Friday, June 25, 2010

Gone Fission*

You’re going to have to do without me for the next couple of days.

The family and I are headed south to the Kenai today.

If you need me, I’ll be waist deep in the Russian River.

There will most likely be my usual warm and encouraging updates on Facebook and Twitter, depending on smartphone connectivity, but you probably shouldn’t expect much in the way of posting here.

Back Monday, hopefully with some reds for the smoker.

Fission: if you don’t get that, you’ve never been to Milo’s Meadow and, really, shame on you for that. Shame.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Joe Barton, Apologist At Large (Updated)

Update at the end of the post//Jim


Ever read Larry Niven’s Ringworld?

The novel opens with an apology.

The alien Nessus takes our hero Louis Wu to New York in order to recruit a Kzin for a dangerous mission. Now for those of you not familiar with Known Space, the Kzin are eight foot tall, militaristic tiger-like carnivorous Berserkers with razor sharp claws and uncontrollable tempers who literally eat their own young and anybody or anything else they can catch – they take particular delight in consuming the meat of intelligent creatures, while said creature is still warm and screaming. The Kzin are an angry, angry species and are perpetually offended and outraged by one thing or another and with a particular disgust for vegetarians (the phrase, “how much intelligence does it take to sneak up on a leaf?” is one of their stock insults). You might consider the Kzin as the Conservative ideal.

Nessus is a Pierson’s Puppeteer, an alien, a professed coward, a dedicated pacifist, highly intelligent, a three-legged deer-like herbivore – sort of the ultimate Liberal – and, as such, beneath contempt for such mighty warriors as the Kzin.

And yet, oddly, it is Nessus who deliberately delivers the ultimate challenge in the most insulting and offensive way possible to a table full of Kzin in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Louis is thrust into middle of the conflict - becuase the Kzin will not fight a plant eater like Nessus, that would be like challenging your salad to a duel, instead they go for the herbivore's human companion - knowing full well that by joining in he will end as shredded gobbets of bloodied flesh at the claws and teeth of those enraged Kzinti warriors.

Except that he isn’t. Turned into cat food, that is.

Instead of leaping to the attack at the herbivore's mortal insult, one of the Kzin apologies for any insult the Kzinti may have offered and the rest sit down and resume their meal.

Louis is left standing stunned in the middle of the diner, surrounded by frightened and appalled patrons.

It turns out that the apologetic carnivore is one Speaker-to-Animals, lowest of the low. Since the Kzin tend to scream and leap without thinking, they haven’t fared well against mankind. A series of disastrous wars have left their species decimated. So now, when conflict happens, it is Speaker-to-Animals’ job to apologize immediately. It is the single most degrading job imaginable for a Kzin, equivalent to “herbivorous shit eater” or “sodomizer of plants” – but according to Speaker himself, he is low-born and of substandard intellect and education, there is no other job available to him. Self respect and honor are not options.

And so he spends his days apologizing to humanity for his perpetually offended people.

You see where this is going right? You can see it already, can’t you?

By now you’re familiar with the Grovelling Abasement Heard ‘Round the World.

I am, of course, talking about Speaker-To-Big-Oil Joe Barton’s apology to British Petroleum.

I wasn’t going to write about this incident, really I wasn’t. It's like making fun of the Blago guy, talk about setting the bar on the bottom rung, comedy wise. I mean, honestly how in the hell do you expect me to top apologizing to British Petroleum. We’re so sorry our President yelled at you, BP, and demanded that you put your billions where your promises are, just because your poorly maintained well blew up and killed a bunch of American oil workers, destroyed the livelihoods of millions, polluted an entire fucking sea, and perpetuated the largest ecological disaster in American history. Could have happened to anybody. God, talk about embarrassing. Oh the humanity. I will now consume the fecal dropping of grass-eaters and fornicate with the house plants.


So I wasn’t going to jump on the Barton clown car. Because, you know, making fun of the mentally challenged is just crass – and even I have limits when it comes to assholery. (And besides, the Tonight Show was able to crank out a couple of fairly funny one-liners regarding Barton. Frankly if Leno can get a chuckle out of Barton, well it hardly seems worth the effort on my part, if you know what I mean. Really)

But, see, it turns out that there is no stupidity too far when it comes to conservative hatred of Barack Obama. There is no ultra rightwing position so astoundingly stupid that you can’t find a flock of conservatives following it. Turns out there are a whole bunch of people who agree with Barton’s comment and are repeating it enthusiastically far and wide – or at least I think they are, it’s hard to understand them, what with the petroleum flavored Cool-Aid gurgling in their throats. And this, right here, is proof positive of the irrational insanity of the Tea Party and the far right. These defective lunatics will grasp at any straw, no matter how utterly and obviously ridiculous, in order to stoke their hatred of Barack Obama.

These people are actually saying Go Barton! America should apologize to British Petroleum, that they are embarrassed and ashamed because the President of the United States asked an oil company to live up to its promise to take responsibility for its unparalleled negligence.

What the fuck?

You know how to make conservatives enthusiastically pro-abortion? …Tell ‘em Barack Obama is Pro-Life.

That’s right.

Seriously, if Obama announced today that he was slapping a moratorium on abortion in America, the RNC, the GOP, The Southern Baptist Convention, Bill Donohue and the Catholic League, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Anne Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Party, Orly Taitz, John Boehner, Joe Wilson, Dick Cheney, the angry little bearded goof down on the corner here in Palmer with the "LaRouche says Obama=Hitler" sign, the shambling reanimated corpse of zombie Charlton Heston, and every single ultra rightwing uber-patriot would suddenly stop snorting coke off Rentboy’s shaved ass and angrily shake their little NRA hats in the air and howl in outrage at the top of their lungs deploring the liberal Nazi communist socialist oppression that denies a good conservative girl’s right to choose and demanding unfettered access to truth, justice, and Planned Parenthood just like Jesus wanted when he penned the Constitution. It’s gotten to the point where if Obama says the sky is blue, conservatives will immediately deny that blue spectral wavelengths even exist and the whole thing is a myth perpetuated by Big Environment and Al Gore…and Glenn Beck will point out that blue was the color of the Muslim socialist Nazi Communist Liberal Progressives when they ruled Kenya! Yes, yes, Hitler, you know, was big on blue skies and look how that turned out! Weep for America! Weep! Weep!


Barton seems afflicted with an advanced case of reflexive verbal diarrhea. He apologized. He apologized for his apology, and then he apologized for the apology’s apology to the GOP in order to keep his real job with Big Oil, ur, the Energy and Commerce Committee. Then he apologized for the apology's apology's apology in order to tell his supporters, heh heh had my fingers crossed. The problem with Barton’s highly contagious feces-borne affliction is that there is always a certain percentage of the population who routinely play in shit and then put their hands in their mouths. I’d like to say that Barton is their king, but Glenn Beck already has that job. Barton is more like the Court Jester - or that little monkey thing that sat in Jabba the Hut's belly button.

It got me thinking. Maybe, like the Kzin, conservatives need a professional apologist.

Barton, being of low birth and poor intellect and generally willing to roll in his own excrement, would be perfect. He’s already apologized to BP, who else might we liberals have offended?

Exxon? Perhaps Barton could apologize to Joe Hazelwood. Sorry about that big fucking rock in the middle of Prince William Sound, Captain Happy Hour.

How about the Taliban? Sorry we blew up your country. It’s our fault for running our skyscrapers into your airplanes.

Maybe he could apologize to the Japanese for Pearl Harbor. Better late than never says I.

Say, here's an idea:

Maybe as the former Chairman and now ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - you know, the folks reponsible to the American people for energy policy and safe oil drilling regulations - Joe Barton could apologize to America for taking a shitload of money from the industry he's supposed to be keeping an eye on. See Joe Barton didn't just take campaign contributions from Big Oil, his biggest contributor ($146,000) is Anadarko Petroleum - who happens to own 25% of the Deep Water Horizon well. Can you say conflict of interest? Not in Joe's mind, his interests are clearly deliniated. Can you say Fuck Me? Sure you can. While he's at it, maybe Joe could apologize for being a climate change denier - while taking money from industries and commercial interests who are some of the planet's biggest polluters. And he could also apologize for trying to deny 40 million Americans affordable healthcare while taking over $2.2. million from the health insurance industry. That was $2.2 million, just in case you missed it. Yes, you may say Fuck Me again. Maybe Joe could apologize to autistic kids for blocking passage of a law designed to combat the disease - because it contained provisions to research possible environmental causes of autism. Joe is not real big on the enviroment, it's probably a good thing people can breath oil then, isn't it?

Man, Barton’s going to be a busy guy.

Hey, I know! Maybe Barton could apologize to our allies for calling them cowards, failing to heed their caution, lying outright on the floor of the UN, and then invading the wrong country on that same manufactured pretext?

He could start by apologizing to France.


Yeah, boy howdy, that would be embarrassing now, wouldn’t it? Barton would probably condemn anybody who did that.

But, yeah, let's apologize to an oil company because our president asked them to prove that their promises are more than just empty words. Remember, the oil industry made promises to us Alaskans - and then spent the next twenty years throwing lawyers at us instead of making good. Alaskans know exactly what a promise from an oil company is worth, a big fat fuckall. You should be damned grateful that you have a president who said, "Show me the money," I sure wish we'd had that here.

Somebody from Texas please explain to me why Joe Barton still has a Congressional ID that lets him into the capital building. This horse's ass has done nothing but line his own pockets with millions. Millions at your expense, Texas. President Obama got billions for you not from tax dollars, but from the people who destroyed your coast. Barton meanwhile denies that the oil spill even exists.

BP has to clean up their mess, Texas, howsabout you clean up yours?


That last line sounded pretty snappy to me when I wrote it, and it still does.

Then I suddenly remembered that I’m from Alaska. And we Alaskans unleashed Sarah “Drill me, Baby” Palin on the world, and I realize that I’ve got some mea culpa going on here.

And in the spirit of the post, allow me to offer my apologies, Texas.

The General McChrystal Thing

I’ll make this brief.

I would have commented on this earlier, but I’ve been out of pocket most of this afternoon taking advantage of the low low interest rates to refinance my house.  When I got home I had thirty seven emails asking my opinion on McChrystal’s removal from command of the Afghanistan campaign – and a couple of the usual all caps and misspelled slobber covered  missives that could be best summed up as AH HA! TOLD YA ASSWIPE!!!! OBAMA BAD! MAC HERO! REVOLUTION!!!!REVOLUTION!!!!! And really, thanks for that. No really.


OK, here’s the thing:

He screwed up.

It’s just that simple.

Everybody in the military knows it.

Everybody in the White House knows it.

The majority of Congress knows it (on both sides of the aisle).

And General Stanley McChrystal knows it.

The General wasn’t fired. He apologized and he tendered his resignation. The president accepted his resignation, I don’t know about the apology and don’t care. By all accounts, the general didn’t try to keep his job, he knew he’d fucked up and he took responsibility for it as a professional military officer should.

By all accounts, McCrystal is an excellent general, one of our very best military commanders – otherwise he wouldn’t have had the job in the first place.  He’s a hell of a Soldier, beloved by his troops and even some of his enemies. But he screwed up. It happens.

He allowed himself to act unprofessionally in this one regard, and his example fostered a climate among his officers that promoted disrespect towards the civilian authority, and not just towards the President, but towards what the President represents – i.e. you. This is simply unacceptable. McCrystal was the commander, this is his responsibility and his alone. Period. No excuses – and to his credit he didn’t make any. He took responsibility for the things that happened under his command and took the only action acceptable under the circumstances and the officer’s code of conduct, he offered his resignation.

President Obama also did the only thing possible given the circumstances, he did the General the courtesy of accepting that resignation. 

The President has the Constitutional responsibility to enforce civilian control over the military at all times – because he himself is responsible for its conduct, actions, and employment. Period. Something the previous occupant of the White House never seemed to grasp despite his supposed credentials. General McCrystal put his commander in a position where the President only had two options, allow the General to resign, or fire him. This is shameful, McCrystal knows it and didn’t argue the point.

This wasn’t by design, but by accident. This has nothing to with who’s in the White House. It happens. Don’t try to tell me you’ve never been frustrated with your boss – even if you like and respect him or her, and unless you’re commanding a war I doubt you have a hundred thousandth of the stress and frustration of those officers in the battlespace. Nonetheless, we military officers have a strict code of conduct. It exists for a reason, a damned good reason, one that has proven its worth time and time and time again. McCrystal allowed that code to be broken.  McCrystal as absolutely no one to blame except for himself. Period. And he knows it, understands it, and accepts it. This is what it is to be in command.

None of which makes his dismissal today any less of a tragedy.

This is a loss for the troops, for the Administration, for the war effort, for the people of Afghanistan, for America, and for McCrystal himself.  All of us lose. Nobody wins here.

Well, OK, that’s not entirely true.

The Taliban wins. The Insurgents win. The (forgive me) terrorists win.

But nobody wins more than the Rolling Stone.

Don’t get me wrong, the Stone isn’t to blame, this is what they do and McCrystal forgot that and allowed himself and his officers to behave unprofessionally in front of the embedded Rolling Stone reporter (and understand, by Military Law and custom it would have been wrong to disrespect the President and civil authority whether there was a reporter present or not).  He should have known better. He should have never allowed that climate to develop in his command. The Stone isn’t to blame for reporting the general’s comments or those of his officers.

And this story is going to sell one hell of a lot of copies of Rolling Stone.  

So the magazine wins.

But the rest of us take it right in the ass on this one.

It’s just that simple.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Most Awesome SciFi Music Video Ever


I was going to vote for The Devinyls I touch Myself.


The I Touch Myself video isn’t scifi?


I mean, damn! what the hell is your definition of fantasy anyway. Seriously, don’t.  Just don’t speak to me. Jim needs some quiet time. 


Fine, fine. Whatever. Most awesome Scifi video?

Michael Jackson’s Thriller? Best line? “I’m not like other guys.” Really?   Gotta love movie audience Michael all not sensitive and shit – because you know in real life in an actual zombie movie he’d be screaming like a little girl. I’ll admit he was one talented little weirdo in his Thriller days, but the video is just too slick and big budget to qualify for "Most Awesome.”  (And don’t even start with the but Jim isn’t Thriller more like a horror video instead of scifi or even fantasy? One word: Zombies. Zombies are totally science fiction).

How about ZZTop, TV Dinners? Goddamn, I loved the Eliminator album (but then who didn’t?). But, again it’s just not hokey enough to qualify as “most awesome.”

Maybe Tom Petty’s post apocalyptic Mad Max/Cherry 2000 mashup, You Got Lucky? Naw. Not even close (Cherry 2000? And you call yourself a science fiction fan. Really).

Oh. Wait. How about Billy Ocean and the Star Wars cantina, ur I mean Lover Boy?  (Oh, don’t even act like you’re not singing along and doing the air guitar on this one. Plus, you know you’d do the elf chick). Lover Boy is pretty damned cheesy alright.

But, it’s not quite cheesy enough.


For cheese you’ve got to have a daytime TV soap star turned bubblegum rocker and teen squeal idol.

The most awesome scifi video has it all. Flash dancing and futuristic ankle warmers. Double-brested button down space cowboy tunic thing. Chicks with HUGE big giant 80’s hair and silver suits. Six eyed sax player. Suspended animation. Romance. Awe. Wonder. Bad acting.

And Rick Springfield.

Springfield once lived with a girl known for being possessed by the Devil.

Seriously, look at that hair and tell me you’re not watching the most awesome scifi video ever.

Friday, June 18, 2010

She’s Not There

For some reason, I’ve had The Zombies playing in my brain for the last couple of days.

It started out with the guitar riff from Time of the Season and this morning I woke up with She’s Not There playing in my head.

It may be a sign of the impending Zombie Apocalypse, you should probably oil your shotgun and sharpen your machete.

In the meantime:

Funny thing, She’s Not There was the debut song by The Zombies, released in ‘62 while they were working on their first album. In 1964, She’s Not There reached #12 on the UK charts and broke the top ten in North America.  This video would have been made in ‘64 or ‘65 — and yet you’ll note that all of the electric guitars are apparently wireless. 

A band far ahead of their time indeed.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Where the Hell is Katie Couric When We Need Her?

Did you see the Palin Interview last night on the O’Reilly Factor?


Well, then you really missed something special. 

It was like when that comet, Shoemaker-Levy 9, broke apart and slammed into Jupiter in a blaze of destruction and death and catastrophe on a cosmic scale so large that it defied comprehension and all you could do was sit there with your mouth agape in utter disbelief at the astounding unbelievable horror of it all as tons of ice blew up in fireballs larger than the earth and every time you thought it was over it wasn’t and each explosion was larger than the last and it just kept getting worse and worse and worse and you thought Fuck! at least it didn’t hit us but what if it did because that would be the end of everything ever and yet how damned bizarropants is it that there are people hoping and praying that something like this does happen to the Earth because their brains are like little chirping crickets hopping madly about in an aquarium full of starving garter snakes?

It was a lot like that.

Shellacked hair like a Waffen-Schutzstaffel helmet, unblinking black-eyed lizard-alien-in-a-rubber-human-suit stare, enormous icebreaker prow of a jutting chin that reminds me of evil mirror-universe Jay Leno, and that uncanny fixed death’s head rictus — it was as if Palin was a parody of Tina Fey channeling Sarah Palin in some creepy incestuous psychic-connection feedback loop of bowel liquefying vapid ignorance. Every time I hear this women speak it becomes more and more obvious that Walt Disney’s animatronic Abe Lincoln has more going in the brains department … and a smoother more life-like appearance.



Derp. Derpa derp.


It was as frightening as a giant ball of ice hurtling towards the earth at cosmic speed.

I’d like to reprint the interview here verbatim, because, seriously folks, Palin’s own words demonstrate more than any sarcastic mockery I could write just what a complete and total tool this sad silly ignorant hateful women is. However, Fox transcripts are copyrighted material (one suspects that this is less about protecting their intellectual property [Ow! Ow! Ow! My fingers cramped up typing that] than making sure Rupert Murdoch’s abject partisan booger eating stupidity doesn’t fall into the wrong hands – like, say, somebody with more than two brain cells rubbing together). So, here go read it before continuing on.  I’ll wait.







You’re back?

See? And you thought I was engaged in exaggerated hyperbole.  Foolish reader.  It’s ok, stop crying, you’re safe now. Here, breath into this paper bag until the blood flow returns to your frontal lobes. Feel the tingling? You’re going to be ok, though the urge to vomit and the black spots in your vision may persist for several days. Also, you owe me $5 for the barf bag.

This, my intestinally-cramping electronic friends, is the flagship of FoxNews. Goddamn, they must be proud, eh?

It’s like a cosmic ball of icy cold crazy aimed right at the bridge of your nose.

With O’Reilly as her idiot straight man – like some bizarroland Ed Mc’Reilly to her animatronic Johnny. Maybe when they make the Palin movie, Bill O’Reilly can be played by a dancing organ grinder monkey chittering on the end of a chain with a little hat on his fuzzy head and an outstretched tin cup.

For those of you who lacked the intestinal fortitude to click on that link, allow me to summarize the interview.

However, there’s a catch. 

See, what I’m going to do is insert a couple of actual no fooling verbatim quotes from Palin in the sarcastic paraphrase below. Hint: look for… ahhh, you know, to hell with it. No hints, you’re on your own.


Palin: Derp Derp Derpity Derp Derp.

Help us Govna Sarah, help us! Yer so pretty! Yer so smart! What should we do?

Palin: Stop the gusher! Stop the gusher! [stop staring at my boobs, they’re real! I swear they’re real! Look, I can make them dance! Boom chica boom boom]

Bam! There it is, right there! Stop the gusher! Holy mackerel! Why didn’t Obama think of that? It’s just common sense. It’s so obvious once you point it out! Stop the gusher! Damn, eight weeks now and Obama never once thought to stop the gusher.  Thank you, oh thank you, Lord Holy Jesus God, for making Sarah Palin and her cunning plan. And her boobs, all three of them. Amen. [boom chica bow bow]

Just one little tiny thing,  how, exactly, do we stop the gusher?

Palin: We need to make sure all technology is thrown at this problem!

Ooooooh! All technology! Brilliant, just brilliant! That must be more of that famous common sense! It’s like a magical superpower! Isn’t she wonderful, ladies and gentlemen? Let’s give her a big hand. Praise be to Super Father Lordy God Jesus, hurrah! We’re saved! 

But…uh, just one little thing I’m unclear on, not to be an oil soaked wet blanket or anything, but what technology exactly?

Palin: well the technology technology kind of technology thingy stuffy sorta thingy jobber oily soaker upper technology. Stuff. Thing. Obama is gay and he eats babies! It’s true!

Oh yes! I see now. Use technology technology. Wonderful, wonderful. Just, though, um, hate to be a bother but could you maybe give us just one little example of some specific technology that you’re talking about?

Palin: These are not the droids you’re looking for…

I, what? Oooooo, my head feels fuzzy and I’d like a cup of tea. Wuzzah? The blinking lights and beating drums have confused me. These are not the droids we’re looking for?

Palin: No.

Okey Dokey. Well, in that case, please feel free not to answer the question and then change the subject to cover up the fact that you have no goddamned clue as to what you’re talking about in any way, shape, or form and that inside your head you’re quoting Rocky and Bullwinkle to yourself.  Also? Could you make some kind of vague and unsupported ominous hand waving? Yes. Move along, move along. [also, do the boom chica bow bow thing again]

Palin: The people, they’re very, very, super doopery frustrated! Kind of like your sex life, Bill.

Hey now! I took too much Viagra last night and my boner hasn’t gone down yet! [Check it out, cat couldn’t scratch it! Boom boom chica chica boing boing]

Palin: What the government should have done was accept the assistance of those great patriotic Europeans who this week I think are really cool but next week I’ll be back to calling socialist commie homo baby aborting subhuman Nazis (except for Israel, woooooooo I love them) and, of course those great patriotic entrepreneurial American patriots who are patriotic in their entreprenualinest ideas.

Who now?

Palin: They can't even get a phone call returned, Bill. The Dutch. They are known in the Norwegian. They are known for — for dikes and for cleaning up water and for dealing with spills. They offered to help and, yet, no, they too, with a proverbial can't even get a phone call back. That is what the Norwegians are telling us, and the Dutch are telling us. And then the entrepreneurial Americans, the company in Maine that has the boom and the absorbents, those companies that are waiting for the Obama administration eight weeks later for the regulators to come in and say, OK, we'll purchase from you now. We'll do all that we can. That's where some of the frustration is.

I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of the awesome gibberish coming out of your mouth. I swear to Holy Lordy Jesus Vejazzled God women, you’re like a brain damaged monkey humping a greased football. Do they even have a name for what’s wrong with you? Was that English? All the words sounded like English but they don’t make any sense together! The Dutch are known in the Norwegian? Regulators purchase. Regulators? Since when do government regulators go to Maine and purchase spill response equipment. What the fuck are you talking about?!

Er, sorry, I mean, yer so smart, yer so pretty. Please, continue.

Palin: I don’t want to point fingers and make this all partisany like…

Choke! Snort!

Palin: …but you know that’s how I make a living bilking millions out of the suckers. Anyhoo, like I was saying national security, safety of the people needs to be the top priority.

I thought you said stopping the gusher was supposed to be the number one priority?

Palin: No the number one priority is to unfund the funding of the periphery funding things that get in the way of the private sector’s progress to produce their ability to prosper. Thrive. Prosper. Now, as the super bestest ever governor-overlord of the great nation of Alaska, what I did in dealing with the oil companies. I had to set up our Petroleum Systems Integrity Office so that we could be there on the front lines making sure what the oil companies were telling us was legit, when they were dealing with their corroded pipes that we found out and other lax maintenance issues.

Oh, good point. That’s probably why there weren’t any oil spills on your watch, well on the part of your watch you actually stood, right?  That’s probably why you quit, right? So that you weren’t the governor who did the legit finding out of the corroded pipes when there was huge spill on the pipeline like, oh say, last month which would have been while you were governor except you bailed out and apparently your big damned leadership didn’t have any lasting effect. But hey, fuck it, it’s not like I’m gonna call you on it [wink wink].There wasn't anybody from the management service or whatever, Mineral Management Service, out on the pipeline checking it out. That's for sure.

Palin: Derp derp, derpity derp…

Yep that’s for sure. Yep.

Palin: OK. We can't, we can't afford though to, we can't afford to demonize these energy producers to such an extent that that they go under…

Got it.  No demonizing, because you’ll need their contributions in 2012 right? Thanks for coming by, Govna!

Palin: Derp Derp, Derpity Derp!

Did you spot it? Could you tell the sarcasm from the real Palin?



Look to the skies, folks.

If we’re lucky, a giant comet will kill us all and end the agony.


Monday, June 14, 2010

On the Nature of False Heroes and Whistleblowers



Boing Boing has been putting up transcripts of the chat logs between Manning and Lamo.

Boing Boing’s general gist is that Lamo led Manning to believe their conversations were privileged, protected under both the California journalism Confidential Source Laws and because Lamo is apparently an ordained minister and Manning could consider their conversation a “confession” of sorts.

Then Lamo turned Manning into the FBI and betrayed that trust.


There’s some fine, fine poetic justice for you right there.  Personally I don’t see where Manning has a pot to piss in when it comes to complaining about betrayal of trust or making what are supposed to be privileged communications public.



In the last month a number of folks have asked my opinion regarding the US Soldier who passed classified information to the WikiLeaks site.

Including this now infamous video clip.

The general consensus seems to be that I might regard this soldier as a hero – and a number of folks pointed me at this idiotic site.

Seriously, what the hell is the matter with you people?



Utterly wrong.

This guy is a turd who doesn’t know the first thing about either patriotism or keeping his word.

If you think that I would regard Army Specialist Bradley Manning as anything other than an traitorous asshole who betrayed his oath, his service, and his country and who jeopardized the lives of his fellow Soldiers, then you really don’t know anything about me at all.

There’s a huge difference between a whistleblower and a disgruntled turncoat.

Manning is the latter.

He’s a coward, a criminal, a shitbag loser who was demoted for striking a fellow soldier, and from where I sit, a dishonorable traitor who deserves to be in prison for a good long time – right next Robert Hanson and John Walker and the fact that Manning gave his information to WikiLeaks instead of the Russians is irrelevant.

For those of you not familiar with the story of Spec Manning here’s the thumbnail version: Manning was a 22 year-old US Army specialist serving in Iraq who passed classified gun camera video to the WikiLeaks website. He then tried to pass 260,000 classified documents to a former hacker at WikiLeaks while bragging about his exploits. That hacker, Adrian Lamo, turned Manning into federal authorities. Manning is currently sitting in military detention in Baghdad.

Couple of things:

First, it’s a damned sad day indeed when a lowlife convicted hacker like Lamo has more honor and integrity and sense of duty than a US Army soldier trusted with a security clearance and the defense of secure information and the nation.

Second, the media widely reported Manning as an “Intelligence Analyst,” but the truth of the matter is that as a Specialist he was a low-ranking gofer, who obviously had way too much time on his hands and not nearly enough supervision. This guy was an “analyst” in only the broadest, most entry level, sense of the word.

I spent over twenty years in military intelligence with one of the highest security clearances in the military and I recognize Manning right away, he’s an E-4 headquarters discipline problem who spent most of his time in the war zone skylarking in a cushy non-combat assignment and sifting through classified networks instead of doing his fucking job. While his fellow Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Guardsmen were out risking their asses every single day, Manning was sitting fat, dumb, and happy, safe in a secure compound surfing military networks and spying on his own people looking for juicy gossip, instead of performing the work that he was supposed to be doing and that would help protect the lives of his fellows. All of us in the military know shitbags like this, the slackers who sit around drinking sodas and slurping cup-O-noodles all day while everybody else not only does their own job but his too. The fucker is probably the same guy who always takes the last cup of coffee and doesn’t make more.

Third, about that video – those pilots didn’t do anything wrong. That’s right. They. Did. Not. Do. Anything. Wrong. Unless you’ve been there, you do not have context to hang this event on and you do not have the experience to understand what you’re looking at. Period. If you think otherwise, you’re wrong.

I’ve avoided discussing this despite a number of requests – because you’re not going to like what I have to say – but I’ll do it now anyhow.

The video is disturbing, it shows the true horror of war, of conflict, and killing – and that horror is not the death of innocents, it is what happens to those who do the killing and who are submerged in blood and death and destruction for months and years at a time.

You should be horrified by that video – just like you should be horrified by videos of those flag-draped steel boxes coming home to Dover Air Force Base (and that is, of course, why the previous administration tried to hide them, don’t want the population revolted and shamed by dead soldiers, no sirree). That’s war, and it’s pretty fucking horrifying. There is not one damned thing glorious about it. No matter how you slice it, what it ultimately comes down to is that you’re killing people and they are killing you. Your government is killing people. Whether or not it is justified is a matter for history and irrelevant to those who actually wage it. On the ground you’re killing people. Killing. Them. By fire and flame and blast, by gun and bombardment and by missile. Sometimes it’s quick and painless – and sometimes it’s slow and lingering and terrible. Sometimes it’s a quick shot to the head and all neat and tidy – and sometimes it leaves human beings splattered like burned chunky spaghetti sauce across the landscape. Sometimes you kill the people you intend to, those sons of bitches on the other side who are trying to kill you – and sometimes you kill children and old people and reporters and friendlies and some poor hapless bastard whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the minigun cuts loose. That’s war, it’s brutal and it’s ugly and it’s inhuman and it is immoral (yes, immoral, war is inherently immoral no matter which side you are on. I’m not saying that war isn’t oft times justified or that the actions of individual soldiers aren’t moral and righteous, but war itself is a dirty immoral business and make no mistake about it). That is the vicious nature of war, perhaps if Americans actually understood that they’d be less eager to have one every ten years or so. And we’ve been at this one now longer than any other in our history (with the exception of the so-called “Indian Wars”) and it is taking a measurable toll.

Americans want to believe that war is somehow glorious and moral and a grand adventure. That might makes right and that real American soldiers sleep the sleep of the righteous and the just untroubled by bad dreams. That patriotism is slapping a $2 magnet on the back of their cars while waving a flag and calling those who don’t believe as they do un-American. They live in some make believe fantasy land where it’s possible to bomb a country into democracy while making a profit and the enemy is easy to identify because he looks just like a Jap or a Nazi or a Slope or ragheaded terrorist. Americans want to believe that the enemy doesn’t love his country as much as they love theirs. Americans want to believe that war is just like TV or a video game, all clean and safe and without consequence. Americans want to believe that God stands with us and that he thas forsaken the enemy. Americans want to believe that war isn’t horrifying and inhuman and immoral.

Americans want to believe that Johnny can march off to war and come home unaffected.

Reality is somewhat different – and after WWII and Korea and Vietnam and the Gulf War and Bosnia and Beirut and Somalia and now more than ten years of this goddamned endless conflict you’d think Americans would understand that fact.

But they don’t.

So, let me clue you in. If you are to survive the battlefield with your mind intact, then you’d damned well better have mental defenses that are as bullet resistant as your ballistic vest. Some folks can’t deal with it, can’t deal with the stress and horror and inhumanity of it all. They just can’t. The DoD and VA mental health clinics are full to bursting with these broken veterans – and truthfully, they may be the most human of us all. All are affected in some way. And those who engage in the business of war develop coping mechanisms or they simply won’t survive on the battlefield. And those coping mechanisms are well understand by those who train us – and those who have to fix us after we’re broken. Killing human beings in our society is immoral, and since we generally don’t recruit sociopaths into the military, we have to find a way to overcome that prohibition in the people we send off to war. The oldest and best method is to vilify the enemy, to make him less than human. Japs, Krauts, Gooks, Slopes, Towelheads, whatever, soldiers have done this since the time of the Roman Legions. It’s a natural human primary response to the situation and it works. So does gallows humor. The business we are engaged in is ghastly and horrible, we know that, but it is our sworn duty, it is the nature of our profession. And so we deal with it the way humans in similar circumstance deal with blood and gore and horror and stress – they make jokes, just as cops do, just as paramedics do, just as firemen and doctors and pilots do (I’ve known more than a few air traffic controllers in my life, all have lost aircraft under their control. When that happens, they crack wise and keep doing their jobs – because the alternative is to come unglued at the thought of an airliner you were responsible for full of people splashed all over some cornfield, and if that happens, if they freeze or become hysterical or lose focus, thousands more could die. So they crack wise and make graveyard jokes and they carry on as long as they have to. Ever wonder why the ATC profession has such a high rate of alcoholism and suicide? So do we).

Those Apache pilots were doing what they were supposed to be doing. They were directed onto target. They were literally miles away, watching those men on the ground through powerful night-vision cameras. They had seconds to analyze what they were seeing. It’s not like the movies. It’s not like a video game. It’s sweltering and the bird is shaking and vibrating and howling. It’s nerve wracking and the levels of stress and paranoia and adrenalin are so far beyond anything a normal human being ever deals with that it can’t be described – and it’s a damned sight more harrowing than anything some cowardly skylarking E-4 REMF* back there in an air conditioned trailer ever had to deal with. Now, those pilots had to kill people, in a way far more personal than the average Soldier or pilot, and they had to do it over and over again, for months, years. That was the nature of their job. Could you do that? Unlikely. Just as the average person couldn’t do what a paramedic does, or a surgeon, or an executioner. It’s not the physical aspect, it’s the mental. They deal with it by joking, by gallows humor. Those pilots had no reason to believe other than what they did at the time, that they were looking at a legitimate military target, and they did what they were supposed to do. They eliminated the threat. They pulled the trigger on human beings in a very personal way – and they joked about it while they were doing so because that’s how you deal with it.

And that’s what so many people found offensive. That’s what Manning found so offensive.

They were wrong, of course, those pilots – not for joking while killing people, but for killing the wrong people. It’s easy for the armchair generals to condemn them for it, but if you think you would have made a better judgment call in that situation, well, then by all means sign up. Put your abilities, honed by hours of Gears of War, to use. The Army is always looking for good people with the magic ability to see through the fog of war and separate friend from foe. Go on, put your money were your mouth is.

I know, no matter what I say, you’ll still think me wrong.

You think the real question is this: with all our vaunted technology why couldn’t we tell that those men on the ground were TV reporters and children and non-combatants? Why?

Well because as I’ve alluded to in the previous paragraph, war is not at all like a video game or a movie or a book written by somebody who has never been there. And because computers aren’t very good at determining the intentions of human beings in a grainy green-lit shaking night-vision video feeds taken from miles away.

That’s the job of Intelligence.

That’s the job of Intelligence analysts.

See, while those Apache pilots, and countless thousands of other forces, were out there on the line – intelligence analysts were sitting in an air conditioned trailer in a secure compound in Bagdad. Their job was to analyze video and images and data and patterns and messages and the countless other bits and pieces and fragments of information in order to give the trigger pullers a better picture of the battle space. It was their job to determine intent.

In this case, the events in the video happened two years before Manning showed up in the war zone, but somebody just like him was supposed to be looking at the data and providing information to the warfighters.

Now, it’s true that you never have enough information, and you never have a clear picture, and you can never truly know the enemy’s intention. And that too is the nature of war. You simply do the best you can in a dynamic and ever changing environment. And even if you do everything right as an analyst, everything you know may be rendered outdated in seconds by changes in the battlespace. Intelligence work never ends. In the war zone there is never an idle moment. You learn from your mistakes and failures – and you will make mistakes and you will have failures and that too is the nature of war. But what you don’t do is sit around, fucking off and surfing through the networks looking for ways to screw your superiors when what you’re supposed to be doing is supporting the guys out there on the line. What Manning should have been doing was his job, analyzing data, doing his part to help build a coherent picture of the threat in order to reduce the likelihood of killing the wrong people.

He should have been doing his part to support his brothers in arms.

Instead he betrayed his oath, his duty, and his country, those soldiers out on the line, and those self same innocent Iraqis he claimed to be so concerned about. Manning’s actions directly put his fellow soldiers in harm’s way and may have put Iraqi lives at risk as well. If Manning was so concerned for the lives of those innocent Iraqis, then he damned well should have done his job**.

Now, if Manning truly felt that he had evidence of a war crime – then there are very specific methods to bring that to the attention of the chain of command, all the way up to the Commander In Chief. He could have forwarded that information to his superiors. If he was unsatisfied with their response he could have reported it to the Inspector General’s Office – and he could have done so anonymously if he was afraid of repercussions. Every single one of us in uniform knows how to contact the IG – and if you could find Adrian Lamo’s email address, you damned well could find the number for the IG which is posted on the bulletin board in every space in the military. Failing that, he could have contacted his Representative or Senator – and again, if you can find a hacker’s email address or a two year old classified video buried in SIPRNET, you sure as hell shouldn’t have any trouble finding your congressman’s webpage.

No, Manning, with malice aforethought, deliberately betrayed his country. He stole classified information that he was neither authorized to access or equipped to understand and passed it to unauthorized persons. Nothing whatsoever justifies his actions. Period. But, then he bragged about it to Adrian Lamo and offered to pass on 260,000 additional classified documents. Two hundred and sixty thousand. He didn’t do this out of some outraged sense of morality, he was doing it for the same reason every other traitor does it – because he thought he was smarter than his chain of command, because he thought himself above his brothers in arms, because he appointed himself moral guardian of America, and because he wanted to improve his situation at the expense of duty and honor. What Manning did was a violation of not only his oath of enlistment, but the oath he swore to protect classified information when he was granted a security clearance. This man’s word is shit. He is a disgrace to the uniform he wears and an insult to all of us who have ever served with honor and distinction and who hold our oath dear.

Specialist Bradley Manning is a cowardly dishonorable scumbag and his actions may have led directly to the deaths of Allied men and women and have directly affected national security both in the war zone and at home.

More than that, because he was busy betraying his country instead of doing the job he was trained and paid and sworn to do, other pilots may find themselves living with the fact that they killed innocent men and women and children because they didn’t have the information they needed to make different choices in the battlespace.

This man is no hero.

And to call him one is to spit in the face of every man and women who has ever served and sacrificed for this country.

This man deserves nothing less than life in prison.

* REMF = rear echelon motherfucker. It’s a technical term used in the military to describe somebody who gets to shower regularly and watch TV every night. Usually reserved for HQ and Staff personnel.

** I speak from direct experience here. Somewhere in the box of awards I keep upstairs on a shelf in my office is a Navy Commendation Medal that I was awarded for, in part, saving the lives of 43 Iraqis. Manning’s bullshit excuse is personal to me.

I Spent the Day in the Shop…

…so here, have a picture of my cat instead of a post:


Actually, I spent part of the day fooling with a new Nikon lens.  And I’m pretty freakin’ happy with it too.


This shot of ShopKat was taken from about 75ft away with the camera and lens in automatic mode, overcast light, handheld with auto-stabilization enabled. Even in this resized and JPEG’d (it’s a word, look it up) image you can still see individual hairs on the cat. In the original NEF image, the resolution is damned near incredible.

I really, really like this camera.


What did you do with your weekend?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Latest From the Shop

I’ve been rushing to meet some project deadlines.

I lost an entire day yesterday, what with the water related crisis and sleep deprivation (More on that later).

So tonight instead of writing I was out in the shop finishing up those projects.


First, three more of those bear statues I do for the Air Force. These were a rush job – but aren’t they all? It normally takes me a week or so to make one, in this case they needed three.


You’ll notice the urn in the above picture – that’s custom made for a nice lady who has been waiting patiently for me to finish it.  It’s made from spalted Alaskan Birch and rosewood.  You’ll also notice the pens. The next picture is a close up of those.


A lot of turners make pens, some only make pens.

Not me.

In fact, I’ve never turned pens before. But one of the places I buy turning supplies from in Anchorage had a bunch of pen kits on sale last week and I thought I’d give it a try. A pen kit is the metal hardware and the ink cartridge, you supply the wood for the barrel. I never throw wood scrap away and have plenty of interesting stuff to turn pens from.  Turns out that making pens is a lot of fun, I turned each of these while waiting for the finish on the bear statues to dry.


And this last picture is a pair of coffee cups I turned for my dad for Father’s day, made from walnut and butternut. I really like how those came out. The dish is a square turned piece of quilted maple.


That’s it for tonight, folks. I’m beat, I’m going to bed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Things You Do NOT Want To Hear at 3:00AM

Ugh! Wake up, the floor is wet.

[to be continued]



Perhaps tomorrow I'll tell you all what this was all about. Suffice it to say at the moment that my day started very early (about two hours after I went to to bed actually) with an unpleasant crisis. It has now been a very long day and I'm starting to feel soggy and hard to light. Good night.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Xanax, Jerko, Try Some.

Is it national asshole day?

Or is it something local?

Seriously, is there something in the water? Did Palin unleash her hordes of mindlessly angry, so very angry, zombies? Is it Lost withdrawal?

I was making a left turn from a residential road onto the main Palmer-Wasilla Highway. There were cars coming from each direction, it being rush hour and all. So I turned into the middle turn lane instead of pulling into oncoming traffic – you know, like you’re supposed to. The women in the cut-down customized white pickup with the chrome exhaust and low rider tires blew her horn hysterically – and kept blowing it – while waving her arm out the window giving me the tradition asshole salute. She kept this up, screaming out her window at me in red faced rage as she went by, even though it was patently obvious to everybody that I was in the middle lane, did not cut her off, and was never intending to cut her off.  I pulled in behind her, and she drove another mile down the road laying on the horn and waving her middle finger in the air and screaming into her mirror at me – while dialing her cell phone.

I glanced at my son in the passenger seat, he shrugged and laughed. Neither one of us could figure out what this whacked out bitch was on about. But, hey, she was headed towards Wasilla so I figured she was on the way to a Tea Party rally or Palin’s birthday party or something. One asshole does not a trend make.

I got home, my wife called, she was at the gas station down the road. The Mustang wouldn’t start.


I grabbed my toolbag and headed down to the corner.

I pulled in next to my wife. As I did so, I noticed that the truck at the far pump had one of those half Confederate, half American, giant bald Eagle super duper uber stupendous Viagra fueled patriotic hard-on window treatments, and painted on the tailgate in large black letters was “Un-politically correct and PROUD of it.”  Do I need to mention that the driver was a shaven-headed thug, vandyked, outfitted in a wife-beater, and complete with with proudly displayed racist tattoos who looked like he was on his way to an Aryan Nation pot luck and cross-burnin’? No?

OK, two assholes in ten minutes then. At least this one didn’t scream at me.

It was the battery cable.  Took about two seconds to get my wife’s car started, she drove off towards home, and as I walked around to put the jumper cables in the back of my truck I realized the guy on the far side of the pump next to me was trying to kill us all.  He kept clicking the pump nozzle like you do when you’re trying to get an exact amount or when you’re trying to top off your tank – except his tank was full. Over full. Gas was pouring out on the ground. He was standing in a puddle of it.

So me being the helpful and friendly and neighborly guy I am said, “Hey, your tank is overflowing!”

He responded with a cheery “Thanks, Buddy!” only it came out sounding more like a surly “Fuck you, I know what I’m doing!” In fact, it sounded exactly like “Fuck you, I know what I’m doing.”


You’re pouring gas on your shoes, but you know what you’re doing? Um, OK. I’ll just fuck off then, sorry for bothering you.

Did I mention the guy was about sixty and looked like the Good Humor Man? I thought maybe he was thinking about going all Jihad Martyr on the gas station, if he pulled out a lighter I was going to clock his nasty obnoxious ass with my tool bag.  Instead he got in his truck and drove off leaving behind about ten bucks puddled on the ground.

Seriously folks, what the hell?

If I’d known it was national asshole day, I have gone out prepared.


Who’s the biggest jerk you ran into today?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hey It’s Saturday!

Well, Saturday Night, actually.

Remember these guys?

It’s Rollermania!

Don’t even act like you’re not singing along. Because you know you are.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The New Banner

Note the new banner.


(If the new banner looks like the old banner, you’ll need to do a refresh and/or maybe clear your cache)

The picture is a panorama of Thompson Pass, just north of Valdez, Alaska.  It’s one of the highest points on the Alyeska Pipeline at about 2700 feet. The picture is stitched together from seven shots I took last weekend and a larger version of it can be found here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Danger of Putting the US Military on a Pedestal

Memorial Day got me thinking.

Actually, a number of articles and blog posts and chain emails I’ve read recently and a number of comments I’ve heard over the last year got me thinking about public perception of veterans, Memorial Day just brought it into focus.

When I first entered the military all those many years ago I was taught about leadership.

The military is big on leadership.  They’re experts on it, on what makes a good leader and what makes a bad leader, on what makes good Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen, and what makes bad ones.

Before all those leadership fads of the late 80’s and the 90’s, the Navy used to boil leadership down to three basic fundamentals: Authority, Accountability, and Responsibility.  The navy said that as a leader your were given certain authority, you were responsible by law and tradition to exercise that authority properly, and you would be held accountable again by law and tradition for the results of your authority.  Bottom line, the Skipper is responsible for everything that happens on his ship and he will be held accountable. Period and no excuses.  The Captain, as they say, goes down with the ship.

Of course, it’s never that black and white, but what it boils down to is that military leaders are supposed to be always accountable.

Over the years, that simple principle served me very, very well as a military leader. You earn authority, your are responsible for the proper exercise thereof, and you will be held to account for your orders and actions.

Back to Memorial Day.

I think Memorial Day is a fine idea , if only to remind folks here in the US that there are those who have voluntarily placed their precious selves between home and war’s desolation.  This is something I think Americans need to be periodically reminded of.

But I will say this, Memorial Day – and by extension, Veteran’s Day and other events set aside to commemorate military events – also seem to exacerbate the tendency of Americans to place their military on a pedestal.

It’s an odd dichotomy, one that only somebody who has spent time in uniform would notice.

On one hand, Americans tend to regard the average grunt as, well if we’re to be charitable , not too bright – and if we’re not charitable, much much worse.  I’ve written about stereotypes and the military before – and opined that the military is the last safe prejudice in American society. Nothing since I wrote that post has convinced me to change my mind.  Witness our continued portrayal on TV and in the movies:

American entertainment often portrays male enlisted people as jarhead robots who scream “Yessir!” and smirk contemptuously at women (especially if the woman in question is some kind of female law enforcement type who is investigating a crime on a military base or a wife trying to figure out what happened to her husband “over there” on that “secret mission”). Female enlisted are usually butch bulldykes with brushcuts and bulging muscles who spend most of their time busting the balls of their male counterparts while cranking out pull-ups in the background – or conversely, they provide the buxom silicon enhanced gratuity in every barracks shower scene. Bulldykes or babes.  Senior NCOs inevitably have some kind of chronic venereal disease that precludes them from returning to the combat zone – which therefore makes them sadistic SOBs who take out their frustrations on everybody around them and who smirk contemptuously at women and usually refer to them as “Honey” (or “shavetails” if the show is striving for “accuracy”).  Junior officers are always incompetent morons who provide plucky comedy relief or red shirt type duties. Senior officers are always covering up a murder, a rape, and/or an international smuggling operation at the behest of some shadowy defense contractor.  A lot of American perception is formed by those shows – because shows such as JAG, Army Wives, A Few Good Men, Good Morning Vietnam, Hamburger Hill, and the routine stereotypes portrayed in everything from the X-files to pretty much every James Cameron movie, are as close as a lot of Americans get to the uniformed services. I’ve repeatedly run into civilians, ordinary Americans both on the Left and the Right, who seem to regard military service, especially career military service, with something akin to pity if not outright contempt (though for different reasons. With the Right it’s usually: Whatsamatter? Couldn’t get a real job? And with the Left it’s usually: Babykiller!). 

And yet, on the other hand, Americans tend to regard their military with an almost mystical reverence.

Some Americans act as if the military can do no wrong.  Ever. Period.  As if the mere mention of criticism is unpatriotic and makes you less of an American.  If somebody wears the uniform, they must be a hero. For example, I got a number of letters over the last couple of months asking my opinion regarding the US Navy SEALs accused of prisoner abuse in Iraq (read the comments under the story, you’ll see what I mean).  I got numerous invitations to join the Free the SEALs (or whatever it was called) Facebook page and a dozen requests to sign various online petitions.  A lot of these letters expressed outrage that anybody would dare accuse “American heroes” of misconduct and how it was a travesty that SEALs should be accused of mistreating prisoners and bemoaned the country going to hell in the usual hand basket. No facts. No real knowledge of the situation. Nothing but rumors and urban legend and preconceived ideas. The general gist of these things were that the SEALs, because they were SEALs, must be innocent. Besides, if they did beat up prisoners, well sir, then the prisoners were dirtbags who had it coming. Any criticism of the military is called “unpatriotic” and denounced.  Any cancelled weapon system or other defense department boondoggle is evidence that the administration doesn’t support the military and if you don’t have a genuine made-in-China yellow ribbon sticker on your bumper well then you’re an Islamofacist treehugging Obama voting commie fag who DOESN’T SUPPOR THE TROOPS!  And etc, etc. I’ve seen this kind of knee jerk response in dozens of other cases over the last couple of years – and especially this last year since Barack Obama took office.  

Reality is, of course, somewhere between the two extremes.

There are some pretty awesome folks in the America military – brilliant, dedicated, driven, courageous, honorable people.  I’ve been privileged to serve with many, some of which read this blog. These are men and women that I admire and respect most highly, and that I would and did trust with my life on more than one occasion.  All of us who served know people like this.

But there are also shitbags, assholes, jerkoffs, fuckups, backstabbers, booger eating idiots, and cowardly self involved conniving sons of a bitches. I’ve been cursed to serve with many of these people too, hopefully none of which have discovered this blog or would have the courage to let on if they did. These are men and women that caused everyone around them nothing but headaches and most of whom I wouldn’t trust to hold my brown plastic MRE spoon.  All of us who served know people like this.

When I got those letters, about the SEALs in Iraq, I ignored them and I didn’t write about the situation and I felt no sense of outrage whatsoever. Here’s why: sometimes SEALs screw the pooch.  Yep.  Being a member of an elite special forces unit doesn’t automatically imbue you with magical superpowers or a free pass when it comes to rules and regulations (if anything, special operations personnel are held to higher standards of behavior). Barack Obama didn’t single out those guys. The Liberals in Congress didn’t go after them.  The accusation came from a fellow Sailor, a Petty Officer who witnessed behavior that he thought went beyond the pale.  The Navy did exactly what it was supposed to do in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice, it conducted an Article 32 hearing and investigated the matter.  No amount of knee jerk patriotic outrage, no Facebook petition, no warhawk conservative chest-beating should change that or even be considered. It was an internal matter, a professional military matter.  There was an accusation of misconduct, it was investigated, there was some indication that the charges might be legit, the case went to trial and the charges were dismissed – i.e. the system functioned exactly as it was supposed to.  The Petty Officer who made the accusation in the first place, was supposed to make a report if he thought something was wrong – we all are.  If folks had spoken up at Abu Ghraib when that CIA bullshit started, you’d never have heard of the joint.  But – and this is the important part so pay attention – if there was evidence of wrong doing, of prisoner mistreatment, those SEALs should have been held accountable to the fullest extent of military law. Period. They don’t get a pass just because they’re SEALs. The rules apply to all of us equally. Period. And the SEALs will be the first ones to tell you that.

Some Americans act outraged at any criticism of any kind. If we accidentally drop a bomb on a school full of children, they either deny that the school and the children existed in the first place or proclaim proudly that those junior terrorists in training shouldn’t have been sitting on top of a legitimate military target.  They got blowed up, ipso facto they must have been the enemy, go USA! 

I simply cannot fathom this kind of mindless might makes right patriotism – it’s contrary to everything the United States stands for.

But, on the flip side, far too many times the rules haven’t been enforced, military folks haven’t been held to the standards, those in charge looked the other way or deliberately broke the law and violated regulations, too many times those in charge tried to cover up some pretty terrible cases of incompetence and dereliction of duty and outright cowardice.  Abu Ghraib, the USS Iowa turret explosion, the Boeing Aerial Tanker contract scandal, the rapes in Iraq and at the Air Force Academy, the cheating scandal at the Naval Academy, all the way back to events like the Mai Lai massacre, and worse. We learned from those events, and sometimes the lesson was extremely painful – mention Tail-hook around any Sailor, see if he doesn’t flinch – but we learned. The rules apply to everybody. And we have those rules for a reason.

Now I don’t know if the ratio of heroes to zeros is higher in the military than in the civilian world. I’d like to think that it is. My experience is that there are far, far more admirable folks in uniform than the scumbags – but then I was privileged to spend most of my career among a handpicked cadre of folks who were themselves selected from an already elite division of the US Navy, and I happened to work extensively with SEALs in Iraq and they were the finest bunch of people I’ve ever met, so my perception may be somewhat biased.

My point is that donning a uniform doesn’t automatically make you a hero, or worthy of respect and deference, or entitle you to a get out of jail free card.

I’ve said this before, respect is earned, each and every day – and it doesn’t take much to lose it.

And so while I appreciate the patriotic ideal of Memorial Day – and I do appreciate the idea of memorial day – I think that considered criticism of the military is also patriotic. 

That’s right.

Americans should be critical of their military, they should hold their armed forces to higher standards – after all those forces are the most powerful in the world, the most powerful in all of human history, and they reflect directly on the United States of America.  The US military is under civilian control – but that also means that American civilians are responsible for their military’s conduct. You can’t have authority without responsibility and accountability.  All Americans should be critical of their military’s action and demand adherence to the highest standards.

Blind patriotism is to abrogate responsibility and accountability.

And if you give up responsibility and accountability then you’ve given up your authority as well.

Think about it.