Monday, December 22, 2008

Things Change

That was the title of a Mamet play (I think) and movie, and it's becoming my mantra as well.

I've concluded that when I pay attention to the multiple idiocies of US foreign and domestic policy, the only result is that my hair turns whiter, my stress levels rise, and I get a certain amount of cardiovascular exercise through rapid spikes in my blood pressure. (No, Ma, really, it's good for you!)

The hell with that.

I'm reorienting my life, getting ready to ditch this gig for a new and hopefully better one.

I'm blissing out on nature, I'm thinking about reconnecting with "real life" and not worrying so much about the multiple idiocies of US foreign and domestic policy. I'm cooking more, and taking more time doing it. I'm listening to podcasts, and reading blogs, from the paleolithic/evolutionary fitness/caveman diet folks.

I know that there are many, many ways in which we, we Americans, are alienated from the real world, and I'm trying to figure out how to get back to that real world.

I'm not quite sure where I'm going, but I've got a few ideas, and hopefully they're better ideas at that.

Peace for now, yo.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Everything I need to know, I learned from Justin Raimondo

We would take half the defense budget, pile it in heaps, set it in fire and roast marshmallows over it and gain no less from it than we do now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Everything I need to know, I learned from the Kinks

We are the village green preservation society
God save donald duck, vaudeville and variety
We are the desperate dan appreciation society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
We are the draught beer preservation society
God save mrs. mopp and good old mother riley
We are the custard pie appreciation consortium
God save the george cross and all those who were awarded them
We are the sherlock holmes english speaking vernacular
Help save fu manchu, moriarty and dracula
We are the office block persecution affinity
God save little shops, china cups and virginity
We are the skyscraper condemnation affiliate
God save tudor houses, antique tables and billiards
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
God save the village green.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Everything I need to know, I learned from John Prine

I ain't a-hurting nobody
I ain't a-hurting no one.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Everything I need to know, I learned from Peachy Carnahan

We've got to brass it out, Danny, brass it out!

So THAT'S how it happens

So the baby starts crying at 0-dark-thirty, and you wake up and get her a bottle, and can't go back to sleep. And then you find yourself drinking Jim Beam (at 0-dark-thirty!) and reading Girls With Slingshots.

This is NOT how my life usually goes.

My my, where DID the time go?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Everything I need to know, I learned from Basil Plumley

Lt. Colonel Hal Moore: I think you oughta get yourself an M-16.
Sergeant Major Basil Plumley: Sir, if the time comes I need one, there'll be plenty lying on the ground.

The Leonard Cohen of the spy genre

There is not much at which I trust the New York Times. I find their---using the editorial they---politics to be not much to my liking, far too redolent of trust in government, of the big idea, of the technocrat, far too dismissive of the little platoons of society in which, to various degrees, I place my trust. And yet, and yet . . .

There are things at which the Times does excel.

One of these things is the review of the novels of Alan Furst.

I began reading Furst's novels while I was still in the Suck, still wearing the pickle suit, when the Soviet Union was still, to some degree, The Menace To Be Feared. (The fears of childhood frequently linger into adulthood, and I was, and remain, an American child of the Cold War.) I believe that the first of his novels that I read was Dark Star, although quite possibly it was Night Soldiers. Whichever of the two it was, it---or they?---was/were a grand read, and I have continued to return to them over the years, for repeated readings and great enjoyment.

I am not quite sure by what accident of fate or chance I came upon Mr. Furst's books, umm, "first." I tend to haunt used book shops more than the NYT's book review pages, and yet, somehow, I came across them.

From the first read, I knew I was sunk. I have, since that time, consumed each new Furst novel as I came across it. No artist is entirely consistent, and this is true, of course, of Mr. Furst. His novels have included high and . . . not so high . . . points, although each of them has been a pleasure, and an intrigue.

The title for this post, and the New York Times reference, comes in a review of Mr. Furst's Blood of Victory by Janet Maslin, from this paragaraph in her review:

Mr. Furst, the author of last year's "Kingdom of Shadows" and a string of alluring earlier espionage novels in a similar vein, seems to arrive effortlessly at such assurance. He glides gracefully into an urbane pre-World War II Europe and describes that milieu with superb precision. The wry, sexy melancholy of his observations would be seductive enough in its own right — he is the Leonard Cohen of the spy genre — even without the sharp political acuity that accompanies it. Of tensions between Stalin and Hitler, Mr. Furst's latest protagonist resignedly observes, "Two gangsters, one neighborhood, they fight."

Two gangsters, one neighborhood, they fight.

A frequently quoted observation is that reading Furst's Night Soldiers series is like watching Casablanca for the first time. I quite like Casablanca, for all its flaws. I cannot argue with the frequently quoted observation.

I don't know what Mr. Furst would make of me. Perhaps an elegantly drawn, throwaway minor character? At best.

But you will not go far wrong, if you venture into Mr. Furst's novels. On this, I trust the New York Times, and that's saying something.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

75 years ago on this date, the Century of Progress

75 years ago, on 20 November 1933, the Century of Progress balloon ascended to a height of 61,000 feet.



Returned safely to earth, too!

That "clank clank" sound could have been made by two big brass balls clank-clanking against each other.

61,000 feet!

At the helm? Jean Piccard. Not Jean-Luc Picard, mind you, but Jean Piccard, a Swiss-born American. Later, he ascended to a similarly impressive height with his wife and c0-researcher, Jeannette.

I cannot in good conscience call this achievement stellar, but I can call it stratospheric.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It Couldn't Happen Here? It DID Happen Here

Justin Raimondo on the strange return of socialism.

After 9/11, LeMonde (I think) had a headline saying "We are all Americans now."

After the South Ossetian War of 2008, John McCain said "We are all Georgians now."


Well . . .


I'd make a joke about drinking the Kool-Aid, but that, too, seems somehow inapropos.

Didja hear about Obama's Polish connection?

Didja hear that Barack Obama might have a Polish connection?

Rumor has it that his grandfather ate a Polish missionary.

Hey, ordinarily I wouldn't go there, that's not the kind of joke I find funny. The Polish Foreign Minister, however, apparently has differing tastes in humor. (That's cool, I mean, humor is a very individual thing.) And besides, he wasn't telling a racist joke, he was just retelling a racist joke, as an example of the racist jokes that some racist jokers tell.

I wonder if his wife will discuss it in the Washington Post?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Yes, but do you want to end up like George W. Bush?

With Russian tanks only 50km from Tbilisi on August 12, Mr Sarkozy told Mr Putin that the world would not accept the overthrow of Georgia's Government. According to Mr Levitte, the Russian seemed unconcerned. "I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls," Mr Putin declared.

Mr Sarkozy thought he had misheard. "Hang him?" he asked.

Mr Putin replied: "Why not? The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein."

Mr Sarkozy, using the familiar tu, tried to reason with him: "Yes, but do you want to end up like (US President George W.) Bush?"

Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: "Ah - you have scored a point there."

Because NO ONE wants to end up like Bush!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Elton John talks sense-smack on gay marriage

I've always had a weakness for some of Elton John's songs. "Sad Songs (They Say So Much)" and "Rocket Man," for instance. I never really cared for "Candle in the Wind," since I've been a Christopher Hitchens-level atheist in the Cult of Diana, but there you go.

And it's never been a really big secret that Elton John is gay.

I try and search my heart for hatred or bigotry, and (unsurprisingly, perhaps) seldom do I find it. I'm opposed to gay marriage, but am a wishy-washy supporter of civil unions, or civil partnerships. Mostly, this comes down to a mixture of the sacred and the profane, for me. The sacred is the church, and the profane is the state.

I like to use that phrase, "mixture of the sacred and the profane," about a LOT of things, from blues music to sex, but that's really a sidebar, and only tangentially relevant to Elton John and gay marriage.

I don't mind if gay people enter into committed relationships with each other; rather, I think that's a good thing. Caring and loving? Stable relationships? In my mind, that gets chalked up in the "win" column.

But it doesn't quite seem like marriage to me. Maybe that's my heart's inner hatred and bigotry, although I don't think so, but I could be wrong.

Amid all the hubbub about gay marriage, especially in light of California's Proposition 8, along comes Elton John and talks some sense-smack about "gay marriage." In, of all places, USA Today!

The article, by Donna Freydkin, quotes Sir John:

In December 2005, John and Furnish tied the knot in a civil partnership ceremony in Windsor, England. But, clarified the singer, "We're not married. Let's get that right. We have a civil partnership. What is wrong with Proposition 8 is that they went for marriage. Marriage is going to put a lot of people off, the word marriage."


"I don't want to be married. I'm very happy with a civil partnership. If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership," John says. "The word 'marriage,' I think, puts a lot of people off.

"You get the same equal rights that we do when we have a civil partnership. Heterosexual people get married. We can have civil partnerships."

As I have said before, I am a cautious progressive. I am reluctant to throw over several thousand years of history and tradition based on popular fads. Once overthrown, I find that history and tradition have a hard time coming back, if we turn out to have made an error in judgment.

Maybe I am a bigot and a hater---I don't think so.

And I have never held more respect for Elton John than I do right now.

Note: Edited on 22 November 2008 to add a "close parens" after "sad songs (they say so much". My bust, my bad, my edit. Hey, I'm not going to redact this to cover up embarrassing boo-boos!

Monday, November 10, 2008


Happy birthday, Devils.

"We're surrounded. That simplifies the problem." Chesty Puller

"Come on, you sons of bitches. Do you want to live forever?" Dan Daly

"War is a racket." Smedley Butler

"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." Clifton Cates

"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet." James Mattis

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers." William Shakespeare

No better friend, no worse enemy. Teufulhunden, the hounds of hell. Devil dogs. Woof woof.

Happy birthday, Devils.

The man in the mirror

So, word on the street is, even IF Georgia started the whole dustup that became the South Ossetian War of 2008, Russia is to blame for massively overreacting. (And lots of street people seem to think that the "IF" is a mighty big one.)


Man in the mirror time?

There's no real, tangible correlation between Iraq and 9/11, although there was a time when word on the street had it so. (C'mon, you know it's true, you lived through it just like I did. Atta, Prague? C'mon. Short term memory loss isn't that bad.) If we pretend there is, there's still the question of just how many Iraqis we've killed (liberated from life) since Operation Iraqi Liberation . . . oh wait, the acronym for that one didn't work out, whatever, started.

And Afghanistan? (More on point.) How many Afghans have we lit up? How long have we been there? How long do we plan on being there?

Contra SOW-2008! The Georgians went into the autonomos zone, killed Russian peacekeepers, and played games with artillery and Grad rockets. (Grad, or Град, is Russian for "hail." Not as in hail and well met, but as in small hard things falling from the sky.) What did the Russians do?

Only my take, of course, but it's mine.

The Russians responded with a short, sharp, shock of overwhelming force. They tore up the Georgians a hella lot worse than Obama tore up McCain (don't look at electoral votes, don't look at states, look at popular vote totals). The Russians rolled in like it was cool, killed any elements of the Georgian military that didn't run away tuit de suite, then rubbed the Georgians' noses in the mess they made by sinking chunks of their fleet.





Sorry, folks, that's what they did. While Saakashvili was blubbering on tv about the destruction of Georgia, the Russians pushed past their defensive zones into Georgian territory, laagered up their tanks, BMPs (Боевая машина пехоти, or infantry combat cars, or as we call 'em APCs), and sometimes revved the engines, like kids at a stop light looking for a drag race.

There was a lesson, there, and it wasn't just for the Georgians. It was for Europe, too, and, yes, America, although our pride prevents us from admitting it. I mean, what were we gonna do? Drop the 82d in there? Oh, wait, even if we wanted to, aren't they kind of tied up with another mission? What, we were going to go nuclear, over Tbilisi?

Get real.

Maybe the Russians learned something from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? Something about "not getting bogged down in a land war in Asia"? Something about "easy to seize, but hard to hold"? The kind of lessons that, ahem, we don't seem to have learned from Vietnam?

Maybe I'm a Putinist stooge, but to me it looks like a textbook military intervention. Go in quick, go in hard, kill everything that doesn't run away (or doesn't run away fast enough), and right before you get on the helicopter say "Bye. Don't make us come back, y' hear?"

Ah, I see. We're America, hence the good guys. They're Russia, hence the bad guys. Meanwhile, we seem to just keep on using air strikes against Pashtun wedding parties. Even if it's completely justified, riddle me this, Batman: does that make the Pashtun like us more, or like us less? Does that make it easier, or harder, to sell the Pashtun on the line that we're America, and hence the good guys?

I could be wrong about this, you know, but that's how I see it.