It's hard times in the new milleniumGettin' by on just the bare minimum
Everything to lose and nothing to spare Going to hell and nobody cares
Ain't the future that Kennedy promised me In the 21st century
Finally come to the age of Aquarius And if we live through the Mayan apocalypse
There'll be pie in the sky above lemonade springs
A goddamn American utopian dream
If you believe that, you're more optimistic than me--Steve Earle
You know, events overwhelm me at times and the on-going military crises-circuses we have blasting around the world make my getting a handle on them especially difficult. It occurs to me, however, that the old Buffalo Springfield line about “There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear/ There’s a man with a gun over there, Telling me I got to beware’ really telling in the 21st Century.
If you caught the John Oliver Show, Last Week Tonight, on July 27, you caught an excellent piece on the utterly screwed up US Nuclear Program. While the problems with officer morale and performance, failure to do systems maintenance or upgrades, and general nuttiness – talking about an Air Force General who was relieved for a variety of things culminating on his activities on a trip to Russia where he was pretty much continually drunk on his ass, Oliver pointed out that he’d been “too drunk for the Russians…the Russians!” Telling of one escapade when the general demanded that his staff accompany him to a Mexican Restaurant because he wanted to see the Beatles cover band there and then got them basically thrown out for demanding to be allowed to play guitar in the band, Oliver pointed out that we should consider the chain of bad decisions leading up to that event – drunk, in a Mexican Restaurant in Russia someplace, vomiting a half-eaten Chimichanga over the drum kit of a White Russian Ringo. Of course, his boss – a Vice Admiral -- had been relieved for trying to use counterfeit chips in a tribal casino in Council Bluff, Iowa. Oliver again pointed out that any Vice Admiral should be smarter than an Iowa Pit Boss.
The most telling point in the bit was a brief segment of Colin Powell saying that after 30 years of involvement with the planning, deployment and potential use of nuclear weapons, he had become convinced that they were useless. So, we have over 4800 of these things, capable of blowing ourselves and everyone else to ash, and we can neither protect, maintain, nor figure out a rationale for them.
Reminds me of the old Davy Crockett jeep mounted nuke – you’d orient the jeep so that you were facing away from the target with the missile pointed out the back of the trailer, light it off and drive like hell to try and get out of the blast zone…what exactly was the genius who invented it thinking?
Well, one thing he was thinking was that the actual use of the thing wasn’t his problem. When Generals and Colonels talk about the strategic corporals, they’re thinking that that two-striper is going to be doing their job and “Ain’t it Great?” However, the most critical tool for that grunt’s ruck sack, a strong moral compass, is probably missing, broken or poorly designed.
The United States Army used to be proud of its moral stance. We didn’t torture prisoners, we liberated them. We didn’t kill children, we fed them. We didn’t kill civilians, we freed, fed, clothed and took care of them. Somewhere that went wrong. We held ourselves up as a role model, and some people paid attention. That ethic matched where they were at – the IDF, for example, prided itself on minimizing collateral damage and civilian casualties. And then, they also lost the way.
There’s an interesting article in The Guardian this morning. Yuli Novak is a former pilot and operations officer in the Israeli Air Force, and she comments that when she was a young captain, the Israel Defense Forces prided themselves on being the “most moral military in the world.” She describes an incident where the Israeli Air Force employed a 1000 pound bomb on a house in Gaza to take out a Hamas military commander. She says that it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to consider what that weapon did to the building and the target. They killed him, but they also killed twelve civilians including eight children. She describes the outcome this way:
After the assassination, Israel shook. Even when the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) insisted that there was operational justification for the attack, public sentiment could not accommodate this assault on innocent civilians. Israeli intellectuals petitioned the supreme court, demanding it examine the legality of this action. A few months later a group of reservist pilots criticised such elimination actions....As soldiers and officers used to carrying out our missions without asking unnecessary questions, we were affected by the public reaction…my friends and I trusted our commanders to make the right moral decisions, and returned our focus to the “important things” – the precise execution of further operations.
She goes on to point out that such trust is utterly impossible today. She sees what’s happening in the Gaza Strip as nothing less than a series of war crimes originating at the operational planning level, with no effort to minimize casualties, collateral damage and maintain the moral high ground. Israel Armed Forces are to her mind no longer able to claim any moral suasion; they have become as amoral as any other invading force and are engaging in things that remind her of the SS or the Red Army rampaging in Eastern Europe.
Interestingly, she places the responsibility for regaining a moral force not on the shoulders of the military but on the public. That in fact makes a lot of sense in Israel, where everyone serves except those religiously exempt. Those exempt are largely the most bloodthirsty, which is something I find amusing, of course. In a nation that sees itself as living in a continual state of Total War, those most reluctant to find a peaceful solution are a permanent class of REMFs. Anyway, Novak sees it as a public as well as a military challenge:
I know how hard it is to ask questions during times of conflict as a soldier. The information that the officers get in real time is always partial. That’s why the responsibility for drawing the red lines, and alerting when we cross it, lies with the public. A clear, loud voice that says that bombing a house with civilians in it is immoral must be heard. These killings cannot be accepted without question. Public silence in the face of such actions – inside and outside of Israel – is consent by default, and acceptance of an unacceptable price.
Novak is now the Executive Director of “Breaking the Silence” an organization of Israeli veterans who have served during and since the Intifada and want to educate the Israeli public as to what the military is doing in their name. I find that admirable, and rather similar to a lot of what we do over at Veterans Today. I’m hoping they are more successful. But, I’m not terribly confident in either case.
One of the problems that we face is the inability to define end-states. What exactly is the end state for Israel and the Palestinians? What is the end state of our involvement in Iran or Afghanistan? What do the Russians want to accomplish in Ukraine? What do the separatists want to accomplish; what do the Ukrainians want to accomplish? If you have some sort of idea as to where you want to go, you might get there. But otherwise, you’ll get wherever you end up, and it will undoubtedly be pretty lousy.
For example, as I was writing this, news broke that the Israeli Air Force has targeted a hospital and a park where children were playing. Israel denies this, claiming that Hamas had hit these targets due to malfunctioning rockets. Frankly, I don't care -- my initial reaction was that the targeting team at IAF HQ was operating off some intelligence that the hospital was being used for storing rockets and ammunition, and that the kids playing in the park were really Taliban soldiers training on the monkey bars.
Based on the casualty data available from the Gaza authorities, I tend to think the Israeli story is probably correct, but the result will remain; they are already convicted in world opinion. This is really madness --
A worried man with a worried mind
No one in front of me and nothing behind
There’s a woman on my lap and she’s drinking champagne
Got white skin, got assassin’s eyes
I’m looking up into the sapphire-tinted skies
I’m well dressed, waiting on the last train
Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose
Any minute now I’m expecting all hell to break loose
People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed
This place ain’t doing me any good
I’m in the wrong town, I should be in Hollywood
Just for a second there I thought I saw something move
Gonna take dancing lessons, do the jitterbug rag
Ain’t no shortcuts, gonna dress in drag
Only a fool in here would think he’s got anything to prove
Lot of water under the bridge, lot of other stuff too
Don’t get up gentlemen, I’m only passing through
People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed
I’ve been walking forty miles of bad road
If the Bible is right, the world will explode
I’ve been trying to get as far away from myself as I can
Some things are too hot to touch
The human mind can only stand so much
You can’t win with a losing hand
Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet
Putting her in a wheelbarrow and wheeling her down the street
People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed
I hurt easy, I just don’t show it
You can hurt someone and not even know it
The next sixty seconds could be like an eternity
Gonna get low down, gonna fly high
All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie
I’m in love with a woman who don’t even appeal to me
Mr. Jinx and Miss Lucy, they jumped in the lake
I’m not that eager to make a mistake
People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed --Bob Dylan
(FYI, links are mainly to music!)
On Saturday night, my wife announced that she needed more Alfredo sauce for dinner and I was to go get it. Fine, into the car I went and wandered into the local grocery store. Found the stuff she wanted, a few other things except things I wanted, of course and went to pay. The guy at the checkout who's about my age --60s -- asked me what I thought about the Super Bowl. I immediately announced that I was some kinda communist by saying, "Don't know, don't really care, not that interested." I wasn't; I respect Peyton Manning's skill, of course and I thought the safety for the Seahawks got a raw deal on the kefluffle about that final play in the San Jose 49s game, but in general since my last tour in Germany, I just don't have that much interest in it as a sport or spectacle. I'm very interested in Rugby because I've played it and the game is far better regulated than American Football. A flagrant foul that puts an opposing player at risk is often rewarded as in Soccer with a red card and a couple of weeks or more off. The players are less armoured than they are in baseball, and the sport is faster and far more demanding. For the record, Bath beat Leciester this weekend in the Anglo-Welsh LV tournament while France beat England, Italy almost upset Wales and Ireland handled Scotland in a really great game. Brian O'Driscoll, at 35, had several assists as well as making 13 tackles. He's retiring after this year which given the nature of the game makes sense, but the fact is the Irish Outside Center is looking and playing like he did five or six years ago.
OK, who cares. Well, that's why I didn't catch any of the Super Bowl except the Budweiser stolen dog retrieved by Clydesdales commercial and the loan Denver touchdown. The Denver team handled the loss like pros, and the various scripts and memes have played out. OK, who cares....I didn't. However, I immediately began hearing about the Obama-O'Reilly nonsense and then that Bob Dylan had come out in favor of roasting Asian babies as a way of supplementing the world's protein supply. Curious...this got even more interesting as my Malcontent and Defeatist coven kicked in with complaints that Dylan was irrelevant, had been arrogant, and was a jerk because he said "Germany can make our beer." ( In fairness to the beer thing, the guy upset is both a beer connoisseur and a wannabe micro brewer.) Since I'm the sole Dylan worshipper at that stable, I had to react. So, I pointed out that it was a fucking commercial, not a new version of Luther's 95 Theses or a repudiation of the First Amendment. If you haven't seen a Chrysler commercial for the last couple of years, you've missed people like John Varvatos -- fashion guru to the rock world and hip -- and Iggy Pop --grey eminence of the Punk Rock movement which is odd since he long predates punk! -- as well as Snoop Dog back when Iaccoca was involved just prior to the sale to Mercedes in about 2000 all making Chrysler commercials. Eminem made a damned Chrysler commercial for the 2012 Super Bowl. All of them have been about how wonderful the Chrysler brand is, calling up memories of Ricardo Montalban babbling about rich Corinthian leather in the Chrysler New Yorker. Dylan's commercial was different.
Dylan's approach was different -- this was a traditional, lunch bucket, pro-union commercial. Dylan was not on the screen when they showed the Chrysler trademark and the shot of their Chrysler 200; in fact, the only functioning vehicle I recall was James Dean screaming down the road on what I believe was a Triumph motorcycle. While he did a voice over, the screen showed shots of Hemi-engines and his hands fiddling around with his guitar, what looked like a Gibson Jumbo acoustic. When he moved through the scene, he was kind of channeling an old David Leary commercial for Nike and kind of channeling the Boondock Saints and kind of channeling Johnny Cash and kind of channeling himself in myth and in "Duquesne Whistle." Most people who work with their hands for a living -- like my GM autoworker brother-in-law, Murph Cowmeadow -- loved it and are having trouble figuring what the problem was. Well, there really wasn't one...
Well, I enjoy Alex Wagner's show, but she went on a humorless politically correct rant that we could have skipped. Basically, Dylan's paean to the ingenuity, history and spirit of the American worker in general and autoworkers in Detroit in particular was "jingoistic:" his argument simplistic because "Asia is not a country," and so on. She made the comment in the beginning that Dylan was "once legendary..." Yeah, she needs to slap her producers, because this piece just made her look like the progressive version of people like Anne Coulter or Michelle Bachman. She talked about how Germany was an economic powerhouse and how Switzerland is an economic powerhouse so it was absurd to reduce them to brew masters and watchmakers. And then there was Asia...
Hilarious. The script said, "So, let Germany make our beer, let Switzerland make our watches, let Asia assemble our phones but we'll make our cars." When he said that, he was in the union hall, playing pool and standing with the folks who were playing, and probably were Chrysler autoworkers.So much much the "Progressive" take on the commercial, along with claims that Dylan is a sell-out. Well, that's funny; when you think you've figured out what Dylan is doing and going to do next, forget it, he's faked you out again. However, the fact that Chrysler did such a positive commercial and showcased an authentic American voice and American workers made his song which provided the musical theme really fit --" Things have changed..." Watch and learn.
The other commercial which does not have people upset had a beer terrorizing a store in search for Chobani Greek Yogurt, with the Dylan song from 1966's Blonde on Blonde, "I Want You" playing in the background. Of course, yogurt is more favorably seen on the left than cars except hybrids, and Greek style yogurt is definitely not jingoistic. Plus, the Bear not only gets his yogurt but he befuddles the people who've ruined his habitat and makes a fool out of the law. So, I guess they'll give him a pass on this one. although I did see at least one guy complain that he sold out one of his best songs for yogurt. For the record, I've never heard anyone describe "I Want You" as one of his best songs, even on the Blonde on Blonde Album. But...
Well, they called Dylan a traitor for plugging in his guitar in England, which resulted ultimately in the basic statement of rebellious rock and roll ("Play Fucking Loud!") and the classic bit "An anarchist -- I want a cigarette; give the anarchist a cigarette. They had to think about it to come up with that name." Think you've pegged the guy, and he does something else entirely. That's kind of what makes a legend -- people want to put you in a box, and you avoid it...almost without trying.
Although a pedantic and math-oriented analytic philosopher and bore, Bertrand Russell got a few things very right...
And, most interstingly according to the Economist, Work. Russell wasn't afraid of hard work, he just didn't like it very much. Thought there were other better uses of time for all of mankind. And, the numbers seem to indicate that he was right...
___________________________________________________________________________________ I received this note this morning from the only general I’m on a First Name basis with – I call him General or Boss and he calls me Mike. Anyway, I’ve written about Larry Lust before, but I think this note from him was pretty apropos of what we’re facing as the soldiers come home from this debacle…
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Should you ever wondered what valor looks like, go to the website below and watch the video of MGS Roy Benavidez's remarkable story.
Larry J. Lust Major General, USA, Retired_______________________________________________________________________________________________________ If you’re not familiar with Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez, read the following citation… The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863 has awarded in the name of the Congress the Medal of Honor to: MASTER SERGEANT ROY P. BENAVIDEZ UNITED STATES ARMY for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty West of Loc Ninh on 2 May 1968:
Citation: Master Sergeant, then Staff Sergeant, United States Army. Who distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely glorious actions on 2 May 1968 while assigned to Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam. On the morning of 2 May 1968, a 12-man Special Forces Reconnaissance Team was inserted by helicopters in a dense jungle area west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam to gather intelligence information about confirmed large-scale enemy activity. This area was controlled and routinely patrolled by the North Vietnamese Army. After a short period of time on the ground, the team met heavy enemy resistance and requested emergency extraction. 3 helicopters attempted extraction, but were unable to land due to intense enemy small arms and anti-aircraft fire. Sergeant Benavidez was at the Forward Operating Base in Loc Ninh monitoring the operation by radio when these helicopters returned to off-load wounded crew members and to assess aircraft damage. Sergeant Benavidez voluntarily boarded a returning aircraft to assist in another extraction attempt. Realizing that all the team members were either dead or wounded and unable to move to the pickup zone, he directed the aircraft to a nearby clearing where he jumped from the hovering helicopter, and ran approximately 75 meters under withering small arms fire to the crippled team. Prior to reaching the team's position he was wounded in his right leg, face and head. Despite these painful injuries he took charge, repositioning the team members and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of an extraction aircraft, and the loading of wounded and dead team members. He then threw smoke canisters to direct the aircraft to the team's position. Despite his severe wounds and under intense enemy fire, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the awaiting aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the aircraft as it moved to pick up the remaining team members. As the enemy's fire intensified, he hurried to recover the body and classified documents on the dead team leader. When he reached the leader's body, Sergeant Benavidez was severely wounded by small arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At nearly the same moment, the aircraft pilot was mortally wounded, and his helicopter crashed. Although in extremely critical condition due to his multiple wounds, Sergeant Benavidez secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he aided the wounded out of the overturned aircraft, and gathered the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter. Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter distributing water and ammunition to his weary men, reinstilling in them a will to live and fight. Facing a buildup of enemy opposition with a beleaguered team, Sergeant Benavidez mustered his strength, began calling in tactical air strikes and directed the fire from supporting gun ships to suppress the enemy's fire and so permit another extraction attempt. He was wounded again in his thigh by small arms fire while administering first aid to a wounded team member just before another extraction helicopter was able to land. His indomitable spirit kept him going as he began to ferry his comrades to the craft. On his second trip with the wounded, he was clubbed with additional wounds to his head and arms before killing his adversary. He then continued under devastating fire to carry the wounded to the helicopter. Upon reaching the aircraft, he spotted and killed 2 enemy soldiers who were rushing the craft from an angle that prevented the aircraft door gunner from firing upon them. With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the perimeter to ensure that all classified material had been collected or destroyed, and to bring in the remaining wounded. Only then, in extremely serious condition from numerous wounds and loss of blood, did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft. Sergeant Benavidez' gallant choice to voluntarily join his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to withering enemy fire, and his refusal to be stopped despite numerous severe wounds, saved the lives of at least 8 men. His fearless personal leadership, tenacious devotion to duty, and extremely valorous actions in the face of overwhelming odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army.
Famously, when the Medics got to Benavidez at Loc Ninh, they took one look at the hunk of hamburger that remained of the guy, and started to put him in a body bag. Conscious but unable to move or speak, he let them know he was still alive by spitting blood at them. Interesting to think of Benavidez this week. A lieutenant I served with from South Texas when I was in exile from the active duty to the reserves back in the days of "Capstone" knew the guy when he'd been in JROTC. Quiet man, friendly, and serious PTSD. Well, duh...but, quiet, friendly and interested in talking to young people about their future. Like fajitas, Pearl Beer and Norteno music. Loved his country, family and home town.
There is something incredible about these men, and I suspect sooner than we might think, women. They didn't get up that morning to be heroes. They didn't wrap themselves in the flag and run around proclaiming themselves to be something great. They found themselves in a situation, they did their duty because that was what they figured they were supposed to do, and then are universally pretty humble about the whole thing.
This is an excellent time to watch the old Audie Murphy "To Hell and Back." (My first day as First Sergeant of the 9th Chemical Company, 9ID (Motorized) I spent on that airfield parade strip at the end of the film followed by a division run...Hooah...first one led by MG Taylor after MG Shallikashivilli gave up command. ) And, I was miserable all over the terrain shown in that film at Lewis). Guy wanted to take care of his family, protect his buddies, do his job, maybe get an education and serve his country. While his performance in The Red Badge of Courage was classic, TH&B presented the GI as GI. His life was tragic in a lot of ways, but Murphy remained humble about his service and loved nothing more than to be with soldiers. Not bragging or dominating, although those stars tend to do it when you’re around on of these guys, but just to BS and listen. Murphy was awarded the Medal as the result of an incident where he stopped a German Tank with Infantry attack, firing the M2 from the deck of a burning Tank Destroyer after calling in Artillery fire directly on his position. When the FSE asked him how close the enemy was to him, he said, “Hold on a second and I’ll let you talk to them…” It’s worth revisiting Murphy’s citation as well.
CITATION: On January 26th, 1945 2ND Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2ND Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, 1 of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2ND Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2ND Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2ND Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2ND Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective.
I was out at Fort Irwin earlier this week. NTC is at its usual delightful summer weather, 110+ and dry as a bone, with a light 20 knot wind. Because of the Sequester, they'd cancelled a number of rotations at the National Training Center and cut back on civilian services, so when I got to the gate, MPs were manning it. Not a lot of traffic, so I struck up a conversation with the soldiers. Turns out that after all that time in the desert in Iraq and Afghanistan, the installation decided to not provide any way to cool the water for these guys. They see the commander of the relief about every four hours, and have him bring out ice that they buy themselves. For some reason, this got me mad...kids asked me not to mention their names and assured me that "Hey, First Sergeant, we can take care of ourselves..." Told them that I knew that we'd always had to do that because nobody else would but that didn't make it right.
Since my congressman is that troll who heads the house defense committee, Buck McKeon, I'll send him a note. Not that it will do anything, since the Specialists and PFCs of the garrison MPs don't contribute to his campaign, but in between sending me emails about how he's fighting for jobs by passing anti-abortion legislation and has our soldiers backs by supporting more money for contractors, I'll appeal to his conscience. That should be interesting.
As for me, I’ll drop a note to the garrison CSM which is more likely to accomplish something. And, make a point of checking to see if they need any ice or anything when I drive through the gate for a visit to drop off when I head back to Barstow. If we all did stuff like that, all of those of us who wake up every day and wish we could put on the uniforms again and go mess around with soldiers, I wonder what the impact would be?
When I got to wear a uniform every day, I was intimately invested in the lives and futures of the 200 or so soldiers in my company. My soldiers. Well, now they are all my soldiers. They are now all your soldiers. We need to take care of them, their families, their dreams, and aspirations. But, at the very least, we should be able to make certain that they have cool water to drink occupying a freaking guard post in the Mojave Desert in June.
I admit I’m assuming the best case – the McCaines and Grahames will fail and we won’t end up neck deep in a Shiite-Sunni war of mutual annihilation in the Middle East. Of course, we’re not masters of our fate on that…events have a way of steamrolling us. We'll get our soldiers home finally, and they'll be pretty quickly forgotten. And we'll have soldiers doing their duty, taking care of their brothers and sisters by pooling money to buy ice and space heaters and who knows what else, and the nation will forget. I've quoted Kipling more than once at the blogs I write for...probably time to do so again...
Speaking of the Sequester, I was walking from the grocery store this afternoon in the blazing Barstow sun in 113 degree temperatures. Guy in his 30s approached me with a bottle of Windex and asked me to let him wash my windshield for spare change. He told me he had just been laid off without any notice at Fort Irwin’s Nonappropriated Fund Program at the Shock Zone of something. The haircut still gives me away, but I have no idea what that might. If you find yourself at Irwin, be assured they have a shock zone. The guy had no understanding of why he was laid off, just that he needed to make some money to keep his family fed. I gave him some cash, and wished him luck. Wasn’t a lot of cash, but he was grateful and asked if I’d let him wash my car windows. Shit. I told him to skip it, and wished him luck again; he asked God to bless me.
Now, if you’ve been looking at my stuff, you know that doesn’t have much impact on me. I’m the guy who says sincerely that if there is a god, she and I have some issues to work out. But it got me thinking; I have no reason to be alive, semi-prosperous, pretty healthy and comfortable. I’ve done enough stupid stuff that I should be dead. In jail perhaps; in an insane asylum. Yet, here I am. I don’t believe in god, but life has been pretty good to me. Now, if life would get me out of Barstow that would be helpful. Regardless, however, the reason this guy is now begging for scraps right now is the Sequester. I really don’t feel badly that the executives at the defense contractors won’t get the same bonuses they would get if they got bigger new contracts. In fact, I think most of them probably should be in jail along with the bankers, bond traders, rating agencies and hedge fund managers. From whom much is given, much is owed and much is expected. Haven’t quite lived up to that in American business for a while. But, damn it, the Sequester is hurting people who aren’t concerned about how they’ll get by if Mercedes stops making Maybachs or if they can pay for another dancing horse. It’s hurting those soldiers trying to drink hot water to stay hydrated in 110 heat at Fort Irwin. It’s hurting this guy, Pedro F. Rodriguez, who is just trying not to be a bum in Barstow. It’s hurting our present, it’s hurting our future, and it’s betraying our past. It’s our time. There’s nobody else here; just us. If it’s going to be right, it’s our time to make it right. I have little trust in the good intentions of most of the elected officials in this country. But, they do care about their jobs. Their money. Their pensions. Their perks. We can take that away from them. We need to serve them notice that until every American who wants a job can have one based on their skills, abilities and dreams; that until every American has adequate housing, food and medical care; that until every child in this country goes to bed full, healthy, with clothes and supplies for schools; when everyone has some reasonable level of safety, security and hope, that the elected classes and the 1% for and by whom they largely seem to be employed are at risk of a radically less lucrative future. Otherwise, we join the betrayal -- of present, past, future and any concept of the United States as the last best hope for mankind.
The Great Larry J. Lust, Major General, US Army (Retired) was one of my commanding officers. He and I occasionally communicate and while he made me crazy at times when I worked for him, I appreciate his honor, integrity and kindness greatly. And, in addition to being a royal pain in the ass, I have to acknowledge that his requirements resulted in my doing some of my best work as a First Sergeant and eventually figured out that was actually the idea for all of the COSCOM. The boss and I stay in loose contact. He sends out some weekly bits of advice, and frankly, some of them are kind of weird, but most of them are both relevant and worth thinking. The weirdness I attribute to him being from Kansas and a Republican. Anyway, he recently sent a couple, and I have incorporated them into my rules for living. So, here are my rules for living. I invite comment. Citations provided where they exist and are not syntheses from my fevered mind.
1. Don't be a jerk.
2. Nobody has to be in charge, but if the situation requires and nobody else wants to be in charge or can do it well, take charge but do it as well as possible.
3. In the face of jerks, see rule 1.
4. In anger, take a deep breath, close your eyes and turn away for a minute. Gain composure and return to conversation. Scares the hell out of the bastards...and makes your point.
5. Somethings are worth dying for; most things are not. Choose wisely. No mere job is worth an aneurysm.
6. There are only two things in life -- things we can control, things we can't. Focus effort on what you can control but watch the other stuff carefully. (My loose translation from Epictetus.)
7. Things are always screwed up. So, any improvement, no matter how slight, is a meaningful accomplishment. (My loose translation from Marcus Aurelius)
8. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living; I say, the unexamined life is not led. (Kierkegaard, The Concluding Unscientific Postscript)
9. The true measure of an individual is how he or she treats others who can do him or her absolutely no good. (L.J. Lust, MG, USA)
10. Anger is an honest emotion. William James) You have the right to be angry; you don't have the right to be cruel. (L.J. Lust, MG, USA)
11. I beseech thee, by the bowels of our Lord Jesus Christ, to remember that thee may be wrong! (Noted Liberation Theologian and Democratic Activist, Oliver Cromwell)
12. Some days you do things that change the world; some days, you pardon a turkey. (Barrack Obama) So, do what you are doing as best you can without regard for the consequences. (Ignatius Loyola)
After retirement, General Lust went off to war again, this time in Iraq as a senior Manager with KBR. We communicated occasionally, and I got the strong feeling that he wasn't happy with the situation, but thought that he could make a difference. I do know that stress, heat, and the fact that retired generals are by definition old farts caught up and he had some severe health problems. On home leave, he had a serious health issue, and his wife and high school sweetheart dragged his reluctant old ass off to the emergency room and he got to leave KBR. He's never shared with me, but I got the strong impression that he ultimately decided that was a better result than going back. He now is a faculty member at the Command and General Staff College and I shudder to think of his attention to detail, wit and directness applied to a paper of mine. Fortunately, I'm not one of his students or subordinates today; just a friend.
As the Army returns to full spectrum warfare which used to be called High Intensity warfare which was called Airland Battle which was called Warfighting...anyway, in 2006 General Lust pointed out to me that he was meeting lots of Armored Battalion Officers who had never qualified a company at Tank Gunnery who were now Battalion S3s or XOs as well as Brigade Commanders who had never qualified a battalion at Gunnery. I was finding tank mechanics who had never worked on a tank after AIT that we were hiring at the NTC to work on tracks. Kind of an interesting conundrum there, ehh?We both politely indicated that we thought this was just a helluva problem and worried about what was going to happen to our Army. Guess we still do. Well, neither one of us is in the Defense Contracting business anymore, and I doubt the Russians are going to invade Western Europe anytime soon. But...
I think the old man will be happy with the company. Well, maybe not Obama and Cromwell. Maybe Cromwell -- in addition to regicide and religious dictatorship, Cromwell started off as a pretty strong Cavalry Commander. So did Lust.
As for the Music, well, probably the Allison Krause. Maybe not Traffic. But, we're all about the same age and he's surprised me before.
Somebody posted this to my Facebook Page, and I was happy.
Steve Earle has commented about how much commie-pinko stuff you can get away with in country and bluegrass music. Add southern rock to that list. Music is subversive at it's best...
For your listening pleasure, here is a complete show from the Drive By Truckers...nough said. And, I hope it crashes typepad.
Well, she was an American girl
Raised on promises
She couldn't help thinkin'
That there was a little more to life somewhere else
After all it was a great big world
With lots of places to run to
And if she had to die tryin'
She had one little promise she was gonna keep
Well, it was kind of cold that night
She stood alone on her balcony
Yeah, she could hear the cars roll by
Out on 441 like waves crashin' on the beach
And for one desperate moment
There he crept back in her memory
God it's so painful when something that's so close
Is still so far out of reach
O yeah, all right
Take it easy, baby
Make it last all night
She was an American girl
I've been confused by Republicans for 50 years now. But, the musical issues surrounding them are just really strange. I know that they only know some of the lyrics to the national anthem, but they know all the lyrics to "Proud to be an American..." Maybe they ought to stick with that.
The latest use of Tom Petty's American Girl by Michelle Bachman is amazing. These are the lyrics by one of the great American Rock 'n Roll band leaders, songwriters and performers. What part of these lyrics are the kind of thing you use in a campaign rally? Where's the hope, the city on the hill kind of thing? Not there...this is a song about disappointment, despair and carrying on. Michellina is definitely a carrying on sort of person, but she's hardly the type to despair or give in to disappointment. She's definitely a "glass half full" sort of insane person.
Petty was ripped off before when George W Bush used I Won't Back Down which is not a song for the msot powerful man in the world. It's for a guy with his back against the wall, outnumbered and facing demons. Bush never faced demons or worried a lot about the impact of his inane insanity. He wasn't a guy to get all concerned with thinking about stuff.
Of course, the great song ripoff of the last election was the Huckabee use of More than a Feeling by Boston. He had one of the various rhythm guitarists in his little band ensemble and that guy told him it would be ok for them to play it at functions and rallies...until the Tom Scholz found out and got pissed. Which kinda sorta made sense, because he wrote it, arranged it, played all the guitar parts and produced it. "BOSTON has never endorsed a political candidate, and with all due respect, would not start by endorsing a candidate who is the polar opposite of most everything BOSTON stands for. In fact, although I'm impressed you learned my bass guitar part on More Than a Feeling, I am an Obama supporter." Now, I'm pretty sure that music get used in local elections in ways that would make Willie Nelson give up weed and have Keith Richards take up pottery. But Huckabee is supposedly a musician, and even on bass, you have to know the lyrics enough to get the articulation right. What part of these lyrics have something to do with a fundamentalist Republican right wing asshole wanting to make the USA into a slightly more tolerant theocracy than Iran?
I looked out this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away
It's more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)
I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
'till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin' away
So many people have come and gone
Their faces fade as the years go by
Yet I still recall as I wander on
as clear as the sun in the summer sky
When I'm tired and thinking cold
I hide in my music, forget the day
and dream of a girl I used to know
I closed my eyes and she slipped away
She slipped away...
Classic American 70s pop with a Tom Rush twist. As music from that era goes, not bad. But it's about personal despair, pain and loss. That's why so many people relate to it, and that's why it makes no sense. There's no excuse for Huckabee on this one...of course, he "pardoned" Keith Richards for his drug conviction in Arkansas. Problem is that Keith remembers the event well, but doesn't actually recall being arrested or charged or anything like that. And as he points out in Life, he didn't have problems with visas to the USA for years, and a state conviction for felony drug possession should have resulted in far more than a police escort to the airport. And, given the attitude of the legal establishment in 1975, if they'd been caught, they'd have been locked up for a while. Keith doesn't deny that the car was loaded with shit. He just believes that the cops didn't find it. Big Mike pardoned an urban legend; so much for music.
Then, there's the case of John Mellancamp. John McCain's campaign decided to use his music in 2008 --Pink Houses and Our Country. Reagan's re-election campaign asked to us Pink Houses in 1984. Mellancamp is a liberal Democrat, and he's to the left of most of the Democratic establishment. You'd think somebody would have gone to Farm Aid to pass out bumper stickers and American Flag decals and free Budweiser and maybe kinda noticed?
Now, because of their vague understanding of history, the Republicans would never ask or try to use Bob Dylan songs. Which is too bad, because Bob is pretty a-political these days, but he hates to let people screw with his music. The thought Bush and McCain at a rally in New Orleans with "If It Keeps on Rainin' the Levee's Gonna Break" and "Jokerman" is just too weird to not cause Hunter S Thompson to get out of his grave and stroll over to New Orleans to see...
Of course, the entire debacle of these fools trying to be with it was really taken to the stars by Reagan, again in 1984 when he heaped praise on Bruce Springsteen for Born in the USA. Bruce really felt that Reagan didn't get it..even a little bit. This is not "Morning in America." He described it this way, the song is about "a working-class man" [in the midst of a] "spiritual crisis, in which man is left lost...It's like he has nothing left to tie him into society anymore. He's isolated from the government. Isolated from his family...to the point where nothing makes sense."
I was at a football game in 1970, the first game at Holy Cross after Kent State. Some idiot scheduled the Marine Silent Drill Team for Halftime...tone deaf or stupid? Politicians should generally avoid music, and if their advance people feel the need to warm up the crowd, it's probably better for their karma to stick to Sousa Marches and not try to reach out to the depths of anyone's soul. Sousa Marches can get your blood flowing and make you enthusiastic -- they don't have lyrics. The lyrics of the last 50 years don't stack up real well as mindless pap. The whole "You can dance to it, I give it an 8" thing kinda died when John Lennon wrote No Where Man and Dylan discovered his affinity for Stratocasters.
I mean, sheesh, if you're looking for the perfect song for Republican America, how can you beat "Highway 61?" It runs from near Hibbing, Minnesota and all the way to New Orleans...
I'd definitely stay away from Bruce. Because his music is Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger with a backbeat, and a lot of personal angst and pain. This is really his poltics -- American Existential and liberal Democrat. But mainly, Musician...
Some folks are born into a good life,
Other folks get it anyway, anyhow,
I lost my money and I lost my wife,
Them things don't seem to matter much to me now.
Tonight I'll be on that hill 'cause I can't stop,
I'll be on that hill with everything I got,
Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost,
I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost,
For wanting things that can only be found
In the darkness on the edge of town
Well your wishes and your feelings
Your bad dreams and intuitions
Are about as much good to me right now as a brand new set of golf clubs
We've been this close to death before, we were just too drunk to know it
Guess the price of being sober's being scared out of your mind
When it comes your time to go, ain't no good way to go about it
Ain't no use in thinking bout it
You'll just drive yourself insane
There comes a time for everything
And the time has come for you to shut your mouth and get your ass on the plane
Ain't nothing I'd rather do right now than just go on home and lay around
But that ain't never an option for a working man like me
How much is enough you ask
I'll ask the man when I get a chance
All I know right now, there's somewhere else I'm suppose to be
Screaming engines, shooting flames
Dirty needles and cheap cocaine
Some gal's old man with a gun
To me it's all the same
Dead is dead and it ain't no different than walking around if you ain't living
Living in fear's just another way of dying before your time
When it comes your time to go, ain't no good way to go about it
Ain't no use in thinking bout it
You'll just drive yourself insane
There comes a time for everything
And the time has come for you to shut your mouth and get your ass on the plane
--Southern Rock Opera, The Drive By Truckers
Unlike Lynard Skynard, the departure of Anthony Wiener from the national stage is well overdue, although I’m not surprised he waited until he talked in person to his wife, who undoubtedly told him to get his ass out of the limelight for the foreseeable future. Hey, if you can get off the runaway train, get off the damn thing now, or be prepared for it to go very badly indeed... He can still have an interesting career as a Democratic strategist, and may even find a place to return to office in New York. But, his absolute tonedeafness and ultimate reluctance to leave the stage is amazing. What part of “I’m an asshole, I’ve embarrassed myself, my family, my friends, my party and my supporters. I need to go away, get some help and get my head out of my ass…” required a press conference?
This is not a Jimmy Swaggart moment. I hate to compare apples and hand grenades, but sin and repentance were part and parcel to Swaggart’s attraction to his audience, congregation, followers or whatever they are. The majority of folks in Baton Rouge weren’t really all that excited by Swaggart; and when he fell, the fall was pretty much applauded. I was spending a lot of time in that area during the brouhahahahahaha surrounding Jerry Lee’s sacred cousin, and there were some great jokes about the crying Pentecostal Bible College president and Tammy Faye’s husband told in bars, bristos and offices around the capital. Of course, Louisiana is pretty much immune to scandal –
As is New York in some regards – Swaggart’s enjoyment of watching hookers knit and pearl and Vitter’s diapers would bother New Yorkers if they acted them out while on the political stage in Manhattan because they’re creepy, not because they’re sinful. And, ultimately the titillation and scandal surround Anthony Wiener has the same root. It’s just creepy – go out, get drunk, pick up a broad, have sex; not necessarily classy, particularly if you’re a married man, but basically something most people can at least understand. Take a picture of you stuff and send out to various cyber-friends, and you’re vaguely creepy. Send it out to various people who think they are going to be talking about politics, and you’ve achieved the full sliminess that resides in Lenny Bruce comedy routines about guys combing their hair in the men’s room with soap and seeking transvestite dwarf partners or in Jerry Falwell's dreams of what goes on in Larry Flint's mind.
Wiener wasn’t surprised or phased during his press conference by the animals baying for his testicles. I’m reminded of a bit from Black Adder Goes Forth, where Captain Blackadder has been condemned to be shot, and acts confident and cracks jokes; the head jailer says, “Cap, I have to admire your balls,” to which Rowan Atkinson replies, “Well, maybe later.” I just don’t get why he felt compelled to do a press conference. Why not use Twitter? Or You Tube? Send a letter?
"No, let me take this one last bow in the limelight, even if they're going to throw used condoms at me." You know, Anthony Wiener ultimately leaves the stage in the same way he managed to create enemies and mockers to drive him from it -- "Hey, EVERYBODY LOOK AT ME!" I bet he was an annoying kid.
Now, I agree with Wiener on most policy issues. He constituents seem to have thought he was a good representative. He might have made a good liberal mayor of New York. This isn’t tragedy, but does rise to tragi-comic farce. But, seriously, if there ever was a time to shut your mouth and get your ass on the plane, this was it.
Some Americans are opposed to releasing these photographs, since making these photos publicly available is what Sarah Palin wants, on Twitter, or something. There’s actually only one good reason to release a photograph of Osama’s mutilated corpse, but it’s reason enough. The people of Afghanistan need to see this photo. They need to see this photograph more than anyone — more than the families of 9/11 victims. Every mother in Afghanistan should be able to sit down with her children, and point at that photo.
“Do you see this photograph, children? This is the mangled corpse of Osama bin Laden. The Americans invaded our country ten years ago because they said we were protecting him, that he was hiding here. They found Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. They shot him in the head. He was unarmed. The Americans are still unsatisfied, though. They want more. And that is why they are still occupying our country.”
Every mother in Afghanistan should be able to point at that gruesome photograph, and say to her child, “The Americans still want more.”-- Riley Waggaman, Wonkette, 5/5/11
If a sign of genius is being able to hold two diametrically opposed ideas simultaneously, then the shooting of bin Laden is bringing out the genius in me. Seriously, I am not of two minds about this one -- I'm of about seven. And, here is why -- I know SEALS. I know Rangers. I know guys from Delta. I know guys from SF. I was a light infantryman. It's simple -- nobody was scared of bin Laden. They shot the bastard because they could, and it probably is understandable. It just doesn't make it right.
Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh."--Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural, 3/4/1865
Did he deserve to die? Yeah, no kidding. Some of my colleagues over at Veterans Today have chosen to go down the 9/11 Truther and the "Bin Laden has been dead for years, they had to thaw his body out" rabbit hole and are traversing the wilderness of mirrors that represents. Well, much as I respect them, their position is as illogical and misconceived as the Birthers...when confronted with conflicting theories, without absolute knowledge, use Occam's razor and DON"T MULTIPLY CONCEPTS. While the success of 9/11 required only fanaticism on the part of these guys as well as various levels of bureaucracy, incompetence and negligence to succeed, the success of the vast conspiracy to take down the towers either with shaped charges, explosives, nukes or Thor's fucking hammer requires all of the above plus a level of competence at levels where everybody has passed their Peter Principle point several promotions ago.
So, the bastard declared war on us and deserved to die. At some point we'll get a clean after action report that clarifies what happened and in what sequence. However, to have claimed that the firefight took 40 minutes indicates that all those clowns charging the cameras to explain what happened are REMF and idiots. This was a raid on a fixed location by world class fighters against clowns. Shit, hadn't these guys even watched the Delta Force movies? While the idea of Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin saving the world blessed by Fr Arthur Kennedy and cheered on by Joey Bishop and friends is silly, there were some pretty clear things. It took 2-3 minutes max from the time they entered the compound. The rest of the time was processing and deciding what they wanted to take besides one dead body.Getting it palletized and secured. Getting it done. Efficiently, quietly and as quickly as possible. Remember, these men had just pulled off a raid, with helicopters, in an area potentially as utterly unfriendly as the market in Mogadishu, but within shouting distance of organized and effective military, covert operations and security forces belonging to an Ally that they could hardly have expected to accept this fait accompli.
My problem is with the dead body. When Bush said "They hate our freedom" he was probably talking about our ability to have over 50% of children morbidly obese and leading the world in adolescent type II diabetes. However, what they hated was the system that let us get this crazy -- the consitution, the rule of law, the idea of justice. I'm not sure blowing the left side of the guy's head off really helps reinforce that vision either internally or externally. Rather, we are saying we can do what we want to do because we can do it.
Now, if the bastard drew a weapon or a knife or threw a fucking Koran at the SEALs, then all bets are off. But, they could have captured him. There is a geopolitical piece here, of course; it would have been interesting to get the names of the Pakistanis, Saudis, Omanis and Kuwaitis who financed him and supported him. Interesting, but kind of hard to ignore the consequences of learning that Prince Ali Raghead, 2500th in line for the Saudi Throne brought him a bag of gold coins with a personal note from the Grand Mullah of Mecca saying something to the effect of Sock IT To 'EM, BRO!
I have no issue with anyone on the mission. I have no issue with the decision to shoot -- I wasn't there. I'm not sure why they weren't throwing flash-bang grenandes everytime they turned a corner, but I wasn't there. I would have liked this to be as clean as possible, and killing this dogshit bastard sullies it.
I know that there would have been logistical problems with him and a trial and an interrogation. Well, our Saudi friends could probably have worked out a way to have him condemned for heresy against Islam and treason, and had him horrifically killed and then buried someplace in the trackless desert. Or, our Russian and Ukaranian friends could have buried him next to the mausoleum at Chernobyl -- really close to ground zero. He commited crimes against humanity, and caused an incredible amount of suffering.
Ultimately, the Serbian and Kosovar war criminals that SEAL Team Six lifted in the former Yugoslavia were far more deadly than bin Laden by himself surrounded by his crew.
It could have been done; it appears we chose to stack the deck against doing it. That blemishes an incredibly timed, executed and accomplished mission. But, to the extent that shooting the SOB in the head was the preferred solution, it blemishes the United States. We are the nation that says we believe in the rule of law. We ought to remember that...
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.