Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday Random Ten (on the road edition)

Yep, it's that time again. I'm loading up and heading into the heart of darkest Malibu to play a political fund raiser. On the scale of political support this is one where I will probably deduct my expenses for the trip, which are minimal because I'm a guest of the organizer and will only have to pay for the gas to get there, and donate the rest to the campaign. It's not the candidate I voted for in the primary, but frankly, I don't care.

I will most likely make the trip using the XM radio tuned in on NPR. Talk radio and information shows are pretty cool when driving because I can tune away from them should events on the road demand it.

So, Hi Ho and all that stuff. . .

In the meantime while I'm packing here's the soundtrack for the morning.

Whiskey You're the Devil - - - The Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem
She Ain't Rose - - - Leon Redbone
Deep River Blues - - - Doc Watson
Ain't Nobody Home But Me - - - Pink Anderson
Little Children's Blues - - - Leadbelly
The I Don't Know Where I'm Going Blues - - - Steve Goodman (miss ya hoss, deeply)
Joe Bean - - - Johnny Cash (live bootleg from Bucket of Blood, Virginia City)
Corrina, Corrina - - - Taj Mahal
Mathilde - - - Jacques Brel
Hazy Shade of Winter - - - The Bangles (live bootleg)

Bonus Track:

Sweet Hour of Prayer - - - Stanley Brothers (with Emmylou Harris)

Extra Bonus because this one came on just a little bit ago and it rocks:

Fuck Me Pumps - - - Amy Winehouse (if she can still sing like this when she sobers up, look the fuck out is all i gots ta say)

Mental Health Implication for Repeated Deployments

This morning's L.A. Times has a fascinating article.

Short version: It's the third and fourth tours that cause the breakdowns.

Some excepts:

More than a quarter of higher-ranking enlisted soldiers showed signs of mental health problems after being sent to war zones for the third or fourth time, a sharp increase over those on their first or second deployments, according to a military study issued Thursday.

By higher ranking enlisted soldiers they mean the senior NCOs who make the snap decisions that directly effect the survival of the troops in their sphere.

The report showed that 27.2% of noncommissioned officers -- the sergeants responsible for leading troops in combat -- reported mental health problems during their third or fourth tours.

"Soldiers are not resetting entirely before they get back into theater," said Lt. Col. Paul Bliese, who headed the team that conducted the study. "They're not having the opportunity to completely recover from the previous deployment when they go back into theater for the second or third deployment.

They are driving the army straight into the ground. Also, these type of endless and back to back deployments have never happened. No one else in the history of warfare has done this to their troops. I wrote a while back about what the problems Alexander had encountered after ten years of continuous warfare.

Army healthcare officials said it was difficult to assess whether rates of mental health problems on third or fourth tours were abnormally high, noting that they had little information from other conflicts or the civilian world to compare.

File that last under the "no shit sherlock" tab. No other nation or armed force has ever put this kind of pressure on their soldiers. The Army, using neocon magical logic, points out that because only a quarter of our NCOs are going nuts that the training and treatment system must be working. Anyone got a barf bag?

Go Read The Whole Thing.

We are rapidly approaching critical human mass. Should the army begin to break in the field there will be terrible consequences.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Movie Meme

Instructions: Look up 15 of your favorite films on IMDb and take a quote from each. List them below. When someone guesses the quote correctly, cross it off the list. Leave a comment with your answers. And NO CHEATING.

1. Whereas what we have here? A bunch of fig-eaters wearing towels on their heads, trying to find reverse in a Soviet tank. This is not a worthy adversary.
vfh (The Big Lebowski)
2. Son, you'd be amazed at the hundreds of satisfied students I've matriculated over the last 50 years! vfh (The Flim Flam Man)

3. There's not a lot of money in revenge. (tata, The Princess Bride)

4. Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it. We cook the harvest. It wouldn't be here and we wouldn't be eating it if we hadn't done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we're about to eat, amen.
(Blackdog, Shennandoah)
5. Collingwood and the rest. And they'll keep on living as long as the regiment lives. The pay is thirteen dollars a month; their diet: beans and hay. Maybe horsemeat before this campaign is over. Fight over cards or rotgut whiskey, but share the last drop in their canteens. The faces may change... the names... but they're there: they're the regiment... the regular army... now and fifty years from now. They're better men than they used to be. Thursday did that. He made it a command to be proud of.
vfh (Fort Apache)
6. Everything happens to me. Now I'm shot by a child.
(Blackdog, True Grit)
7. I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.
(Blackdog, Casablanca)
8. Gentlemen, Chicolini here may talk like an idiot, and look like an idiot, but don't let that fool you: he really is an idiot. I implore you, send him back to his father and brothers, who are waiting for him with open arms in the penitentiary. I suggest that we give him ten years in Leavenworth, or eleven years in Twelveworth. (oddjob, Duck Soup)

9. You see that fella in the red sweather over there? His name's Donnie McCoy. Works a few of the protection rackets for Cunnaro when he's waiting for something better to happen. Donnie and I have known each other since we were six. Take a good look at that face, Floyd. Because if he ever finds out I can be beat by one lousy grifter, I'll have to kill him and every other hood who wants to muscle in on my Chicago operation.
vfh (The Sting)
10. Love. You can know all the math in the 'Verse, but take a boat in the air you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells ya she's hurtin' 'fore she keens. Makes her home. Carolyn (Serenity)

11. Scorn and defiance, slight regard, contempt and any thing that may not misbecome the mighty sender, doth he prize you at. Thus says my king.
Carolyn (Henry V either version)

12. Somebody once wrote: "Hell is the impossibility of reason." That's what this place feels like. Hell. vfh (Platoon)

13. No two things on Earth are equal or have an equal chance. Bit a leaf, not a tree. There's many a man worse than me, and some better... But I don't think race or country matters a damn. What matters, Colonel... Is justice. Which is why I'm here. I'll be treated as I deserve, not as my father deserved. I'm Kilrain... And I damn all gentlemen. There is only one aristocracy... And that is right here.
vfh (Gettysburg)
14. A little? And you a writer? Tsk, tsk, tsk. I thought all writers drank to excess and beat their wives. You know, at one time I think I secretly wanted to be a writer.
vfh (Philadelphia Story)
15. He's a disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde reading, Streissand ticket holding friend of Dorothy, know what I'm saying?
(Krista, Clueless)

Have at it troops.

Arson, Rape, and Bloody Murder

Is the title of one of my favorite songs from my IWW songbook. My copy was at one time owned by Big Bill himself. The Wobblies were a rowdy bunch. They were not interested in civil disobedience at all. Frankly, they were fed the fuck up with civility.

This rememberance started over at my buddy Konagod's yesterday. He went off on a rant about the cost of the Iraq war and the frustration of the endless primary. I just went off.

The whole song is about making fun of the folks in power. The idea is to come up with funny, and humiliating things to do to them. Feel free to join the fun in comments. As you put them up, I'll enter them into the body of the post.

Also, this post should not be read silently. It should be sung out loud. For those of you who don't remember the tune, here's John Brown's Body or, as I prefer, "Teacher Hit Me With a Ruler."

We'll force hillary to use a brooklyn accent when she speaks (3x)
then tell her to shut up


Arson, Rape and Bloody Murder!
Arson, Rape and Bloody Murder!
Arson, Rape and Bloody Murder!
When the revolution comes!

We'll make Barak Obama wear a flag in his lapel (3x)
then we'll make him take it off.


We'll have John McCain scrub the floor down on his knees (3X)
And live on Minimum Wage


We'll have Dick Cheney sport a pimple on his nose (3x)
And we'll take away his guns


We'll make Michael Chertoff build that fucking fence himself (3x)
and stay on the other side


then we'll make Rush Limbaugh get prescriptions for his dope (3x)
Prescriptions in his own name


We'll have Annie Coulter working shifts at Mustang Ranch (3x)
and we'll laugh at all her johns

(from reader Paul)

We'll drive that assclown Romney in a cage on his car roof
And he'll clean up his own shit.
(from blackdog)
get the shrub in the lockbox with the cheyney for a pal (3x)
we get to throw shit at them


(two from trog)
We'll have Dubya complete his hitch 'cause we're running out of fodder. (3x)
And defermentBoy is comin' too!


We'll have Blackwater scum marry the widows that they make. (3x)
And the widowers' will get some too!


(I thought this one up while I was waiting for the dentist)

We'll make Mike Huckabee give head to Louis Farrakhan (3x)
That's punishment enough for both.


(this one came to me while my dentist, Sweeny Todd, was drilling away humming to himself)

We'll frogmarch Karl Rove into a Mexicali Jail (3x)
Let Paco steal his shoes.

(three from the anonymous lurker)

We'll make Hillary and Barack campaign in Michigan again. (3x)
And then not count the votes.


We'll take Dick Cheney on a hunt and shoot him in the face. (3x)
And then drink all his beer.


We'll make Huckabee repudiate Intelligent Design (3x)
And then not let him evolve.

Arson, Rape and Bloody Murder!
Free beers for each and every worker
Arson, Rape and Bloody Murder!
When the revolution comes

*it will NOT be fucking televised*

The Wobblies were not playin'. Sing this song loud and imagine what it would have been to be standing in the middle of some Pennsylvania Hard Rock Coal miners, or some Oregon/Washington lumberjacks, or the Anaconda strikers in Bisbee, Arizona. Big strong men who were fed the fuck up. Standing together. Shouting this defiance.

Then examine your own silence folks.

Thanks to Grumpy Old Man, the German workers are striking.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Thucydides, Live from Baghdad

This is a reposting that was originally written in June of 06. Not much on the ground in Bagdhad has changed. Not really since Thucydides was writing either. I thought that this would be a nice revisiting.

dateline 431 BCE, Book III, the revolution in Corycea, describing the city and the people leading up to the rising of the city...

In peace and prosperity both states and individuals are actuated by higher motives, because they do not fall under the dominion of imperious necessities; but war, which takes away the comfortable provision of daily life, is a hard master and tends to assimilate men's characters to their conditions.

When troubles had once begun in the cities, those who followed carried the revolutionary spirit further and further, and determined to outdo the report of all who had preceded them by the ingenuity of their enterprises and the atrocity of their revenges. The meaning of words had no longer the same relation to things, but was changed by them as they thought proper. Reckless daring was held to be loyal courage; prudent delay was the excuse of a coward; moderation was the disguise of unmanly weakness; to know everything was to do nothing. Frantic energy was the true quality of a man. A conspirator who wanted to be safe was a recreant in disguise. The lover of violence was always trusted, and his opponent suspected. He who succeeded in a plot was deemed knowing, but a still greater master in craft was he who detected one. On the other hand, he who plotted from the first to have nothing to do with plots was a breaker up of parties and a poltroon who was afraid of the enemy. In a word, he who could outstrip another in a bad action was applauded, and so was he who encouraged to evil one who had no idea of it. The tie of party was stronger than the tie of blood, because a partisan was more ready to dare without asking why. (For party associations are not based upon any established law, nor do they seek the public good; they are formed in defiance of the laws and from self-interest.) The seal of good faith was not divine law, but fellowship in crime. If an enemy when he was in the ascendant offered fair words, the opposite party received them not in a generous spirit, but by a jealous watchfulness of his actions.72 Revenge was dearer than self-preservation. Any agreements sworn to by either party, when they could do nothing else, were binding as long as both were powerless. But he who on a favourable opportunity first took courage, and struck at his enemy when he saw him off his guard, had greater pleasure in a perfidious than he would have had in an open act of revenge; he congratulated himself that he had taken the safer course, and also that he had overreached his enemy and gained the prize of superior ability. In general the dishonest more easily gain credit for cleverness than the simple for goodness; men take a pride in the one, but are ashamed of the other.

Thucydides could be writing today. The places on the map may change, but as long as things are done by humans, with human natures, the results will be the same. When Athens (where they proclaimed loud and long about their love of peace while belligerently carving an empire) and Sparta (where the main focus of their military machine, considered the best in the world, was to keep the helots, greek slaves who dreadfully outnumbered the Spartans, from rising again to wipe out their brutal masters)went to war it was entirely avoidable. The Spartans, like Saddam were kept in a box of their own construction. They were loathe to deploy their vaunted army, because as soon as their backs were turned the helots would rise, fight, and maybe this time win. The Athenians, like the Americans, were vain, boastful, hypocrital, frivolous, and their own worst enemies. Thucydides was an Athenian general who was exiled after a victory. Over the next 28 years of warfare Athens would prove far more effective at beating itself by exiling, executing, or otherwise alienating its best and brightest military minds. Over and over they would return to demagogues like Alcibiades who would lead cavalry charges straight to ruination and defeat. The Scicilian campaign was disasterous for Athens but Sparta was in a poor position to capitalize. In the end, it was the Persians, financially backing one side, then the other, who were the real victors. Athens and Sparta never regained their pre-emininence in the world. They muddled through, both bruised and bleeding until first Alexander, then the Romans came in and took over.

The text quoted here came from

I would not recommend tackling this history like a novel, but there are certain very critical parts to read.

Book 2, the funeral oration of Pericles. A classic example of an "us and them" deliniation. He also warns the Athenians that if they cease to follow the ideals that made them who they are, the Spartans win, regardless of any outcomes on the battlefield. I was reading this passage again and again during the NeoCon bullshitstorm trumping up our disasterous and idiotic Iraqi adventure.

The last gasp of the Athenians in Sicily Book 7, para 75 is heartbreaking. I read this and imagine a last stand in the Green Zone, or even worse, a disaster as they try to fight their way out of it.

Thucydides was the founder of modern historiography. He wrote in a personal style that focused on the nature of the events, and the results politically, spiritually, and economically. He was recording the death of the places and world he loved. Go, read him. Then read the papers today and tell me we have progressed much past the Bronze Age.


With the Iranian President visiting Bagdhad and being praised by Al-Maliki, look again to Thucydides and remember that the real victor in the war between Sparta and Athens was Persia. Gold and diplomacy accomplished for them what force of arms had failed to bring about.