Friday, April 07, 2017

Another opening, another show!

I've got a longer post up about this at the MilPub, but I couldn't help laughing at the latest in Little Theater at Camp Runamuck; the Great Syrian Air War!
Because the Thursday cruise missile strike on the Syrian government airbase at Shayrat is such an utterly perfect summation of the U.S. "foreign policy" in the Middle East as to be a tiny little exploding jewel-box-like portrait of foreign policy derp that it just makes me want to walk around smiling all day in that grim, sickly, "isn't that fucking special" kind of smiley way.

Militarily useless? Check. Because, although he may be a grifter with the soul of a can of Chef Boy-ar-dee Spaghetti and Meatballs, the Tangerine Toddler isn't clinically insane his administration is reported to have warned the Russian government prior to the strike to ensure that we didn't send any random wingwipers of the Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily Rossii home in a box. The Russians, unsuprisingly, passed the warning on to their Syrian clients. So it's extremely likely that what the strike did was flatten some empty hangars and scatter bits of the buildings across the runways.

Tomahawks, so far as I know, are not equipped with delay-fused runway cratering warheads, so this couldn't have acted as an airfield-denial strike.

In fact, I'm hearing reports that the Syrian Arab Air Force operated out of Shayrat today. You'd think that Assad would have at least pretended to limp around a little after getting up to make it looked like Trumpwar had given him an owie, to help out his pals Pootie and Trumpie, but nooooooo. What a buddyfucker.

Geopolitically worthless? Check. Even supposing that this DID attrit the Assad government's ability to fight the civil war. Late on Thursday both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster made it clear that these strikes wouldn't have any major effect on the actual political situation in Syria.

And, of course - as we should have learned in Libya, the enemy of our enemy isn't just not our friend but is probably a bughouse crawling with vicious factional hatred and political dysfunction. A handful of damaged Flankers won't make the Syrian rebels any less rabid, the Islamic State any less gonzo, or the hatred between the first two and the Kurds any less toxic. The vicious civil war will roll on.

A fat paycheck for our defense contractors? Check. At about $1.5m a shot 59 Tomahawks set the Navy back about 88 million bucks. This, of course, isn't an actual loss-leader but a promissary note to Raytheon-McDonnell-Douglas for 59 new units.

Just a fiscal note: the 2017 budget request for the National Endowment for the Arts was about $149 million. It's kind of nifty that although the current Administration has publicly stated that it intends to zero out that budget that it's willing to throw down about 60% of the expense for an equally useless piece of political theater.

A big happy piece of domestic dick-waving? Check, and double check! The real value of this stunt appears to be that it has convinced the media outlets that His Fraudulency is "presidential", since nothing says "Chief Executive" like blowing dusky savages up, and has excited the sorts of voters whose fourth-grade "understanding" of the Syrian Civil War is limited to imagining the place as some sort of dytopian Agrabah populated by various species of "headchoppers".

What's really sad is how little this nonsense depends on the juvenile personality of the current President. From Obama's droney pursuit of Afridis where they run to Dubya's Mess-o-potamia to Clinton's Operation Desert Fox to what seems like every administration back to Eisenhower defenstrating Mossadegh and storming ashore in Lebanon...it just seems like this crap is what the U.S. does, and particularly in the Middle East.

If I thought that the Orange Napoleon had some sort of "strategy" in mind...yeah, I know. Who are we kidding?

The real bottom line, though, is that there really IS no "strategy" short of Full Roman that would "work" in Syria, even if His Fraudulency's crew could find one without both hands and a flashlight. Assad with sarin is only a degree more loathsome than Assad without sarin. The rebels are largely takfiri bugnuts. They all hate each other and the vicious civil war has poisoned whatever well of goodwill existed before the kiling began.

In other words, there's less chance of a random one-off bombing raid on Syrian government forces helping lead to a stable, peaceful, non-dictatorial Syria than I have of being elected Dragon King of Bhutan, and we've already been over the likelihood of that before.

WASF.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Half FOX and half free

I follow a blog called Stonekettle Station. It's written by a crusty old squid by the name of Jim Wright, and I enjoy his curmudgeonly and iconoclastic take on most things.

But since the election of the Tangerine Toddler Jim has been banging this drum about "compromise".

What compromise? Well...his premise is that there is this critical mass of "good people" out there who have been fooled (or stampeded, or sidled) into voting Republican because they have fears, and the Left just pooh-poohs their fears. So they go out and vote for the Republican who may (or may not) do "something" to change what it is they fear but as often as not simply uses their fear-vote to advance the GOP agenda of more Gilded Age.

The trick, see, is that:
"It seems Democrats have a historic opportunity, a moment when moderate conservatives could be given a choice other than dogmatic partisanship, if the left can pull together, can reach out, can compromise, and can but convince them that their guns and their bibles will be safe. If Democrats can address those fears up above in an honest manner and put them firmly to rest, then now, this moment right here, is an opportunity to prove that the alternative is better."
And y'know what?

I completely agree.

I don't want to take anyone's kid and convince him that his or her faith is a bunch of Bronze Age claptrap. I think it is, but, hell, I also think that french fries are good with mayonnaise.

I don't want to take anyone's Mossberg. Their AR-15? Yeah, maybe. But "their guns", as in ALL the guns? Christ, I'd be a lunatic to think it could even be done; We the People have chosen to offer up a blood sacrifice to the God of Weaponry rather than to disarm and I just have to suck that up.

But...here's where I think Jim hits the wall. He says that"
You find the people, whatever their politics, who believe civilization is better than the alternative."
Which is a great idea, a terrific idea.

Just one little problem...what if the people you're trying to compromise with would rather wreck the joint rather than accept a "civilization" that's not on their terms?

There was this guy. Kind of a liberalish dude, really a mainstream corporate-capitalist sort of politician but in the liberal tradition that believes that governing is to "get things done" for the majority of the citizens. Sorta wonky. Hawaiian dude, funny name, can't quite remember it. But he was president back in the day. Remember him?

Remember how he tried to "compromise" with these people? Offered them all sorts of private profits, all sorts of corporate goodies, tried to defer to their "sensibilities" about things like religion and sex and gender and all that guff?
And remember how they "compromised" with him?

Yeah. Me, too.

Tell me, Jim; how the flippin' fuck do you "compromise" with people - and I'm talking your bog-standard Republicans, your soccer moms and Home Depot dads, not the shoutycrackers and the Stormfront bros - who think and thought that Barak Obama was a Kenyan commie out to destroy their freedoms? Who thought that living through eight years of having to press "1" for English and not being able to use the word "faggot" at PTA meetings was sheer tyrannical hell?

I'm serious. This is getting ridiculous. Jim keeps on and on about "compromise" as if the Left hasn't. Even. Tried. While that's about all the left HAS done. Given ground on abortion. Given ground on equal rights. Given ground on health care. Given ground on "terrorism".

Sweet Christ, these wingnuts have gotten damn near everything they've whined about...but did that motivate them to moderate their insistence that the queers hide back in the closet and stop getting all "married" and the blacks stop getting pissed off about being shot by cops and the wogs be fine with getting carpet-bombed and tortured and the uppity wimmen shut up and lie there and plutocrats get the tax cuts they need to better buy and sell government?

Ummm...no.

And much as I hate to be a "die, die!" libtard (Jim had a post talking about the war of extermination with the aliens in Independence Day and how that's where we're going if we can't compromise...), but equal justice and equitable democracy and other details like clean air and water aren't really negotiable.

They're starting points; from there I'm fine with arguing the details of potty time with people who are terrified that they will be assaulted in the ladies' can by a Cambodian ladyman in a Balenciaga cocktail frock.

Here's what I think.

I think Jim's got the fundamental relationship wrong. It's the fundies and wingnuts that are doing the "die, die!" thing here. They're fine with destroying the U.S. of the New Deal if they can't get white supremacy and plutocracy and corporate oligarchy. They'd rather fight liberalism to the death than compromise with it; their insane furor over the ACA and the other ridiculously moderate liberal institutions of 2017 America - their "fears", as you label them - pretty much gives them away. To them we're "babykillers" and "dhimmicrats" and "libtards".

They don't want to compromise with us. They want to destroy us. Those aren't MY words, they're theirs.

So sorry to spoil the fun. But I think Jim - and my other lefty friends and pundits who keep going on about how we just have to understand and reach out to the poor frightened rubes who went all-in for Trump - are preaching to the wrong choir.

I agree; the nation cannot long survive half FOX and half free; it must become all one or all the other. But I see no reason why those of us who object to becoming serfs to our corporate overlords need to give anything more to the ridiculous fears of Scary Brown People and fifteen bucks an hour and solar power and gay wedding cakes.

Instead, I think all y'all guys need to tell the Right all this "compromise" stuff.
I'll be here with the popcorn to see just how far you get with that shit.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Nuke 'em 'til they glow and then wander around in the dark: TMI 1979

In the spring of 1979 I was pretty much what most 22-year-old guys are; clueless yet unabashed, barbarous in an oversocialized, post-industrial sort of fashion. I was also attending a small private college in south-central Pennsylvania. Like many of my peers I was concerned with my social life more than learning, with getting laid more than getting educated. In short, I was what a young nomad would have been had he been de-loused and shoved into Topsiders and a polo shirt and told to stop riding across other people's grazing lands.
What I was not was particularly aware of my surroundings. I paid as little attention to the world's business as I had just half a dozen years earlier when I was approaching draft age and the war in Southeast Asia was winding down...which says something about how gormless I was, given that I had not the slightest assurance that my government might want me to go to proof-test the Domino Theory with my body when I came to legal adulthood.

I was a dope. A fairly socialized, relatively educated dope, but a dope nonetheless.

So I can't say it was surprising that I hadn't the slightest idea on this day 38 years ago that as I was lazing about sleeping in my old bedroom in my parent's house on a Spring Break vacation Wednesday that about sixty miles to the northwest, at the Three Mile Island power station, reactor TMI-2 was melting down.

It was four in the fucking morning; who was getting up that early on a vacation weekday..?

Here's the sad, funny part of this story, though.

You can read the accounts of "Three Mile Island" to get the history; it's a bit beyond this post, which is just a personal momento nuki. The accident was more frightening than actually dangerous but it was frightening, and a fairly broad swath of central Pennsylvania (and, I think, even a bit of north-central Maryland) was warned that a deadly radioactive cloud might descend at any time in the manner of one of those Fifties mutant-monster films. The governor of Pennsylvania issued some sort of evacuation order which was widely ignored, and the public response was entirely determined by individual threshold levels of nuclear panic.

Young Chief, being, as noted above, a clueless git, had no panic because he had no clue. Literally; I didn't turn on the news or bother to read the newspaper. I had no idea what the fresh hell was going on along the banks of the Susquehanna River. Armored in that impervious ignorance I bagged up my clean laundry and shoved it in my father's secondhand Ford Pinto station wagon (all I could afford as college transportation and quite the babe-magnet it was, I tell you. Ugh.) that Friday. I had a couple of exams early in the next week, and my plan was to return to the dorm to get a weekend of studying in away from the fleshpots of Kennett Square, PA.

I won't pretend that my college, even in the coke-and-disco-fueled Seventies, was the sort of girls-gone-wild party school of college films so I wasn't really surprised that the campus was dark and quiet on an end-of-break Friday night. What was surprising, however, was that the outside door of my dorm was locked.

The exterior doors of dorms were never locked. They just weren't. Not only was it some sort of fire code rule there were always at least a handful of people who needed to go in and out. I recall yanking on the door handle in a sort of irritated disbelief. The fuck..? Who the hell locks a damn dorm door? Must be some sort of prank; the north side door will be open.

Except it wasn't. And on the walk around the outside I began to wonder. My school was pretty dead socially, but...not this dead. West of my dorm was the broad open space hemmed with classroom buildings, underclass dorms, and the student union. Even on the deadest of dead evenings there should have been someone walking across the oval; a couple going to the U, random library-seekers. Someone.

Not that evening.

I don't recall exactly what tuition was running in those days. Certainly much less than the current nearly-quarter-million it costs for four years there today. But for 1979 the costs were steep, so you'd think that after three years I'd have received enough of that expensive education to have figured out that something wasn't right. But you'd have underestimated the thickness of young Chief's skull. I ambled over to the union to find it dark and locked. The geology building? Locked. The freshman dorm across the oval? Yep; darkened and locked.

Finally I did what I should have done first; I wandered over to the campus cop shop. There, finally, was a light, and open door, and an extremely indifferent looking guy in a uniform.

"Ummm...where the heck is everybody?" I whined.

The law, in its impartial majesty, lowered his newspaper and looked at me with a perfect combination of boredom, amusement, and irritation.

"Not here. Campus is closed."

"Closed? What? Why?"


Irritation and boredom were replaced with mild disbelief.

"Because of the nuclear plant blowing up. You don't know about that?"

"Uh, no. What nuclear plant?"

"That one over by Harrisburg, on the river. Something happened, there's a warning, campus is closed until the warning is cancelled."

"The...what the hell? What am I supposed to do?"
Now Officer Friendly looked at me with a frown that matched his increasing contempt for my stupidity.

"Go the hell home, kid. Before your balls start to glow in the dark."

So I did. My parents were surprised, and immediately called my kid sister (going to school at another small private college some ways to the north and west of Three Mile Island) to ensure that she was not in immediate danger of nuclear irradiation. She wasn't.

Nobody was, as it turns out.
(As a technical aside, one of the things that has always amazed, irked, and amused me about my country's private nuclear power generation is the ridiculously pre-industrial fashion that U.S. commercial nuclear plants have been typically designed and built.

Military reactors, and most commercial nuclear plants in Europe as well as Japan (where the cost of and access to fossil fuels mean that nuclear power is a much larger part of the power grid), are typically made as part of a mass-produced, standardized series. Reactors and their controls are alike - or identical - in the same way that automobiles of a particular model are alike or identical. Construction is simplified, operations are predictable, and lessons learned from failures can be quickly standardized and disseminated through the production run.

Most U.S. commercial reactors are one-offs, designed and constructed individually (or, at best, very small series of two or three or modifications from an earlier design) for each plant. So Massachusetts' Connecticut Yankee plant's reactors are different from Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island that are different from Oregon's Trojan. Every new plant reinvents the nuclear wheel, making the opportunities for design or operating flaws much greater.

Ironically, TMI-2 was an 879 MWe pressurized water reactor designed and constructed by the firm of Babcock & Wilcox. This type of reactor had a failure identical to the 1979 accident two years earlier at the Davis-Besse plant in Ohio. The Ohio reactor was running at a very low level compared to TMI-2, so the core didn't melt down...but the valve failure wasn't recognized as a design flaw or the problem diagnosed and that diagnosis sent to the other plants operating this type of reactor.

So two years later I got to wander around in the dark wondering where the hell everybody had gone.

If there's a lesson here, I'm not sure what it is, other than "young men are stupid".

But recruiting sergeants have known that since Ramses' regimental sergeant-major bought the village plowboys their first jug of palm wine.

Perhaps it's "Contractors whose sole purpose is profit are stupid so long as it profits them to be."

Although I'll bet pharoah's sergeants could have told you that about contractors, too.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

¡Fuera de acá, abuela!

Frank Moraes makes a good point that draws me back to the Trumpkin War of Wetback's Ear currently now being waged against Scary Brown People that I talked about last month.

Frank's post itself is worth reading, but he makes a hell of a great point; one huge reason that the Immigration troopers just luuuurve this Trumpy open-season so much is that it makes their jobs ridiculously, like slam-dunk easy, because:
"...they don’t have to go looking. It’s also easy because they don’t have to worry that the person they are arresting is violent. Just imagine if 90 percent of the work you have to do in your job was lifted. You’d be very happy.

For the managers at ICE, this is fantastic. Now they can catch more people and get credit for doing a great job. They’ll hear, “Wow! You doubled the number of people you deported!” And they’ll think to themselves, “It was easy! I used to have go after violent criminals, but now I capture housewives and grandfathers.” There will be nowhere on the reports they file to indicate what percentage of the people they captured were “bad hombres.” A 55 year-old father of four with no criminal history is as good as a gang leader captured after shooting the graveyard clerk at the local 7-11."
My conclusion in the earlier piece was that this Mexican ratissage would do very little other than make some innocent people's lives pretty miserable. But Frank's conclusion is, now that I think about it, even more likely to come true and even less palatable when it does; that people will be harmed because fewer ICE resources will be used to try and catch MS13 gangsters when nabbing old granny from the corner bodega counts just as much.

AND...that when one of these MS-13 "bad hombres" does something predictably awful it will just provide the Tangerine Toddler and the Fraudulency Administration with more justification to kick granny back to Sinaloa.

It's the lickiest of self-licking ice cream cones.

Isn't THAT fucking dandy..?

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Fifteen

Well.

It's that day of the year again, isn't it, love?

That day where once, or twice, or a handful of times I stop and really think about you.

Not in the usual sort of passing way that has become your visits to me of late; the random idle wonder at the sight of a dark head in a gaggle of teenage girls, or the fleeting memory of a still small bundle of yellow flannel jammie.

But a dead stop remembering you as you were, and remembering me as you were to me.

Not the tiny day-old baby girl that was all that you would ever be. That was your mom, who carried you all those long and fretful months. But to me; the gangly girl you might have been, or the petulant and angry teenager I hoped you'd avoid becoming, or the compact dark young woman who would one day stand over my grave and remember me.

Instead I got to stand over yours, and now I am almost all there is; your mother and I and a handful of our friends, to remember you.

I'm sorry you never got the chance to grow up into all those dfferent people, darlin'. I miss those people and all the other people you might have been but never could be. I wish that I was going home tonight to find you pissed off and arguing with your sullen little brother and pushing aside your goody-goody little sister and shouting at you to lighten up and lay off your siblings, which says something pretty brutal about how much I miss the you I'll never get to know.

I do enjoy our little visits on this day, troubling as they are at times.

I wish you could stay for a while longer. But tomorrow you'll be gone. Again. As you were, and as you always will be, even though in your quiet and ephemeral way you'll be here as long as I am. That doesn't really count. Not next to the you that isn't here with me.

And, look; it's time to go already. Yes, I'll miss you. No, I'm sorry, you can't stay longer. Yes. I'll think of you again.

I always do.

Goodbye, love.

Goodbye.

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

¡Fuera de acá!

I hate to even admit this.

But.

I'm not TOTALLY hating on the totally-expected roundup-the-wetbacks directive from the new Administration.

Yeah, yeah, I'm a Trumpkin. I want to Make America Great Again. Ugh. I know.

Bear with me for a moment, though.

Now. Don't get me wrong. This thing will suck for millions of people whose crime is trying to get a piece of the American Dream for themselves and their families. I hate that on a purely personal, I-don't-like-to-make-things-suck-for-innocent-people level. As a person, I hate it.

As a citizen, as someone who thinks about politics and governing...well, let's start with this; to be a stateless person, a non-citizen, in a foreign nation is not a good thing.

It's not good for the person, who has no civil rights, who is outside the protection of the civil law, and who is, therefore, hideously vulnerable to all sorts of malefactors.

And it's not good for the nation, that has this indigestible mass of non-citizens within it prey to crime and violence, exploited by employers and living in fear of taking part in the civil life of the community.

So. The bottom line really is; if you are a citizen of Mexico, or Ireland, or Bali...you belong in Mexico, Ireland, or Bali unless you are a legal resident or visitor of where-ever-it-is-you-are; in this case, the United States.

In case you're interested, I wrote a loooooong post at this joint three years ago where I discussed what I see as the vast, almost insoluble complexity of this problem, which concluded with the following:
"The real issue - the one Which Dare Not Speak Its Name - is that the institutional poverty, misgovernance, and social maladjustment of most Latin American countries is so profound and so destructive that to address it would take every penny that the U.S. has spent on poorly planned foreign adventures and more. Much more.

So instead we get this idiotic argument that all we need to do is fence these little heatherns out and everything will be Good. God will once again be White and in His Heaven, the food will magically get harvested, processed, cooked and served by "Real Amurikans" (that is, legal citizens) who will suddenly, magically, want to work for the pittance we want to pay for these jobs to prevent our food, clothing and service costs from reflecting what it would cost to pay humans actually living wages to do these things."
But this post isn't about those things; it's about the Trump-promising-to-deport-the-beaners-and-going-ahead-and-doing-it.

As opposed to the ban-the-raghead rule, which really was poorly thought out and complete geopolitical foolery, the idea that the United States should police its borders and return those who have entered the country illegally to their homelands is not, on its face, as freakishly boneheaded as most Trump stuff.

But...

(...and you KNEW there'd be a but, here, right, because, well...Trump.)

Here's the problems I DO have with this.

First, I can see a gajillion ways that this is going to be a fucking total shitshow. American citizens will be grabbed up and deported by mistake. Sweeps will result in a seething mob of people shoved into FEMA trailers without any sort of organization or preparation. Screening will be a disaster. The optics - "jackbooted ICE agents handcuff adorable tiny Latino kiddies" - will make the Land of the Free look like the Land of the Assholes. People will get stranded in Mexico City airport with nowhere to go and no hope of relief.

I can see about a dozen ways this will be a smoking crater - it's Trump, for one thing, who seems to have a gift for employing people who couldn't run a child's birthday party - that will make the Iraq War look like VE Day.

Second, I can also see how this could turn into something far nastier and far worse, along the lines of the Japanese internment of 1942. There's always been a hell of a strong strain of race hate and xenophobia in America (as there is in about...well, pretty much everywhere humans live...) that could take this from a calmly conducted law enforcement process into a screaming ratissage against every person or group of people that every whacko wingnut hates and freaks out over (Hello? Alex Jones? Hello?).

And, finally, I think that, even if this isn't a dumpster fire, that the results will be at best underwhelming. The promised Day of Alien-Free Jubilee will turn out to be a quiet monotone of unpicked crops, uncleaned hotel rooms, unwiped asses, and uncooked meals.

The result of all this huge slug of spending - surely paid for by a tax hike, right? - will be, outside of personal hardship for those involved, a vast expanse of...very little.


What do you think?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Falling Timber, Green Shoots

I've been working out of town steadily for the past several weeks, so my home life has been reduced to weekends.

The only problem with that is that, when I get home...I don't want to just sit at home.

My Bride, dearly as I love her, doesn't have "get-out-of-the-house" sorts of interests. She likes to sew, and she is part of one of our local rowing clubs. She loves "binning", going to the infamous GoodWill Bins that I wrote about back on '09. And re-arranging the living room furniture.

My kids have videogames (for the Boy) and crafts, stories, and all sorts of creative fun (for the Girl).

But I like to get out a bit.

So this morning we loaded up the car with wife and kid and friends-of-kid and drove up into the Coast Range, into the Deep Woods, to the annual "Blessing of the Log", the ceremonial Choosing of the douglas-fir Pole that will serve the Timbers soccer club's lumberjack mascot as a tally for goalscoring and goalkeeping (when a Timber scores - or a Timbers keeper keeps a clean sheet - the lumberjack saws off a slice from the log, a tradition going back to the Seventies).

The day was cool and damp but not raining, and the roads were quiet all through the farmlands that cling to the west edge of the Tualatin Valley and up into the wooded hills of the Coast Range. Dark firs and bare maples dripped steadily as we passed through the Sunset Corridor, as the state calls Highway 26 that is named for the old 41st Division of WW2.

I have been this way many times and it has changed very little in the almost thirty years I have lived here. The clearcuts wander about, appearing suddenly where a stand of heavy timber was the winter before, then gradually blurring away as the new crop of future dimension lumber, plywood, and paper pulp grows over the bare hillsides rugged with stump and slashpiles.

An early stop for coffee and cocoa help quiet the drive out to the morning's meetingplace at Camp 18.

As I was writing this I looked back through the GFT archives and discovered to my surprise that I have never really talked much about this joint. It's...well, it's a fascinating mashup of genuinely worthwhile roadside attraction, good restaurant, and kitschy tourist trap.

The building itself is a treasure, a huge log cabin complete with enormous single-tree ridgepole and massive old-growth timber front doors. The huge stone hearths help take the chill off a winter's day, and the food is plentiful and savory. If there's anything my Girl appreciates it's a good tuck-in, and she and her pal Lulu got around the outside of a hell of a lot of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and the immense cinnamon rolls that the Camp is known for.

After the breakfast - and a visit to the gift shop and a stroll around the old logging equipment that serves as part of the museum to the old life in the Coast Range woods - it was time for the annual Blessing of the Log.
This event is the ceremonial start of the Timbers' soccer fan's season. A piece of a raw douglas-fir log donated by one of the local timber companies (this year it was Hampton Lumber of Willamina; thanks, guys!) is brought to Camp 18, where an assembled group of fans, and their friends, kids, and even their pets troop out into the chilly morning to offer up their hopes for the coming year. One of the song leaders - the capos - leads the group in the "blessing"...

"May your home be strong of beam,
Firm of wall and rafter,
Built with Timbers from a dream,
Girded well with laughter.
May your home have a winding stair
With a lovers landing,
Windows to let in fresh air
With the light of understanding.
May your home have a roof of faith
For every change of weather
And love upon your hearth
To warm your years forever."


...that concludes with a roar of "Go, Timbers!"

That was enough for my kiddos; they weren't prepared to stay longer and plant trees so full of lumberjack breakfast and companionship our group returned Bob the Subaru through the wooded hills and spitting rain back to Portland again; the kids to their busy-ness, my Bride to a nap, and I to a quiet afternoon, dreaming dreams of future glory.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Where have you gone, Mark Hatfield..?

Back in October I wrote a post about the Trump "wing" of the Republican Party. In it I said:
"I think that regardless of whether the media comes down hard on the Trumpeters after November that this hard core of Jacksonians will not dissipate, and the United States will be, in effect, dealing with the same situation that broke the nation in 1860; there will be a large, indigestible, irredentist minority that will never, NEVER accept the legitimacy of their opponents. No non-Jacksonian/Trumpeter will be allowed to govern. Obstruction will be the order, not just of the day but of the week, the year, the decade.

Eventually the American public will look for a “savior”, and a Man on Horseback seems all the more likely to be that "savior"."
At that time I, like many other Americans, simply assumed that, regardless of party affiliation, Trump himself was such an appallingly loathsome example of a human being that not even the loopiest wingnuts would be able to bring themselves to vote for him, and I was worried about more, and worse, of what we'd seen during the Clinton and Obama years.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Boy fuckin' howdy was that joke on us...

Since then the administration of His Fraudulency has shown us everything we knew about the Tangerine Toddler: his viciousness, his stupidity (or, at least, his lack of knowledge and information, which is almost as troubling), his insensate rage, his childlike impulsiveness, and his overall love of brutal authoritarianism. His cabinet and his inner circle is full of horrors, ranging from Christopathic Amway grifters to greedy robosigning banksters to open neo-Nazis. He is, so far as anyone can tell, either playing patty-cake or simply in the pocket of the Kremlin.

His initial flood of executive orders range from simple nonsense to brutal stupidity, and his frantic tweetstorms paint a picture of a man who would be unprepared to run a child's birthday party, let alone the most heavily-armed industrial republic on Earth.

And then there's this:


That's His Fraudulency's "approval rating" on February 6, 2017.

Yes, overall it looks ugly, but look at the Republican column.

Ninety percent positive.

Ninety percent.

Think about that for a moment.

So I posted a discussion of the Flynn Fiasco at my geopolitical blog MilPub and got immediate pushback on my assertion that the single biggest political crisis we're facing is a monolithic GOP all-in on Trumpism, which is to say fearmongering about Mexican rapists and Iraqi jahadis, whackadoodle conspiracy theories, and a mad intent to create a New Gilded Age.

Not so! the respondent cried. Both Side Do It! The Corrupt Duopoly! Two Sides of the Same Coin! Imperial presidency! Drone war! Washington Rules!

My rebuttal was while, yes, the corporate wing of the Democratic Party was part of the problem, the Our Revolution wing (i.e. the Sanders movement) was proof that the Left has a faction fighting against the sort of imperial presidency and money power that brought us Iraq and Citizens United and the surveillance state.

And DeVos, and Flynn, and moronic Muslim bans, and deporting Mexican teenagers.

But, I asked, where are our allies on the Right?

Where are the genuinely "principled conservatives" who also hate crony capitalism, imperial cabinet wars, unrestricted plutocracy, and the sort of idiocy we're seeing now from the Trumpeters?

Right now those of us on the outside are looking at these Trumpeters and seeing gibbering, hateful, ignorant loons. Neo-nazis and conspiracy theorists that make the Bushies look like MENSA. But when you look at the arc of the GOP this is the culmination of the project that starts with Goldwater; the Bircherization of the GOP. Proudly resistant to any ideas outside their dogma, dismissive of disagreements, rigid, angry, and vituperative...the perfect distillation of hate radio and Breitbart.

Almost half of the U.S. electorate want this, though. Or , at least, has been conditioned and shouted at and lied to to want it.

Almost half the nation is FOX News, and, as driftglass says, no nation can exist half-FOX and half-free; it must become all one or all the other.

Is there any hope left that the GOP can be anything else? It was once; my pop (and I, as a young man) were Rockefeller Republicans. But Reagan and Gingrich and Limbaugh and Palin...years and years of nonsense and lies and fakery and magical thinking...drove us both out.

I guess my fear is that there is no return.

So I'm asking; what sort of Republicans would that take? How could that happen? Are there any left out there? Is there a chance that the GOP can be more than hysterical fear of Muslims, gays, free health care, and gun control?

Because, frankly, if not...I don't see anything other way than deeper into this fucking Trumpenmire.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Yakla: Arabic for Dieppe? Normandy? Neither? Who knows?

It will surprise no one here that my general opinion of the not-even-a-month-old reign of His Fraudulency is a mixture of disgust and contempt; disgust for the greedy, mulcting brutality of the Grifter-in-Chief and contempt for an "adminstration" that is barely capable of incompetence, let alone anything approaching a grasp of the actual complexity and difficulty of running an immense industrial nation.

But...since this is supposed to be a blog about military affairs and geopolitics...let me concentrate on one specific issue involving one single episode in this farcical miniseries and what is says, not just about the Barely Sentient Administration but about the whole business we've been doing in the Middle East since 2001; the raid on the village of Yakla in Yemen.

And the issue is this: "winning"
Specifically, the new President seems to be furiously irked that anyone questions that this particular operation was a "win" for the Forces of Goodness and Peace (i.e., the United States, by definition the Good Guys, amirite..?)

"...a winning mission..." is the exact phrase that the Tangerine Toddler Twitterblurted out (attributing it to his SecDef, mind you).

Now.

AI have no idea what the actual objective(s) of this raid was or were, and, second, I have no idea whether that objective or objectives was or were achieved. And, indeed, if it was in intel-gathering operation we will probably NEVER know, and rightly so. Whatever intelligence was obtained will be hidden and used to guide future operations, as it should be.

If the intelligence desired was obtained, then, in the strictest sense even a raid that seems to have fallen apart tactically, cost over 100 million dollars as well as dozens of lives - innocent, friendly and enemy - and has provided cause for at least one of the "governments" of Yemen to first revoke and then to request a "review" of U.S. ground operations in their portion of that wretched land can be called a "success".

But..."winning"?

The entire farrago about this mission "winning" or "failing" just point out to me two problems.

First, and specific to this administration, that Five-Deferment Donnie has no more idea of how actual military operations, campaigns, and wars work than a fucking Jersey cow knows about the proceedings of the Council of Trent. The "winning" nonsense is that's just how a simpleminded derp thinks war works, and the orange Amway salesman has never been closer to combat than the concession line where American Sniper was playing, so that's just how he thinks.

But people like Mattis should know better, and tell him so. I suspect that he did, and that the joker didn't listen, or understand.

Second, and worse, generic to our nation and our foreign policy, that we're even debating about whether some piddly-ass little airmobile raid was a "win" or a "failure" points out the degree that ALL of us; the press, the public, the military and civil authorities in the United States have no real fucking clue what the fuck we are doing in the Middle East.

Because, quite simply, this Yakla raid is part of a much larger, much more complex...something. A "(Sort of) War on (Certain Kinds of People Who Use Certain Kinds of) Terror". A "clash of civilizations". A Great Power cabinet war gone out of control. A...well, I have no fucking idea, actually, and what pisses me off is that I'll bet you and Joe and Molly and Steve Fucking Bannon have no fucking idea, either.

The Yemen raid was something of a tactical mess. But, more importantly, we don't know what our actual goals are in Yemen and whether (or how much) this raid got us closer to them, or not.

In August of 1942 the Brits attacked the French Channel port of Dieppe. The raid was a fiasco, thousands of Allied troops were killed or captured, and the Nazi hierarchy exulted in their success. But the Allies learned a ton from Dieppe, so the next time they came ashore in France it opened the road all the way to the Elbe.

Is this raid Dieppe, or Normandy, or what?

We have no context. We can't possibly know.

And that's a huge problem. If you have no idea what your end-state is (or, worse, if your end-state is something utterly impossible, such as "the utter defeat of radical Islamic terrorism") then how the hell do you know when you've reached it. How do you know whether Operation Yemen Derp, or whatever, has gotten you closer, or further away, or sideways, or where the hell you are?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dopeslap

I can't really do better than Ben Wittes on the horrific clusterfuck that is His Fraudulency's executive order barring entrance to the United States of nationals (including resident aliens and persons with valid visas) from seven Muslim-majority nations.
"But in the rational pursuit of security objectives, you don’t marginalize your expert security agencies and fail to vet your ideas through a normal interagency process. You don’t target the wrong people in nutty ways when you’re rationally pursuing real security objectives.

When do you do these things? You do these things when you’re elevating the symbolic politics of bashing Islam over any actual security interest. You do them when you’ve made a deliberate decision to burden human lives to make a public point. In other words, this is not a document that will cause hardship and misery because of regrettable incidental impacts on people injured in the pursuit of a public good. It will cause hardship and misery for tens or hundreds of thousands of people because that is precisely what it is intended to do."
But I do want to stop for a moment and point out one specific point from this tissue of diaper gravy the Tangerine Toddler seems to have scraped out of his britches that pounds home the points that 1) this was not intended as a national security measure, and 2) if it was intended as a national security measure as such it is a complete, utter, moron-grade-stupid fail;

Iraq.

Why the fuck, if you had so much as a functioning hindbrain, would you put all Iraqi nationals on an "anti-Islamic-terrorism" no-entry list in 2017?

Iraq is, at the moment, at least notionally a fucking U.S. ally. The U.S. spends millions subsidizing the Iraqi government and military. Thousands of GIs are now, right now, at this very fucking minute, in the field alongside the Iraqi Ground Forces, fighting those very booga-booga Islamic bad guys the Islamic State.

A tenth of a second of real thought - which appears to be a tenth more than the Fraudulency Administration put into this goddamn thing - would reveal that any Iraqi national holding a U.S. visa, or a green card, or applying for refugee status, has about a 99.9% chance of being or doing so because he or she worked for the U.S. government. Translator, liason, contractor...the chances are fucking impossibly huge that anyone you'd catch in your cunning terrorist-catching net would be some former heroic translator who had spent years risking his ass alongside those troops you purport to support and love.

I could go on. Why the hell throw Iran into this pottage and leave off Pakistan and Saudi; chock-full of wahhabi madrassas cranking out fundamentalist kooks by the turbanful?

But screw that. It's Iraq on this idiot bucket list that tells me that this had nothing to do with actual security. It was just about Il Douche and his merry band of Trumpeters taking their Islamophobic dicks out for a bit of a wave.

I lived with asshole officers for twenty years. Interspersed with true combat gods a lot of these jokers lived to thrill themselves with their own importance, showed a ridiculous enthusiasm for getting their troops killed for Duty, Honor, Country, and whose shoulder insignia often looked to my lowly enlisted scum self a hell of a lot like chips.

I got used to the idea that I could get killed because somebody in command of me was an evil, callous, careerist assholic sonofabitch.

But stupid?

I always resented and still resent the idea that my life could be endangered because one of these fuckers was just too bone-stupid to walk and breathe simultaneously.

Maybe that's why I'm more irritated by this as an example of His Fraudulency's stupid incompetence rather than his evil racism, xenophobia, and authoritarianism.

I can hate Darth Cheney as an slimy immoral bastard and yet in a backhanded way respect and fear him as a true Evil Boss, a dangerous and wily enemy.

But Trump just makes me want to shift my rifle into my off hand and dopeslap his idiotic toupee off the back of his head like Moe does the other Stooges, growling "Get your shit together, you stupid fucking oxygen thief! How the hell did you get this job, you goddamn brain-dead numbnuts?
Update 2/1: As just another example let me throw in this story from Tucson, Arizona, about a little family that barely beat the ban into the U.S., but whose extended family is now stuck on the outside.

Why is this another dopeslap on Hair Furor and his Bannonidiot?

Because the people are Syrians, yes...but they're Syrian Kurds.

For fucks sake! The Kurds - in case you've been asleep for the past, oh, fourteen fucking years - have been the U.S. most effective and consistent military and political partner in the Fertile Crescent of Iraq and Syria.

Keeping Kurds out of the U.S. because they're Syrian makes as much sense in 2017 as forcing Free French back to Vichy made in 1942.

How the fuck does His Fraudulency and his idiot band manage to keep from lighting the whole damn White House on fire?

I have no damn idea.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Senior Master Chief has a word with the Trumpeters

My maternal grandfather was a minister.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 58

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

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

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

(wait for it....)

Steve Fucking Bannon.
Honestly!

These really are the fucking mole people...

(crossposted from MilPub)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Jukebox: Tangerine Toddler Jive Turkey Edition



What a fucking week this has been, eh?

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

Friday, January 20, 2017

His Fraudulency, Jackass, and the Dark Side

Needless to say I was not thrilled this morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there was this:

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

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

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

GudDAMN.

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

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

And this shit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We.

Are.

So.

So.

So.

SO.

Fucked.

Monday, January 16, 2017

King of Rebels

The pablum "celebration" of Dr. King that typically appears today always pisses me off.

The man was nothing like the kindly saint of "civil rights" that usually appears in them. King wasn't some sort of foofy, kumbaya-singing pacifist. He was a hardass. He was a bombthrower. He was routinely condemned as a "communist" and a "public enemy". His "nonviolence" was a slit-eyed, cynical tactic that offered up the bodies of his troops to the racist thugs because he knew damn well that the Great American Public would seize on the slightest hint that the Rapacious Negroes were coming to Get Them to bury him and his cause.

He wasn't violent because violence wouldn't have worked, not because he was some sort of secular saint.

He also hated the sort of wealth-fellating and poor-bashing that the modern GOP so desperately represents.

The linked article is a cautionary tale of King's real views on things like equality, wealth, poverty, and the "American Dream" as opposed to the usual tepid encomiums of peace, love, and brotherhood that we're going to hear from radical reactionaries like Paul Ryan and whichever former Pravda stringer His Fraudulency trots out today; Dr. King would have fucked your shit up, wingnuts. He hated and despised everything you stand for.
And so do I.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Cold Murder

I'm out of town working nights, but this past week Portland got something like a a foot of snow, the most we've gotten since 2008 and, of course, slamming the entire metro area into a cold hell of clogged streets and downed powerlines.

We don't do snow well in Oregon.

Earlier in the winter my wife and son came home excited that they'd seen an enormous flock of crows swirling over downtown. "Like a movie!" was the Boy's comment; I'm not sure which movie he meant. The corvid invasion has been a thing this winter. One of the local news channels had a story about some outfit that "rents" hawks to harass the crows, which appear to be something of a noisy, messy nuisance (because, "crows", right..?) in the central Park Blocks.

Sometimes, though...

Sometimes when you combine snow, and crows, and night you can produce an image of surpassing beauty.


"To hatch a crow, a black rainbow
Bent in emptiness
over emptiness
But flying."

~ Ted Hughes

And that's really all I had to say today.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

GFT OPlan for 2017

LOTS of posts discrediting and punching down on His Fraudulency and the GOP Griftopia.

But you knew that.

Battles?

I've only got a couple of battles left that interest me. Sometime in the autumn - probably September - I'm going to work up the 1683 Battle (and Siege) of Vienna, the High Water Mark of the Ottoman Empire.

In June I think I may do Cynoscephalae, the 197BC encounter that put paid to the phalanx for the next 1500-odd years until the Swiss reengineered it.

July will be the naval Battle of Hansan Island, one of Admiral Yi Sun-sin's many asswhippings that convinced Imperial Japan to leave the Hermit Kingdom alone (at least, until it didn't...). I might also do something on the Battle of Talas River, the 751CE engagement that may (or may not) have helped check the Tang China influence in Central Asia and may (or may not) have helped strengthen the Abbasid Caliphate. Good tale full of treachery and intrigue.

October is probably going to be Sekigahara, just because I'm a huge Kurosawa fanboi and I loves me some classic samurai sword-and-geta epic. I may also do the Battle of Buxar, the fight that solidified the John Company hold on India after Plassey.

November? معركة القادسيّة, al-Qadisiyyah, 636CE, the fall of Sassanid Persia and the real beginning of the Rashidun and, later, the Abbasid Caliphate.

Later this month I'm FINALLY going to get around to doing the next part of the Chaco War. Seriously. Promise.

I've only got a handful of "The Army I Knew" posts left, mostly because they're just largely Reserve and Guard stories of the late Eighties and Nineties and the early Oughts, and, as such, not nearly as much fun as my regular Army tales. I've tried to think up any Tales from The Sinai I may have forgotten but I think you've got them all...

Plus the usual ash-and-trash. I've been busy writing soccer for Slide Rule Pass, so that won't show up here, but I suspect that I'll have some Portland material just because...well, it's Portland and I love Portland. Or Oregon, and I'm proud to be a Beaver, too...

Any other suggestions? I'm willing to discuss.

Hope all here are enjoying a good 2017!



Chronicle of a Grift Foretold

We are now less than three weeks away from the inauguration of His Fraudulency 2: Electric Trumpaloo, and the Congressional GOP is already doing what it does best - beavering away undermining whatever "good government"/progressive/antiplutocratic rules they can find.

And I'm perfectly confident predicting that we're going to see much, much more of this in the next four years. In fact, I'm absolutely slam-dunk, pure-D, dog-ass certain of it.

Why, you ask?

Because the thing to remember about the GOP as currently constituted is that it's not a "political party" in the "tradition of American political party" sense but a party in the "faction of the caudillo" or one-party state sort of party.

The GOP doesn't want to "govern" in the sense that a party in power in a republic wants to govern; it wants to RULE, in the way that the United Russia Party of Vladi Putin rules. It wants all the cakes and ale and graft and hippie-punching and Koch-sucking it can shoehorn into a swagbag, and it will get it though Hell bar the way.

The GOP also knows perfectly well that stoogeing for plutocracy and pimping for Christian theocrats and ignorant hillbillies isn't going to appeal to a majority of the citizens of the US, and that to continue to rule it will have to circumvent the norms and conventions and institutions that would otherwise expose it as a bought-and-paid-for tool of the Rich and Well-Born on economics and the Christopathic Nutbags and Racist Trash on social issues.

So whilst this might get walked back a trifle don't kid yourself; the reign of His Fraudulency and his Wingnut Congress will be characterized by just this sort of grifting and chicanery.

We are about to see a federal government riddled with open corruption - not the sly, business-as-usual, K-Street sort of corruption we've seen over most of the modern era but the open, hand-out, greasy sleaze corruption of the Gilded Age or of a Trump Casino - the like of which those of us living have never seen. You'd probably have to go all the way back to the pre-Progressive Era to find the sort of daylight-robbery kind of pay-for-play we're looking at coming at us.

It's not just because it's who they are. It's because this sort of grifting is the ONLY way that the GOP can continue the grift. The plutocrats don't give a shit about Second Amendment Rights - in fact, they'd just as soon disarm the dangerous crank-addled hillbillies. The Christopaths could give a shit about the estate tax, and the gunlickers don't care sweet goddamn about the carried-interest deduction. The GOP coalition is eight rabid rats in a sack, and the moment one rat gets the hint that one of the others is getting over on it the ass-biting will go nuclear.

My real fear is that these morons know so little of history that they will try and push the nation back into the Gilded Age while in their ignorance have no idea how close we came to some form of autocracy in the 1929-1932 period and how dangerous it will be to try and go there today.

The Ryans and McConnells and Trumps are too ignorant to know what a turbulent place the US was in the original Gilded Age, and too stupid to figure out that while the Homestead Strike and the Haymarket Riot were one-sided wins for the government back in the day the profusion of cheap semiautomatic and automatic weapons and simple, easy-to-construct mines ("IEDs") have made suppressing rebellions a mug's game for Western troops.

They may very well get their wish and then discover why the original John D. Rockefellers and Carnegies and their robber-baron ilk didn't push back that hard against the Welfare State back in the day.

They had seen the bodies hanging from the lampposts in St. Petersburg and Rome and knew better than to think that they were safe.

I have no doubt that the upcoming Trump Administration will make Dubya and his band of cronies look like MENSA for competence and the Salvation Army for probity, or that they will do their level best to push the GOP Back-to-the-Gilded-Age agenda as far towards reality as they can, and that both sickens and enrages me.

But what I fear the most is that this administration will tear down a LOT of the institutional and social barriers that have protected us here in El Norte from the sort of caudilloist corruption and nepotism that has been endemic in much of the rest of our hemisphere.

His Fraudulency 2 himself is a walking violation of the Emoluments Clause, and rather than gibbering in fear that he will invoke a constitutional crisis the rest of the wingnut monkeyhouse has been doing a Gingrich; trying to insist that breaking the norms and rules is really the New Norms and Rules and that doing to the federal government what Newt does to Callista on Friday night after a bottle of lambrusco and 100mg of Viagra is Just How It Works.
We Are So, So, So, SO Fucked.