Saturday, December 30, 2006

Fruit of the Poison Tree

So Saddam got turned off today somewhere in an Iraqi prison by executioners who were unwilling to let their faces be shown in public.

Somewhere there's a moral there. I'm just not sure what the hell it is.

If anyone deserved to be hanged it was Saddam. He was surely right up there with Idi and Augusto and Pol Pot and Ceacescu and the other Mean Girls of the 20th Century. I'm sure that outside of a few families in Tikrit the mourning will be brief.

And seems so...wasted. Such an empty gesture, the hanging of what amounts to a living effigy of the once-fiercely mustachioed villian. In the sagging, grizzled cleaned-up-homeless-guy-looking guest of honor for today's necktie party I got no sense of the immense appetite for evil, the Aida-scene presence and Las Vegas taste in interior decor that once made the man such a perfect successor to the flamboyantly murderous despots of the past; Caligula in a pork-pie hat, Hermann Goering with an abaya and a Groucho mustache. Given the bloody chaos enveloping Iraq today the whole business seems like conducting a painstaking forensic murder investigation in one of the extermination barracks at Bergen-Belsen.

And so, Saddam. Self-made despot, once the handshaking partner of Donnie Rumsfeld, scourge of Anfal, now hanged by his enemies in a hidden basement, somewhere in the wreckage of the nation he and his old enemies the Bushes have ruined. I think the theory was that this was supposed to be the official "happy ending" to the original invasion, the part where the hero and heroine (Dubya and...Condi?) clinch (ewwwww!) and fade to black, but events having made it clear that the hero is dumber than a bag of hammers and the heroine and the rest of his hangers on are doing everything they can - including sacrificing our lives, fortunes and sacred honor - to prevent him from receiving the usual punishment for his preternatural stupidity the scene has been overwhelemed by the other, more spectacular and gruesome endings. Sort of like the last fifteen minutes of Peter JAckson's LOTR: The Return of the King only with suicide bombs and sectarian militias. The sendoff for the old bastard just gets lost in the corpse pile...

In ancient times barbarian rulers left ruined cities, piled pyramids of skulls or lined roadways with the remains of their victims so that in the sight of these awful monuments passersby could feel horror at the very name of the departed. Long after, names like Timur the Lame and Attila would have the speaker spit and make the sign of the horned one against the chance that the Devil's Own might hear themselves spoken of and return.

Today the Butcher of Baghdad is gone, and it seems to me that the only appropriate monument to this tyrant at this time is:

"So what...?"

Fred Clark over at Slacktivist has more, and says it better, as well.

Sigh. Well, at least my breath is minty fresh and I'm wearing clean underpants. Sometimes you just gotta concentrate on what you can do well.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Boys in the Truck

Twenty years ago this week we drove the HQ-52 Goat down to Venado drop zone for a simple DZ coverage. And there they are, the boys in the truck, waiting for the C-130 to return to pass another stone or two of paratroops. So, where ever you are, SGT Guerra, Docs Alderson, Varney, Echevarria...hope you and your wherewithal are enjoying a peaceful, well-loved "holiday week".

Meanwhile in the news, our Decider-in-Chief appears to have given what in Arabic is called "the finger" to his daddy's old counsellors on the ISG, choosing rather to throw the iron dice one last time. Who'd have thought there would be a time when we had a Chief Executive who made us long for the likes of Franklin Pierce and Calvin Cooledge? Who knew?

A giant sinkhole opens in the street next to Buckman School, swallows city truck. Cool! Had to have been piping - Buckman Pool has been notorious for leaks for years. What a hell of a big fix, though...wish my firm had a piece of this. Plus it made a great TV news story. Hell of a visual, ain't it?

I've been enjoying the time at home with little Pea, but he's been enjoying having Daddy around so much that I actually had to take Peep to daycare to get some time to just clean the house. What a mess! So the laundry is done and folded and put away, the beds made, the dishes done and the floors are vacuumed and the toys (mostly) put away, I've had some time to just sit and think, to post to Intel Dump, and to try and fight off this damn cold. Ugh. By tomorrow I hope to be feeling better enough to get outside and either bird or hunt the wily duck. Depends on the weather. The good weather for winter birding is poor for hunting, and vice versa. I wonder if those Pine Grosbeaks are still around somewhere? That'd be even nicer than a plump grain-fed greenhead in the oven...

Time to go and lie on the couch and read the new Laurell Hamilton. Parenting is hell, hell, I tell you.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

'Twas the night before...

I was just setting about writing a followup "Tiger Island" story when I realized - I'm not always mentally agile - that it was Christmas Eve. And one of the things that has always been especially poignant for soldiers is holidays far from home. And that, in turn, made me think about my bride and our little Peeper warm and snuggly in their beds, inside our little house strung with lights and full of presents and cards and the other impedimentia of the Season, and contrast that with the last time I was far away from home on a Christmas Eve.

Ft. Kobbe, Panama, December 24, 1985

It was a practice in Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne) (Light) 187th Infantry Regiment for the unmarried sergeants to volunteer to take holiday duty for the wedded guys. So that's why I found myself standing on the landing outside the dayroom of the HHC barracks Christmas Eve day dressed tastefully in holiday-green tropical fatigues and a santa-red beret being violently abused by a Panamanian taxi driver.

It seems that one of our American heroes had, in an excess of Christmas cheer, commandeered the driver's services to motor all around Panama Viejo attempting to find a shapely little elf who would fill his Christmas stocking. Not surprisingly, given his slobberingly drunk condition, the only attentions he could find came from ladies who expected to receive green, folding presents in return, which struck our young hero as more than a little Grinchy. This seeker of the true Spirit of Christmas resolved to return to his only REAL family, his buddies at HHC 2/187, only to find on arrival that one of Santa's little ho-ho-hoes had lifted his wallet during his importunations. Or he had left it on the bar. Or whatever.

The upshot was, anyway, that he had nothing to give the infuriated driver whose worn taxi now reeked of cheap perfume and drunken G.I. Worse yet, he turned out to be nimble as a monkey - even drunk - and had shinnied up the mango tree in front of the barracks and was hiding in the branches lobbing the occasional overripe fruit at both the driver and the taxi windshield.

The street in front of the barrack reeked of mango juice and the combined noise of a furious taxi driver and an intoxicated arboreal G.I. This, in turn, drew a small crowd of pre-Christmas revelers, who took turns abusing both parties and shying additional fruit at the taxi when the driver wasn't watching.

I managed to pay off the driver, scatter the crowd and talk the monkey-boy out of the tree just as one of my other single friends came sauntering down from his post as battalion duty runner.

"I see life in the slums is still exotic and vigorous, even on Christmas Eve" he sneered.

SGT Chief: "Little you know, lording it up there at Battalion. It's like a freakin' Jerry Springer show down here. Oh, and a Merry Christmas to you, too, jackass."

BN SDNCO: "Yeah, well, lucky for us that the first Christmas happened in Bethehem, not Fort Kobbe, eh?

SGT Chief: "Why's that?"

BN SDNCO: "Where the hell'd you find three wise men and a virgin around here..?"

It was an old joke but I was still chuckling as I ran back up the stairs to the dayroom to share warm Coke with the three guys watching football.

This year, as they have for the past three years, American soldiers are preparing for a holiday in a faraway place much less entertaining and far more hazardous than my Panamanian Christmas Eve two decades ago. And I'm sure that they share many of the same feelings I did then: loneliness, regret, some pride in a hard job well done in demanding circumstances, but mixed with others I didn't; fear of death or wounding, anger and grief at lost friends, hope that their own homecoming will be soon and safe.

As do I. Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah...however you say it, I hope you will all be home soon to enjoy this time with your families.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Dead Man's Chest-cold, or, Dangerous When Wet

So this was Coos Bay last Thursday as our first big storm of the winter swept through. Leaden skies, driving rain and a nasty chop on the bay as we tried to drill our first in-water boring. Let's say that the crew were mutinous and the captain not a little overbearing in his efforts to get the work done...


Yarely with that Standard Penetration Test, ye swabs! I'll flog the first scurvy dog what pukes into me sample bag!

So there's barge drilling and then there's barge drilling when the wind works up to gale force and the shallow waters of Coos Bay develop a short, steep little chop. The odd thing is that the barge, for all that it looks like it was pretty lively, actually didn't pitch and roll very much. Instead it had an odd gyrating motion that wasn't particularly nasty (though you weren't going to forget it, either).

Didn't help the poor gang in our support boat who were taking these pictures. They pitched about like a bar of Ivory Soap in a water sports scene from a Marilyn Chambers film. Lots of uneasy sailors there, until they finally had enough of getting the guts wrung out of them and called it a day around 1pm. By that time it looked like this:

Nasty weather, eh? But the storm blew over that night and by the weekend the weather was lovely, if cold.

Here's the salty Chief himself basking in December sunshine three days later, full of self-conceit and a pancake breakfast from the Kozy Kitchen.

Coos Bay isn't exactly hopping, but I had some good books, and spent one pleasant evening enjoying the lights at Shore Acres State Park. Very pretty, if you like that sort of thing. I do, and only wished that Peep had been there - he LOVES Christmas lights, and tends to race around chuckling like a little nut when he sees what he refers to as "Tha muthalode!" of lights - we have several "motherlodes" around our neighborhood...

I should put in a good word for the Coach House Bar and Grill in Eastside. If you're ever in scenic Coos Bay and looking for a good dinner, don't overlook this hidden treasure. Their steaks are perfectly grilled and bursting with rich steakiness, their twice-baked spuds are a cholesterol-laden treat and their mixed veggies are tender, buttery and spiked with a peppery fire. Yum!

But that's all in the past. Daddy's home, much to Mojo and the Peeper's delight. My bride got a foot rub, lots of sympathy for her cold and a full night's sleep (yay!) And the Pea and I cuddled and read stories this morning, and when I dropped him off at his "school" (i.e. daycare) he hugged and hugged me as if he didn't want Daddy to ever go away again. Those little arms reached right down through my shoulders and gave my heart such a squeeze it made my eyes spark with tears.

It's good to be home.

Next: really, truly, more Tiger Island stories, no shit, really.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday morning free-association

That's Jumpmaster Chief on the right, trying to contort myself to look around the ass-end of a CH-47 heavy lift helicopter to clear Venado Drop Zone in Panama, 1986.

Amazing when I think that it was twenty years ago - it seems like I could blink and wake up in the tall tropical billets with Echevarria and Varney and Black and all my compadres from the old 2/187th Infantry. The world changes and we look about us in confusion and dismay. Who is that looking back at me in the mirror, and why has he lost that bright fierce certainty he had...seems like just a moment ago? Where did it go?

Is there anyone who thinks that Dick and Dubya's Big Iraq Adventure is going to end well? It sickens and saddens me to think of the many people: the little Iraqi boys and girls, the American troopers so far from home...all of the men, women, boys and girls locked in this Totentanz that shows no sign of drawing to a close.

Damn, Barbara Stanwyck was an elegant woman.

Why it is that frightens little peepers in the early morning hours? And why can they get back to sleep so quickly, while mommies and daddies lay awake thinking for hours?

Look at this face. This is the face of a little boy who has been told that he will get to ride a big steam train next weekend: not "this day", next weekend. And as any three-year old knows, tomorrow may never come.

Spaeaking of trains - thanks to the good people of the Oregon Railroad Heritage Foundation. We rode "Old No. 700" yesterday and had a wonderful time. If you're in Portland next weekend, stop down at Oaks Park and enjoy the big steamie. Little Pea loved the engine, loved the cool old Pullman compartment, loved the ride, loved Santa, loved his candy cane, loved the little whistle he got at the end...just loved it, period.

Why would a kid need a cell phone? Just thinking, Lorrie over at Clueless In Carolina got her daughters one. God, I'd love to get rid of mine... But I could see the idea of being able to reach out and touch The Pea when he was off running with his little friends, five or six years from now. All I'd need is a distant-phone location GPS function on MY cell - so you guys are over at Joeys, huh? Busted, boyo!

Who spends time thinking up toothpaste flavors?

After "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", what the hell remains to be said? "Deck the Halls"? WTF!!?? Who the hell thought THAT crap was a good idea?

"Woof! Woof! That's my other dog imitation."

The curving place above her hip; how utterly, sensuously delightful.

Well, the rains are returning and I am leaving, departing for a week and a half of drilling (on all things) a barge moored in the heaving waters of Haines Inlet. So I'll be away for a while. Y'all come back, now, hear?

Next time: Seriously, no shit, really tropical fun with spies...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ahhm...too sexy foh this truck...

But not sexy enough to withstand the creeping crud. A devastating combination of cold germs and construction observation has kept me away from the keyboard this week. I should be back to blogging in a bit - maybe even later tonight if the Peeper gets to bed early enough. He should - he hasn't napped, which means about this time of the evening he turns into a combination of Doctor Evil with the energy of an evil version of Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan...

Speaking of Mini-Pea, he has produced two fascinatingly odd tales this week.

The first is "Scott", a sort of anti-God. Scott lives in the clouds, either that or on the roof (which has me more disturbed as a homeowner than disturbed in the theological sense). Scott is all-powerful, and can be anywhere (except he's invisible, so you can't see him) but what he mostly loves to do is shoot you. There's no appealing to him, and he will do whatever he wants to, and what he wants to do is shoot you, so he's kind of a Peeper version of Set or a divine George W. Bush, if you will. Scott was on the dinner table tonight until the Peep bashed him with his spoon.

The second my or may not be related to Scott. It is the magical poop (let's save space and call it the "MP"), a sort of gastointestinal Loki that leaps from the toilet prior to flushing and lodges itself in your ear. It may drive you mad, or may not, whatever. The connection between the

MP and Mister Hanky, the Christmas Poop of South Park infamy, is also unclear. There is some hint (at least, the Peep hasn't clarified this but certain statements of his might lead a parent to suspect) that the MP may be Scott's poop, thus connecting this malevolent deity to the coprotitic enemy of Mankind.

Frankly, after the past week, I'm okay with that.

But we did get the Hannukah Bush set up and it looks damn fine.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Better Thee than Me...

So we've had our November gorgefest, in which the sacrifical Turkey takes upon itself the Sins of the world, dies, descendeth into the Oven, and on the third day reappears as bilious torpor, commercial excess and football.

Little Pea declined the stuffin', partaking of his usual abstemious pasta-and-milk. Although he DID throw himself into the Black Friday shopping mood, spending hours brooding over pictures of trucks, trains and other toys on Google, chanting the magic incantation: "I will save my money for that and that and that..." He doesn't really understand the whole idea of saving money, mind you - i.e. that you have to save four dollars for a four dollar toy. He still has faith in Republican economics, whereby you can take in a quarter and still afford to spend in the high eight figures because Reagan showed that deficits don't matter, y'know.

I am mildly depressed, and I'm not sure quite why. Could be the holidays approaching - I don't feel particularly holly and jolly. Could be the cold and rain. Could be a lack of exercise - I don't know, or I'd do something about it. I know that I'd enjoy a couple of comments here now and then. Just to let me think that somebody's reading this blog and enjoying my efforts.

But enough self pity. Let's take a moment to thank the 2006 Portland Pilots women's soccer team, whose great season as defending national champs (see above) came to an end yesterday. The NCAA had to gimmick the schedule so that they played all three of their playoff games on the road, ending with a holiday weekend game against a bigger, more physical team on their own rock-hard, blazing-fast pitch that magnified their strengths and Portland's every weakness. Great season, gals, great games. Heads up. You had a great run, and we'll be back on the Bluff next year to cheer you on.

Now I gotta go see if my son is pestering my head-cold-sick wife. The fun never stops here. Ask anyone.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sugar and spice and OWW! MY F%#KING NECK!

I am woman and I'll kick your Citadel ass for free and twice on Saturday.

Add to the prowess on the field of play demonstrated by the women of UP Pilots soccer (see preceding post) the hard women of Virginia Military Institute's "Lady Kaydettes" cheerleading squad. I understand that graduates of VMI's summer cheerleading camp laugh at Ranger School and consider the Air Force's SERE Course a country club-level get-over in excess relaxation.

And to think that once upon a time the knuckle-draggers claimed that admitting the "ladies" to our tough-as-an-old-boot military academies would soften and feminize the student body.

Boys, I suspect there's a Brother Rat in a neck brace that would like to talk to you about that.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Go Big Purple

I publicly aired my skepticism back in October when I came back from a Portland Pilots-PSU Vikings match with reservations about the Pilot gals' abilities to take on the big, bad girls of the NCAA. Megan Rapinoe, their top scorer, had just gone down with a season-ending ACL tear, the team had drawn Florida and lost to Florida State, and their outing against PSU, a team that would give, oh, a Hillsboro U-8 girls side a bit of trouble if nothing more, was superbly mediocre.

IOW, I said that things looked Bleak on the Bluff.

Well, I have to eat my words. Mmmm, they taste pretty good. Today the Pilot gals go up against the biggest, baddest mamas of all the 2006 NCAA, the top-seeded Texas Longhorns. And I'd like to say that I am with Rachel Rapinoe and her sisters on this years Pilot squad. Get stuck in, gals. Good luck.

Go, you Pilots!

Update 1:30pm: UP 2, UT nil. We're going uuuuupppp, we're going up, up, up... Rachel Rapinoe (see the top of this post - I think I'm in luuuurve...) scores 3 minutes into the first half. Wooooohoooo!!! Cori Alexander with another clean sheet. Awesome, gals.

So it's UCLA on T-giving weekend. Should be a good one. Note also that the heavy hitters: UNC, Notre Dame are both still in it. Portland winning next weekend may set up a semifinal-final UP vs. UNC. Wow.

I love this game.

Friday, November 17, 2006

When you can snatch the feces from my hand... is time for you to go.

One of the things I had a LOT of on Tiger Island was time. Other than toasting the ca-ca, bandaging the occasional scrape and doing an odd job or two to help out the grunts I pretty much had nothing to do but nature-watch, read, sunbathe and cartoon. This was one of my editorial comments on Doc Sully's crappy attitude about crap.

Sully hated burning shit, and he considered my "it's-all-good-learn-to-become-one-with-the-dung" attitude an irritating mixture of wierd enthusiasm for the art form and indifference to the stench. He started calling me "Master Poo" and in return I addressed him as "Weedhopper" and drew this image of young monk Sully being instructed in the arts of "Dung Fu".

(Obscure pop culture reference alert: For those of you too young to remember, in the original series Kung Fu, young monk Qai Chang Caine (David Carradine) had to lift a burning brazier to leave his monastery. That's how Bill the Snake Charmer got those dragon-and-lion tattoos on the inside of his arms. Go figure, huh?)

Monday, November 13, 2006

An Idiot Abroad, or, Lost in the Gulf of Fonseca

Hard to believe, innit?

That the portly grizzled author of this blog was once a slender youth, at once jaded and innocent, in what Mojo likes to call his "Latin queer-bait" days.

Ah. Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait...

It's been twenty years; so long that it's hard to remember the Eighties. Back when Arnie Schwartzenegger was still an actor (and a pretty bad one...). Back when Prince was still called Prince and actually wrote pretty catchy songs - remember "Raspberry Beret"?. Back when we still worried whether the Reds would nuke us all in our beds. Back in the days of President Ronnie.

Remember Ronnie? Ronnie liked a lot of things. Shiny medals. Jellybeans. War movies. But what Ronnie didn't like was dirty ol' commies. And back in the Eighties it seemed like Latin America was full of those dirty ol' commies. Commies in El Salvador. Commies in Nicaragua, especially. Ronnie sure didn't like those brown Reds, nossir, he didn't. And by golly, he was going to do something about them.

Well, the Chief was an Indian back in those days. Just a sergeant medic in a line infantry battalion, the old 2nd Battalion (Airborne) 187th Infantry, working out of Fort Kobbe in the Panama Canal Zone. My battalion was tasked to provide guards for a little post waaaay down in the Golfo de Fonseca, that arm of the Pacific that stretches up between the countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Out in the Gulf is a island that was (and probably still is) part of Honduras. That island is called Isla Tigre (Tiger Island) and is really just an old volcano sitting in the middle of the gulf. The island is dominated by this extinct and well-worn volcano, now called Cerro Tigre, or Tiger Hill.
It was (and probably still is) a pretty, unpeopled place. There was a little town (I don't remember the name now, but I seem to recall it was something ridiculously grand like "San Salvador") down at the bottom of the hill with narrow streets and tile- or tin-roofed adobe houses. Straggly fields of bananas or plantains climbed the lower slopes of Cerro Tigre. Occasionally you'd come across a little wooden campesino's shack back in the tules, overrun with liana vines and swarming with chickens or pigs and the random goat or cow. Our one trip down to San Salvador (or whatever) was to deliver a package to the local Peace Corps volunteer, a young American woman who was busy helping the local Hondurans to chlorinate their water (I dunno - we never did find her). To give you an idea of how grateful the local Hondurans were for this, they referred to her only as "La Gorda" - "The Fat Girl". I got the feeling that she had not endeared herself to the townsfolk...

Above the bustle of Honduran farm life was a thick, wooded cloud forest. Hot. Noisy with animal and bird life, abuzz with insects of innumerable variety (although mosquitos did seem to be a speciality of the house). Bright with large, venereal-looking flowers. Exotic.
At the very top of the hill sat a tiny military outpost that was usually simply referred to by the name of the geographic fragment it sat on: Tiger Island. (How self-centeredly perfect that the U.S. Army called its' microcosm the name of the entire island, as if only the goings-on inside the wire gave the entire existance of the volcano, the island, the village, the chickens, pigs and people any meaning). And inside that outpost

Here's my house: the medic shack up on Tiger Island. The place was pretty OK as a pied a terre; it didn't leak too much, and if you kept your boots near your cot you could chase the palm rats away by nailing the first, boldest one with a flung jungle boot that would keep the more timid types up in the rafters (where they would rustle and squeak all night - you learned to ignore it).

One thing you can say for military medicine - it's one of the few places where a young man with a high school education (or, in my case, with a BA in geology) can be a walking pharmacy and primary care facility and not get hauled up in front of a judge for narcotics distribution or practicing medicine without a license. For the gang on top of Tiger Island, we WERE the local hospital, dental clinic and maternity ward...

As one of the two medics for the platoon of infantrymen charged with securing the place, I (and Doc Sully, my partner) were responsible for treating the bumps, scrapes and general health of thirty-five-or-so GIs, from the youngest private to the platoon daddy, including our support "element" consisting of a cook (to re-hydrate the dehydrated B-rations, that's cooking?) and a forklift driver/aviation ground crewman who was responsible for helping with our resupply birds, big CH-47 twin-rotor helos out of the army airfield near Tegucigalpa. Oh. And my most consistant and inevitable daily job:

Burning shit.

I'm serious. The red clay soil of Tiger Hill wouldn't absorb anything. Indoor plumbing was a fantasy. So we disposed of our used food the old fashioned way: we crapped in a cut-off half of a fifty-five gallon drum (and pissed into a tube - don't mix the two, guys!!) and every morning Doc Sully and I would haul out the old barrel (shove in a new one), add a combination of diesel and mogas, a match - and, voila, ze poop flambe'.

Human waste, if not saturated, will burn down to a fine ash. Which we did. Every morning. And then scooped into plastic bags inside empty C-ration cartons for the flight back to Tegoos and eventual disposal.


Anyhow, the real point of "Tiger Island" was at the very top of the hill. Two nondescript white commercial-size shipping containers (what the Army calls "milvans") cabled to a handful of olive green antenna dishes.

Tiger Island was snooping on Nicaraguan communications.

That was the reason for our existence. Inside the vans, which us lowly grunts never saw and were told never to even think of looking into, a farrago of intel types (NSA? CIA? who knew?) listened patiently to the conversations of those dirty ol' commies that Ronnie was hatin', Ollie North was plottin' and Bob MacFarland was cake-and-Bible-totin'-to-Tehran-to-fix-the-wagons-of. And Doc Chief, with his flaming tub of digested GI chow, was helping topple the Latin proxy of the Evil Empire.


Next: Tropical Fun, with spies.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


First I apologize for the lack of pictures but Blogger is being a dick about uploading pics. Any fellow bloggers with helpful ideas are encouraged to lend a hand in the comments section!)

Now we have a lame-duck President, a Democratic Congress, a new SecDef and a ragingly out-of-control Iraq, what do I think the future looks like? And, given all the above, what is our prospect for getting a relatively “successful” result out of Iraq the short term?

Definition of “relatively successful”: An Iraq that is generally at peace within, and not a threat to its’ neighbors, and maintains a relatively positive, or at least neutral, attitude towards the U.S.

Well, first, it’s important to remember two main things:

1. The invasion was always about establishing a geopolitical client in the Gulf. We have had to listen to the nauseating claptrap about "WMD" and "central front against terrorism" and "midwifing democracy" because we do not have anyone in power with the honesty to proclaim that we are doing what Great Powers always do...looking out for their own far-flung interests...and;

2. Their own boneheaded preconceptions have collided with the unsavory Iraqi reality and the people who ginned up this was (Dickie Perle, Cheney and the PNAC crowd) have no clue where to go from here. Part of this is simply the tactical facts on the ground. Over the long run we need to have a compliant - or at least supine - Iraqi populace. I can't see how we can turn Camp Victory and FOB Samwise (or whatever) into power projection points of we have to devote 20-40% of our time and troop strength into force protection. I think the plan was always to:
- invade and install a client head of state
- let the client army suppress resistance
- withdraw to isolated bases and continue the game against Iran, the regional power.

By 1980s Cheneyite lights, it should have worked. We used to do tons of this stuff in places from Iran (poor Mossadegh, nobody remembers you anymore) to Honduras. Plus we knew - we thought we knew - that the Iraqis were hatin' them some Iranians after the First Gulf War and were prepared to a) love the Yankee liberators and b) ignore any moves we put on Iran from their territory.

Well! Turns out that the Iraqis wanted, not liberty-lovin' American occupiers but their own power players, whether Kurdish, Sunni or Shia. Turns out that the Shia, in turn, weren't so sanguine about Iran bashing after all.

Damn! Whoodthunkit!

So now we are now caught on a cleft stick of our own making. Our forces in AO Iraq are fighting the war we've told them we're fighting, when in fact we're fighting for something rather different. And our people are supporting (or, increasingly, NOT supporting...) a war in Iraq for reasons very different than the geopolitical reasons its being fought.

Any chance the two problems are related?

From Clausewitz' vom Krieg we are instructed pretty clearly that the objectives of war and the conduct of war need to roughly align. The further one is from the other the more difficult it is to obtain the desired political end state from the military means. How much more so in a "democracy", where if you tell the electorate you mean to do one thing while actually working for something else...and your cover gets blown...oh. dear. me.

So the only real question at this point is, what can we do now?

Can we achieve the publicly stated goals we told the world and our own people we started this war for?

Yes...and no. Overthrow Saddam? Check. Remove WMDs? Check (okay, well there weren't any, really, other than a few old Sarin projos, but never mind) Fight Terrorism? Check or Hold...mmmmm not so much Check as Hold. (Turns out that most of our enemies are locals wanting to run off the foreigner).

So - 2 out of 3. Enough for me to declare victory and start packing.

Establish a US/Israel-loving, free-market-having, Western values embracin' client state?

No. But, as I’d pointed out, this was NEVER the actual reason for invasion. We might eventually establish order of a rank, charnel sort if we could embrace our inner Roman, pick a Shia client and help them slaughter their enemies in a positively biblical fashion (i.e. down to the farm animals). We would, of course and deservedly so, become global pariahs for this, hated and feared by all decent sentient beings (which means that the Powerline and LGF crowd have been all over this option - it's hideous and inhuman but not unthinkable). But Iraq-as-Jeffersonian-democracy ain't gonna happen, not for the next hundred years at least.

I AM getting a laugh out of the talk circulating around about how we're gonna get the Iraqi factions, Syria and Iran around a table and "work out a political solution". By offering them, what? A weekend at the Luxor with Angeline Jolie? Free passes to Disney World? What the hell can we offer the factions that will give them what they want - which is, as far as I can tell, a military victory?

Plus, how do we offer this in a way that works for all the factions? Give the Sunnis what they want, you have to get the Shia to compromise. Why should they? They don't seem to want compromise, they want the win they feel they got at the polls. Same with the Kurds. How about the Turkmen in Kirkuk? Marsh Arabs? How do you get the Sadrists to give up a unified Iraq or the Kurds to abandon regional seperatism? How do you convince Iran to tell their Iraqi allies to give the U.S. a free hand when they suspect that a "free hand" means a possible attack in Iran?

I'm skeptical, because I have a deep and abiding faith in the boneheaded intransigence of both the average Iraqi gunsel and the average neoconservative thug. AND for this to work you're asking for cooperation from some entities that this Administration has spend six years flipping off: Iran, Turkey, Syria...

I'm willing to try and hope for a solution but I wish I was more optimistic about the matter of cleaning up our own government. I will be anxiously waiting the arrival of the Baker report - AND to see if the Cheneyites are willing to move on its ideas...

I'd still say that for this to work we could sure use a couple of other things: a SecState smarter and more flexible than Condi, and someone - anyone - on the Iraqi side who can function as their Nelson Mandela, to help the process along and help it make sense to the Iraqi-in-the-street. But I'm hoping for the possible, not the miraculous...

Next: A story from the Chief's sordid past

Back to Iraq: Now what?

Well. We’ve got a Democratic House, at least, and maybe a Democratic Senate. What does this mean for our most pressing political disaster, the War in Iraq? Can we just declare victory and get out?

Over at Intel Dump we've beaten this subject to death, backed the El Camino over it, stomped up and down and then come back after a couple of bullshots and whomped that sucker flatter than a congressman trying to skivvy under a banquette to beat a waitress out of a rolling quarter. I’ll repost here what I posted there and let y’all thrash me for my alleged wisdom.

First of all, it’s waaaay past time for us to realize that all we're gonna do from here on out is referee the squabbling of the Iraqi factions disguised as "politicians" on their way to forging whatever blood and iron result they end up with.

Right now the Bushniaks, the power players and the talking heads at Foggy Bottom, up on Capitol Hill and across the Potomac at Six-Flags-over-Arlington remind me of nothing so much as a sideshow animal trainer who has dumped a box load of savage wildcats into the "Professor Puffnums and His Amazing Persian Pussycats" act and is spazzing frantically around trying to herd them onto the little stools as they rip shreds off of him and each other. All the while shouting to the increasingly appalled and head-shaking crowd "Everything's under control! Darn these frisky kitties! Just a teeny second, folks, and you'll see a Reeeaaly Big Show!!" I

f it has not become obvious by now, let me state the reality in simple English: the political leadership that ginned up this war has not idea where it's going, can not figure out a way to either lead or drive its' Iraqi proxies (who, in true cat fashion, have no intention of doing what we want just because it's either good for us, good for them or commonsensical), and is both unwilling and unlikely to accept the reality that it has sunk almost 25,000 lives in dead and maimed and untolled billions in treasure into what is unlikely to soon, if ever, resemble the original goal of a US/Israel-lovin', free-market havin', Western-values embracin' American client state in the Gulf.

The cats are running the cat act, folks.

Maliki can see the writing on the wall, as can all of his Iraqi brothers. We cannot hang on there indefinitely; we will always lack the patience, the ferocity and single-minded will that the local factions will always have; and that when we leave (whether by "choice" or by force of attrition) the doors to the charnel house will truly be opened and the pale rider will emerge, blinking and mewling, into a red morning that will make us all cringe to have been door wardens to his arrival.

What the hell can we do to change this reality?

Bomb Iraq back into the Stone Age? Been there, done that.

"Reconstruction"? With the cash sitting in the boat basin of every Republican millionaire's yacht club and amortizing in her trust fund?

I cannot see any "change of tactics" or "strategic reassessment" that will change the reality that we are out of cash, out of options and out of time.

The hard men in the Iraqi factions look like they have decided that the game is now "The Last Man Standing" and our usefulness is only as an ubermilitia, to be manipulated into crushing whoever they can get us to attack to further their own sectarian interests.

We have sown the wind, and it's our turn - and more brutally, the Iraqis turn - to reap the whirlwind. So, given that, what is our prospect for Iraq in the short term?

That's the subject of the next post.

Friday, November 10, 2006

This guy walks into a bar, see...

Well, the cold is better.

Little Peeper is having some...issues...with daycare, tho, as Mojo tries to deal with having to get up early enough for her new job over at BigLittleLawFirm, LLC. Last night he ran wild as she was trying to get him into bed, and then he peed on her.

Oooooh, was she a mad Mommy!

There was a Daddy intervention, lots of tears and finally a big Mommy-Peeper hug, but we'll see. I think the Peep is just realizing that this daycare thing (which we call "school", BTW, to make a little boy feel more like a big boy) isn't just a temporary Mommy break but is shaping up to be a full time deal. Oh, the humanity! Methinks there's more rough water ahead for our Lad.

I wanted to post up my thoughts about what Tuesday's election victory and the subsequent defenestration of The Rumminator means for Iraq, but first I was reminded of this story during a conversation with the breakfast bunch down at Beaterville.

Back in the late 80's my ex and I lived in the bottom half of a lovely older house in Wilmington, Delaware. It was a lean time. I was working as a mechanic's assistant at a Ford Tractor dealership up on Concord Pike while the then-Mrs. Chief - let's call her EMC - went though nuclear med tech school. But we had fun, and, among other things, got to see Greg LeMond climb Monkey Hill during the time trial stage of the Tour de Trump. That was cool. (And, no, that's NOT Greg. But the cobbles of Monkey Hill caused some truly spectacular crashes, so I wanted to give you a feel for them. All in all, it WAS a cool place to live)

Anyway, one Halloween we lived there, EMC was out late in the evening and I was manning the door. I heard the bell, opened the door to find two African-American boys standing there. Both in their street clothes. The old boy, probably seven, was wearing one of those black oval party masks, but the little boy, four or five, was dressed no differently than he would have been for school.

"Trick or treat" they chorused. Into their bags went the Oh Henry bars.

"So what are you dressed up as?" I ask the older kid.

"I'm Batman" he replies. I look at the littler guy. "Who are you?" I ask, and get that googly eyed stare you get from toddlers and post-toddlers trying to process uncomputable requests.

"He's The Joker" says older brother.

I look hard at him. "Hold on. I'll give you Batman - black mask, okay. But I've seen the movie. He looks nothing like the Joker, no purple suit, no clown makeup, nu-uh, nope. Your little brother doesn't look anything like the Joker!"

Older brother looks at him, looks back to me, says:

"That's the joke."

Sweet. Kid got another Oh Henry for that.

Coming up: Iraq: WTF?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rainy morning (with donkey rising)

Interesting past 24 hours...

To begin with, I got sick. Nothing thrillingly mortal, just your generic cold in the head from doing asphalt pavement density testing in the piss-pouring rain (see picture, above). Packed Mojo off to work, Peeper off to daycare before going back to bed and sleeping for another, oh, six hours. Got up, watched a DVD, back to sleep, picked up the Peep, made dinner, then all to bed.

They told me this husband-and-daddy-thing was going to be a headrush,!

Talk about your slow news day at home.

BUT - outside the Casa del Peeper, what a tsuris! Turns out that We the People, both here in Oregon and from sea to shining sea, are sick and tired of the Decider and his entourage. Donkey stampede. Elephants found shot all across the country. Rick "Man-on-dog" Santorum in PA? Bang. Ron "Find the Waste Yet?" Saxton in OR? Bang. Kathleen "Hanging Chad" Harris in FL? Bang. I mean, the way Republicans are dropping you'd think somebody turned Dick "Deadeye" Cheney loose in polling places all across the country.

Mmmmm-hmmmm. Light the stove, Ma. I can smell that Dubya goose cookin' from here...

Plus for an extra, special, just-to-make-the-ol'-Chief-grin bonus, ALL the idiotic Republican gut-the-guvamint ballot measures got STUFFED. Especially Measure 48, the so-called "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights", that would have insured that Oregon's public universities and community colleges were permanently funded below the levels considered adequate for Seattle Dental College and the University of Kinshasa...

Pardon me while I do a little Democratic sack-dance of pure idiotic triumph on the picture of Karl Rove I have taped to the basement floor. Thank you, American people. Thank you for proving me wrong about how six years of naked greed and political incompetence had made you deaf and blind to the theft of your country. Thank you for sending a message to the gang that has done the thieving of my beloved America's resources and reputation that we are fed up, FED UP with their sorry asses. Thank you for you willingness to cut through the lies and bullshit to realize that after six years of Dubya & Co. you can either be a good American or a good Republican. But not both.

I wake to a drizzly but glorious dawn.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Stork Alert! 11/9 through 11/25!!

This is the elite IA Referral Commando squad from the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs.

They are strong, silent men whose job it is to make the impossible take a little less time.

Well, today they struck a blow for those of us waiting for our little Peepers by expediting almost three weeks worth of adoption referrals. Three weeks! This is a GOOD THING.

There are days when the bear gets you and days when you get the bear. All I can say is that today the critter tastes mighty good. Thanks, guys! I feel that much closer to Meimei and every day I feel closer to our daughter is a good day...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My Pet Raven

Once upon a bender bleary, while I pondered, weak and beery,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
With my nod on, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
(Actually more like a serious bitch-slapping),
...smacking at my chamber door.

WTF," I mumbled, "I’m on vacation! Ask Dick; he runs the nation.
Get off my ass and let Karl do it," I loud and soddenly swore.
Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak September,
And every fucktard, camp-following member had been given his sinecure.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow
Chinese cash or some “Aw Shucks” Charisma from the lost Gipp-er.
For the Smilin’, Beguilin’ Monster who could sell our Republican Manure,
Dead and gone forevermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each voting booth curtain
Thrilled me---filled me electoral delirium tremens throughout all of 2004;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood bleating,
" 'Tis some Pioneer Contributor, or Halliburtoning Corporate whore
Or another dimwit frat rat trollop sporting a Santorum coiffure
...This it is, and nothing more."

The Stoli shooters grew stronger; and hesitating no longer,
"Dicky?" said I, "Condi? Or is that Turdblossom? I recognize the spoor...
But the fact is, I was drinkin’, getting good and stinkin’
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you." Here I opened wide the door;---
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, snarling, sneering
Jerking off to Armageddon dreams no one ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken –- no Condi or other token –
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "2004?",
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word," 2004!"
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into my bottle turning, all the Jim Beam I’d guzzled burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping, something louder than before,
"Surely," said I, "surely, that is Rumsfeld with a briefing.
That will disassemble that bitch Sheehan’s beefing.
Let my heart stop Cheneying a moment, and this mystery explore.
" 'Tis just old crazy Rummy, and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a hiss and splutter,
In there stepped a mangy Hammer, of the Mandate days of yore.
Not an ounce of sense made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But with Death Skull grimance, perched above my chamber door.
Shat upon a bust of Nixon, just above my chamber door,
Shat, and sat, and nothing more.

This Sugarland turd was so badly freaking, into my pants I went leaking,
Shocked by the deranged and murderousness of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy Majorityhood be shorn and shave," I said, "you are still craven,
Ghastly, grim, and wretched Hammer, rampaging like a rabid boar.
What the fuck do I do now that my assassin's been shown the door?"
Quoth the Hammer, "Nevermore."

Much I marveled as this insanely ranting Dale Gribble spoke so plainly,
Though it’s answer little meaning, little veracity bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Would not projectile hurl upon seeing this two-legged offal above his chamber door,
A Christopathic beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
That can’t say shit but "Nevermore."

But the Hammer, a skulking minor demon, spoke only of his venom
Hissing that one word, as if his soul were stabbed with skewers.
Nothing further then he uttered; his heart was tightly shuttered;
Til I scarcely more than muttered, "How can I enjoy this Dewars?
Who shall ram my mandate now, through Congress' sewers?"
To which DeLay said, "Nevermore."

Like the thousand promises I’d broken, his word was oily spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store."
Bred from drooling Texas losers, friend of low-wattage crooks and boozers
Partied fast and kneecapped faster, till his lies one burden bore ---
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never---nevermore."

But the Hammer still berserking looked into my dank soul smirking,
So Karl broke it down for me in little words of two syllables, no more.
”Your polls are a’sinking, on ice your lies are stinking
Iraq and Katrina the public are finally a’linking, and now comes this loony Texas hoor –
This grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous Sugarland hoor
So guess what he means by "Nevermore"?”

And the media scrum grew denser, now fueled by a Grand Jury’s censure
Wrought by a righteous prosecutor who ain’t taking this shit no more.
"Wretch," I cried, "now it’s all for nothing. For nothing I cheated Albert Gore.
So get me three fingers of two-cents-plain that I may forget by apotheotic 2004!
Drink and drink and puke and drink and forget my apotheotic 2004!
Quoth the Hammer, "Nevermore!"

"You For-Profit, agenda-killing jag off" said I, "Faith-based pimp of Abramoff!
By that Dobson that bends us over -- by that God we both abhor—
Is there in the cushions where we shine our asses, even one dime of my political assets?
A whiff of my miracle Mandate year, which Pope Gregor named 2004 ---
My moment on the Mountain, COBOL programmers call Y2K-plus-four?
Quoth the Hammer, "Nevermore."

"Shut up you fucking loser!" I shrieked, upstarting –
"Go back to offing roaches you salad tossing, Albatrossing spore!
Leave no poo stripe as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my binginess unbroken! Leave me a political Debtor!<
Take thy dick from out my mouth, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Hammer, "Nevermore."

But the Hammer, never quitting, still is sitting, still is shitting
Down the throat of my Dead Mandate, my ghost of 2004;
And his eyes still have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming.
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my Mandate from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted---nevermore!

(thanks, driftglass. And a happy Blue Halloween, everyone!)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ladybug, ladybug...

You may not know her, but you love her...

Millicent over at Different Dirt; Millicent the world traveler, Millicent the soon-to-be-terrific-Mommy-of-Thor, yes, the very same Millicent, has had a very sad day.

Her beautiful house back here in the U.S. has had a very damaging fire. Millicent and Floyd had taken this very badly brought down Victorian and buffed it up to an almost unmatchable beauty. They were - and are - hoping to get right back to their lives there after their days as expats are done.

Anyway, if you're wondering why Different Dirt has been out of print for a while - that's it. So if you have a moment, and you care for Millie and Floyd, stop by there and let them "feel the love" as the Peeper says just before he smothers you in a big hug and wet sluggy kisses.

They're good peeps and deserve a sluggy kiss from us. Good luck, guys - hope the Casa de Thor is looking gorgeous again real soon...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Jet Lagged and Morally Bankrupt

Well. That was exhausting.

Just got – okay, not just…took a couple of days to reintegrate the circuits – back from the Right Coast where lots of wedding and grandparental swoony goodness was happening. Wearing kilts. Eating chowder. And lobster (oh MY!). Seeing fortyish sisters glamorous in long tulle wedding gowns with lots of tiny fiddly little buttons down the back. Cambridge in the rain. And long, long, interminably long airplane trips without a diaper


So, anyway, we’re back. An I’m trying to figure out where to go next with the GFT.

Y’all been on these “family vacations”, so baring my soul about staying at my in-laws’ microhouse or the experience of sharing a Motel 6 with a three-year-old wouldn’t be much of a revelation. Or much more fun than an impacted molar.

(And nobody seems to want to read my political rants. At least, nobody comments on them.)

So all that’s left is telling stories, and Life in North Portland.

Now first, let me explain that my friend Millicent over at Different Dirt has been loving her some globetrotting lately. My, my, that girl and her inamorata have been gettin’ around. Communing with the puffins in Scotland. Digging the social whirl along the Adriatic Coast. And ooh la la! La Belle France…! Makes me jealous so bad that I can’t even feel sorry for them and their Invasion of the Giant Spiders (go see for yourself, it’s a monster, I swear…)

Now Mojo and Peep and I are dug way deep into the home and family thing. Even more so now that Mojo has gone back to struggling for the legal tender and Peep has a new gang of playmates over at the Imagination Station. Plus we’re desperately trying to save money for Mei Mei (since unless you’re freaking Madonna you don’t just waltz in and pick you up a cute little baby from foreign parts. You pay and pay and pay…and wait and wait, too. But it’s all character building, right, CCAA?)

It's fun and builds character and all that, but it sure doesn't leave much time for traveling. So here I sit, down in my predawn basement office and wish like hell I had some cool, fun travel stories to tell you. And then I thought - well, yeah, you DO. They're just not from last week.

Back when the Chief was more like an indian he got to go lots of exotic, colorful places, meet fascinating, unusual people and kill them.

Okay, I never actually killed them. But that was the bumper sticker, anyway.

And then I thought...everyone complains that I tell those damn stories, like the Mad Shitter, the Burning Guard Shack and Otis' Meesh Monsters, why not tell 'em now? They've got to be more interesting than hearing about how the Peeper went for fourteen hours without taking a dump because he didn't have a bumwrapper and wouldn't hang out over the horrifying toilet bowl!

So - coming up; An Idiot Abroad and Tales from Under the Hat...

But this morning's post is about another hidden North Portland treasure: Overlook House.

Tucked away on tiny N. Melrose Drive, I have a special fondness for this little beauty because Mojo and I had our wedding reception here. In a life that has had some wonderful moments, spending a sunny October (yes, we just celebrated our "leather anniversary" this past month) with my beautiful bride and our friends basking in newlywedded felicity in the sunny garden overlooking the Albina freight yard was one of the wonderfullest.

[BTW, I am NOT making that up. Leather is the "traditional" 3rd anniversary gift. Makes you wonder about those golden agers, really, it does.]

It's a bit of a hike. And you have to hunt to find it. But some cool November afternoon, you might think about taking the Interstate MAX up to Overlook Park and Kaiser Interstate. Walk down little Overlook Boulevard past the Palms (the "Monkey Motel - by the day, by the hour, by the orgasm") Motel and the quiet residences along Overlook. Stand in the quiet garden and savor the North Portland morning.

Overlook House. It's worth the trip.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Check Firing

I've gotta tell ya - this blogging thing is work!

OK, no, that's bullshit. BUT...I do have to take a break for a bit. So as they say on the Line of Steel: checkfiring checkfiring checkfiring...

I love ya, be cool, hang on for a bit and check back in about a week for more blogging action.

Coming up: Steaming jungles, burning deserts, hot hot HOT GI hunks and the Chief as Honduran queerbait.

Mira aya!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Capitol Hill Street Blues

Let's say, and why not, that you're a big, tough cop. Not one of the sleek new "community police" types but a real old fashioned street monster.

You've got a big stick and you're not afraid to use it.

Now over on the east side of your beat there's a duplex. The Kim brothers have lived there, geez, like forever. They were a pretty tight family once, but after the big neighborhood bust-up in the Forties one of the Kims came under the influence of Big Joe, the hoodlum that ran the Big Red Machine over on the east side. Kim North, let's call him, came out from under Joe's influence a real ugly customer: a mean, vicious paranoid loner. You had to step in when he tried to beat up on his brother Kim South during the Fifties. It was ug-LEE - all of you came out of it pretty banged up, and nobody shook hands afterwards. Red Kim stomped back to his apartment and has been sulking behind the door ever since. Still paranoid. Still angry.

In fact, you've had trouble with him ever since. Walking your beat you hear the Chang family and the Yamamotos next door telling you that Red Kim's been beating and starving his family. Every so often his dogs come through the fence and bite one of the South Kim's kids, or he fires a shot out the window just, it seems, to rattle the neighborhood.

But now you think you may have a bigger problem. Red Kim's been seen lugging dynamite into the house. The neighbors have heard him ranting and hammering in his basement at all hours. They (and Clancy back at the station house, who's got snitches in the neighborhood) are telling you that he might be making some sort of real nasty bomb.

Now back in the old day's you'd have knocked once and busted down the door, dragging the crazy Red bastard down to the cooler while beating taraddidles into his skull. But that was before last week, when you tangled with the Qaeda mob from East 43rd, before you went fifteen rounds with the Jihadi Brothers (who are still raising hell every night down at the An Bar on East Falluja - you groan when you remember that you are gonna have to be back there tonight to give them their daily beat-down...), before you had to commit yourself to a precautionary punch-up with the Pushtun ring, still trying to muscle back into the opium business you knocked them out of four years ago, before you committed to strolling by the Farsi clan corner to give them the stink-eye and remind them who is has the biggest pair of balls in the Gulf District.

Your big stick feels more like a bent coat hanger these days.

But, still, it's part of your beat. And you feel like you gotta do something. The neighbors keep looking at you. You wanted to be the cop, the lawbringer, the peacemaker.

You think: I don't wanna look like one of those weenie touchy-feely cops, standing at the door with your hat in your hand trying to get that Red bastard to talk nice to you. So you stomp up the stairs. You announce loudly that you're not here to talk to some blackmailing red bastard commie. That you'll think about not busting down the door only if the slimy a-hole inside throws out his dynamite and gets down on his knees and begs you not to give him a rap in the nuts. You holler over to the Changs (who aren't exactly your best friend, but, what the hell) that you expect them to back you up on this and join you in convincing their ol' pal to give up. As you start feeling pretty foolish standing there looking weak you might even throw in some hard words about "regime change" and "liberation" - it's hard to think calmly when you're getting steamed like you are.

As you stand there, listening to the odd banging noises and muttered conversation inside the locked start to wonder:

Is this doing any good?

So would it hurt to talk to the little bastard?

How much weaker do I look standing on this doorstep with my hand?

And you think to yourself - some days, you just can't seem to catch a break...but some days you look back and want to kick youself in the ass for being so damn pig-headed that you were willing to pay any price to look like the baddest cop on the street.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fizzle! (Whew...sort of...)

Looks like Li'l Kim didn't get the bang for his buck. Here's the summarized version from Arms Control Wonk:

"They've published lat/long (41.294 N, 129.134 E) and Mb estimates (4.2) for the North Korean test. There is lots of data floating around: The CTBTO called it 4.0; The South Koreans report 3.58-3.7. You're thinking, 3.6, 4.2, in that neighborhood. Seismic scales, like the Richter, are logarithmic, so that neighborhood can be pretty big.

But even at 4.2, the test was probably a dud. Estimating the yield is tricky business, because it depends on the geology of the test site.

The South Koreans called the yield half a kiloton (550 tons), which is more or less -- a factor of two -- consistent with the relationship for tests in that yield range at the Soviet Shagan test site: Mb = 4.262 + .973LogW (here Mb is the magnitude of the body wave, and W is the yield.

3.58-3.7 gives you a couple hundred tons (not kilotons), which is pretty close in this business unless you're really math positive. The same equation, given the US estimate of 4.2, yields (pun intended) around a kiloton.

A plutonium device should produce a yield in the range of the 20 kilotons, like the one we dropped on Nagasaki.

No one has ever dudded their first test of a simple fission device. North Korean nuclear scientists are now officially the worst ever. (The Chief's emphasis...this just tickles me!)

Of course, I want to see what the US IC says. If/when the test vents, we could have some radionuclide data -- maybe in the next 72 hours or so. But, from the initial data, I'd say someone with no workable nuclear weapons (Kim Jong Il, I am looking at you) should be crapping his pants right now."

So - the DPRK tried - and failed. I'm still thinking that it's not quite the moment to be throwing rose petals and candy at Mr. Bush's nonproliferation team. As a scientist, one thing I know is that you can often learn a lot from a failure, even if you are officially the "worst nuclear scientists in the world".

Seems to me that, like a husband finding his wife's "Friday" panties in her jacket pocket on Saturday morning, it's time for us to start talking, a lot, and fast. The little lady north of the "Z" may not ACTUALLY be dancing the mattress tango with Mr. Bomb.


But our military options are still a) slim and b) none.

If we want to continue to be a player in East Asian geopolitics as well as head off a potential Sea-of-Japan-nuclear-arms-race, we probably need to be talking, really talking to those other powers in Asia who have a stake in this, including our coy friend Li'l Kim.

Mr. Bush still appears to have the boneheaded notion that you talk only to your friends, not to your enemies. I would suggest that someone, perhaps Big Time - he seems to have Dubya's attention - might want to remind the President that it's important to remember that talking down a whacko who is trying to assemble a bomb isn't "conceding to the demands of political and nuclear extortion". It's called "negotiation" and it's what genuine politicians, cops, soldiers and diplomats do every freaking day.

As Big Time, Condi and the freaking Alka-Seltzer man might remind Mr. I'm-the-Decider: Try it, you'll like it...

Monday, October 09, 2006

One Sunny Day...

I've been watching the news today with a mixture of horror and resignation. I knew this was coming, but had hoped that somehow someone in the Echelons Above Reality had a cunning plan to somehow slip Li'l Kim a deal under the table to buy him off. I mean, this guy is somewhere out on the far end of whack, but he has repeatedly tried to get a place at the table with the U.S. He wants to hang on to his ratfuck of a country, and now he's got the lever - or at least the beginning of a lever - to blackmail his neighbors into helping him.

The South Koreans and the Chinese are on a cleft stick. They now can't afford to have Kim fail. Before this it was just the spectre of an East Germany-like economic meltdown as they tried to keep the lifeless corpse of a post-Kim dead PRNK from falling on them and killing their economy. NOW they have to sweat what will happen when the whacko in Pyongyang looks out the window and sees a company of his Special Forces coming over the wall shouting "Bang, bang, you dead mothafoka!"

The combination of Abe in the premiership and nukes in the North make Japanese rearmament a serious issue.

And I have no idea what the hell we can do.

My understanding is that our intel penetration into the North is perhaps the poorest anywhere on the planet. We have virtualy no economic leverage there (and the people with the economic levers, China and the South, have an almost diametrically opposed view of the "best" way to handle this guy) and our military options seem pretty restricted.

Do we try and bomb? Again, my understanding is that we have a VERY incomplete target set, that the North has done some serious hardening of their nuke plant system, and the potential for chemical retaliation into the South is considerable.

A land invasion, for the same reason, seems off the table. As Napoleon would have said: "Des troupes? Où veut t'il que j'en prenne?! Veut t'il que j'en fasse?!"

Containment would seem to be problematic, given the unstable nature of this regime and it's known proclivity for selling its nasty toys to nasty boys.

And I'm not sure that we could offer Kim anything he'd take at this point. Frankly, if I was him, having listend to the Decider decide that he (Kim) was the second cousin to Satan himself and the center spoke in the Axis of Evil...well, look what's happening to the OTHER two Axis powers without the benefit of a nuclear umbrella to keep the steel rain off...

So...I have no idea what the hell we can do. And what I think is sad is that I have no confidence in my national "leadership" do do anything more intelligent than I could. As my wife remarked the last time we went to a minor league hockey game:

"Jesus wept! I could be that inept and I don't expect to get paid for it!"

I have to add that regardless of the success or lack of same of this bomb test - and there seems to be some question whether it WAS a detonation or just a "fizzle" - I think the other "lesson learned" that the assorted pond scum of despots, warlords and crackpots (okay, the despots, warlords and crackpots not currently needed by the people running things in DC...) are gonna take home from this is:

Got a bomb? (or maybe got a bomb, or close enough to a bomb..?) - it's gonna be jaw-jaw, not war-war.

Don't got a bomb? Unca Dick Cheney's got a bomb of his own...with your name on it, slick.

So the difference between Mr. Bush's actions towards Iraq and his rhetoric towards North Korea has GOT to convince any prospective American target - hello, Iran? hello, Venezuela? - that getting their hands on a nuke most quick smart is the ONLY way to stay comfy cozy.

I'm not sure if I feel OK about that.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Rainy Sunday ruminations on the USWNT

Quiet weekend here at the Palazzo del Peepiero. Both Mojo and I have the October Crud complete with nasty chest cold and hack. The weather has ranged from cool and pleasant to cool and drizzling rain...

So we've been keeping a profile that sags lower than a Congrssional page's pants when accosted by a Republican House member.

Had a nice anniversary dinner at the new place on Lombard, Christies (more about which on Monday) and went to see The Devil Wears Prada at the Golden Dome - remind me again to note that Meryl Streep is a fucking incredible actress - before home to the Peep. Today just some random driving-and-shopping before an afternoon at home. But I did get to watch the U.S. Women's National Team play that perennial powerhouse, Iceland.

First, as a former keeper, let me say that I am not fit to polish Thora Helgadottir's football boots. The woman is a hellup terrific keeper. What the Iceland coach was thinking pulling her ten minutes from time I don't know.

The US women dominated the game - I think Iceland had something like 3 shots over 90 minutes. Overall it was about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Having said that...this game left me with some questions about the WNT:

1. The U.S. has lost a lot of experience in midfield. It shows. Many of the attacks look like what you'd see at any English Division 2 fixture - lots of crosses and through balls to Abby Wambach.

2. If you can mark Abby out, you've gotten 60% of the way to beating the WNT.

3. With the Hexagonal coming up, this team is gonna a) play a Latin team (or T&T) and the b) play the Canadians for the top spot. So why bother booking these lame friendlies with Iceland and Taiwan? You're gonna see a hispanic team of some sort, so why not schedule Costa Rica or even Brazil? And you're gonna see Canada. The Scandanavians play a straightforward physical game like Canada, but a team with Chris Sinclair up front is gonna get their shots. Why bother with Iceland? Why not the Brits, or even Scotland or Wales? Why not one of the real Nordic powers, like Sweden, Norway or Denmark?

I love the U.S. women. But sometimes I wonder if the folks at U.S. Soccer aren't still dreaming of 1999. It's a different world, gang. The Europeans aren't scared of us anymore. We may still be a Goliath of women's soccer, but there are a hell of a lot of Davids in sportsbras out there with a rock in their pocket and a bad attitude. Let's not get cocky...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Happy birthday to me...

Forty-nine years ago "this day", as the Peeper would say, the Fire Direction Chief's mother was brought forth of a baby boy who has remained as loud, arbitrary and irascible as he was when he first emerged, red and furious, from the womb.

Along the way I've seen the sun rise over the marshes of Delaware Bay, stand tall noon over the Gulf of Fonseca and set over the Straits of Aquaba. I've held the living body of my infant son and the dead body of my infant daughter. Lost the love of a good woman and won the heart of a delightful woman, a brave companion, a tender lover and a loving mommy. I've jumped from an aircraft in flight into the rushing morning sky and seen the shadows of the night flares swinging over a burning town. I've had a life full of hope, love, joy and tenderness, a life of hate, fear, anger and regret. Just a life like any other life, but this one has been my own. It's been a pretty good life, taken altogether. I wouldn't have wanted to miss a minute.

Okay, the whole shit-burning thing on Tiger Island...yeah, I could have missed that.

But it's when that little body wriggles into the bed, in the dark of the morning, snuggling down between Mojo and me, the small warm hands patting me as if to reassure him that Daddy's there for one more day...that's when I know that I'm just as eager for that tomorrow as I was for all the yesterdays before it.

Birthday presents? Got 'em. They're probably playing with toy trains or watching "Dave and Becky" or throwing sand out of the sandbox. Where my loved ones are - that's where my happy birthday is.

Happy damn birthday to me.

Monday, October 02, 2006


The wrong is not in the religion;
The wrong is in us - Saier T.

At dusk, bats fly out by the hundreds.
Water snakes glide in the ponding basins
behind the rubbled palaces. The mosques
call their faithful in, welcoming
the moonlight as prayer.

Today, policemen sunbathed on traffic islands
and children helped their mothers
string clothes to the line, a slight breeze
filling them with heat.

There were no bombs, no panic in the streets.
Sgt. Gutierrez didn't comfort an injured man
who cupped pieces of his friend's brain
in his hands; instead, today
white birds rose from the Tigris.

This is from an terrific little book of poetry called Here, Bullet by Brian Turner, a veteran of the Iraq War. Please - if you want to feel; feel the sandbag blow to the chest of the exploding bomb, feel the heat and the boredom and the fear, feel the tiny cuts left in your heart when everything else has healed...find this book, buy it, read it.

I can't praise this man's work enough. In my opinion he is the Wilfred Owen of Iraq, and his most powerful work can make you weep. And that is tribute enough.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sunday Night Free Association

Do most adoptive parents have other kids? Because if they do, why do so many "IA Stories" talk about their kids crying/hitting/throwing things/vomiting and or defecating? I mean, I'm not trying to be a downer, but...if you take out that stuff what ELSE is there to talk about? The life of a toddler seems to consist of the above plus refusing to eat anything but sliced white bread with the crusts off and lightly dusted with exactly 2.3 grams of cinnamon sugar (today, that is. Tomorrow it will be something completely different)

Is there something in raising a kid that prepares you for running a country, and is that why most pre-industrial societies required you to be a patriarch or matriarch before you could be the Big Kahuna? 'Cause it's gotta be that there's something in you that gets callused over the octeenth time your kid says "I don't love you 'cause you're a bad daddy" that prepares you to say things to strangers like "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"

Can you really trap GIs with beer? (see above) Okay, I know you can, but how cheap a beer can you go with and still trap enough to depress the population? Are we talking Steel Reserve or will Haffenreffer (aka the Big Green Death) or Milwaukee's Best work?

Does anybody actually remember BGDs? Talk about "dead drunk for two bits"...

Didn't there used to be a country called America, where the people there used to be proud of the fact that they stood up to tyranny, defied kings and their secret justice, their lettres de cachet and Chateaus d'If, that stood for justice before the law and freedom from the midnight knock on the door and the secret torture chamber?

Why are toddlers scared of taking a dump in the potty? Wassupwitdat?

Does anyone really want Barry Bonds to break the Hammerin' Hank's career HR record?

Who invented liquid soap? And why?

And how did Viveca Lindfors stay so sexy and cool all the way into her sixties, and was she or was she not the best part of The Sure Thing?

How can a three-year-old's feet stank like that?

Why is it that the barking dog next door can keep you up an hour between midnight and one and yet the dog's owners (fifty feet closer to the howling SOB) sleep like the dead?

Why the heck is Greg Ryan bothering scheduling those soccer powers Chinese Taipei and Iceland right before the Hexagonal? Is it doing the USWNT any good at all to hammer seven goals (or whatever the hell they put in the onion bag today) against the women's soccer equivalent of Brighton and Hove Albion?

It seems to me that I've spent so much of my life worrying and fretting about things I either don't understand or can't affect, and yet the big things, the important things, the life-and-love-and-death things seem to happen in their own way, regardless of what I'm thinking or doing.

Is there anything lovlier than the curve of her hip?

Paris Hilton. WTF?

Why do so many of my countrymen not CARE that our leaders are lying to us and pissing down our necks and telling us it's raining? Why doesn't this really piss them off, too?

Is there a God? Does it matter?

When you die, will you know?

Why am I still awake wondering about this stuff?

"I woke up thinking about Turkish didn't take long - I don't know much about Turkish drummers - But it made me think of Germany and the guy who sold me cigarettes who'd been in the Afghan secret police who made the observation that it's live...

Then I was reminded of the proprietor of a Vietnamese restaurant in Quebec who used to be head of the secret police in Da Nang - and it occurred to me I was thinking about all this stuff to keep from thinking about something else... Isn't that just what secret police are all about???" - Bruce Cockburn "Get Up Jonah"

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Creepy Things

There's a whole 'nother world out there you just don't get to see until you live with a toddler.

For example: I had never seen the movie "Stuart Little" until the other night when Mojo and I were looking for something to entertain the Peeper while he settled down towards bedtime.

Our options were limited, and we simply found this little item while channel-surfing and happened into the middle of some sort of boat race where the mouse/younger brother sails the big brother's toy boat. Peep liked the boats, so we watched for ten minutes or so.

Okay - so I have to admit; I've always had sort of a thing for Geena Davis. Her movie characters always seem so sexy-smart and clever in a sort of mojolicious way. But the more I thought about the whole Stuart Little thing the more creepy it seemed.

I remember vaguely reading the E.B' White book that this farrago is based on and not being particularly skeeved out about the idea of a mouse kid born to a human couple.

Maybe it was just my age (too young to get the sexual implications) or maybe it was just the matter-of-fact tone of the book. As I recall the book stressed that Stuart WAS a little boy that just LOOKED like a mouse. But somehow the whole business seemed so much more...skweechy...when I was looking at Geena's larger-than-life face on the screen and thinking; okay, one of her kids is a mouse. She gave birth to a human child...and then a mouse. Interspecies reproduction.


But wait - I read that the movie sidesteps this by making Stuart an adopted child.

Somehow I'm not sure that this is better. Is this saying that your adoptive kid is, like, a rodent only sorta not? And that somewhere, somehow a mouse got caught up in the human abandoned child system? That Geena and Bertie (her husband is played by the guy - Hugh Laurie - who did Bertie Wooster in the wonderful PBS series) adopted a mouse, not as a pet, but as a child?

I'm SO not sure what this means except it makes me go "hmmmm..."

From what little I saw of "Stuart Little" it seemed like a bright, colorful, cheerful kids movie - except...except...

How do you explain to a toddler that his adoptive sister will never look like a cute little mouse?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Machiavellian Peeper

So little Pea and Mommy had a pretty good time with the rest of the Gellars back in Manomet showing the Peep off to all his adoring fans. Between flat tires and engine repairs Peeper got to ride in Grampa's tow truck, swim in the pond where Mommy used to splash when she was a wee sproutling (barely up to a C-cup), walk the Atlantic beach, change a tire and see a scary live lobster!
But my favorite story from the trip involves yet another display of Peeper cunning. The lad is destined to become the Tallyrand of North Portland.

Cue the scene: yet another family gathering featuring a Peep run amok fueled by more cookies than can possibly be good for one little boy. (Thanks, Gramma!)

Big Auny Kathy - a stern disciplinarian where Peepers are concerned, being a teacher and well versed in the wiles of Youth - finds our boy standing over a cookie he has dropped.

Kathy: Pick up that cookie, young man!

Peeper (looking down at the biscuit as if it is the first cookie he has ever seen): I...don't think I will.

Kathy: I think you WILL pick up that cookie!

Peeper (places one toe daintily on the cookie and crushes it): Can't now. Crumbs!

I dread the day I have to open negotiations regarding curfews and text messaging...

Emperor George and the Art of War.

Well, damn.

I wish I'd said it first, but I didn't; Jeff Huber did.

Go and read what he has to say and understand why every time you open the newspaper Iraq (and now Afghanistan) looks ever more like a dozen monkeys attempting to have sexual congress with a football.

Because as Sun Tzu (the mandarin guy there in the picture) would remind us:

"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. "

Oh, and George? He also said this, and he might as well have been speaking directly to your dumb ass:

"No leader should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no leader should fight a battle simply out of pique. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being…It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on."

"Bring 'em on!"



Monday, September 25, 2006

18 Days

CCAA had posted 18 days of referrals for September. August 9 is the cutoff.

This is better. But it still means a 2+ year wait for those of us still in the queue.

C'mon, CCAA! Where's the spirit that built the Revolution? Let's talk some Shock Adoption Worker Brigades! With true Chairman Mao spirit we can process more than THREE WEEKS of referrals in a month!

But it sure beats five or eight or nine DAYS. So okay then.

Gotta go to work. More later.