Thursday, December 4, 2008


Precedent O'Bama, Wedding Bombs, and Other Good News

Maybe, If You Are Smoking Something Really Good


November 9, 2008


I’m going to slit my wrists. I’ve been reading the news again. I always want to slit my wrists when I do that. I know, I know: I’ll get encouragement from readers. OK, then, I won’t, just to spite them. Ha.

One story says that Americans owe some bizarre sum on the credit card and god knows how much on the McMansion and on the five-hundred horsepower riding mower with a mini-combine, backhoe attachment, and satellite GPS for mowing the half acre. I think I’m supposed to feel sorry for them. Actually I think they are a persuasive argument for eugenics.

I don’t get it. What is wrong with these idiots? Debt is easy to avoid. Herewith some blinding wisdom: If you can’t pay for it, don’t buy it. You saw it here first, a percipient contribution to economic theory. Works like a charm, too. Or how about this? Don’t buy more house than you can live in. Move over, Keynes, Ricardo, here I come.

Another story is about how banks are all unhappy because they’ve got bad loans. A probing question if I may (characteristic of this column): Who made the bad loans? Permit me another searing insight. If you lend money to people who can’t pay it back, they won’t. I know, I know, a difficult concept. Not something a Wall Street banker would know.

Thank god America isn’t a third-world country. In Mexico, the radio station of the local university, and other commie fronts, grouse about la impunidad, impunity, meaning that high-ranking criminals never get punished. You know, like the GQ-cover psychopaths who brought about the savings-and-loan scandal, or Milken, Boesky, and Levine, or Enron, and now the impoverishment of half the planet. But what can you expect? Mexico is a very corrupt country.

What I think is, we need a mass hanging. But no. The culprits will just reshuffle into the administration of Precedent O’Bama and remain attached, tick-like, to the withering federal dugs. The rats in the rafters may not be savory, but they look out for each other.

But on to matters of more import than whether we have anything to eat. I read that the world has gone euphoric over Precedent O’Bama. Simultaneously, O’Bama wants to send more troops to Afghanistan. I’ll give euphoria two more weeks. His chief virtues are that he isn’t Bush and isn’t McCain. When you have to choose between two candidates of whom each is worse than the other, you can bet life ain’t gonna be ham hocks and home fries.

Next, I see that the military has bombed another wedding in Afghanistan, killing forty-one. I guess it’s because civilians are easier to kill. They don’t hide very well. Usually they are unarmed.

Anyway, on BBC World News I saw some gringo colonel, maybe called Greg Julian, explaining that it was the Taliban’s fault when America bombs weddings. Most likely the plane had Taliban pilots. Recruiting is getting difficult, and I guess the Air Force has to take just about anybody.

But it wasn’t the fault of the military. In thirty years of covering the Pentagon, the military never did anything wrong. That’s a pretty good record. I know because they told me.

Anyway, Colonel Julian was impressive. He clearly had the makings of a future chief of staff. He was good-looking, delivered the word from corporate in grammatical English, and had the unnerving wholesomeness of a Christian Boy Scout. Definitely JCS material, depending only on his PowerPoint technique . He explained that the military goes to great lengths to avoid bombing weddings, that wedding-avoidance is practically an obsession, and they would try to keep from doing it too much in the future. I reckon it must have made any survivors feel good.

Funny, I too try to avoid bombing weddings, but I’m a lot more successful at it, despite a much smaller budget.

Now, I don’t want to sound cynical or anything. Still, I’d like to know how the good colonel would look at things if his daughter, if he has one, were having her wedding and kerblooey! Daughter and forty members of the family and close friends suddenly become clotting goo over a fifty-yard radius and the bombers say, “We’re sorry, kind of, but that wedding looked just like a troop concentration.” Troop concentrations always feature a woman in a white dress holding flowers. It’s what they teach at West Point.

Stray memory: I read once that bin Laden said he wanted to suck the US into long drawn-out losing wars to bankrupt the country and end its influence over the Moslem world. I don’t know why I thought of that. I need to focus better.

On to jollier topics, specifically federal porn. I find in Der Spiegel Online that Germany has decided against strip-search x-rays at airports. It’s because Germany carries civil liberties and privacy to impractical extremes whereas we, more realistic, know that the most innocent-looking girl probably has a bomb hidden in her skivvies. Those cheesecake scanners doubtless cost only a million bucks each, a song, times all the gates in all the airports in the world. This establishes pretty clearly that no economic interest is involved.

I bet the guys at TSA (Tits Scanners, and Ass) fight over the job of monitoring that screen. Hooboy. Especially as resolution increases. (Pressing research idea: Are color x-rays doable? Bombs probably come in different colors.) Maybe the government could recoup the cost by selling instant prints on request when some hot-ticket babe from a cheerleading squad comes through. Her boyfriend might want them. The rest could go to marketing at cellulite reduction outfits.

Yet more glad tidings. A while back I read where the Chinese did their first space-walk. On another page it said that as usual the Chinese economy had grown at twelve percent or some such number, and then I found a website talking about how China was buying up all the natural resources of Africa. The US can’t because it doesn’t have any money. It owes it all to China. And that’s because we borrowed from Beijing to make kinky nekkid-women scanners for ill-bred affirmative-action retreads at Homeland Security to look at, and bombs to drop on Afghanistan. Which doesn’t make sense, because Afghanistan was pretty much rubble from the start. It’s always been rubble.

I wish we had adult leadership like China has.

And now I hear that NSA is buying Bride magazine. Sounds like they’re hunting. Hey, stay single, or wear Kevlar and disperse quickly. (OK, I may have made that part up. I’m not sure.)

I can’t take any more of this. I really am going to slit my wrists. I swear it. Anyone need A-Positive? Send a bucket.


Air Power

Zooming and Booming for the Sheer Hell of It


November 16, 2008


OK, today I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about air power. You will never need to read anything else. These revelations will provide blinding insight into our current wars. Here we go. Hold on.

The key: Air power is really good for things it is really good for, but works lousily for things it doesn’t work well for. (If “lousily” wasn’t a word, it is now.)

The foregoing is genius incarnate, and would revolutionize military thinking if the Air Force understood it, which it doesn’t. As is usual with our late-simian species, the fly-guys' motivations are instinctual and emotional, with reason a pretext slathered on afterwards and accountability a no-show.

Now, it is chic among Military Reformers and other fern-bar Clausewitzes to say wisely that air power is impotent and useless and accomplishes nothing. This is not true. In its own kind of war, it works splendidly. Often it is the only thing that could. Anyone who thinks that airplanes are pointless gewgaws should talk, say, to Japanese survivors of the Coral Sea and Midway, or of Yamato’s death run.

See, what airplanes are good at is blowing up expensive, visible, identifiable things, to include other airplanes. An aircraft carrier in the open Pacific fits the bill nicely. You can’t hide aircraft carriers very well. They don’t look like anything else. Even a Marine pilot would never mistake one for an olive orchard, or the cathedral at Chartres, or the Gobi Desert. They just don’t look the same. With enough bombing runs, an airplane can hit a carrier, which reduces the number of enemies instead of increasing it.

What air power isn’t good at is fighting guerrillas and insurgents, especially in populated areas. Why? Lots of reasons. First, pilots have no idea what they are bombing. They are flying at three hundred miles an hour over countries, often obscured by trees, in which everybody looks exactly like everybody else. So they guess, or bomb where the intelligence children tell them are terrorists. (That was almost a sentence.)

Now, the word “intelligence” sounds much better than “bureaucratized clandestine confusion,” which is more accurate. The intelligence agencies have enshrouded themselves in an aura of inexorable usually fatal infallibility. (“My name is Bond…Fred Bond.”) This is good PR. It is little else.

These are the same intelligence agencies, remember, that didn’t know where the Japanese fleet was in 1941 despite rumblings of war, agencies that were taken by surprise by the North Korean attack in 1950, and then by the Chinese entry into that war, that didn’t anticipate the behavior of the Vietnamese in that war, despite Bernard Fall’s books and the highly documented experience of the French. When the military made a well-executed raid into Hanoi to free American prisoners at Son Tay, the intel people hadn’t noticed that the prisoners had been moved. They were surprised when the Berlin Wall went up, and when it came down. They failed to foresee the collapse of the Soviet Union. (Their reason for existence was to know about the Soviet Union.) They missed on 9/11. Earlier, when the Air Force bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, it was because the spooks didn’t know where the embassy was that day. (Granted, embassies are hard to locate. They roll about on wheels, creep down alleys at night, and wear dark-colored clothing, that sort of thing.) The intel weenies also didn’t foresee the behavior of either Iraqis or Afghans, despite great archives of historical evidence (unless you think the US knew about these upcoming messes and invaded anyway). And so on.

These are the geniuses picking targets. You see the problem.

Now, we read a lot of PR about “surgical strikes” and “precision weapons.” Think carefully about this. Intel says a terrorist leader of indescribable potency is in a house in a flimsily constructed suburb. The Air Force then makes a surgical strike with a five-hundred-pound bomb, taking out half a block. Pretty surgical, that. Perhaps it was the right block—it is possible—but still kills seventy-five people. The male relatives of the dead then join the insurgency. Ray-rah air power. The Air Force can’t afford to understand this, as then it would have to find a day job.

So why does the Air Force engage in counterproductive tactics with totally inappropriate airplanes? Because it’s the only kind of airplanes it has. Why? Because fast, screaming, roaring, flashy zoom-buggies with lots of screens and switches and rockets are fun. Never, ever underestimate fun as a driver of military policy. A hot fighter is the world’s pizzazziest, priciest, swooshiest video game, an air-borne dirt bike with all the fixin’s. Really. You may think I’m trying to be snotty and clever. Think again. (All right, I’m trying to be snotty and clever, but what I’m saying is still true.)

Do you think I spent thirty years covering the military because I wanted to butcher puzzled third-world illiterates tending goats? No. It was fun. Low-level pop-and-drops in an F-16 out of Shaw AFB, F-15 air-to-air against Guard A-7s over Holloman, bomb runs at four hundred feet over hazy Wyoming badlands like the doorway to hell in a B-52—god, what a freaking trip, far better than growing up. Snazzy mask and helmet, five-g turns with your face flowing back behind your ears, world going inverted, burners kicking in…Hoo-ah!

It’s not called a joy stick for nothing.

And jet jocks get paid to do this. Whether it serves a practical purpose doesn’t matter. Not with rides like those. If you think these things don’t matter, you are out of your mind.

However, the glory days are coming to a close. Fighter guys are now in the position of cavalry in 1914, addicted to the Noble Horse but, in an age of machine guns, wire entanglements, and massed artillery, as viable as slide rules in Santa Clara. The reason is the armed drone, the Predator being a good example. These things now have the range, optronics, data links, and so on to carry serious missiles to hit the wrong targets and piss off entire populations as well as real horses—fighter planes, I meant to say—can. They are lots cheaper than piloted whiz-gizmos, and a bloodless unaccountable CIA geek in Colorado or wherever can fly them. Same stupid effect, but none of the fun. Call it anti-chivalry. Death by nerds without souls.

In a century we’ve gone from Baron von Richthofen to a dinosaur eyeing a thin crust of ice forming on his swamp and thinking, “This can’t be good.”

See? Now you understand air power.


The below explains pilots. This column believes in one-stop shopping.

What Have the Bastards Done to My Country?

Thoughts in an Insurrectionist Vein


December 4, 2008

Oh god. It’s getting worse. Everything. I knew it would. Death and taxes are long shots by comparison.

So I’m in Washington, a federal enclave, as someone said, surrounded on all four sides by reality. This was supposed to be a medical trip to have vital internal organs pawed, sliced, and injected with strange fluids. Kidneys, carburetor, remaining brain, that sort of thing. But this is Washington. Horrors everywhere.

Hillary. I don’t hate Hillary. She’s smart, tough, sane, been around, corrupt, and personally repellent as a fanged garden slug. By today’s standards, that’s a bargain.

But why the hell is she Secretary of State? How many years has she spent abroad? What languages does she speak? What does she know about the street in Karachi, Cairo, Guadalajara? She probably thinks Mumbai is what you eat with a RC Cola.

See, what’s happened is that we are ruled by an incestuous bridge club clucking to itself in what amounts to a thermos bottle. Hillary is SecState because Precedent O’Bama wants to heal rifts within the Democratic Party. It would make more sense to poison the lot, but never mind. Everything is about domestic politics. And these dismal retreads promote each other in circles. Hillary goes from governor’s wife to First Basilisk to senator to SecState. Oh help.

Same with Cuba. The good of the country doesn’t matter. We gotta keep the rubes gurgling with delight. That’s all that counts. The US continues to make itself loathed in Latin America, in substantial part because of that stupid embargo. Why? Because a noisy rabble of pseudo-Cuban losers in Miami votes Republican. But of course it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks. All those funny little countries around the world really don’t have anything we need, except our economy, and China will give us visas to visit our industry. Perhaps.

And then there’s this business of having a black president. It seemed like a good idea. We’ve had white ones forever and it hasn’t worked, so a black one made sense. We have now established that a black president is exactly like a white one. Next time, maybe a Melanesian or Lao. I hoped O’Bama would stand in the Rose Garden and holler, “You blue-eyed muhfuhs done got it all wrong, and I’m gonna unscrew things.” No. Smart guy, decent guy, guy you could heist a brew with and tell dirty stories, but it’s business as usual. Same tired hacks.

I think I know why. Inexperience. Ponder his relation to the Five-Sided Wind Tunnel on the Potomac. I spent thirty years covering the military and I know all the Pentagon’s songs. O’Bama doesn’t. He missed Vietnam, wasn’t in the military, hasn’t had much to do with generals or soldiers. It’s not his fault and it isn’t a character defect, but there it is.

So in walks Power Point Petraeus, back from bombing weddings in Afghanistan. Power Point is impressive. I’ve never met him, but I’ve met plenty of identical units. Erect posture, firm handshake, carefully deferential enough but you can just tell he’s strong and reliable. And he can sling the lingo (“Ohhhh, I love it when you talk that way.”) with the stern honesty of an overgrown Boy Scout and the guile of a serpent, and he’s patriotic to the gills and he’s got charts.

And O’Bama doesn’t know better. So Afghan brides will continue to need Kevlar dresses.

Meanwhile, things get loonier on the street. I went to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore from DC by train and, so help me, they’re doing the same garish security theater on trains that they do at hairports. Cops and German Shepherds everywhere. To buy a freaking commuter-rail ticket, you need a photo ID, and they type heaven know what into a computer.

Okay, suppose I show up at the Obedience Training window with my suitcase full of Semtex, buy my ticket with my own ID or any ID with a balding ugly mutt on it—they barely look at it—and blow the 9:07 MARC to metallic sawdust. After the fact they assemble my shards, check the computer, and determine that It Must Have Been Fred. This miraculously brings the dead back to life. Bet you didn’t know I had such powers.

None of it makes sense, except as Pavlovian conditioning. Every few minutes a tedious recording plays in stations saying to call some number if you see suspicious behavior. Blah blah blah. No one pays the least attention. No one writes the number down. Has anyone ever called it?

“Uh, I want to report suspicious behavior.”

Voice, annoyed at having the Redskins game interrupted: “Yeah, what?”

“Well, there’s like, this guy, he has a funny looking raincoat and he keeps, you know, looking around, and I think his left hand is twitching.”

“Uh…yeah. Tell him to stop twitching.”

“What if he, you know, blows up or something?”

“What am I, your mother?”

I don’t get it. Something is happening to this country. It still has a lot going for it—friendly people, great diners, good blues, country bands, widespread availability of illegal drugs. But the government is out of control. Everything is illegal and watched. It’s getting so you can’t shoot cats from a car window with a twelve-gauge any more. Who wants to live in that kind of world? We’ll probably be overrun by cats, drown in them.

Today I went to the Hill to see the new Visitors Center. As usual, cops everywhere, squad cars parked on sidewalks, steel stop’em-cars plates rising from streets. People don’t seem frightened, but the government is, or pretends to be.

The Visitors Center turns out to be underground at the Capitol. It is said to have cost $761 temporarily deflated green ones and has the mental fingerprints of Albert Speer all over it: It’s huge, drab, squarish, monumental without even being imposing, with the élan of a K-Street office building.

I don’t get it. This is the country that produced Peggy Lee and Tampa Red and the ‘fitty-sedden Chevy, the country that spits techno-whizz golf carts onto Mars just like it was even possible, that brought the hamburger to gorgeous bejuiced perfection and invented most of the modern world. It’s the home of sand-lot baseball and Little Peggy March and BB guns and Tasty Freeze. It is, in a phrase, one fine place.

How did it sink to being a proto-Soviet surveillance state that builds vast awful Visitor Centers in the style of a Hitlerian mauseoleum? You can’t go to the john without a photo ID anymore. Something ain’t right.


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