Sunday, August 13, 2017

An Open Letter to the 45th President of the United States

Look, I know you have the attention span of a housefly, but try to follow along, K? I'll keep it as simple as you are.

Here's what Americans do to Nazis:
That's pretty clear, isn't it?

It used to be a bar that you had to clear to get elected here in this goddamn country; don't be a Nazi, don't be a commie. Sadly, you could be racist, sexist, and xenophobic as all hell, but you at least had to clear that low bar.

So.

As the fucking President of the United States, here's what it's your job to do.

You put your ginormous orange gob in front of the teevee cameras and say this:

"Don't be a Nazi. Fuck "alt-right" and "white pride"; that shit's being a Nazi. Don't be a Nazi. Don't talk like a Nazi. Don't act like a Nazi. Don't hang out with Nazis. Nazis are evil. We killed shitloads of Nazis, there was a whole war and everything. If you talk like and act like and hang out with Nazis you are fucking evil. As your President, I hate Nazi scum and everything they stand for and I recommend you do, too."

See? Wasn't that easy?

But you won't say that.

Ever.

Because you can't. Because you know these Nazi shitpokes are your shitpokes, the ones who elected you, the only ones who still have your back after eight months of solid derp, the ones think you're doing such a great job, the very best job. Because you're a worthless goddamn orange oxygen-thief who should never have been trusted with anything more important than the menu choices at the Trump Tower grill.

But I'm leaving this here in hopes that somehow the Wizard figures out how to give you a heart, a brain, and some courage enough for you to act like a president of, y'know, the United Fucking States...

Lemme know when that happens.
I won't be holding my breath.

Friday, July 14, 2017

¡Fuera de acá, todos!

The Washington Post reports a rather disturbing meeting between the director of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus:
"Trump, Sessions and Kelly want to take 800,000 DREAMers with DACA and hundreds of thousands with TPS who are registered with the government and in compliance with the law and make them into criminals, felons, and deportees in the next few months."
We've been over this before and you know my position. But here's another thing to think about;

How, physically, do you DO all this?

I mean...almost a million people? Rounded up, "processed", shoved on planes and buses and dumped in airports and border towns across Latin America and, presumably, the world?

The sheer number of military/"law enforcement" bodies alone you'd need to do all this are just staggering. This is the sort of thing that changes entire organizations. Hell, it would change the entire country.

And...what do those bodies do once all these scary, dangerous "aliens" are gone?

Think about that for a moment.

So not only will the "...promised Day of Alien-Free Jubilee turn out to be a quiet monotone of unpicked crops, uncleaned hotel rooms, unwiped asses, and uncooked meals..." it will also include tens of thousands of armed paramilitary troopers with time and weapons on their hands and nothing else to do.

Hmmm.

I wonder how THAT could go wrong..?

Friday, July 07, 2017

The NORK Nukes - 2017 International Tour!

In what may well be the most NORK-y Fourth of July fireworks display ever, the Pyongyang regime appears to have successfully tested a nuclear-capable missile with the range to reach the western portions of North America; by definition an intercontinental ballistic missile.


The linked article does a good job discussing the strategic implications of this success, but the tl:dr version is "there are no good military options".

Simply put, the DPRK appears to have obtained what Stalin's Soviet Union did in the 1940s; a successful defense against U.S. military strongarming. Never a particularly good idea, given the NORK capabilities for inflicting nasty mayhem to American-aligned nations in northeast Asia, if the NORKs have the capability to directly threaten the U.S. mainland this option goes from "barely conceivable" to "off the table".

What's more, the strategic calculus of potentially-holding-U.S.-population-centers-hostage changes the relationship between the U.S. and Asian allies such as Japan and South Korea. If Trump wanted the Japanese government to start building its own nukes Pyongyang may well have given it the same push that the Soviets gave the British and French governments during the Cold War - the worry that the Land of the Big PX would be hesitant to risk its own civilians in the face of a possible nuclear exchange.

Where does the Tangerine Toddler fit into all this? Swinging the Big Stupid bat, of course. The King of the Deal is discovering what diplomats and potentates throughout history have discovered, albeit at his own, short-bus-slow-reader speed; that polities with interests that conflict with your own can't always - and often won't ever - be coaxed, swayed, or bullied into acting against their own interests. China fears a NORK collapse more than anything the U.S. can threaten. Figuring out a way to adjust U.S. geopolitical approaches to the new northeast Asian realities will require a hell of a lot more patience, creativity, and intelligence than either the current Chief Executive - who seems more interested in ginning up a "Blut und Ehre" white nationalist agenda - or his people have shown to date.

Nukes are funny things. Technically they are "weapons of war"...but they work well only as potential, not kinetic, energy. When the first nuke is thrown at a nuclear-armed adversary they have effectively lost much of their usefulness. If war is the "continuation of politics by other means" the problem with nuclear war is that, unlike politics, there is no real way to plan or predict or strategize what happens after the fallout settles. A single warhead getting through to a single city will mean that even the "winner" will suffer. There is little consolation for the "winning" public knowing that the northern portion of the Korean peninsula is a glassy wasteland.

Maintaining the nuclear balance was a difficult task for U.S. leaders like Truman and Eisenhower. What happens when the launch codes are clutched in the stubby fingers of a man whose primary education in conflict was as a WWF wrestling heel is something that I'm not sure I want to find out.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Enemies

A friend of mine (hi, mike!) posted something to his Facebook feed the other day about having turned on Joe Scarborough's Morning Joe after His Fraudulency had launched an attack-tweet on Joe and his co-host/paramour Mika, but that the content of the radical reactionary glurgefest was so vile that he lasted no more than a quarter-hour or less before having to kill the video feed.

I commented that this was a lesson, should we need it, that despite the saying the enemy of your enemy is NOT your friend.

At which point I stopped, with my hands poised over the keyboard.

Enemy.

Enemy?

This..?


...is my "enemy"?

Which got me thinking further. This woman is an American citizen. A "fellow American". She is, so far as I can tell, patriotic and honorable by her own lights. Presumably a decent loving daughter, wife, and mother. A hard-working journalist.

How could she, or Scarborough...or Mitch McConnell, or Paul Ryan, or Newt Gingrich, or Donald Trump, for that matter, be "enemies". They're all "fellow Americans". All, presumably, patriotic, hard-working, (okay, maybe not Trump...) decent, loving, (okay, maybe not Trump again...) citizens of my country.

And then I thought about the definition of the word "enemy";

1.1 A person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.
the traditional enemies of his tribe’
‘Nigel made many enemies’
‘this man was her sworn enemy’


1.2 A thing that harms or weakens something else.
routine is the enemy of art’

And then I thought about what sort of things that Ryan and McConnell and Trump are proposing. What sort of things Scarborough and Brzezinski and Limbaugh and Murdoch are supporting.

A return to the economics and social stratification of the Gilded Age?
A place in the public square for theocrats, and racists, and fascists?
More than that; deference and authority for those sorts of traitors to the aspirations of my country?
The return of publicly shameless nepotism and graft to the White House that would have embarassed Warren Harding?



And then I thought: Are those things actively opposed and hostile to everything I believe about my country?

Would those things harm or weaken me, and those who are important to me?

Would they, in my opinion, harm and weaken my country?

Yes.

Therefore, the logical conclusion is that, yes.

These people are my enemies.

And there can be only one way to meet the hostile, harmful designs of one's enemies:

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day afternoon with COL Mix

You can't see it in this picture. But around the corner of the church tower, behind all the big modern monuments to the Honored Dead of every bunfight the United States has entered since 1775, is the marble marker for the one COL Simon Hosack Mix, killed in one of the many engagements at Petersburg, outside the Confederate capitol, in June of 1864.

Not that he's there, mind you. In those preflying times he would have had to pickled to have made it home in an acceptable state; no, what was left of him was buried somewhere close to the piece of Virginia where he was killed.

The marker is just his hometown's way of remembering him.

Turns out the Colonel was a bit of a celebrity in Victorian New York.
"As candidate for Congress on the same ticket as Abraham Lincoln, and colonel of one of the first volunteer cavalry regiments in the Union, Mix is justly regarded as “the greatest national character who ever came out of Schoharie county."
Congressional hopeful, colonel of volunteers, national character; Simon discovered, as many before and since, that the bullet could give a shit.

You're just meat, and as meat into the ground you go; food for worms, brave Percy, one of the many who have seen an end to war.

I'd spent the morning and afternoon amongst the living, visiting my baby sister and her husband in their old schoolhouse outside the little clapped-out hill town of Sidney, New York, one of the many dying places where the need for human habitation has passed by and only habit and intransigence prevents the remnants from fleeing. The chill rain had scrubbed the little Memorial Day parade, and the disappointed would-be spectators took refuge inside the church for the chicken supper.

There's something about being served a half of a baked fowl out of a tinfoil-lined garbage can I can't quite put my finger on.

After saying farewell to my family I sailed back up the interstate to the town of Cobleskill, and from there down the steep, curving roads to the county seat in Schoharie, to the big burying ground outside the old colonial church to spend a moment with the other old soldiers there, the men young and old who had seen the elephant, as they called it back in old COL Mix's times.

I wanted to share a drink with them, and so it was probably appropriate that the only thing I could find at the stop-and-rob down the road that would serve as a libation was a nasty pound can of Yuengling lager. I can't imagine that the guys had anything better, and, I suspect, probably had much the worse during their wartime service.

I parked outside the church and strolled around the tower, beer in hand, listening to the drip of rain off the maples and the quiet hum of traffic from the village to the south. The only other human noise was the random clanking of the flag halyards back in front of the building as the wet cloth flapped sullenly in the cold May afternoon.

I poured old Simon a draft and shared it with him, him and all the boys there, and elsewhere, who had worn the uniform before me, blue and green and parti-colored, and had paid the highest price that shoddy, lowest-bidder uniform could cost.

I told him that he'd done good, that dying for the end of chattel slavery was a better cause than the excuse for any fight my nation had ever asked of me, and that I apologized for the quality of the drink I offered to his shade and those of the fellas around us.

Here's to us, I pledged him; who's like us? Damn few, and you're all dead.

And we stood together in silence, his marker and I, and listened to the calling of the mourning doves and the sound of the rain.
And, as always on this day,

this.




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Not living as large as I'd hoped...

Well, I know, I know. I promised content. And, as it says in the Scripture: "They cry "Content! Content!" and there is no content."
I can't plead anything but sloth.

Turns out that my easy pile-nanny days are turning into 12- and 14-hour pile nanny days. AND I have no internet at the place where I'm staying, so I have to work from the job trailer and, not surprisingly, I REALLY don't want to hang around the job trailer.

This has sucked in a lot of ways. It's sucked because I've had to miss my beloved Timbers and Thorns. It sucked because I can't chat with my loves back in Portland, or send and receive pictures other than through my tiny phone.
I've got an early afternoon off today - we had some trouble here at the jobsite - but, again, I don't want to hang around the job trailer. So I'm slamming this out and heading off to the Price Chopper for half-and-half and bagels. Here's some pretty waterfall pictures, though.

Oh, and these.
These are Devonian fossils from the outcrop described in this post; it's right outside the little town of Schoharie, the seat of Schoharie County, and I've since spent a couple of pleasant afternoons picking through the gray sandstone and shaley "grit" to find the valves of Gypidula and Spirifer and Atrypa and an occasional gastropod, long-vanished denizens of the Devonian seas.
I really will try and post something more substantive if I can get the damn internet back this weekend.


Saturday, May 06, 2017

Living large in Methburgh

It's sad, but I looked at the masthead and realized that an entire month had gone by without new content here. I won't apologize. I've been busy in real life and, frankly, I don't have much more to say aside from incendiary rants on the rank idiocy of electing a transparent con-man, grifter, and narcissistic asshole as the chief executive of a popular democracy.

So, instead, I'm sitting at the wobbly table in the apartment over the garage of a rental house in a small town in upstate New York where I'm on loan to a pile driving outfit working on a big water-supply dam reconstruction project, eating cold General's Chicken out of the plastic container and waiting for the Portland Thorns match to start on go90.com.
The work is...work. It's just your basic pile-nannying, complicated only by the ridiculous demands the New York Department of Environmental Protection had put on the contractor and the crappy weather.

(Speaking of which; did you know that the New York State Department of Environmental Protection has its own coppers? Seriously. I shit you not. And here's the best part; they're just as fucking idiotic about dressing up like soldiers and looking all billy-badass as regular coppers. Seriously. Tree-hugger-billy-badass-coppers. Here they are, the DEP Gestapo, in all their billy-badass glory.)

Is that fucking ridiculous, or what? Sometimes I think our goddamn nation went utterly batshit crazy on 9/11/2001.

The locale is perhaps the most left-behind, shit-kicking rural, economically depressed part of the state, a place that isn't so much a has-been as a never-was. I suspect that the Schoharie Valley was always the butt-ass end of beyond, a place for people to go who had no place anywhere else. It's surely that now, and it's even money which is more irking; the lack of good beer or the lack of good coffee.

Luckily I was able to remedy that today; I went into Cobleskill to the Price Chopper (and you have to say that in the Ahnuld voice: "Geht to the Price Choppah!") and picked up a bag of Starbucks French Roast and a six pack of assorted local brews, heavy on the IPAs. The folks here in rural NY seem to slowly be catching onto the microbrew notion, but, sadly, the coffee...dear God, what a shitshow.

I managed about a work-week with the "best" this area has to offer - Dunkin' Donuts - but finally I needed caffeine, REAL caffeine. I dropped into a "Stewart's Store", the local stop-n-rob franchise, to find something stronger than the weak-ass donkey piss on offer at Dunkin'. I browsed the coffee counter glumly before spotting a green-plastic-trimmed silex labeled "Dark Roast".

"Is this really "dark"?" I asked the plump woman behind the counter. "That's the darkest we have." she grumbled, and I held the thing up to the light; the flourescent tube was dimmed, barely, but the thing looked like nothing so much as the contents of a kidney-replacement patient's catheter bag.

I sighed and poured myself a cup.
But that coffee issue is solved, Price Choppah, you ah the best in life!

I did spend an enjoyable hour or so browsing Catnap Books, the utterly wonderful little used bookstore in frenetic downtown Cobleskill. Prize of the day was a 1944 New York State Museum Bulletin #336, "Geology of the Catskill and Kaaterskill Quadrangles" complete with gorgeous colored geologic map of the Catskill region directly southeast of me.
The geology here is orders of magnitude older and more complex than our juvenile and simple brute-force geology of the Pacific Northwest. These are old rocks; Devonian, Ordovician, Silurian...the tribal names from Britain where they were first described and classified. Sediments from long-vanished seas; red shales, black siltstones, many different colors of "grits" (the archaic name for a silty sandstone or sandy siltstone), and many, many layers of gray sandstones.

The valley of the Schoharie Creek was once on the eastern edge of a great vanished ocean, a narrow sea between the continent and a volcanic arc that had rifted away from the landmass to the west. This was a torrid wet forest, the earliest known on Earth, dominated by the bizarre fern-like tree once known as Eospermatopteris and now as Wattieza. The conical bases of these peculiar trees (they aren't really "roots"; the description I read said that so far as the paleontologists can tell these fern-like trees had teensy rhizomeish suckers at the base. Windstorms in the Devonian must have been a panic...) were preserved when sandy sediment buried the forests and casted-up the stumps as they disintegrated.
This ghost forest was unearthed in the 19th Century, but the real excavations came with the building of the dam in the 20th. Several of the treestumps have been tumbled into a small rectangular gravel bed outside the Gilboa post office. There's a bunch more outside the general contractor's trailer at the jobsite.

Outside the geology the work is just the usual pile-nannying, and the weather has been cold and rainy, and, as I mentioned, the coffee is awful.

And the Thorns struggled to an unconvincing home draw.
It's midnight here, and I have to get up to go see my kid sister in the morning. But I've got some time on my hands this month, and I'll be back around this joint in just a bit.