Tuesday, February 21, 2017

¡Fuera de acá!

I hate to even admit this.


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.


(...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).


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".


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?