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.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Senior Master Chief has a word with the Trumpeters

My maternal grandfather was a minister.

An odd sort of minister, though. He was an officer in the Salvation Army, in his eyes a soldier for the Lord in His fight against poverty and despair.

I think he'd have some choice words for His Fraudulency and his Trumpeters now vaunting their "Christianity" to the skies in their self-appointed role as Defenders of the Faith against the eeeeevil Muslim hordes, and I think those words would be very much like those of Isaiah, who also had little patience for those who paraded about in the garments of virtue sacrificing and praying loudly while afflicting the afflicted;

"Day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.

Isaiah 58

Just in case you thought the problem was "Gee...we really don't have enough neo-Nazis on the National Security Council..."

In case the whole "idiotic visa restriction for entire countries except the ones that Donald Trump does business with!" thing wasn't evil and stupid enough for you, here's today's REALLY stupid thing:

Today's executive order removed the CIA director, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs from their permanent seats on the National Security Council (they will only attend meetings when their "area of expertise" is required...) and replaced them with...

(wait for it....)

Steve Fucking Bannon.
Honestly!

These really are the fucking mole people...

(crossposted from MilPub)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Jukebox: Tangerine Toddler Jive Turkey Edition



What a fucking week this has been, eh?

So in honor of His Fraudulency's first week full of hysterical meltdowns and brutal, Obama-like executive-order tyranny, and general I'm-a-bigly-huge-assholishness, here's the Ohio Players with his new theme song.

Friday, January 20, 2017

His Fraudulency, Jackass, and the Dark Side

Needless to say I was not thrilled this morning.

I awoke with the thought that here we were, We the People, with the quarter of our countrymen, and probably the ones that got that fucking "D" in Health class, handing us a go cup half full of warm Bud Lite for breakfast chortling "Now watch this shit!"

This was not a heartening thought.
Because we know how that ends; the flaming shopping cart a twisted wreck at the bottom of the cliff, the singed riders curled into commas writhing as they cup their genitals in pain, and the uninjured onlookers tittering in a manner both ashamed and nervous.

You know I have no expectations for the 45th President of the United States. As a man he is a spiteful bully, a pig-ignorant, querulous, greedy little man whose career to date has been that of a flim-flam artist, con man, and grifter fueled with his daddy's money and others' credulity and forbearance.

As a "public servant", well...there might have been some hope before today.

Still, even with my expectations as low as the swamp that His Fraudulency seems to have dragged to find his executive officers (a mix of plutocratic thieves and ideological dopes or, in the case of his Secretary of Education, both, and in spades...) the Trump inaugural address today managed to fail to rise to that sub-zero level of adequacy.

This was not the speech of a chief executive. It was the polemic of a tribal chief whose tribe thrives on darkness, fear, and hate.

Fallows has a good summary of the oration here. He notes that:
"What the speech did not have is any of the elements that marked its predecessors. An awareness of institutional continuity and resulting burdens. An ambition to make a fresh presentation those in his own country and around the world who were not part of his original base. A demonstration that he himself has been changed by the consequences of his new role. A vision of hope and progress that extends beyond fealty to his own self."
What the speech DID have was what we've already heard from this joker; the dystopian vision that, first, portrays the United States as a blasted hellscape and, second, portrays He, Trump as Our Only Hope:
"Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."
There was the usual nonsense about how Our Once-Mighty Armies have sunk away:
"For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay."
I could go on, but why? You've heard all this ridiculous "make America great again!" nonsense since this time last year. It doesn't make any more sense now that it did then.

And there was this:

"From this moment on, it's going to be America First."

Ok, look. I know that the fucking Tangerine Toddler is too ignorant of history to know this. Hell, I'd be surprised if he's even watched anything outside his own publicity stuff and Vivid Videos.

But somebody in his entourage either needs to tell him to knock this the fuck off or own the goddamn fascism it implies. Somebody in his posse has got to have at least some dim notion that Charlie Lindbergh luuurved him some Nazis and that's what "America First" has come to mean. You don't walk around saying "Hail, victory!" because of what it meant seventy-some years ago. You don't walk around saying "America First" unless you own up to the baggage.

GudDAMN.

And...here's what he didn't talk about: automation. Trump has nothing to say about that, largely because it neither fits his bill of particulars against the Obamian Dark Ages he is rescuing us from nor does it fit the agenda of his bankers whose profits stand to burgeon from replacing people with machines.

What happens to those people? Trump doesn't say. Maybe they can get jobs sheetrocking once all those Mexican rapists are deported.

And this shit?

"The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world."

...the fuck? You mean that kwashiorkor kid in Somalia? THAT little bastard's where my 401K went?

C'mon. That wealth hasn't gone any further than the Walton and Koch and DeVos family bank accounts, you nimrod, and you know that perfectly well...because a fair bit has (and, probably, will soon) find its way into yours. Your GOP pals have made sure of that. I wish Bernie Sanders had been there to slap you up the back ofthe head like Moe does to the other Stooges for that lie.

This went on and on, lie after lie, half-truth after half-truth. Pretty much all of what we've seen from His Fraudulency before. We've seen it, gang. This is it. This is what he's got. There's no hidden depth here. There's no surprisingly thoughtful awakening as he realizes that he's now Chief Executive of the New Rome, of the de-facto global imperium.

It's all Jackass all the way down; all ranting, butt-hurt third grader who's managed to memorize half "facts" off the internet conspiracy-theory page he read last night.

This is it.
The thing I really hate about today is that through him the worst ideas in American history will take full possession of the levers of national power. The anti-Americanisms of the Malefactors of Great Wealth: Greed. Proud stupidity. Shameless selfishness.

The filthy rich have finally reversed 1932 and are poised to return the bulk of us, to the degree that they can, to a coarser, meaner, poorer time, the Gilded Age of their waking dream.

And this, this sad, bloated little grifter with his mail-order bride and his ridiculous combover and his doughy orange meatface, this is all that stands between us the the Kongressional Wingnut Kook Kaukus' mad demands to hammer us into as close to a ginormous Carnegie mill town as they can make us.

We.

Are.

So.

So.

So.

SO.

Fucked.