Aug 29 2015

Sea Credit

For the record, my sea duty counter when I retired stood @ 5 years, 7 months and 21 days. Since I was in aviation, that time was all embarked on US Navy vessels and most of it was underway. So it would seem more than odd that I am actually looking forward to another week and a half at sea.

Yes, the SO and I have confirmed that both us have officially entered the land of the old timers by booking a cruise this fall here:

splendour_of_the_seas

On the plus side, this will be the first cruise I make where I don't have to hide my drinking on board. cheeky

One response so far

Aug 27 2015

Writers bloc

Not much posting. As E   @   L, points out, some of it is due to "too much time on Famebook." But most of it is due the fact, that while I have a lot of ideas, I have little desire to write them down.

Maybe I am just depressed. After all, there is a lot to be depressed about.

A sizeable number of stupid people think Donald Trump is fit to be President.

People are defending Megyn Kelly as a "responsible journalist" ( Trump is right on that one. "We have already established what you are, Madam, now we are just negotiating over price).

The other 16 members of the clown car are just as bad.

It could be because I desperately need some of this:

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Or because I have not traveled in 4 weeks.

But take heart, I did not forget women's equality day. ( Which was yesterday)

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No sir, I remembered it.

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Just as I remembered it was National Dog Day:

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But none of that helps with my writers bloc. Perhaps the urge is dying? Perish the thought!

 

One response so far

Jul 18 2015

The wrong people are winning

Well, now that really bad things are going on, its probably time for me to get back to work. I have a lot to say about a lot of things-but just can't seem to either find the time or the volition to address them. But I just wanted to point out a fact that most educated readers of the remaining sane blogs on the internet already knew:

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My 10 years of blogging have proven that point back to me time and time again. Its been especially disheartening to watch the decline of so called "front running" milblogs become the kind of conservative cesspool that the Breitbart enterprise is known for. Ellen Pao is right to be jumping ship over at Reddit:

The Internet started as a bastion for free expression. It encouraged broad engagement and a diversity of ideas. Over time, however, that openness has enabled the harassment of people for their views, experiences, appearances or demographic backgrounds. Balancing free expression with privacy and the protection of participants has always been a challenge for open-content platforms on the Internet. But that balancing act is getting harder. The trolls are winning.

My own experience validates that , I can assure you. I like to think its been reasonably ok over here at my little place but we have had our run ins with moron set. It's been nothing to compare with some of the displays of lunacy that we have seen elsewhere though.

Take the tragic events of this weekend. Charles Pierce over at Esquire magazine, a real magazine with real editors and management, (something Tom Johnson has probably never had to deal with-more on that later), published a pretty reasoned piece on the shootings in Chattanooga. Pierce pointed out quite correctly that whatever the motive of the shooter, the insanely easy effort required to get guns in the United States did not help matters much.

Because he wrote eloquently and did not immediately jump in the cesspool of hatred, all the demons came swarming out of hell. 

As a regular reader at his place, I can assure you that the comments you see-especially in the last day are not typical of the kind of discussion that normally goes on at his place. There is a reason for that. In the general atmosphere of insanity that is prevailing in America after the horrific events in Chattanooga, it seems a certain percentage of our citizenry takes offense if you say anything but, "Kill Muslims! Kill more Muslims! Arms for every citizen"

And that is where a stellar specimen of humanity such as Tom Johnson comes in. 

Don't stay too long over there-just reading the comments will make you despair of humanity, or the fact that so many of my fellow citizens of the land of my birth are really tha f*cking stupid. 

He did accomplish his goal though. If you follow the link over to the Esquire piece you will see the hoards of really useless and stupid people commenting in a variety of useless and stupid ways. As Charles Pierce would say, "These people really are mole people".  For a minute there, I thought I had clicked the wrong link and had actually stumbled onto the useless idiots who write at The Federalist.

(When it comes to an overall level of douchbaggery, the folks at The Federalist are hard to beat. They take the conservative culture of victimhood to a whole new level. They, support Scott Walker after all-which is essentially the same as supporting Satan himself).

But the simple truth is that it gets worse. One cannot have a dissenting viewpoint anymore-and you can be certain that no one , even if they disagree with you will talk about the specifics of an issue. If there is one legacy of Fox News and its tenure during the 21st Century, that is it.  You are not even allowed to get angry at them any more-although the President did try:

 

 

 

The President had the correct response to Major Garrett. "That's nonsense and you should know better!"

One reason I have not been writing as much as I used to, is my overall level of disgust at my fellow citizens who should know better, but throw themselves willy nilly into the lanes of stupidity. It's barely been 48 hours since the horrific events in Chattanooga, and the swill that passes for commentary on the internet is , to put it honestly, appalling. I lalready showed you some from the Town Hall Harlot, but actually if you peruse either Facebook or Twitter, its even worse. The level of ignorance and stupidity in the land of my birth is appalling. Digby provides some really bad examples for all the rest of us to see.

 

 

 

As Digby points out, "Sadly, that thinking represents a majority of the Republican Party."

And indeed it does. She then goes on to point out an annoying little fact that bears repeating just like Pierce did:

If we were to compare our most recent mass murders (we have so many) and the reactions to them, ask yourself whether or not anyone was clamoring to punish Dylan Roof's family. Or round up all the white supremacists and put them in jail. No, there was a clamoring among some Americans to pull down the confederate flag from official buildings. And it's astonishing, when you think about it, that such a flag was even flying or that people were defending it — the same people, no doubt, who are clamoring for this family to be deported (or worse.) 





I noticed that while we don't know at this point the motives of the Chattanooga shooter, it's crystal clear what Dylan Roof's were — to start a race war. And yet the media is having no trouble calling Chattanooga suspected terrorism. The head of the FBI says he's just not sure about Dylan Roof. It seems too obvious now, if it didn't before, that the term is only applied to Muslims. 





Charlie Pierce has it right — this is about America and our love affair with violence.   I had been under the impression that the right had made its peace with that as the price we pay for the freedom to be armed to the teeth at all times.  But that's not true.  They are very philosophical about the consequence of violence when it's perpetrated by white people, to be sure. It's just a fact of life like summer storms and earthquakes.  But they get very, very angry when a racial or ethnic minority does it. There's some sick white privilege for you.

 

 

This is your democracy America. Enjoy it while you still can.

6 responses so far

Jul 17 2015

When is a crime just a crime?

Its been a month since I have posted. I have been busy. No excuse to be sure-but its the truth.

During that time a lot has happened, much of it comment worthy-and if you are big reader like I am, you have probably read a lot of the commentary on it already. So I will try not to repeat it.

What I do want to take a couple of moments to comment on is the Chattanooga shooting yesterday. As soon as I heard that the shooter had a Muslim name, I said to myself, "Oh boy, here we go."

And true to form, the Town Hall Harlot proved me right.

 

Of course, the fact that the shooter was a naturalized American citizen is immaterial to this conclusion.  Now mind you this is just a month after a mass shooting in Charleston S.C. occurred. That we are told is not "terrorism", but this is. Can't they both be equally despicable?

Apparently,  in the eyes of some, not.

I think its important in this time of national tragedy to not be a Malkin or a paranoid American, but to step back and look at some actual facts.

Because, whether you want to admit it or not-the events of Charleston and the events of Chattanooga are more alike than they are different. When boiled down to it's base facts, as we know them so far: An American had a grudge. So he obtained a firearm and attempted to rectify his grudge by using that firearm on his fellow citizens. The grudge may have been fueled by irrational ideas from abroad-but it does not erase the fact that the killer was an American citizen who decided that killing fellow American citizens was the way to go.

Americans are killing each other again. That is the fundamental—if politically less useful—lesson of what happened in Tennessee yesterday. An American citizen got his gun and he went to a strip mall and he killed four of his fellow citizens, killed them as dead as Michael Brown or Eric Garner, as dead as the people who were killed by Dylann Roof, who's awaiting trial, or as dead as the people who were killed by James Holmes, who was convicted of killing them just yesterday. By all the criteria of which we boast of our exceptionalism to the world, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez was as much of an American as the four people he allegedly murdered. His motivation doesn't matter. He was a citizen. His victims were citizens. Americans killing other Americans. It's an old story being rehearsed again with unfortunate frequency.

 

It troubles me that so many people are trying to tie in unrelated issues to this tragedy. Do we need to enforce our borders? Of course we do. Do we need to restrict immigration quotas from Islamic nations? Much as it pains me to say it, perhaps we might-but before we do so, we need to have a bigger conversation about American ideals and the laws of unintended consequences. Because the same people who are advocating this course of action, are descended from possible nations where their ancestors were considered terrorists just the same as Mr. Abdulazeez was. Is America a beacon of liberty or not?

That said, Islam has some real problems right now, problems that collectively it refuses to deal with. I'm not blind to that. Nonetheless, I am having a hard time making the distinction between how denying immigration rights now to qualified immigrants, would have stopped an immigrant family from spawning a criminal some 20 years ago. Someone is going to have to explain to me how that works.

I'm willing to bet you a quart of your favorite Scotch that :

1) The weapon(s) used yesterday were obtained legally, at anyone of America's 129,817 gun dealers.

2) Mr Abdulazeez may or may not be linked to some overseas terrorist group. I, at this point do not know. But I also would like someone to tell me how that would have stopped him from legally obtaining a gun to commit his heinous deeds. Evidently his family had already been investigated and cleared.

Eventually we’ll learn more about Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, but one thing is certain: The Marines who were killed yesterday were equally as much as victims of the American culture of violence as the victims in Charleston.

Lets not forget too that:

  So far in 2015 , 27000 times an American chose that same course of action. They all had problems they had decided they could not solve. They all had grudges. They all had something that made them angry enough. And, as a result, almost 7,000 of our fellow citizens are as dead as the people in Tennessee. This is not an explanation that satisfies any particular agenda but, unquestionably, we are a very fearful nation with an unacknowledged history of violence that also has armed itself very heavily. Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, an American citizen, chose a very American course of action.  He had a problem he couldn't solve so he reached for the most American of solutions. He reached for a gun and he killed some of his fellow citizens.?

We will be told over and over again, "this is different, we are at war."  I beg to disagree. Whatever wars we are fighting beyond our borders, here at home-this was a crime. Every bit as much a crime as a contract hit ordered by a mob family in Ukraine, China or Sicily.  You have to fight it the same as any other crime. Its tragic that the nation lots four of its finest, but its losing fine citizens everyday. We need to remember that.  When you boil it down to brass tacks, this yet another case of an American with a grudge, who obtained a weapon inside the US and took out his rage with it. If this is terrorism, than most gun violence is terrorism.

And I call it a crime, not an act of war. Terrorism is a violent tool used for political reasons to bring pressure on governments by creating fear in the populace. In the same way, I have never thought it helpful to refer to a "war" on terror, any more than to a war on drugs. For one thing that legitimizes the terrorists as warriors; for another thing terrorism is a technique, not a state. Moreover terrorism will continue in some form whatever the outcome, if there is one, of such a "war". For me what happened was a crime and needs to be thought of as such. What made it different from earlier attacks was its scale and audacity, not its nature.

One response so far

Jun 20 2015

Just a walk in the park

Well, not really. Rather, it is an early morning ride to the S-Bahn station, and then a hike up the non-running escalator to await the arrival of my ride to the main train station. Its traveling time again, and even though I had very little sleep last night, the thought of travel makes my senses tingle and excitement courses through my veins.

Boarding the S-Bahn early on a Saturday morning is always something of an interesting sight. There among the silent or sleeping passengers-heading to work or home from a long night-lays the remains from the carnage of a Friday night. In the trash bins along the side of the car are empty beer bottles, a lone empty bottle of vermouth, and just forward of my seat, a Stolichnaya bottle that evidently had given its contents to the service of someone’s heavy intoxication.

Arriving at the Hauptbanhof only adds to the assault on the senses. Rising from the deep tracks where the S-Bahn arrives, one is immediately able to see, hear and smell the variety of the station’s underground. Passengers and tourists, some with suitcases, some without, scurry in all directions. From the bakeries the smell of fresh bread and pastry, mixed with smell of brewing coffee wafts in and around my nose. The noise of both trains and people is every present, but because it is still early in the morning, its still rather subdued. Come the late afternoon it will rise to a louder crescendo-but for now, it’s a rather peaceful and contemplative sight.

 

Having traversed the length of the underground concourse, a turn left is needed and onto yet another escalator, this one heading up to the heart of the main station with the high stone ceiling so common among European train stations. A quick stop at Starbucks halfway up and then it’s on the main lobby area. As I ride the second and last escalator up, behind me, a man is wailing, possibly drunk, definitely having had better days, holding plastic garbage bag full of bottles and cans. A homeless man perhaps? Hoping to score enough in recyclables to buy a meal or more drinks I think. Departing the escalator, he is quickly accosted by the Polezei, who I assume put an end to his scavenging ways.

The Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof currently has a lot of construction going on. The beginning of the platforms is moved almost half a kilometer down from the station lobby area. I’ve got just 15 minutes to traverse to my platform and board a high speed train that will whisk me up to Frankfurt airport and flying.

These sights and sounds are one of the things I really love about being in Europe and being lucky enough to have a job that allows me to travel the way I do. Had I been still in Shopping Mall, the morning would have been a slower start, but with none of this excitement. For all the things that I have to complain about, they all tend to recede into the background on a morning like this. I’m a lucky man indeed. Right now, for a bunch of reasons, the future here is uncertain-but those worries are for another day and time. For today, I can relax and enjoy the movement of the traveling man. And that’s enough for me today.

 

Skippy-san

 

 

3 responses so far

Jun 19 2015

With clockwork precision

A mass shooting happens in America every three to four months or so. Charleston, home of my beloved alma-mater, took its turn in the barrel yesterday.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A white gunman opened fire Wednesday night at a historic black church in downtown Charleston, S.C., killing nine people before fleeing and setting off an overnight manhunt, the police said.

At a news conference with Charleston’s mayor early Thursday, the police chief, Greg Mullen, called the shooting a hate crime.

“It is unfathomable that somebody in today’s society would walk into a church while they are having a prayer meeting and take their lives,” he said.

The police said the gunman walked into the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church around 9 p.m. and began shooting.

Eight people died at the scene, Chief Mullen said. Two people were taken to the Medical University of South Carolina, and one of them died on the way.

“Obviously, this is the worst night of my career,” Chief Mullen said. “This is clearly a tragedy in the city of Charleston.”

And with equal predictability will be the cycle of excuses, recriminations and most disturbingly the Fox News deflection of the real blame for these events. Tired old shibboleths about the intent of the Founding Fathers in writing the 2nd Amendment will be trotted out out for the 989th time. Real change however? Just     NOT    GOING   TO   HAPPEN. This is the mediocrity America accepts as the cost of "freedom".

Freedom? Really?  How about the freedom for the rest of us to be able to conduct the daily transactions of society without fear of being shot by some lunatic?

The ammosexual defense of their kink is predictable and almost certainly incorrigible. Driven (and heavily armed) that’s a view that’s managed to hold political sway over the mushy majority for whom the notion the the liberty of the gun-sniffing few outweighs the freedom of the rest of us to assemble, travel, speak without fear of suppressing fire. What drives that is, at least in part, the normalization of gun fetishization. Which is what you see above. And is what must be shamed out of the public square.

Nope, No, No sirree Bob. Because, "Murica!". Second Amendment. Protect against tyranny in government. Pick you own sick and twisted metaphor.

Nothing ever changes.

The truth is made worse by the reality that no one–really no one–anywhere on the political spectrum has the courage to speak out about the madness of unleashed guns and what they do to American life….

The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country–Canada, Norway, Britain–has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do–as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue.

 

No responses yet

Jun 09 2015

USS Liberty

Published by under History

As I have mentioned I travel to the land of milk and honey quite a bit. One of the messages I continually hear is about how Israel is surrounded and always under attack. And I don't really dispute it-having been on the road twice when the sirens went off and rockets were inbound. ( True Story).

But there was also the time that Israel was the attacker. Yesterday being June 8th, it is probably worth remembering:

In 1967, at the height of the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War, the Israeli Air Force launched an unprovoked attack on the USS Liberty, a US Navy spy ship that was monitoring the conflict from the safety of international waters in the Mediterranean.

Israeli jet fighters hit the vessel with rockets, cannon fire and napalm, before three Israeli torpedo boats moved in to launch a second more devastating attack. Though she did not sink, the Liberty was badly damaged. Thirty-four US servicemen and civilian analysts were killed, another 171 were wounded.

Later Israel apologized for what it claimed to be a tragic case of mistaken identity. It said that it had believed the ship to be hostile Egyptian naval vessel. US President Lyndon Johnson was privately furious but publicly the White House chose not to challenge the word of its closest Middle East ally and accepted that the attack had been a catastrophic accident.

 

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In the years since then, there has been a lot of talk of conspiracies and cover-ups. I don't know who is right, but I know Israelis don't like to talk about it.

As for the truth about a cover-up, I don't know and will not speculate. But it is worth remembering that 34 men died that day. God grant them rest and peace.

 

2 responses so far

Jun 05 2015

The pre-determined script

About a week ago, I had the chance to read an article in the New York Times about Fleet Week in New York. Fleet Week, for those who don't know, is supposed to be a week where the Navy sends ships into town and they host tours and the city hosts special events. Done properly a good time is had by all and I have fond memories of a couple of fleet weeks where the libations and the scenery ( if you get my drift) were just fine.

Well, good old mother Navy wants you to know that is all changed:

The High Line.

Shake Shack.

The ballet.

Fleet Week is not what it used to be. Once upon a time, sailors on leave on New York’s streets after months at sea went a little wild — liquor and female companionship were the priorities, with barstool-tossing brawls often the unintended result. Now, not so much. “I spent way too much money at the American Girl store,” said Chief Petty Officer Justin Brown, a member of the Navy for 17 years who said he came to the city with a detailed shopping list from his daughters, ages 4 and 7, in Virginia. “I got a bunch of clothes for the dolls, and accessories.” The turn from those drunken sailors of shore leaves past to the American Girl doll-toting sailors of today has been long in coming, with cultural tourism slowly edging out more earthy pursuits.

To see this week’s white-clad visitors exploring New York is to understand not just how sailors have changed, but how significantly the city that welcomes them has changed. Shopping bags, iced coffee, restaurant recommendations, a photo beneath a selfie stick. The writers of “On the Town” would surely have scratched their heads in wonderment.

Complete and utter rubbish.

If judging by any numbers of recent covers of Navy times as a benchmark, there is still plenty of lechery going on in today's Navy. This article, however,  represents the Navy's PAO machine at work trying to convince us all that the great experiment was a complete success and that there were absolutely no costs involved to either the service or American society as a whole in the unleashing the great diversity monster.

I as I pointed out clearly , three years ago, the Navy PAO machine is always on the march trying to peddle this message. It would not surprise me one bit if the Navy paid the NYT to print that article.

Of course there were a few parts they conveniently left out.  Such as: Getting breathalyzed crossing the quarterdeck returning. Being forced to go ashore with a buddy and making sure you actually named that buddy before you left the ship. or the curfews and liberty limits, expressly illegal in the US I might add.

They also neglected to point out the significant percentage of that 1800 Sailors who at some point in the evening probably ended up in a hotel or bathroom stall f*cking their fellow Sailors.

A deeper and more insightful article would have pointed out the higher adminstrative burden the Navy bears for this "kindler and gentler" Naval Service. But that's not the objective here.

Look, I understand the way the tide of history has turned. I get it. But what still makes me angry is the utter dishonesty that the diversity mafia wants to foist on us in "proving" how essential women are to the service.

Try getting them to release overall pregnancy statistics sometime. Or how many dual service couples there are-and the difficulties in colocation detailing. ( We'll not even point out that the fraternization barriers were inevitably crossed somewhere on the way to the altar.) I won't even try to get into the utter hypocrisy of the whole TIP nonsense.

There is no free lunch. Everything comes at a cost.

They should at least be honest about it.

Are the processes welcome? That depends on your point of view. If the reason for having armed forces is to guarantee national security, then the answer is clearly no. …………

One may also look at the problem in a different way. Over the last few decades people have become accustomed to think of the feminization of the military as if it were some great and mighty step towards women’s liberation. In fact, it is nothing of the kind. For thousands, probably tens of thousands of years, we men have laid down our lives so that the women we love might live. To quote the Trojan hero Hector on this, he preferred going to hell a thousand times to seeing his wife, Andromache, weeping as she was led into captivity by one of the “copper-wearing Greeks.”-Martin Van Creveld.

 

4 responses so far

May 26 2015

Published by under Beer and Babes

This is my first post in the month of May. Not for  lack of desire-but for lack of time. I have spent most of this month on the road, first spending several weeks in the land of Eretz Yisrael and then a long promised trip to take the S.O. to see Slovenia. Slovenia, by the way is wonderful and worth the time to go. Lake Bled is simply charming and Ljubljana really surprised  me. In the next couple of days I will post some pictures of that little jaunt as well as some shots from an afternoon spent roaming around Jerusalem. Suffice it to say it will be good to get back to the old homestead and working at my desk again. My business trips are always busy and something has to fall away.

Hope every one had a nice Memorial Day or Pentecost holiday. The summer has officially started. That means its time for lots of this:

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And some of this:

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More to follow.cheeky

 

One response so far

Apr 29 2015

Never placing the blame where it belongs……..

Published by under Bush Buffoonery,Iraq

Over at another blog, there is yet another tired old rendition of the refrain, "The surge worked-and Obama pissed it all away."  Its a tiresome song that gets played over and over again, and the usual suspects will shout, "hear, hear". Now I do understand it, I do recognize that a lot of people believe it. There is just one big problem-they are completely wrong:

We fought in a war with no discernible outcome. If one were forced to label what we see, it would have to be called a failure because the job was half done. We won in Iraq before we lost. We fought to win, but the gains we made were abandoned for one man's vision of a superpower-less world. All gave some, sure, but some gave a hell of a lot more. Yet, after the blood has dried and the wounds are scarred-over, what was earned? What was saved? What was gained or lost? We are right to ask, "Why?" 

I don't know about the rest of you, but I wonder. Perhaps some can see it merely as a temporary job in a longer career, but I can't. People died because of what I did. Real human beings who no longer live and breathe. This wasn't some drunk driving accident; it was for a purpose … and now, it wasn't. 

"I support the troops, but not the war," is an equivocation that led to the asinine withdrawal and squandering of the gains … and therefore the lives and health of those who were hit.

This supposed ambivalence wasn't support at all. It was a socially correct door, left ajar so that those sacrifices could be made to mean nothing in the end… for convenience sake.

This country can retroactively reduce the value of your effort, your pain and even your life to zero without batting an eye. Our own countrymen do it, and they do it selfishly. They want safety, security, but they are unwilling to pay for it. Certainly not with their blood, sweat and tears; not even with their wallets.

Three points:

1) It is perfectly possible to support the troops and not the war-especially when you recognize that from day 1, as I did, the war was a huge mistake. The fact that one is powerless to stop the madness, does not prevent one from wanting it to be all over-and voting for someone who promises to do that. We didn't "squander" success in Iraq-we allowed the real enemies many years to advance past us. Which BTW, is not the same as wanting a "superpowerless world". It is, however recognizing, that a stupid decision made in 2002 had disastrous consequences. The multi-polar world was willed into existence on March 19, 2003 and all the post hoc whining about what you think Obama gave away is not going to change that. George Bush wasted 4,439 American lives for nothing. Stating it any other way is avoiding the truth.  And here is another news flash- the United States is powerless to stop the rise of the multi-polar world. Need to know why? Go ask George Bush.

2) Not once, not once,(and this is a big point)  does the author EVER put the blame for failure where it belongs-on the worthless Arabs of Iraq themselves, who have had 12 years to make something of their worthless country and have failed miserably at every turn. They were worthless Arab scum in 2003 and they remain so now. Certainly they were never worth the sacrifices made on their behalf. We tried, that is to be sure, but the "seed corn" we were working with was never up to the task of making a democracy.  We got empire with all of the burdens and none of the perks. The surge did not succeed-it failed miserably, at great cost, because it never achieved the political breathing room and conciliation that was envisioned. A whole lot of people told Bush at the time it would fail-and thus he deserves all of the blame.  Invading Iraq was the fundamental mistake-the rest were just attempts to put a bandage on a bad idea.

3) By wasting a trillion dollars on Iraq, the US set it self up for failure on a whole bunch of other fronts-including its own economy. If you supported the war, but did not support raising the revenue to pay for it, then you have NO RIGHT to complain about deficits, ever.  Its a hypocritical position and its truly maddening to hear this logic over and over again, even when the facts tell us otherwise.

The simple truth is that the folks who want to place the failure in Iraq solely on Obama, are not really concerned about stating the facts. The American people acted correctly in 2006 and 2008 by showing their disgust with the stupidity of a worthless war for worthless people. Leaving a residual force behind might have delayed by the current crisis by temporarily restraining Iraqis’ sectarian impulses. However, given political realities in Iraq and the U.S.., Americans couldn’t have stayed there indefinitely.

4,439 Americans dying for nothing bothers me too. But at least have the decency to place blame for that waste of life where it belongs. On the Iraqi people themselves. 

 

And because of those realities, the surge ultimately failed because the goal of true political reconciliation was unrealistic. In most of the world, sectarian, ethnic, linguistic and/or tribal allegiances run deep, which is why most of the world’s most stable democracies are found in relatively homogeneous societies. That being said, sectarian identities become pathological when a brutal dictator from the minority faction spends decades ruling over and terrorizing the majority population. No foreign power invaded Syria, and it is in worse shape than Iraq.

No residual force could rewire the Iraqis, and thus leaving one behind would just have delayed the inevitable.

2 responses so far

Apr 21 2015

Israel’s memorial day

Today is Yom Hazikaron (Yom Hazikaron l'Chalalei Ma'arachot Yisrael ul'Nifgaei Peulot Ha'eivah-  literally, "Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism"). This is Israel's Memorial Day.

Yom Hazikaron is the national remembrance day observed in Israel for those who fell since 1860, when Jews were first allowed to live in Palestine outside of Jerusalem's Old City walls. National memorial services are held in the presence of Israel's top leadership and military personnel. The day opens with a siren the preceding evening at 20:00 (8:00 pm), given that in the Hebrew calendar system, a day begins at sunset. The siren is heard all over the country and lasts for one minute, during which Israelis stop everything (including driving, which stops highways) and stand in silence, commemorating the fallen and showing respect.  Many religious Jews say prayers for the souls of the fallen soldiers at this time. The official ceremony to mark the opening of the day takes place at the Western Wall,  and the flag of Israel is lowered to half staff.

A two-minute siren is sounded at 11:00 the following morning, which marks the opening of the official memorial ceremonies and private remembrance gatherings at each cemetery where soldiers are buried. Many Israelis visit the resting places of loved ones throughout the day. The day officially draws to a close between 19:00 and 20:00 (7–8 p.m.) with the official ceremony of Israel's Independence Day at the national military cemetery on Mount Herzl when the flag of Israel is returned to full staff.

One of the government-owned television stations screens the names of all the fallen in chronological order (rank, name, Hebrew date deceased and secular date) over the course of the day. Names appear for about three seconds each. 

It is that last bit I would like you to think about. As of April 14 2015, Israel had lost some 23,320 of its servicemen and women, 116 of them in the last year alone – 67 of those soldiers killed during Operation Protective Edge. Some 35 wounded veterans passed away this year as a result of their injuries, and were thus also recognized as fallen soldiers. To put that number in perspective, it is the equivalent of almost 1 million lost Americans.

I just point it out because I will be traveling to Israel in a few weeks-and I always try to keep that in the back of my mind when I am working there. It is all tragic. It is all the backdrop with which they live, every day. It helps me understand their perspective a lot better.

 

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Apr 14 2015

Stateside things.

Well its day 2 on the other side of the Atlantic. Waking up in a hotel upper floor and having to make myself ready to go work and not having the usual things around. In an acknowledgement to advancing years, I went to bed last night at 10:40pm. My younger self would have me beaten with an empty Yingling bottle.

But then again, I am waking up at about 6 each morning-which means its about 8 hours sleep for the night. Which hopefully will keep me from falling asleep in boring meetings.

I am enjoying getting to listen to NPR at its "real" time. Instead of having to down load Podcasts and replay the following day.

Marco Rubio joined the growing crowd on the clown car that is the ranks of GOP hopefuls who want to become President. I found his rationale for running interesting-and it was appalling to see the softball questions he was thrown this morning on the morning shows. For example when asked why he was running he went into his usual spiel about how he was running to restore the American dream. He was asked a question, about his reasons for running and his response went along the lines of, "blah blah blah, American Dream, and American has rich people and anyone can achieve what these people have done. 'America is great because non rich people can own houses and build a life her'".   

Which was fine, except as with all the GOP nominees the details are in the fine print of what they say they believe. Take Mr. Rubio. He wants Americans to be able have a home, a car, and life. But what the interviewer failed to ask him was the important follow up question: " How do you propose to help Americans to do this when, for example, you say you want to strip millions of those Americans of health insurance, by repealing the ACA and allowing insurance companies to go back to screwing them."  They did not ask him the all important question of what was his alternative? Then in a segue, they should have asked this follow up: Senator, "how would address the fact that increasing numbers of them are not allowed to enter the housing market because their wages are stagnant and their buying power is less than it was last year?"

This is what galls me about most of the media, they don't sake hard nosed questions-primarily because they are slaves to their corporate masters. And corporate masters don't like their ability to screw average Americans out of millions of dollars to be effectively challenged.

And then there is the weird history Rubio would prefer you ignore:

In 2012, The New York Times Magazine asked Rubio about this; here was the exchange:

After you became the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, in 2006, your mentor, Jeb Bush, presented you with a sword. What was that about?
Chang is a mythical conservative warrior. From time to time, if there’s a big issue going on, you’d see Jeb say, “I’m going to unleash Chang.” He gave me the sword of Chang.

From which mythology does this conservative warrior hail?
I think it’s a Jeb Bush creation.

But it's not a Jeb Bush creation. It's a Poppy Bush creation — it's a preppy in-joke of his. As Timothy Noah explained in 2012, Bush the Elder used to say "unleash Chiang" while playing tennis, as "partly an expression of sincere competitive spirit and partly a self-mocking acknowledgment that he had what his daughter Doro Bush Koch, in a memoir, lovingly describes as 'a bit of a weak serve.'"



And note that the proper spelling of the name isn't Chang — it's Chiang,as in Chiang Kai-shek, who was the exiled leader of the anti communist Chinese in the Mao era. Poppy was mocking anti-communists in America who wanted to "unleash Chiang" in order to topple the mainland Chinese government. As Noah wrote:

 

Unleashing Chiang would not have been a good idea because Chiang could not win (he'd already been whupped once by Mao's army) without the U.S. dropping a few atom bombs on mainland China, and perhaps not even then. (You'll recall we had a hard enough time with the Chinese in Korea.)

When Rubio discussed "Chang" with the Times interviewer, Noah chided him for not understanding the history behind the reference:

This blog gives Rubio an F in post-World War II history….

Since Doro knows its real provenance, I assume Jeb must, too. Rubio clearly does not.

But I'm with Brad DeLong, who thinks Jeb didn't get it:

… George H. W. Bush’s sons — even the smart one, Jeb — never got the joke. They, you see, didn’t know enough about world history or even the history of the Republican Party to know who Chiang Kaishek was, or what “Unleash Chiang!” meant. Hence Jeb Bush’s explanation that twentieth-century Chinese nationalist, socialist, general, and dictator Chiang Kaishek was a “mystical warrior… who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society.”

Precisely — Jeb took a joke about conservative zealotry and turned into a celebration of conservative zealotry.

It is going to be a long 18 months.

 

 

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Apr 12 2015

Traveling man.

Published by under Beer and Babes,Travel

On the road again-and today I hit the jackpot airline wise. Lufthansa took pity on me and gave me an upgrade. Upper Deck Business class. WHOO-HOO!

Now I just hope my next door seat companion looks like this:

123

 

And they serve plenty of this!Champagne-Glass1

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Apr 03 2015

Coming full circle

Back in 2008, I wrote two posts about the subject of gay marriage, coming down rather firmly against the idea. The recent events in Indiana, coupled with the rather disturbing efforts of people like David Green to enforce their screwed up views of right and wrong have now convinced me that I was wrong and need to change my mind. Now mind you, I am really not a fan of any marriage, gay or straight-so completely useless is the institution in my humble opinion-but if we do have this screwed institution than who am I to care about sleeps with who and who marries who.  Watching the actions of that bag of hammers,  Mike Pence, made me a believer that I was on the wrong path.

Its especially a sweet revelation because it places me in firm opposition to others who should know better.

(By the way, prior to putting up that post-there was a Diversity Thursday post up taking the Secretary of the Air Force to task for something she should be taken to task for. But interestingly, in the comments, the supposedly egalitarian and oh so welcoming (sic) "front porch" got well and truly trolled by a commenter who brought up more than a few unpleasant truths, that caused them to have a collective fit. Kind of makes me wonder what the real reason for taking the post down was. A change of heart or not liking someone not backing down to the collective bullying that can go on in the comments section? Alas the post is down so we will never know).

But back to Indiana. 

I question the need to pass a law entitled "Religious Freedom Restoration". What, exactly, are they trying to restore? Is there something preventing the citizens of Indiana from going to church where they want? Are people not being allowed to voice their opinions? The answer to both questions is no-especially if one reads the garbage that passes for commentary over at say: The Federalist, Red State, or the Town Hall Harlot. Regrettably free speech, such as it were, is alive and well in those cesspools of humanity. "What problem are they really trying to resolve here?". Certainly its not about fixing gay marriage-its already legal in the state. 

As we saw in the Hobby Lobby case this is about one particular area, the outrage that a certain percentage of America feels when they can't dictate to others what they can and cannot do in life, by using the leverage of economics to hit them over the head. Hobby Lobby was trying to avoid his lawful responsibility as an employer. Indiana was trying to pass a feel good piece of legislation in order to allow discrimination, legal discrimination,  by zealots who were not content to leave a firewall in place between one's personal beliefs and one's public obligations.

The Indiana law was and is particularly egregious because as originally written it was designed to empower that type of discrimination. While not a license to discriminate-it does set the boundaries of the legal recourse against it:

These laws are instructions to courts on how to assess claims for religious exemptions to a wide variety of law. In general terms, they lay out (1) who can use the law; (2) what kinds of cases it will apply to; and (3) what standard the court will use to decide whether the claimant has a right to an exemption.

In two of these areas, the Indiana law as enacted and signed is broader than the federal RFRA or most other state laws. It provides religious protection to more businesses than the federal statute does, even after the Hobby Lobby case; and it explicitly provides a defense in actions between private parties, such as, let’s say, discrimination suits (the federal statute is silent on this issue, and federal courts are split). Beyond that, it allows businesses or individuals to challenge legal actions even before they happen—if they are “likely” to happen.

So when the “fix” is finally unveiled, read it carefully. And for a crash course in what shouldn't be there, look at the Arkansas religious-freedom bill that Gov. Hutchinson refused to sign on Wednesday. This bill makes the Indiana law look like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It begins with this reassuring finding: “It is a compelling governmental interest to comply with federal civil-rights law." But consider that federal civil-rights laws currently do not protect against discrimination by sexual orientation; the “finding” is not part of the actual statute; and, most importantly, the Arkansas legislature does not have and never has had the slightest power to set aside or reduce the scope of any federal law. It’s as generous as a “finding” that “in Arkansas, light is given permission to travel at 186,000 miles per second.”

I've seen a lot of writers argue that by requiring people to deal evenly with all people in the market place it somehow makes them "accomplices" in sin they disapprove of. That's complete and utter crap. When you enter the commercial arena you enter a legal world where you must live by your corporate responsibilities. Unlike what Mitt Romney said- corporations are not "people too my friend"-and thus don't have "free exercise" rights.  As Charles Blow wrote in the NYT, "I would argue that when you enter the sphere of commerce in America — regardless of your “deeply held religious beliefs” — you have entered a nondiscriminatory zone in which your personal beliefs are checked at the register, and each customer is treated equally."

I mean really, if you as a hotel clerk rent a room to a couple wanting to revel in some adulterous sexual delights, does that make you a participant in the act? Certainly not. All you care about is whether their credit card transaction was approved and that they don't damage anything in the room. What they do inside that room is their business-not yours. 

It is refreshing to me to see certain corporations recognize that they cannot sit idly by on the sidelines while this type of things goes on. When Tim Cook, CEO of arguably the most powerful corporation on the planet speaks out publicly, may be it is time for the worthless idiots like Allahpundit and Erik Erikson to stop and listen. (By the way,  just being on the same side as these guys should make you examine your own positions carefully. ).

This is where we are coming to what really offends the conservative side. They hate seeing their own tactics being effectively used  against them. Indiana is being justifiably made to suffer consequences for its own stupidity-and people like Tim Cook are hitting these people in the one area that really matters to them and their beliefs-their money. I hope it continues and I hope it really comes to hurt Indiana. When you find yourself to the right of NASCAR, maybe, just maybe, you have gone a bit too far.

 

And, for those of you keeping score at home, the following is a partial list of the institutions that are more progressive and that make more sense on this issue than Mike Pence does.

The NCAA.

Dan Quayle's Old Family Newspaper

NASCAR

Walmart

The state of Arkansas

Which gets to the point I wrote 7 years ago, "-marriage, like it or not, s evolving. And it should evolve because its current construct, as well as the demographics of those who practice it,  are changing dramatically. And if there are people who “want to be childless and partner less”- well they have their place too……..But in the end, short of a radical return to the 50′s, its coming. How we really live with it will be another story. If it makes marriage and divorce laws evolve to ones based on fairness and not entitlement-well then I guess I’ll have to welcome that change."

And so I have. Keep up the pressure, you Godless heathens! You are always winning if Mike Pence is losing.

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Mar 25 2015

The benign dictator

Lee Kuan Yew passed away on 23 March. He was 91. For those who don't know ( and you really should know this) he was the first Prime Minister of Singapore and was the founder of much of what we consider modern Singapore. As he himself said, Singapore is his legacy. That applies for both good and not so good.

Now truth in advertising, I love to be in Singapore. Its where I want to live, (as well as Japan) and I have been there 18 times. I love the place. When Lee Kuan Yew became the prime minister of Singapore in 1959, he assumed control of an ethnically divided, impoverished territory lacking in natural resources. In his 31 years in office—followed by another 21 in advisory roles—Lee transformed his country into one of the world’s most prosperous societies, a major business and transportation hub boasting a per capita GDP of $55,000.  I was often grateful for the quality of life he masterminded there.

But that quality of life came with a price and a dark side-and any eulogy of the man has to take that into account:

He will be remembered as the father of his country, a political street fighter who cut his teeth in the struggle against colonialism. Some will recall an unapologetic taskmaster — a leader more respected than loved — whose pragmatism lifted a Southeast Asian backwater into a sleek metropolis and global business hub. Others will recall the politically incorrect pundit who became an outspoken champion of “Asian values” and a sharp critic of American-style democracy. Each is correct, and captures part of the man. But to these remembrances one more should be added: Lee was the most successful dictator of the 20th century. (emphasis added-SS)

It’s a verdict that will please almost no one. For his admirers, he is a singular historic figure, not an autocratic strongman like those who eventually lorded over other former colonial outposts. He may not have been a Jeffersonian democrat, they say, but he was no dictator. On the other end of the spectrum, dissidents and democrats will take umbrage at the notion of an illiberal, authoritarian leader being remembered fondly at all. Still, Lee was one of the most universally celebrated statesmen of the last 50 years. American presidents, British prime ministers, apparatchiks from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and European officials all lined up to heap praise on the leader of this authoritarian duchy…………..

…..When Lee retired from office in 1990, Singapore had some of the world’s busiest shipyards, cleanest streets, top schools, lowest taxes, best healthcare, and most efficient public services. The so-called “little red dot” had become one of the world’s most livable cities, a magnet for skilled foreign workers and the multinational corporations who hire them.

But the miracle wasn’t without its price. Lee kept his political project on a tight leash, dampening free speech, muzzling his critics, and squashing political opposition before it could take root. The ruling People’s Action Party is rightly considered synonymous with the government because it has won every election since 1959. Singapore didn’t have a single opposition leader in office until 1981, and until 2011 there have never been more than four opposition members serving in the parliament at one time. On one hand, Lee’s political machine was unquestionably effective at delivering results for Singapore. In most years, it’d be hard for any political party anywhere to compete against PAP’s record of accomplishment. That said, when it came to ensuring their political future, Lee and his cohort were incredibly gifted at putting their finger on the scale.

 

As I said, I really do like the place, even with all its faults, and people who are less enlightened then I am, tend to think I overlook them. Its not true and never has been. If you go back through my posts since 2005 you will see I have been pretty even handed in my reporting. I admit, I do like a place where I can go out for a piece of pizza or a piece of ass with the same general ease, and in my mind that was always one of Singapore's pluses.  But there was much, much more to the city than just my hunger. And Singapore is a great place to eat. ( as well as do other things….   cheeky ). Its services and general atmosphere are unmatched anywhere, especially the United States. Singaporeans solved problems efficiently and in ways the world could and did learn from -specifically with respect to health care and housing. The United States, being exceptional and all, did not seem to take the lesson on board. I still bridle angrily at people who say that Singapore's solutions cannot be applied to the United States. Its completely wrong , they could be, and would work.

That said, there were troubling aspects to the place too and still are. Just ask this guy.

My driver, a middle-aged Chinese guy, recognizes me. For most of my working life I was forced into exile overseas. Despite graduating from Cambridge in 1983 with a first-class honors degree in economics, no one in my home country would employ me. But in 2008 I decided to return home anyway and last year I stood as candidate for the Opposition in the general elections. My driver is sneaking surreptitious glances at me in the mirror. Finally he says:“JBJ. Very good man!”

I tell him he’s right and he goes on:

“But in the end very poor. Selling his book on the street corner. I buy a copy. Very sad, lah!” Then after some thought, “That’s what happens when you go against the gahmen (government).”

He is referring to my father, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam. When I was a boy growing up in Singapore my father had been one of the highest-earning lawyers. He was also the first Opposition politician to get a seat in parliament, breaking a 16-year monopoly by the PAP. He was subjected to multiple defamation suits and perverse judgments which forced him out of parliament and out of his law practice and eventually bankrupted him.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam then goes on to ask the question of Mr. Lee that we all should ask, could not the government have found a way to have prosperity, progress and innovation without sacrificing central control and whilst not repressing freedom?  I personally think the answer is yes, especially because there are examples that prove me right, but Mr. Lee would not have agreed with that answer at all. Perhaps at the start he needed a tight grip-for the Communists where a real and persistent threat. But later-not so much:

During his last decades in public life, the Singaporean regime became increasingly critical of the American-led notion that human rights—including democracy—had worldwide applicability. In an interview published in the Atlantic in 2013, Lee argued that “Americans believe their ideas are universal—the supremacy of the individual and free, unfettered expression. But they’re not—and never were.”?

There is one other aspect of the society he crafted that I, for one, find particularly troubling and its not unique to Singapore, the Middle East and other parts of Asia have it too-namely the fact that a part of Singapore's success rests on the backs of an underclass of foreign workers, that will never enjoy the benefits of the prosperity that has been brought there."Singapore cannot compete with cheap labor overseas so it brings the cheap labor to Singapore, with no minimum wage there is no bottom to how cheap this labor can be. Not surprisingly this exploitation has fueled an explosion in GDP but not in real wages, which have stagnated or fallen." Specifically for me, and since this is women's history month, the exploitation of so many people troubles folks a good deal.  The fact that American feminists pay ZERO attention to the plight of these women, is just grounds to shout at them repeatedly.

Singapore is a mixed bag to be sure-but its a better bag than most places, ( light years ahead of Shopping Mall USA) and a lot of that was do to the vision of Lee Kuan Yew. “People want economic development first and foremost,” he said in an interview printed in his 1998 book, The Man and His Ideas. “The leaders may talk something else. You take a poll of any people. What is it they want? The right to write an editorial as you like? They want homes, medicine, jobs, schools."

That they got. At what price they paid-that is what will be the discussion in the years to come.

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