shake with impotent fury that they should be born to unearned happiness and I to relentless toil.

A friend of a Facebook friend had a snarky comment the other day about how people like me weren't "willing to give President Trump's policies time to work..." and my immediate response was "Because we don't have to give them time because we've already seen how they work, you fucking stupid Trump-humper!"

"Unlike you goddamn FOX-addicted morons we've read the histories of where the Trumpkins of the GOP want to take us. We already know what's gonna happen, how this shit ends, because We the People have done it before. Trade wars, nativism, racist immigrant-bashing, plutocracy, authoritarianism? Fucking "duh", you nitwit, where the hell else are we going when Orange Foolius and his GOP's "policies...work"?"

I feel this day much as many another generation of Americans must have felt in the 1850s, watching as a cabal of greedy, foolish, venal, ignorant, and, yes, evil neighbors drove their nation into bloody war.
And I wonder. Can this nation endure, half-FOX and half free? Or are we, this day headed where they were, where, in the words of the man who was perhaps most strongly charged with steering the nation through the ruinous result:

"All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came."

All I can say is; I do not know.

But the prospect makes me sick at heart, and leaves me with nothing by a mournful longing for the past, and the foolish innocence of my younger days, on this Independence Day.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Momento Mori

I never quite know how to deal with this day.

Typically I simmer all day in a sort of low, sullen anger like a peat fire deep below the surface. The clueless, careless, indifference of my fellow citizens is bitter gall to me, and the unfortunate alternative is a kind of fawning reverence for some imaginary soldier who has "fought for their freedom" that is almost more clueless than the indifferent and even more irking.

I dimly understand that most of these people are trying to say or do something "nice" on a day that has been set aside for what they dimly sense as a sort of patriotic celebration of GIs. They usually have no clue that this is something different from Veterans' Day, and, like a drunk at a wedding, proceed to either offend with their gaucherie or by their tiptoeing around the abyss that is death in war.

I want them to just say it; these men and women died not for me but because of me, because of my choices, or because I chose not a make choices. And many of them, and all of them that have died since the end of the Korean War in 1953, died for nothing, died chasing the ghosts of my fears and ignorance. They died because I thought of dominoes, or of Evil Empires, or of fighting them there so we wouldn't have to fight them here. They died because I let unscrupulous men lie me into fear, into foolish anger, into hate. They died because I was a bad citizen.

And I have never come to terms with that. I've never admitted that, or repented of that, or apologized to the dead for my acts or my indifference.

I know that won't happen, and that galls me, too. We Americans are bad at things like regret, repentance, and apologies.

So I'll say it here.

Fuck, I'm sorry, guys.

I fucked up. I trusted people I never should have. I didn't rage with fire and steel against those people who killed you. No, not the people you fought. The people who sent you to fight for nonsense, or hubris, or greed, or stupidity. And once I knew that they were fools, or criminals, or both I did nothing to punish them for murdering you. They still live, many of them honored and respected, while you are nothing but dust and ashes.

I am ashamed.

All I can promise is that I'll try and do better in the future. I'll try and make sure that they can't make more of you.

That's all.

Take a break in place and smoke 'em if you gottem.

And, as always on this day; this.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Build That Wall!

It has been somewhere between mildly depressing and exceedingly annoying to watch and listen to the idiotic "national debate" on the issue of Those Brown People - that is, "immigration" - play out in the media.

The annoying part because of the nursery-school level of the "debate" itself, which as I have pounded on again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and fucking again...is much more complex, nuanced, and difficult to actually resolve (as opposed to using as a ballpeen hammer to ring the empty bell-like heads of racist dimwits and "economically anxious" (i.e. "racist") mouthbreathers) than any of the usual network or cable-news talking heads manages to convey.

We'll leave "FOX News" out of this because asking Pravda their opinion of Stalin's Five-Year Plan is perfectly pointless. And as for Trump, well...asking Stalin about the Five-Year Plan...

The depressing part because this process of relentless hammering on the "OMFG THE SCARY BROWN PEOPLE ARE INVADING!!!" theme is working. Even people like that old war-hating warhorse Ranger Jim are talking about immigration as if it's a "problem".
I want to suggest that we're talking about the wrong problem.

We don't have an "immigration problem".

We have a huge "capitalism problem".

Typically for the people who frame this as an issue of border control and sovereignty, the bottom line is that hordes of undocumented aliens are swarming over the walls like Picts ravening down from the north to ravage Eburacum. Or, in this case, to take jobs from Real Americans and create a sort of lawless free-for-all in "sanctuary cities" and Fifth Column foreign enclaves. The image is one of "American" character diluted, and finally destroyed, by polyglot armies of transients unconcerned with the norms of constitutional republicanism and unwilling to assimilate into (presumably) a sort of Father-Knows-Best suburban conformity, complete with teenagers playing baseball and a cocker spaniel.

This is what is suppose to have kept Trumpkins awake at night, imagining a Smallville full of sharia law, taco trucks on every corner, and a gabble of incomprehensible foreign languages in the Safeway aisles (which are full of scary, smelly foreign food instead of Spam and French's mustard). Which is why, supposedly they 1) voted for him in the first place, and 2) are happy with the knuckling he's giving to people who came here from Mexico as six-year-olds and are Cambodian grannies working the stock at the corner bodega.

I won't rehash all the facts that make this trap-and-drown-the-pesky-brown-people an expensive exercise in futility.

What I do want us to think about is why all the pesky brown people are here.

Because we all want to stay where we are, right? We all want to be with people we know, in places we know, doing things we know how to do. Only a tiny handful of us are so infected with wanderlust that we voluntarily pick up and move hundreds, or thousands, of miles from our homes, to places where the people speak a different tongue, where the food and the clothing and even the fucking weather are different from what we grew up with.

Since we've agreed that these immigrants to the United States are not the Mongol Horde here to conquer and pillage - and if you disagree you can stop right now; first, because your brain is on vacation and living in la-la land and, second, because to consider this issue further you have to start from some sort of rational point, and the idea that these people are an invading army is simply nonsensical - why do these people want to come here?

I get the sense that it's two main reasons; economic opportunity, or physical safety, or a combination of both.

Physical safety drives the people fleeing places like Guatemala, or Syria, or Somalia. Those people are going to try and flee here not so much because they want to be here but because they don't want to be there; there, where they're in the middle of a war, or as in Somalia in a chaotic failed-state that isn't so much in a "war" as in a sort of horrible Hobbesean state of nature where all are preying on and warring against all.

That's not a capitalism issue, directly. Those people are going to go wherever that can to escape mortal fear, and the U.S. is just the biggest, stable-est, wealthiest refuge around. There's literally nothing any U.S. citizen can do about that, other than try and decide what those people's lives are worth. If Our conclusion is "not a moment of my time or a nickel of my money" then that's that. It makes us kind of shitty people, but people are allowed to do and be that if they want to. Nobody has decreed that We the People have to be decent or kind or generous.

But for the refugees it's pretty much all push. We can decide how much we want to push back, but that's pretty much it. The impetus is not under our control.

No, it's the "other" immigrants I want to talk about, the "economic opportunity" ones.

Those are the ones that the Trumpkins are most likely to be angry about, the ones "taking our jobs", many of them from Mexico and the close-by Latin American nations. There's a reason that Orange Foolius' signature issue is that Big. Beautiful. Wall.

For those people the impetus is mostly "pull". There's a hope for a better life here, and, like every human since Olduvai Gorge, they want that.

So...why is that a capitalism issue?

Because the simplest explanation for how and why these people are in, or want to come to, the U.S. is because our economy has been set up to exploit their desire for a better life, and to use that to use them.

None of the people coming here from Sinaloa wants to work for starvation wages and live fifteen-to-a-room. But to do the sorts of jobs we want them to do; to pick the crops, to make the motel beds, to leaf-blow the lawns and sheetrock the cheap apartments, we need to pay them shit and make them suck that up. We the People have been happy to sit by and let our economy change to make that happen.

Look at meatpacking.
Working in slaughterhouses and meat-processing plants used to be decent-paying union work done by native-born (or legal immigrant) citizens largely in cities in the American northeast, midwest, and west. Now it is nearly entirely Southern and rural and almost entirely done by undocumented - illegal - immigrants.

Why?

Because, to make a long story short, to run the meat business the old way, with citizens, in union plants, was expensive for the owners. Who would, in turn, pass the expense on to Suzy Homemaker and Sammy Grillmaster.

So outfits like Hormel shuttered the plants in Detroit and New York and San Francisco and moved to Cornhole, Alabama, where they employed first fiercely antiunion Southern whites and then, when the citizens began wanting more money, replaced them with illegals (who could be feared-up with the theat of La Migra).

Is this an oversimplification?

Yes. There's a lot more there over a thirty- or forty-year span of time.

Is it inaccurate?

No. The bottom line is that to keep meat cheap the business had to cut costs, and worker's pay is typically the single biggest cost of any business.

The same is true of nearly any business you look at that employs significant numbers of undocumented people. Construction, landscaping, agriculture, "hospitality" (meaning hotels and restaurants). These are places where cost competition is cut-throat, and the business owners are largely making a buck off the skins of their workers.

This isn't anyone's "fault", or, if it is, it's Our fault, We the People. We've forgotten that it's the nature of capitalism; you can hope to charge everyone a premium and go broke, or you can skin your costs down to the bone and make them affordable to Joe and Molly. It's why commercial aviation sucks. It's why WalMart. It's why the guy running that leaf-blower snuck in from Michoacan.

And, frankly, that's been how it's worked every time We the People have let it. Dickens' mill owners probably didn't WANT to starve people or work kiddies to death. But they had costs and profits, and the best way to make profits was to cut costs, so if that meant that somebody starved or died...well, to make a person all you needed was a man, a woman, five minutes, and a flat piece of ground. There would ALWAYS be more people.

So unless we plan to start paying what we'd need to pay to give all those citizen busboys, maids, drywallers, chicken-gutters, and tomato-pickers a living wage the reality of people coming here outside the legal process is going to continue.

The Trumpkins will hate that. But until they're willing to eviscerate hogs, wipe asses, and wash dishes for what the business owners are paying those Mexicans and Guatemalans?

They can kiss my fucking ass.

So there's only one real, long-term way to "solve" the "problem" of illegal immigration; we need to Build That Wall.

But the Wall is the wall around the "job-creators"; specifically, walling them off from their ability to "create" shitty jobs that pay so poorly that only people who have grown up in a shotgun shack in Sinaloa can afford to work them.
Mind you, given the ridiculous degree to which the "magic of the market" propaganda has saturated the U.S. public the chances of this actually being enacted are damn near zero. The wealthy white guys who designed this country's government made damn sure that there are enough veto points to keep the wild-eyed radicals from roping in the plutocrats. Hell, the bastards impoverished the nation in 1929 but managed to slime their way back into power to the extent that they were damn near able to do it again only eighty years later.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking going full Marxist here.

But the idea that the "market" is magic, that the way the everyone gets to Millionaire Acres at the end of the Game of Life is to just unleash the job-creators is visibly, obviously nonsensical.

Hell, the market isn't working now. For most people their wages have leveled off even as their productivity, and the profitability of the places they work, have gone wild. Untrammeled capitalism has been a misery and a burden to everyone outside the owner class everywhere and every time it's been practiced. Unregulated capitalism produces foul water, filthy air, dirty land, and overworked, underpaid people, because none of those things make "profit".

Corporations are people, my friend; sociopathic people, whose only built-in controlling interest is short-term profit. Intelligent managers and owners can make them act intelligently, but that's a bug, not a feature. We've already seen what happens when they are "unleashed", and it's not pretty.

We should know better by now, and yet, we don't act like it.

So there is a solution to this "immigrant problem". Only it's not with the immigrants, and it's not going to make old, white people happy.

So it won't ever happen.

Update 2/25: Todd Miller has a good summary of the persistence, and idiocy, of this border "war". His take, though, is that it's all About The Money.