Dear General Kelly – Immigration Is Another Thing You Know Nothing About

You know, sir, if you “get up off your ass” and return my calls I could spare all my friends these missives.

Just a thought.

I recognize that you are an expert in your field – combined arms combat in four dimensions (outstanding, in fact, like a farmer in a field*). But, respectfully, what you know about immigration policy can be summarized in one word. In the vernacular it’s a nickname for a man named Richard … as well as other, ruder things. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

So, in order to help guide you away from sounding like a man named Richard, as you did today, let me provide a hip-pocket brief on some basics. Whip out your candidate camp stool – you still have yours, right? – your grease pencil and your laminated notebook: this will save your life one day.

1) Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival – aka “DACA” – was an administrative policy enacted by the Department of Homeland security (your last gig, you should be familiar with it) in 2012 that prioritized immigration enforcement against “bad hombres” (like the MS-13 with which your boss is currently obsessed) instead of people who were being productive members of society.

2) DACA has never been ruled “unconstitutional”. The one challenge brought before your boss took power was tossed by a Federal court for “lack of standing”. After that everything ground to a halt while we all waited for a new Administration to weigh in. Which you have, so there’s that.

3) Fun fact: Fox and Friends, Maria Bartilomo, Sean Hannity – none of those people are actually qualified to declare anything “unconstitutional”. I’m sure you have on you that pocket copy of the Constitution the NRA sends out with every pledge drive – should be in your left breast pocket, by regs. Refer to that if you require a refresher on the three branches of government.

You’ll note neither “lickspittle TV network” nor “talk radio” is mentioned in there. (Not in mine, anyway, but mine’s the 2000 edition).

I’ll wait while you confirm that.

Who knew, right? It’s OK – they don’t teach that sh*t in General school.

4) I can think of at least two valid reasons why people eligible for DACA would not “get up off their asses” and apply. (Hint: not laziness, as you seem to suspect). First, the application fee is $500. Crazy as it sounds, even some white, male, native-born veterans have trouble coming up with that kind of cash on the fly.

Second, and more to the point, signing up for DACA means depending on the faith of the government while voluntarily wearing a big, fat target. Ya know, like the chemistry professor in Larryville, KS your boys handcuffed in front of his kids when he was taking them to school this week. (…/ct-chemistry-professor-ice-…)

“Tell us where you live and we won’t deport you” may have worked in the previous Administration (except it didn’t – you *do* know the Obama Administration deported people at historic levels, right? If not …. TURN OFF THE F*KING AM RADIO.)


There’s no one alive – besides those who watch Fox and Friends for “fair and balanced” news – who thinks that will work now.

(As an aside, the NRA is wrong about who the “jackbooted thugs from the government” are – but you can take that up with me when you finally do call).

As my instructors (and yours, I’m sure – hell, I’m sure you said it yourself during your time at TBS): “Good advice, Marine. Laminate it, take it to the field – it’ll save your life one day.”



* Heh. OCS humor. Guess you had to be there …

Dear General Kelly – Loyalty

(First posted 31 January 2018)


You probably don’t know this, but we checked in to The Basic School in Quantico about the same time in 1987 – I was a newly minted 2nd Lieutenant, you were taking over the Tactics shop. You may well have been the Major I failed to salute that day; I couldn’t find my glasses and thought I could do without. (Turns out, not so much – and not all that’s gold around that place is 2ndLt bars. Who knew?)(Besides everybody, I mean). We almost certainly crossed paths again at some point at 29 Palms after the war, when you took over 1st LAR Battalion and I was with TEECG. Small world, huh?

I bring that up because we both served at a time, and in an organization, where loyalty was highly prized. Loyalty to our people; loyalty to our country; most of all, loyalty to the ideal on which our system of representative self-government was founded. We were loyal to the Constitution – not to princes, not to men, certainly not to political parties – but to the living document on which our Founders set out the principles by which we as citizens would run our country.

You and I both swore to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic” when we were commissioned. We swore it again every time we were promoted. You swore it again every time you took command. We both administered that oath to the Marines we promoted. Those were not mere words – they were the affirmation of our warrior priesthood.

After all that’s gone down this year …. I’m wondering if those may now be just words to you. Just something you say without thinking, by rote.

Our oath was to the Constitution; we never once swore to “uphold and defend the President of the United States from all enemies real and imagined”. It’s very clear to me, from the outside, that this President demands utter, unconditional loyalty to _himself_ and himself alone. He can’t even conceive of it working any other way – loyalty to a piece of paper? What the hell is that about? (never mind he has never shown any loyalty to his wives or his employees, let alone you – while we were both taught that loyalty works in both directions). This whole mess with the FBI? It’s because that organization is (nominally, at least) loyal to the rule of law. For all their flaws, Comey, McCabe, Rosenstein, et al feel the need to be loyal to their oaths, not the latest political overlord – and that’s why your boss wants them to be purged.

Leave aside the question of whether “cleansing” the FBI of people who are not 100% politically loyal to the current President is a good idea or a bad one. (We can get to that later). How can your repeated oaths to “support and defend the Constitution” possibly square with Caesar’s cult of personality? How can you, a man who repeatedly swore his life, his fortune and his sacred honor to “support and defend the Constitution”, so help you God, put up with this? Let alone support it with your daily thoughts, words and actions?

Is the Oath of Office just words to you now? Is this a manifestation of Stockholm syndrome? Was the opportunity to deport millions of brown people just to sweet to ignore? Is your contempt of silly-vilians so ingrained that you can justify this to yourself without discomfort? Throw me a bone here – I’m trying to understand.

You know these words as I do – they’re engraved on our hearts:

“First to fight for right and freedom – And to keep our honor clean;”

Are those just words for you now as well? Because every presser, every time you get up in front of a camera, every word you are recorded saying indicates that you’re neither fighting for “right” nor “freedom”, and (frankly) your honor looks like you polished it with a Hershey bar.

I have Brasso, Kiwi, some clean cotton T-shirts and everything else necessary to polish that stain out – you have but to ask.

Dear General Kelly – Pocohontas

(First posted 28 November 2017)


Yet another open letter, GEN Kelly. Are you as sick of these as I am? You can redeem yourself in my eyes by saying we are angry for the same reason.

“And I have to say, I said to General Kelly, I said, general, how good – here he is, right there, the chief; he’s the general and the chief – I said, how good were these code talkers?”

The Code Talkers were recruited from a population that was removed from their parents and forced into boarding schools, forced to trade the language they grew up speaking for English, forced to try to assimilate while not being allowed to vote, marry white girls, get jobs for which they were qualified. And they went to war for _us_, performed heroically, decisively …. and came back to a nation that had not changed in their absence. A good many drank themselves to death in the years after.

I wore the same uniform as the Code Talkers. Every November, people reflexively thank me for my “service” – like I’m some sort of fat, fallen superhero. These guys – they’re the Real Deal., the real superheroes. I’d throw all my medals away if I could go back to 1945 and meet them at the boat returning home and thank them the way the should have been thanked (ya know – peer-to-peer recognition, here’s where you apply for benefits, here’s a lawyer who will get those for you when the racists say no – that sort of thing).

I’ll be honest: the way these Marines were treated after their return was a crime. I can acknowledge that, and it pisses me off – but I can’t fix it.

The way president* bonespurs-five-deferments treated them – as props for his reality show where Senator Warren is next in the ring – that’s just insult to injury. It infuriates me.

This shit has to stop. You need to do some counselling GEN Kelly– or you need to admit flat out you’re as much of the problem we have with racists in positions of power as is your boss.

Dear General Kelly – Compromise and Confederates

(First Posted 31 October 2017)

General Kelly – again with all respect – I really hope this is the last time I have to write an open letter to you. (Hint: pick up the damn phone before it goes to voicemail).

Anyway – now would be another good time for you to shut the hell up.

“Compromise” doesn’t mean what you want it to mean. You are absolutely right, sir, that a “lack of compromise led to the Civil War” (or words to that effect). Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution. Missouri Compromise. Compromise of 1850. None of those actually worked because one side – the Slave States – could not give up the political and economic power that slavery gave them. Abraham Lincoln laid it out in stark terms in his 1860 address to the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (again, words to this effect): “the only compromise the slavers will accept is abject surrender”.

The inability of the Slavers to compromise was the proximate cause of the war. Hell, they all said so at the time.

Bo Bergdahl deserted his post in Afghanistan but Robert E. Lee betrayed his oath to uphold our Constitution and took up arms against our nation. Nothing about either one of those decisions is “honorable”, and sir – fuck you very _very_ much for saying that Lee’s actions were understandable and honorable in historical context while deploring Bergdahl’s. You stain the uniform we both wore with the mayonnaise of politics, is what you do with that.

Lastly, a sin is a sin – no matter what the cultural norm of the time might be. The only people in 1860 who believed slavery was OK were whites – I defy you to find a brown person who was OK with it (Uncle Tom’s Cabin is not evidence). Moreover, plenty of other white men thought the Peculiar Institution to morally insufferable – and they went to war against traitors like Lee because of that belief.

When I was on active duty, the US Marine Corps stressed “wrong is always wrong”. We’re of nearly the same vintage – when did that change for you?

Dear General Kelly – Condolence Calls

(First posted 19 October 2017)

General Kelley, sir, with respect – maybe you are not the best person to be advising the president* on how to handle a condolence call.

The way Marines speak with Marines, the language and the shared background – it does not translate outside. “He knew what he signed up for” – I know, and appreciate, what that means. It’s our way of acknowledging that the Marine knew the risks and gladly, bravely faced them – stood up, faced the battle in a way that honors our shared heritage… and on 10 November every year, for as long as we live, we’ll remember our fallen brothers and sisters in the same way they would remember us, were our fates reversed.

99.999% of people who learn their Marine has fallen will not learn it, as you did, from a brother officer (let alone the Commandant). They’ll learn it – officially – from some guy like me, uncomfortable in my Alfas and with chaplain in tow, both of us dreading the doorbell.

The man you work for …… there is nothing in his background that could prepare him for those calls. (That’s not an indictment – just a simple statement of fact). He appears to have all the empathy of a tick (that is my opinion – you work more closely with him so YMMV) – so these calls have to be an order of magnitude more difficult for him.

Please, General – don’t provide any more advice on how to handle sensitive issues like this. Neither one of you know how to talk with the 99.94% of people who are not Marines. Your boss generates enough self-inflicted wounds on purpose – he should not have to account for what I firmly believe was a well-intentioned mistake.

Some Perspective on the Late Events in Ferguson

Ferguson is not an outlier.

“… a form of low-level harassment that isn’t about public safety. It’s about money.”

The reason the streets of Ferguson look like something out of a movie is that they sort of are. The reason they look like a collective nightmare is that they are.”

Adding Insult to Injury

Being Black in America

If They Gunned Me Down…

How Ferguson Became a War Zone

The Body in the Street

Parting shot

Summer Reading

I took Sarah to the library this afternoon for her weekly fix.  She’s in the Summer Reading program, and she gets chintzy little prizes for getting “points” (based on page count and whether or not a book is part of a series, among other things).  Today, we got her next little prize and enough reading material to last the rest of the (truncated) week at camp – so 6 books.

While she was hunting through the stacks for a biography that would meet the library’s requirement for the program while not “boring (her) to tears”, I  was idly perusing their (rather anemic) science fiction aisle. I noted they had everything Mercedes Lackey has ever written (!) but no Elizabeth Moon, Nancy Kress, Octavia Butler, Elizabeth Bear, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson – and very little Asimov, Clark, or Heinlien.

And then I noticed RAH’s “Door Into Summer“. Flipping through the dust jacket blurb, I realized this may be the only RAH I have *not* read (besides “Job”, which I refuse to do on principle – and “Glory Road”, which I’ve attempted several times but could never finish). I had a checklist as a teen, and doggedly hunted down every copy of his books I could find. Two chapters in, and I don’t remember any of the story …. so, wow.

I just finished, this weekend, an eBook by Michael Sellers called “John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood“, about just how JC had become the “biggest flop in Hollywood history”. (John Eaves had recommended it on Facebook, the subject intrigued me, and the price was …. pretty cheap). Sellers is not exactly an accomplished author, but he did lay out a pretty meticulous, and I thought even-handed, case for why a good movie got sucked into an abyss of negativity.

I’ve not read any of Edgar Rice Burroughs works. I suppose my education is lacking …. but I’ve no desire to remedy that, either. I remember the trailers for “JC”, and I remembered that they sucked. The DVD cover/ movie poster certainly does.

And yet, after reading “Gods of Hollywood”, I now want to see the film – and the library had a copy, so that came home with us as well.

… but not before we discovered that my library card had been purged from the system because I haven’t used it in like 4 years. Ooops!