Tag Archives: political

Not a great start

I went to bed last night, or rather early this morning, feeling pretty hopeful about 2021. The Georgia runoffs seemed poised to change control of the Senate. Team USA shutout Canada to win WJC gold. The election results would be squabbled over by some possibly seditious politicians but ultimately be done.

I expected protests from white supremacists in DC and threats of violence perhaps. I did not imagine an actual coup, shots fired in the Capitol, and the death of someone present.

Video clips of the police doing nothing don’t surprise me any longer. But opening the barrier to let them in does. And a selfie when they are trespassing – possibly a criminal, felony trespass – is breaking my brain.

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On bubbles

I do not talk much about politics here.  But since Friday, or even earlier last week, I’ve been thinking about the political bubble I apparently live in.

I know one person who admits to voting for Trump (a woman, retired, Latina who can pass and usually does).

I know one person who wrote in Petraeus on his ballot. [Ironically, this fellow swore up and down that the Clintons are Russian spies for Putin. Hah!  And believes Chelsea Manning should rot in jail forever but that Petraeus’ leaks and the accompanying wristslap were manufactured to damage a Great Man.]

Pretty uniformly, everyone else I know well — or know well enough to be comfortable talking politics — was planning on voting against Trump.  In some cases, they weren’t necessarily thrilled with Clinton but considered her the lesser evil.

I know one person who did not vote for Trump but who is so offended by #notmypresident that he has sworn off the NBA.

I know at least a dozen people – men and women – who marched on Saturday, in DC or elsewhere, and no one at all who attended the inauguration, despite proximity and space to spare in DC.

The mood of my colleagues was pretty glum all week as we anticipated budget cuts and hiring freezes, even among the colleagues I don’t know well enough to guess at their voting choices.  And that doesn’t even touch on their concerns about healthcare, deregulation, increased militarization, etc.

Fundamentally, I don’t understand why healthcare is not considered a basic human right for all citizens.  I don’t understand why anyone thinks that more guns, bombs, and wars will do any good; certainly the last decade+ of war has done no good for anyone except for companies like KBR, Halliburton, etc.  I don’t understand how people who abhor big government can possibly believe that the government intrusion into my sex life and reproductive planning is anything other than hypocritical, patronizing, and misogynist.

Most of the people I know feel more or less the same, or at least claim to.

Which I guess means I do live in a bubble of like-minded people, which in turn explains why we were all so surprised by what happened in November.

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Montana Supreme Court rejects Citizens United?

I haven’t had time to read this opinion or the dissent yet, but the summaries I’ve read indicate that Montana has rejected the U.S. Supreme Court’s reasoning and ruling in Citizens United.  I especially love this from the dissenting justice (who thinks the state is bound by CU):

Corporations are artificial creatures of law. As such, they should enjoy only those powers—not constitutional rights, but legislatively-conferred powers—that are concomitant with their legitimate function, that being limited liability investment vehicles for business. Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people—human beings—to share fundamental natural rights with soulless creations of government. Worse still, while corporations and human beings share many of the same rights under the law, they clearly are not bound equally to the same codes of good conduct, decency, and morality, and they are not held equally accountable for their sins.

Via multiple sources, link to opinion from Alternet.

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Now what?

I didn’t have the television on last night, so I didn’t see the President’s speech.  Instead, I learned about the death of OBL via twitter.  

My first reaction:  is that a joke?  If so, it’s not funny.

Because, frankly, after nearly 10 years, I assumed that he was never going to be caught, but would instead remain in Pakistan for the rest of his life, while America pumped trillions of dollars and thousands of lives into the mire that is Afghani and Packistani unrest.  (Oh, wait…)

My second reaction:  I hope this brings some sort of closure to people who lost loved ones on 9/11, and it’s a powerful political symbol. So now what? 

 
I don’t mean that in a flippant way.  I mean: what comes next?  OBL was the ostensible reason for our invasion of Afghanistan, which has no end in sight. (2014? I doubt it.)  It was the spring board for the shrub to invade Iraq; the WMD blather would never have been sold if we hadn’t already had a massive build up of troops and equipment in the region.  It has made our relationship with nuclear-armed Pakistan much more fraught.  OBL is dead…but the US military is (presumably) not going to be pulling out of Afghanistan or Iraq now.  So what next?
 
Other thoughts on the subject:  
 
+ The burial at sea is bound to anger many Muslims, and give conspiracy theorists the opportunity to speculate that he is not dead and this was all just a political maneuver to bump Obama up in the polls.
 
+ I’ve read that OBL was given the opportunity to surrender but refused to do so; am very curious what would have happened if he had done so.  Would he have made it to trial?  Would the special ops group have made it out of the region with him?  Was he even triable — meaning, what was the source of the evidence against him, how was it obtained and would it have been admissible?
 
+ All the reports I’ve read indicate that OBL’s compound was located an hour outside of Islamabad, in close proximity to a significant military training center.  Not hiding in the mountainous border region, in a remote area in which it is easy to get lost.  In an urban/suburban neighborhood of what is essentially a garrison town.  Maybe I’m wearing a tinfoil hat, but the idea that ISI didn’t know he was there seems questionable.
 

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Protected: Hating “the government”

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Libya.  Wisconsin.  Christchurch.

And all I could find on the fucking useless news yesterday was information about President’s Day.  Because that’s way more important than Koch Industries bankrupting Wisconsin and trying to break public unions, or Gaddafi bombing his own people or a huge earthquake in New Zealand.

Mainstream media in America, corporate owned, is useless.  Feeding citizens pap rather than doing their actual jobs of reporting on what’s going on in the world.

The Mayans were wrong: the world isn’t going to end in 2012. No, it’s happening right now.

ETA: And let’s not forget the Republican House declaring war on women, in which reproductive health care (not abortion, health care) is being de-funded, along with preschool programs, and senior citizen programs. Because apparently Republicans want to stand at the foot of my bed, and make me have babies. Except they don’t want to actually provide health care or other social services for the babies they would like to force rape victims (er, accusers, since Georgia wants to refuse to call women who have been sexually assaulted victims) to have. Fundamentally, I do not understand the GOP. And I don’t understand how any woman can be a party to the misogyny Republicans are writing into legislation.

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Random babble redux

+  \o/ for the Senate voting to repeal DADT

+  Check out this interesting discussion about whether language shapes thought.

+  Every time I’ve gone to B&N lately, I’ve bought things other than books.  When I look at books, I end up putting them on my wishlist or downloading a Kindle sample to decide if I really want the book or not.  Obviously B&N is still making some money off me as a consumer — bought Elf on the Shelf, a puzzle, a Moleskin notebook, holiday cards, etc. — but if I’m not buying their books, what does it say about their success in their primary market?

+  I’m contemplating writing fan fiction for the first time ever.  There’s a plot bunny bouncing around my head and it just won’t die.  Not even an emailed exchange with my sister got it out of my system.   I blame this tumblr.

+  Mailed a package to Texas today, and it should arrive in plenty of time for the holidays.  The line to mail packages?  Only three people long.  The line to pick up packages at the other window?  Wound around the waiting room and out the door.  Fortunately for me, all the packages I ordered were delivered by UPS and my neighbor signed for them (he’s retired, and takes deliveries for several neighbors).  

+  Saw an intriguing recipe for potato chip cookies, must find it again and experiment tomorrow.  Must also go get one last gift — a gift card to a restaurant, because I’m stumped for a better gift for my brother and SIL; I did send them doggie cupcakes from here, but wanted to give them something more.

+  I’ve been pretty good about not buying paper books, or any books except pre-orders done pre-holidays, but I broke down and finally ordered a copy of Yo, Juan de Austria from Abebooks.  I should have bought a copy when I first saw the book more than a year ago, when I was in Madrid, but I assumed it would become available sooner or later in the US and didn’t want to add it to my luggage.  Mistake.  Still not available in the US yet or translated. (TBH, I doubt it will be translated, since I’m not sure that Juan of Austria commands a great deal of attention from English speakers/readers.)  So I ordered a copy from a Spanish bookseller online.  The shipping…is ridiculous.  My own fault.

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Post holiday hangover

I’m home from Houston.  I always hate leaving and wish Maryland was closer.  TBC and I clung for much of the weekend, when we weren’t being complete gluttons.  [Between TBC, TC and me, we ate a birthday cake, a pie and a tart in four days.  We had some help, but most of it was all us.  It was delicious and also ridiculous.]

Despite all the TSA hysteria, I was neither patted down nor scanned, and the security lines were short.  Flights were full, even the 7am flight on Thanksgiving day.

Harry Potter 7.1:  pretty good, if you keep in mind that it’s really only half a movie.  Is Warner Bros going to re-release it just before HP 7.2 airs, so viewers can be refreshed going into the final installment?

Japaneiro’s continues to be a purveyor of excellent sushi.  The mojitos are good, as well.

Read a NetGalley eARC, which could be an SBD post, but only if I get organized tonight, which may not happen.

Coolest birthday gift:  the new annotated Pride & Prejudice.  It is lovely as an object, without even getting into content.

I pretty much agree with the Guardian’s take on the Wikileaks of the diplomatic cables.

And if you’ve read Junger’s War, you might be interested in watching his documentary (with Tim Hetherington), Restrepo, which airs at 9pm EST tonight. 

Back to work tomorrow.  I didn’t miss it all.  

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Please vote

 Courtesy of BIE:

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SBD: Generation Kill

Today’s SBD is a non-romance book.  Lots of brothers-in-arms affection, but no romance.  [Unless you are wearing slash goggles, like apparently many people are.  Go google "Brad Colbert/Nate Fick", I’ll wait.  Personally I don’t really see it, despite the constant sexual references in the book and miniseries, but the casting of the HBO miniseries probably has a lot to do with the GK slash that’s out there.]
Anyway…

Generation Kill is the story of the Marines’ First Reconnaissance Battalion and their participation in the beginning of the second Gulf War.  Evan Wright, a journalist with Rolling Stone, was embedded with the Second Platoon as they careened around Iraq, from Kuwait to Nasiriyah to Baghdad to Baqubah, basically riding head first into ambushes set up by the Iraqi Republican Guard and jihadists.  The narrative traces the path of the platoon, while trying to capture the ethos of the Marines and the tension of their situation.  

Recon Marines are, readers are told, the creme de la creme of Marines: trained to the nth degree with Jump School, Mountain School, Dive School, SERE, etc., they generally work in small groups away from their officers, doing reconnaissance and other less obvious, flashy things.  But in the invasion of Iraq, they were clumped together with their commanders (many of whom had never been in the field) and used to test a new doctrine of maneuver warfare in a new type of war — the preemptive war.  And instead of doing recon, they were sent in a 70 vehicle caravan with only light armor (some vehicles with none) to run into ambushes and draw out the enemy.  Under-equipped and in the dark about their mission, the Marines managed to follow their commanders’ orders, winding from hamlets in the desert to the urban landscapes between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

Wright introduced each Marine by age, rank, and origin, which struck me as a very journalistic thing to do, although a little odd in a book.  *shrug*  Since he spent the majority of his time in a Humvee with several troops, those guys got most of his attention and page space, but he seems to have become acquainted with most of the platoon.  And he shared the good and the bad about them:  Person’s Ripped Fueled diatribes about the "retards" making this invasion necessary; Trombley’s indifference to consequences of violence that made him good at his job; Doc Bryan’s paradoxical concern about human life and the ease with which he’s able to take away human life when he shoulders his rifle; Fick’s balancing of his concern for his men with the orders from above to send them into sometimes unnecessary and unwarranted danger; and Colbert’s isolation in the middle of the men he lead and tended.

In some ways, it feels like Wright romanticized the entire FRM ethos to me (YMMV).  The glorification of the uber-macho, ultra-testoteroned world view seems problematic, especially when writing about the Marine Corp as an institution that channeled and legitimated behavior that would otherwise get men jailed or killed in the civilian world.  On the other hand, their joint experiences have made some of the men friends for life and created a feeling of brotherhood that some of them had never experienced in their civilian lives.

Of course, he was also honest about the complete clusterfuck that the invasion was for this group of men.  Strategically, logistically, politically and socially.  For example, lacking the batteries to use the night gear for driving, they were often driving nearly blind in the dark.  Instead of setting up personnel in the south, they hit and rolled on, leaving power vacuums that would be filled by extremists and foreign jihadis.  The utter disassociation of practicality from their reality (grooming standards being emphasized in the middle of an invasion?) was kind of mind-boggling.  

Wright finished the book convinced that this preemptive war was necessary, and expressed his anger and frustration with the American public for no longer supporting the war and the men and women fighting in Iraq, for essentially wasting a generation of American youth.  TBH, that kind of pissed me off even as I understood his perspective.  Frankly, I have a hard time believing that the American public would have had a 60% approval rating of the war at the time of the invasion if they had known that the WMD reports were fabricated, and that Iraq would become a quagmire that will absorb trillions of their tax dollars in coming decades.  If he wants to be pissed off, perhaps his anger should be directed at Bush, Cheney, et al., who began the waste in the first place.  

The larger issues alluded to in the book were not new information for me, but it was fascinating (if enraging and blood pressure-raising) to read this account.  I probably wouldn’t go out looking for more written by Wright, but I’m going to borrow The Biochemist’s copy of One Bullet Away, the memoir written by one of the Marines appearing in GK.  And I’ll re-read Baghdad Burning.

Ironically, the book ends with a scene in which some of the Marines are marveling about the length of World War II, relieved by the brevity of their mission in Iraq, since "Mission Accomplished!" had already been declared.  As The Biochemist emailed to me last month when I wrote that I was reading GK, "Unhappy 7th Anniversary, First Recon Marines and Iraq."  Bet you didn’t think you’d be doing another tour there again, did you?

As one Marine is quoted, "[I]t doesn’t matter if you oppose or support war.  The machine goes on."

Other random thoughts:

  • tension between being good officer/soldier and being good human being (wonder if Fick’s book addresses)
  • perhaps could use some proofing/editing — one grunt’s name changes in the afterword (oops!); also, there is no Louden County, Virginia, just Loudoun County
  • who adapted the screenplay for the miniseries?  did an awesome job
  • cracked up by insistence that one grunt couldn’t be gay because he was married…because no gay man has ever had a beard…and of course, no badass recon Marine could possibly be gay

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