The ISIS Play Book

How did Adolf Hitler manage to get so deep, push so far and take over so much territory before the allied powers saw the writing on the wall and struck back? After all, he told the world what his intentions were back in 1925 (Volume 1) and 1926 (Volume 2) in Mein Kampf. It wasn’t until ten years later, in 1936, that the Nazi military marched into the Rhineland. What was the rest of the free world doing for ten years? Didn’t anybody READ Mein Kampf? Roosevelt? Churchill? Stalin? Frank from Ohio? Anyone? Hitler’s moves were hardly surprising. He TOLD us what he was going to do. Wasn’t Mein Kampf grounds for an early intervention?

Every election season, at least here in the United States, the major contenders for the White House release campaign books. Within the pages, the candidate tells us exactly his/her positions on the hot topics of the day. Mein Kampf was no different. After 1926, after the Reichstag fire, after the Night of the Long Knives, after Kristallnacht, after (enter atrocity here), where were the future opponents of the Nazi regime? Why did it take the actual 1939 invasion of Poland for reasonable minds to act?

It is unacceptable to claim that it wasn’t until 1933 that Mein Kampf was officially translated into English (or any other language), as if to say that non-German speaking world leaders had to wait until the publishing world got them a readable copy. As Hitler was breaking the Treaty of Versailles like a communion wafer, world leaders, especially the French and Russians who were near paranoia in their feelings about a regeneration of German power, would have found someone to read it to them. Don’t ya think?

Sir Winston Churchill read Mein Kampf. He even wrote about it in the late 1930s. Apparently, President Franklin D. Roosevelt read it and warned about the peril of the Jews under a Hitler regime. Yet I can’t find any indication Stalin read it. But the fact is, no one felt the urge over the years leading to war to take pre-emptive action. It is justified to say, even in the most laziest of terms, that perhaps the stance was taken that what Germany did within its borders was its own business. But when they marched into the Rhineland, why didn’t anyone put Mein Kampf together with it and have an “Ah Ha” moment? Then Austria and Czechoslovakia yet, not a batted eyelash. It took the full scale invasion of Poland for righter reigns to move.

Feel free to count up the above question marks and go seeking answers but I’ll leave it here for historians to sort all that out. What we know is that enough people read Mein Kampf to have made an early difference but no one took Hitler’s words seriously. No one moved beyond the op-ed piece or speech or essay to prevent Hitler from carrying out the plan he so boldly notified the world of. The “why” is history, the lesson, is our future.

ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, (also known as ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) this plague is currently romping around these two countries, rolling over anyone who gets in their way. They’re literally rolling them over, shoving crucifixes into the throats of children, carrying out actual crucifixions, murdering and maiming everyone and anyone that isn’t like them. And they seem to have sprung up from no where. A few months ago, ISIS was a blip. Now it’s taken enough territory to declare itself its own country. And they went from speck to unavoidable stain via blitzkrieg…just like ole’ Adolf. When ISIS was taking territory in Syria, America was more concerned about overthrowing Assad. In fact, the United States was assisting those who opposed Assad with weapons and funding. Surely some of that ended up in ISIS hands. Yet now that ISIS has breached the border and run a muck in Iraq, it’s Hitler-Takes-Poland all over again. America is about ready to team up with Assad to fry the bigger fish. If only America hadn’t funded the enemies of Assad in the first place, if only there was an intervention when Hitler rolled into the Rhineland. If only…

Did anyone see this coming? Those of us who remember September 11, 2001 did. Did anyone besides me, at least since 9/11, bother to read the book that those nineteen hijackers and their funders used to justify the attack? Osama Bin Laden et al justified their attack with the Qur’an. They justified it by the Word of God, as they believed is written in the Qur’an. It might have been a good idea if world leaders, especially those in the United States, took an evening or two to read it.

The Qur’an is said to have been written circa early to mid 600s AD. It is said to have been written by Muhammad, an unextraordinary merchant who, at the age of forty, claimed to have been visited by the Archangel Gabriel who dictated over many years what eventually became the Qur’an. Let’s stop here a minute. Now find a copy of the Qur’an. They’re free and online. Copyright law expired around 700AD. Open it up at random and read a few pages. If you think this was the dictation of an Archangel, you’re nuts. Yet millions world-wide believe this. And some of them base their lives and actions on the literal translation of this horrible piece of literature, this fraud. ISIS is the worst offender the world has ever seen. They are so vicious that their parent group, the notorious al-Qaeda, disowned them. When Ayman al-Zawahiri won’t even hang with you because you’re too violent, that says something.

If you haven’t read the Qur’an, you will remain confused as to what justifies ISIS in its actions. If you haven’t’ read Mein Kampf, you won’t know why Hitler did what he did. Look, this is easy, when your enemy has a play book, READ IT! In the case of the Qur’an, read any page to see how its complete make up is based on how to punish the unbeliever. In many areas, it instructs Muslims to not befriend the Christian or the Jew (although it does lament the deeds of Moses and the older prophets, including Jesus). Read the countless ways anyone not of the Muslim faith is to be tortured, maimed and killed. Sure the Bible has its share of vicious passages but the Qur’an is one big vicious passage. Where as you can (and thankfully most Christians and Jews have) abandon the savagery found in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, you can’t do that with the Qur’an. If you wished to remove the intolerant passages from the Qur’an, you’d have to throw away the whole book. The Qur’an is one big threat and list of punishments for unbelievers.

Some argue that Muslim extremist groups like ISIS have nothing to do with Islam. They claim that the reason young men join these groups is for a sense of purpose, to be part of a greater conflict. They join to earn a glory or praise that they’re not getting at home. They claim that these men lack employment, education or have an all around geopolitical outrage over American imperialism. And they point to the men’s general lack of “understanding” the Qur’an and Islam in general. All or some of these things are partially true, perhaps in the ranks of the groups’ “muscle”. But, at the same time, many participants are well educated and well financed. Remember that Osama Bin Laden came from a wealthy, large family who owned a world recognized construction business. Ayman al-Zawahiri, current head of al-Qaeda, is a doctor from Egypt, having a masters degree in surgery. Also, Mohammed Atta, hijacker pilot of flight 11 on 9/11 was studying to be an architect. Ziad Jarrah, hijacker pilot of flight 93 was studying aerospace engineering. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, considered the mastermind of 9/11, has a bachelor’s of science in mechanical engineering – from an America university. And Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the current head of ISIS, has a masters degree in Islamic Studies. You’d think he’d know what Islam is all about. And look what he’s doing with it?

These are not uneducated men. The common denominator is Islam. And they may have been angry at the United States for supporting Israel and infringing in the Middle East but it comes from a belief that Islam should take precedent. How many countries has the United States meddled in, yet, it is only from Muslim extremists that planes come crashing into our buildings as retribution?

It only happens with Islam. There is no ISIS or al-Qaeda equivalent in the other two monotheisms. Yet, there are poor, uneducated, purpose seeking Jews and Christians who aren’t cutting off the heads of other faiths. No, if it wasn’t for Islam, there would be no ISIS, no al-Qaeda. And I beg to differ with the apologists who want to give every excuse but Islam as a reason for their behavior. These thugs do understand the Qur’an. There is nothing to misinterpret about “kill them (unbelievers) where ever you find them.” (2:191) or anywhere else in the numerous, countless verses that say the same kind of rhetoric. And a constant state of warfare is expressly prescribed for the budding Muslim where it reads, “Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.” (2:216) In other words, ye sprouting Muslim, you may not like it, but Allah knows what’s best for you. So fight.

Since the Qur’an is the play book of ISIS, there is no reasoning with them. There is no chance to talk our way out of whatever atrocity they will eventually come at us with. ISIS takes the Qur’an at face value, carries out Allah’s orders to torture and kill unbelievers (this goes for Muslims who are not in line with ISIS’s version of Islam – yes, there are different versions of Islam just as there are different parties in Christianity). There is only one way to deal with them and that is for the strength of secular governments to push back, with force. It is not because force is all they understand. On the contrary, these are not entirely stupid people (as noted above). They just follow a stupid ideology. This must be addressed with violence because, as I said, this is not an enemy you can negotiate with. For them, it’s convert to Islam or be killed. They will not accept the west to live in peace with its freedom of all religions. They will not rest their guns until Islam is supreme. So before this cancer (as President Obama rightly called it) grows and strangles civilized society, civilized society must fight back. And we better do it quick. Mohammed Atta funded the 9/11 attacks on a mere $400,000. ISIS is earning millions per day on the black market from seized oil fields. Imagine what they can do?

Incidentally, if you’re interested in my brief review (because there isn’t much else to expand upon) of the Qur’an, you can find it here, at Goodreads. It’ll save you the trouble of reading this piece of garbage in its entirety, although I’d still recommend it.

Five Finger Death Punch hits hard on veteran tragedies in America

The right has been terrible at messaging via popular culture. We talk about it ALL of the time. Maybe it’s time to stop talking about it, and start noticing that the issues that matter to us, matter outside of the pundit-y microcosm, too.

While we discuss policy and strategy around sending troops back into Iraq, and send outragey tweets about the VA scandal, the band Five Finger Death Punch  launched a video for their song Wrong Side of Heaven.  If you haven’t seen it, sit down and grab a tissue… and a leash for your outrage. If you don’t know who Five Finger Death Punch is, you might also want to turn off C-SPAN for awhile.  You can’t change hearts and minds without touching hearts and minds, and most of them live far from the echo chamber.


Follow Five Finger Death Punch on Twitter or at least tweet them a thank you for saying to millions what we say to each other.


Commit Before You Dig in Social Media

Digest this:

“I usually don’t pass on anything reeking of politics (or religion) as, even if I agree with a piece, I’m not interested in ruffling the feathers of family and friends. But this piece in question had me thinking, not along race lines as the article discusses but what it means to the wider scope of humanity. I’m not sure what to think of it, which is why I’m passing this on.” And then a link to an article on Affirmative Action.

First: “I usually don’t get involved.” That’s what the first line means.

Second: “I’m not interested in ruffling…” means, I can’t handle it when I speak my opinion and someone disagrees with me.

Third: The rest of it is non-committal, says nothing really about the article the person is sharing and is so vague that the person has wiggled herself into a hidey-hole, a position of not having to defend anything.

If I were to have written this, it would have gone as follows:

“Here’s the reason why I don’t care for Affirmative Action. Here’s why we have a racial divide.” (assuming said article was why I don’t care for Affirmative Action).

First: No apologies for my opinion.

Second: I’m not asking for anyone else’s opinion on the matter but feel free to give it.

Third: Committed to a position.

Digest this:

“I hate to even be saying this but the Pope’s stalling of bringing in those who have been molesting children is taking too long. I mean, I know he’s busy and maybe there’s a lot who are unjustly being targeted. I mean, the church probably has a lot of things to work out before handing over certain clerics to the authorities. But I really think this should have been handled decades ago. I have really fond memories when my parents took me to church and I never had anyone touch me wrong. But surely a solution can be had here. I just don’t know.” And then a link to an article on the Vatican’s timeline on handling the child abuse scandal.

First: “I hate to even be saying this…” means, I don’t really want to get involved. (So why bring it up).

Second: “I know he’s busy…” means, I’m willing to acknowledge that maybe this issue really isn’t as important as other Vatican business (so why bring it up).

Third: Apologies with bringing up good memories from the past.

Fourth: I’m not really sure what the solution is although I just said it should have been handled decades ago but I clearly have no idea how.

If I were to have written this, it would have gone as follows:

“These pedophiles should have been brought to justice decades ago. Since Pope John Paul II, the Vatican has dragged it’s feet, wishing to maintain a healthy image while ignoring the dragons it keeps in its dungeon. The solution is for an international body unit to demand the hand over of all files on these issues the Vatican maintains and have an outer body, a special prosecutor, handle the situation. No more in-house cleaning. They are incapable.”

First: No apologies.

Second: It’s been going on too long to allow the Vatican to continue the investigation in-house. And clearly, based on the decades long problem, this rings to be true.

Third: Solution presented (right or wrong, the reader can decide).

Fourth: NO APOLOGIES or wishy-washy.

Digest the fact that every day, I (we) see posts on Social Media on politics, religion, race issues, celebrity trials, etc, and the person posting is so in fear of what family, friends or (gasp) strangers think of them, they write with the most non-committal voice. I ask, why bother? If you’re so afraid of what others may think of you, why bother dropping the article in our laps with a, “Well, I’m not sure if I should be saying this and I’d hate to think anyone would take it the wrong way…” Stop. If you’re going to do that, then don’t do it at all. When I see posts like the made up examples above, the image of Frodo Baggins from the Lord of the Rings movies enters my head. That every time he draws his sword he looks like he made a mistake and can’t take it back. Feel free to be a humble Hobbit. But I’d rather see more Rangers mixing it up.

Digest this:

“I’m just going to drop this one right here.” And then the link to the article.

Now if it’s something outrageously funny, so funny the pun of the article describes itself, then this is a perfectly acceptable tagline. Or, if it’s a link to your own article, this is also fine as I suspect your point is made in said article. But if it’s someone else’s article on a hot topic, this is the most non-committal way of presenting it. The comments/replies section of your feed will undoubtedly be filled with “How crazy,” “This is stupid”, “Vote her out of office”, etc. But nothing is solved. The poster and commentators have nothing important to say. It was a waste of everyone’s time.

Perhaps I expect more from Social Media. It took me until around March 2013 to bother with Facebook and it was only because my partner here at Freedom Cocktail kept encouraging me to get on board, use it as a tool to promote our work. So far, it’s been okay here. We have a lot of followers. And our posts tend to be links to articles but with committed positions up front.

Personally, when I see an article that I just can’t help but comment on, I post it and write exactly how I feel about it. Sometimes, just for fun, I use a bit of language needing deciphering, like maybe using song lyrics, encouraging the reader to dig a bit. But I’ll never say, “I shouldn’t be saying this…” because if I shouldn’t, then I shouldn’t be saying it.

Nothing is off topic in this world. I’ll say it again, NOTHING is off topic. There is nothing special about politics or religion that exempts them from criticism. If we can talk about how many men have been in Kim Kardashian, we can talk about anything. There are no taboo subjects only people with taboos. I say, break them whenever you can. Taking people out of their comfort zones is a hobby of mine.

Now it is possible/probable you will have mixed feelings on a subject and wish to get help from others. Then say so. Say what conflicts you. In the made up example above regarding Affirmative Action, it would be quite acceptable to write, “Maybe it was a logical step to force equality in the past but at this juncture, I don’t think we need it anymore. What do you think?” Nothing wrong with this. But note the lack of wishy-washy, the commitment to take a stand that it might have been good before but not now.

Now, it is true that if you commit to a position and link to an article, unless you have less than ten super agreeable friends, someone is bound to refute you. Or, at worse, the whole post will be ignored entirely, only to be brought up in face-to-face conversation at a later time. (I had this experience a few months ago when a friend said she liked my posts unless I was posting my atheist shit again. Hardly a bit of water stayed itself on my duckish back. We had a laugh and a drink. We drank two). But prepare for it. Understand that if you’re going to say something in politics, religion, celebrity trials, the latest Star Wars character, someone will be against you.

My Golden Rule of engaging in hot topics is to be prepared to defend whatever you say. Someone will challenge you. Be ready for it. This is not a license to be rude; on the contrary, replying with facts is your best weapon. If the person on the other end can’t handle it, it’s not your problem. It’s theirs. But again, if it’s important enough for you to share, it is important you have a point and that you can defend it.

And when the inevitable comes, that someone comments they are offended, please feel free to copy and paste the following:

“Being offended or insulted is not the beginning or the end of an argument. I’m still waiting for your point. Please try again.”

It’s raw Christopher Hitchens with my colored pencils filling some in. You might lose someone as a follower/friend but if they come out to try to shame you on your post, shame them back. They started it. And if they can’t handle the fight, they shouldn’t have put on gloves in the first place. They should have just scrolled on to the next Buzzfeed quiz and stayed in happy land, finding out their Lord of the Rings character is Legolas. Here’s the rub for ya. If you keep posting what you like and the stands you’re willing to take, you will weed out friends that maybe weren’t such friends but…BUT, gain the company of people of like minds. In the end, you could be happier. I’ve had the pleasure of total strangers friending me on Facebook, following on Twitter, because of a post that was controversial but found to be agreeable to that person. World wide.

The goal of this essay is to get you to speak out and write/say whatever you really think. And if you are not interested in getting a little heated, then don’t do it at all. Don’t bother sharing articles on hot topics. Just keep on sharing YouTube videos of dads singing “Let It Go” with their daughters. If nothing is solved and no position taken when sharing articles of significance, then what’s the point? So instead of being wishy-washy when passing on articles of volcanic proportions, take a stand. And if you have no stand, feel free to just say so. But please, please, please, stop with the “I probably shouldn’t…” because if you probably shouldn’t, then don’t.

What freedom is not

us-constitution-pdf-logoHappy birthday, America!

It’s been 238 years since the Declaration of Independence put a series of events in motion that forever changed the face of the world and redefined how government could be structured around the concept that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights and chief among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. However, our Founding Fathers recognized that man is fallible and clearly stated that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. braveheart-1-1024

At the heart of this is one word — Freedom. (Let’s all take a moment and reenact that scene from Braveheart. Ahh! Now we can continue.)

I could spend the next few hundred words or so describing what freedom means to me, but I thought a more interesting approach would be to reflect over the last few years and provide illustrations of what freedom is not. It’s not depriving a group of citizens the right to form political organizations just because they disagree with your point of view. It is not using the IRS to create a “be on the lookout” list for groups who’s names or descriptions include tea party, patriot, Israel, freedom or any other “conservative” sounding terms. It’s not forcing private businesses to discard their religious beliefs while demanding they help pay for abortifacient drugs. It is not drafting executive orders requiring businesses with federal contracts to disclose independent expenditures on federal elections. It is not an infringement of the press — the fourth estate — by seizing emails or tapping phones of reporters whose jobs it is to keep tabs on government.

The First Amendment to the Constitution was written in order to prevent all of the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred.

Freedom is not a gun running scandal that ends up with at least two American border patrol agents killed as well as untold others in a foreign nation. It is not about finding creative ways of eliminating the right of every citizen to own a gun. It is clearly not the use of executive privilege to restrict over 1,300 pages of documents related to Fast and Furious from being handed over to the House Committee on Oversight and Government. It is not in demonizing a rifle simply because it’s painted black and looks scary. It is not in the issuing of at least 23 executive orders designed to further gun control and provide mandates in the Affordable Care Act allowing doctors and hospitals to ask patients if they own a firearm.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution was written in order to prevent all of the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred.

Freedom is not the indiscriminate filtering of emails and the capturing of meta data, text data, social media interactions or any other forms of online communication activities. It is not the tapping or recording of cell phone calls, either of American citizens or foreign leaders. It is not the infiltration of online computer games.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution was written in order to prevent all of the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred.

Freedom is not creating a “kill list” of American citizens by drone if they are involved in terrorist actions outside of the United States, without due process.

The Firth Amendment to the Constitution was written in order to prevent the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, this has happened.

Freedom is not bailing out General Motors and Chrysler with taxpayer dollars and in the process violating creditor rights and ignoring hundreds of years of established bankruptcy law. It is not creating a command and control economy where unproven “green”  technology companies are granted millions, and in some cases billions, of taxpayer dollars only to have those companies go out of business without any hope of repayment. It is not found in ignoring the Constitution’s Taking and Due Process clauses.

The Constitution provides clear guidelines to prevent the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred. 

Freedom is not found in allowing the Chief Executive to determine which laws are going to be enforced, which can be ignored and which can be modified based solely on a speech. It is not in the creation of multiple revisions of a law without any involvement by the legislative branch. It is not allowing the president to arbitrarily decide to delay employer mandates, out-of-pocket caps, insurance requirements, exemptions for Congress and staff and the IRS’s role in the regulation of penalties for the Affordable Care Act.  It is not in letting the president negotiate the release of five terrorist commanders in exchange for one captured American deserter without notifying Congress. It is not found in statements like, “If Congress can’t act, then I will,” or “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.” It’s not found in making recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate was not really in recess.

The Constitution provides clear guidelines in the areas of Separation of Powers to prevent the above from ever taking place. Yet, under our current administration, each of these has occurred. 

Most importantly, freedom cannot be found in a government willing to lie to the American people, whether overtly or through obfuscation and cover-up. The Benghazi scandal that left four dead Americans in its wake, the destruction of hard drives and emails of Lois Lerner who is in the middle of the IRS scandal, the hiding of information related to the VA scandal and the illegal call for executive privilege in the Fast and Furious scandal are all examples of what freedom is not.

Our Founding Father’s pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to create a new nation built on the principles of limited government and deriving what little power they needed from the consent of the people. Liberty and individual rights were more important than the body politic. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were crafted with one overriding goal — limiting the size and scope of government. To make sure this sentiment was made crystal clear, we need only look to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. In the Ninth, the Framers stated that enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people, while the Tenth states powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Our Founding Fathers wanted to make sure the rights of the citizens and the states were vast and infinite, while the powers of the Federal government were specific and few. And, at it’s core, no one’s liberty can be put in jeopardy in favor or benefiting another. In short, no one’s individual liberty was worth more or less than another’s. The moment the rights, property or life of one person belong to someone else, either in whole or in part, is when freedom ceases to exist.

When celebrating our nation’s birthday, think about how our country was able to achieve so much in such a short amount of time. Then ask yourself, what has caused us to fall so far in an even shorter time frame? If your answer to Obama asks Jefferson about Constitution flawthe former is, “following the Constitution,” and your answer to the latter is, “ignoring the Constitution,” then you already have the answer to what freedom is.

There is still time to save our great nation. All we must do is get back to the principles of that very document that is the epitome of American exceptionalism.

Freedom isn’t the lack of government.

Freedom lies simply in the strict limitation of government.

Feeling Freedom

At some point, almost every day, between just before opening my eyes in the morning and sipping my coffee while watching the sunrise, I am struck by how lucky I am to be an American.


I thought it would be a simple thing to write about what freedom means to me, but it isn’t. Because I have made a career of preserving freedoms and fighting for liberties, I have seen thousands of infringements… and that was just this morning.  It would be easy to say that knowing that I have the blessing of  our Constitution to back me up is my definition of freedom, but it isn’t. Freedom is those moments when I don’t have to be cognizant of the need for that protection.

Shorter, better than I could have said it:

“I am interested in politics so that one day I will not have to be interested in politics.” – Ayn Rand

“If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.” – Thomas Paine

238 years ago, Americans made a statement to the world. It wasn’t written on paper, it was written on the hearts of the men and women who believed they could decide for themselves how best to live their own lives. It was written in blood, sweat and  tears on battlefields and on homesteads in lonely, dangerous, uncharted land. It was a statement that was shouted down in word and deed by those who hoped to hold power and by those afraid to seize their own. It was radical and irrational – a Declaration of Independence.  Not a whisper, not a petition. A declaration…and the will to stand behind it, against impossible odds. But here we are, Americans. If you allow yourself five minutes to think of it, how can your chest not swell and your resolve not strengthen against ANY adversity?

Happenstance of being born in the Last Frontier aside, I have seen a great deal of our beautiful country: purple mountains majesty, amber waves of grain, both shining seas,  and the highways and byways between them. I have met people rich and poor, young and old, and have broken bread with people of many races and religions. I have owned property, started businesses, protested governments small and large, and stood side by side with friends, neighbors and strangers at fairs, picnics, sporting events and in fights for liberties and to give voice to the grievances of many.  I have had the freedom to do those things. Amazing.

As idyllic as all of that sounds, it’s how I feel. There are plenty who will tell you that America isn’t much different from other Western nations, but we are.  America leads. We trade in ideas made real by an inherent and inherited sense of “anything is possible.”

Because I am the one writing this, it wouldn’t be complete without musical accompaniment. And, because I routinely spend my Independence Day with family in a small town, doing small town Independence Day things, I can’t think of a better song that sums it all up for me.  Happy Independence Day, America!

Freedom: 1. the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. 2. absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government3. the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. 4. liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another. 5.  boldness of conception or execution.

See also: autonomy. liberty. independence. sovereignty. emancipation.

Freedom isn’t a passive fantasy. It’s American. God bless us.


Among the Wretched Refuse

We’ve often heard that on July 4, 1776, King George III of England wrote in his diary that “Nothing important happened today.” However, it turns out, old George never kept a diary. Seems to be a misattributed or legendary reference. However, the truth is, a great importance did happen on July 4, 1776.

On that date, the Continental Congress voted for the Declaration of Independence, but it didn’t acquire all those John Hancocks until later. In fact, the last signature, that of Matthew Thornton, didn’t jot along until November of that year. So the vote for the Declaration was a defining moment on the 4th of July but the great paintings showing all the participants lined up to put the Big Bad Wolf on notice is a fabrication, a legend. An equal legend on par with the diary entry. Still, kind of a big deal.

But ya know what’s even kind of creepy? Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4th, 1826 – within hours of each other. That was exactly fifty-years after the vote for the Declaration.

Ya know what else happened on July 4th? My favorite book was published. On that day, in 1865, Lewis Carrolls, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was published. And Mr. Carroll (or, rightly, Charles Dodgson – real name) has been under paedophilia suspicion ever since. The book has been banned from some classrooms since it’s publication, on charges of masturbation references, “bad language”, and belittling important societal norms like political and religious ceremonies. Some said it encouraged drug use. Yet, time has passed and Alice is readily available, at least here in the USA, for anyone to read.

I am more of a reader than a writer. I guess all writers are. So I am thankful I live in a country where I can read anything I want. Even the al-Qaeda funded magazine, Inspire. (Although I’ve been warned that just seeking it out in any search engine puts you in an NSA database. So I thought, screw em, and downloaded it when I found it, read it and still have it. Just add that to your file on me, Uncle Sam).

I put the First Amendment of the Constitution ahead of the rest. And I think the founding fathers did the same; thus, calling it the First Amendment. The freedom of speech is the greatest right. It surpasses the right to defend yourself with firearms or whatever weapon you choose. (I’d say the pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword. Just ask Mr. Jefferson or Thomas Paine how important words are in getting things to change).

Living in a country where I can write these words, or any other words, is gratifying. I have the right to exercise my opinions, short of making actionable threats of injury. I don’t have to worry about a douche-monkey like Kim Jong-un sending henchmen to breakdown my door when I call him a douche-monkey. I do, however, have to tread lightly when mocking a certain religion (Islam) because if the fascist portion of that circus chooses to be offended, I could find myself a target for Fatwa. But whatever it takes, this is the one group that I will continue to play hardest against and I don’t plan on stopping any of my attacks against them as long as groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continues to run wild. This is the garbage I live to take out.

I recommend everyone take some time to jot down their opinions, try the art of the essay if you wish. As a start, work with a journal. In the evenings, instead of wasting time on reality television and talking heads, jot down your own thoughts on what happened that day. Or what you wish to do tomorrow. Write it exactly as you think it should be said. And read everything you can get your hands on. Not just your preference. Try a different genre just for fun. You never know what you’ll dig until you dig.

So happy birthday, Alice. And don’t forget to take out your copy of the Declaration and give Mr. Jefferson’s words a re-read. Consider the complaints within and spend some time discussing it over your BBQ ribs, or hot dogs or burgers. How does it apply to what’s happening in America today? And do we need to make this Declaration again?

And one other thing: On July 4, 1886, the good people of France, in acknowledgement of the close relation they had with the United States, offered the Statue of Liberty to America. Engraved on the base of Lady Liberty are the following words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” – Emma Lazarus, 1903.

This is exactly why I am here. And why I’ll stay. I am in good company with the wretched refuse of teeming shores.

With Liberty and Justice for All

Independence (n) – freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.

Take a moment and really read that definition, let it sink in. Hundreds of years ago, our forefathers believed in the idea of independence so much they “declared” it because they knew all too well what it felt like to be controlled. Fast forward to this day and age where Americans on the whole have become the complete opposite, they have become dependent. Let’s take a look at that definition:

Dependence (n) – the state of relying on or needing someone or something; subordination or subjection

Americans are turning into subordinates, or subjects. Hardly what you’d expect from a people who went to war over their tea being taxed. But it’s true. Take a look in social media and you’ll see all too frequently people demanding the government take care of and provide for them. If the government doesn’t do so then it’s racist or sexist or someone’s rights are being oppressed (although if you ask these people what their rights are they have no clue).

How did we get to this place and are we too far gone to go back? Take the Hobby Lobby ruling for example – the left has all but imploded with the ruling that the craftsy corporation doesn’t have to pay for certain types of birth control they feel go against their beliefs through their employer-sponsored insurance. Instead of being grateful that Hobby Lobby continues to pay for 16 different types of birth control, and pays their employees nearly twice the federal minimum wage, the left has been told NO by the SCOTUS, and how dare they? How dare the government NOT side with them?

Of course when the SCOTUS declared Obamacare constitutional the left was all about the SCOTUS and more than one snidely reminded me, “it’s the law.” When I point out that we wouldn’t even be having this discussion if Obamacare didn’t exist and if the government wasn’t attempting to mandate private industry they go off on some tangent about religion. Or climate change. Or unicorns.

While we celebrate our nation’s birthday, a day of independence, I can only hope Americans wake up and see through the shiny marketing and false rhetoric of DC and our “leaders” and realize the most important “gift” of all is our freedom. And as we’re watching fireworks (you know, the rockets red glare) we remember the founding fathers didn’t fight for free birth control – they fought for liberty and justice for all.

Our writers have been working on a special Independence Day publication

declaration.of.independenceOur writers have had their noses to the political grindstone since the primary election season has been underway in our country. They have been on the campaign trail, speaking out daily on social media and trying to inspire others to get involved in the political process. We are not just about talking — we are also about doing! With such poor voter turn-out across so many states in our union, we began to wonder why we take our freedoms so for granted? It will be 238 years ago that our Founding Fathers signed their own death warrants when they put their names to the bottom of the Declaration of Independence. They pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for a belief in freedom and independence.  Yet today, with early voting, absentee voting and voting on election day itself, scarcely 1 in 5 Americans this year have exercised one of the most important duties we have.

We are at a tipping point in our nation. We have more people on some form of government handout than ever before. We have nearly 100 million able-bodied Americans sitting at home instead of working full-time in the labor force. Our foreign policy has never been so muddled, with confused and disappointed allies and emboldened enemies. Our domestic policy is no better, with scandals involving the NSA, IRS, Justice Department, VA and immigration garnering top headlines over the last few years. We have members of the Legislative branch actively seeking to abdicate the checks and balances afforded to them in the Constitution in favor of giving the Executive branch the authority to circumvent the limitations of that very same document. We have a President who believes he has the ability to decide which laws are enforced, which are not and which can be modified by simply making a speech.

Our Constitutional Republic will cease to be if we continue down this path. It is inevitable. We are far removed from how our Founding Fathers painstakingly crafted the framework of our government, designed to prevent a monarchy, oligarchy or dictatorship from ever taking root. Yet, they themselves admitted, should the people ever decide to forego their role in the affairs of public discourse and allow the usurpation of the Constitution to become commonplace, we would no longer be a free nation.

So, after a bit of a hiatus, each of us will be publishing a piece tomorrow, on the 4th of July, with one simple topic in mind: what does freedom mean? We hope you will find those pieces informative, thought-provoking and maybe even a little infuriating. If it helps to get you involved, we will consider it a success.

I will close with the opening of the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

After reading those words, ask yourself, could that document have been written today, about the very machinations of our current body politic? Do you truly believe we have been endowed with certain unalienable Rights or do you feel only government can grant those? Do you believe, in our current political climate, you have intrinsic access to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness or have you been relegated to accept you are incapable of those on your own without the yoke of government? Would you be brave enough to sign the Declaration of Independence today or are you comfortable ceding control over your life to the government?

What does “freedom” mean to you?

Where Do Liberals Come From?

Where do liberals come from?

Are they picked from a crop of liberal-minded organic cabbages in California? Does some snooty stork leave them on doorsteps on his way to pick up his Prius?

Seriously. Where do they come from?

This question crossed my mind while my husband and I were sitting reading the news and I saw an article on the Daily Caller about how the Southern Poverty Law Center has determined that anyone who disagrees with Common Core is a right-wing extremist. I read it to my husband who said, “Who comes up with that stuff? Who decides what is “liberal?”

I immediately had visions of cloaked figures sitting in a basement of Starbucks, sipping soy lattes and determining what would be the liberal talking points for this month. At the table would be Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews and some losers from Organizing for America – maybe even a Hollywood star or two (Alec Baldwin, I’m looking at you).

Their agenda would include new and exciting ways to tie racism to anyone who drinks chocolate milk or shops at Wal-Mart on Sundays. Then they’d move on to creative tips for blaming Bush for kicking puppies and everything that is wrong not only in America, but around the world (my guess is they’d think globally). Finally they’d bring in some lame graphic designer to work on a meme or two to support Obamacare and mock those who disagree with it.

It’s hard to understand how a liberal’s mind works and why they adopt certain ideas. Part of me wonders if they simply looked through the Constitution and decided to base their entire agenda on doing the complete opposite of what the document says. “Hrm, First Amendment, freedom of speech? Nonsense! Only if that speech is speech we agree with. Oh, and that gun thing? OUTTA HERE.”

When you talk to a liberal it’s as if they’re not sure where their ideals come from or why they believe what they do either. And they’re often confused, especially about party placement in history. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve argued against this magical switch in the parties around slavery and the KKK. Apparently one day (I’m thinking it was a Tuesday) republicans decided they were going to become racists even though the very party was founded to end slavery. Yup. And on that same Tuesday, democrats had an epiphany and decided they weren’t going to be racists anymore, even though the basis of their party was to protect slavery, form the KKK and create Jim Crow laws.


Other popular liberals ideas that I don’t quite understand where their originate from:

  • Gun control? Guns kill people… end of story.
  • Women’s rights? Abortion is a right and that’s all women care about. Besides, a fetus isn’t alive or a baby until it’s born.
  • Speaking of women, they should be a protected class because they’re too stupid to take care of themselves.
  • War? War is bad unless a democrat is running the country.
  • Healthcare is a right and rich people better pay for everyone.
  • Raise the minimum wage because we say so. Economics? We don’t need no economics.
  • All republicans/conservatives are racists, bigots, sexists, islamaphobes, homophobes and not a one pay their fair share.

So I have to ask again, is there some special group deciding these things? Are they giggling at how easily their base is convinced to follow along? I just don’t get it. I suppose if we see a snooty stork driving a Prius and drinking a latte we’ll just have to ask him.

The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste

In 1989, the Industrial-Metal band, Ministry, released one of the greatest records of all time (my opinion, of course) entitled, The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste. I spent about two hours locked in my room with the volume cranked up to eleven. And that was just on the first track. It took me the third-or-so hour to reach the second track. I kept playing the first track, Thieves, over and over and over and over and…

That’s about as close to a religious experience I ever had. Locked in solitary with my kind of chanting. Unless you count the several times I’ve listened to Smiths and Morrissey records in a similar environment. But the The Mind album, along with the band’s name, (Ministry) and that first track, (Thieves), go hand-in-hand, speculating on a flock’s mind being stolen away by thievery, well, I’m reaching. Or preaching? Joseph Smith says he was contacted by the Archangel Gabriel, shown hidden golden tablets and then tasked to translate them. So if that shit can be bought, so can mine with an Industrial-Metal band from the eighties/nineties. But where as I’m good enough to tell you that tidbit of spiritual revival, I’m not about to insist you get into Ministry. Or follow my Ministry. Or do as I say. Others would. Others do. Others take their conversions, their revelations, and force them upon others. Some do so with life and death consequences.

Some say that gay marriage cheapens marriage but I think heterosexual couples have already done that by allowing more than fifty-percent of them (in the United States) to terminate. And that number doesn’t count those who feel locked in, not wanting to waste the past by throwing away the future. A more reliable scale of testing would be to spend more time asking heterosexual couples how happy they are. Have a one-to-ten scale of questioning if you like, but grading rates of success, true success of happiness until death duly parts. That would be a more accurate portrayal as to whether or not heterosexual, monogamous couples are the best. But you’d have to match them over years of sampling of long time homosexual marriages (as well as other arrangements, like polygamy). I don’t believe enough time has passed to get a good sampling.

I respect the human mind way too highly to let some use theirs so carelessly. Heterosexuals who waste their upper-most-body-matter telling homosexuals they can’t be married is one such exercise. Other wastes are allowing the brain in one person to ban the space travel of another brain that constructs a machine to allow him such an adventure. The former doing so on behalf of an invisible being that; while was capable in the distant past of creating the entire universe, now feels compelled to ban his most precious creation to explore it. Or, regarding human relations, if said being is all that powerful, why does he care where you put your genitals?

The common denominator in the above cases is a religious one. Those against gay marriage are against it for religious reasons. They may use the word “tradition” but said tradition is a religious one (albeit faulty as, biblically and Qu’ranically speaking, a male may have many wives). In any case, the holder of the view that homosexuals can not marry claim to just be messengers, pointing out that the commanded Order comes from a higher power – God. Who are they to bend the judgment of God? Anyone can read the Order for themselves in the Bible or Qu’ran, right?

That’s precisely the problem. Joseph Campbell said, “Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.”

When my daughter discusses the ongoings of her relationship with her invisible friend, I humor her, ask questions concerning the nature of this friend. But should this rite of childhood never pass, its time to seek psychological counseling. So when I see grown adults engaging is such behaviors, well, I can respect the person but I can not respect the belief. Christopher Hitchens wrote, “If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world.” I concur. Is it any coincidence that the religion of the child is the religion of the parents?

You could never point to a five-year-old child and claim this child is a Republican child. You could never put a Detroit Piston’s jersey on a one-year-old and claim this child is a basketball fan, particularly of the Detroit Pistons. And you can’t label a child a Muslim or Jewish child. Just because the parents are something doesn’t mean the child is too. Those choices are adult choices. And when adults make said choices to be those things, we can only then use the label.

It’s why I’m so hard on religious talk. It’s why I protest so highly against indoctrination of children. In all other lines of inquiry, a child taught a certain subject has the right to ask questions, has the right to conduct his/her own experiments to replicate the findings. And, if what that child had been told turns out to be wrong, text books can change. Not so with the Holy books. There is no room for discussion or engagement. It’s written down by mystics of old and you obey. That’s it. No questions. And if a Holy text says homosexuals can not marry…

Or can not eat anything that mixes meat and dairy,

Or can not cut the hair on the side of your head,

Or can not touch a dead pig (bacon!),

Or can not…then you can not.

The above are a few prohibitions in the Bible. There’s plenty more. I won’t list them all for you. If you wanna check out the entire list, check into any hotel room in the United States. The Gideons were kind enough to litter every establishment with a Bible for your perusal. We can be thankful that most Jews and Christians don’t follow the rules of Leviticus and Deuteronomy to the letter, don’t pass down the ludicrous to their children. The Golden Rule, I suppose, is practiced by most while the more “primitive” Orders are discarded. And while I may snicker at someone who believes in a magic Jewish carpenter who died two-thousand-years ago and will return soon to fix things, I kinda gotta shrug sometimes and say, “Well, what’s it to me?” My friends and family (and total strangers) who practice in the Judea-Christian faith generally leave me alone. Sometimes we even have rather fine, engaging discussions.

At worst, Judea-Christians try to use the force of government to ban homosexual marriages or put prayer back in school. They don’t draw swords. And yes, there is the occasional wacko assault on a doctor performing abortions. But these are more Man Bite Dog stories than regular occurrences. Bull horning or trying to legislate based on the Bible is one thing. Ramming a 757 into your face is another.

From it’s very beginning, the United States has been at war with the Muslim faith. Documented here, I pointed out that 9/11 was a continuation of that war. And it continues to this day. Where as all other religions get mouthy or try to force themselves through legislation at worst, Islam is the only religion on the physical offense.

In every debate, we must pick our battles. In the contest with reason and logic on one side and the authority of religion on the other, the former is the clear winner. But should we spend our energies shouting down all practices of Woo? Resources are limited. If there are a number of parasites eating away at the host, shouldn’t the most time be spent on the worst pest?

Christians, Jews, Jains, Buddhists, astrologers, alchemists, Urantians, they pale in comparison to the mayhem Islam has caused. It is Islam that we must be confronted head on. It is Islam where we must spend most of our time. This isn’t entirely about 9/11. This is about the day-to-day censorship and life threats (and executions) that come from them.

Let us be reminded of the case of Umm Nidal, noted for counseling three of her six sons to commit suicide attacks against Israel. Let us be reminded of the ever present Al-Qaeda. Let us be reminded of the Boston Marathon 2013. Let us be reminded of the treatment of Daniel Pearl. Let us be reminded of every journalist, musician, author, or otherwise that said a sour word against Islam. Let us be reminded of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a well known critic of Islam and a supporter of women wishing to withdraw from the binds that Islam offers them. Born in Somalia, Ms. Hirsi Ali, herself, suffered the ritual of female genital mutilation at the age of five, was chastised by family to participate in an arranged marriage (which she refused) and eventually sought political asylum in the Netherlands in 1992. She went on to hold political office in the Dutch House of Representatives from 2003 to 2006. She is well published with four books on the subject of women in Muslim communities and her own life within. Finally, Ms. Hirsi Ali heads the AHA Foundation, a non-profit in the United States set to protect women from the abuses of Islam. With all her accomplishments, Ms. Hirsi Ali has been awarded several times by various agencies and was supposed to be awarded an honorary degree by Brandeis University located in Waltham, Massachusetts on May 18, 2014. But said degree was withdrawn when Muslim groups protested. Why? Because of everything I just told you about her. Apparently, the Muslims who protested the degree are upset because she’s been an ardent critic of Islam and their hideous practices. And, I’ll state it again, these practices include female genital mutilation, forced marriages, kept/beaten women, honor killings, etc, etc. which is what she’s been most opposed to.

Being denied an honorary degree is one thing. Having one’s life threatened: Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote the screenplay to the 2004 film, Submission. Directed by Theo Van Gogh, said film shows female women, Muslim women, abused through the permission of Islam. And like Salman Rushdie, who after publication of The Satanic Verses, found himself rushed into protective custody because of Muslim death threats, Ms. Hirsi Ali and Mr. Van Gogh were treated to the same negative applause. But while Ms. Hirsi Ali remains alive, Mr. Van Gogh was not so lucky. On November 2, 2004, he was assassinated at the hands of a Muslim man who took his Holy Book a little too seriously, a little too “At-Face-Value”.

The American University, western universities, have long been harbors of learning and higher education. Places where young adults go to ask questions, conduct experiments, challenge old thesis. But the Brandeis University/Ayaan Hirsi Ali censorship case isn’t a secluded man chews hide of canine. A few weeks ago, both the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois were scheduled to screen the documentary, Honor Diaries but found their events cancelled, again, at the behest of uptight Muslims groups. What was the problem this time? Honor Diaries documents the testimony of nine Muslim, Muslim, women, telling the stories of genital mutilation, honor killings and submission in the name of the Faith. Yet, instead of taking the opportunity to admit the problem, correct the problem, and walk out of the Dark Ages, the Council on American-Islamic Relations chose to complain. And to complain loud enough to cry “Islamophobe” and have the screenings cancelled. Think about it. This was their chance to absolve themselves from the barbaric practices, to come out and say, “Yes, yes, it was done in the past. But we’re up to speed now.” But no. Their choice to shut it down suggests complete acceptance of these practices into the present age.

A few months ago, pop music star, Katy Perry, released her music video for Dark Horse. In that video, Ms. Perry, playing a queen of some sorts, punishes a subject by zapping him with a lighting bolt from her fingers. The bolt lands on the man’s chest, upon a necklace with a pendant engraved with the word, “Allah” and kills him. Out came the petitions and demands for censorship because it is apparently blasphemous. The Muslim outcry was enough that Ms. Perry had the video edited to remove the pendant. Why? What was she scared of? (See Ayaan Hirsi Ali).

Those who call for censorship or violence in the name of Islam are not only granted an exception but have their bad behavior over looked. On April 10, 2014, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens supported the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call to murder author, Salman Rushie. after publication of his, Satanic Verses. Amazing! Imagine if Fred Phelps were more than the instigator of the “God Hates Fags” protests outside military funerals. Imagine if he started first as a major figure in music or literature. Would he be welcomed like Mr. Stevens…or, I mean, Yusuf Islam? Religion allows the unallowable.

Why is it that a university or author or other talent can lodge criticism or outright eviscerate any other religion without cause for apology or reversal? What is it about criticizing Islam that is so different, so life threatening? The fact is, a display by an artist of a crucifix submerged in a bottle of urine may furrow brows, but a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb on his head can get you killed.

I urge you to consult the Qur’an itself for the answer. This is the bases of Islam. Read where it is expected to put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, to abstain from friendship and alliances of unbelievers and to punish people who ignore the “revelations”. Then you’ll know why. Then you’ll know Al-Qaeda. Then you’ll know Umm Nidal, Osama Bin Laden, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. You’ll know those terrible minds and why western, secular, reasonable organizations cave. Self preservation.

Regarding Islam, Sam Harris wrote in The End of Faith, “…in the year 2006 a person can have sufficient intellectual and material resources to build a nuclear bomb and still believe that he will get 72 virgins in Paradise. Western secularists, liberals, and moderates have been very slow to understand this. The cause of their confusion is simple: They don’t know what it is like to really believe in God.” In other words, we are witnessing Muslims, enough to make an impact, taking the Qur’an at face value and not plucking out the parts that should have been extinguished along with the Biblical Order to stone to death disobedient children. Islam, it appears, is the last of the Woo, last of the nonsense that remains a real threat to civilized society.

Am I being unfair, presenting the worst of the worst? I’ll let Ayaan Hirsi Ali have the final word. After a speech where Ms. Hirsi Ali was confronted by two Muslims claiming she misrepresented Muslims, she was quick enough to note, “Then why do I have to travel with armed protection?”

We can not be canceling television shows and publications and movie screenings because someone is offended, not here, not in the town of Thomas Jefferson. Muslims have managed to make it happen because of the extreme in their group, engaging in assassinations and fatwas over the smallest of things. Do not let a religion, one alledegedly founded on a man claiming an angel dictated to him like Joseph Smith, tell you what you can read, see or feel. Do not let them steal the ideals of western universities. Do not allow them to be the thieves of our children’s higher learning and well being. You can start, simply, by pushing play.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,549 other followers