Bullshit Sandwich By Katko

Bullshit Sandwich By Katko

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Goodbye Dummy

It’s all over now Baby Orange


The Trump Presidency is over.

It may take a while to die completely, or it may happen in days, but Donald Trump’s rowdy, crass, insult-laden term as the POTUS is coming to an end. Doomed by hubris and a tone-deafness so extreme it’s almost awe-inspiring.

This man who ran, and won a campaign by externalizing the angst, and anger of an electorate that has been run over by career, special interest teet-sucking slime balls for generations, has made perhaps the last fatal flaw a politician can make in this country: He doesn’t have the ability to even feign humanity or compassion.

He can’t even pretend to give a shit about a 32 yr old woman who was run down like a dog in the street by a deranged psycho Nazi creep. He doesn’t have enough humanity to look at his own daughter and beloved son-in-law and see the legacy of anti-semitism. He doesn’t have the internal compass to make a moral distinction between avowed racists and non-racist protesters. 

Even Nixon wasn’t this tone-deaf.

His complete lack of empathy is unprecedented. So why is this a fatal flaw now? After all, this is no surprise, it was Trump who told a protester at a campaign rally that the crowd should beat him up and he’d pay the legal bills, right? It’s fatal now because he has made himself a political leper.

Dingbats like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Mike Pence, might not see the desperate humanity of a Mexican worker who sneaks into our great country in an effort to feed his family. They might not believe that people can follow the tenants of the Holy Koran and still live a peaceful, love-filled life. They may see the “free market” as the answer to all of our problems – these are political ideas, they are, character flaws, and spiritual deficiencies, but even as objectionable as some of these beliefs might be to some of us, they still lie within the boundaries of acceptable political discourse.

Trump has stepped over that line, in such a devastating way, that even these creeps can’t afford to hitch their political wagons to his lame and bow-backed horse.

Generals spend a life-time earning, and commanding respect. Rising through the ranks with a skill set that is political, and result-oriented. Elected officials spend endless days, months & years eating bad spaghetti in VFW halls, calling constituents and donors endlessly and navigating through legislative jungles and inter=personal mind games to hold on to their precious jobs. Staffers and lobbyists and all of the other professionals who live within our system, work very hard to get to where they are, and stay there.

Donald Trump has now made it impossible for any of these people to be seen with him. He will be forced out by these mercenaries, or more interestingly, become the first President in our history to be a lame duck in the first year of his first term.

Trump has utterly failed to perform perhaps the most important job a President has. That job is to say the right thing at the right time in the right way. To put a compassionate face on in front of the cameras and make the American People feel like we are a caring people. To take a tone that tells us that no matter what divides us in the way of politics, or religion, or race, we are united in our opposition to hatred and murder. This is what even mediocre Presidents do. Not our guy Donald. He continues to insult. He brags that he watched what happened in Charlottesville, VA “more closely than you” – that’s right, he’s not only smarter than us all, he watches TV better.


The death spiral of this presidency has begun in earnest. The only question is how long will it take, and who will he take down with him.


This is how it's done. Presidents, acting Presidential in the face of tragedy.



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I solve all the problems of the country, and create a utopia under Donald Trump. Your welcome.


Finally, this horrible election is over, and the American people have chosen to elect an insolent, pouty, reactionary cunt of a business man, who lies like a rug, and plays keyboard-tough-guy on Twitter. Remember however, as we lament the results of the election, that the Democrats chose to brazenly and unapologetically rig their own primary process in order to install a candidate who is also a world class liar, the wife of the most scandalized president in recent history, and the very symbol of a system that is about corporate money, and pandering to big business. A system that does not have a single fuck to give for the working poor in this country. Student loan debt. Bank failures. Job losses. Health care debacles.

There is no awareness or concern in Washington on either side of the aisle for the plight of working class people. People who live paycheck to paycheck, and are always on the brink of disaster, financially – and as a result, emotionally.

Bernie Sanders spoke to those people, and Donald Trump spoke to those people. Hillary Clinton looked down on those people and characterized a segment of Trump’s supporters as a “Basket of deplorables”. Politics is a game of perceptions, and to many the perception of Hillary Clinton is that she is the ultimate insider. An elitist and fundamentally dishonest.

So now that both parties have effectively imploded, and the American people have spoken, what do we do? How do we move forward, and truly remake this system, because if Donald Trump has a mandate, it’s this: Remake the system.

If you voted for Trump, stop gloating, and stop babbling about putting Hillary in jail, and building a wall. That’s not how we do things in America. Putin puts political enemies in jail, and your guy doesn’t want or need any more Putin bullshit.

If you voted for Clinton, stop crying. Most of you who did, did so reluctantly anyway. She was a shit candidate, and your party is as corrupt as the Republicans.

If you were a Bernie, or Johnson supporter, or supported one of the other insignificant nobodies, this is your chance. Not to rail against Trump, but to rail against the system. To agitate for real change, and to look for common ground with the angry and disillusioned people who elected him.

What do we agitate for? Banning muslims? Building as huge wall? Legalizing grabbing women by the pussy? Of course not you dummy. We need to agitate for things that will make a real change in this country, something that will remake our political and social dynamic. Something that will fulfill Trump’s mandate to remake the system.

Have no fear, here is my 4 point agenda.


1.       Universal, single payer healthcare. This is the only civilized way. Having healthcare be a free market exercise with no regulation, is what got us in this spot to begin with. We are a nation of capitalists, and I believe that capitalism is a force for change and a healthy way to foster innovation and imagination, however, we cannot allow individuals to seek insane amounts of profit, at the expense of our nation’s health. Healthcare is an INFRASTRUCTURE cost, not a competitive exercise. There is plenty of room for profit, competition and innovation inside a single payer system. Pfizer is a Swedish company. Sweden has single payer, universal healthcare. They seem to be doing fine. And if your argument is that the only reason Pfizer is still profitable is because they can gouge us Americans for their boner pills, then I would ask why we’re protecting a pharmaceutical company who’s business model is to fuck the dumb Americans.

2.       REAL campaign finance reform. Elected officials spend more time kissing corporate America’s ass to raise money for their next election than they do working for us, the People. There needs to be a limit on spending, and an end put to PAC’s, Super PAC’s and all other loopholes. Television and radio time should be free, and distributed equally, they are public service announcements, and should be treated as such, since when is a US election a revenue stream for privately owned media corporations? Oh yeah, since the media corporations became major donors and advocates.

3.       Higher education tuition reform. I’m not going to flat out say that a college education should be free. In a perfect world, maybe, but I believe State schools, and Junior Colleges, should be easily affordable to all students. I have a plan for that – a way for students to earn an education. I believe having an educated population is also an INFRASTRUCTURE cost. And by graduating students with crippling amounts of debt, we stifle our creativity, and put them in a terrible position at a time that should be full of promise and hope. So how would I pay for it?

4.       Mandatory National Service. Every citizen should be required to do some sort of service between the ages of 18 and 21. The Military, a domestic Peace Corps… this service cannot only defray the cost of higher education later, but it can teach kids, who aren’t college bound, trades. I believe if a kid is talented and passionate about say, medicine, then we should educate that kid. College, med school, residency, and in exchange he/she can serve their country as a doctor, or an engineer or a social worker (just a few examples) for a number of years. They can do this in the Military, in the inner city, on reservations or any number ways once their education is complete. Think of the public works we can get done. Think of the invaluable experience for a kid to travel, to see how other people live in this country, to be exposed to life outside of their neighborhoods and outside of their culture. Think about teaching the value of National Service. Again, this is an INFRASTRUCTURE cost, and an even greater benefit to the society as a whole.

So there, I turned lemons into lemonade, and solved all of our problems.

While I sit back and wait for my phone to ring – I expect the Trump administration & various think-tanks & other pollical wogs & wankers to call me at any time, to come help save the country – I will turn CNN back on & flip around the dial… watch celebs lose their shit, and watch political “Experts” miss the whole fucking point.

While they talk about white voters, and education levels, polling data & metrics, and gape open mouthed at statistics showing that Trump got more Latino votes than Romney did four years ago, those of us here in the flyover country will know the truth.

This election wasn’t about race, or immigration, or being a sexist pig, or Hillary Clinton's emails. 

This election was about class. About hopelessness, about working 40 plus hours a week and having nothing to show for it. And most of all, it was about a class of people who seem to believe that they are entitled to a lifetime job & fat bank accounts while we work, sometimes two jobs, and still have to decide between a doctor’s visit and the utility bill.

They don’t give a fuck about us, and we the people (well, not ME, but collectively…) just put a big turd in their punch bowl… a big, orange, pouty turd.

God help us all.


Now go agitate!

Monday, January 25, 2016

You deserve Donald Trump

Andy Ostroy wrote the following blog today on HuffPo

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andy-ostroy/what-if-trumps-campaign-w_b_8796526.html

In the blog, he fantasizes that perhaps this whole Donald Trump thing is big social experiment designed to "hold a mirror up" to America's latent racism and general stupidity. Ah what a wonderful fantasy that is, except those who the mirror was meant to enlighten, still wouldn't get it.

America deserves Donald Trump. We have become such a vapid and shallow culture that Donald Trump has become a near perfect reflection of who we WANT to be. He's rich. He's a TV star. He has a hot wife (so some think...yuck!). And he says whatever comes into his mind and makes no apologies. This is the person that America wants to be.

To me, the more interesting question is HOW did we come to see this as the American Archetype?

Our self enforced repression is part of it. The "Justice Warrior" culture that so many people identify with, has in large part made those who don't quite drink that Kool-Aid, feel oppressed and judged, and at risk. The language policing, the shaming of those who make bad or even offensive jokes... The zeal with which these people seek to utterly destroy those they disagree with, or are offended by, is downright scary. The ruination of the first Amendment, by BOTH sides is as intolerant and un-American as McCarthy... or Mussolini. Donald Trump has taken up the banner their El Duce, and in becoming the MOST offensive and least filtered head-moron-in-charge, he makes people feel safer to go on being the moron they are. Remember, the right to be offensive, insensitive and stupid is an all Ameican, Yankee-doodle, Constitutional RIGHT. Trump is living proof. It is not however, a leadership quality that I admire... Trumpsters seem to.

Our perceived weakness on the world stage is real... kinda. I don't think for one minute, the rest of the world see's America as weak really. The rest of the world see's America as a huge dumb Baby Huey, who tramples all over the globe willy-nilly and plops down on a region or country when they feel like it- we kill people, wreak havoc, and then get up, slobbering, to amble away towards another corner of the globe. We are an obese, dumb baby, with little direction and a very short attention span. That's how the rest of the world sees us, and it's pretty much the truth. As long as Trump feeds you the line that nobody fears or respects us, he's at least half right. No country large or small is dumb enough not to fear us, we have proven to be the greatest country of all time at killing people and destabilizing huge regions of the globe, and that is a fearsome thing, but alas, our inability to actually produce a positive result - by any measure - in all of this, has meant we are absolutely NOT respected. Trump's amateurish and ham-fisted attempts to re-kindle a kind of Reganesque national pride movement, is good enough to fool the stupid & unsophisticated, but nowhere near enough produce the results of the Great Comminicator. (lying, double dealing shit-bird, that he was).

We are lazy. America has become a country of spoiled children. We have no attention span, and no pain tolerance. We don't want to hear that in order to "fix" things in our country it will take sacrifice and hard work. People in America throw a hissy-fit if the wifi in Starbucks isn't fast enough - or god forbid, down! We are a country who wants everything instantly, easily and with the least possible pain. Donald Trump is the easy answer. He gives the instant gratification of sound bite after sound bite. His indignation and outrage at just about everything strike a huge chord with our collective id - damaged and feeling like victims, we look to the Donald to fix it all. Maybe Donald Trump will make us all over in his image. We too can become rich, swaggering loudmouth's.

What a bunch of dummies we are. We deserve Donald Trump.



Thursday, January 7, 2016

10 Reasons San Antonio is better than Austin.



In no particular order:

It's NOT Austin.
If Austin is 1/10th as cool as people who live in (or just moved to) Austin think it is, it would be Istanbul... or Vancouver. or some other actually cool city.

Tacos.
We have more taco shops than we do churches. 'Nuff said.

Danger.
Regardless of it's Disney like qualities, The Riverwalk harbors the real possibility that a drunken tourist will actually fall IN the river. What's going to happen on 6th street? You might step in a puddle of bum-vomit? You can do that in any real city, like San Francisco, or New York.

 Culture.
In San Antonio if your a white, middle class hipster with a tech job your a minority - hell, if your a non Hispanic of any kind in San Antonio, your a minority. We have a long and deep Hispanic culture in this city & we like it. Hell, this City is built around an old Fort where 1200 Mexicans killed a handful of Texans, that's what were known for! Orale! Remember the Alamo gringo!


Music.
Being the "live music capitol of the world" is nothing to brag about when the live music you hear walking down 6th street is the same half-assed cover of "Texas Flood" blaring at ear-splitting decibels out of every open doorway. I'll take a jukebox or a mariachi band over that shit any day.

Affordability.
You can still rent an apartment in a cool neighborhood for under a grand a month, and even buy a house if you have a normal job. Austin's real estate market is more like Southern California than South Texas. (is Austin South Texas? or is it Central Texas? Who cares, you get the point.)

We don't try and convince people we're weird.
video
"Keep Austin Weird" is the dumbest slogan for a city since my hometown of Riverside, CA adopted "Riverside- it's the happy side" back when I was a kid in the 70's. How weird could Austin be? It's the seat of state government and has a big ol' lake in the middle of it named after Lady Bird Johnson! Over-hyped BBQ joints, a proliferation of gauged ears and hip beards, bad music blaring in the streets... if this is the criteria for being weird, than Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the weirdest place on earth!

We're close enough to Austin to come home.
Social Distortion doesn't play the Korova any more... But if they are at ACL Live or Stubb's, we can go to the show, and then come HOME. We're not above coming to Austin, we're just really glad we don't live there.

Traffic.
San Antonio has an actual freeway system that allows you to circumnavigate the entire city and get from one side of town to the other somewhat reasonably. Austin traffic seemingly aspires to be the 405 in L.A. or the 5 in Seattle... Keep trying little sister, soon enough, soon enough. Maybe "weird" is hipster code for gridlocked?

People are NICE here.
There is none of the jaded "I'm so cool" vibe that seems to pervade Austin. We know we're not cool & we are just fine with it. I bought a bottle of Wild Turkey at the Twin Liquors on Red River and 7th this summer, and when I went to the counter to pay for it, the clerk, instead of ringing me up and sending me on my way, started trying to up-sell me "oh hey man have you heard of Tennessee Hippy brand bourbon? it's aged in hemp infused oak barrels for 32 years and prayed over by an Amazonian shaman..." or some other such nonsense. In my neighborhood, I walk up to the counter, plunk down my bottle of Turkey, the lady charges me $26 and tells me to "have a blessed day" on the way out the door. Of course I'm going to have to have a blessed day! Or at least an interesting evening.










Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Jihad is a political movement, not a religious one.


A little lesson on the Middle East.

Before I do, a disclaimer – I’m not an “expert”- at least not a bona fide expert. I’m just a guy who spent a little time there, a guy who worked with a ton Muslims, spoke to them, asked them questions, and then formed my own opinions based on who and what I knew. Also please know, that most of the “Experts” you see & hear are academics, or politicians who have a viewpoint and a larger political agenda. I’ll speak directly about Iraq, because that’s where I have been, and that’s the country I have the most insight about.

On the outskirts of Baghdad, modern freeways & modern traffic jams.
There are two Iraq’s, or maybe three, if you count the divide between Shiite and Sunni – which you kinda have to these days. There is Modern Iraq, well educated, somewhat cosmopolitan. Mostly Sunni or secular Shia, they were not fundamentalists, although proud Muslims. They lived a life we would recognize – they lived in modern apartments, huge estates, and depressing & vile slums, just like we do.

We used to make a turn off of ASR Vernon and on to ASR Sword on the northern edge of Baghdad – this is a modern freeway interchange, right below a large arcing overpass we called “The Widow Maker”. This interchange would be familiar in any American city –as we made the right hand turn onto ASR Sword there was what appeared to be a condo complex of detached two-story stucco’d little houses separated by well-tended palms and planters, that looked like it could have been any of 1,000 condo complex’s in Palm Springs, or Phoenix or any large Southwestern City. It always struck me just how familiar it looked. I recognized it.
Before the war the city of Baghdad was a bustling Middle Eastern metropolis, the women would have mostly worn a hajib (a headscarf), and make-up and jewelry, not a burkah. The men wore slacks and collared shirts, some in suits, some in jeans or track suits. In all it would be an exotic, but somewhat familiar place, the call to prayer would echo five times a day all through the city, the smells would be in turn third world (poop & diesel exhaust), and exotically, deliciously spiced. Bus' would rumble, traffic would snarl, vendors would sell, and old men with prayer beads would sit in sidewalk cafe's smoking and visiting. This would be one of the Iraq’s.


The second Iraq is rural, it’s coated with a fine brown film of river silt that hovers in the air and is whipped up into fierce dust storms that block out the sun. The villages and towns are made out of mud brick.
A rural Iraqi homestead.

 You can see them baking the bricks in the sun along the roads at ancient brick factories. Made by hand, in ancient molds. Families live in compounds, three or four generations in houses & scattered buildings surrounded by high walls made of this mud bricks. The walls are always perfectly level and sometimes have a smooth coat of mud covering them, other times exposed brick. The houses are one or two stories, and when they are being built you can see the scaffold system made out if what looks like bamboo poles… scary enough looking to make even the laziest OSHA inspector shit his britches. 
Roadside brick factory.
Construction.
In the countryside you see people living much like people lived in biblical times. Small mud brick houses, livestock and children in the same courtyard, the only modern things in evidence are the ubiquitous 3 foot florescent lights that hang above the doorway, a satellite dish, sometimes a small Indian made Tata pickup truck that we used to call “clown cars” because they look like ¾ scale version of a regular vehicle. Once in a while you’ll see an air conditioner. (I’m sure many, many more mud huts have air conditioners these days seeing as we left many thousands of LG air conditioner’s laying around in our hasty retreat.) These people tend flocks of sheep, heard camels, grow crops or scoop up the salt that rises from the desert floor – pack it into 50lb bags, and set it by the road to be picked up by the salt trucks –( this is women’s work mostly.)

video
One of my convoys rumbling through a small Iraqi town.


 It is these people that we fail to understand. We fail to grasp just how a country, or a region becomes “radicalized”, I have an idea, and maybe it will help you understand the complexity of why we are seeing what we are seeing, and hopefully help you see that hating a religion because of the actions of some who subscribe to it is not helpful, and will never lead to a solution.
In rural Iraq, life revolves around the Mosque. The Mosque is where all of the social activities, news, rumor spreading and praying takes place.
A roadside temporary masque, used during the Shiite pilgrimage to Karbalah.

Rural shopping center.
Roadside tire shop.
Everything in rural Iraq emanates out into the countryside from the Mosque. Much like churches in rural America in days past, religion is the center of life. Many rural Iraqi’s are illiterate, and ALL that they know about the world outside is fed to them from clerics. The perceptions they have of the West are the perceptions that are fed to them, and here is the real crux of the issue – these clerics aren’t giving religious messages, they are giving POLITICAL messages, cloaked in religion. The message is that the west and Israel want to destroy them. We want to eradicate Islam, and make them subjects, we want to steal their resources, rape their women and make them all Christians. It’s that simple. The hard question is why? And why in this world of instant information and satellite dishes can’t the people themselves see that this is not true?


In many places they have.

 “The Arab Spring” was a direct result of social media and the ability to communicate, to organize and to mobilize quickly. As a result, they effectively overthrew two huge and longstanding regimes in the area. The cellphone video and social media frenzy that was set off by a Tunisian fruit seller committing suicide in protest of his repressive government lit a spark, and the rising flames were fanned by the information superhighway. This, I believe is cause for hope.
The problem is, when a very large and very powerful dictator is deposed, a huge vacuum is formed, and something is going to fill that vacuum.

In Egypt, it was initially the Muslim Brotherhood, which of course was cause for much hand-wringing in the west, but Egypt, unlike other countries has a very well educated populace, it is country that makes a large part of it GDP off of foreign travel. They know westerners, they are a fairly secular society & after a few whiffs of the bullshit the Brothers were laying down, and a few seasons without many dollars flowing in, Egypt is self-correcting. Which is not say it is becoming “Western”, but becoming a country that wants to coexist with, and entertain, the rest of the world.

Libya didn’t fare as well. Into the vacuum that was left by Kaddafi came thugs. While not as religiously fervent or as sickeningly violent as ISIS, there is corruption and unrest there that makes the early days of “free” Russia look like nirvana.

While we’re on the subject of the USSR, do you really think Ronnie Reagan shouting at Gorbachev from Checkpoint Charlie to “Tear down this wall” ended the Soviet’s reign of shittyness? It didn’t. America hasn’t created a lasting regime change through force since 1945, and the only reason the Japanese are (or were, before the Chinese and Koreans supplanted them as the electronic manufacturers to the world) making everything better, cheaper and faster than we are these days is because we invested in them. The Marshall plan, both in Japan and Europe are how you effect lasting regime change. Simply stated, you insert something better into the vacuum you created and you nurture it, and supervise it. We left the Emperor intact, we didn’t try and impose our religion or culture on the Japanese. 

You don’t install an in-fighting cadre of self-promoting Sheiks and then skedaddle like we did to Iraq.

There are numerous great books written about the fiasco that was our failed and completely incompetent attempt to rebuild Iraq.

Into the vacuum we created in Iraq we left two things – a mountain of dead bodies and a decade of ill will.
We also left tons & tons of garbage.

 The average Iraqi, unless they were a die-hard Baathist, knew that Saddam was no good. His reign of terror and the outright murder of countless of his own citizens was well known, but Saddam, like all good dictators was smart enough to make his people dependent on him. Everything from food to petrol was subsidized in Iraq. It was a complete welfare state. Uncle Sam marched in there and told millions of people that the free bread and the cheap imported goods were over. It was time to pull themselves up by their sandal-straps. Simultaneously, we were killing their neighbors, vaporizing what was left of the infrastructure and disrespecting their culture & religion. This does NOT foster a sense good-will or elicit feelings like -“oh gee I love these Americans and their kooky ideas”!
So into that resentment filled vacuum come “fanatics”. 

Clergy with a POLITICAL agenda, and the ear & loyalty of country folk & of the repressed Shia, who had long suffered at the hands of Saddam and his Sunni Baath party. Also disaffected were the minority Sunni, who in the decade since the US invasion, had been repressed by the puppet government WE installed, and hunted by the Shia militias we paid and armed... it was a perfect storm, we had managed to marginalize, and make victims of everyone!
 This created a jihad against the freshest, and most decadent enemy there was, us. The evidence of our lack of piety, of our decadence was everywhere. On their satellite dishes, in their cities & on their roadways. 
Iraqi's selling us pirated American movies and TV shows at COS Scania, south of Baghdad, Iraq.

We were an easy and hateable focus for a people who pride themselves on modesty, piety and chastity. Every single Iraqi had had at least one bad experience with us.
ISIS rose to the top of the jihadi hit-parade because of their stunning ability to kill people in spectacular fashion, and their savvy use of the internet and social media. To a certain segment of the population, the young, religious and dissatisfied, ISIS is more energetic, more dynamic and more attractive by a long-shot than any puppet regime we could have installed and then abandon. They appeal to the core of what many an Iraqi feels deep down in their soul - that they have been wronged by the west, and victimized for decades by Sadam and that Allah will bless them if they wage jihad. These ideas, this plan has been sold to them by religious leaders using their piety and their faith to achieve a POLITICAL end.

 Religion is just the delivery mechanism, and the fuel that feeds the fire. The exact same way Christianity once did during the Crusades. 

We, buy into the belief that it’s a religious thing, and we serve THEIR ends.

Our penchant for over-dramatizing, and generally missing the point in this country is old news. While "The Donald" and every other political hack talks about banning Muslims, and generally panders to the American peoples fear - (remember- fear is how they control you, you dummies.)- our reactions are feeding into their political agenda. 



Thursday, December 31, 2015

New year, new Bullshit.

The rebirth of  Bullshit Sandwich

It's been over four years since I posted on here... oh my what a four years! 

I'm out of Iraq & into South Texas.

On October 2, 2011 when I last posted on this blog I was sitting in a "dry hooch" (a housing unit with no running water) at Camp Adder in Talil, Iraq. I was about to be fired for a minor scuffle I had in the staging lanes with a Pakistani who was called "Crazy Man". I attempted to quit before I was actually fired, but because of a dust storm and the perils of flying "space available", the termination paperwork caught up with me literally as I was boarding a flight to Baghdad. Oh well, it was the career equivalent of suicide by cop. I would never have left there voluntarily - the money was too good, and I liked my job too much, but I had a begun to have recurring dreams of going home, and bad things were starting to happen both on and around my convoys. The war was closing down and there was no maintenance for my vehicles - which wasn't really a new problem, but also radios were being removed from trucks, and the subcontract workers, who filled my convoy's, were starting to feel the end coming, and their internal conflicts were coming up more and more, and we at KBR had less and less energy to quell the discord and keep things running smoothly. All of this led me to the uneasy feeling that I was in a place where I could no longer keep my guys safe, and I could no longer function outside the wire in a way that made me feel comfortable. True to form, in a pattern that has repeated itself in my life like the chorus of a bad & infinite pop song, I blew it up & took the responsibility off of my own cowardly shoulders. So, it was "chicken or pasta" (the phrase we always used when someone was about to be, or should be fired... "Joe fucked up, it's gonna be chicken or pasta for him" in reference to the choice of meals on the long flight home). 
I loved these guys, the core of "The Pakistani Express", and my crew, but it was time to go home.

How to commit career "suicide by cop". 


I was home less than two weeks. Long enough to take a casino trip with my buddies and lose a grand, long enough to buy a 2002 Harley Davidson FXDX from a guy who was fresh out of prison. Long enough to spend some time with my parents, my daughter Piper, and then pack my shit into two duffel bags and a backpack, strap em on to the DX and head for Salt Lake City in a soaking rainstorm, and over Snowqualmie Pass just ahead of the snow.
Brand new used motorcycle.
Not long after returning from Iraq, I had been in contact with a company in Victoria Texas in an effort to find work in the booming oilfields of South Texas. The nice lady at Dillon Transport told me "we're not going to hire you over the phone, if I was you, I would just come here to Victoria - I guarantee you'll find a job" Sounded reasonable to me. I got on the phone and called my buddy Kevin "the Professor" Ryver - we had spent many a night on the OMY Yard at Joint Base Balad together, smoking cigarettes and gently arguing politics, and he was one of the handful of guys I had a real affection for and remained friendly with after we went our separate ways in the desert. "Professor! what are you doing?" "Playing golf and drinking wine mostly" was his response. "Wanna go to Texas and see if we can get in on the oil boom?" I asked. "Sure, why not." It was that easy. 

I consulted the weather forecast and various maps, and determined my best window for getting over the Cascades on a motorcycle in October - a dicey endeavor. I set a date, figured my route and told the Professor when I'd arrive in Salt Lake City - once there we'd either caravan down to Victoria, Texas or I would cram my motorcycle into the back of his Nissan pick-up and we'd ride together. That was the extent of our plans. We were flush with war-profit-cash, and off to seek another pile in the oilfields.
Somewhere in the Cascades, this is what I brought to Texas.


On the day I was to leave Orcas Island, I went to the hardware store and bought myself some shitty plastic rain gear. In typical northwest fashion the sky was purple and damp. I turned to my mother as I was about to pull out of her driveway. I wanted to stay and wait for the weather to clear - I said "Oh no it's raining..." She looked at me and said "This is what you wanted... be careful what you wish for" in a way that did not encourage me to stay, but in fact said to me "Go on dummy, you got what you wanted, don't chicken out now". I repeated that phrase all the way to SLC, and sometimes even now when I'm stuck in a pounding rain, or the wind is blowing me and my beloved DX all over the highway I'll laugh to myself and think "This is what you wanted... be careful what you wish for" and it's true. It's all I ever wanted, and I love it.

I made it over the hump and onto the east side of the Cascades. I stopped for the night in "the Palm Springs of Washington", Yakima. I had dinner at the Outback steakhouse with my old pal Kay, who was lucky enough to be living there (sarcasm), providing some symmetry to my Iraq experience, as I had spent my last night in WA before shipping off to Iraq via Houston with her some 3 1/2 years before in Bellingham. This time we didn't get blind drunk watching a female ACDC cover band, but we had a nice meal and a catch-up.


My ass was sore in Baker City, OR

The next morning I took off hoping to put some serious miles behind me. The sky was clear, and except for some wind, the riding was beautiful. I was understandably rusty, as the last time I had ridden a motorcycle was in late 2008 when I'd parked my cobbled-together Yammabobber in my brothers garage, and fled San Diego to prepare for my first trip to Iraq. The seat was hard, and the bars were too low. At highway speed it felt like warp speed after years of riding on Orcas Island with it's max speed limit of 45 MPH. I stopped a lot... sometimes after only 20 miles on the highway. My back ached and my hips would cramp up as I straddled the big fuel tank and hung on while being buffeted with high desert winds and passing semi's. My ass was sore. On the second night I made it to Boise, easily within striking distance of SLC the next day. I was tired and worried about how the hell I was gonna make it to Texas on this thing if it didn't fit in the Professors truck. Fuck! I hope it fits in the Professors truck. "This is what you wanted..."
Day Three


The third day was better. I consulted my Google maps and found a route off of the Interstate, through the rolling Idaho cow country and into Utah. It was one of those transcendent motorcycle days. I could smell the livestock, the damp alfalfa and feel the temperature changes in the hollows and hills. I still couldn't stay on the DX for as long as I would have liked, but I was enjoying the ride, and arrived at the same hotel the Professor was calling home in SLC some time in the late afternoon.

After a few days in SLC, and after successfully cramming the DX into the bed of the little Nissan, we were Texas bound. We stopped in Albuquerque the first night, at a casino, where I lost another grand playing poker - I took a bad beat after shoving all my chips in the middle- I'd turned a medium flush, and was sure my opponent, a loose player who tried to bully players with over bets and  strong raises out of position, would fold. it would have been a nice pot to pick up right there, and I would have been up a few hundred. To my surprise he called instantly and turned over the ace high flush, I was toast. I decided not to re-buy, went up to the hotel room and slept the sleep of the defeated.
Shiprock, NM. Heading to Texas


The next night we were in San Antonio, just 100 miles from Victoria. We stayed in a Motel 6, and early the next morning we were on our way south.

We found an extended stay motel on Victoria's main drag, and by Halloween we had secured jobs with a crude hauling outfit who had a yard in Victoria and home offices in the Panhandle. It all happened so fast. We had one day to find an apartment, buy a bed & a TV and then jump on a plane for orientation in Dumas, Texas. We took the first available two bedroom apartment, bought a couple beds, threw everything into the new pad and hitched a ride with our new boss Jimmy to the Houston airport. We lived in that apartment together for over 2 years, until I left Victoria for San Antonio. We never had livingroom furniture, our bedrooms were like hotel rooms, and we'd meet in the kitchen, or on our way to work, it was as if we'd moved our Iraqi hooches to Texas, not real homey, but functional. In the years since, the Professor has bought a house in Victoria, had a heart attack, quit trucking, and is now living the slow, easy life of a substitute teacher. I also bought a piece of Texas, a little house in an up-and-coming neighborhood in central San Antonio, I have a very understanding girlfriend who has put up with my bullshit for three years (on and off - she doesn't always put up with my bullshit), I have become a full member of a motorcycle club that I love dearly, the FXDX is better suited for long rides these days, and after having only her to rely on for transportation for the first 3 plus years I lived here, I'm no longer bothered by highway speed or big trucks. My exit from the oil field was - as usual - another suicide by cop situation. I had long been miserable, and was suffering from anxiety so badly that I went to the emergency room once convinced I was having a heart attack. My anxiety was caused by my hatred of my job and the dismal, sinking feeling that I was wasting my life doing something pointless, and hollow.
Ah the beauty of the oilfield.

And THAT has led me back here.

I am currently writing a book about my time in Iraq, and my life in general. Bits of that may appear here, but mostly I'm going to write about whatever the fuck I feel like. I will post pictures, political rants, pop culture rants, media reviews and remembrances. Hopefully some of it will be funny. Hopefully some of it will be thought provoking or even better, offensive. 
life is good.
Home sweet home, DX has had a facelift and a ton of miles, but still steady as ever.


New Year, new Bullshit.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Leadership, Douchebags & the theory that you can be one and not the other.

So, today's blabbering is about leadership. Leadership is a responsibility, an honor, and a skill that can be learned, honed and nurtured.

I do not claim to be an expert on leadership, or a great leader. I am however, a student of leadership. I try to be a good leader both in my work and as a parent. I believe strongly in leading from "the front". I believe in modeling behavior that you expect your subordinates to follow. (or kids to emulate). I'm very very proud of the fact that both of my kids have great work ethics, and strong senses of whats right & whats wrong & I'm pretty sure they get that, at least in part from watching me work my ass off most of their life, and listening to me bitch & pontificate on whats right & whats wrong... But enough of that, I don't wanna write about how bitchin my kids & I are... we are, but today I wanna write about DOUCHEBAGS.

It seems an inordinate number of people who rise to leadership positions are also in fact major fucking douchebags. Some are idiot douchebags, some are vindictive, petty douchebags, some are power-hungry, ambitious douchebags, and some are lazy, worthless douchebags.

The Army's Leadership Manual (FM 22-100) centers around the leadership principal of "Be, Know, Do".

"Be" is a place where douchebags really fail... it refers to living the Army's core values. Those values-loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage are never present in a douchebag. However douchebags often will tell you at the top of their lungs just how loyal, selfless and courageous they are... it's a weak attempt to throw a smoke screen in front of their douchebaggery while they plot the next cowardly, disloyal, selfish act that will, they hope get them a promotion or to the golf course quicker, or just give them a little more breathing room.

"Know" is... well, knowing. Knowing your job, knowing the policies & procedures. Having a technical grasp of the job. Many douchebags are very very knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the job, especially policies & procedures, because most policy and procedure manuals are like the Bible, or a Bob Dylan song, wide open to wide ranging interpretation - you can always find a section or sub-paragraph that at least kinda justifies his or her douchebaggery. They study those manuals like they were Yeshiva kids studying the Torah. It's the only thing most douchebag leaders actually work on - finding ways to justify the fact that they suck as a leader & lack the courage or imagination, or character to actually LEAD.

"Do" is where the rubber meets the road. Much like "be", "do" is about living the values that you espouse, and acting on them. You can be a courageous person in the safety and security of your home or office or "comfort zone", but when push comes to shove, when the chips are down, when the shit hits the fan, when all the stupid cliche's run out- then, what the fuck are you gonna "do"? A good leader does what he has to do and lives with the consequences, a douchebag tries to find a reason to avoid the unpleasant, delegate it, wrap him/herself in an obscure policy and then craft a way to blame his cowardice on someone else.

My life has been chock-full of douchebag leaders, but never, ever have I seen a higher concentration than at an un-named company I may or may not currently work for. The art of douchebaggery is practiced by the leadership at this company with impunity, and pride. The ability to take personal responsibility for your mistakes and failures is a measure of you character... These douchebags hold meetings and hearings and douchebag circle-jerks with the sole purpose of figuring out just WHO to pin "it" on. "It" is usually some kind of accident, incident or even act of god and invariably, they find a policy or procedure that has some tenuous relationship to the incident, decide a subordinate didn't follow it, and lay the blame there. However, when it makes their lives easier,they allow subordinates to act in direct opposition to the "values" they claim to have because to be corrective, to "do" the right thing is hard, inconvenient or unpleasant, and they justify their cowardice with a barrage of douchy bullshit.

It's so inspiring to find leaders that mentor, live the standards they set for others and actually seem to care. Unfortunately they are the exception to the douchebag rule.

As a leader, I am in a position right now where if I was my own subordinate, I would fire myself. Follow that shit? Kinda convoluted huh? Stick with me here. I violated a key and sacred policy. I knew I was doing it when I was doing it, and I knew the consequences, and still I did it. I don't regret it,and I don't make any excuses for it. I will gladly take personal responsibility for it and move on, but I think I naively believed that in some way I could expose the douchbags for who and what they are... but alas douchebags protect their own, and boats don't rock, and you can't fight City Hall or, a cabal of douchebags.

You, me, none of us will ever fully escape douchebag leaders. They are as much a part of life as traffic jams, bills and airport security, a pain in the ass of varying degrees. We will have douchebag Presidents & douchebag bosses & on down the line.

So if you ever find yourself being a leader, check out FM 22-100, and if you don't have the stones to "be, know,do" then find a leader that does & follow him/her, just don't be a fucking douchebag.

We have enough of them.