Saturday, July 05, 2008

Fourth of July Meme

Blogger is still resisting the posting of photos, so the cherry/raspberry post is still languishing in the drafts.

this meme is courtesty Toast

Are you "proud to be an American"?

I have that whole "conflicted" thing happening when it comes time to be proud. I know that I've been very lucky, I grew up not only poor, but reservation poor. I'm not poor today. That happened here. Proud though? I'm not proud to be a citizen who feels more and more like a subject every day. I was proud of how right after the 9/11 the newspapers of Paris, Moscow, Tehran, Madrid, Rio, hell, all over the world stood up to be with us in our grief. Now, they hate us for what we have allowed ourselves to become. Not proud. Not lately.

Favorite Founding Father?

John Adams. He has been my favorite for a very long time. We know of Adams' faults and weaknesses because he told on himself all the time. One of the sublimest moments of sheer political courage in the service of right and justice came when he undertook the legal defense of the British soldiers from the Boston Massacre. I quote a phrase from his opening remarks all the time, especially when Bush tells yet another outrageous lie. Facts are stubborn things.

Favorite president?

George Washington. He didn't want the job, he didn't like the job, yet, when it was evident that he was really the only man for the job he took it on and did the very best he could. He tried to instill non-partisan thinking, he had a cabinet of geniuses, Jefferson, Adams, Jay, Hamilton, all volatile and powerful thinkers and personalities. He was not only essential he was damned near mandatory. Without Washington with his sheer force of reputation, honor and personality there might not have been a United States.

Biggest "Patriotic Moment"?

As the seige of Dong Ap Bai was lifted, we were greeting the helos that were carrying our wounded out and bringing water, food, ammunition, and medical supplies. Somebody noticed that the flag on our command hootch was still up. Three times during the two and a half day fight, which at one point got so bitter that I put an edge on the blade of my entrenching tool to be ready for the inevitable running out of ammo, the flag had been shot off its stand. Three times, that I saw anyway, one of us at incredible risk managed to get it back up. It was tattered, scorched, ripped, and dirty, just like us. It was dawn of the third day of Tet when the resumption of air cover and supply had turned the fight to our favor, and prevented us being overrun and annihilated. Somebody saw that little flag and started to sing the National Anthem. Pretty soon all of us were singing it. Singing it over and over while tears streamed down our faces. Singing it while tending the many wounded, who were also singing. Singing the National Anthem, at dawn, after a bitter fight that was nearly lost at many points. The song was so very real. My sense of relief, grief for the fallen, pride in our stubborn resistance, all overwhelmed me. It has never been the same for me since.

Favorite patriotic song?

The Rifleman's Song At Bennington

Why come ye hither, Redcoats,
Your minds what madness fills?
In our valleys there is danger,
And there's danger in our hills.
Oh hear ye not the ringing
Of the bugle wild and free?
Full soon you'll hear the singing
Of the rifle from the tree.

cho: For the rifle, for the rifle.
In our hands will prove no trifle.

Ye ride a goodly steed,
Ye may serve a foreign master;
Ye forward come with speed,
But ye'll learn to back much faster,
When ye meet our mountain boys
And their leader, Johnny Stark,
Lads who make but little noise,
Lads who always hit the mark!

Have ye no graves at home
Across the briny water,
That hither ye must come
Like bullocks to the slaughter?
If we the work must do,
Why the sooner 'tis begun,
If flint and trigger hold but true,
The quicker 'twill be done!

John Stark was a ringtailed motherfucker in a fight.

Favorite American cuisine?

Local ingredients, raised, prepared in the local style, by local folks. This extends to fish tacos in San Diego, to taco trucks in L.A. To clams at Ivor's in Seattle, all over the country there are wonderful little mom and pop operations. My least favorite American cuisine is anything from a fucking chain.

Happiest political moment of your life?

Hearing Barack Obama speak on race.

Best fireworks display you've ever seen?

The fucking napalm and other shit they dropped on the assualting forces at Dong Ap Bai. Shit was beautiful.

America's gift to the world?

Emma Lazarus' poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty. Even as we fail to live up to those words, the mere trying to come close is ennobling.

Favorite Bill of Rights right?

One. No goddamned explanation needed.

Favorite American Holiday?

Columbus day. It perfectly illustrates the cognitive dissonance required to be an American. Columbus, while lost at sea, was discovered, and rescued by Native Americans. Yet, to hear them talk, our history begins there. Totally fucked up, yet somehow, totally American, and kind of cool in its own way.

Favorite D.C. monument?

That. Wall. Devastating. Perfect memorial, perfect art.

Your dream for America's future?

That we have an America, and a future. It's hard to hold onto much hope.

Thanks Toast!

Big Brass Blog

Friday, July 04, 2008

Friday Random Ten

Happy Independence Day!

Really. Today is the day for all good 'murricans to get themselves drunk and blow shit, and each other up. I've been leaving something an Uncle of mine, by marriage said.

dano'ah selwigoh doo iis dah do'o iindii eedihii nanah daagon'iillka'ad

(all the free men are dead or still fighting)

golah kah yeh (geronimo)

I'm going to take Mom into town, we're going to BBQ some killer tri-tips that have been marinated in citrus and Mexican spices for a week. We will also eat some Cantelope Ice Cream, and the Cherry/Red Raspberry Pie I've been trying to post for two days while Blogger frustrates my every attempt at posting photos. It's a glorious and visually stunning pie.

Here's the soundtrack:

To Ramona - - - Bob Dylan
The Man is Alive - - - Luka Bloom
Tiger Whitehead - - - Johnny Cash
Eyes of Amber - - - Buffy Sainte-Marie
The Galveston Rose - - - Hank Snow
New Ways Train, Train - - - Jeff Beck Group
Missing One - - - Bonny Prince Billy
Promised Land - - - Joel Rafael
When My Love Crosses Over - - - John Hiatt
Remember - - - Johnny Hartman & Errol Garner

Bonus (playing right now)

It Had To Be You - - - Billie Holliday

Happy Fourth Folks. Really. Many more months of this and we won't even be able to effectively pretend that we're still free.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I Started This as a Comment

and it seems to have turned into a post. I'm stuck at the Mazda dealership while the ride gets some nicks in the windshield and a blinking warning light (warning of what has yet to be determined) get tracked down and fixed.

The previous post on torture and SERE training has been provoking some great responses. Thank you for your thoughts. It's good to hear from people like Mike that SERE training has evolved. It's still something that sorrows me when I realize that something that was designed to train people in resisting maltreatment has become the basis for our own behavior.

That goes against the wisdom of men like Pericles, who warned the Athenians at the beginning of the war with Sparta that if they allowed the war to change who they were as a city and a people that the Spartans would be the victors regardless of any outcomes on the battlefield.

It goes against the wisdom and actions of great leaders and generals like Grant (let 'em up easy, was his watchword with the defeated southerners), and Sherman (not many folks know that the legendary "40 acres and a mule" policy was Sherman's. He did not have the supply lines capable of dealing with former slaves, now liberated who wanted to tag along with his army sweeping through the south. Sherman's policy was to first burn the great houses, and then divide the property up among those slaves who had worked it for the profit of others. Rough justice indeed, but very just to my thinking).

Mike: so what really needs to be taught? In a combat situation folks should already be aware that there are people who will fuck with them. It wasn't so much the lessons, but the relish with which the guys in the opfor conducted them. that was the most disgusting part. Also, these lessons were given to prepare us to resist some of the vilest motherfuckers on earth. The men who did these things in Pongyang, Hanoi, Haiphong, Laos and other shitholes of despair were the pure banal face of evil. My outrage also rests with Ranger, in that these assholes are now doing this to others in our name.

Torture and mistreatment produces lies. It hardens the resolve of the enemy and ensures that any of ours who are captured will be treated with all the violence at the command of angry and wronged people. When they know that they will be raped with brooms and plumbing tools in Abu Ghraib or disappeared into a vacuum of offshore dungeons or third world battery shops no soldier with an ounce of will would ever surrender. My main lesson from SERE was that there was no fucking way in the blue eyed world that I would ever allow capture. I would not assume the passive, get along/go along stance that they tried to instill. I would fight with every loose limb, every last tooth, I would make it easier for them to fucking kill me. I would do that fast, hard, and unceasingly. That's where torture took me. Right fucking there.

Washington, by taking his stand, proved that point. During the battle of Long Island and New York, the Hessians especially, were brutal and violent to captured or wounded Continental soldiers. They tormented them with shit like heated bayonets, tying them naked across the barrels of artillery pieces which were then fired, the report of the guns would permantly deafen the unfortunates while they were horribly burned by the brass barrells. Often, a wounded soldier would be hauled to a sitting position and spiked to a tree or a wall with a bayonet and left hanging there to die painfully and slow.

Needless to say, when a Hessian surrendered, the captors often felt like they possessed a justified and reasonable agenda to give back the same treatment.

We were all, as a people and nation, lucky that among Washington's favorite books was Thucyides' The Pelopponneisian War. Washington could cite passages from that work. He could quote Pericles' warning to the Athenian Assembly. He would cite the passages that showed how the Athenians time and again ignored that advice to their own detriment and damage.

Washington issued orders forbidding the torture or mistreatment of prisoners. He established a system for the Hessians which would allow them to lay down arms and move onto the then frontier of Western Pennsylvania where there were already communities of German speaking settlers and farmers.

Word travels fast in war. When it spread among the Hessian rank and file that there was land for the asking, decent treatment and aid in establishing a new life as a property owner from the rebels, the next flogging dealt out by a drumhead court, or the next beating from a Sergeant began to weigh heavy. The Hessian privates began to ask themselves "Why should I endure these hardships for the profit of a Duke I have never met?" Hessian squads and companies began to desert en masse as units, bringing their arms and stores. Their descendants still populate the hills of Western Pennsylvania and the entire Ohio valley.

Think what might happen instead if we were to not just stop the tortures, but repudiate those who did the torturing, those who commanded the tortures be done. These people need to be hauled out of their dungeons into the light of the bar of justice. This needs to be done for all the world to see.

I doubt that it could be something done under the U.S. legal system. That might have been already too degraded and too hopelessly corrupted. Our own system of legal justice might not have any credibility left in the eyes of the world. I would suggest that the torturers and their bosses be arrested and turned over to the World Court of the Hague. Let justice prevail.

That is the only way out of this for our nation. I doubt that any among us have the moral courage, much less the will to do the dirty work of drawing the lines and taking the stands for what used to be simple human decency.

I truly grieve more than I rage. Something that was a thing of beauty and spirit has been discarded.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

They Don't Even Plagarize From the Best

This really isn't big fucking news. In The Torture Team, Philippe Sands explains in great detail how the current techniques of American Torture were mostly cribbed from the SERE training from the Armed Forces. As someone who went through SERE, let me speak from experience. It was sadistic bullshit run by sick fucking bullies. It was some real REMF puke sons of bitches getting their jollies off by acting like a bunch of swaggering pieces of shit. It accomplished jack fucking shit. It didn't train anybody in any kind of knowledge except that there were a lot of pissant low rent bastards who wore the same uniforms as us. Fuck SERE. Fuck their instructors. Fuck the shitheel dog breathed pissants who thought it up, fuck the horse they rode in on, the mail they carry, and the stamps they sell. It was nothing but a waste of time.

Oh, and by the way, it was developed to combat the torture leading to False Confessions that was done by the Communist Chinese, the North Koreans, and the Vietnamese.

Still, it was fucking bullshit. Worthless fucking bullshit.

Now, we find that our own Dear Leader did not take George Washington as his guide for Commander-In-Chief. Washington hated torture and absolutely forbade it. George Washington insisted that the Continental Army treat its prisoners with dignity and the honor that is due to fellow soldiers. George W. Bush didn't take MacArthur for his guide. Bush didn't model his policy toward prisoners on the policies of Grant, Lincoln, Pershing, Eisenhower, Marshall, or Patton. No, George W. Bush thinks that all those great Americans were stupid, weak pansies. He models his policy on the deeds of Mao Zedong

He doesn't even have the stones to model the best. Consider Tomás de Torquemada. Now that motherfucker knew how to fucking torture! He got folks, mostly women, or people of property that he wanted the fucking property, to confess to all kinds of beautiful stuff. Dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight, fucking demons, blowing goats just like Mickey Kause.

Tomás de Torquemada could get anybody to say anything and did. One of his most pure expressions of mercy was to promise to strangle the penitents before the fires were lit to save them from the horrors of burning and then not do that.

Who says he didn't have a wickedly sophisticated sense of humor on top of everything else?

I thought I had exceeded my limits of outrage and disgust with the current state of affairs in this country.

I. Was. Wrong.

I don't even want to know what's next.


Happy Blogversarry to Group News Blog!

Group News Blog has been carrying on the spirit and mission of the late Steve Gilliard.

Gilly was one of my biggest inspirations in writing and blogging. He was a polymath who was into everything. He did so many different genres with wit, style, and most of all beauty. He was a bigtime, A-list, top of the line blogger, who took the time to respond to personal emails.

Gilly was, to use the apache, Itisgoh (he who is given honor).

Jesse Wendell, Hubris Sonic, Sara and Evan Robinson, The Littlest Gator and the absolutely brilliant and impressive LowerManhattanite have not filled Gilly's shoes. No, they have done one better. They have put on their own shoes, filled them very well, and kept up the fight.

They have been given Press Credentials for the Denver shindig. You can hit a PayPal button to help the fund this.

It would be worth a few bucks just to see what happens live blogging the Nancy Pelosi Question Time.

Please, give them a shout of encouragement. Toss some cash if you can. If you can't they will understand. Encouraging words are always welcome. Discouraging words are against the Code of the West and will not be tolerated, just like rudeness.

Big Brass Blog

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Sometimes I Think That I Might Be

A better commenter than blogger. It's a more immediate forum. It's quicker, sometimes, more personal. When I read something and feel compelled to comment it is often a rush of emotion, or a product of quick critical thinking.

Case in point, Lisa and Ranger Jim at Ranger Against War chose to take a comment I made and turn it into an entire post.

I was responding to a Thank You post that Jim made.

Jim and Lisa have been doing yeoman service at their blog in Florida. Jim is also a combat veteran of both special ops and Vietnam. He thinks in a very different manner than most rank and file. No wonder I like him.

Thanks for the recognition. Thanks for the notice.

Thanks for the good work ya'll are doing.

Carry on.


Monday, June 30, 2008

A Mean Kind of Justice

A song by Carrie Newcomer has been running through my head.

My usual techniques for when a song gets stuck haven't had any success. When I was hard into the jingle whoring I found that if I had a song, and it happened all the time, one of those incessantly intrusive advertising jingles would climb into my head and torture me like I was an Arab from Jordan who was stupid enough to have a two year old passport stamp from Pakistan and then tried to go through US customs. The most effective technique is to play it all the way through. Then, I'd repeat that the same way I would repeat holding my breath to handle a case of hiccups.

Not lately. I read something in the paper, or the web, or catch a snippet of dialogue from the TV or radio and I hear Carrie's harsh and beautiful lyrics. I can't find a downloadable or uploadable (I get so confused sometimes anyway the upshot is that I can't fucking post the song here) version of this song. I urge you to do some looking. Give Ms. Newcomer a listen.

Here's what's been happening.

I read Preparing the Battlefield by Seymore Hersch, about how Bush and Cheney are trying to cement their legacies by starting yet another, this time bigger, and probably more disasterous war. Then I hear Carrie start singing. . .

There's a ring around the moon,
There's a chill in the air.
There's a mean kind of justice,
Coming down coming down.

Then I read about how John McCain is all butt hurt because Wes Clark questions whether or not simply getting your ass shot down and being captured is really a qualification for being President. Frankly, I've questioned the same thing. McCain always brings up his record as a Naval Officer, and with the exception of his time as a POW, it's not anything to shout about. He was an indifferent student who used family connections to get into the academy, his performance while a middie would have gotten anyone else who wasn't the son and grandson of admirals sent for a four year tour of chipping grey paint in the fleet. McCain graduated near the bottom of his class and got jets. His position of highest command was as a prisoner. I don't hold the fact that he made a "confession" or even the video tape he made under extreme duress against him, I would defy anyone to hold out as long as he did. I know, everybody breaks. His performance as a prisoner under horrific conditions shows me where his heart was. I'll give him props, sailor to sailor, he did the best he could in a situation where a great many did worse.

Does that alone qualify him to be President?


Angels wring their hands and put ashes on their heads.
There's a mean kind of justice coming down.
It don't ever stop a thing,
An eye for eye, tic for tat.
And I've never seen nobody truly satisfied like that.
It just rolls around the head eating holes in your heart.
There's a mean kind of justice coming down.

Then I make my weekly stop at James Howard Kunstler's blog on the economy Clusterfuck Nation and read about how there's a good chance that the coming economic meltdown will make 1929 look like a bush league game.

There is a goodness on this earth
That will not die will not die.
It bears all, and seen it all, and still it survives.
I know that we have failed,

After all, Barclay's Bank is losing faith in the Federal Reserve.

But I I've seen that we can fly.
There's goodness on this earth that will not die.
Oh no, forgiveness never sleeps.
But the devil wants its due and says human life is cheap .
When we give up any hope we could ever change the past ,
Then at last. . .

Then, all it takes is to see another made-up furor in the political realm and I'm off into the chorus, repeat and fade. . .

There's a ring around the moon,
There's a chill on the breeze.
There's somebody with their hands clasped,
Down on their knees.
Angels hold their breath for what might set them free.
There's a mean kind of justice coming down

I encourage you to track this song down, drop a few pennies into Carrie's purse and get it for your own.