• Thanksgiving 2018

    November 21, 2018 // 9 Comments »

    Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving (Not in Iraq)


    Nine years ago this day I was in Iraq at a forward operating base embedded with the 10th Mountain Division and alongside all those men and women missing Thanksgiving with my family.


    Not one article, Tweet, or video clip ran that said we were wasting our time out there, that we were being used as a political tool by the president, even though we were, and the waste was 1000x greater in every way over whatever’s going on on the Mexican border.


    You are concerned about how the U.S. is treating people of color? In Iraq, we were killing them, not refusing them asylum. Women, kids, old men, whatever, collateral damage.


    The media didn’t criticize our deployment then, they cheered it, and when they criticize it today only in one place, Mexico (the troops are still in Iraq for another Thanksgiving, by the way) just Because Trump they either don’t know or likely don’t care how empty, rude, and hypocritical they fucking sound.




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    Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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    Bowe Bergdahl Swapped for that Marine in Mexico (Satire)

    November 3, 2014 // 3 Comments »

    marinemexico


    Just ahead of the highly-contested midterm elections, Obama administration officials are denying rumors that they swapped Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier himself freed from Taliban captivity through a swap for five Guantanamo prisoners, for Marine Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi.

    Tahmooressi was released by coincidence just before the election after several months in a Mexican jail.

    “It was a good ride,” said Bowe Bergdahl, “but like I told the Taliban guys on my last day with them, hey, nothing lasts forever.”

    Background: Bergdahl

    Bowe Bergdahl, serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, ended up in Taliban custody. Some soldiers in his former unit straight-out called him a deserter who aided the enemy and put American lives in danger.

    The Army report on what happened is classified, so we’ll never really know. What is known is that to free Bergdahl, the Obama administration made a controversial decision to swap five Taliban prisoners at Gitmo (the U.S. government previously called one of them “among of the most significant former Taliban leaders detained”) for Bergdahl.

    Background: Tahmooressi

    Tahmooressi’s case is much less dramatic. He was no longer even an active-duty Marine when he drove his truck across the Mexican border “by accident” with three firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition inside. He did not declare the weapons and was arrested. He denied accusations he intended to sell the weapons in Mexico. His case became a right-wing tool used against Obama.

    Very-briefly-Obama-UN-ambassador Bill Richardson was sent to Mexico last week and by some coincidence, just days before the contested midterm elections in the U.S., Mexico dropped all charges against Tahmooressi and he was returned to America for “humanitarian reasons,” ostensibly for treatment for PTSD from his Afghan service.

    Or Is It…

    Tahmooressi’s release was attributed by the Obama administration to successful diplomacy and advocacy on the part of the Obama administration. But speaking far off the record, sources inside the White House gave a different version of events.

    “Ahead of the midterms, we needed to remove this tool from the Republican toolbox, so Tahmooressi had to come home,” said someone who looked like National Security Advisor Susan Rice but really, really was not. “But of course this had nothing to do with politics, whatever, you people are the dumbest country on earth anyway. Bergdahl was just a political tool for us and always knew his deal wasn’t for keeps, and so it was time to call in that debt. Nobody rides for free.”

    “We offered Mexico six Taliban from Guantanamo as a first try,” said Bill Richardson, just back from south of the border, knocking back a quart of black market tequila with a Cuban cigar. “Hell, in Afghanistan we got Bowe, who was a lousy Army guy, for only five out of Gitmo. I figured since Tahmooressi was a Marine we’d up the ante, and eventually we were ready to give the Mexicans as many Taliban as they wanted for him. We even had JSOC on short-call to go get us some more fresh meat Taliban if necessary. But no go. Mexico wanted an American for an American.”

    “At that point,” chimed in not-Rice, “the option set started to close down. We offered Justin Bieber, but a) he turns out to be Canadian and b) the Mexicans said ‘hell no.’ I think it was Joe Biden who first suggested we trade Bergdahl, but as soon as he said it we all knew it was the way to go. Barack called Hillary, who signed off on the deal, and we executed.”

    Bergdahl Responds

    “Like they said, my release from the Taliban was always subject to change,” said a friendly Bowe Bergdahl from his Mexican jail cell. “I knew from the beginning if the Army report on my ‘going over’ to the Taliban leaked out I was headed back to Kandahar, so I’d kept a bag packed anyway. Then this Mexican thing came up and since it included free food and all, I figured why not. You gotta give back.”

    “And who knows, right? The day may come when I can get swapped a third time for someone else, and thus continue to serve my country and its short-term election needs. I still get the occasional Facebook poke from the Taliban, so that door is always open.”

    Mexico

    Refusing to speak on the record, Mexican authorities confirmed that all Americans are insane. Despite taking Bergdahl in what they term as a face-saving move, new directives now require Mexican police to conduct field mental illness tests on any Americans prior to arresting them.

    “Can’t they just stay on their side of the border?” asked the Mexican official in exasperation.




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    Morris Berman’s New Book, Spinning Straw into Gold: Chicken Soup for Reality

    September 5, 2014 // Comments Off on Morris Berman’s New Book, Spinning Straw into Gold: Chicken Soup for Reality

    Look at any list of popular books and you’ll see it obsessively packed with self-help manuals, Chicken Soup for Teens, How to Be a Better Whatever, books about having better sex, better relationships, better jobs. At the same time, we live in a world under attack from advertising that cleaves to a single theme: whatever you have now, it is not enough. You need to buy something new! to smell better, look better, have a bigger TV, a bigger penis, a faster car. Buy a Model II today! and see it overwhelmed by the new must-have features in the Model III, three months later. With all that need for personal and material improvement, it can be darn hard to just be… happy. So you get back on the circle and read some more self-help books.

    Repeat. Want more? Desire less.

    Morris Berman Writes to Us

    Morris Berman, whose prescient work detailing the decline and literal deflation of the American economy forms much of the philosophical underpinning of my own upcoming book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, has written a new volume, Spinning Straw Into Gold: Straight Talk for Troubled Times.

    Unlike his previous books, which focus on society and economy in decline, Spinning Straw is different. Maybe.

    Actually, maybe not. The themes here are indeed about society, and economy, but zoomed out then into a very personal view. Berman reflects on his own life, with mention of a failed marriage, his decision to move to Mexico, all part of tracing his personal journey away from a world based on I Want into one where one’s happiness and contentment is divorced from more material things. But this is no hippie trip, and Berman’s book is no feel-good experience with a happy ending. In that sense, and it matters, Spinning Straw picks up the themes from his previous books and slaps them down inside you. In an interview, Berman spelled it out:

    I was living in Washington, D.C. for eight years before I moved to Mexico, and I told myself I would be like the proverbial lotus in a cesspool. All that happened was that I became a dirty lotus. I discovered that the best way of escaping American values—values that were killing me—was to escape America. It was the smartest decision I ever made. Most of us don’t realize how the corporate-commercial-consumer-militarized-hi-tech-surveillance life has wrapped its tentacles around our throats, and is squeezing the life out of us. We merge with “our” narrative so as to have some measure of safety in our lives; but what if it’s a death-oriented narrative? (Usually it’s some version of the American Dream, which is the life of a hamster on a treadmill)… Life has a tragic dimension, and no amount of Oprah or Tony Robbins can change that. To hide from sadness—and one way or another, that’s what Americans struggle mightily to do—is to remain a child all your life. Most Americans have never grown up. Americans are probably the most superficial people on the planet. To dull your sadness with Prozac or cell phones or food or alcohol or TV or laptops is to suppress symptoms, and not live in reality. Reality is not always pleasant, but it does have one overriding advantage: It’s real.


    Old Kyoto

    In reading Spinning Straw, I was reminded of my chance encounter in old Kyoto with an elderly man who was one of the last makers of hand-crafted wooden buckets for use in a Japanese bath. He worked slowly, and seemed to make very little money, selling his product to mostly other elderly people. I asked him why he did what he did and he said “Because wooden buckets are good,” turning away from me. It was up to me to discard the simple truth– he did what he did because it was right– or learn from it. The old guy could care less what I thought, he had buckets to make. So it is with Spinning Gold; the author is not selling seats at a seminar or a CD collection of his happy talk; there are no “steps” or Five Most Important Things to Do Now. Indeed, you walk away with the feeling that while the author has much to say, if you’re too stupid to listen he could probably care less. There are buckets to make.

    If the author was however forced into making some sort of list, it would be short. Slow down. Think more, purchase less. Look for meaning more than Wikipedia-ized facts. Enjoy the dance. The journey’s all we have until we get there, then that’s that. Hell, the whole book’s only 90 pages.

    Those 90 pages are packed with stuff to think about. The need to break a cycle of what the author calls “stuckness,” the focus on elevating little things into big things where you end up screaming at a minimum wage worker because your coffee isn’t right or the Bubblicious is out of stock. There is the danger of buying (!) too deeply and quickly into a “narrative,” a way of life dictated to you where you falsely think you’re picking up safety and security but instead fall into a trap. Choosing competition over community isn’t like deciding caff or decaff, it is a philosophical “vector” that shoots you down a very different life path.

    Blended into the pages are inklings of the “old” Berman. Obama’s seemingly overnight transformation from Hope and Change into a nightmare of drones and perpetual war is offered as an example of what happens when one doesn’t care about one’s soul. Power and influence require you to “inject poison into culture’s veins on a daily basis.” But if instead you follow the fairy tale of making straw into gold, you have a chance at a life that is full, meaningful and pleasantly finite– you can be happy and content once and for all. As Berman says, life is over faster than a blink, and then all you are is dead for a really long time.

    You get it. The book is brief, the lessons long. In the time it took to read this review you could be well-stuck into Berman’s thoughts. Better to put this down and pick those up before another blink goes by.



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    Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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