Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yawp! Help!!

Does anyone know what’s going on in this country, and if so, can they please explain it to me?

I’m speaking specifically about the apparent vacuum of leadership that has replaced “change we can count on.” I haven’t counted on the government for anything since I was a pup, but today’s headlines are rushing past with a speed that makes me want to reach for the duct tape to keep my head from exploding. Double doses of Zantac™ are doing nothing to calm my stomach as I try to figure things out. My troubling gift of disparate prescience is playing hell with my perceptions of reality; in other words, I can’t believe what I’m seeing.

Let’s start a few years back, and take some liberal assumptions into consideration.

Okay, assumption Number One: the war in Iraq was a bad idea. It was undertaken for noble motives; to liberate an oppressed people. It was commenced in the heat of the moment following the horror of 9/11.

America has liberated millions of oppressed people, and oppressed very few in return. Our track record wasn’t always the best, but we did more good than harm. 9/11 was another Pearl Harbor; even more malign than the bumbled Japanese scheme to establish hegemony in the Far East. I’m conversant with the conspiracy theories that FDR let that attack happen so we could be drawn into War II. It has been postulated that the Iraq war was payback for Saddam Hussein’s putting a bounty on Bush 41’s head after Desert Storm rescued Kuwait. For the sake of liberal argument, let’s say that was a tacit motivation for cranking up the American war machine.

The jury’s still out on our nation-building experiment in the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom. There have been high and low points. At the very least, we have a sizeable strategic force pre-deployed on the western border of Iran for the fourth war in the Middle East. I think we spent too much “blood and treasure” for too little return—although watching Saddam take the drop like a common thief was cathartic, and the world is a better place without him.

During the insurgent reaction to our liberation of Iraq, there were a number of “jihadist warriors” who traveled there to become “glorious martyrs to Allah” and repel the “crusaders.” If you look at a bar graph of Middle Eastern countries identified as providing suicidal terrorists to oppose our troops in the field, the longest bar belongs to Libya. They take their Holy War seriously in Kadaffy-duck’s caliphate.

Can someone please explain to me why we are now re-arming Al Qaeda? These people are our sworn enemies; if you don’t believe me, just ask them. There are “flickerings” in the intelligence community that the myrmidons of the Arab League flashing peace signs and shouting about “democracy” are about nothing more than establishing the global caliphate. We armed jihadists in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation at the end of the Cold War; one of those we armed and trained was a fellow named Osama Bin Laden. I think we know how that turned out in the long run.

America is an exceptional nation. (Someone took a poll on this question recently; 87% of those participating agreed that we are unique in history.) Ever since the beginning of the last century, when the lights start going out in the world, and things are at their worst, people look to America to step in and solve the problem.

However, no matter how many times we cast ourselves in the role, we are not the world’s policeman. We are not the moral arbiters of sovereign nations beyond our own, nor do we practice a theological superiority over others. Our position of leadership is based upon setting the best example, not upon imposing the will of kings on those less powerful than us.

I don’t know if it’s being the devil’s advocate on liberal perspectives to point it out, but there is a lesson from our Iraq adventure that cannot be ignored: we cannot interject our way of life into feudal, tribal societies and expect a positive outcome. The nations of the Middle East are based upon 16th century theology, tribal territorialism, and cargo-cult expectations. Sure, they have skyscrapers, computers, and the most modern conveniences, but where did they come from? Besides the oil they were sitting on for generations until the nations of the West uncovered it, what do these nations in turmoil have to offer? Putting it in the hip vernacular, what have they done for us lately?

One last liberal assumption: Bush 43 lied to us about the WMD threat in Iraq. I don’t believe it for a second; the intelligence services of France, Great Britain, Russia, and our own CIA all agreed there was something there. If Saddam was being scammed by his own people, who might have told him they were building a viable nuclear program while skimming millions to their own bank accounts, then they did a dandy job. (I think we ought to be digging up the Syrian desert just across the border, and waterboarding some folks named Assad, but, that’s just me…)

Be that as it may, there was a rationale for invading Iraq; one based on the stipulation of the War Powers Act that specifies we may only act with unilateral military force when there is an imminent threat to our national security. George W. made his case to the United Nations; more importantly, he went to Congress for approval of his “cowboy” actions before they were undertaken. The Constitution has been gutted, and congressional power ceded, since FDR became the last president to request a declaration of war from Congress. Still, Bush made a token attempt to comply with the law, and there appeared to be a threat of international proportions with regard to the WMD. There was an arguable case to be made that Saddam’s Iraq posed a clear and present danger to Israel, America, and his own people.

Okay, so taking the liberal, peacenik point of view, invading Iraq wasn’t such a good idea. I don’t think we got too much return on the investment, and two seconds after our last troops leave the country, tribal war will break out anew, and Iran will occupy the oil fields that liberal propaganda postulated were our sole motivation for the war.

One of the unforeseen consequences of our invasion of Iraq was that we scared the crap out of Moamar Qadaffi, and like the French, he surrendered at the first saber rattle. He renounced state-sponsored terrorism, abandoned his nuclear development program, and generally tried to rejoin the civilized nations of the world. He took steps to become one of “our” dictators, instead of one of “their” dictators we opposed so vigorously during World War III; the Cold War.

Like it or not, Libya is a sovereign nation. Yes, they have been ruled for 40 years by a nutcase who has sheltered terrorists, been implicated in bombings and hundreds of deaths abroad, and rules his pirate’s roost with ruthless abandon. I actually agree with Osama Bamalama in principle: Qadaffi must go.

And here I fall out of synch with the power vacuum in the White House. Our president has chosen sides in another country’s civil war. He has stated publicly that “regime change” is not the goal of our intervention in that country’s affairs, but he mixes the message by saying “Qadaffi must go.” Go where? Then he gives over leadership of whatever “humanitarian effort” he claims to support, relying on the bureaucratic largesse of the UN, and the leadership of the cheese-eating surrender monkeys of France to establish a “no-fly” zone. Citing a “moral obligation” to prevent “genocide,” he throws the weight and military power of the United States behind a collection of questionable characters who may be planning worse purges than the madman currently occupying the palace in Tripoli, should they gain power.

Meanwhile, he completely ignores Congress in favor of the nebulous Arab League, dissembles on TV, and outright lies about “boots on the ground” while CIA negotiates with whatever rabble is wandering around the Qattara Depression. Anyone who watches the Military Channel for 30 minutes knows “FAC” means “Forward Air Controller.” When you see all that dynamic footage of Libyan tanks going “BOOM!” who do you think is on the ground painting those targets with laser designators so those smart JDAMS can turn them into rubble? (Hint: it ain’t that disorganized “rebel rabble” clogging the roads with their “technicals” [AAA gun trucks] and spouting rhetoric at the CNN and FOX reporters.) And by the way, has anyone seen a tank fly lately? What does a $550 million “no-fly” zone have to do with ground-pounders?

And also by the way, that F-15 that went down in Libya last week costs $60 million a copy. Your tax dollars at work; at least the crew was rescued.

I guess King Bobama can do whatever he wants, and damn what we think about it. I developed my political consciousness during the Nixon era, and agreed with Hunter S. Thompson that Nixon tried to steal the Constitution, mistakenly thinking it was stored in the DNC HQ at the Watergate hotel. I’ve since become horribly jaded and cynical about what our supreme political leadership is capable of.

Let me go completely melodramatic and rhetorical for a moment. When the class warfare in Wisconsin and Ohio becomes a national crisis, and people start dying in the streets, do you want the Canadians or the Mexicans to intervene with their armed forces for “humanitarian” reasons? Do you want the French Foreign Legion patrolling our streets, or the RAF bombing our National Guard units as they try to restore order?

Like it or not, that is the situation in Libya. If Kadaffy-duck can re-establish his strongman power for a few more years, then we’ll have to deal with it, and him. If the rebels somehow manage to quit wasting ammunition and overcome the entrenched ruling powers, then we’ll have to hope they mean half of what they’re saying about “democracy.” [And never forget, “democracy” in its purest form is just mob rule, i.e. a lynch mob.]

Someone remarked the other day that Bobama has dropped more bombs than any other Nobel Peace Prize winner. I fell out laughing. Gitmo remains open, there was no recantation of the surge in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan continues apace, and now we have wandered into a third war, this time supporting Muslim partisans.

The fourth war is coming, and in the immortal words of Fred Sanford, this is going to be “the big one, Elizabeth!” We are going to have to fight Iran, and it’s going to be nuclear. Destroying our economy and dispersing our armed forces is a key part of The Manchurian Candidate’s agenda, but it may not have succeeded entirely.

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Oh, no! They say he's got to go! Go, go, Godzilla!"

Until recently, the term “meltdown” was a euphemism for the mental dissociation that Charlie Sheen is suffering from. Then God—or Mother Earth—shook Japan out like a dirty rug, and everything changed.

I don’t have any money to invest, but ever since the 1980s, when I have a spare dollar, I have placed it in bonds supporting nuclear energy. Back in the ‘80s—when Jackson Browne was singing his anti-nuke songs with his electric guitar powered by the much-maligned Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York—I knew that the future, like it or not, was going to be the conversion from coal/oil technology to atomic energy. Hydro-power is fine where you can find the geology to support it, as are wind and solar alternatives. However, the technology still hasn’t caught up to the expectations that began to take root in the 1960s. When you plug an “electric” car in today, where do you think that electricity comes from? Odds are, it comes from a nuclear power plant.

The old hippie moondog in my DNA looks forward to the day when we can achieve peaceful co-existence with our veggie buddies, and convert solar energy as effortlessly as plants do. There is still a lot of flammable, recyclable dinosaur crap around, if only people will get serious about drilling for it. There are a lot of factors behind the reason we haven’t become energy-independent yet. I am not discounting the sinister conspiracy theories that the tin-foil-hat crowd ascribes to the oil industry. I’m a Luddite who can barely use a computer, and still think a horse is the best form of “green” transportation. Despite this, there are people out there thinking outside the box, and doing astounding things every day. That goes back to the conspiracy theory; I think the technology is there, or we’re right on the edge of a breakthrough.

Be that as it may, we haven’t arrived at that point in history yet. Although there will never be anything to equal the rush of unleashing the equivalent of 400 horses with exploding fire to propel a penis-shaped car at 150 miles per hour, I’m pragmatic enough to acknowledge that we need to take seriously the need for change in our energy requirements. Nuclear energy has been around since before I was born, and we have learned to do more with it than make it go “BANG!” Now, the economics of energy have become a matter of national security, and there are enough rogue nations out there with the potential to make atoms go “BANG!” in our back yard.

We don’t need to be in a state of paralysis if/when those Third World nations turn on us because our theology differs from theirs. Becoming a hostage to a cargo cult is not a fitting end for the world’s last empire, and can get nasty on the personal level. Our national integrity has always been supported by our energetic ability to do whatever is necessary to preserve the nation and the culture, but we’re at a tipping point.

No form of energy stronger than animal power is perfect. Everyone is familiar with the Hollyweird clichés of early oil wildcatters standing exalted, with nature’s nasty bounty spewing out of the well onto them. Who remembers “Red” Adair, who made a living putting out those oil wells when the natural gas ignited? The coal mining industry is rife with hazards, from disease from breathing the dust to cave-ins to sudden explosions. Can any casual reader remember why early miners took caged canaries down into the shafts?

A lot of state capitals, especially in the east, are located in the central parts of the states, because that was the egalitarian location for the majority of citizens to reach the capital by horseback. Despite my equine enthusiasm, we shouldn’t have to return to those days when messages were carried in saddlebags. It’s a new age; we’re all wired, and wireless, and micro-plug brain implants are just around the corner. I’m one of those left on the cusp between wood-burning stoves, oil lamps, and touch-screen cell phones. Few days pass when I don’t wonder what my grandmother—born in 1886—would think if she saw what’s happening today. She went from a day when ladies lifted their skirts in the streets so they wouldn’t drag in horseshit to seeing men walk on the moon, and moon-walking is ancient history by today’s standards.

My point is, we have a cheap, lasting, easily-renewable energy source at our fingertips. Nuclear energy isn’t perfect, but we already have the technology to control it safely. I’m wondering why the Japanese haven’t buried Fukushima Dai-Ichi under tons of containment concrete already, and begun taking bids on a replacement facility. They’re going to need it to keep The Rainbow Bridge lit.

So, what’s the deal with all these panicked gasbags here? The same know-nothings who were worried about caribou snuggling up to the Alaska pipeline for the frictional warmth are now suddenly hysterical about the prospect of millions of Americans becoming irradiated. When the decomposed dinosaurs finally peter out, we’re going to have to find another way to keep the I-Tunes and Internet porn coming, and my best bet is that it’s going to be nuclear energy for a while.

Serendipity, as I write this, “Godzilla” by Blue Oyster Cult comes around on the CD. When the first news of the Japan earthquake penetrated my half-awake consciousness, I woke laughing and mumbling “Oh, no! There goes Tokyo!” Then I saw the footage, and joined a prayer posse, because it’s no laughing matter.

Roland Emmerich, the film director, has done Al Gore’s leftist-propaganda version of the end of the world [“The Day After Tomorrow”] and a splendid CGI remake of “Godzilla.” He also turned out a highly-entertaining vision of an alternative end of the world: “2012”, based on the Mayan calendar that ends in December of next year.

He doesn’t always get the physics right, but I’m with Emmerich and the Mayans. If the Earth’s crust becomes destabilized, there is nothing to keep the nuclear power plants from collapsing into glowing heaps of rubble. In the mean time, allowing for tectonic shifts, bad weather, and terrorist efforts, the technology is available to support nuclear power as a viable alternative to burning crapped-out dinosaurs in our energy generators. I have a vague optimism that one day we’ll live in harmony with the universe like H.G. Wells’s Eloi in The Time Machine, and the sun, wind, and rain will provide everything we need, energy-wise.

Meanwhile, we may have to become Morlocks and bash atomic particles into submission for their energy-rich potential. That’s where my money’s at.

In re: Carlos Estevez

There’s an old joke that goes: “I don’t have a drinking problem. I drink, I fall down, no problem.”

Yeah, once you hit the floor, you can’t go any lower. I tell myself that every time I fall out of my wheelchair. All you have to do then is find something to support your weight, and drag yourself semi-upright until you can fall back to where you were.

I have a drinking problem; I can never get enough. I learned to admit that I have a problem in Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s one of the few things I carried away from the program.

AA never worked for me, which was what gave resonance to Charlie Sheen’s early rants. I reached an armistice with my personal demons through other means—a program of controlled drinking that excludes the hard stuff, i.e. whiskey—and again, Charlie’s self-professed “recovery” efforts carried some resonance. For some, you have to do it on your own.

During my second or third course in driving school—court-mandated for yet another DUI charge—I was continually annoyed by a fellow who constantly challenged the instructor with smart-ass remarks. On a smoke break in the parking lot, full of grandiose self-righteousness, I called him out and asked why he didn’t try out the local AA hall, just down the street.

“It’s trading one addiction for another,” he replied. “You sound like one of those twelve-steppers who hasn’t figured that out yet.”

His speech was slurred, he was staggering, and I wouldn't have ridden in a car with him on a bet, but he made sense.

About the same time—the mid-‘90s—I had some personal dealings with someone who was suffering from the long-term effects of protracted cocaine use. (I tried coke during my rock & roll days, but I always got a better buzz with a fifth of Bourbon and a bag of pot. But…that’s just me. Don’t try this at home, kids.) I was amazed at the level of hostility, paranoia, and aggressiveness that accrued in my friend from his pharmacological frolics. I re-wired my brain with LSD and hashish, but it only left me somewhat stupefied at the progress of life. The long-term effects of cocaine seemed to leave my buddy with a willingness to start fights in public places over perceived affronts that were not only unreal, but outright delusional. I eventually had to beat him down in a Waffle House—over breakfast—because he thought I was sleeping with his girl friend, whom I barely knew. While the horrified waitresses cleaned up the smashed crockery, a mutual friend who had cowered away from the confrontation remarked “It’s not his fault, y’know. It’s all that damn coke he did [in the ‘80s].”

Charlie Sheen is more of a celebrity these days for his prodigious cocaine and alcohol abuse than for his acting ability. He is a child of privilege, and may have had more emotional pressures than the average bear when he was growing up, due to his father’s fame. He has gotten away with everything short of murder—the name “OJ” ring a bell?—but none of those circumstances excuses bad behavior.

I’m so tired of hearing this “WINNING!” crap. Charlie, you are losing. I have some names for you: Michael Jackson. Heath Ledger. Lenny Bruce. Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison. Charlie “Yardbird” Parker. "Fatty" Arbuckle. I’m a trivia champion, and can come up with a few dozen more. William Holden got drunk, slipped on what I call a “suicide rug,” busted his head on a hotel-room coffee table, and bled to death.

I got taken to task last week because, in the middle of a discussion of media-dominating Charlie, I remarked “He’s going to die. End of story. He’ll be last week’s news.” The conversation came to an abrupt end, because I’m usually right with my off-the-wall prognostications.

I hope I’m wrong on this one. Charlie has kids, and he needs to be a good daddy to them, not some self-absorbed asshole teetering on the brink of an OD.

When my primary goal was drinking myself to death, I was full of myself. I had all the answers to the unasked questions; I was God. No one could tell me what to do, and if you tried, I’d by-God do the opposite just to see the expression on your face. I finally had to come to terms with my own mortality to figure things out. It took too long, and the cost was too great, but at last I can live in my own skin and be at peace with who and what I am. Better late than never.

History suggests that highly-intelligent people turn out to be alcoholics. I test out well for a dumb-ass, and have a lingering suspicion that smart people drink because they know too much, and it hurts. I’ve known some inherently bright people in my life, and they all sought the solace of alcohol or drugs because substance abuse numbs the pain of “knowing.”

(Good place to insert the only Scripture I can quote off the top of my head:

“And I gave my life to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly,
and I perceived that this, too is vexation.

For in much wisdom is much grief,
And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”

—Ecclesiastes; Chapter One, Vs. 17-18—)

I still know too much, and it causes me no end of anguish. However, I know that life is God’s greatest gift, and that knowledge is a comfort, not a burden. I kind of like being alive, even if it’s closer to the end than the beginning, and every day is a struggle. My parents were normal people, and the notion of celebrity is totally alien to me. (Sorry, Freudian shrinks!) I brought my troubles upon myself without being an exceptional child of privilege, and while I haven’t “conquered” them with “violent love” and “violent truth”, I’ve learned to deal with them. (And I didn’t need to wave a machete off a downtown skyscraper, either.) I’m no stranger to grandiosity, but when you move past being the cat’s ass of creation, the let-down can be profound. The secret is living long enough to discover that.

If you look on my Face Book™ profile, you’ll see that “Two and a Half Men” is one the few TV shows I list as a favorite. It’s nasty, arrogant, and in touch with the day-to-day reality we suffer through. I also relate to “Charlie Harper,” the lead character. I never had it so easy, but I’ve been a drunken lout with too much time on my hands and a delusion that the world owes me a living.

Charlie Sheen—a.k.a. Carlos Estevez—has lived his whole life under this shelter. As with most people, I want to believe the best about him; he has overcome his addictive demons and come to terms with his life. Okay, AA didn’t work for you, like it didn’t work for me. Maybe that old drunk was right; it’s people trading blackout drunks for meetings. Maybe you found a true path with your “home cure.” Perhaps you have a legitimate industry beef with series writer Chuck Lorre and CBS. Time and the courts will tell on that one.

Lord, what I wouldn’t give for five minutes alone with this guy! It’s my own left-over grandiosity informing me, but I might be able to talk some sense to this squirrel.

Then, again, he may be able to figure it out on his own. But, being wheeled fast on an ER gurney while gasping “Not yet! Not yet!” is not the time or place.

Good luck, Charlie. When the intervention comes, embrace it violently and accept the torpedo of truth. You don’t have too many options left. Let's hope you can fall back to where you were.