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 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.


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.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


I looked at the "popular post" settings and saw that some obscure posts from several years ago were suddenly up in the "ten most popular", so I went to check them.


Everything from Chinese bots pushing Viagra to who-the-hell-knows Russian bots pushing...something SO Russian (probably fucking Trump...).

So I've set up a comment ID and moderation setting. I apologize for that, but, sheesh...Chinese Viagra? Seriously?

Sorry if it inconveniences anyone. But, goddamn.

Chinese Viagra?

I have lived to goddamn long.

An awful vacancy

I've been working down along the south Gulf coast of Texas. It's hot and humid, the work is boring and useless, and I'm counting the days until I can return to the Pacific Northwest.
But every so often I look out across the immense expanse of flatland that is this part of North America and shiver with fear.
The idea of being caught here, in this featureless plain, in this vast expanse of nothingness, as a gigantic storm birthed in the fury of the tropic seas howls ashore, driving before it the remorseless surge of the waters of the sullen Gulf beyond, fills me with an almost inexpressible terror.
This really is an awful place.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Fruit of the Poison Tree

See, here's the thing.

Torture corrupts.

Call it what you want; "enhanced interrogation", "extraordinary measures", "psikhushka". The systematic infliction of suffering is inherently corrupting to the people who administer it and the organizations that employ it.

Because torture is not interrogation.

Interrogation is intended to gain information.

Torture is intended to gain confessions. Confessions that the torturers want to hear.

A person that uses torture to gain confessions becomes useless as an interrogator and deaf to information. The agonized babble of a person suffering beyond coherence quickly becomes meaningless noise. If you are tortured you will say anything, everything, to make the torture stop. If you are the torturer you lose the ability to find the truth amid the pain and fear.

An organization that employs torture and torturers quickly becomes a servant of the propaganda that the torture is meant to support and the presumptions that the torture is designed to confirm.

Armies that use torture begin to become instruments of that propaganda rather than instruments of policy. Intelligence agencies that use torture begin to become guardians of the secrets of and defenders of the barbarities of torture rather than cold instruments of state. Nations that use torture quickly find how useful it is in generating results that they want in the short term. And the spiral of torture, and lying to hide the torture, and lying to excuse the torture, and lying to hide and excuse the lies, works deeper and deeper into the culture of the army, and the intelligence agency, and the nation.

Until first the torturers end up running the intelligence agency.

And then the torturers become the generals.

And, finally, the torturers become the presidents and prime ministers.

The toxic "war on terror" has been the ground that has nursed this poison tree, and has given it the night and fog it needed to grow. To our shame We the People have never insisted on throwing open the doors, letting in the light that would have killed this noxious weed, never dug deep and uprooted and thrown it and the torturers on the fire. In our fear and hate we have let it grow.

If shame were still a permissible public emotion we should be ashamed of ourselves.

But we will not.

And, instead, we will nurture the fruit of that poison tree in our hands and our hearts.

Thursday, March 01, 2018


Hey, love. Come. Sit with me.

I miss you.

Well, I know. Yes, I miss you all the time. But this time, every year, I miss you a little more, because this was your birthday and birthdays are special.

No. I didn't get you anything. I'm sorry.

Well, sixteen is hard. You are not a woman grown but not a child anymore, either. It's hard to know what you like, you change so quickly. One day it was all sparkle princesses and ponies, then it seemed like just the next day it was CDs and clothes and new soccer cleats. It's hard for your dad to keep up with you, you run so fast now.

I don't know how you do it, as little as you are.

You are little, sweetie. Only one day old, dust and ashes all these years. The only place you grew was in my heart, and in your mom's, who hurts for you so much she cries out for you.

I miss you, too.

But I miss the you I never knew. The little girl frightened of scary noises. The busy tween. The rude teenager. And, now, the young woman, strong and sure, lit from within with promise, like a star, or a lighted window on a cold lonely night.

There's just this one night, though.

Your birthday, every year, when you come and sit with me. And that night, like every night I miss you, again, and wish I could kiss you, just once, before we have to say goodbye.

Yes, love. Yes, I will wait for you here again next year, my very dear.

Goodbye. Yes, love, I love you. Goodbye, sweetie.


When I die choose a star
and name it after me
that you may know
I have not abandoned
or forgotten you.
You were such a star to me,
following you through birth
and childhood, my hand
in your hand.

When I die
choose a star and name it
after me so that I may shine
down on you, until you join
me in darkness and silence

~ David Ignatow

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

Monday, February 26, 2018

At least he's good for a laugh now and then...

In a dim, dirty hostess bar on a sultry backstreet in the Pham Ngu Lao district of Valhalla, a bunch of the tattered shades of the boys from the 66th NVA Regiment and the 1/7th Cav take a break from pounding warm "33" beer and talking shit about the ARVN to stand up, drop their khaki and OD trousers, and hang a collective moon on the guy who couldn't run from their war fast enough but now claims that he would rush a mad gunman barehanded.
Over at the corner table Trung sĩ Vo and Staff Sergeant Baker spit sourly on the filthy floor and yell at the hostess for another round, cold this time, goddammit, but Hạ sĩ Nguyen thinks that the idea of Five-Deferment Donnie as a rootin' tootin' heeeero is so fucking funny he spits beer out his nose and Private Bookwalter has to pound him on the back so hard that he hits his face on the table and the whole squad, including Loi the B-girl, breaks up laughing.

Friday, February 16, 2018

More fucking thoughts and prayers

I see it's time to drag this one out.


I know this has nothing to do with the results of the 2016 elections, yet I look around and what I see is just a part of the toxic stew of the very worst of my country that seems to be bubbling cheerfully on every stovetop; arrogant, corrupt, ignorant, makes me think of the piece of Robert Graves' I, Claudius where the cunningly-not-really-a-gimping-halfwit emperor turns his appalling heir loose on Rome, whispering "Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out."

What hits me hardest about these nutter shootings is how they never change anything because of the magical incantation "the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" as if the whole "well-regulated militia" thing was a fantasy and the U.S. Constitution is some sort of Holy Writ, handed down on gold tablets never to be altered or re-imagined.

Well, the Constitution once said that black people were 3/5ths of a registered voter, and that it was illegal to drink a beer.

Both of those ideas were fucked up. So We the People changed the Constitution.

So far, the score of the Second Amendment is "resisting tyrannical government", zero; "butchering other Americans", about a gajillion. I note that all these ammosexuals with their arsenals seem curiously mute about "tyranny" like the idea that the government can freely spy on our communications, or take our stuff if we get arrested - not convicted, mind you, just arrested - for smoking weed. So I conclude that the notion that the "right to keep and bear arms" has pretty much zero percent to do with the sort of people doing actual tyranny-resisting and 100% to do with the sort of fucking people who get a woody out of busting out more than thirty rounds a minute.

But who gives an actual fuck?

Nobody is going to do anything about this. Tomorrow another nutter will take another semiautomatic weapon into another school and another N > 0 number of kiddies and teachers and random poor sonsofbitches will die or be hideously wounded. And we'll hear that there's nothing we can do - in the only industrialized nation that this happens regularly - and we need to have more mental health care (but fuck-all funding for it), and we need to send our thoughts and prayers to the new set of grieving parents and lovers and brothers and sisters whose beloveds have been blown away so I can go to the range tomorrow and bust out 200 rounds of 5.56mm in fifteen minutes.

So, fuck it.

Here's a fucking cute picture of a cute fucking cat.