Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Eleventh Minute of the Eleventh Hour

I had an incandescent rant all ready to go for today, similar to the one I put up here last November 11th. I wrote it out. I looked at it, and I just couldn't find the heart to publish it.

What's the point?

You all know as well as I do what I was going to say. War is a racket. We - me, everyone I served with, the people serving now, the veterans of tomorrow and next week and next year - are just the bailiff's men, serving our country's liens in places and on people all over the world. No, we don't do sweet fuck all to "defend your freedoms". We kill people and break shit that our "leaders" have designated as inimical to our national interests. We're the button men and women for Donnie "Five-Deferment" Trump and his crew of racketeers just as we have been for every President and every Congress since 1945.

Now there's some honor and decency serving as an imperial legionary. Not all empires are pure Evil. But to pretend that we're still the Arsenal of Democracy of Remember Pearl Harbor? To tell ourselves that the people who wore the uniforms in the 1980's and 1990's and Oughts and now the Teens are somehow like the Greatest Generation that saw off Hitler and Tojo? That's just foolish, the self-deluding mumbling of an idiot child needing the comfort of a kindly lie.

I won't pretend that I didn't enjoy my Army days. I won't pretend that I'm not proud that I was a good soldier and then a good sergeant. When my days are done I'll gladly slope off for a pint in Hell with my old pals from Division, from my Reserve and Guard outfits, and maybe if we're lucky with the hard boys of the Legio X Fretensis, and the 3rd Company of the 1st Battalion of the Légion étrangère. Here's to us. Who's like us. Damn few, and they're all dead.

I know who I am, and what I did. I'm not ashamed of it, but I'm not vauntingly proud, either. I didn't hold Bastogne or Guadalcanal. I did the dirty work of geopolitics and I'm okay with that. I served with good people, had a laugh, and came home sound, and no legionary can ask more than that.

No, it is you, my friends, my fellow Americans, who need to look into year hearts and souls and ask why you have been happy to be lied to, gleeful to parrot the nonsense taught you about "freedom" and "fighting them there", eager to pretend that you have not sent, or been willing to let others send in your name, young men and women into harm's way for nothing more than a handful of dollars, or a passing bit of geopolitics, or some fancy of "national honor", or some fantasy about dangerous enemies, where there is nothing but ruin and impotent anger that our own nation has grown from the seeds of our own ignorant hate and fear while pretending to be the victims ourselves.

I just don't have the heart to rant about this. I am just tired, and a little grieved, for the foolish waste of it all.

On this day I offer only the cold comfort that our nation's ideals promise that We the People can choose to honor our veterans by choosing not to make more of them unless it's for a truly fucking good reason.

For those of you who have come here seeking grave words hymning this day, weighted with honor and glory of the service I and mine have done and do, I have none.





Friday, November 10, 2017

Wild, wild West

Just got back from a bunch of days in the field up the Columbia, on the deserty side of the Cascades. Pretty country there but...spare. Sparse. Not much out there other than the grass, the rock, the wind, and the sky.


Mind you, that's not what I'm thinking about. I had some idle thoughts about the latest bang-bang-crazy, as Jim Wright likes to call it.

And, because I'm a callous sonofabitch and nobody got killed in Vegas or Texas who I know or remotely care about, my main idle thought was this:

What the fuck is it about these ammosexual gun-licking nuts and the Black Stick?

If I had a choice I can't imagine a less-fun rifle to own than an AR-15 or one of its clones. I mean, seriously? I was assigned an M-16 for many years. I was decent with it - a workman should know his craft, after all - but I never liked the goddamn thing.
I'd say that for me it was just a tool, like an axe or a hammer, except it wasn't nearly as useful at its trade as a hammer or an axe at theirs.

The worst part about it was that it was chock-full of fucking irritatingly tiny little parts. Sure, it knocked down and went together easy, that comes with being a modern battle rifle. But when you had it knocked down the little fucking parts had an immensely irritating way of hiding or rolling away - don't get me started on the firing pin retaining pin! - unless you had a perfectly flat, well-lit, clean place to put them.

Then it was hard to clean. And you had to KEEP it clean; if it got fouled - and all those tiny little parts were easy to foul - it tended to malfunction, usually either in the form of a clogged gas tube and a short-recoiling bolt carrier, meaning either a failure to extract, a failure to eject, or a failure to feed. Double feeds, too, which were a stone bitch to clear, weren't uncommon in a dirty rifle.

My understanding is that the early 1960's issue models also suffered because the ammunition propellant burned dirty, gunking up the inside of the rifle with soot and crap and increasing the fouling problem. I can't imagine that cheap civilian 5.56mm ammo is all that much better.

Plus, frankly, what benefit is there to have a "hunting rifle" that can crank out a round every couple of seconds? Elk aren't going to shoot back. And a 5.56 round seems less optimal for knocking down something bigger-than-human-size. It's either going to tumble and tear up the meat, or its gonna break up and scatter nasty little lead bits into your venison.

I have a Short Magazine Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mk III* that has served me perfectly well for years as both hunting and target rifle. It's fun to shoot and relatively accurate given it's long life and relatively hard use. I've debated several times whether or not to hang a rifle scope on the thing. It would make my shot group tighter, but I love the history of it and wouldn't want to just slap a modern scope on the centenarian. Yet the original Periscopic Prism Company scope and mount is an awful abortion, only 2x magnification and, worse, offset to the left of center which is the kiss of death for me, a left-handed firer.

But I've let myself get off the damn subject.

The point is, what gives? What the hell makes so many of these people crave the AR-15 in all its flawed avatars?

The impulse to kill people? I get that. Just thinking about the dumb fuckers who gave us the Fraudulency Administration makes me want to go all St. Bartholomew on their asses.

But to do that with a shoddy tool? One that makes it harder to do a decent job of work?

Who the hell needs that?

I swear. People are just weird.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Acting 1SG Lawes reads the morning formation announcements

Comp-ney, Atten-shun! At ease. Okay, listen up. Coupla things here.

First.

I've been hearing a bunch of you he-roes prancing around the dayroom talking smack about how y'all are "the best 1 percent this country produces".

I hear tell that y'all got that shit from some jarhead, and a jarhead general at that.

Now y'all know how I feel about jarheads. So hearing y'all woofing because one said something about how “We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served. In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our servicemen and women do.” just means that the overpromoted shavetail doesn't know about the kinds of things our servicemen did down at the Flaming Mug last week and, yes, I'm looking at you, AT Platoon. I've got my eye on you, slickyboys.

So before you get all "Ooo-rah! We bad, we bad!" take a look to your left and right flanks. You know as well as I do what that guy next to you is capable of. We all went to high school with that guy. The dude that locked himself in the last stall in the boys' bathroom in the B-wing and had to get pulled out by the school cops?

That's him.

The joker that useta take polaroid dick pics and put them in the romance novels in the library?

That's him.

And don't get me started on surfing the fucking storm drains on their sleeping mats, am I right, Blackie?

The "best 1 percent" my rosy red ass.

The civilians are too fucking busy shoving their tongues up your collective fourth-point-of-contact to remember this, but y'all, at least, should know that y'all are the same jocks, nerds, stoners, wierdos, brainiacs, goofballs, and just regular American dipwads they went to high school with only now y'all wear the same colored clothes. Raisin' your right hand didn't suddenly make any of y'all smarter, braver, more honest, or less likely to fuck up a wet dream and yes, I mean you, night bakers. I saw your fuckin' mess hall this morning and we gonna have a little come-to-Jesus chat right after this formation.

Y'all are good troops, and that's what you're supposed to be. But don't let that make you think that you're some sort of national gold standard. That's how good troops end up getting waxed in combat.

Y'all get free food and clothes, y'all get to get all-expenses-paid vacations to the shitty parts of the world to fuck up things there. Don't let that make you kid yourselves about what a bunch of special fuckin' snowflakes you are just because some goddamn gyrene general who probably hasn't actually seen one of y'all in his natural environment since he was a itty-bitty lieutenant. Those fuckin' star-warriors run around in a little general-officer bubble and they have no more idea of what y'all are really doing out here than a cow knows about the fuckin' Council of Trent.

So. Get over yourselves, people. Like I tol' ya last week; thinking you're all better than civilians is a straight-up dick move, and I won't tolerate that shit in my company, regardless of what the Old Man tells you about how awesome you are.

OK.

Second.

Rumor has it that the Brigade Sergeant Major is gonna be in the company AO this Friday. Y'all know that dick as well as I do, so I highly recommend that you ensure that those "extra" toolkits find their way to SSG Reye's garage, Commo, and Medics? The quarter-ton y'all keep "forgetting" to turn in? That sumbitch needs to go live in the woods starting Thursday night.

Oh, and I will be doing a walkthrough tomorrow at fourteen hundred hours and if I find more pogie bait in your walllockers I will go medieval on your ass. Are we clear on that?

I thought so.

Comp-ney, Atten-shun!

Platoon sergeants, take charge.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Acting 1SG Lawes reads the morning formation announcements.

Attention! At ease. Okay, listen up. Coupla things here.

First.

All this horseshit about how kneeling during the playing of "To Anacreon in Heaven" is somehow spitting on the graves of soldiers?

Get over it. There hasn't been a single fucking American soldier who served, fought, was wounded, or died for "freedom" since 1953 (and that was the freedom of the people of the Republic of Korea, people, know your fucking history).

There are a handful of living veterans of Korea and WW2 who might qualify and you're welcome to ask them THEIR opinions, but all the rest of us fought for "national interests"; we helped secure a tank of gas, or navigation through the Panama Canal, or for diddly-shit Great Power games in the Middle East.

The U.S. of 2017 uses armed force like any Great Power, people.

This isn't 1776.

Grow the fuck up.

Second. I've seen fellow GIs get all whip out their DD214 on people who haven't served to beat them over the head with the "right" to be all pissy about people protesting the fact that coppers are WAY more likely to kill your ass if you're not White Like Me.

That's a dick move, brothers.

Those despised "civilians"? They're OUR FUCKING BOSSES.

If they want to protest, or shout at us, or dance naked in the streets...our job, our ONLY fucking job, is to salute and move out smartly. THEY are the true "guardians of liberty", not us. We're here to keep the outside out. THEY are there to make the "inside" truly free, truly just, true to the promise of "liberty and justice for all"...or not. It's up to them, and not us to lecture or hector them about what they do or how they do it.

S&T Platoon. Imma see your ass in the motor pool after this formation and we're gonna talk about your fucking Conex.

That is all.

Platoon sergeants, take charge.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Reeking tube and iron shard

Given the monumental clusterfuck that the inchoate rage and fear born on this day 16 years ago have created across the globe I can't think of any reason for my country or my countrymen to "commemorate" the events of that day in any way that doesn't consist only of a silent, humble, deeply mournful contrition.

We won't, of course, because We the People suck at contrition and have never accepted our own responsibility for excusing or, worse, encouraging a coterie of evil, greedy fools for using the events of 9/11/01 as a hammer to drive the poisoned nails of their ambition and hubris into the wide world as well as into our own society. Instead there will be all the usual solemnity and public waving of the Bloody Shirt of the dead of Manhattan and Virginia, just as if those heaps of dead had not, like the horrible unliving monsters of World War Z, created Alps and Himalayas of dead all across the world.

Instead of ruing the arrogance and stupidity that this day awoke in our nation we will continue to pretend that we were the victims that day, innocent of any wrongdoing and greatly wronged, instead of using a wrong done to us to do a thousandfold wrongs to any and everyone we hated - or were told to hate - and feared.



Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Like a taco in the sun

Of all the vile stupidity that the Fraudulency Administration has foisted on this nation the latest round of beaner-bashing - the promised elimination of the rule that allows people who were snuck into the United States as minors to remain in the United States - is perhaps the vilest and most stupid.

Vile because, like it or not (and the Trumpkins DON'T like it, which is why they're shrieking and stamping their widdle feet so hard to make this a thing) these people are U.S. nationals. Not citizens, but American in all effective senses of the word. Tossing these poor sonsofbitches into Guatemala City or Sinaloa would be no different than snatching some random gringo out of the nonexistent salad bar a Applebee's, stripping them naked and parachuting them out over San Pedro Sula. This will result in some predictable number of these people, whose "crime" is infinitely less egregious than the shameless grifting indulged in by some greater-than-random-percentage of Orange Foolius' appointees, being raped, murdered, robbed, beaten, and more-or-less enslaved.

Stupid because, frankly, this is more of the same nonsense I fulminated against here, here, and here.

Only worse.

Because the vast, VAST majority of the people targeted by this nasty little piece of xenophobic racism are, as I said, American. They are employed, many in college, many in position to be valuable contributors to any sensible civilization. But because of the gibbering lunacy of the GOP C.H.U.D. base they will be wasted, thrown away to appeal to a group of people who, by and large, appear as useful to the future of the United States as print-shop employees for a glossy skin mag.

One reason I really hate writing about politics these days is how utterly vile are the politics of the current ruling party and its' adherents. There's a point to be had in discussing controlling the entry and exit to the United States. There's no point to discussing that by shrieking demonization of the people trying to evade those controls. They're simply doing what every human being since Olduvai Gorge has done; make their lives and their families' lives better. A sensible polity would be trying to figure out ways to integrate many of them into the life of the nation, and to ameliorate the problems in the native lands of the others so as to wake them from the nightmares that drive many of the immigrants to flee their native lands.

But given the last year's history this nation is, quite obviously, NOT a sensible polity.

Aside from simple sensible policy, the deplorables that are squealing and squeeeeeing because His Fraudulency is punishing these "others" aren't even going to get the woody they anticipate out of this. They're highly unlikely to benefit from the expulsion of these people in any material way. Cletus and Lulabelle aren't going to pick tomatoes in the California sun, or sheetrock Houston in the swampy misery of late summer, or cook frantically in the back of a diner in Sherwood, Oregon. The "jobs" they think these people they hate are taking? They're not good jobs. These DACA people have no legal rights; they cannot afford to take any job that will do a thorough enough background check to expose their legal status.

That will make no difference to the deplorables; for them it's all about just wanting to make "those people" pay.

That's a fucking insane way to run a great industrial nation.

But insanity has never stopped modern Republicans before and it won't now. It's all tribal, all resentment, all whining and bitching all the way down, along with stooging for plutocracy and licking the guns of the ammosexuals and the cross of the God-botherers.

The dark heart of Treason in Defense of Slavery and the decades of segregation and racial oppression that followed was the the people who "counted" - the wealthy white elite that founded the U.S. based on what was good for wealthy white elites - conned the po' white trash into sucking up to them with the bestial promise that, no matter what, no matter how worthless and vile and shitty those white trash people were and would be, they would always be "better" than a nigger.

And a beaner.

And, as we can see, that hasn't changed an iota.

So, despite the obvious fact that, as I said back in February, that
"...the results will be at best underwhelming. The promised Day of Alien-Free Jubilee will turn out to be a quiet monotone of unpicked crops, uncleaned hotel rooms, unwiped asses, and uncooked meals.

The result of all this huge slug of spending - surely paid for by a tax hike, right? - will be, outside of personal hardship for those involved, a vast expanse of...very little."
his Trumpkins will fight for this like crazed hashashins because nothing, nothing, is more important to them than reminding those dusky little devils that this is still a White Man's Neighborhood.

Friday, September 01, 2017

They've finally developed the boneless cat

And here he is, with Maxine:
Drachma really is the sweetest kitty. He's not particularly a lapcat; I mean, he tolerates and even seems to enjoy being petted, but he doesn't really seek you out and cuddle with you in hopes of a pet.

But he's incredibly tolerant of being hauled around and mauled by the urchins. Practically every other cat I've ever worked for would have sliced the little mongers to ribbons for the stuff they do to him. Not Drachma. He simply lies quietly under their abuse until he's had enough, at which point he wriggles free.
I constantly remind the sprogs of this but they seem unconvinced. I await their encounter with a different, more typical, kitty and expect that they will be quickly disabused of their foolish conviction...

Just in case, here's the reference in the title.
It's actually sort of sad, a reminder of the time when Charlie Schultz bothered to actually cartoon and his creation was something other than a vehicle to huck insurance...

September bloggage!

I'm sorry to announce that the blogging fever is not on me now any more than is has been for the last year or more. I just have little of worth to say and little excitement to say it. Nothing has fundamentally changed in my country since I suggested that the United States was completely in the hands of a group that
"...in it's present incarnation offers only two things:

1. Stooging for open oligarchy, and
2. Comfort for white nationalism, Christian theocracy, and fear of the "others" (whether those others are gay, or brown, or Muslim)

And that's really it. There's no "hope" there. There's nothing aspirational. There's no vision of a future United States that isn't a polluted, plutocratic, conservative-Christian feudality. That's it; if you white (male, Christian) you right. If you brown...well, fuck off. And you lib'ruls, homos, uppity wimmens, nigras, beaners, immigrants of all stripes, Muslims, atheists..."
(I should note that when I posted this I was accused of being "meanspirited" and not optimistic enough, that the Tangerine Toddler wasn't a generic Republican but some sort of Magical Plutocrat, full of populism and America-First-end-the-foreign-meddling-ism and "shake-it-up"-ism and "tells it like it is"-ism. Ummm...how's that working out for those of you who gave me that shit, eh? Is Orange Foolius' rage against immigrants and scary Mooslims and vote fraudsters and poor people and medical insurance and his luuuuurve of tax cuts and bullying foreigners convinced you you were his goddamn marks yet? Be sure and let me know...)

As for the rest of the world...well, I have kiddo and domestic stuff, but that's of interest only to me.

I've tried to find some interesting things to say about the Army Reserve and the ARNG in the Nineties and Oughts, but there's not a whole lot of there there. I do want to try and come up with SOMEthing to say about them, if nothing else, to discuss my ORARNG's epic JRTC rotation back in the mid-Nineties and the Great Railhead Robbery, but that will take some time and thought. Might not get to it this month.

There is ONE thing I do want to write up this month; The Siege and Battle of Vienna, September 1683; the High Water Mark of the Ottoman Empire.

So I'm going to start picking away on that.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hiding Cards in the Great Game

So apparently the Fraudulency Administration is going to continue try to hustle the East.
(And I should add to any readers out there who said, or believed, this: No. Donald Trump didn't ever mean what he said when he talked about "disengagement" (or whatever fourth-grade word he used for "getting the fuck out of Southwest Asia") on the stump. He...well, to call it "lied" would be to presume that he even bothered to put the effort into giving a fuck about whatever word salad came out of his piehole...didn't have the slightest idea or care the least bit about the pointless military farkling about west of the Khyber Pass any more than he really meant that you were going to have the best medical coverage, waaaay better than Obamacare. Donald Trump isn't some sort of pacifist, or even an isolationist. He's a conman and, like any good conman, he said what he needed to to get you poor, dumb bastards to buy his snake oil.)
Now this is all the same-shit-different-Groundhog-Day that the U.S. has been doing in the Grave of Empires ever since Dubya's day. IT didn't work when we had damn near 100,000 guys in theatre and it won't work now. I can talk forever about how it's going to be impossible without Pakistani buy-in and how the Pakis won't buy in because of the Kabul government's coziness with India, about how Trump's nonsensical rejection of "nation-building" leaves the problem of Afghan government corruption and malfeasance in place and, thus, ensures the worthlessness of any sort of military success.

But that's not what gets me about the latest round of this idiocy.

It's Orange Foolius' ridiculous obsession with not telling who he's going to direct the Pentagon to send as reinforcements.
(Oh, and another note: I'm hearing people talk about how "serious" and "presidential" the oaf sounded Monday night. Look. Regardless of how "presidential" he sounded his Afghan "plan" is a ridiculous mess of pottage that wouldn't produce a successful toddler's birthday party, let alone a solution to an intractable colonial war in one of the least-hospitable parts of the globe. Focusing on how The Idiot sounded lets the punditry elide what a mess he and his best, "the very best" military advisors have devised. As I noted; over 100,000 troopers complete with horse, foot, and artillery couldn't suppress the Pashtun. Now a couple of new brigade rotations is gonna work. And we're not "nation building" when every swinging richard who has taken a look at this has concluded that one of the single biggest problems is the regime in Kabul, which is loathed when its not ignored by every Afghan outside those leaching off it? So...no. He wasn't "serious" Monday night. He may have sounded "serious", but what he actually SAID was just the same Trump nonsense.)
A combat brigade, like love and a cough, is hard to hide. Trust me, the Talibs have people inside our log facilities in-theatre. When a new unit is due to arrive their advance party is on the ground making coordinations days, weeks, sometimes even months before the main body arrives. The muj will get intel on, at the very least, when and who is showing up long before they get there.

And the muj will also have people shadowing the units in the field AOs. They'll notice when the ADVON guys show up to coordinate the relief with the departing unit (or set up FOBs for a new AO). They may not know exactly which outfit is going to show up, or exactly where and when...but they'll have a pretty good idea that SOMEbody is coming.

But this all fits with Orange Foolius' ideas that war is like some sort of game where you "win" by hiding your cards or something, and, sadly, it also fits with our geopolitical infatuation with tactics as strategy. Every Great Power that has ever meddled with the Central Asian highlands has eventually figured out that you 1) choose your most ruthless local satrap, arm and equip him, and 2) declare victory and leave. Then, when your proxy falls to the inevitable coup or rebellion or whatever you shrug and move on. The whole damn place is pretty worthless.

"Killing terrorists" is just going to end up killing...more people. More Afghans. Meaning that we'll end us sowing Cadmus' teeth and making one or two new muj for everyone we kill. If you want to go Full Roman and make a wasteland? That's pretty much the only way that works. But, hopefully, Trump and his merry band of neoNazis aren't ready to tap their Inner Reinhard Heydrich.

Yet, anyway.

So the only people that this idiot is fooling with his secrecy are the people he's supposed to be straight with; the U.S. public. The Talibs will know before any of us civilians where and who he's sending to slay Afridis where they run.

Which will work just as well as is has for the past 17 years.

As I've said before; the only way to "win" this Central Asian Game of Thrones is not to play.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

An Open Letter to the 45th President of the United States

Look, I know you have the attention span of a housefly, but try to follow along, K? I'll keep it as simple as you are.

Here's what Americans do to Nazis:
That's pretty clear, isn't it?

It used to be a bar that you had to clear to get elected here in this goddamn country; don't be a Nazi, don't be a commie. Sadly, you could be racist, sexist, and xenophobic as all hell, but you at least had to clear that low bar.

So.

As the fucking President of the United States, here's what it's your job to do.

You put your ginormous orange gob in front of the teevee cameras and say this:

"Don't be a Nazi. Fuck "alt-right" and "white pride"; that shit's being a Nazi. Don't be a Nazi. Don't talk like a Nazi. Don't act like a Nazi. Don't hang out with Nazis. Nazis are evil. We killed shitloads of Nazis, there was a whole war and everything. If you talk like and act like and hang out with Nazis you are fucking evil. As your President, I hate Nazi scum and everything they stand for and I recommend you do, too."

See? Wasn't that easy?

But you won't say that.

Ever.

Because you can't. Because you know these Nazi shitpokes are your shitpokes, the ones who elected you, the only ones who still have your back after eight months of solid derp, the ones think you're doing such a great job, the very best job. Because you're a worthless goddamn orange oxygen-thief who should never have been trusted with anything more important than the menu choices at the Trump Tower grill.

But I'm leaving this here in hopes that somehow the Wizard figures out how to give you a heart, a brain, and some courage enough for you to act like a president of, y'know, the United Fucking States...

Lemme know when that happens.
I won't be holding my breath.

Friday, July 14, 2017

¡Fuera de acá, todos!

The Washington Post reports a rather disturbing meeting between the director of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus:
"Trump, Sessions and Kelly want to take 800,000 DREAMers with DACA and hundreds of thousands with TPS who are registered with the government and in compliance with the law and make them into criminals, felons, and deportees in the next few months."
We've been over this before and you know my position. But here's another thing to think about;

How, physically, do you DO all this?

I mean...almost a million people? Rounded up, "processed", shoved on planes and buses and dumped in airports and border towns across Latin America and, presumably, the world?

The sheer number of military/"law enforcement" bodies alone you'd need to do all this are just staggering. This is the sort of thing that changes entire organizations. Hell, it would change the entire country.

And...what do those bodies do once all these scary, dangerous "aliens" are gone?

Think about that for a moment.

So not only will the "...promised Day of Alien-Free Jubilee turn out to be a quiet monotone of unpicked crops, uncleaned hotel rooms, unwiped asses, and uncooked meals..." it will also include tens of thousands of armed paramilitary troopers with time and weapons on their hands and nothing else to do.

Hmmm.

I wonder how THAT could go wrong..?

Friday, July 07, 2017

The NORK Nukes - 2017 International Tour!

In what may well be the most NORK-y Fourth of July fireworks display ever, the Pyongyang regime appears to have successfully tested a nuclear-capable missile with the range to reach the western portions of North America; by definition an intercontinental ballistic missile.


The linked article does a good job discussing the strategic implications of this success, but the tl:dr version is "there are no good military options".

Simply put, the DPRK appears to have obtained what Stalin's Soviet Union did in the 1940s; a successful defense against U.S. military strongarming. Never a particularly good idea, given the NORK capabilities for inflicting nasty mayhem to American-aligned nations in northeast Asia, if the NORKs have the capability to directly threaten the U.S. mainland this option goes from "barely conceivable" to "off the table".

What's more, the strategic calculus of potentially-holding-U.S.-population-centers-hostage changes the relationship between the U.S. and Asian allies such as Japan and South Korea. If Trump wanted the Japanese government to start building its own nukes Pyongyang may well have given it the same push that the Soviets gave the British and French governments during the Cold War - the worry that the Land of the Big PX would be hesitant to risk its own civilians in the face of a possible nuclear exchange.

Where does the Tangerine Toddler fit into all this? Swinging the Big Stupid bat, of course. The King of the Deal is discovering what diplomats and potentates throughout history have discovered, albeit at his own, short-bus-slow-reader speed; that polities with interests that conflict with your own can't always - and often won't ever - be coaxed, swayed, or bullied into acting against their own interests. China fears a NORK collapse more than anything the U.S. can threaten. Figuring out a way to adjust U.S. geopolitical approaches to the new northeast Asian realities will require a hell of a lot more patience, creativity, and intelligence than either the current Chief Executive - who seems more interested in ginning up a "Blut und Ehre" white nationalist agenda - or his people have shown to date.

Nukes are funny things. Technically they are "weapons of war"...but they work well only as potential, not kinetic, energy. When the first nuke is thrown at a nuclear-armed adversary they have effectively lost much of their usefulness. If war is the "continuation of politics by other means" the problem with nuclear war is that, unlike politics, there is no real way to plan or predict or strategize what happens after the fallout settles. A single warhead getting through to a single city will mean that even the "winner" will suffer. There is little consolation for the "winning" public knowing that the northern portion of the Korean peninsula is a glassy wasteland.

Maintaining the nuclear balance was a difficult task for U.S. leaders like Truman and Eisenhower. What happens when the launch codes are clutched in the stubby fingers of a man whose primary education in conflict was as a WWF wrestling heel is something that I'm not sure I want to find out.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Enemies

A friend of mine (hi, mike!) posted something to his Facebook feed the other day about having turned on Joe Scarborough's Morning Joe after His Fraudulency had launched an attack-tweet on Joe and his co-host/paramour Mika, but that the content of the radical reactionary glurgefest was so vile that he lasted no more than a quarter-hour or less before having to kill the video feed.

I commented that this was a lesson, should we need it, that despite the saying the enemy of your enemy is NOT your friend.

At which point I stopped, with my hands poised over the keyboard.

Enemy.

Enemy?

This..?


...is my "enemy"?

Which got me thinking further. This woman is an American citizen. A "fellow American". She is, so far as I can tell, patriotic and honorable by her own lights. Presumably a decent loving daughter, wife, and mother. A hard-working journalist.

How could she, or Scarborough...or Mitch McConnell, or Paul Ryan, or Newt Gingrich, or Donald Trump, for that matter, be "enemies". They're all "fellow Americans". All, presumably, patriotic, hard-working, (okay, maybe not Trump...) decent, loving, (okay, maybe not Trump again...) citizens of my country.

And then I thought about the definition of the word "enemy";

1.1 A person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.
the traditional enemies of his tribe’
‘Nigel made many enemies’
‘this man was her sworn enemy’


1.2 A thing that harms or weakens something else.
routine is the enemy of art’

And then I thought about what sort of things that Ryan and McConnell and Trump are proposing. What sort of things Scarborough and Brzezinski and Limbaugh and Murdoch are supporting.

A return to the economics and social stratification of the Gilded Age?
A place in the public square for theocrats, and racists, and fascists?
More than that; deference and authority for those sorts of traitors to the aspirations of my country?
The return of publicly shameless nepotism and graft to the White House that would have embarassed Warren Harding?



And then I thought: Are those things actively opposed and hostile to everything I believe about my country?

Would those things harm or weaken me, and those who are important to me?

Would they, in my opinion, harm and weaken my country?

Yes.

Therefore, the logical conclusion is that, yes.

These people are my enemies.

And there can be only one way to meet the hostile, harmful designs of one's enemies:

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day afternoon with COL Mix

You can't see it in this picture. But around the corner of the church tower, behind all the big modern monuments to the Honored Dead of every bunfight the United States has entered since 1775, is the marble marker for the one COL Simon Hosack Mix, killed in one of the many engagements at Petersburg, outside the Confederate capitol, in June of 1864.

Not that he's there, mind you. In those preflying times he would have had to pickled to have made it home in an acceptable state; no, what was left of him was buried somewhere close to the piece of Virginia where he was killed.

The marker is just his hometown's way of remembering him.

Turns out the Colonel was a bit of a celebrity in Victorian New York.
"As candidate for Congress on the same ticket as Abraham Lincoln, and colonel of one of the first volunteer cavalry regiments in the Union, Mix is justly regarded as “the greatest national character who ever came out of Schoharie county."
Congressional hopeful, colonel of volunteers, national character; Simon discovered, as many before and since, that the bullet could give a shit.

You're just meat, and as meat into the ground you go; food for worms, brave Percy, one of the many who have seen an end to war.

I'd spent the morning and afternoon amongst the living, visiting my baby sister and her husband in their old schoolhouse outside the little clapped-out hill town of Sidney, New York, one of the many dying places where the need for human habitation has passed by and only habit and intransigence prevents the remnants from fleeing. The chill rain had scrubbed the little Memorial Day parade, and the disappointed would-be spectators took refuge inside the church for the chicken supper.

There's something about being served a half of a baked fowl out of a tinfoil-lined garbage can I can't quite put my finger on.

After saying farewell to my family I sailed back up the interstate to the town of Cobleskill, and from there down the steep, curving roads to the county seat in Schoharie, to the big burying ground outside the old colonial church to spend a moment with the other old soldiers there, the men young and old who had seen the elephant, as they called it back in old COL Mix's times.

I wanted to share a drink with them, and so it was probably appropriate that the only thing I could find at the stop-and-rob down the road that would serve as a libation was a nasty pound can of Yuengling lager. I can't imagine that the guys had anything better, and, I suspect, probably had much the worse during their wartime service.

I parked outside the church and strolled around the tower, beer in hand, listening to the drip of rain off the maples and the quiet hum of traffic from the village to the south. The only other human noise was the random clanking of the flag halyards back in front of the building as the wet cloth flapped sullenly in the cold May afternoon.

I poured old Simon a draft and shared it with him, him and all the boys there, and elsewhere, who had worn the uniform before me, blue and green and parti-colored, and had paid the highest price that shoddy, lowest-bidder uniform could cost.

I told him that he'd done good, that dying for the end of chattel slavery was a better cause than the excuse for any fight my nation had ever asked of me, and that I apologized for the quality of the drink I offered to his shade and those of the fellas around us.

Here's to us, I pledged him; who's like us? Damn few, and you're all dead.

And we stood together in silence, his marker and I, and listened to the calling of the mourning doves and the sound of the rain.
And, as always on this day,

this.




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Not living as large as I'd hoped...

Well, I know, I know. I promised content. And, as it says in the Scripture: "They cry "Content! Content!" and there is no content."
I can't plead anything but sloth.

Turns out that my easy pile-nanny days are turning into 12- and 14-hour pile nanny days. AND I have no internet at the place where I'm staying, so I have to work from the job trailer and, not surprisingly, I REALLY don't want to hang around the job trailer.

This has sucked in a lot of ways. It's sucked because I've had to miss my beloved Timbers and Thorns. It sucked because I can't chat with my loves back in Portland, or send and receive pictures other than through my tiny phone.
I've got an early afternoon off today - we had some trouble here at the jobsite - but, again, I don't want to hang around the job trailer. So I'm slamming this out and heading off to the Price Chopper for half-and-half and bagels. Here's some pretty waterfall pictures, though.

Oh, and these.
These are Devonian fossils from the outcrop described in this post; it's right outside the little town of Schoharie, the seat of Schoharie County, and I've since spent a couple of pleasant afternoons picking through the gray sandstone and shaley "grit" to find the valves of Gypidula and Spirifer and Atrypa and an occasional gastropod, long-vanished denizens of the Devonian seas.
I really will try and post something more substantive if I can get the damn internet back this weekend.


Saturday, May 06, 2017

Living large in Methburgh

It's sad, but I looked at the masthead and realized that an entire month had gone by without new content here. I won't apologize. I've been busy in real life and, frankly, I don't have much more to say aside from incendiary rants on the rank idiocy of electing a transparent con-man, grifter, and narcissistic asshole as the chief executive of a popular democracy.

So, instead, I'm sitting at the wobbly table in the apartment over the garage of a rental house in a small town in upstate New York where I'm on loan to a pile driving outfit working on a big water-supply dam reconstruction project, eating cold General's Chicken out of the plastic container and waiting for the Portland Thorns match to start on go90.com.
The work is...work. It's just your basic pile-nannying, complicated only by the ridiculous demands the New York Department of Environmental Protection had put on the contractor and the crappy weather.

(Speaking of which; did you know that the New York State Department of Environmental Protection has its own coppers? Seriously. I shit you not. And here's the best part; they're just as fucking idiotic about dressing up like soldiers and looking all billy-badass as regular coppers. Seriously. Tree-hugger-billy-badass-coppers. Here they are, the DEP Gestapo, in all their billy-badass glory.)

Is that fucking ridiculous, or what? Sometimes I think our goddamn nation went utterly batshit crazy on 9/11/2001.

The locale is perhaps the most left-behind, shit-kicking rural, economically depressed part of the state, a place that isn't so much a has-been as a never-was. I suspect that the Schoharie Valley was always the butt-ass end of beyond, a place for people to go who had no place anywhere else. It's surely that now, and it's even money which is more irking; the lack of good beer or the lack of good coffee.

Luckily I was able to remedy that today; I went into Cobleskill to the Price Chopper (and you have to say that in the Ahnuld voice: "Geht to the Price Choppah!") and picked up a bag of Starbucks French Roast and a six pack of assorted local brews, heavy on the IPAs. The folks here in rural NY seem to slowly be catching onto the microbrew notion, but, sadly, the coffee...dear God, what a shitshow.

I managed about a work-week with the "best" this area has to offer - Dunkin' Donuts - but finally I needed caffeine, REAL caffeine. I dropped into a "Stewart's Store", the local stop-n-rob franchise, to find something stronger than the weak-ass donkey piss on offer at Dunkin'. I browsed the coffee counter glumly before spotting a green-plastic-trimmed silex labeled "Dark Roast".

"Is this really "dark"?" I asked the plump woman behind the counter. "That's the darkest we have." she grumbled, and I held the thing up to the light; the flourescent tube was dimmed, barely, but the thing looked like nothing so much as the contents of a kidney-replacement patient's catheter bag.

I sighed and poured myself a cup.
But that coffee issue is solved, Price Choppah, you ah the best in life!

I did spend an enjoyable hour or so browsing Catnap Books, the utterly wonderful little used bookstore in frenetic downtown Cobleskill. Prize of the day was a 1944 New York State Museum Bulletin #336, "Geology of the Catskill and Kaaterskill Quadrangles" complete with gorgeous colored geologic map of the Catskill region directly southeast of me.
The geology here is orders of magnitude older and more complex than our juvenile and simple brute-force geology of the Pacific Northwest. These are old rocks; Devonian, Ordovician, Silurian...the tribal names from Britain where they were first described and classified. Sediments from long-vanished seas; red shales, black siltstones, many different colors of "grits" (the archaic name for a silty sandstone or sandy siltstone), and many, many layers of gray sandstones.

The valley of the Schoharie Creek was once on the eastern edge of a great vanished ocean, a narrow sea between the continent and a volcanic arc that had rifted away from the landmass to the west. This was a torrid wet forest, the earliest known on Earth, dominated by the bizarre fern-like tree once known as Eospermatopteris and now as Wattieza. The conical bases of these peculiar trees (they aren't really "roots"; the description I read said that so far as the paleontologists can tell these fern-like trees had teensy rhizomeish suckers at the base. Windstorms in the Devonian must have been a panic...) were preserved when sandy sediment buried the forests and casted-up the stumps as they disintegrated.
This ghost forest was unearthed in the 19th Century, but the real excavations came with the building of the dam in the 20th. Several of the treestumps have been tumbled into a small rectangular gravel bed outside the Gilboa post office. There's a bunch more outside the general contractor's trailer at the jobsite.

Outside the geology the work is just the usual pile-nannying, and the weather has been cold and rainy, and, as I mentioned, the coffee is awful.

And the Thorns struggled to an unconvincing home draw.
It's midnight here, and I have to get up to go see my kid sister in the morning. But I've got some time on my hands this month, and I'll be back around this joint in just a bit.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Another opening, another show!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WASF.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Half FOX and half free

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

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

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

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

I completely agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah. Me, too.

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

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

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

Ummm...no.

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

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

Here's what I think.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not that evening.

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

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

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

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

"Not here. Campus is closed."

"Closed? What? Why?"


Irritation and boredom were replaced with mild disbelief.

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

"Uh, no. What nuclear plant?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

¡Fuera de acá, abuela!

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

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

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

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

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

Isn't THAT fucking dandy..?

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Fifteen

Well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I always do.

Goodbye, love.

Goodbye.

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

¡Fuera de acá!

I hate to even admit this.

But.

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

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

Bear with me for a moment, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But...

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

Here's the problems I DO have with this.

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

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

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

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

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


What do you think?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Falling Timber, Green Shoots

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

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

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

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

But I like to get out a bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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