Mar 16 2015

Prior service does not guarantee future results.

Published by under Assholes,Hypocrites,Military

The last week has been full of news of Sen Tom Cotton (douche bag-AR), the freshman Senator from Arkansas who seems not to have a very good understanding of his place in the United States government.  Worse yet is the fact that my two Senators proved themselves every bit as worthless as I knew them to be, by signing on to his stupid letter-instead of fulfilling their purpose in the Senate, namely to tell the young man to take a seat and shut his freshmen mouth until he is spoken to or asked to vote on something. 
 

A sure sign that Cotton is on the wrong side of history is the glowing endorsement he got from William "The Bloody" Kristol. Kristol, who never met a war he did not like, and could not be bothered to actually serve in the armed forces, has been wrong just about , no I take that back, has been wrong EXACTLY,  100% of the time. 

What's truly astonishing is Kristol's total obliviousness to why self-criticism might be warranted in foreign affairs: For the last decade, even the places where Republicans earnestly did want to spread liberty have turned into costly debacles. They had dubious notions of what the military could accomplish. They failed to execute. They stubbornly denied anything was amiss for far too long. And as a result, Republicans, especially neoconservatives, lost the trust of American voters.

But still there are folks who want to tread in Kristol's misbegotten path-and our boy Tom Cotton, geographically challenged though he may be, is just the latest of Republican politicians to head down the wrong path with Kristol leading the way.

Thomas Friedman, who I have a love hate relationship with-did a pretty good job of explaining why Cotton was and is wrong in his column of March 3. Specifically he points out the very cogent points that our boy from Hicksville seems oblivious to.:

Netanyahu never made a convincing argument as to why walking away from Obama’s draft deal with Iran would result in either a better deal, more sanctions or an Iranian capitulation — and not a situation where Iran would continue to build toward a bomb and our only two choices would be to live with it or bomb it, with all the mess that could entail. In that sense, Bibi’s speech was perfect for Congress: I’ve got a better plan, and it won’t cost a thing or require any sacrifice by the American people. The guy could be a congressman. The U.S. position — shared by China, Russia, Germany, Britain and France — is: Given that Iran has already mastered the techniques to make a bomb and managed to import all the components to do so, despite sanctions, it is impossible to eliminate Iran’s bomb-making capabilities. What is possible is to demand that Iran roll back its enrichment and other technologies so that if Iran decided one day to make a bomb, it would take it a year — more than enough time for the U.S. and its allies to destroy it.

Tom Cotton does not seem much interested in answering that question-something some very astute political columnists have pointed out. 

But Cotton's supporters don't seem to think he has to correct himself or answer a question. After all he did, something that neither Friedman or Kristol did, he served in the armed forces.

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To hear some people tell it, that's the end of the story. Tom Cotton cannot be criticized because he served in Iraq. Even by other people who actually did not leave the service to make money as a lawyer and start a political career, but stayed on active duty for some 30+ years

Lets put aside for a moment how basically flawed Cotton's ideas and his methods are with the letter.  It strikes me as more than passing odd,  that people think Cotton gets a free pass when he is wrong because he once wore Army green. Besides the fact that there are also veterans with a Democrat next to their name who have taken the erstwhile Senator to task, and it is quite clear that no one on the conservative side of the aisle is willing to take that into account when making criticisms; but the key issue in politics is not, "what did he do back then?", but rather "what have you done for us lately?". And Cotton is a Senator who has only been on the job for 65 days. He really has not done very much except show that he needs to take some remedial lessons on geography and history.

( Oh and for what its worth Tom, despite your valiant efforts in Iraq, the place is still a basket case and the invasion of Iraq was still the worst foreign policy disaster of the last 40 years).

Honorable service is not a "get out of jail free" card for poor decisions made subsequent to the service.  It's probably worth pointing out too that there are plenty of strident people who served honorably who,  in hindsight,  were real dicks, both in and out of uniform. The evidence in the case of Cotton sure looks that way.    

He's proving with each passing day to have some pretty bad ideas of what government is and is not supposed to do-and his stated public positions, especially about Guantanamo, hardly square well with a man who portrays himself as being supposedly compassionate and a Christian. The more you dig with him the more you find out, he's probably a pretty bad guy. So I thank him for his service and now,  respectfully ask him to stop being such a dick.

As Andrew Bacevich has pointed out repeatedly, the fawning adoration of a guy like Cotton-based solely on his military service-misses a much deeper point. 

Soldiers have tended to concur with this evaluation of their own moral superiority. In a 2003 survey of military personnel, "two-thirds [of those polled] said they think military members have higher moral standards than the nation they serve Once in the military, many said, members are wrapped in a culture that values honor and morality." Such attitudes leave even some senior officers more than a little uncomfortable. Noting with regret that "the armed forces are no longer representative of the people they serve," retired admiral Stanley Arthur has expressed concern that "more and more, enlisted as well as officers are beginning to feel that they are special, better than the society they serve." Such tendencies, concluded Arthur, are "not healthy in an armed force serving a democracy."

In public life today, paying homage to those in uniform has become obligatory and the one unforgivable sin is to be found guilty of failing to "support the troops." In the realm of partisan politics, the political Right has shown considerable skill in exploiting this dynamic, shamelessly pandering to the military itself and by extension to those members of the public laboring under the misconception, a residue from Vietnam, that the armed services are under siege from a rabidly anti-military Left.

Bacevich's entire body of recent work has pointed out that this attitude can be dangerous-especially with a public that gives lip service to trying to understand the underlying issues at play in the conflicts that caused the United States to waste the first 15 years of the 21st century. Cotton, sadly tried to exploit this in his Senate campaign last year. His military service does not give him immunity from criticism, in fact it should invite the opposite question, "Why did you not learn anything substantial during your time on active duty?".

As the mutual fund managers will tell you all the time, past performance does not guarantee future results. And a sitting Senator does not get a free pass on current poor judgment , just because he once was in the infantry.

2 responses so far

Mar 10 2015

Another orbit around the sun.

Today is my birthday which in the grand scheme of things is not really important-and tomorrow is the 4TH anniversary of the Tohoku Tsunami which is. If had not given up booze for lent ( and believe me I think its a big mistake tonight)-I would probably be drunk off my ass tonight and not typing this post.

So lucky you, I am sober. sad

Its 2015-the year Back to the Future promised us a lot of things. And we do have a lot of the technology toys that were promised, although I am still waiting for  my hoverboard and flying car. Not to mention the demise of all lawyers.

But given the way the future of the world, and in particular the US is heading, we might need those lawyers after all. For certainly 2015 has not turned out the way I thought it would be in 1979. I mean, besides the fact that I am not rich and successful with a svelte young blond by my side-the overall direction of the land of my birth is backwards not forwards. And that troubles me a lot more than you know.

I feel cheated in so many ways. So many things were supposed to be true this years that are not simply in the cards. The world was supposed to be a more peaceful place. Technology was supposed to have improved the lot of all the worlds populations such that disease, hunger, pollution, and poverty were supposed to be a distant, albeit unpleasant memory.

And we won't even get into the fact that the age of "free love", e.g, lots of sex with lots of partners got a real cramp placed on it in the 80's. WTF is up with that? Certainly its not been for lack of trying on our part as a species-after all monogamy sucks.

And what can one say about the United States? Nothing good I am afraid. The direction of the country's politics is definitely regressive, not progressive. President Obama did himself proud when he eloquently pointed out that it does not have to be that way, and that the cruel vision for the country held forth by the tea sniffers is not in keeping with real patriotism at all. It is what teabaggers will never understand:

What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?"

That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American as others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for it. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing; we are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe age of 25 could lead a mighty march.

More on that tomorrow. It was a wonderful speech-but then he had to return to Washington and govern the country with a legislature filled with morons. Suffice it to say, I am not optimistic about the direction of the country. I am deeply concerned what will happen in the back half of this decade, especially when some asshole like Scott Walker gets elected. 

Like everyone on their birthday-especially when in their late 50's I have paused to reflect on the fact that the more of the journey has been completed than is left to run. That's indeed a scary thought. I also, once again, marvel at the changes that have occurred in me and my viewpoints of both my former profession and the world.

For example, I continue to marvel at how completely I have been able to slam the door on my former career as a Naval Officer. While I am grateful for the gifts it gave me, I have no longing desire to go back to it. Especially in the "no fun of any kind" Navy that exists now. I was even able to pick up the latest Navy Times , where the MCPON says chiefs iniations are not "tradition" and not completely lose it. ( Even though the statements by the MCPON are complete and utter bullshit). I find myself speculating on the alternate paths I might have taken-especially as I hear so many people on the radio who left college and do not even , ever, consider the service. At the time I was 20, the idea of not going into the Navy was non-existent to me. But who knows what adventures the alternate path might have led to?

Or not. Either way, I don't find myself missing the wearing of the uniform one bit. That door is closed and will remain so.

There are other things I think about too. I think a lot about injustice these days, and the unfairness of the economic system. I am asking myself what can I do about it? And not liking the answer of, "not very much", at all. I have become a voracious consumer of economic news of late and I find what companies are doing these days quite disturbing. Disposable workers were not what 2015 was supposed to be about either. That they exist,  well that happens. That so many people blithely defend the practice-that is what is truly troublesome.

And it brings me back to the question of my closed door former life. What was it all for? Certainly not to defend this sick and twisted view of life, society, and humanity. If it was-well than may God forgive me for devoting such effort to the profession.

And that brings me back to the idea of what will it take in the future to correct that?

More to follow on that later this week. Have a good day.

hot-sex-fifty-shades-of-grey-birthday-ecards-someecards?

2 responses so far

Feb 27 2015

I have been and shall always be, your fan.

Published by under Memorials

And yes I stole that line from Wonkette.

Leonard Nimoy died today. For a true Star Trek fan like me-its kind of like the end of the world. Yes you knew this day was coming, but you did not want to think about it, and now that it is finally here, you just can't seem to believe it.

I am a fan of the entire Star Trek enterprise (how is that for a play on words?), but I was really enraptured with the Original Series, DS-9 and Enterprise. Next Generation was Ok. Voyager was a bridge too far, and the less said about Star Trek 5-the movie-the better. I still have not forgiven JJ Abrams for ripping the Star Trek canon to shreds, just so he could make his rather shallow, and scientifically ridiculous Star Trek re-boots, but I did like Zachary Quinto as Spock. ( I still have to come to terms with the whole "nailing Ohura" thing, but hey, things change right?)

While he is best known for his role as Spock, the truth was, Leonard Nimoy wanted to be a lot of other things. And the amazing popularity of the original series made that somewhat impossible. In the New York Times they have a wonderful tribute to the man pointing out that there was much more to the man than just the logical alien. 

The actor who won a permanent place on the altar of pop culture for his portrayal of Mr. Spock on “Star Trek,” was almost as famous for wanting to be remembered for other things.

And that is, of course, highly illogical.

It’s hard to think of another star who was so closely and affectionately identified with a single role. Even George Reeves, the first television Superman, was also one of the Tarleton twins in “Gone With the Wind.”

It’s even harder to think of a television character that so fully embodied and defined a personality type. Just as Scrooge became synonymous with miser, and Peter Pan became a syndrome, Spock was dispassion personified.

He could not escape the role-and I think ( but do not know) that as the years passed he came to terms with it and resolved to have fun with it. I have no real proof of that save for some examples of his other work. This commercial he did a couple of years ago when the second JJ Abrams movie came out with Zachary Quinto, is a good example. He appears to be having a lot of fun making fun of himself and the whole genre. I never get tired of watching it.

 

 

I love that he was still doing fun stuff like this at a point in life when many people would be sitting around doing nothing.  ? And actually if you go back to the Times article he had quite a solid body of work to lay claim to besides Star Trek. For example did you know, that Leonard Nimoy directed "Three Men and a Baby". He also was in a mini-series about Golda Meir, with Ingrid Bergman in it, no less. He had lots of poetry to his credit and an award winning photo exhibition in 2010. He got typecast as Spock-but he turned it around and made something wonderful of it.

May God grant him rest and peace. And of course, may he live long and prosper in the heavens.

2 responses so far

Feb 21 2015

The Green Life

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben

The S.O. works for a German company. She in the last year was moved up to a position where she works enough hours to have to pay German taxes-and receive German benefits, particularly German health insurance. For me it is yet more proof that the nay-sayers in the US are truly selfish and uncaring. Her health card works well, her co-pays are low, and contrary to what my idiot countrymen say back home, its not socialized medicine. Her health insurance is with  a private company-and she pays her share of the premiums. I'll come to my arguments on health care in a different post, but I find it interesting how misunderstood Europe is by Americans.

Consider this flawed line written in a very flawed publication on line, The Daily Beast, trying to not so subtly smear Germany yet again.

Europe’s much ballyhooed attempt to go “green”has raised energy costs throughout the continent. Ultimately, the effects of high energy prices tend to fall on the middle and working classes, as well as on manufacturing industries, which are are now scouring the world, including the southern United States, for lower cost alternatives.

 

 Interesting, if not more than a little overwrought. While it is true that fuel prices over here are higher than in the United States, its also to be expected in a country that is an almost 100% importer of oil. But it is wrong to assert that by wanting to protect the environment and recycle, that it has made it impossible to do business over here. The facts do not bear that fact out.  We should turn that statement around a bit to what it really says, namely that companies should free to behave as irresponsibly as they want, and they are finding a home among the selfishly deranged people in the South who vote equally deranged idiots like Rick Perry. For all his crowing about the Texas miracle, the Texas economy has a very dark side.  Furthermore, it's not quite as bad here in Germany as people portray it to be. For one thing the country has decent train service.

For another, it has a recycling program that works-and that is my point in writing this post today. Due to her job, the S.O. has to work at least one weekend a month. And on those days, my designated job is to take the recycling to the "Gomi" place as she calls it. ( Gomi is the Japanese word for garbage). In German the place is called Wertstoffhof. Every city has one. Its a place to go to put your plastic, cans, bottles that don't have deposits associated with them (known as a Pfand in German). On any given Saturday the place is a busy place. It has containers for all sorts of things: paper, cans, plastic, cartons, bottles, batteries, tires, even old furniture. And people are always bringing stuff to drop off.

Now at first glance one might think, why can't they just pick up at home like they do in Japan or the US? And the answer is that they do-but its more expensive. Every pick up of every thing in Germany from your home costs you money. Bringing it to the Wertstoffhof saves you money. In so doing the Germans have incentivized the right type of environmental behavior. And besides-it usually takes less than 5 minutes for me to get everything dropped off. 

It is something of a ritual now, and I don't really resent it.

Because it is the right thing to do-and America could learn something from those silly Europeans.

One response so far

Feb 18 2015

Enough of this lying around stuff……….

Published by under Blogging

Brother Bluto came by to smack some sense into me and shake me out of my lethargy:

 

(I am in the orange sweater by the way in case you were wondering).

Its time to snap out of my funk, get back in the saddle and start lambasting stupid people again. And believe me there are plenty of stupid things to lambast stupid people about.

Posting resumes tomorrow.

6 responses so far

Feb 04 2015

Still here, just not much left to say.

Published by under Blogging

This week is my tenth blogging birthday. It is a bittersweet time for me for a bunch of reasons. First of all-it is because I am at a loss to explain recent actions I took to rather vociferously fight a pretty stupid fight. Definitely alcohol fueled-poorly thought out, but nonetheless representing of the passion I wish could still bring to blog writing. I am a passionate person-I believe strongly in the things I believe, and most importantly when I want to believe the work I have done matters. And truth be told, I am beginning to think it didn't matter. I probably, in the view of hindsight,  made some pretty wrong choices. I could be and hope I am wrong-but I wonder……….

I began this blog out of a sense of frustration responding to a huge personal disappointment in my life; created by nothing but sheer stupidity on the part of other people……..on the part of the "big bad establishment". My disgust with their simplistic trying to slot people into molds, set me off on the path of blogging to begin with. I guess I had lived a naive existence up to that point, since I had already had the pleasure of being fucked over by people who betrayed the naval ideas and ideals several years before. But there was a key point that existed when I started that does not exist now. I was having fun. I was traveling around Asia, living a life I enjoyed-and living on my terms. Following my move to shopping mall, the "fun factor" went down-but I still got to have fun including two summers in Romania. After 2011 I came here to Germany which has both been fun and not so fun for different reasons. I am happy to be overseas again.I am happy to travel as much as much as I do and where I do.

But there is also another aspect that diminishes the fun factor. 1) over ten years and you are passionate and out spoken you get outed. My post on the PR crazy Navy and its stupid pursuit of stupid headlines in 2012 was a huge torture exercise. 2) it probably does not help that I am also outspoken on social media. I want to be passionate, sharp and outspoken on social media. But as Andrew Sullivan pointed out when announced he was quitting blogging, social media has become a tyranny-and what's worse it is not a conversational media. It rewards a lack of thought.

Ezra Klein acknowledges it:

Blogging encourages interjections into conversations, and it thrives off of familiarity. Social media encourages content that can travel all on its own. … The incentives of the social web make it a threat to the conversational web. The need to create content that “travels” is at war with the fact that great work often needs to be rooted in a particular place and context — a place and context that the reader and the author already share. I think we’re getting better at serving a huge audience even as we’re getting worse at serving a loyal one.

 

Moreover social media thrives on demanding conformity. 

The difference is that the illiberal policing of speech, the demonizing of dissent, and extreme identity politics have now transcended the academy and arrived in social media with a vengeance. Twitter and Facebook encourage mutually reassuring groupthink, in which individuals are required to “like” anything that isn’t white, male, cisgendered etc., in which an ideology is enforced by un-friending those with other views instead of engaging them, and in which large numbers of Twitter-users can descend on a racist/sexist/homophobic etc miscreant and destroy his or her career and social life in pursuit of racial/gender/orientation “social justice”.

 

The right has its own version of this, of course. Many of us dissenters were purged and rendered anathema years ago. But look where that has actually left today’s GOP. It’s turned into this. And the left’s new absolutism on identity politics – now taken to an absurd degree – should, in my view, worry liberals more. Because it is a direct attack on basic liberal principles. Chait:

Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.

 

 

And in the aggregate, the combination has left me emotionally and somewhat physically drained. I want the conversation to continue- I just can't do it as often. But the sight will remain here-and I will from time to time publish.

I've been grateful for all the supporters and for the contraians who argued vehemently against me-but also kept coming back. The trolls-like those who came out in January of 2012 and on other occasions I could have done without, just like I could have done without the mediocrity the overall military and political blogosphere has descended into. I'm still passionate and I still drink-so I will probably make mistakes yet again.

Its been an interesting decade. We will see what the next year has in store. Happy Birthday to me!

20 responses so far

Jan 21 2015

American Sniper

A FB friend posted a link to the following blog post: entitled "Why I almost walked out of American Sniper". No it's not a quote from Michael Moore-its a quote from a supporter of the country and the military. I can agree with her logic, up to a point :

You need to see this movie because you live in a bubble.

Stated plainly, we complain about dumb things most of the time. We live in comfort and freedom, and for the most part, we’re blessed beyond measure. We complain about bad hair days and people who get on our nerves and when we run out of coffee or get cut off in traffic and the fact that we hate Mondays. And yet we have the opportunity to live in peace. Meanwhile, all over the globe, children are born into war zones and suffer unimaginable torment at the hands of Evil.

This is why I almost left during the movie. As a Social Studies teacher and a student of the world, I’m well aware of the atrocities committed throughout the world historically and in present day. But I’ve only read about them. I’ve only heard about them. I’ve never had to witness them with my own eyes. Sure, American Sniper is a movie and it’s a dramatization of events, but it’s realistic. It’s horrible. And it truly shows how Evil is alive and working in our world.

Not only was I sobbing at various points throughout this movie, I found myself praying, “Come, Jesus. Come.” I almost couldn’t take it– this realistic depiction of evil. I don’t want to believe that people are capable of doing such horrible things to each other, but they are. Oh, they are.

The bubble around me popped. You can’t watch a movie like this, see the horrible things that man is willing to do to another man (or woman or child), not just in the name of a god or of an organization, but in the name of hatred, and go back to your cushy life and pretend the horror doesn’t exist.

Our soldiers face this evil every day on the battlefield and they persevere. They press on. They fight it and try to protect freedom because that’s one of our basic rights as humans. And they make split-second decisions that we pray we never, ever have to make. This is why we are grateful– because they have to make the decisions and carry out the actions we never, ever want to have to face.

 

It is right there at the end where her logic breaks down. Evil? Really? Then why are we not dispatching legions of American Snipers to the remaining six continents?  Evil things are happening there every day but we do not stage armed interventions by equally brave men. And why don't we you ask?

Because we don't have the resources to solve every problem on the planet.

And because most of the time-its not in our national interest.

Evil exists all over this world. As we were fighting in Iraq, un-counted 1000's were dying in other wars in Africa of the twin evils of neglect and lack of resources to fight problems such as disease, bad infrastructure and starvation. Yet not once did the President rise to the podium in front of Congress and challenge us to go fight them. Chris Kyle and those like him were never sent out to help them. Nor should they have been.

And on those two points I must disagree with Jennifer Hale. Chris Kyle went through a lot. Of course his service should be honored as should that of every other soldier who served in this despicable and unnecessary conflicts throughout the first decade and a half of the 21 st century. If anything it proves James Fallow's point regarding "The tragedy of the American Military", namely that, "the American public and its political leadership will do anything for the military except take it seriously. The result is a chickenhawk nation in which careless spending and strategic folly combine to lure America into endless wars it can’t win."

If we don't follow the statement through the logical question, namely "Why was Chris Kyle there in the first place and why did the nation so callously send him into a war the country had no business plunging into?" then we really are not honoring his sacrifices or worse yet learning real lessons from them. Cue Fallows again:

Too much complacency regarding our military, and too weak a tragic imagination about the consequences if the next engagement goes wrong, have been part of Americans’ willingness to wade into conflict after conflict, blithely assuming we would win. “Did we have the sense that America cared how we were doing? We did not,” Seth Moulton told me about his experience as a marine during the Iraq War. Moulton became a Marine Corps officer after graduating from Harvard in 2001, believing (as he told me) that when many classmates were heading to Wall Street it was useful to set an example of public service. He opposed the decision to invade Iraq but ended up serving four tours there out of a sense of duty to his comrades. “America was very disconnected. We were proud to serve, but we knew it was a little group of people doing the country’s work.”

"Either war is finished or we are"  says Herman Wouk.  I fully agree with the sentiment. But I question whether the majority of Americans do. I think not. They will see the movie in a "yellow ribbon" kind of way- "the people at the [movie theater will] feel good about what they’ve done to show their support for the troops. " But they will never think the problem all the way through. They will never rise in righteous anger that Chris Kyle had to be sent there in the first place, endure the things he had to endure-and have it all matter for nothing. That's right nothing. Iraq is still a basket case, no better than when we found it. Because in the end , Chris Kyle was failed by his leadership, he was failed by his country and he was failed by the people of his country who never asked the probing questions that might have prevented the entire ordeal in the first place. As Kipling wrote after his son's death in the disaster that was the First World War, "If any question why we died/ Tell them, because our fathers lied."

We do the veterans no good service if we choose not learn from the effort-and solemnly resolve not to repeat the  mistakes that placed them in such a harsh place to begin with. Without those questions, its not worth the time or the effort to contemplate the rest. We have to think it though to the end.

3 responses so far

Jan 18 2015

Putting Fox News in their place.

I am back in "terrorized" Europe-having spent the last week in the Whining States of America, who-if judging by the news coverage-is collectively losing its mind about what's going on in Europe.  And let me be clear, I am not in anyway diminishing the severity of the incidents that happened in Paris and in Belgium. However, I think we need to put a more positive spin on things-namely that collectively, Europe is working together to identify the bad actors and get their hands on them. And as I noted previously-it was a terrible tragedy.

It was a busy week work wise-made extra difficult by both circumstances and the ablity of United Airlines to set new lows in customer service. The weather was crappy though, so I was able to watch a lot of American TV.

Thus it was fun for me to see, the French responding to the more egregious misreporting in the American news. In a segment entitled 'Shut the Fuck Up-Fox News", Le Petit Journal , CANAL + French version of the daily show provided a great put down of the lying liars at Fox. Since a lot of the videos showing translations on You Tube are edited to allow for translation I thought I would post the full episode here first. Its in French, unfortunately, but if you have any knowledge of the language whatsoever, you will be able to get the drift pretty quickly. I love the part where they post the news editor of Fox News' e-mail address and encouraged French viewers to e-mail Fox and demand an apology to France.

Hey, that's what the City of Birmingham in the UK did-as you will see in the clip below. Enjoy:

 

Fox News ! – Le Petit Journal du 16/01

Even David Cameron, no liberal he, was shocked at how stupid Fox could be. smiley

The translated version of the key segment featured below:

 

 

 

So the next time you hear someone ardently defending Fox as the "counter" to the so called Main Stream media ( which as I have told you repeatedly over the years , no longer exists). Show them this. And then tell them in French or English, to Shut The Fuck Up. (Or  ferme ta gueule ? if you wish).

UPDATE: Here is one more clip from an earlier segment. Check out the mocking "Barbie and Ken" reference.

 

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Jan 10 2015

Busy week.

And what a sad week it has been too.

The news from Paris is sad, tragic and sadly, all too expected in this day and age. In solidarity with the right of a free press to publish what it wants to and not be subject to censorship at the point of a gun- I am republishing one of the Charlie Hedbo cartoons. Oh, and fuck Mohammed too.

 

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And maybe I'll publish another one too.  And while I am at it, fuck Islam. (Click to see propely).

299854-charlie-hebdo-collage

As angry as this apostate religion makes me; as disgusted as I am with their stupid dietary laws, the shitty way they treat women, the clothing things they make women wear-and how frustrated I am that these people will not assimilate into European society, I also have to think hard on what the facts really are.

Contrary to the assertions of some, Islam is not overrunning Europe:(click to see properly)

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A disgruntled and radicalized minority is indeed a problem as this week has once again shown us. But one needs to remember the world has over a billion Muslims. They are not going away and we can't kill them all-no matter how much some of our neocon masters would like to try. And I also have to remind myself that it is a minority. Most of the Hijab wearing set here in Germany just want to live their lives. (and they speak better German than I do).

So yea, I am disgusted and angry. I'm tired of Islam's sickness infecting parts of the world I like. I want the women to take off the hijabs and abayas, put on some dresses and shoes and dress like a Western woman.  But in the end, cartoonist Joe Sacco may have it right. And with his cartoon I will close. My deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives this week in and around Paris. The Western World HAS to prove that it is better than these thugs. ( Click to see the cartoon properly-its worth reading).

joesaccoonsatire1200

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Jan 02 2015

Follow ups

Happy New Year to all.  Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! Kotoshi mo yorishku onegai shimasu.

I , unfortunately had a quiet new years, definitely not the one I wanted to spend skiing. You can thank the S.O. for that because of continued inabilty to make a decision and her repeated failure to recognize that money is only as good as the experiences it buys you. So while I did allow my self the pleasure of getting reasonably intoxicated and watching the fireworks displays. 

New Years day was also quiet, thanks primarily to the bad weather here-and the fact that nothing is open. I binged watched Netflix all day and evening.

When not doing that I took the opportunity to read the reaction to the Fallows article I wrote about a couple of days ago. There have been some excellent responses, many from military and former military who are not so blinded by simplistic thinking and ideology , which allowed them to see Fallow's main points and understand them-even if they did not agree with them. There are 7 follow up posts and everyone of them is worth a read. They can be found here, here, here, here, here,here, and here.

Of course there are the folks who didn't like the article and took the time and effort to use criticism to cater to their audience of sycophants.  Now mind you, it is not as if there are not things to disagree about in Fallows article, what I guess is most troubling about this one overly long and other rather short criticism is that they basically are guilty of the same thing they accuse Fallows of: ideological snobbery. Both Phibian and ID spend more time shooting the messenger than discussing the message. That's to be expected these days on the mil-blog circuit, and as I have pointed out repeatedly before, the comment sections are more about shouting down any dissenting opinions than having an honest discussion.

You can read it all yourself and you should. But in particular when you read Phibian's rather long criticism you should ask yourself if he doth protest too much. Because the answer to that question is definitely yes.

Specifically I found the following that I think should be addressed:

1) First, whether or not, Fallows was drafted or not is really not germane to a discussion of the idea of a program of national service now. And its more than a bit elitist to use whatever happened in 1969-which was by far a different time and a lot of people did not relish our continued involvement in Vietnam.  To continue to beat the tired old drum about how much one hates baby- boomers is really to miss the point.

2) For all the complaints about Fallows using so called left wing code words-Phibian does exactly the same thing.

Next are a few code words; note the use of "chickenhawk," an old school mid-00's moonbat clickbait word – the national security equivalent of "tea bagger." Usually not used by serious people in serious work, but by people who are intentionally trying to be insulting and to pick a fight. Smart move by Fallows, at it will raise the defensive barriers by all the "right" people … and therefor encourage them to keep reading while getting a nod of approval from his preferred audience ofHuffington Post readers, I guess. What he does do, and this is a shame as the topic deserves something better, is to raise a hint of a shadow of his old bugbear since the end of the first Nixon Administration, the draft (more on that later).

Next you have "careless spending." This is a tease, as most of this is just recycled arguments we all know about the amount of money we spend on DOD and what on … and for Fallows, that means getting his F-35 plushy out and beating it hard with the wiffleball bat.

"Strategic Folly" opens his review of how Obergruppenführer Wolfowitz, Darth Cheney, and Bushitler brought about the heartbreak of psoriasis because they refused to turn over the national security apparatus to the editorial board of The Atlantic and the Department of Homeland Security to Katrina vanden Heuvel's knitting circle over at The Nation.

 

 

Ummmmm. No. Chickenhawk is an excellent word to use because it quite accurately describes both the condition and the contempt that should be held for it. Serious people do use the words and for good reason-it pretty much captures the failures of those who plunged America down the rathole of the last 14 years.  No one, certainly not Fallows,  is proposing turning the National Security Apparatus over to anyone. They are asking that they be held to account for decisions that they should have known better than to make. Iraq, in particular, represents a foreign policy disaster and its not just liberals saying that. Plenty of conservatives have stated that too. 

And as for the F-35, its killing the rest of Naval Aviation. So can't we really have an honest discussion about a program that is so expensive and for the Navy at least, so un-needed?

3) Phibian takes the opportunity to extol the virtues of the "real" Americans who live in "flyover" country. First of all, contrary to what he states, its not so great. Trust me I have lived among the morons "our wonderfully diverse nation." Trust me, its not so great and if the comment section proves anything, it is not so diverse. He misses the real point that Fallows was trying to make-its also not the area where large populations of the people live.  Many areas of his "real America" are the most economically depressed however, and don't kid yourself, that had a lot to do with who volunteers and who doesn't.

Which brings us back to the idea of national service. Several excellent authors have debunked Phibian's main assertion that "We are a representative republic that has no natural need or desire for a large standing army. Neither you nor I would want to live in a republic that used the police power of the state to randomly put its citizens (due to the small numbers needed and that could be afforded, a draft would be far from universal, and an exceptionally arbitrary lottery) under bondage without an existential threat just to make a socio-political point – or as Mike Mullen puts it – force pain on the population by intentionally keeping the nation weak until crisis. Let me be clear; a draft in peace is an anathema to a free society and is tyranny without an existential threat breathing at the door. Full stop."

Back the train up. The United States is a representative nation that has a large standing Army, and has had one ever since the second World War. And no matter who is in office it will have one for at least the next 20 years or so.  It would be nice to man it more evenly-and national service is an acceptable means to do that.

Two other points. I always find it so interesting that the same generation who praise today's military leaders as being "so much better" than those of us who came in the late 70's and early 80's, finds the idea of dealing with reluctant Sailors and Soldiers so utterly frightening.  Its a cop out-and not necessarily a fair representation of their ability to lead. They could deal with it if they had to-and a lot of folks would succeed in such a military, certainly far more than would fail.

But again it misses the real point that Fallows is making. Draft or no, too many of the American people got a free pass when the nation was supposedly in an all out "long war". If not asked to serve, they did not even get asked to pay for it-through either a surcharge on something everyone uses like gasoline, or skipping tax cuts that were clearly not in the nation's interest once the war was under-way.

And don't kid yourself either, a lot of people who could serve, don't-because they don't want to take the time away from getting to be a rich executive by the time they are 35. And service is a tradeoff, and don't let anyone tell you it is not. The longer you stay, the more certain doors close. True a lot of other doors open-but it does not negate the first statement. Furthermore-he is ignoring the role of national service in paying for schooling and leveling the society, as it does in Israel.

The second point is probably the more serious. Because I think the reaction to Fallows article in certain corners actually proves his point. The military is becoming insulated from the society it serves and that is not good. And certain segments from within do hold their civilian counterparts in contempt, all protestations to the contrary.  The country is self selecting and not having the conversations it should have. The fact that folks want argue with Fallows is fine. But argue the points on their merits, not some self styled pedestal that with just a little effort you can be pulled down from. Get out of the echo chamber and see the way the world really is-not just the idealized vision you think you see.

And that, my friends is the worst thing of all with how we hold discussions these days in the blogosphere. I just had to get that out there. 

UPDATE! Fallows himself published probably the best stated analysis of the views of those who disagree with him from mil-blog land. Its a great point and sums up the stupidity of the viewpoint well:

This kind of misunderstanding, inadvertent or purposeful, goes with the territory of public debate. It foreseeably leads to a kind of tribally minded angry response. Tribal? As in: 1) this guy seems to be against us; 2) since he doesn't like us, we don't like him; 3) therefore whatever he's saying is probably wrong.

That's a minority response; I'm touched and overwhelmed, in a good way, by the volume and sophistication of the submissions I continue to receive. 

 

 

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Dec 31 2014

Sayonara 2014

And don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

As years go,  2014 was not really a good one for me. I won't be sorry to see it go. It started living under the burden of a poorly thought out merger at work, engineered by a psychopath- who, regrettably will probably try to resurrect the same stupid idea later on in 2015. It also started with a New Years trip to Lisbon that saw me get sick as a dog-not exactly what I had in mind when I checked into the Palace Hotel in Estoril. It was kind of a harbinger of things to come, now that I can look at it in hindsight.

Fortunately for me, in May, the horrible merger was undone when the powers that be finally recognized what a hideous thing they had done. However, enough damage had been done that it cast a pall over the rest of the year and made work, well not miserable, but not fun either.

On the personal front too it was a lousy year. I basically had to come to grips with the fact that my dream of getting back to Japan to live and work will never come to pass. And that's a painful thing to have to accept. I was able to spend 10 days in Tokyo in September, but all that really did was remind me how much I really miss living in Asia. But economic realities are realities and at my age finding a job over there that will support the level of income I need to maintain….just …..isn't ….going to happen. frown

Then again, I tell myself things could be worse, a lot worse. I am healthy, more or less, and I am not enduring the mind numbing, soul crushing existence of living in a suburb of an American city. And I got to travel enough this past year to cement my Platinum status and have me zero in on the million mile threshold this year. God willing I will get to travel as much as I did last year, this year.

The SO is, well she is the SO. She hasn't yet grasped that she needs to provide things I need and she has yet to realize she is not going to be able to change me, no matter how hard she tries. But she is working and making money now and she still keeps a clean house. So there is that. For a guy like me who needs physical passion and lots of sex in his life, however, that's not quite doing it. So that is yet more thing I have to come to grips with.

But as I said, things could be worse and for that I will remain always thankful. I can pay my bills and credit cards still enable most of the things I want, so I prefer then, to end the year on an optimistic note.

Here is to hoping the New Year is a better year. For all of us.

Happy New Year.

lets-never-speak-of-2014-again-funny-ecard-unu

midori_yamazaki_7

Let's see if we can cheer this little expat up, shall we?

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Dec 30 2014

The tragedy of the American Military

James Fallow's of The Atlantic magazine has written a must read, thought provoking article, on the current state of civil-military relations. It is a long read, but it is well worth your time. In it, he highlights the real hypocrisy of a country that fawns over its military to the point of idolatry, yet allows its elected leadership to condemn them to unending and repetitive deployments and wars that accomplish nothing in the national interest, get a lot of fine young men killed and wounded for nothing, and insulates itself from understanding the true cost of the wars they so cavalierly cheerlead.

Outsiders treat [the US military] both too reverently and too cavalierly, as if regarding its members as heroes makes up for committing them to unending, unwinnable missions and denying them anything like the political mindshare we give to other major public undertakings, from medical care to public education to environmental rules. The tone and level of public debate on those issues is hardly encouraging. But for democracies, messy debates are less damaging in the long run than letting important functions run on autopilot, as our military essentially does now. A chickenhawk nation is more likely to keep going to war, and to keep losing, than one that wrestles with long-term questions of effectiveness.

In the body of the article he highlights what many in the military will private admit, and is a subject I have written about many times here; the fact that a lot of the military's problems are not caused by its political leadership-its self induced pain that comes from some very flawed policies by the perfumed princes that now inhabit the 3 and 4 star ranks of the services. This is especially true in the area of acquisition, which can't seem to buy anything efficiently and where warfighters are treated as persona non grata. Instead we see people who have been the acquisition community their entire careers ( like a certain director of a major DOD agency a couple of years ago) who could not lead or for that matter purchase anything either.

America’s distance from the military makes the country too willing to go to war, and too callous about the damage warfare inflicts. This distance also means that we spend too much money on the military and we spend it stupidly, thereby shortchanging many of the functions that make the most difference to the welfare of the troops and their success in combat. We buy weapons that have less to do with battlefield realities than with our unending faith that advanced technology will ensure victory, and with the economic interests and political influence of contractors. This leaves us with expensive and delicate high-tech white elephants, while unglamorous but essential tools, from infantry rifles to armored personnel carriers, too often fail our troops.

At this point the letters, LCS, should be coming into your mind. Fallows picks on the F-35 which is a fine target, but in reality all of the services have their own boneheaded procurement decisions and the Navy is no exception. The American people no longer look at their military in an objective vein, recognizing both its successes and flaws-and even worse, personnel within the military seem all too willing to buy into their own hype holding themselves out as supermen who are above the level of the civilians they so ably serve. One has only to go some of the major military blogs and read the swill that passes for a comment section. Besides making you despair about the mental ability of a certain segment of the human race, it proves the incongruity that one of Fallows' readers quite accurately pointed out. They rail with fervor about issues they know nothing about.

I am an [post-Vietnam era] West Point grad. Resigned after 5 years.

Your article is spot on. I often wonder what the rest of the world thinks of us when at each major sporting event, we have fly overs of fighter planes, B-52s, Apache helicopters and legions of troops getting awards at halftime.

I see in my classmates a total divorce from civilian reality. They live in a rarefied world where they are the only ones who are honest, law abiding, and religious.

They totally disdain social welfare programs as they receive health benefits to death, commissary privileges, and pensions. In their view, civilians are not worthy of these programs.

It is a dangerous slope we are on where we worship the troops, have no clue what they do, or why, and as along as we don't need to know, we are happy.

I hope your article stirs discussion. I fear it won't. The coup may in fact be coming.

 The incongruity, and to put it bluntly, hypocrisy,  of those who are vocally speaking out against other people having benefits that improve their lives, while at the same time enjoying some of the best benefits available from any employer is indeed rich. But don't try telling them that-they are special people. Don't you know that? So long as you agree with them, that is. Others of us, who served longer and equally as well but have arrived at different conclusions-get cast out into the outer darkness.

It's a dangerous phenomenon, and the ideas of people like John Nagl who defend the idea of a "Praetorian Guard" are troubling to me. Nagl thinks that because the troops "know what they are signing up for……..They are proud to do it, and in exchange they expect a reasonable living, and pensions and health care if they are hurt or fall sick. The American public is completely willing to let this professional class of volunteers serve where they should, for wise purpose. This gives the president much greater freedom of action to make decisions in the national interest, with troops who will salute sharply and do what needs to be done.”

You should be very afraid when you hear that-at least if you believe in the concept of a democracy that serves the citizens of the country. Too much history shows us where this can lead if we are not careful. Cue Fallows again:

I like and respect Nagl, but I completely disagree. As we’ve seen, public inattention to the military, born of having no direct interest in what happens to it, has allowed both strategic and institutional problems to fester.

“A people untouched (or seemingly untouched) by war are far less likely to care about it,” Andrew Bacevich wrote in 2012. Bacevich himself fought in Vietnam; his son was killed in Iraq. “Persuaded that they have no skin in the game, they will permit the state to do whatever it wishes to do.”

Shall I remind you of the things that "have needed to be done" that have been done in your name, like torture and warrantless wiretapping? Just a couple in a long list of abuses aided and abetted by the members of that "Praetorian Guard". The problem of the civil- military disconnect is real and dangerous.

In the end of the article, Fallows turns to the recommendations in a never before published memo from Gary Hart which is also worth your time to read.  I will comment on those in a post after the first of the new year.

Many of you will not like Fallows term "chicken hawk"-but he's right on the mark in my humble opinion. The United States wasted the first 15 years of the new century going down foreign policy ratholes. And big part of that is because the American people are insulated from the sacrifices and the true costs of the policies they casually cheerlead. Fallows is doing a national service in pointing that out and I applaud him for it.

For the first time in the nation’s history, America has a permanent military establishment large enough to shape our dealings in the world and seriously influence our economy. Yet the Americans in that military, during what Dunlap calls the “maturing years of the volunteer force,” are few enough in number not to seem representative of the country they defend.

“It’s becoming increasingly tribal,” Dunlap says of the at-war force in our chickenhawk nation, “in the sense that more and more people in the military are coming from smaller and smaller groups. It’s become a family tradition, in a way that’s at odds with how we want to think a democracy spreads the burden.”

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Dec 25 2014

Merry Christmas!

Published by under Uncategorized

Greetings from snowless Stuttgart.

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Dec 24 2014

Jim Webb for President?

Published by under Politics

One could only hope. I have been a Webb fan for a long time in both political parties. Not just because he was on the right side of the "women at the Academy" debate in 1979-but because he has criticized well, the rather boneheaded decisions we have made in recent years.

The Washington Post speculates how Webb could make Hillary Clinton's life difficult:

WASHINGTON — THE conventional wisdom is that Hillary Rodham Clinton will be almost impossible to dislodge from the Democratic presidential nomination and that even if she does encounter some hiccups, they will come from her left flank on economic policy. But if Mrs. Clinton runs, she may face a serious and very different threat: her own foreign policy record. While she can pretty much split the difference with any primary opponents on economic policy, the divisions over foreign affairs could be a lot harder to paper over for Mrs. Clinton, who has been tacking to the right on Iran, Syria and Russia in anticipation of Republican assaults during the general election.

This is why it isn’t really the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren who should worry the Clinton camp. It’s the former Virginia senator Jim Webb, a Vietnam War hero, former secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, novelist and opponent of endless wars in the Middle East. Late last month, Mr. Webb formed an exploratory committee. “He’s a very long shot,” Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, told me. “He has to become a serious candidate. At that point she would find him much more complex than dealing with liberals. He’s not a liberal, but a lot of what he says might appeal to liberals. He does not get carried away by humanitarian intervention.”

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Dec 23 2014

It is time for the airing of the grievances.

It is the 23rd of December and we all know what that means. It's time to break out the Festivus pole.

And it is time to break out the airing of the grievances.

 

 

 

And let me tell you, this year I have lots of them. With a lot of people. One reason I am not able to blog much anymore, besides the hectic schedule I am now keeping is that underneath it all, emotionally, I am tired. I am tired of what passes for knowledge in the blogosphere-such as it is-these days.

Take this complete bit of mental stupidity from the Phibian. He is referring to Barak Obama and a completely flawed push poll done by Navy Times

He threw away what we won in IRQ, it slowly back filling that mistake and is doing the same in AFG after a half decade of advertising retreat … so yea.
 

It is a tired old trope, and worse yet, there is no truth to it whatsoever. Phibian continues to defend our misadventures in these two particular hell holes-and this is spite of the rather significant shift in opinion by the folks who were charged with executing both of these mistaken foreign policy adventures. Let's be clear, the war in Iraq was a huge mistake and the only people who "threw any thing away" was the Iraqi people themselves. As I said, any other viewpoint is just plain wrong and should be meet by a cheery, "fuck you". Same is true in Afghanistan.  "Ultimately it's up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems," [President Obama] said, "We can't do it for them."

Now that does not excuse us from the horrendous mistakes we made-most important of which was starting the damn war in the first place.

The view of the Iraq hawks – from liberal interventionists, such as his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, to neo-conservatives, such as his former Republican presidential opponent John McCain – is that the US and its principal allies Britain and Australia bear little or no responsibility for the disaster unfolding across Iraq.

In their eyes, it is Obama's fault for either failing to intervene in the Syrian civil war in 2011-13 or withdrawing US troops from Iraq in late 2011.

It is argued that by failing to authorize air strikes on Damascus and arm the rebellion against Assad's regime during the early stages of Syria's civil war, the administration created a strategic void for the extremist Islamists to exploit ruthlessly. Meanwhile, the "premature" decision to pull US forces out of Baghdad helped scuttle the semblance of sectarian peace that the Americans had brokered following the president Bush's surge of US troops in Baghdad in 2007.

Both accounts are wrong.

Start with the latter. It is true that the end of the American presence in Iraq nearly three years ago helped remove all that was keeping the sectarian rivals in check. But it is also true that the Bush administration in October 2008 pledged to withdraw all US troops by the end of 2011.

Remember, too, that during lengthy negotiations on keeping US forces engaged in Baghdad, the Iraqi government – representing a clear majority of Iraqis (not to mention its sponsors in Tehran) – demanded all remaining Americans would be subject to Iraqi law. This refusal to provide the same kind of guarantees that every nation offers to residual US forces was a condition to which no US government would agree.  

Moreover, the president's withdrawal of US troops from a widely unpopular war by the end of 2011 fulfilled an election mandate. To this day, a clear majority of Americans don't think the original decision to invade was worth it, nor do they support a major intervention today.

Phib, being a surgeaholic, wants desperately to cling to the myth that decision to invade Iraq actually achieved anything worthwhile. Unfortunately, the body of evidence-and,  regrettably the loss of 4, 486 American lives for nothing-tells us otherwise.

Which leads us to his snarky analysis of the poll. It is probably true that by and large the military would prefer a more conservative President. But his summation that the troops loved Bush and hate Obama, is not supported by the facts-or the details of the Navy Times poll. By and large many troops ( and there is a big difference by age and time in service) support his policies , even if they don't support the man. Furthermore, Bush may have talked a good game about how much he loved the troops-but in truth his decisions were bad for the military and no amount of rose colored thinking can change that.  Certainly it is not loving the troops when you squander a lot of lives. The most accurate data we have are on U.S. military casualties: 6,648 service members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan to date, a large majority of the deaths occurring under Bush's presidency. So spare me the "Bush cared, Obama doesn't" nonsense. When you send people to die for nothing, you are an uncaring, unfeeling,  son of a bitch. And that's what Bush did overall. He squandered the first 8 years of the 21st century.

What Phibian's post and more importantly the Navy Times poll does do is allow the service members to avoid blaming the real source of most of their problems, the uniformed leadership itself, from the consequences of some pretty bad decisions. If you read the comments on the post-for the most part they back up what I am saying ( as well as make you despair of the humanity of these people)-they can't bring themselves to talk in facts and numbers, just tired old tropes that were proven false a long time ago.

Furthermore, the military tends to grade itself on a curve as LTG Bolger pointed out, holding a higher opinion of it self than is probably warranted. Its a special kind of conceit and stupidity to think that simply, had a Republican been in office, things would be better for the military. Given the current state of the economy and the currently stated economic policies of the current front runners in the GOP it would have been equally as bad. But they would have certainly been deployed more and more of them would be dead. For nothing.

For me, that's the only thing that matters. Obama has brought our senseless participation in Iraq and Afghanistan to an end. That's what I elected him to do and that's what he did. Too fucking bad if Navy Times readers don't like it. And trust me-a lot of people still don't love George Bush either. Thus endeth the rant for today.

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