Sunday, June 29, 2014

Two Shots

That's all it took, really.

One hundred years ago yesterday, the heir to an empire and his morganatic wife visited the capital of the province of Bosnia-Hercegovina, Sarajevo.  The timing could have been better, as it was also the anniversary of a great Serbian military disaster, so the Serbs (who heartily resented Austria's annexation of Bosnia) were pissed off.

Certain Serbs had already decided to do something about it. 

As the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie rode along the boulevard, someone threw a bomb.  It missed, but injured a few members of the official party.  After berating the Mayor of Sarajevo and visiting the wounded, Franz and Sophie were riding back.  The chauffeur, unused to the route, took a wrong turn and stopped to back up.

It was arguably the wrongest turn in history.

Miffed at not getting his shot at killing the Archduke, a seventeen-year-old Bosnian Serb named Gavrilo Princip was having a brandy when his targets suddenly appeared right in front of him.  He'd been mocked as a poor shot during his training, but at this range there was possibility he'd miss.

Bang.  Bang.

Franz Ferdinand and Sophie died of their wounds.  Because she wasn't of royal blood, none of the crowned heads of Europe (many of whom were related to each other) attended the funeral.  That meeting could have avoided the stupidity that followed.

Ethnic and nationalist urges had been convulsing the Balkans and the rest of Europe for, on some cases, sixty years.  The major powers in Europe polarized into two huge blocs, with the diplomats unable or unwilling to find an acceptable formula to get themselves out of the fix.  Coupled with the military alliances and arms races, all it would take would be a single incident to start the entire avalanche crashing down on the world.

Bang.  Bang.

Two shots, fired by a teenaged terrorist, that led to the deaths of nearly twenty million people and the redrawing of the maps of the world.  We live with the unforeseen consequences of World War One - in Africa, in Southwest Asia, and we saw it in the 1990s in - where else? - the Balkans.

It's been a hundred years since those shots.  We can't forget, and mustn't.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The War Drums Sound . . . Again

In response to the invasion of Iraq by the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) extremist group and the apparent collapse of the US-trained Iraqi Army, pundits and politicians over here have started blaming President Obama for "losing Iraq."  The argument is that we left Iraq too soon, not giving the Iraqi Army that we - you and I, dear readers - spent billions of dollars equipping and training enough time to get ready.

For starters, Iraq was "lost" by the George W Bush Administration and its enablers the very instant we began military operations against that country.  As I said in an earlier post, we had Saddam Hussein in a box and would occasionally poke him with sharp sticks.  He was getting old, and his sons were such a set of thugs that the generals could be counted upon to kill them in some spectacular fashion as soon as daddy stopped breathing.

The thing that packs lint straight up my nose is the fact that the same set of shitheads that helped gull the USA into yet another land war in Asia, the same people that should have done a perp walk straight to Federal prison on January 21, 2009 for 4500 counts of negligent homicide, war crimes and fraud, are given red carpet treatment by the so-called "liberal" media to bang that war drum again.

John McCain even wants General Petraeus to lead the Army back into Iraq.  Petraeus, to his credit, has pooh-poohed the idea.  We would be seen as supporting the Shiite al-Maliki regime against a Sunni ethnic minority and the Sunni ISIS.  Of course, Captain McCain (USN, Retired) had no idea of how to be a war leader the last time he ran for president, either. 

Doesn't stop the jerk moderating Meet the Press from inviting him and Aging Lesbian Impersonator Lindsey Graham, though. 

Or the venerable Wall Street Journal from letting Evil Fucking Sociopath Dick Cheney and his horrid spawn from soiling its editorial pages.

Or any of the Sunday morning chat shows from inviting Comb-sucker Wolfowitz, or John "I am the Walrus" Bolton, or any of the rest of the Wrong Then Wrong Now Brigade from lying out their asses once again, in hopes of defrauding the people of the United States of American one more time. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Demolitions


Sore Losers, Sore Winners . . . the End of "Mission Accomplished" . . .

Okay.

Let's start with the fun and games from Tuesday night.  It'll be sort of an amuse-bouche before we get to the lion's share of this post.

Tuesday was a primary election day in a gaggle of states, and eyes were fixed upon three races, one in Virginia, one in Mississippi and a third in South Carolina.  In Mississippi and South Carolina, two Republican Senators were being challenged by rightist extremists who declared that Tad Cochran and Lindsey Graham weren't conservative or obstructionist enough to suit them. In Virginia, Representative Eric Cantor was squaring off against another rightist Randite, an economics professor who built his campaign on hating immigrants.  Since Cantor had paid at least lip service to the idea of immigration reform, it made him anathema to the far-right coalition of nativists, racists and fearmongers.

So, the results were . . . ?

Cochran faces a runoff election against his 'Tea Party' rival, Graham easily crushed all six of his challengers, and Cantor . . .

Well, Cantor lost.  It marks the first time since the job was created in 1899 that the House Majority Leader, the #2 man in the caucus hierarchy, lost his seat.  He lost by 11 points, a massive 40+ point swing (which just goes to show how shitty his staff and pollster were, and how far out of touch he'd become with his constituency.

Confronted by this, the 'Establishment' GOP went into a huddle and decided to give the 'Tea Party' the finger by shutting out Rep. Jeb Hensarling in favor of some other shithead named McCarthy.  We might actually see a halfhearted push by the GOP to get the Democratic candidate in Cantor's district elected.

Doing that would do two things.  One, it would show the world that the GOP is willing to endanger their majority in the House in order to discipline the unruly anarchists that make up the 'Tea Party,' and two, it would start a civil war within the Party that would demolish the GOP and relegate it to minority status for decades.

Do it, you assholes.  Do it.  You don't have hair one on your balls if you don't show these nihilists who's boss.  What are you, scared?

***

Way back in 2002, the war drums were pounding away along the Potomac, as the United States Government agitated for war against the Republic of Iraq.  Saddam Hussein, it was said, was making naughty weapons of mass destruction, had tried to kill President George W. Bush's father, and had made common cause with al-Qaeda, going so far as to have a hand in the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

(HE SAID 9/11!  DRINK!)

Now, the only accurate part of that second sentence was that Hussein had plotted to have George HW Bush murdered when he visited Kuwait after he was out of office.  Nothing came of it.

As for the whole naughty weapons / al-Qaeda / etc. thing?  Complete and total bullshit, offered with a shameless air of feigned sincerity by the likes of Manucher Ghorbanifar, "Curveball," and Fox News.  Bullshit, I hasten to add, that was swallowed wholesale and without demur by President George W Bush's advisers and Bush himself. 

When 2002 faded into 2003 and the prospect of war grew closer, I recall telling people that this would not end well, that there was no compelling evidence of the WMDs, and that Hussein and bin Laden loathed each other.  I was vilified for this, called a liberal and a traitor and unpatriotic and un-American.

So we went to war, a war founded on a fraud and directed at two aims - to unseat Hussein and to get unfettered access to all that lovely oil that Iraq's sitting on.

We got rid of Saddam Hussein, and as I've taken pains to point out, the new Shiite regime in Iraq is falling into the orbit of the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran.  That makes Iran the winner, folks.  Not us.

The United States broke Iraq, patched it back together with duct tape, baling wire and spit, tossed it back to the Iraqis and said, "Try not to drop it again, okay?"

So the al-Maliki regime has tried to maintain an increasingly slippery grasp on events in Iraq, even as sectarian violence grew.

Meanwhile, not very far away . . .

The civil war in Syria has allowed an extremist group to arise, a Sunni Islamic faction so extreme that al-Qaeda shook their heads and said, "By Allah, these assholes are seriously fucked up."  ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) makes Boko Haram in Nigeria look like a bunch of little girls.

And ISIS has struck against Iraq, taking Mosul, Tikrit and parts of Nineveh and Anbar Provinces. 

The Iraqi Army and security forces that you and I and everyone else in the USA paid to equip and train, without being recompensed by that oil money that Wolfowitz and the others claimed would pay off the whole cost of the war?  Well, according to reports, 800 ISIS fighters entered Mosul, and 5,000 Iraqi troops bailed the fuck out.  There were indications that the soldiers threw away their uniforms, their gear, and even shed their uniforms on the way out of town.

I was flabbergasted to see a retired General on NBC opine that he'd never seen an army break and run so fast.  Where were you when the Army of the Republic of Vietnam melted away in 1975, General?

The regional militias, suppressed by the al-Maliki regime, have resurfaced, and the Kurdish peshmerga have seized Kirkuk.  The northern oilfields and the country's largest refinery are up for grabs. 

So. 

The screeching magpies of Fox News, Talk Radio, and the Usual Suspects in the GOP have started yelling that Obama has "lost" Iraq.  Got news for you, McCain, Graham, Wolfowitz, Bush, Cheney, Kristol, and all the rest of you - YOU were the ones who lost Iraq.  We never should have been there in the first place; Hussein would die eventually anyway, and his sons were such a pair of unprincipled thugs that the generals could be reliably counted upon to kill them as soon as the old man drew his last breath.

The one thing that everyone's agreeing on so far is that we won't send ground troops back in.  Air strikes and drones are what are being asked for by al-Maliki.  I doubt it'll do much good.

Reports have surfaced that Iranian troops have been allowed across the border to help fight ISIS.  They'd likely be welcomed by the Shiite majority.

Either way, our grand experiment in Iraq lies in tatters.

Demolished.

And amid the ruins of their grand design from the 90s, the neoconservatives, warmongers and cheerleaders from the Iraq War will wander about saying, like Derpy -

"I just don't know what went wrong."

Monday, June 09, 2014

True Fornicators of Rats

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has been trying to expand Medicaid in his state, under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act.  Since he's a Democrat, the ACA was established under a Democratic Administration and would give some 400,000 uninsured people in the Commonwealth of Virginia access to health care they otherwise couldn't afford . . .

The GOP in Virginia is rabidly against it.

So much so that they approached State Senator Phillip Puckett with an offer - if he resigns his Senate seat, giving the Republicans a 20-19 majority in the Senate, they would get his daughter a judgeship and he would land a higher-paying job on the state Tobacco Commission. 

Puckett's seat has been trending redder and redder, so he did what a splendid rat-fucker would do, and resigned his seat.

Naturally, the Democrats in Virginia have started shouting that this is an open bribe, which it is, but there's some question as to whether it's actually a crime.  It's happened before, apparently, back in the Nineties (that's 1990s, not 1890s, dear readers).

Adding to the rat fornication going on, Puckett's office today announced that he wouldn't take the Tobacco Commission job.  His daughter still gets the judge's robes.  She probably looks good in black.

Still, it's a splendid example of True Rat Fornication.

Freedom Fighters Getting Gay with Guns

(Special No Prize for guessing the author of the title, and the book he wrote.)

(The Gadsden Flag, of Revolutionary War vintage.  Image courtesy of Wikipedia.  Fair use, bitches!)


So yeah, it happened again, folks - a couple Propagandists of the Deed decided to see what they could do to spark off what they thought would be the Second American Revolution.

Well, actually the Third.  But who's counting?

Anyway, Jerad and Amanda Miller entered a chain pizza restaurant in Las Vegas yesterday, pulled guns and shot dead two police officers.  After shooting and disarming the dead police officers, the Millers draped one of the officers with the Gadsden Flag depicted above, adding a swastika for good measure.  The first dead officer had a note pinned to his uniform that proclaimed that The Revolution had started.

By the way, the 'revolution' was televised - or, at least, caught on the eatery's surveillance cameras.

The Millers then strolled over to the nearby Wal-Mart after picking up two backpacks that had been left outside the restaurant.

Jerad Miller entered and fired a round off, again proclaiming that the 'revolution' had started, and adding that people needed to leave the store.  Amanda was busily loading the backpacks into a shopping cart.

Why a Wal-Mart?  We don't know yet.  Carry on.

A fellow by the name of Wilcox decided to confront Jerad Miller at this point.  Wilcox was what the NRA extolls as "a good guy with a gun;" he had a concealed carry license and a firearm.  All well and good, but unfortunately Mr. Wilcox had no idea that the scraggle-haired woman pushing the cart was with Jerad.

Mr. Wilcox died when Amanda shot him from behind, and the Millers started moving deeper into the store as the cops started showing up.

At some point Amanda got wounded, and she decided that they weren't going to be taken alive.  With them both holed up at the rear of the place, she shot her husband dead, then shot herself.  She died on the way to the hospital.

Yes, this is a tragedy.  My flippant tone in recounting what I heard earlier from the Sheriff of Metro Las Vegas is partly my way of shielding my real feelings and reflecting what some in this fading Republic of ours seem to think is the inevitability of gun violence.  "What's a few more school shootings?" they ask, and shrug as another group of people get holes put in them.

Or, in the words of Sam 'Joe the (not-) Plumber' Wurzelbacher, "Your dead kids don't trump my gun rights." 

And you'll keep saying that, Sam my lad, until it's your child lying bleeding on the sidewalk.

Apparently, the Millers had holed up with Cliven Bundy at his ranch until they were invited to leave (apparently Jerad had a criminal record).  The Gadsden Flag, the current emblem of the right-wing Tea Party, and the swastika appear to point toward them being part of the "sovereign citizen" subculture - they think that the government, all of it, is a bunch of fascist usurpers and the police are the enemy.

Based on their Facebook account, they were also conspiracy theorists (chemtrails!).

One commentator on MSNBC immediately trotted out the C word - "crazy."  As I've mentioned in an earlier post regarding Anders Breivik, the Millers may not have been crazy, but suffering from a viewpoint that they've rationalized to be true, and are willing to act based on that viewpoint.  To their point of view, they're perfectly rational.

Just as Anders Breivik rationally killed 77 people, mostly children, and nineteen Saudis and Yemenis rationally hijacked planes and flew them into buildings on a bright morning in September of 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people.

I think that the main problem with these rationalizations are that they are out of place in this country.  Granted, in the United States you are free to think what you like and (within certain boundaries) say what you like.  It's when you start to act that you drift outside the norms of society. 

And, again in my opinion, if you attack the police you are attacking the guardians of society, and therefore you forfeit your right to be in that society.

I grieve with the families of the slain officers.

"Cry sorrow, sorrow - yet let Good prevail!"
- Aeschylus

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Left Behind

No, I'm not going to speak about the Left Behind series of Biblical Apocalypse novels, nor the Kirk Cameron and Nicholas Cage movie treatments. 

I do speak of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, and the tempest stirred up by so-called "patriots" over the circumstances of his release.

Whether he simply wandered off his post to be captured or deserted is not part of the argument, and it should not be.  That is a matter for the United States Army to investigate.  If he must be charged and court-martialed, that is the Army's province.  The constant moaning and yowling by the Chattering Classes of the Right mean nothing except to affect the delusion patterns of stupid people.

Sadly, there are many stupid people in this fading Republic.

The details of the deal to release Sgt. Bergdahl (as a POW, he was promoted because of his time in grade - being held captive doesn't stop your time) involved the release of five former members of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

I can hear you asking me, "But weren't these terrorists?  Didn't we catch them fair and square?"

Not really, I reply.  These were members of a legitimate and recognized national government - we even hosted a few members of the Taliban in the White House prior to 9/11 (drink!).  Because they refused to give us Osama bin Deaded and al-Qaeda, we went to war and ousted the Taliban regime in 2002.  Naturally, they consider themselves a government-in-exile and began an asymmetrical war against what they see as "invading forces."

(That's us, folks.)

Under solemn international agreements, we would have had to release these five guys anyway, and it's been pointed out that due to our penchant of sending missile-equipped drones after people, they might actually have been safer in Guantanamo.  Still, their release means that the government's not spending my tax money for their continued maintenance in custody.

The contention by a few of the people on the Right with the biggest mouths and the smallest brains that we should have left Bergdahl rot in captivity is in direct opposition to our military traditions, basic humanity, history and common sense.  The contention that we should not have done a deal to release him even allowed Oliver North (yes, Oliver Fucking North, people) to gibber that we never negotiate with terrorists.

Brief historical note . . . North was part of the Iran-Contra Affair, wherein he and several others traded missiles and money to the "terrorist state" of Iran in order to secure the release of hostages in Lebanon, and managed to slip money (in violation of Federal Law) to the right-wing terrorists trying to topple the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.  His arrest photograph is a matter of historical record.

As a result of the Affair, North also has the blood of 241 United States Marines on his hands, as the deals led to the truck bombing that destroyed the Marine barracks in Beirut.  Why this traitorous scumbag (an opinion formed back in the Eighties, and never changed) is still allowed to talk to anyone is beyond me.

But there it is.

The Congress is irritated because Obama didn't brief them on it.  When he signed the law mandating him to do so, he included a signing statement (you remember those!) that basically said, "If I choose, I won't, so there."  This is very similar to hundreds of similar statements signed by his predecessor, He Who Must Not Be Named But Is Actually George W. Bush. 

Obama then gave the Senate (the whole Senate) a classified briefing.  Which some Senators immediately blabbed to the press.  Gee, and none of them is charged with treason yet.  Fancy that.

Threats of having Tea Party shitheads show up caused Bergdahl's home town in Idaho to cancel the Welcome Home celebration.  Hmm.  So much for patriotism.

Monday, May 26, 2014

For Memorial Day

I could have simply cut and pasted something.

My story Remembrance, for example.

A poem from an earlier war, where the memories are not so raw.

Instead, I will let the poet himself speak.

Brian Turner is a college professor, and a veteran of the United States Army. He saw service with the 10th Mountain Division in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and a year with the 2nd Infantry Division in Iraq.

He has seen. He is a living witness.

Let him speak.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sure, Why Not?






The Same Game, With Different Names . . . Benghazi Is Not Ben Gazzara's Original Name . . . Capitalism By Any Other Name is Parasitism . . . 

Sure, it's only 2014.  The midterm elections are coming up in a tad over five months, but the Chattering Magpies of the Media are thundering about it.  Hell, even my coworkers will start nattering away about it.

So let's start handicapping the 2016 Presidential Elections!

It's pretty much a given, if you listen to Certain Serious People, that Hilary Clinton will be the Democratic Party's nominee in 2016.  She hasn't said anything definite yet, and the woman makes a very comfortable $250,000 every time she shows up somewhere to make a speech (even with the added cost of the shoes thrown at her).  My wonder is why she'd want to take a pay cut in order to be President, or put up with all the shit that's going to be flung at her.

Running for Leader of the Free World isn't for the faint of heart.

The Republican Party's field, being the party currently out of power, has a wider selection, of course.  Which, if you understand that the Grand Old Party is geared mainly towards Crusty Old Men Who Yell At Clouds, makes things a bit simpler.  Onward!  Allons-y!

Mitt Romney:  The standard bearer in 2012, and I'm sure he's at least contemplating another run.  Unfortunately, "Proceed, please" will dog his heels, as will all the other missteps, mistakes and outright stupidity people now associate this vampire capitalist with.

Paul Ryan:  The Eddie Munster lookalike still hasn't gotten over losing to the likes of Joe Biden, and it shows.  Unfortunately, he's considered a Flaming Liberal now by the Tea Party and the other lunatics in the Party.

Sarah Palin:  The Half-Term Governor is having more fun collecting money from people who want her to go away to concentrate on running seriously for President.

Rafael 'Ted' Cruz:  The Senator from Alberta still froths at the mouth, but even he is now looked at askance after he tried to buffalo the GOP House caucus into destroying the US economy.  The best way to destroy his chances is to follow him around with an audio recorder.

Marco Rubio:  The meth-addled weasel who was once House Speaker in Tallahassee is still talking like he's been sampling Walter White's electric blue, but now he's added climate change denial to his list of Things Which Excite the Lunatics.  Think I'm wrong about him being on the crank?  Why did he suffer such a case of dry mouth during his famous State of the Union 'response' that he had to slurp down some water while the cameras were still rolling?  Besides, he said nice things about immigration reform, which alienated the nativist fringe.

Alan West:  Who?

Mike Huckabee:  The Priest-Governor?  Um, no.

Michele Bachmann:  Crazy Eyes took a courageous stand against funding a National Museum to showcase women's accomplishments in our nation's history.  This is just the latest in a huge number of stupid statements made by this woman.

Eric Cantor:  Um, no.  The Tea Party hate him now.

Rick Santorum:  Again, no.  The Frothy Mixture had his chance.

Newt Gingrich:  One might hope that after 3 wives and 3 religions, Sheldon Adelson's Gimp will hang it up.

*****

According to a poll taken two years ago, many people thought Benghazi was on the north coast of Cuba, and not Libya, which is where it's supposed to be.

That hasn't stopped the GOP from squealing like sows in heat about "BENGHAZI!" in order to distract people (mainly their own Party's lunatic base) from the fact that Obamacare is here to stay and will likely be improved. 

The purpose of the Select Committee that was set up to "investigate" this matter is to raise funds for downticket candidates and diminish Clinton's chances of running for President.  The facts are not in dispute, unless you're a conspiracy theorist.

Of course, the attack on our consulate in Benghazi and the four American deaths can be laid at the feet of the House GOP caucus, who staunchly took a stand for protecting Americans abroad by cutting embassy security funding.

But I doubt you'll hear that at this kangaroo court.

*****


People who dismiss the unemployed and dependent as “parasites” fail to understand economics and parasitism. A successful parasite is one that is not recognized by its host, one that can make its host work for it without appearing as a burden. Such is the ruling class in a capitalist society.
—Jason Read