War is War and Hell is Hell

This image from the AP shows smoke rising over an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Far better minds than mine have wrestled with the ongoing violence in the Middle East for lifetimes, so I’m not really qualified to make pronouncements as a political pundit. That said, a comment I saw over at reddit resonated loudly with me:

Hawkeye: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.

Father Mulcahy: How do you figure, Hawkeye?

Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?

Father Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.

Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them – little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.

This conversation from M*A*S*H was probably contrived by a scriptwriter, but I’ve quoted Alan Alda before and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had come up with it himself or at least had input.

Gaza is home to 1.7 million people, living in ghetto-like conditions that are difficult to comprehend for anyone not living in a war zone. 

Without any cognitive dissonance or hypocrisy, one can be completely in favor of Israel’s existence and security but still believe that the campaign of Palestinian suppression, ongoing settlement building in the West Bank, and the rejection of a two-state solution in the Middle East on the part of the Israeli government is inhuman and wrong. Sadly, voicing such an opinion almost always results in accusations of anti-semitism, but that can’t be helped.

Bibi Netanyahu has said:

“If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more ‎violence. If the Jews put ‎down their weapons ‎today, there would be no ‎more Israel’‎”


I think that’s completely accurate, but I also think that what is being perpetrated on the Palestinian people rises to the level of crimes against humanity, and somehow it has to stop.

In the name of all that’s holy, it has to stop.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

My Facebook Manifesto

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Two suggestions I’d make to Facebook would be the ability to make a post “sticky” (so that it always appears at the top of my timeline) and the ability to disable comments for any post. That would pretty much solve a lot of issues I find with this online corner of my world.

Until that happens, however, I craft this little “manifesto” in an effort to uncomplicated my life a bit.

There are only so many minutes in a day, and only so much energy – physical and emotional – that I have available for use in moving my life forward and making a difference in the world before my earthly sojourn is over. I enjoy sharing bits of my life and my thoughts and things that I think are important or just ways to brighten someone’s day on Facebook, but endless political/social debates are draining and serve no purpose.

My online presence is essentially an extension of my home. I wouldn’t let someone come into my house and decorate it, in the words of Huck Finn, with “the ignorantest kind of words and pictures made with charcoal.” And while I have nothing against honest and meaningful exchange of ideas, the Internet has changed the way people interact – and I don’t have time to read or deal with the conflicting opinions of thousands of people. It’s just too draining.

So it comes to this: My wall is not a place for political debate. I will post things I believe, things that are important to me, and things I want to see happen in the world. Or sometimes just something to make others smile. If I see a comment appear on one of my posts or a link on my wall that I don’t happen to agree with, I’ll simply delete it – without fanfare and without response. This doesn’t mean I don’t value you as a friend or as a person – it just means that I’m doing some virtual housecleaning. If you have differing opinions, you have your own page: feel free to use it as a place to express those things that are important to you. If I’m interested, I’ll come over and see what the opposition is thinking. That said, sometimes (rarely) I get caught out posting something that’s patently false because it seemed plausible and I didn’t do my research. I’m always grateful for vigilant friends pointing out my folly.

It works both ways. Your wall is like your home, and I’ll do my best to keep my mouth shut if I see things you post that are not in harmony with my beliefs. My one exception to this is if I see someone posting things that are hateful, hurtful, bigoted, or abusive – in such cases I would have no compunctions about speaking out.

To me, this approach makes more sense than blocking or unfriending people whose friendship I value, and from whom I doubtless have much to learn in many areas – and it will help me to preserve my sanity in these most “interesting” times.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

Patriotism is not Nationalism.

I categorically reject the concept that I do not love my country because I support “Change it or lose it” instead of “Love it or leave it.”

1200px-EcologyTheta.svgThe Ecology Flag

Our inhuman horror of a president, a spoiled, rich, unethical businessman and game show host, has proven again and again that he believes women are property that he can abuse as he pleases; that blacks and Mexicans are sub-human and should be removed from the country; that Muslims are undesirables who have no place in America; and that the poor and the sick should die and reduce the surplus population rather than drain the profits of his rich cronies.

It is *because* I love my country, and its Constitution, and by extension the flag and anthem which symbolize these things, that I support protests against the ongoing racism and injustice that are endemic in our society.

I respect my country far more than you do, Mr. Racist-in-Chief, by demanding change and supporting the oppressed and sidelined of our nation.

Wrapping yourself in the flag and screaming “Respect it or get out!” is the kind of attitude that allowed World War II to happen. I will not allow history to repeat itself in that matter, not in this country or under this Constitution.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Literacy Test: “I can make out the headline”

“Story of the Negro who went to register. The white man taking his application gave him the standard literacy tests: “What is the 32nd paragraph of the United States Constitution?” he asked. The applicant answered perfectly. “Name the eleventh president of the United States and his entire cabinet.” The applicant answered correctly. Finally, unable to trip him up, the white man asked, “Can you read and write?” The applicant wrote his name and was the handed a newspaper in Chinese to test his reading. He studied it carefully for a time. “Well, can you read it?” “I can read the headline, but I can’t make out the body text.” Incredulous, the white man said, “You can read that headline?” “Oh yes, I’ve got the meaning all right.” “What’s it say?” “It says this is one Negro in Mississippi who’s not going to get to vote this year.” ”

-John Howard Griffin, Black Like Me

Voter suppression was long an approved tactic in the South to keep people of color from voting; “Southern states abandoned the literacy test only when forced to do so by federal legislation in the 1960s.” (Wikipedia)

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Now we have the state of Georgia trying to implement an “exact match” rule that requires that citizens’ names on their government-issued IDs must precisely match their names as listed on the voter rolls.

The state maintains that this is an attempt to reduce voter fraud, but individual voter fraud is largely a myth, and the odds of its occurrence is vanishingly small. I for one cannot count the number of times my name has been misspelled on official documents, especially because it’s not your vanilla white anglo-saxon protestant name like Smith or Jones.  Research by Ted Enamorado with colleagues Ben Fifield and Kosuke Imai have shown that this “exact match” rule could potentially disenfranchise around 900,000 voters in the state of Georgia, and that’s troubling in the extreme.

The right to vote is enshrined in the Constitution. Governments interested in free and fair elections should be doing all they can  to make it easy for people to register and vote, up to and including making election day a national holiday, and implementing universal, automatic voting registration through the DMV and/or other entities.

Gerrymandering remains a terrible, terrible problem. The Electoral College and the existence of superdelegates cloud what should be a straightforward one-person one-vote election process. While the US has traditionally ranked high on a comparative scale of free and fair elections worldwide, cracks are beginning to appear in the structure, particularly with evidence of wholesale foreign influence via electronic disinformation campaigns, as well as direct foreign influence-peddling at the highest levels of our government.

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… because it does.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

It sure is a scary time for men

At least, according to the thermonuclear bowel evacuation currently disgracing the Oval Office. (Yeah, I’m talkin’ ’bout you, Donny).

He had no problem mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for her “unfounded allegations.” He has no problem claiming that George Soros is paying all these democratic protesters (read: Women) to protest. He has no problem apologizing to Brett Kavanaugh for the anguish he was subjected to during the orchestrated circus the GOP called a hearing and investigation. And he has no problem saying that this is a “scary time for men,” worried that they might be unjustly accused and their lives ruined on a whim.

Well, isn’t that just special?

The damage inflicted on our nation by execrable, hateful, power-drunken despots like 45 and Mitch McConnell and their congressional sycophants will continue for decades, generations even. But if the catastrophe spawns a sufficient storm of outrage from average Americans, specifically women, and specifically the young, and specifically minorities – all groups targeted by Cheetolini for particular disdain – and they get to the polls in 2018 and 2020 to vote, our nation may yet survive as the republic which the founders envisioned.

There is hope. A song written by Lynzy Lab and posted to YouTube has already garnered half a million views in three days.

Lyrics:

Hi, I wrote a song and it goes like this:I can’t walk to my car late at night while on the phone
I can’t open up my windows when I’m home alone
I can’t go to the bar without a chaperone
I can’t wear a mini skirt if it’s the only one I own
I can’t use public transportation after 7 PM
I can’t be brutally honest when you slide into my dms
I can’t go to the club just to dance with my friends
And I can never leave my drink unattended…

But it sure is a scary time for boys, yeah
Gentleman band together make some noise
It’s really tough when your reputations on the line
And any woman you’ve assaulted could show up any time
Yeah, it sure is a scary time for guys
can’t look at any woman or look her in the eyes
It’s so confusing, is it rape or just being nice
So inconvenient that you even have to think twice

I can’t live in an apartment if it’s on the first floor
I can’t be wearing silk pajamas when I answer the door
I can’t have another drink even if I want more
And I can’t make you feel invalid on the scene or ignored
I can’t jog around the city with headphones on my ears
I can’t speak out against my rapist after 35 years
I can’t be taken seriously if I’m holding back tears
And I can never speak earnestly about all these fears cuz…

It sure is a scary time for dudes
Can’t text a girl repeatedly asking for nudes
Can’t make a girl have sex when she’s not in the mood
And what gives her the right to give you attitudeIt sure is a scary time for men
Girls like to act like you’re to blame and they’re the victim
Her dress was short and she was drunk she’s not so innocent
Thank god your dads a judge and you won’t be convicted…

Oh that’s right… oh yeah, yeah;
It’s not such a scary time for boys
They’ve always had the upper hand, they’ve always had a choice
It’s time for women to rise up use our collective voice
The day to vote is Nov 6th so let’s go make some noiseGo vote

Mad props, Lynzy. The future of our nation is in your hands and the hands of young people like you.

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The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Zumwalt-class Destroyer

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Currently under construction at Bath Iron Works in Maine, the second Zumwalt-class destroyer being readied after sea trials. The first, the USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) was commissioned 15 October 2016, and this one – the Michael Monsoor – is slated for commisisoning in January 2019 (Estimated).

[This photo was taken on a lighthouse-viewing cruise out of Boothbay harbor. Not pictured is the Security tug floating very prominently between us and the ship, making sure our boat didn’t get too close.]

A lot of information about this class of ships can be found at Wikipedia.

The military funding and procurement process is a byzantine labyrinth that few can understand, fraught with politics and pork-barrel legislation and contractors vying for a slot at the government trough. But the story behind this project beggars the imagination, given that the Navy originally wanted 32 of these destroyers, and ultimately settled for three, with $9.6 billion in R&D costs spread over all three ships for a total cost of $7.5 billion per ship.

As if that weren’t bad enough, this class of vessel was designed around an Advanced Gun System, but the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) that was the only projectile usable turned out to be so expensive after the scale-back of the destroyer program, between, $800,000 and $1 million per shell (per shell!) that the program was cancelled altogether.  Designing a new shell would involve retrofitting the AGS, also unfeasible, and the Navy was left struggling to figure out how to re-purpose an obsoleted multi-billion dollar ship.

For what it’s worth, the ship does have some intriguing qualities, including its ultra-low radar profile, but one is left to wonder how such massive fiscal cock-ups could be allowed to occur.

According to Ed Prince, a political pundit who worked on numerous campaigns, there are five basic reasons for cost overruns in defense contracts.

  1. Congress/military keeps changing the specs. Nothing increases the costs like having to make changes mid-way through production. It also delays the production which increases prices.
  2. Conflicting needs missions of the armament. In an attempt to keep costs down, weapon systems will have to do multiple duties to meet the different demands of the military so instead of a clean, straight-forward system, a much more complicated one gets authorized even if it more costly.
  3. In an effort to curry favor with Congress, weapons manufacturers scatter the development and manufacturing process to as many Congressional districts as possible which is hardly an efficient way to build things and invariably causes over-runs.
  4. The current system often relies on former military personnel who have retired and then gone to work for the defense industry where they can earn many multiples of their military salary. It does not make for efficient oversight.
  5. Reality. If a program is going over-budget, what can the military do? Cancel the project? Presumably, they still want it. That would delay it even longer and that’s assuming that there is another contractor capable of producing the system.

Clearly, there may be a whole host of other reasons, but these seem reasonable to the layman’s eye. And since I’m neither an economist nor a military strategist, I really have no solutions to offer – but as a taxpayer, I know that this kind of expenditure, along with failed projects that have nothing to show for the money spent, rub me the wrong way. (The F-22 Raptor, close to $80 billion spent on 187 aircraft, has seen some service, but remains fraught with operational and training problems.)

Lately, despite 45’s tax cuts (which have been definitively shown to favor the wealthy over the course of the next 10 years), I keep feeling that tax season is creeping more and more in this direction:

2018 Tax Form

Now I know taxes are necessary in any republic the size of the USA, but I wish taxpayers had the right and privilege of indicating where their taxes were going. I’d be tempted to give all my taxes to the arts and education, and let the Navy hold a bake sale for their next advanced technology program.

No, that’s not practical, and the Constitution provides for the Common Defense, so a certain amount to maintain our armed forces is necessary, but I wish our legislators had more fiscal responsibility toward their taxpayers than to the lobbyists and corporations that fill their re-election war chests. That’s why it’s important for concerned citizens who favor progressive government to get their fannies into the voting booths this November, and henceforth forevermore.

In that vein, I realized that just a couple of tweaks to a famous song recorded by Nancy Sinatra makes it very relevant to today’s political landscape (with apologies to Lee Hazelwood!)

You keep saying you got something for me
Something you call yuuuuge but confess
You’ve been a’messin’ where you shouldn’t ‘ve been a’messin’
And now someone else is getting all your best

These booths are made for voting
And that’s just what they’ll do
One of these days these booths are gonna vote all over you.

You keep lyin’ when you oughta be truthin’
You keep losing when you oughta not bet
You keep samin’ when you oughta be a’changin’
Now what’s right is right but you ain’t been right yet

These booths are made for voting
And that’s just what they’ll do
One of these days these booths are gonna vote all over you.

You keep playing where you shouldn’t be playing
And you keep thinking that you’ll never get burnt (HAH)
I just found me a brand new box of matches (YEAH)
And what he knows you ain’t had time to learn

These booths are made for voting
And that’s just what they’ll do
One of these days these booths are gonna vote all over you.

Are you ready, booths? Start start votin’!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

No, Senator Hatch, 45 is not a “very good man.”

Before he passed away, and feeling the rapid onset of eternity, Senator John McCain expressed that he didn’t want 45 at his funeral, opting instead for Vice President Mike Pence, according to family members close to the respected legislator.

Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told CNN,

“I think that’s ridiculous. He’s the President of the United States. He’s a very good man.”

Feeling the backlash of public opinion, Hatch later apologized, saying

“I felt badly, I had spoken out of turn,” Hatch said. “I shouldn’t have said what I said.”

Whether that was a sincere apology or political mush because he was caught out is only for him to know. But the “very good man” part of that first quote is what got my hackles up. Oh, it’s not that Hatch is a die-hard Republican, Congress is full of those. People like McConnell, Ryan, Cruz, and a whole host of other supporters of 45, as inexplicable as that is to me. No, it’s the fact that Senator Hatch claims to be a member of my own faith, specifically the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That, by definition, makes him a Christian.

So let’s start with the Bible. In 1 Timothy 3, we read Paul’s admonitions about ecclesiastical leaders:

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Note: many people in the world don’t put stock in the Bible, and that’s fine – it’s their privilege. But Hatch does – he claims to reverence this book and its teachings, so it’s very relevant to his statement about 45’s character. In an article dealing with Evangelicals’ relationship with 45, the Washington Post wrote,

“Many have acknowledged the awkwardness of being both self-proclaimed followers of Jesus and the No. 1 champions of a president whose character has been defined not just by alleged infidelity but accusations of sexual harassment, advancing conspiracy theories popular with white supremacists, using language that swaths of Americans find racist, routinely spreading falsehoods and an array of casual cruelties and immoderate behaviors that amount to a roll call of the seven deadly sins.”

The hand-wringing, self-justification and scripture-twisting that 45’s religious supporters have brought to the stage is literally breathtaking. Our current *president fails almost every one of Timothy’s admonitions, and while some might say, “Oh, he’s talking about leaders of the church,” for me these are qualities that ought to apply to leaders of peoples and nations as well. And I’m not just talking about Republican leaders, either – I was heartsick when William Jefferson Clinton disgraced the office of the presidency (and in the Oval Office itself!) and have always felt that despite whatever qualities he brought to the presidency, he should have immediately stepped down.

But as this cartoon by Pat Bagley from the 70s illustrates, many Americans seem to tolerate a lot from their elected officials if it happens to advance their own interests:

Bagley - 3 Bears

The more you look at 45’s public persona, and public behavior, and public business dealings, the less he seems to align with anything one finds in the teachings of either the biblical or the historical Jesus.

But then there’s the Book of Mormon, another scripture that Hatch claims to reverence, where we find the story of Korihor, the anti-Christ:

“And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime.”

And that has pretty much been 45’s game all along – to paraphrase what I see in his statements and his actions and his tweets, “I’m rich, I’m powerful, I’m President, I’m the best, I’m yuuuuge, I can do anything I want, and there’s nothing wrong with any of it.”

Senator Hatch, as you look at 45 and his history, the history of questionable business dealings, irresponsible behaviors, dishonesty with contractors, countless bankruptcies, the adulteries, the dalliances, the sexual harassment, the hate, the xenophobia, the racist attitudes, the arrogance, the intolerance, the public mockeries of those who disagree with him, the inexperience, the incompetence, the unleashed and uncontrolled and unsubstantiated tweets, the megalomania, all of it – 45 makes Richard M. Nixon look like Gandhi by comparison. These are not the qualities of a “very good man.” You, and every other Latter-day Saint who cast a ballot for 45 have effectively put Korihor into the White House, and now we’re all reaping the political and social whirlwind.

Now before anyone accuses me of hypocrisy, let me quote the relevant passage for you:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own ye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

On a personal level, I leave all judgment to God, because I’m keenly aware of my own failings. But we’re talking politics here, and public service and honor and the common good, and I hold my leaders to the highest possible standards. If our chief executive and our legislators can’t be better than the rest of  us, they have no business leading us, because otherwise they can lead us nowhere but unto destruction.

The Old Wolf has spoken.