An Alcoholic, Letting His Body Die

There’s a reason why airlines instruct passengers to put their own oxygen masks on first before assisting anyone else in case of an emergency. Everything has to be good at home before you can help on the outside. Everything must be plentiful within, and then consider trimming the excesses in the direction of your choosing. Ever since French ships sat in the cool waters off the coast of Yorktown, allowing Washington’s smashing victory over Cornwallis, the United States has felt the need to keep paying it forward. And it does so without noticing that its own oxygen mask has several leaks and it’s on crooked. From World War I to its sequel to policing the world, America, it ain’t got time to breath.

United States President Barack Obama and Secretary of State, John Kerry, have been pushing for a military strike against Syria. A strike with the goal to punish President Bashar Hafez al-Assad for a chemical attack on August 21, 2013. East to North-East of Damascus, chemical weapons were used in areas mostly populated by opposition forces. And while it’s usual when the right hand is cut, it’s the fault of the left, we don’t know in this case. Each side is blaming the other for the attacks. While the Assad government says they are not responsible, the rebels / opposition says the Assad government is. Maybe members of the government military acted without Assad’s orders? Maybe an offshoot of the rebel camp in possession of chemical weapons decided to stage a false-flag attack against itself? We don’t know. At this point, it’s he said, she said.

But let’s assume Assad gave the order. On the opposition are members associated with Al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and other like minded people. Ones who take the Qur’an at face value. Ones who want to bring back the Ottoman empire. Ones who were all AK-47 in the air when skyscrapers came crashing down in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. Do we really want to take their side? Maybe. History has shown that the United States gets on the side that benefits it and it’s interests (whatever that happens to mean to those in charge at the time). Saddam was our buddy in the 80s, then our enemy afterwards. Osama Bin Laden was our buddy for a bit too (he just didn’t know it). We’ve made treaties with the Indians, then ignored them.

Setting aside the acquisition of Indian lands of North America and then sparring with Mexico to complete the Manifest Destiny, the United States has meddled in foreign governments for over the last hundred years or so. The first dot on the map can be found on January 14, 1893, when John L. Stevens, minister to Hawaii, conspired with others to overthrow the Queen of Hawaii in favor of “American Interests”. American sugar growers appear to have been the benefactor. It was the first documented case of an American government official engaging in an overthrow. The United States Marines were used to overthrow Queen Liliʻuokalani because she had enacted a Constitution that curtailed the power of non-natives. Oh, I’ve dealt with this before. On a different ground, but it’s part of the same problem. Americans going around, bossing others, picking sides then getting nailed by the other side, then siding with them then having the picked-over-kid punch back. Sigh. If you really want a detailed account how the United States has been overthrowing foreign powers since that fateful meeting of Minister Stevens, see Steven Kinzer’s, Overthrow. Title isn’t hard to remember.

So while the United States goes around thumping it’s chest in the name of human rights, all the while being more concerned about American Interests, what is it about Syria that has Secretary John Kerry all hard and bothered? Considering U.S. history of interventionism, what does Syria have? I mean, this can’t really be about the use of chemical weapons, can it? I don’t wanna say chemical weapons are the same as a good punch in the throat but essentially, the U.S. didn’t bother involving itself when Syrians were killing other Syrians (and travellers who came across the border to help) with conventional weapons. Death by baseball bat and firearms is greeted with simple furrowed brows from Washington. In other words, we have a military build up going over there not because people are being killed, but because chemicals were used. Kerry isn’t pissed a hammer was used to crush a skull, he’s pissed someone did it with a sledgehammer.

It can’t be about U.S. worry that this civil war will spill into neighboring countries. It can’t be about Hezbollah possibly gaining the upper hand and having more influence to assault Israel. It can’t really be about oil again, can it?

And do we really want to get into a religious war? After World War II, the Allies divided up the Middle East, creating artificial borders among several different sects and beliefs. It’s been more of a Middle East Culture than a Crisis to see them go at each other ever since. By taking one side over another, we’re insulting one side’s God. Ugh. September 11 redux on the horizon.

I wish I had the answer. I simply don’t know why we’re over there. Especially when…

I’m just about finished with Detroit – An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff. If you want to see where every major American city is headed, give this a look. I take this book personally as I live in a suburb of Detroit and work in Detroit itself. I’ve worked east, west and down town Detroit. And I’ve moved in and around the two cities within, Hamtramck and Highland Park. I work at a street level position where I travel the neighborhoods, meet with those who live in this dying D-Town. Detroit is the sideways mask with leaking holes in our own country. I look out my office window and it might as well be down town Beirut circa 1986. While Secretary John Kerry is handing money to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, we’re seeing nature reclaim once beautiful houses. Everyone who drives through for the first time has the same reaction: “Beautiful architecture…or, was beautiful architecture.”

2008 brought on a financial crisis close enough to the crash of 1929 that we all thought it was the 1930s again. Big banks were bailed out of their debt but home owners were left with theirs. The price of gas went up, and SUVs started getting torched by owners who could no longer afford them. Jobs were lost, some never to return. And Detroit just kind of stood there and said, “Welcome to the party”. With a city who has an ex-mayor in jail, on his way to prison, a few circuit court judges under investigation and a once circuit court, then supreme court judge, in prison, Detroit’s a tough town.

I still love my dying town. Why? Because it hurts to fall from the Penthouse but not from the gutter. Detroit has a chance to rebuild itself. It was made for two-million people and now houses under seven-hundred-thousand. Services are being stripped and neglected. Some days, the garbage isn’t picked up. Street lights have been off for years. The police have ten-year-old vehicles. Detroit could come back, not as it was, but as a new entity. But it can’t if all the money is being siphoned out by crony politicians (Kwami Kilpatrick and gang) and tax dollars sent to Washington. And then Washington turning around and nation building here and there and everywhere.

Why save oil interests in the Middle East when the city that pumps out the cars isn’t pumping out cars anymore? Or home owners have no homes to heat? There’s a trend in Detroit of urban gardening. I’m seeing more plots of land being taken up for this, more abandoned properties being used for good. Maybe it will expand. I’ve even seen groups of young people, black and white, banding together moving into Detroit from the suburbs, buying up whole city blocks for practically pennies, and building their own communities. And since there’s a lack of police resources, these little communities have been policing themselves, creating their own boards and rules. Little paradises or something. Maybe Detroit will be the first Libertarian, self-run oasis. Phoenix style. I’m kind of excited to stick around and be part of it. “It’s only after you’ve lost everything, you can do anything,” said a favorite character of mine.

I can’t predict the future but maybe decades from now, Detroit will be the model for other large cities on the verge of decay. But whatever happens, America must secure America first. It must adjust its own mask. Stop moving money out of local areas and into Washington where it can send warships whenever it feels like it, on the flimsiest of evidence. And for Christ’s sake, Washington, don’t insult my intelligence and say things like, “Trust Us” when you claim to have evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Saying something over and over again doesn’t make it true. You’re not a five-year-old. And neither am I.

Syria: Who do you side with — the Governor or the walkers?

TWD_Season3Fans of the AMC series, The Walking Dead, would find themselves pausing awkwardly when trying to answer this question. For those who have never once seen an episode of the show, we can ask this another way: Do you side with a psychopath who has no concern for his own citizens or do you side with the undead zombies bent on eating alive any remaining humans they find?

Yet another way to understand this comparison would be to reference Joseph Heller’s novel, Catch-22: or, for the Trekkers out there, the Kobayashi Maru — better known as, “The No-Win Scenario.”  Whether you choose to reference Heller’s phrase, which has long since joined the English lexicon; implement the simulation all Starfleet captains must face to prove their mettle in a test designed to always lead to failure; or, stand there befuffled over whether to join forces with the Governor or the undead, the outcome is always the same — you lose.

Bashar al-Assad TWD_TheGovernorSyrian president Bashar al-Assad fits easily into the mold of the Governor of Woodbury.  Can anyone argue about his maniacal desire to maintain his position of authority, even at the expense of his own people?  Does anyone deem al-Assad fit for continued leadership or doubt the safety of those around him who would dare to challenge his motives?  His 30-month conventional war shows both his military power and his willingness to use it to remain Syria’s ruler.

In an interview, Bashar al-Assad challenged President Obama to present evidence that the Syrian government, which is engaged in a civil war against various rebel groups, used chemical weapons against civilians in a Damascus suburb on August 21, killing over 1,400 people.  Filtered through the prism of The Walking Dead, this is nearly identical to the Governor asking for Rick (the sheriff and leader of another band of humans struggling to survive) for proof that his people were responsible for an attack on the prison.

TWD_RickandGovNegotiateRick (The White House) can claim that soldiers from Woodbury (al-Assad’s military) were responsible for the attack, which violated the fence line (“red line”) and a gentleman’s agreement (international norm) not to use the zombies (chemical weapons) as a method of conflict.  The Governor only has to keep saying it wasn’t him and there’s no evidence proving he ordered any attack to put both parties into a standoff.  This, too, is a no-win situation.  It’s the typical he-said/she-said scenario.

Let’s look at the other side of this paradoxical question.  How do we equate the walkers, the undead zombies bent on eating human flesh, with the rebels attacking the forces of Bashar al-Assad?

TWD_ZombieEatsA video posted online on Sunday shows Abu Sakkar, the leader of the Syrian rebel group Farouq Brigade, taking a bite out of the heart of a dead Syrian soldier.  Sakkar is shown cutting into the torso of the soldier and saying to his comrades, “I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog,” Reuters reports.  His companions cheer “Allahu akbar” off screen.

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch called the videos a disturbing symbol of the changing tide of the Syrian conflict.  “The mutilation of the bodies of enemies is a war crime. But the even more serious issue is the very rapid descent into sectarian rhetoric and violence.”

See the zombie reference now?

And, let’s revisit what the soldiers were chanting while watching their commander feasting on the steaming organs of the dead soldier.  His companions cheer “Allahu akbar” off screen.  Where have we heard that before?  Oh, right, from the lips of every terrorist bent on killing anyone who doesn’t believe the way they do.  These are the chants of radical Islam, demonstrated by groups like Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

This begs the question, why would you choose to side with the undead?  Can you honestly see an upside to helping the group that cheers as one of their commanders rips open the chest of a solider of the Syrian army, pulls out his organs and eats them while vowing that God will grant them victory?

JohnKerryTestifies1971Doesn’t this fly in opposition to the testimony a young John Kerry, our current Secretary of State, said about soldiers in the US Army mutilating the bodies of the Vietcong?  Remember when he testified about how vile the soldiers were that would cut the heads and limbs off of their victims, making the case that the US Army was full of monsters and baby-killers, and how could the US Government continue to fund a war effort that would allow for such attrocities, “…reminiscent of Genghis Khan,” to continue?  This same individual is now calling for the United States to side with the people who have done far worse than any of the hyperbole he spun before Congress while on his anti-war crusade.

Yes, Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people shows the depravity and evil inherent in his reign.  So, we cannot possibly imagine siding with him or the Syrian army, can we?  This is, assuming, he authorized such an attack.  The fact that chemical weapons were used is, by all account, beyond refute.  What cannot be established with 100% certainty is who gave the order and launched the chemical attack?  But, if not al-Assad, then whom?

LeonPanettaLooking at the walkers, ahh, undead…umm…Al-Qaeda backed rebels, who have shown an utter disdain for the sanctity of human life, is it not possible to imagine such conniving methods used by Al-Qaeda, after hearing President Barack Obama issue his “red line” statement, to launch an attack designed to both frame the regime as well as gain the support of the United States? And, before we eliminate the possible, we need to revisit a statement made just about a year ago by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta:

The U.S. has lost track of some of Syria’s chemical weapons and does not know if any potentially lethal chemicals have fallen into the hands of Syrian rebels or Iranian forces inside the country. There has been intelligence that there have been some moves that have taken place. Where exactly that’s taken place, we don’t know.  The “main sites” in Syria storing chemical weapons with which the Pentagon is most concerned remain secured by the Syrian military. But there is some intelligence that “limited” movements of weapons from other sites have occurred.

Panetta’s statement in September of 2012 followed reports that Syrian rebels claim to have taken control of a military base that contains chemical weapons.

And, though we don’t want to delve too close to the tin-hat society way of thinking, there is enough circumstantial evidence, combined with the history of the tactics of Al-Qaeda, to give rise to the notion that the masters of obfuscation, deceit and propaganda would have no problem gassing innocents in a move to get the might of the US Military to help them in their quest to oust Bashar al-Assad and to take over the government of Syria.

Regardless, do we honestly want to side with the walkers — umm — opposition forces?  Do we proudly clap our arm over the shoulder of people like Abu Sakkar, call him a friend and ally, while asking for a nice Chianti and some fava beans (see “Silence of the Lambs” for context of this reference) to make the cold dish of revenge complete?

There is no way, at this point, to choose a side and not lose.  Siding with a psychotic leader, who has already engaged in a 30 month civil war, leading to the deaths of over 100,000 Syrians and the flight of as many refugees to neighboring countries, would be a foreign policy gaff that makes the Bay of Pigs look like mild tiff between two lovers.  And siding with the opposition army puts us in the position of helping the forces of Al-Qaeda achieve their ends and, perhaps, pulling off the greatest black ops-style disinformation campaign in the history of the modern world and getting egg all over the face of Uncle Sam in the process.

We are facing a Catch-22.  We are partaking in the Kobayshi Maru.  We are trying to decide between the Governor of Woodbury and the walkers.  In any of these examples, there is only one answer.

Choose not to play.

Let’s hope the President and Congress feel the same.

Senator Rand Paul. Kill This Hog!

We had this Sequester thingy. Yet despite this humble, meek downsizing of government funding, John Kerry lunched with Egypt’s ignoramus Muslim Brotherhood and handed over $250 million US dollars. Then we read that the Obama Administration wanted to make the Sequester “hurt” to give a black eye to the Republican Party. Well the fact is, our government has been pissing around money for decades, playing political football with all kinds of programming.

Every year, the good people at Citizens Against Government Waste, spend their warm summers and cold winters, combing through proposals and bills before Congress. The objective is to review for Pork. CAGW didn’t choose the word. It’s been with us for awhile.

Don’t know why we settled on the word “Pork”. Tasty, yummy pork. I mean, here’s the first definition at Merriam-Webster: The fresh or salted flesh of swine when dressed for food. My mouth starts watering at salted (and this is coming from a Morrissey worshipper). How did this word come to mean the second definition: Government funds, jobs, or favors distributed by politicians to gain political advantage. Maybe it goes back to the Bible, where the Hebrews were prohibited from eating the pig because it was thought to be a filthy animal. Okay, that makes sense. Moving on.

The first I heard of the CAGW was in the late 90s. And I bought their Pig Book in 1999. Here are some entries:

  • $3,354,000 for shrimp aquaculture.
  • $500,000 for research at North Carolina State University on the impact of pfiesteria.
  • $1,470,000 to begin planning for the marine mammal research and education center at the National Energy Laboratory.
  • $19,600,000 for the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) in support of the Anglo-Irish Accord.
  • $4,250,000 for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
  • $2,000,000 for the Guadalupe Cener in Kansas city for training in culinary arts.
  • $475,000 for Women’s World Cup Soccer.
  • $100,000 for improvements in accessibility and safety to the Black World History Wax Museum in St. Louis.
  • $1,000,000 for the Animal Waste Management Consortium through the U. Of MO for projects associated with animal waste.
  • $500,000 for the Boston Symphony Orchestra for restoration of the Boston Symphony Hall.
    Ad nauseum…

When I found it on my bookshelves and flipped through it again with 2013 eyes, what first hit me was how small these numbers were. Here we are, about fourteen years later, and I’ve been conditioned to hearing billions. It seems like government does nothing less than a dollar sign followed by ten digits. So I wondered if I had false memories.

Checking in with the CAGW website, they are kind enough to publish online, a summary of the Pig Book. And here are some entries for 2012:

  • $120,000,000 for three earmarks of $40,000,000 each for alternative energy research within the Air Force, Army, and Navy. (Hilarious if you consider an aircraft carrier is never, ever, never done ever, gonna run on solar).
  • $50,000,000 for the National Guard for Counter-Drug Program state plans.
  • $13,840,000 for hydropower construction.
  • $3,388,000 for national fish hatchery system operations.
  • $5,000,000 for abstinence education.
  • $2,094,000 for the Asia Foundation, which is “committed to the development of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and open Asia-Pacific region.” (With Kim Jong-un getting testier as of late, I’d say we’re not getting our monies worth).

Although the numbers weren’t in the billions, it’s interesting to note two things:

1) My memory serves correct; in that, our government has continued to piss away money on the most Unconstitutionally-authorized projects.

2) My memory serves poor; in that, the money spent in 2013 is similar to 1999. What has changed is that there are more pet projects than 1999. And that explains the huge federal budget.

Granted the above examples are not apples to apples. It’s not entirely common to have, say, $4,250,000 for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area happen again. The point is that the federal government continues to spend our tax dollars on pet projects or, at best, what should be local (State/City) endeavours.

In Fourteen-years, the federal budget has grown by trillions. It’s an increase in garbage spending, and increased in exploits and plundering. None/most of the activity is not authorized by the Constitution. How do they get away with it? I think it’s because the same two parties have been in power for decades. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Remember John McCain’s ultimatum, during the scandals of steroid use in Professional Baseball? He gave the Major Leagues an Old West Get it together or I’m pulling this piece of mine. * This pretty much shows a we’ll do whatever the hell we want attitude. A dangerous attitude. A dangerous old curmudgeon.

So it’s time for a change. A change of the old guard. A change from an incumbent, members-only club. If you want to see the pork go away, you have to start voting for groups and/or individuals who want to do that. It’s why I vote Libertarian often.

The story doesn’t end there. I’m not rolling credits yet. There is a New Hope. It’s kinda like Episode IV in Republican circles these past few weeks.

It used to be that we, Libertarians, would smirk and wince come election season. We’d see Republican candidates campaigning, using libertarian language, and selling themselves as small-government politicians. But then they’d get into office and trash the place. Like teenagers with new licenses, back seats full of buddies and a party to get to, we knew it wouldn’t end well and probably cost a lot of money in damages. But two Republicans have caught our Libertarian eyes which has this Libertarian not yet ready to throw in the towel.

Libertarians are no stranger to Ron Paul. He ran under our banner for president in 1988. But then switched to the Republican Party for reasons of his own (I don’t know why). But he’s gone now. He quit Congress and went back home. But a new Paul rises.

In 2010, we saw the election of Ron’s son, Rand Paul, to the US Senate. He serves for the State of Kentucky. And so far, he hasn’t disappointed me (he did, however, endorse Mitt Romney for president in 2012 which made me go all wide-eyed for a bit but I forgive him). Senator Paul’s thirteen-hour filibuster was a grand way to make him a household name and I don’t believe it was a publicity stunt. He truly believed an answer was needed to the question on whether or not the President could use drones to kill American citizens on American soil. It was a proud moment to watch a Senator, who calls himself a Republican, act like it. I also saw a number of other liberty minded Republicans join Senator Paul on the Congressional floor. When Marco Rubio quoted Jay-Z and the Godfather to President Obama, oh wow.

That evening, I didn’t go to bed early. It was a great thing to see a sitting Senator and comrades, for once, demanding the president answer a question that wasn’t about a mystery stain on a clerk’s dress.

Senator Rand Paul has lit a fire, a burning towards liberty and away from big government. If the Republican Party can run with it, find their way again (it’s what they claim to be about) I might call them friends again. I might Like them on Facebook. I might occasionally Tweet GOP goodness. And I might proudly vote for them in future elections.

Senator Paul, Kill this Hog! We, at Freedom Cocktail, Stand with you!

* McCain’s sour notes over the triumph of Rand Paul shows that he really is like Ferris Bueller’s sister.

And now, let’s check in and see what Congress is up to…yep, same shit.

XaiUx

With Friends Like These…

June 2012, President Mohamed Morsi took office in Egypt after the overthrow of President Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak. And there was much rejoicing. President Morsi is the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Why should this matter? Because the U.S. Secretary of State gave him and his administration $250 million U.S. Dollars in support. And when one gives another money, it’s either because the givee has an interest to protect and nourish or they’re friends. But do we want friends like these?

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt, in 1928, with the purpose of setting up a government based on the Qur’an. The Qur’an, who’s authorship is as shady as the Book of Mormon (Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith claimed an Angel assisted in the dictation of their book). The same Qur’an that subjugates women to men. The same Qur’an that says it’s okay to put “terror into the hearts of the unbelievers”. The same Qur’an that instructs the believers to abstain from friendship and alliances of unbelievers. The same Qur’an that makes it okay to punish people who ignore the “revelations”. Yeah, that one. President Morsi and company are already showing their strict gold and green colors.

A report from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, which has not been entirely released to date, is said to address the rights of women – on their rights of sexuality, reproductive rights, rights against violence, etc. But the peaceful, loving Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt are looking to opt-out of the declaration. Apparently the defense of a woman’s right to be equal to a man; ya know, instead of requiring his permission to engage in society, is the problem. A free woman goes against Islamic Law.

As a sovereign nation, Egypt should have the right to opt-out of anything outside of their country. They have the right to not participate with the United Nations. Their sovereignty is not being judged. What is being judged is their reason for wanting out – to continue to treat women as property. But even if the world community could shame President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood to treat the fairer sex more humanely, their choice to act in the strict accordance with the Qur’an also needs to be called out.

How come only a handful of intellectuals are willing to step out of the comfy zone and call bunk! How come only Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris types are brave enough? The lack of backbone on the world’s political leaders to address this is mind boggling. Their choice to appease rather than risk offending is insulting. This is no time to be playing happy footsies with a government stuck in the Dark Ages. Any half-wit who denies the right of anyone based on a book written by an unproven authority, who probably knew less than my seven year old, is not worth taking seriously. And certainly deserves to be left out of the world buffet. This is what Egypt has come to. In a land where women were essentially equals to men under the rule of Pharaoh, they are now in the hands of an ignoramus group of men who treat them like donkeys. Take away the Qur’an and you take away the reason for poor judgement.

Apparently, United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, has no idea or doesn’t care because he recently funnelled $250 million US dollars to Egypt’s government. It was done to assist financial troubles and to promote democracy in the land where North is South (as the Nile runs).

Dear SOS Kerry: There is no democracy in Islam. Only obedience. Obedience to the man who runs things and tells women they must cover themselves in public or risk a good stoning.

The claim that the $250 million was a first installment on a proposed $4.8 billion, promised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is said to be needed to support a financial collapse. Said to have been secured to prop up the economy and address budget deficits. But the full loan has run into snags. No, the IMF hasn’t asked that the Muslim Brotherhood start treating women equally, they have concerns over financial issues like fuel and sales taxes. Nothing at all to do with conditions of equal rights.

Shouldn’t a country like the United States, who thumps its chest at every opportunity to assist worldwide causes towards freedom, exempt itself from this? First and foremost, the United States should never give money to another country. Period. No “Entangling Alliances”, ever. Giving money to one side assures the creation of an enemy on the other side. Once a friend, ends up an enemy. (Note that Hamid Karzai, the guy left to pick up the pieces of Afghanistan after the Taliban / Al-Qaeda alliance broke, is now asking the US to leave his country. So long and thanks for all the fish.) Even if the other country were peaceful Hobbits at the Shire, deserving the support against Sauron, why does any money flow out of the United States until things are fixed here?

We, at Freedom Cocktail have addressed the dangerous dancing the United States has done with Muslim Extremism before. The hand-off of millions of dollars to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt shows that, undoubtedly, the DJ keeps spinning the tunes and the couple remains in an embrace.

This is Detroit today. Kinda looks like a financial crisis here, eh?

Detroitsmall