Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Wars and rumors of wars. And stupidity. And Trump

One of the multifarious issues with electing a total idiot who predictably stocked his administration with a coterie of simply-flaming-assholes, dangerously incompetent sycophants who are also flagrantly authoritarian-curious (at least), corporate whores, grifters, and outright clowns is that when problems turn up it's extremely difficult to feel confident that these gomers will be able to do something that ranges from "not actively stupid" to potentially useful.

While the bulk of the corporate media organizations circle the drain that is Trump's Twitter feed repeating his nonsense about hordes of invading brownskins, several parts of the globe are getting...interesting, and not in a particularly good way.

One of them is along the Pakistan-India border, where the subcontinental quasi-Trumper Indian PM Narendra Modi has played to his deplorable-Hindu-supremacist base by hammering Kashmiri Muslims. This, unsurprising to anyone who has more than one brain cell, has provoked some nasty posturing from the other subcontinental nuclear power. Trump's contribution was to shove his enormous orange oar (what? You say it's NOT enormous? FAKE NEWS!!!) in back in July blabbering about U.S. stumbling into the dispute and forcing a hasty denial from Modi's people that, no, they hadn't asked the buffoon to do anything.

It's hard to tell whether this will lead to anything more than posturing, but it's already obvious that the Trumpkins' geopolitical shrewdity has effectively neutered much of the U.S. ability to help defuse tensions in this nasty little dispute between two putative allies.

Meanwhile, in the Ukraine the political mess is getting messier, with a stand-up comic/president, fascist Ruthenians, Putin-fondlers, and all-around whackjobs all getting involved in a political imbroglio that would make Machiavelli throw his hands in the air.

If Niccolo himself would despair of this twelve-monkeys-fucking-a-football disaster, what hope is there for this Administration, that is, apparently, managed by tweet and whatever bats are looping around whatever is inside the tangerine-hued Tiberius' combover that functions in place of an actual brain? Certainly this would seem to be a place for a judicious consideration of the actual stakes involved and whether there is an actual dog for the United States' foreign policy in this fight and, if so, to what extent.

But, again...who outside of the MAGAt fever-swamps actually believes this congeries of fools and damned fools can do that?

Who'd have thought that Obama's "elections have consequences" line would be repeated so soon as farce?


(And let's not even think about the weather.)

Monday, July 15, 2019

Upon the waters

Four years ago my father, the man I always called "The Master Chief" in this place, died.

My mother, his wife, lingered on another three years until she, too, died in the spring of the year, just a little over a year ago.
I sat beside them both in their final days, as their bodies followed where their...souls? Spirits? Minds? The part of them that made them who they were, the person that they had been, had already gone.

Both passed from that which I called "...the "sleep" of the hinterlands of life, that gray taiga where the living world meets the dead." to unlife full of years and - although no more ready for that passage than any of us is, or will ever be - full of lives well-lived.

Today a small group of their family - son and daughter, cousins, niece and nephew - and those relatives' beloveds gathered in a nondescript little rented room in a small town on the east end of Fourth Lake, the largest of the "Fulton Chain of Lakes" in the Adirondak Mountains of New York state.

The remnants of Jack and Carol - father and mother, aunt and uncle - stood as they had in life beside one another, only just as small rectangular boxes set on a table scattered with books of photographs and memories of the lives of the ashes within.

It was the sort of barely-comfortable gathering you'd find anywhere a group of virtual strangers met to spend one last time with dead people.

Hardly anyone knew what to say, and only my sister had the courage to openly weep for the loss of our father and mother. Several of us told stories of Carol McMillan and Jack Lawes as we remembered them, or through memories of our times with them.

My cousin's (and her wife's) happy little Westie helped lighten the mood by being, well, a happy small dog. I had a flight to catch tomorrow morning so I left early, with the others still talking amongst themselves in the rustic room lit with the filtered sun of early afternoon.

I wandered down to the shore of the lake, the clear water bright with wavelets.

This place was particular to my father, who was born and grew up not far away and whose relatives had owned one of the many "summer resorts" along the north shore, although much more modest than the luxurious Gilded Age hotel my sister had booked for our parents' memorial.

I sat and drank a draft to their memory, to the place that my father had loved and had brought his bride to and she had, in turn, come to love.

When I wrote about my father's death four years ago I spoke of how adrift I felt that he was gone:
"As his living remainder I still feel as if I'm floating, weightlessly untethered, beside him. As if our conversation simply halted, forever unfinished, as he stood up and left without a word. He is no longer and yet will always be my father, the man who raised me, whose manhood was my measure as I grew to manhood myself. I find myself turning to talk of some daily commonplace with him only to find emptiness there, and the understanding that the emptiness will be there until I find myself where he has gone."
I won't pretend that I was gracious or cheerful about traveling cross-continent to stand beside the silent ashes of my father and mother. I won't be polite and say it was a pleasure, or that I wanted to make the journey. I was a right bastard, sis, and I made a difficult time more difficult for you. I'm sorry, that's the damnedest part of who I am.
But for all my bitching and moaning in the end I'm glad I came over those mountains and seas and spoke, in vain, to their silent ashes.

For, as I've mentioned before in this place; as children and parents we make an unspoken bargain.

As parents we will see our children into the world.

We will help them grow straight and strong, honest and truthful, kind and loving. We will set the path before them, the path into the world and through it, as best we can.

And then we, as children, will see our parents out of the world.

Love and care for them, listen to and treasure them, and, finally, see them laid down in death as peaceful and beloved as we can make them.

As they set us forth upon the waters we fulfill the promise that will see them home safe to harbor. And then be the quay where they came to rest; to bear witness of their voyage and the doings thereof, great and small, fine and coarse, large and little. That, in us, their memory will live as long as we do.
And so we have. So I have. I am no longer adrift, no longer bereft. I am without them, the people who helped make me who I am, but I will never be without them. I am their logbook, their testament, their living memory. I, my sister, those we love and tell of our parents and their lives.

It is ours now to take forward from here; mine, and all of us who knew them and loved them.
So I stand, at rest, by the waters of the deep cold lake where my father and mother have themselves come to rest. Their journey together, and their journey together with me and all their beloveds, is ended, and their great works, the works of their lives, are done.

Now they are ours to carry on.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

What's Arabic for "C. Turner Joy"?

Here's the problem.
It may very well be possible that Iranian assets are striking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

It is definitely likely that the Trump Administration would lie about whether that is possible or probable, or both, or neither.

That's the drawback of letting your system foist an incorrigible liar and a coterie of New Gilded Age grifters into the highest executive offices; you then don't know whether you can trust them not to lie you into a shooting war.

If the administrations of Kennedy and Johnson - that were staffed with genuinely intelligent and experienced foreign policy players - lied us into Vietnam, and the Lesser Bush administration - that was crock-full of wingnuts, imperial fantasists, outright kooks, as well as the Stupidest Man on the Face of the Earth - lied us into Iraq, I sure as hell don't trust THESE gomers not to lie us into some sort of idiotic whack-a-Persian blood hunt based on some sort of moron idea that it'd take normal humans smoking a full ounce of prime weed then drinking two cans of sterno and a half-rack of Old English 800 to come up with.

I sure as hell hope the rest of my countrymen aren't stupid enough to let the Trumpkins play this game.

And goddamn if it's not time to repeal that #@!%$!#! AUMF.

Update 6/14: The lies have already begun:
"The Japanese owner of the Kokuka Courageous, one of two oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz, said Friday that sailors on board saw "flying objects" just before it was hit, suggesting the vessel wasn't damaged by mines. That account contradicts what the U.S. military said as it released a video Friday it said shows Iranian forces removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the two ships that were hit. Company president Yutaka Katada said Friday he believes the flying objects seen by the sailors could have been bullets. He denied any possibility of mines or torpedoes because the damage was above the ship's waterline. He called reports of a mine attack "false."
As Sven points out in the comments, The U.S. hasn't been an honest player in the field of foreign policy for a long time, and this administration is a more prolific and consistent liar than most of the previous ones.

IMO this is a patently crude attempt between the Trumpkins and their Saudi pals to gin up a casus belli. If the US public and Congress falls for it, well, as a well-known foreign policy expert once said: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...won't get fooled again!"

And Jim Wright, as he often does, is asking the question that EVERY news agency should be asking: "Cui bono?".

Who would benefit from a US-Iran dustup? Especially one that would, as it inevitably would, raise the price of petroleum?


Update 6/26:

"Strategy? I don't need no steenkin' strategy? I have guns! I take YOUR strategy!"

What a fucking maroon.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Another day, another ammosexual "WTF"

So the SCOTUS has refused to hear an appeal from a couple of Kansas gunlickers who were caught with illegal suppressors.

From what I can tell, these gimmicks are the new throbbing erection for the sort of people who get huge wood from fondling firearms; in this case (I can only imagine) as part of the Seal Team Six fantasies cherished by these people, the ones where they are sneaking into the Terrorists' Hideout and eliminating the sentries with their silenced pistol or submachinegun.

While it's good that even the GOP nutbags on the court weren't willing to go all in on these Rainbow Six: Siege wannabes' suppressor fapping, the most revolting part of this court case is that the fucking State of Kansas, along with seven other states' AGs, joined in the appeal because it's obviously in the states' interests to have a bunch of fucking lunatic gunbunnies running around with silenced firearms because what the fuck.

The "explanation" I've heard for why these nimrods want to put cans on their metal dicks is because something something hearing protection something.

Okay. So. Word up.

I've been there and done that and shot the real noisemakers, the REALLY big guns, and I got your fucking hearing protection right here, chief:
Works just fine to protect your delicate, shell-like ears from the bad bang-bang, AND it doesn't help you sneak up and kill random people without alerting the OTHER random people you want to kill that you're killing random people on your way to kill them.

Just sayin'.


These fucking people.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Down Among the Dead Men

So on Memorial Day I ended up in the old Civil War cemetery at Poplar Grove.
It's peaceful and pretty and very manicured, very much in the tradition of the more modern military cemeteries, a sort of pocket-Arlington.

Until you look at the rows of stones, and realize that way more than half of them aren't "headstones" at all but simply stone blocks with a number carved on them.
These were the remnants of soldiers that lacked any sort of identity; nothing marked their original grave - or, it it had, was gone by the time the graves registration parties reached it - and nothing was left, if there had been anything, of a tag or scrap of paper with a name on it.

There was just some bone, and scraps of cloth, and probably some less savory remnants, to be gathered up and put back in a hole with a stone with a number on it for the following hundred-plus years. An empty chair at a table, an empty peg on a wall where no coat was hung, an empty house to which the scraps of bone and cloth never returned.
Perhaps even more grim were the separate files where the men of the U.S. Colored Troops were buried, still put apart from the white soldiers, still separate and unequal in death as in life.
All in all a very unsettling sort of day, one that raised more spectres than laid them.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Forgiveness of the Dead

On this day, 64 years ago, Americans gathered at the cemetery at Nettuno, near what had been the terrible charnel-house beachhead of Anzio, to dedicate what would become the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and to "honor" those killed in the war that had just ended.
You know how I loathe all the flag-waving, pontificating, self-justifying “memorial” dog-and-pony shows that serve only to make the living feel better about themselves and their willingness – or, worse, eagerness – to cheer on others to die for their country if it wasn’t for those dang bone spurs.

The closest to fitting "memorial day" act I’ve ever read of was LTG Truscott’s address that day.

Truscott had commanded the VI Corps at Anzio, and a lot of the dead guys there were from his outfits. And he was a hard man, known to be kind of salty, and was probably more sick of hearing the pious patriotic platitudes than I am.

So when the opening caprioling was done he looked out over the rows of “dignitaries” and reporters and guests, turned, and faced the rows of silent markers behind the rostrum.

Nobody knows exactly what he said – probably because there was either no plan to record his words or because he couldn’t be heard – but based on Bill Mauldin's account the gist was that Truscott didn’t see how there was anything particularly good or heroic about getting killed in your teens or 20s or 30s, and that while generals and politicians would tell you that all your dying was noble and sacrificial that most generals, anyway, kinda suspected that was pretty much bullshit.

He agreed that lots of them had died because somebody, maybe he, had fucked up and if that had happened he was grievously sorry and apologized to them. That he knew that was a big ask, but that he owed it to them to ask their forgiveness anyway.

And that he promised that if, in the coming years, he ever ran into anyone tubthumping a line of guff about the glory of war and heroic death that he, Truscott, would tighten the joker's shot group damn quick smart.

So as far as I’m concerned it'd be great if every damn politician and talking head can stay the hell away and leave those haunted graves to the grass, and the sky, and the dead, and those who knew and loved and lost them.
They won't, because that's not how we do "Memorial Day". But I wish they would.

But I will be in that cemetery today, sharing a drink with my Army brothers. I hope you will, too.

And, as always today, this.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Summer Rain

No, it's not summer, and no, it's not raining. I just found this over at Lance Mannion's place and liked it so much I had to repost it.

I woke past midnight
to the slightly burnt orange odor
of soft summer rain.
My wife slept beside me,
her breath punctuated with
the little sighs of a dreamer. Outside, pale moonlight
shone through the clouds, the great
evergreens dripping.

the katsura at the far end
of the garden turning
bright yellow already, although
it was early August.
I made a cup of tea and went
out to stand on the deck. I've clung to this place
like Han Shan-tzu
clung to his cave near the temple

on his beloved mountain.
I've watched these trees reclaim
a chunk of forest---slash,
waste and underbrush
when I came here
thirty years ago. No place is special
except we make it so
through myth and habitude. The forest reclaims itself
as best it can. Can I
do less? "No road leads the way,"
Kotaro duly noted his echo
of Han Shan's echo of Lao Tzu,
and hundreds of years between. I love beyond words this quiet rain
in these trees, the rose
whose stark white blossom lasts only a day, this garden
in moonlight, and the woman
who sighs, worried in her dreams. about her sleepless paramour
who rises in the night
to smell the rain.

---“Summer Rain” by Sam Hamill, collected in “Almost Paradise: New Poems & Translations”

May have to do with that I'm a long way from home at work, and am thinking of my loves and my home. But more about that later.