Sunday, November 29, 2015

We're going to the Final..!

You'll have to excuse me. But it's time to have what G.M. Fraser's pipey would have called a "wee gloat"...

We're going to the Final! Weeee're going to the Fiii-inal! We're best in the West, we stood the test, we're going to the Fiii-iii-nal!

Sorry. You may now return to your regularly scheduled bloggage.

Dolce Vita

Over at the Milpub in the middle of a conversation about the Paris attacks regular commentator sheerahkhan had this to say:
"...the Paris attacks, broadly laid out, were still for the most part so much like the earlier late 60's, 70s, early 80's Bader meinhoff, Red-Brigade, et al. As an aside, giving a lot of press to these guys also happens to elevate ISIS amongst inactive/unmotivated Islamist...however that works, I have no idea, but for some strange reason it does. If we treat them like criminals perhaps we can lower the charm-appeal, and keep the arm-chair Jihadist inactive/unmotivated.

At least I think we be honest, I'm not even sure anymore.

The world has gone crazy, and it just seems like we're B-lining it to WWIII."
That made me stop for a moment.

Sheer is a smart guy, and not a hysteric. But his concern flashed me back to my morning's trip to the lovely Ramada breakfast room, where the cheap and nasty buffet was underlain by a Faux News continuo of hysteria and panic over all the nightmarish dangers of the world (that were only deterred by Strong White Men, but that's fucking Fox for you...)

There's a lot of this hysteria around. Look at the Trump Silvershirts, roaring about "making America great again" as if the fucker was some sort of Somalia with more Chick-fil-a's instead of the most massive and powerful superpower on the planet.

Look at the other whackaloons of the Right, fulminating about trivial problems like abortion and gay rights and the loss of white privilege and scary islamic jihadis. I hear a lot of this "the world has gone crazy" talk from those people, too. Hell, the entire GOP presidential clown car runs on that shit.

But...seriously? Think hard about the difference between today's world and the world of the medieval period.

Is our world crazier than the world of the Black Death? Crazier than the Albigensian Crusade, or regular Jewish pogroms, or the Inquisition, or the Mongol invasions of Europe? Crazier than the wave of death and civilization collapse that followed the Europeans into Africa after the 1500s and the Americas after 1492? Crazier than WW1, or WW2, or the Thirty Years' War?

Let me put it this way. Think about the average FDChief family in Picardy in 1200AD. What were the sort of things that were likely to spoil their day?

Epidemic disease? Check or hold?


Famine? Check. Random rape or murder at the hands of outlaws or the neighboring feudal lord's men-at-arms on a raid? Check. Peonage? Check. Poverty? Check. Death from minor injuries or childbirth followed by fatal infection? Check. Massive infant mortality? Check. Powerlessness in a feudal society? Check.

Now look at us. Do we have problems and troubles? Check. Are they anything as horrible or threatening as those?


No. Our world today is nothing like the frighteningly uncertain, dangerous, and unpredictable (to the ordinary person) world of the 13th Century. So the world hasn't actually "gone crazy". The troubles and problems the world has - outside the massive problem we've created for ourselves in the form of anthropogenic global warming, pollution, and extinction - are no different from those it has always had; wars and rumors of wars, bad government, sickness, natural disasters... 1200 we didn't know all of that stuff. We would be lucky if we had news from the nearest city. The "outside world" would have been vague rumors and tales from random travelers. Now we get all those various horrors beamed straight into our lives 24/7 by an infotainment industry that has every reason to make us as frightened and whacko as possible.

The raggedy jihadis of IS, the tattered armies of Syria, the unruly clans of Somalia and Mali...these aren't "WW3". They're the same old troubles the world has always had...just all thrown at us like they are some sort of huge cataclysm by our modern electronic devices.

They're not the end of the world, and we should really act like it.
Because people panicked by the end of the world do really, really, really fucking stupid things.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Stubbed Toe

See below; this is my reconstruction of the Santa Clarita landslide.

Typically large, slow-moving rotational slump- (meaning that the movement is rotational, with the top part moving down and in and the bottom (or toe) moving down and out) earthflows (meaning that the thing is moving slowly, like a big earth glacier) develop large toe-bulges at the bottom. Somewhere in my files I have a picture of an old mine access road that has been buckled up and rotated vertical by the toe pushing up and out at the bottom of a large earthflow; the thing stood straight up for about 8 or 10 feet. That'd have been a real sonofabitch to drive up with a stick shift.

I had a long discussion about this thing with my friend GeoChick, and I told her my problem was that all the articles had the scientific intelligence of a mophead. "Guh - landslide" was about the level of sophistication. Seriously; I couldn't tell either from the pictures or the text enough about the topography or the geology to even guess what was happening.

But long-time commentor Ael finally sent me a link to an article that showed not just the big honkin' road uplift but the surroundings, and it looks pretty clear to me that this thing is at or near the base of a slope that is failing, and it's pushing this road up because the road is at or near where the bottom of the slide plane "toes out" of the ground surface...

And this is a simple landslide. Given that, can you imagine how hard it is for most reporters to understand something as complex as climate change?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Just when I had got you all convinced that the first thing to do in fucking Syria was primum non nocere - "not do any more harm" y'all go and do something really fucking stupid.
My single biggest problem with all the moronic drumbeating to "do something" about the Islamic State in Syria is that Syria is twelve goddamn monkeys fucking a football. It's a no-holds-barred, chain-cage grudge match with about eight tag-teams all wrasslin' each other. The chances of something exactly like this - a chance encounter leading to a potentially disastrous international confrontation - is something like eight in ten. You'd have to be freaking brain-dead to want to get involved unless you either didn't care whether that happened or were willing to go all Cuban Missile Crisis when it did.

Over at Pierce's joint Bob Bateman has what I read as a fairly perceptive analysis of why this won't become another Berlin or Cuba, though.
"...there is one immutable thing about Putin's Russian forces in Syria, one that they can't avoid. They need fuel. This is an issue, why? Because to supply the amount of fuel needed by an air campaign requires more than just an airlift. It has to come via sea. Getting fuel from Russia itself to the Russian bases on the coast of Syria involves getting from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Bit of a problem that, since that means going through the Dardanelles. Turkey, in short, owns Russia on that count. Unless Russia wants to start a shooting war with all of NATO."
How about that; turns out that control of the Dardanelles is as critical to the Turkey-Russia balance of power (and international relations in general) in 2015 as it was in 1915.

Dammit! If only President Trump was in position to throw the 1st Marine Division ashore at Suvla Bay! That'd show those damned Turks!
Thanks for nothing, Obummer!

Fasci Trumpiani de Combattimento

I know I've promised not to write about U.S. politics, but this particular piece of merda is getting so brain-warpingly obvious as defy ignoring.

First, it's fairly clear that not only is the humanoid meat-object known as "Donald Trump" a perfect distillation (or, perhaps, continuing the meat analogy, a perfect sausage-filling) of the mendacious, belligerent Know-Nothingism, racism, sexism, Tentherism, and violently stupid individualism (in the sense of not just eliding but actively fighting against the notion of any sort of social or political "commons") that has overcome the modern Republican Party, and

Second, the bulk of the meat-like humanoid objects known as "Republican voters" are juuuuuust fine with that.

They don't care if what he says are obvious-to-a-retarded-gorilla lies, provided that the lies are what they want to hear. They don't care if his "policy ideas" are bone-stupid as the stupidest notion dredged up from the bottom of a bottomless well of stupid provided that they accord with the sort of ideas they like.

They like his moronic belligerence, his brainless bellicosity. They like his blatant racism and sexism. They applaud the inanity of, for example, his bloviating about Middle Eastern refugees murdering scores while bellowing about the unconstitutionality of denying firearms to white whackaloons who actually DO murder scores.

Back when I taught history to high-school freshman (which, by the way, is like trying to teach German irregular verbs to a cat; it just annoys the cat and it frustrates the hell out of you) I would have a handful of the more thoughtful kids ask me how in the hell a people as civilized as the Germans of the Nineteen Thirties could fall for the obvious lies and warlike bullshit of someone like Hitler and his cronies, or the peoples of Russia and China believe the propaganda and follow the murderous instructions of people like Stalin and Mao.

(Note that I never had a single kid ever mention Mussolini and Italian fascism. It was like the whole twenty years of European history had disappeared...)

I told them that it wasn't as simple as that. That a lot of time people in bad situations, or who believe themselves in bad situations, see and hear what they want to believe will help them out of those bad situations. I would tell them about something else that happened in the Thirties - the New Deal - and how FDR and his people weren't some sort of pre-free-love hippies and woo-woo socialists but hardheaded American aristos (a lot of them, anyway...) who looked around and saw the horrible examples of the Soviet Union and Fascist Italy as the sort of bad places that this country could go when people's lives were wrecked by poverty and unemployment.

So when I look at this Trump idiot and the idiots who love him I want to choke my country by the throat.

This country is NOT in a "bad situation" that throwing a couple dozen "investment bankers" in Joliet and revamping the tax code to put the blocks to fucking Pfizer and Merrill Lynch and Verizon wouldn't help solve. Christ, we're the 2,000-pound gorilla of nations economically and militarily. If we have problems, if some of our citizens feel like we're in a "bad situation", it's largely because we've decided to go full-on Gilded Age. Fucketty-doo-dah! If you think that letting two boys marry, or suctioning out a snowflake baby, or letting a guy who snuck in from Durango last month trim your lawn has placed the United States in a "bad situation" then you need to pull on your fucking big boy panties, not actively consider electing some fucktard who is fundamentally nothing but a dime-store Mussolini, an egotistical, short-tempered fascisti asshole with a bad combover in a real-estate shyster's Armani suit.

But damn near a third of the Republican "base" is doing just that. Don't they SEE how fucked up that is? Don't they see what would happen if they put this fucking nimrod in charge of the executive branch and the U.S. armed forces? As the voice of America? they see that and just don't fucking care? Is that what damn near a tenth of my country is? Pasty little fascisti looking for a dough-faced Duce to march them to Washington and kick out the "liberals"?

These damn people...

I'd laugh if this didn't make me want Not weep. Like I said; choke the fucking life out of these stupid motherfuckers.

(but a huge h/t to driftglass for the wonderful Photoshop of Il Douche)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Any Bonds Today?

Thinking about the whole business of "wars on terror" and wars in general led me to a couple of separate posts that generated this one.

First, over at MilPub P.F. Khans had a rumination about the recent graduation of several female Ranger students. In one of his comments that extended the discussion, he said:
"We are at war and we are doing quite poorly in all of those wars and its worth asking why "equality of opportunity" matters more than winning wars. I suspect that we exist in a state where winning and losing wars looks basically the same for most Americans. This is bad. There are people in this world who actually know how to win and we won't like losing in the future."
The same day I ran across a post at David Axe's War is Boring site that said pretty much the same thing:
"...we are a nation at war. In the past 15 years, American troops have fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Syria."
All of this talk of war made me think about "war"; what it is, what "we" (as in "We the People") think it is, and what the institutions that direct it and conduct it think it is.

I think that what's crucial about understanding what's going on - why there are American wars but not wartime in America - is understanding the physical reality of the United States in 2015 versus the rhetorical, intellectual, and emotional picture of the United States that most US citizens carry around in their heads.

The reality is that the US is a de facto imperial Great Power in the military sense. U.S. armed forces are busy around the globe doing the sorts of things that the European powers used to do in the global hustings back in the colonial era; "advising", training, and supplying client rulers, suppressing bush rebellions, spying and gathering information, patrolling the "commons" - sea lanes and land corridors.

Some of these missions involve combat, and for those engaged in the fighting these little wars are just that; wars. It's disingenuous to call them something else. If I'm getting shot at I can tell you damn straight I'm in a fucking war.

But...the U.S. and most U.S. citizens has a difficult time with the term "war". For it, and most of us, a "war" is one where people you know go to fight and some never come back except in a bag, where the news is full of battles and foreign adventures, where there are maps and pictures in the papers, where Bugs Bunny sells War Bonds. We have never been good at reconciling the "savage wars of peace" with what we think of as War with a capital "w".

So for most Americans - even the ones that really do buy the formulation of a "war on terror" - I don't think that the notion that "we are at war" is a reality.

(Which, in a sense, is a GOOD thing. Nations and peoples do some pretty terrible and stupid things to themselves when they are "at war". Wars tend to empower the worst, stupidest, and most shortsighted elements in a society, and the sorts of expedients required of nations in wars - however essential those expedients may be to surviving and winning that war - are not really good for the nations or the people that take them.)

And this whole business of female Ranger School grads is a good indication of the fact that even the U.S. Army is not "at war". When TRADOC is "at war" - as it was in the Forties, early Fifties, and Sixties - it tends to get very focused on cranking out new meat for the meatgrinder. My old Reserve unit (104th Division (Training)) had that as its entire mission; the idea was that when the balloon went up in Korea, say, we'd mobilize to Ft. Lewis and reopen the old Vietnam-era Infantry OSUT, crank out 3-4 divisions worth of replacements and then ruck up and go to war with the last cycle through. There were something like 5-6 similar "training divisions" in the USAR with similar missions in various parts of the country.

What I find very interesting is that in the past decade the USAR has drastically downsized or eliminated these units. The 104th is pretty much gone; its mission has been turned around to running ROTC summer camps. The 91st (which was the other West Coast training division) is doing something called "operational" training. The old 78th Division now is the mobilization evaluation outfit for USAR units called up for deployment...

What that, and TRADOC's willingness to push the USAIS into putting female troops in the Ranger course, tells me is that the U.S. Army has abandoned the notion that there will EVER be a situation similar to WW2, Korea, or Vietnam where the training establishment will have to be ramped up to crank out masses of 11-series bodies...which, in turn, makes me think that the U.S. Army has moved fully over to thinking like the old British Army of 1890; that it is a largely constabulary and expeditionary organization that will never have to field a WW2-style mass Army again...

Meaning that the Army thinks that what the U.S. public thinks as "war" will never occur within the foreseeable future, and that what we have now - these low-level brushfire and colonial-type "wars" - are the new normal.

Whether the public will ever "get" that - or whether the various organizations and factions that concentrate power in the United States WANT them to "get it" and will work actively to ensure they don't - remains to be seen.

Out of all of this, however, I think We the People need to have several discussions with and amongst ourselves.

We need to decide whether we're good with being an imperial power, first of all. Because imperial powers fight imperial wars - that is, "little wars" that don't need, and, indeed, pretty much require a fairly hight level of disinterest within the imperial citizenry.

And if we don't...we need to decided what level of these brushfire wars we ARE good with and how much we need to, as a citizenry, get involved in debating and overseeing them.

Will we do this?

I'm fairly confident that we won't.

The individual wars themselves and the general level of civic engagement needed to learn about and make intelligent decisions regarding them is just too high. We prefer our wars as we prefer everything else about our self-government; simple, easy, and, preferably, done by someone else.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

More military wisdom regarding the Islamic State

From Sun Tzu's The Art of War:

From Chapter XII (The Attack by Fire):

17. Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.

18. No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique.

19. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are.

20. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content.

21. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

22. Hence the enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution. This is the way to keep a country at peace and an army intact.

Maxim CV, and the Impossible Problem of the Islamic State

105.) Conditions of the ground should not alone decide the organization for combat, which should be determined from consideration of all circumstances.

In the preceding post I made the case for being calm and carrying on in the face of violent attacks. Specifically, in the face of violent attacks from politico-religious zealots of the Islamic stripe.

(For, despite what Marco Rubio says Islam is not the only religion to throw out violent politico-religious nuts - any religion worthy of the title does that - but those are the variety most likely to be on the other end of the AK-47 from your or me these days...)

In this post I wish to make the argument that the reason for this is that the West will suffer more of these violent attacks as surely as the sun rises and sets. And that there is, effectively, nothing - or nothing much - that the West can do about that.

And the reason for that is that the geopolitical conditions that have and will mold violent men and dispatch them out of the Sunni regions of Syria and Iraq to attack and kill Westerners are difficult to escape and may be, in fact, nearly impossible to "solve" in the short or medium term.

What's rather pathetic is the complete unwillingness of so many people to accept that. Some, obviously, because they are simply stupid and have no real idea of how the region has and is working. But others because they seem to be good people who don't want to believe that this problem is insoluble.

Here's a good example: an article from The Nation discussing how to "destroy" the Islamic State:
"The only option here is a difficult one: restoring the territorial integrity of Syria and Iraq by ending the Syrian civil war and the broader, regional Saudi-Iranian contest that feeds it."
Certainly a wonderful goal, with only one teensy-weensy little problem; who the fuck is going to rule those restored Iraqi and Syrian "states"?

Both are not really "states" in the European sense or, at best, are "states" in the sense that Yugoslavia was a "state". Both were created by European imperialist cartographers based loosely on the divisions imposed on the region by Ottoman cartographers that largely ignored the tribal and sectarian divisions either inherent in the regions or which developed over time.

Provided that 1) the respective strongmen in Baghdad or Damascus were propped up (and, just as importantly, not kicked around) by external Powers, and 2) the principle of secular Westphalian statehood remained supreme in the minds of the residents, these pseudostates could survive.

But over the past forty years both of these pillars were badly damaged.

Between them the European powers, the United States, and Israel, made the weakness and venality of the secular Arab Muslim regimes painfully clear to Abu and Maryam Lunchpail. Those they weren't incompetent and beaten in war were corrupt and purchased in peace. The only Muslims who seemed both unbribeable and unrelentingly hostile to the Western powers and their Israeli pal were the religious or those who claimed to be religious. The inconvenience of living in the 12th Century might seem a little less onerous if your medievalist rulers are at least willing to kill the occasional Brit, Yankee, or Frog, in revenge for all those French and American fighter-bombers blowing craters in your olive grove.

And the fall of the Middle Eastern strongmen unbound the tribal, clan, and confessional, divisions the tyrants had forced closed, much as the death of Tito released the internal tensions within Yugoslavia.

The idiot Bushite replacement of Sunni rule in Baghdad combined with the rebellion against Alawite rule in Damascus all but guaranteed the formation of some sort of "Sunnistan" in the desert between the Euphrates Valley and the Jordan.

Now, even assuming that you could reassemble the pieces of Iraq and Syria, again...who and how the hell would rule them?

The politics of the Middle East is a zero-sum game; a win for me is a loss for you. There is no way of assuring trust in a transfer of power, no way to feel confident that it will ever be transferred back.

I know I've said this before, but it's no less true today; regardless of who represents the Sunni Arabs of Iraq and Syria, be it the theocrats of Daesh or anyone else there is no way, now, but to win or be crushed. To live either as their own masters or as slaves of whoever else rules.

How the hell do you take a place like that and, once you do, how do you keep it? I can tell you the only way: you crush the Sunni, you drive them before you, and you hear the lamentations of their women.

That's right. I just quoted Conan the Barbarian as a "solution" to the Islamic State.

The point being, that there IS no solution to the Islamic State outside of a movie or a comic book...or...genocide on a Sri Lankan level.

Because you can "solve" the Islamic State in the same way that the government of Sri Lanka "solved" the Tamil insurgency; you kill and kill until the rebels are sickened with blood, until the bulk of their young men are dead and their women and children terrified. And then you rule them with a rod of iron.

If you are a local you can do that. Or if you are a foreign occupier willing to levy this sickening degree of violence.

The Western powers will not, can not, do that. If you are a fool, or a Republican (but I repeat myself) you might think they can, but you are wrong. We have lost the callous racism we had back in the days when we could butcher Filipinos or Zulus or Algerians cheerfully. And that's good, frankly; I wouldn't want to be that people again. They were savages little better than the Islamic State.

No. At best (or worst) the West can try and raise up some local brute, arm him, and send him out to exterminate the other brutes. But, remember, we tried that in Afghanistan only to find that the religious zealots were the deadliest and most effective brutes and they ended up coming back to kill us. We tried that in Iraq only to find that our brutes were less brutal than theirs. We've tried that in Syria, and...well, I have no idea what the hell we're doing in Syria but, then, Syria is a rolling clusterfuck inside a goatscrew wrapped around twelve monkeys fucking a football.

So unless and until there a local strongman is built or arises - obviously, stronger than the Assads or the Shia congeries in Baghdad currently unable to do the butchery needed - willing and able to employ that level of genocidal violence against the Islamic State it, and those organizations like it such as Boko Haram and the jihadis in Libya, or Yemen, or Afghanistan, will continue to survive and fight and - every so often - send out some of their ruthless fighters to hurt us in the West as best they can.

And they will.

And some of us will die.

And there really isn't much we can do other than accept that as the price of our civilization, and go on.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


As one might expect, today's news is full of the attacks on Paris claimed by the Islamic State.

As one might also expect, the commentary on this news is largely colored by the same sort of hyperbole that always surrounds these sorts of atrocities. This, in one sense, is unsurprising. The notion of one person setting out to slaughter another that has done him, or her, no personal injury or insult, to murder in cold blood whoever they encounter regardless of age, sex, or competence for some imagined slight or grievance is a truly horrific one, the sort of notion that compels most of us to peer perhaps more deeply into the abyss than we would prefer.

So while I am unsurprised by the outrage, horror, and anger of both the reporting and the punditry - because these murders are, indeed, outrageous, horrible, and infuriating - I am less than impressed at the associated pervasiveness of a sort of aggrieved victimization on the part of reporters and pundits, the loudly articulated sense that these atrocities are some sort of unprecedented, unsurpassingly awful injustice visited on utter innocents like lightning from a clear sky.

This is often accompanied by the specific accusation that the ideology that drove the killers is an uncontextual and uniquely evil force.

The combination of this outraged innocence and angry accusation irks me for several reasons.

First, because it is at best, louche', and at worst, criminally ignorant, to be living in a society whose rulers are wont to proclaim often, loudly, and fiercely, that they are engaged in a "war against terror" and to act surprised and outraged when terror makes war on you.

Wars are like that; you kill them, they kill you. Not nice, perhaps, but also something that should come as neither surprise nor outrage. "Unconventional" wars, guerrilla wars, the "war of the flea" is even less nice, and as such this should have been expected even as it was horrible.

Second, because the context for these attacks is obvious. The West is engaged in warring with this Islamic State. This "state" has neither aircraft nor warships. It cannot, then, as do civilized people, bomb helpless men, innocent women and little children from aloft or crater their towns and cities with missiles from afar. It has little in the way of artillery or armor; it cannot materially harm the armed forces of its enemies. It must, in its conduct of this "war on terror", use, well, terror. This, too, may be horrible but should be neither surprising nor outrageous.

Vile? Perhaps. Vicious, certainly. But to act as though this was some sort of uniquely awful, unforeseen horror is neither intelligent nor useful. To misinterpret your enemy's motives and misprise his tactics is to go a long way to miscalculate your most effective response.

Third, because in a popular form of government the result of sending the public the message that they have been the object of an unprovoked, particularly savage, attack is to produce a public response dominated by insensate rage and mindless hatred, the sort of hatred that fails to draw a line between the enemy and those who look like the enemy, between an aggressive defense and furious, hyperkinetic, self-defeating aggression.

Let me say honestly; I am not a kindly man. I am not, in general, a sentimental man. I have no more than a mild sympathy for the dead of Paris (I did not know them, I have no special care for them) and no more than a dispassionate enmity for their killers.

To me the killers of Daesh are, and in my opinion should be, nothing more than a problem to solve, a danger to negate, like a live electrical cable or a rabid dog. They should be disposed of if possible, isolated and avoided if not.

But my lack of emotion does not vitiate the lesson of 9/11 - if there is one other than "The stupid fucker Richard Cheney and his coterie should really be wearing orange jumpsuits" - is that taking geopolitical actions based on whipping up insensate rage and mindless hatred in the public is a very stupid, very self-destructive thing.

What is needed, instead, is the cold realization that these horrors are the calculated cost of what we, the West, have chosen; to fight a "war on terror" that largely consists of paying others to bomb, shoot, and kill people in places far away while living in a society whose openness allows those people to bring their bombs and bullets in among us to kill us.

There is no "solution" to the Daesh problem in France, or in the United States without changing both without measure. For the West to keep Daesh out would mean changing its societies, closing its openness, in ways that will never be undone.

There is also no "solution" to the Daesh problem by importing our bayonets into their lands. For the West to try and impose that solution to Daesh on the Middle East would mean choosing only between fighting an endless colonial war and genocide. Our sons and grandsons would rule theirs with bayonet and boot, or we would have to slaughter them without mercy, make a desert in a desert and call it peace.

It is that simple. This, or that. One, or the other. There are no other ways.

Treating the Paris attacks as some unutterable, unforeseeable, unequaled atrocity does nothing but obscure that and make a rational way forward more difficult.

We need to step back and see this for what it is; a lost "battle" in a war we - our "leaders", at least - have chosen to fight. Then we, or they, can choose whether to go forward with this "war", whether to look deeply at our "tactics" or our "strategies" to see if either or both are productive, or whether we need to think outside the paradigm of "war" we have allowed ourselves.

But we cannot do that if we let ourselves be blinded by grief, sorrow, rage, or grievance.

Before the Great Terror of 1914-1918 the French were the Daesh of Europe; the invaders, the killers, the butchers, the New Huns. But when one of the bloodiest murderers of that bloodthirsty band sat down to write his maxims of efficient bloodletting he said this of the sort of way one should go about the science and art of slaughter:
"The first qualification in a general-in-chief is a cool head -- that is, a head which receives just impressions, and estimates things and objects at their real value. He must not allow himself to be elated by good news, or depressed by bad.
The impressions he receives either successively or simultaneously in the course of the day should be so classed as to take up only the exact place in his mind which they deserve to occupy; since it is upon a just comparison and consideration of the weight due to different impressions that the power of reasoning and of right judgment depends.
Some men are so physically and morally constituted as to see everything through a highly colored medium. They raise up a picture in the mind on every slight occasion, and give to every trivial occurrence a dramatic interest. But whatever knowledge, or talent, or courage, or other good qualities such men may possess, Nature has not formed them for the command of armies, or the direction of great military operations."
I see no reason to think that this maxim has been washed away by yesterday's blood on the pave' of Paris.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

An Early Holiday Haiku

Burnt bean in red cup;
You taste of atheist scorn

And the bile of Trump.

Honestly. You goddamn people need to get out more. Or get a hobby. Or something.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Call of Duty: Modern Boredfare

The latest bizarre little sticky-note from the WTF-desk of the Department of Defense was the wholly-unsurprising information that the DoD (or several of its civilian contractors) were paying for various professional sports leagues to give the armed forces a little shout-out. James Fallows has a short summary of the NFL end of the arrangement.
I've become accustomed to the constant tongue-bath the pro sports leagues give the armed services to the point of pretty much tuning the business out. But when my nose is pushed in it it still irks me. No, there is no connection between getting paid to play a kid's game and getting paid to kill people and break shit, and to pretend otherwise is fairly skanky at best and truly loathsome at worst.

That said, I can't find anything near as ridiculous in this whole sports-leagues-military-lovefest as the way the business of killing people and breaking shit looks like in videogames, something I'm very familiar with because I have a 12-year-old son who lives for them.
They're...well, you know what they're like. "Hyperkinetic" doesn't begin to describe them. My most vivid image is The Boy literally bouncing up and down as he works his controller trying to blast the "enemy" pixels while not becoming a mass of "dead" pixels himself. The action so constant and frantic as to be almost a parody of actual armed combat which IS often pretty goddamn frantic (and frightening, exhausting, and often confusing as fuck, but obviously that's hard to convey in a videogame).
(Mind you, back in the day I had the luxury of "combat" - at least the simulated combat that was as close as I came or wanted to come - from several thousand meters away, seeing that artillery's whole purpose is to lend a little tone to what would otherwise be a sordid and vulgar brawl. And, yes, you've seen that Finley cartoon here before; I love the guy's goofy take on the various branches and apparently you can still get your hands on them here. Nice!)
Here's the thing, though.

What irks me more than anything about all this, both the silly purchased patriotism of the sports leagues as well as the hyperactive mayhem of the videogames is that neither one comes anywhere close to the single most distinctive thing about soldiering:


Soldiers, from hoplites to helicopter crews, spend an amazingly huge amount of time doing absolutely, utterly, brain-warpingly nothing. Not a fucking thing except sitting (or standing, or lying) around waiting. Or performing incredibly, mind-numbingly repetitive tasks that would be reviled as insultingly simple-minded by a hamster.

There's a reason that GIs play cards a lot and especially quick games like tonk a lot. Because cards are supremely portable and you can knock out a bunch of rounds of tonk in ten minutes, or play a marathon over a couple of hours. And you can be damn sure that you're going to HAVE those minutes or hours (or days, or weeks) doing fuck-all but wait and play cards.
If I had trouble with my guys, back in the day, it wasn't because of too much excitement or adventure, it was because they were bored out of their skulls and found ways to entertain themselves that weren't exactly what their (and my) chain of command felt were...appropriate (and yes, I'm looking at you, Blackie. NOT cool, man. Not cool.)

So if I were to write code for a first-person military videogame the objective would be for the player to find ways to entertain himself whilst hanging around the motor pool - but not get nailed doing it by the motor sergeant (or, worse, the First Sergeant for some epically awful detail).

I dunno how well it would sell. But it sure as hell would make me happy. Yep, boys and girls; it's ain't flags and cheerleaders and cool camouflage uniforms. That's how it is. That's how we roll. THAT's how it really plays.

Friday night at the Ramada

Appears to be some sort of party night; the hallways are pounding with running feet and shouting kids. I have no idea what the hell of going on but it sure as dammit is noisy.

Meanwhile I've finished my daily work writeup and have an off day tomorrow - rain is forecast for tonight and the excavator doesn't want to slop around in the muck - so I need to find some time to kill, and blogging is as good a time-suck as any.

I don't recall where I found this; researching the Philippine Sea, I suspect.

It must have been a hell of a hot day over Rabaul, and the flak must have been light. Either that or our man was bolder than I would have been. I'd have strapped a steel pot over my crotch, at the very least. War's all very manly, but let's not let it incapacitate you for the manliest sport of all...

The other funny thing that this skyclad air gunner makes me think of is that it seems like an unbreakable rule of military service that the more chickenshit the conflict the more, well, chickenshit there is. I'm not sure whether that term has survived the twenty years since I first heard it, but "chickenshit", in Army terms, meant petty harassment over uniforms and appearance.

Look at the photos of GIs in Iraq or Afghanistan or, well, pretty much anywhere the U.S. Army has deployed in the past fifteen years. Everybody STRACed down tight; chinstraps fastened, Oakleys on, flak vests strapped up.

Then go back and look at the pictures from damn near any Army or Marine unit anywhere in in the world between about 1943 and 1945. Half the time those guys look like hobos who have hit the Army-Navy Store on jumble sale day; blouses un-bloused, helmets or those weird knitted "jeep caps" or just bare-headed, every variation of "uniform" you can think of and some you probably couldn't if you sat down all day with both hands.

I'm not sure how much of this was just the effects of having a gajillion guys in uniform and the near-impossibility of trying to make them all look the same (tho God knows Georgie Patton tried) or whether it had more to do with having more important things to worry about - like getting their asses whipped by truly dangerous enemies - than looking pretty.

I think I found this on one of my friends' Facebook feeds while I was dorking around on the Internet - an occupational hazard of being far from home with nothing else to do. No ulterior motive other than pure enjoyment.
One of the fun things about having older kids other than not having to wipe asses is that they start interacting with you as people rather than just as a sort of parasitical life form that relies on your for food, shelter, and emotional nurture.

My daughter, for example, has developed a truly adorable talent for drawing - which is NOT my doing, by the way; she started sketching well before seeing any of my stuff - and now surprises me with her little cards and cartoons when I go away. She tucks them into my bag, usually early in the morning when she gets up. Here's one from her latest going-away card:

In case the word-balloons are a little difficult to read, the gist is that our two cats are arguing - not an unusual situation - about who is which point some sort of TV moderator-cat shows up and announces that they are in a cuteness contest, which both Drachma and Nitty ignore. I'm not sure which is better, her cat-characters themselves or the whole comic set-up. Either way, she's a clever little Missy, that little Missy.

Saw my first Carson bumper sticker today which just served to remind me of 1) what a remarkable liar that man is, and 2) what an amazingly stupid creature the average American voter is. I mean, c'mon! If you haven't scraped off that damn sticker after the mad doctor has denied evolution, claimed the pyramids were grain silos, stated that he was offered a "scholarship" to West Point (hint; there ain't no such thing), and shown that his understanding of the U.S. fiscal system is about on the level as a milk-cow's understanding of the Nicene Creed you're a goddamn moron and should be trusted with a vote like a Capuchin monkey should be trusted with a live grenade.

Speaking of odd things...

...I have NO idea what this is or why it is. Some sort of 1950's weightlessness test with a cat for a subject? Wing-wiper humor? I got nothin'...but it's a great image.

Another great, if odd, image:

June Haver - born June Stovenour of Rock Island, Illinois - the "Pocket Grable" some time in the Forties. I'm not sure what the hoops for the hoopskirt are all about, but presumably a publicity snap for some sort of costume picture. Very pretty woman, but her story is more interesting than her looks. She seems to have had a very pallid interest in filmmaking, and she when she married Fred MacMurray (yeah, the "My Three Sons" dad guy...) she dropped out altogether.

The MacMurray-Haver menage sounds fascinating. MacMurray was a real red-meat Republican of the Taft variety and both financially brilliant and a guy who sounds kind of neurotic neat-freak and skinflint; June says that "When I married Fred, he was terribly set in his ways. He was a fuss-budget. He hadn't quite progressed to being a lint picker, but he was already an ash-tray emptier, and that's just about as set in his ways as a man can get." Supposedly one of the keys to his wealth was that he never spent anything he didn't have to. The cast and crew of his pictures commented that not only did he typically brown-bag his lunches but that in the spring they would typically contain a colored Easter egg weeks or months after the holiday rather than waste the technicolor henfruit.

Mind you, June's other career option was to become a nun - she was a devout Roman Catholic and had her share of romantic tragedies - and tho she did take vows she left after a couple of months, so maybe MacMurray was easier to get along with than her Heavenly Bridegroom. Maybe. She is said to have made the comment that she had asked her adopted daughters not to write a Mommy Dearest about her, but that “I told them if they wanted to write about their dad, that was OK.”

I'm still going to have to figure out how to kill the day tomorrow between sleeping-in and the Timbers semifinal match tonight. Which reminds me...

There's another Timbers fan - a fella by the name of Diskin - who domes some wonderfully creative things with standard or stock images or old posters to make, well, Timbers Propaganda. Here's an example:

I have no idea where the heck the guy finds the time or the creativity to do this, and it covers everything from workups of old magazine ads, Soviet propaganda posters, commercial images, original work...Diskin's work is a never-failing entertainment for a Timbers fan. I'm linked to his FB page, so I come across whatever his latest effort is when he posts it.

So it was today that I came across this:

The "shake the gates of hell" thing is a Timbers Army song, and Shakes the Skunk there is, well, shaking the gates of hell. This is with the playoff match coming up tonight so, well, because.

But that's not what the entertaining thing was. To me, anyway.

Nope, the fun bit was the original image that Diskin used to adapt this, which is the Distinguishing Unit Insignia (and, yes, it's called a "DUI") for the Oregon State Army Guard Headquarters; HQ STARC.

The original has a beaver (no, duh?) instead of the skunk and the Army reds and golds rather than Timbers greens:

Which, in turn, reminded me of my time assigned to STARC, my last Guard unit and the one I retired out of.

Not that I was actually assigned to STARC proper, that is, the head shed under the flagpole. I was one of the satellite detachments, of which there were a shit-ton. STARC in my time was ginormous, probably something between 300 and 500 bodies altogether, easily larger than any one of the infantry battalions (that were chronically understrength, and moreso after several extended deployments to the Middle East). Apparently this is a common ARNG thing; state headquarters tend to be a repository of warm bodies and not just any warm bodies, either; they are usually pretty senior people in both the officer and noncommissioned officer ranks. The maneuver units might go hungry for bodies, but STARC never starves.

I'm not sure what the situation is now...except that I know that the umbrella Oregon maneuver unit, the 41st Infantry Brigade, is no longer a true brigade; it has been reduced to two infantry battalions and has lost one of the artillery batteries - my old Charlie Battery - from the FA battalion. Whether this is a top-down sort of reorganization, or a recognition that most of the old "traditional" one-weekend-a-month Guardsmen have been driven out by deployments and that there is no way to fully man a three-battalion brigade, I have no idea.

And speaking of the FA battalion, here is the unit crest for that outfit:

I still have the DUIs from that outfit, but I was never able to look at the crest without observing that even though I know that the critter on the top is supposed to be a beaver (the sunset and the beaver are from the old 41st Division/41st Brigade crest) it always looks like a goddamn prairie dog or a gopher to me.

I mean, look at it! No beaver was ever that lanky, they don't stand up like that, either, and that's the saddest little skinny beaver tail I've ever seen. It's a damn gopher, and we're not the damn "Gopher State". Puh-leeze.

So. I'm off to find some other source of entertainment...but you might end up hearing from me sooner than you'd think. It's pretty dull down here in Medford.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Butter domme

Just when you thought that there couldn't possibly anything stupider than believing that the pyramids were grain silos...

...or that magical Green Lantern powers will convince Mexico to build a border wall, there's this:
"Inside every single woman are hormones called copulins that are used to drug a man and control his mind. The vagina produces a thick fluid known as copulin that has actual mind control effects on a male’s brain. If a man is exposed to a woman’s copulins, over time she will be able to...change, remove, or insert memories in a man’s mind...(t)ell the male what he sees, hears, feels, smells, tastes....(i)nsert subconscious thoughts that will surface as “his own ideas” or behavior later, and...(p)lant trigger words or actions that can cause thoughts, actions, or sensations in the male at later dates (days, weeks, even months)."
How about that, hunh? Who knew?

Our intrepid investigator has even tracked down the tell-tale aroma of this horrible va-jay-jay vitriol:
"[S]imply by being around women they are releasing these hormones into the air. Apparently they smell like butter which is the smell I notice when I’m in any place where I notice girls walking around in their mid to late teenage years. I’m guessing those are the years when they they release the most of these hormones when they are approaching peak fertility."
Mmm. Butter. Who doesn't love butter?

Mind you, the whole "mid- to late teenage girls smell like buttery mind control juices" thing is, well...extremely squicky. But sometimes extremes must be pushed in the need of Science! Thank the Patriarchal Lord that brave men like this fellow have exposed this frightful puff-puff potion and opened our timid male eyes (and, umm, whatever...) to this threat to our Male Sovereignty.

Although some of us may feel a trifle differently.

I, for one, welcome our buttery-flavored overladies.

(h/t to bspencer over at LG&M...)

Wednesday, November 04, 2015


Awake, empty-handed, in the darkness with the sound of rain
rattling inside the cheap metal gutters like muffled drum-fire.

The warm, soft smell of your hair pressed close still rich
in the sharp empty chill of the rented room.

The sough of the distant highway your night-breathing
rising and falling, deep and slow and far away.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

I don't get it

I'm still working down in southern Oregon, living out of a hotel - this time the less-swanky Ramada up the street from the nice Hampton Inn where I spent the first two weeks and where as I type this on the other side of the gimcrack-cheap paper thin hotel walls someone's infant is screaming as though it is being vigorously lashed with a length of coaxial cable - and pretty much just waking up, going to work, coming back to the hotel, eating, reading (or watching some television) and going to sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat. It's about as much fun and exciting as you'd think.

Plus we're back on standard time, so darkness falls in fucking mid-afternoon and there's no daylight left after work hours to even go exploring the southern Oregon scenery. And that's about as much fun as you'd think, too.

The one thing that's hard to avoid here in Oregon's Dixie is the politics. This isn't the blue part of Oregon. This isn't even the relatively purpleishly-liberal outpost of Eugene and the University of Oregon. This is hard Red Oregon, home of the Dope-smoking Rednecks. This is Trump territory, or, at best, in fealty to the Paul clan. God, guns, and taxation - even WITH representation - as the ultimate Evil.

It's in places like this that I really despair for my country.

Because you look around here, and then look at the Red talking heads on the electronical teevee and you wonder...what the fuck would make me want what these people are telling me to want, if I was one of the people here in Medford?

I mean, the bog-standard GOP talking points are exactly what "conservatives" wanted a century ago. Low taxes on their wealth. The freedom to do, well, whatever they damn well pleased. Dump their chemicals in the rivers and their shit into the air and fuck the upstairs maid when they got to feeling frisky. Keep the nigras on the plantation and the women on their backs. Work the hunkies and the polacks and the other white trash for chump change, kill them if it made a buck of extra profit, and throw them on the trash heap when they weren't good for ten minutes work anymore. Back then it was called the Gilded Age and for everyone but the Carnegies and the Mellons it was like an electric fan; if you looked at it one way it sucked, but if you looked at it the other way, it blew.

I mean, in the Reagan and early Bush years the GOP grifters used to at least try and pretend this stuff was something else. Freedom or prosperity or, well, whatever would convince the public marks to vote for them. But now they aren't even trying. Have you heard Trump? Christ, that idiot couldn't have won a junior high school class election with his nonsense forty years ago. Tax cuts for the Kochs and Medicare for white people and wars for the towelheads and a balanced budget? It's enough to make a cat laugh and yet these freaking southern Oregon C.H.U.D.s are out there lapping it up and baying for more. It''d be ridiculous if it wasn't so tragic.

I think that some of these people - Trump, for sure, and I suspect guys like Bush and Rubio and that loathsome harpy Fiorina - are just flat-out grifters. They know that the snake oil they're peddling is nothing but wood alcohol and turpentine, and that it's poison for the rubes. They're grifting because they'll profit from the grift, and they need the rubes to buy it, and don't care that their toxins will poison the rubes by stealing their jobs, blighting their lives, and crushing them under debt and imprisonment and unemployment and hopelessness.

But some of these people can't be grifters. Some of them must truly believe this stuff. Carson, maybe. Cruz? The Pauls?'s such a grossly fucking obvious grift. It's not like we haven't seen the America it will reduce us to; an America where people die in dangerous jobs and their orphans starve, an America where the rich do what they can and the poor suffer what they must, an America of filthy toxic slums huddling below shining mansions, an America where if you aren't born to the purple your life is nasty, brutish, and short.

It was that America that the reformers, the muckrakers, the socialists, the labor unions, the New Dealers beat back into its gated communities and boardrooms and forced to give up its oligarchy, creating the Middle Class America of the Fifties and Sixties, the America I grew up in. That America isn't what these Republican policies will produce.

That America is the America these Republican policies, from the "right-to-work" to the end of Social Security to the fight against minimum wages and workplace safety and health regulations and progressive taxes, will destroy and replace with the old, dark, dirty, oligarchic America, the America of the Gilded Age.

How can these people, the ones not in on the grift, how can they not see that? How can they want that, that Gilded Age America, back?

I honestly have no idea, and the rank, feral stupidity of that wanting just makes me violently ill.