Thursday, May 30, 2019

News you may not want to use

Every news outlet I use, print or digital, has been leading with the traffic jam on Mount Everest where climbers patiently wait to die.

 As my son-in-law likes to say: first world problem.

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Meanwhile, in the least surprising news report of this or any other week, Roman Catholics are a accused of spreading false information about sexuality.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Reason enough to remove

Even setting aside all his other crimes and misdemeanors,  Trump's attacks on the judiciary warrant his removal from office.

For a president whose single achievement has been to secure many appointments to the bench, establishing a precedent that decisions of judges are to be disregarded if they were appointed by a president you dislike seems remarkably stupid, even for him.

What we celebrate

Sen. Tom Cotton has written a memoir of his days doing play-party dress-up in the Old Guard at Arlington. (I own a farm in Arkansas and so have learned the local dialect.)

In interviews promoting his book he waved the bloody shirt more shamelessly than any politician that I can remember. He was unable to say "dead veterans," but could only call them "fallen heroes," a phrase he repeated obsessively.

So since no one else is going to say it this Memorial Day, let me state the obvious: Most of the men buried at Arlington did nothing more heroic than fold blankets at a supply depot, and most of them did not fall; they died from the diseases of old age.

I sympathize with the losses of men who were dragged away or induced to leave their homes for years, but not everything they did away from home was worth celebrating. Why are we celebrating the Marines who fought to suppress democracy in Central America, or the Zippo raiders who burned the homes of subsistence farmers in Vietnam, or the B-52 pilots who flew terror bombing missions against Cambodia?

Not everything the Americans have done with their military power is worth celebrating, although all of it is worth remembering. Glory is no substitute for morality.

I would also like to state the obvious about the Founders. Today's self-styled conservatives -- who are not really conservative -- cry the loudest about both Originalism and about serving their country, with the subtext that the only real way to serve is in the uniformed formations, but that was never the view on the Founding Fathers.

Those men who had just come through the most brutal war feared and distrusted armies and celebrated the life of the civilian. Men, as Jefferson said, who cultivated their own vines and fig trees.

The Founders loathed navies even more than armies. Jefferson was so fearful of navies that he withdrew America's warships and replaced them with 170 rowboats for coastal defense in order to prevent temptations into adventurism.

Among the things that worried the Founders was the rise of an hereditary officer caste, which in their experience would be a threat to democracy. The United States is come along way toward having that, too.

Even in 1789 the Founders' ideal of an unarmed nation isolated from the tumults of foreign disputes was ridiculous. It wasn't the Continentals who defeated the British at Yorktown, it was a French navy and a French army who did that.

Still, the Founders were right to be worried about military formations. American National Guardsmen proved just as willing to shoot down workers as the tsar's Cossacks were.

America as a whole  can take credit for fighting the fascists, although to state the obvious again, that large fraction of the population who did not want to fight the fascists were the political ancestors of the Tom Cottons of today.

I grew up celebtaing two Memotrial Days: the national one and Confederate Memorial Day.

Confederate Memorial Day is dying out at last, but maybe we should still have two memorial days: one for the poor soldiers who suffered; and another for the poor civilians who suffered from them.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Lighter fare

If you haven't been following the story of Jerry Falwell Jr., Mrs. Falwell, the pool boy and naughty pictures, you should.

Pool boys don't come cheap.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Diagnosing a name

Measles is not an adequate name. It should be called Stupid Parent Disease.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

An exception

Colorado, one of the most loaded gun nut states, attempts to attract tourists with the slogan 'come to life.'  Except you Kendrick Castillo. You stay dead.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A crowd under the bed

First, National Security Adviser Bolton spotted a Russian under  Maduro's bed, then Secretary of State Pompeo spotted both a Russian and an Iranian under Bolton's bed. It's time for sharp elbows down there.

It's hard to know what Pompeo is up to, although the fact that he finished first on his class at the Military Academy suggests he wouldn't know either. Bolton is trying to force war with Iran. Chickenhawks do that.

If I had a child serving on the Lincoln or the Stennis -- the two carriers  in the 6th Fleet, and was there ever a pair less felicitously named/ -- I would be extremely worried about his safety. Bolton talks tough but his never displayed the slightest military knowledge, which is not surprising in a chicken-- hawk.

The big winner here is at least potentially -- if it sees its opportunity -- China. China is an ally of sorts of Iran's, although it is hard to believe that the Chinese are very deeply invested in Iran for Iran's sake. Nevertheless, for a very small investment and if they can control the hotheads among the Iranians and the Iranians' stooge groups, the Chinese can take the US Navy 7th Fleet off the board in the Western Pacific.

Here's how that's done:

The Chinese we know have intermediate range ballistic missiles that can hit a steamer trunk size target traveling at 15,000 miles an hour. A thousand foot long aircraft carrier maneuvering at 40 miles an hour will not provide much of a challenge, especially as the carriers' Aegis defense system has never worked in operational settings in its 30 year history.

So all the Chinese have to do is to move two or three or four IRBMs to some remote spot -- and Iran has lots of those -- and wait for Bolton's saber rattling to produce a pretext. And then the Iranians  launch IRBM strikes against the 6th Fleet which has no chance against them.

Within 60 minutes the 7th Fleet will be skedaddling for Sasebo never to emerge again.

Gardening advice

Everyone likes to sit on the porch and watch the deer browse through our yard, but with the deer come deer flies.

I was working in the woods planting flowering trees like hawthorn, redbud, dogwood, crabapple and crape myrtle because the deer have browsed out almost all of the understory. The deer flies were annoying.

I put on some DEET although I've never had much success with it against mosquitoes, midges and that sort but I am here to endorse it against deer flies. I could hear the little buggers coming for my ears like Luke Skywalker attacking the Death Star but DEET worked like a force shield on the flies. When they got within a few inches they skittered off.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

How to know whether you're a fascist

If you are whooping it up for regime change in Venezuela but not whooping it up even more for regime change in Equatorial Guinea, where conditions are even worse, you're a fascist.

 Trump is a fascist; he's not interested in democracy. Pompeo is a fascist; he's not interested in democracy.  Bolton is a fascist; he's not interested in democracy. Abrams is a fascist; he's not interested in a democracy.