Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Mother of Satan

Call them Daesh, not ISIS or ISIL, for these purveyors of evil hate it, being that this Arabic acronym sounds when uttered like the word for a squashed bug. But semantics aside, what happened in Brussels is terrifying. Hitting a subway station with legally bought chemicals and nails combined in a deadly concoction known as "Mother of Satan" isn't too hard, but hitting THE AIRPORT in tandem and just days after a mastermind of the Paris attacks was captured? Truly terrifying.

Daesh has their own state, their own tax system, highways, currency, even tourism videos. They even have their own capital city, Raqqa. And just a short ride outside of Raqqa lies an ancient land known as Dabiq, which is also the name of their own magazine. To truly understand these people, their motivations, desires, and ideology, look no further than the name.

In an obscure ancient pseudo-Islamic text not even in the Qur'an itself there lies the story of an epic End Times battle between Rome and its many allies and Sunni Islamic warriors. The battle takes place in modern day Dabiq, Syria, and ironically it doesn't end well for the warriors. But that doesn't matter, for immediately following the fight, the Apocalypse takes place and the "holy" defenders of Dabiq go to heaven, the attackers go to hell.

Where al-Qaeda was simply interested in destroying the Great Satan of Western Capitalistic Democratic Culture itself by leveling its very symbol thereby ruining the world financial system so that everything goes back to ZERO to usher in some sort of hunter-gatherer society ruled by Sharia law, truly Fight Clubesque I might add, Daesh differs in that their ambitions are far more realistic but on a much smaller scale: do anything they possibly can to attract Rome, aka normal civilization, to head to Dabiq for battle.

Of course if that did occur, Daesh would get their asses ripped apart, and afterwards, well I hate to say it, but the world would go on. No Apocalypse guys. Sorry.

Part of me would like to see this. This part of me thinks logically that if modern day Rome goes in to Syria and wrecks shit, we'd kill all these guys and simultaneously show the world and especially the true believers in this nonsense the obvious: the world didn't end, your belief is bogus.

But would it? I'm not sure, considering the unfortunate fact that hundreds of thousands of Daesh-indoctrinated kids will grow up. And worldwide, there are still citizens of every country infected with this religious virus. We live in the age of YouTube, and Twitter, and encrypted technology.

The point is, however, in these troubling times it is easy to listen to and follow demagogues who say things like "bomb the shit out of ISIS!"

But remember one thing: ISIS is not afraid of being bombed. They're afraid of not being bombed.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Worst State Capital

Spoiler alert. It's Hartford.

But I coulda told you that years ago.

Now it's official.


There's a little place, a coffee shop, here in my relatively-new home town of New Haven. It's called Blue State Coffee, it's pretty f'n good, but pretty overpriced. At least when compared to the pervasive amount of Dunkins that exist here, truly an epidemic of historic proportions. But it's great coffee, it's not a chain, and the two and only two Blue States are within walking distance of Yale. Yes, you get what you pay for. And they can get away with it because YALE.

I had a co worker who has since moved away, and although we'd disagree somewhat about those two things you should always talk about at parties and with strangers - politics and religion - we remain great friends. He used to joke about the liberal-ass lattes there, the prices, the taxes, etc. And I'd say, hey, I would've just gone to Red State Coffee where it's cheaper with no taxes, but it's falling apart, trashy, unsafe, and the coffee just sucks.

To be fair, Blue State Coffee is simply named after the Blue State in which it resides - Connecticut. And Connecticut sure has its problems. When that same co worker and I would chat about the perception of Connecticut; the yachts, the hedge fund mansions, the New England quaintness, VS the real Connecticut; the satellite dish infested boarded houses, the high cost of living, aging cities that feed off themselves, he'd often end with a comment such as, "Well it's a Blue State!" An obvious negative connotation, to him.

And he wouldn't necessarily be wrong, though I would smugly grin while pointing out the fact that Red States actually have the highest crime rates. Not to mention the highest illiteracy rates, the highest STD rates, the highest poverty rates, the highest obesity rates.... I could go on.

But I will say though, that there are good and bad examples of Red States, and good and bad examples of Blue States. Some of the things that make one good or bad are, of course, influenced by things beyond its control sometimes. I think Texas may be a Red State that is doing it right. Same with Alaska. But that may be solely due to a plethora of natural resources, that and its small population when it comes to Alaska. And states like Maryland are good Blue States, maybe due to a high concentration of federal government there. Minnesota as well, maybe partially due to its polite and efficient German influence. Who knows.

After living here over five years, however, I must admit that Connecticut is an example of a Bad Blue State. I see it everyday. More people move out than in every year. The state government just laid off 1000 workers and is cutting essential services yet is still running a nineteen-million dollar deficit. I see cities such as New Britain, Waterbury, and Bridgeport literally feeding off themselves, where the few brave souls who venture downtown to shop and stimulate the economy ironically are hounded by the parking authority hungry to give out $35 tickets.

Maybe it's the Libra in me, favoring balance and fairness, but that is what any government, any organization at that, needs to be successful: balance.

You can't cut your way out of your problems, just look at Kansas. But you can't tax your way out of them either. Look no further than our Capital, Hartford, where I literally can't think of any nice neighborhoods yet it's tax mill rate is 74! I'd never consider moving somewhere where the cost of living is just as astronomically high as your chance of having your car broken into. Or worse.

This state is like a forest fire right now, let's just hope it can be destroyed and rebuilt.

The Murder of Scalia

In 2006 while sitting in the armchair at my computer in a messy house on Earl Street in Shippensburg, PA which I shared with three college buddies, I became utterly convinced that the Bush Administration was responsible for the World Trade attacks. And by responsible, I mean, they actually knocked them down in a controlled demolition. To be fair, it wasn't just Bush. It was Cheyney, Rumsfeld, some other top CIA and DOD people, as well as the Illuminati, of course.

I knew this, because I watched an extremely-compelling documentary online called Loose Change. This movie explained the entire cover-up, how it was executed, why it was done, and who benefited. And believe me, if I had any doubts at the time about the intentions of the Bush Administration, and I did, well, this flick pretty much solidified them. 

I mean, we were at war! And a terrible one. We watched on live tv this invasion of Iraq and read on the AP daily about another roadside IED that killed and maimed a bunch of 19-year old Marines, the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed and displaced, the fact that our own government bungled this so badly. But without this false-flag operation we called 9/11 carried out not five years before, well, this wouldn't have happened. Without 9/11, there would be no pretext for war.

But even as a 21-year old, the second I found out that this "documentary" was nothing more than a movie project directed and produced by a few college students not much older than me, a project based on pure fiction and pot-induced imagination, I quickly disregarded it. It didn't change much about my opinion of Cheyney and Bush. But at least it made null and void any argument about the evilness of our current government for purposely destroying two huge buildings in downtown Manhattan and killing thousands of innocent US citizens just for an excuse to go to war, while engaging in heated and drunken political arguments with my more pro-Bush college peers.

I would always argue that Iraq was our worst foreign policy decision ever, that it actually created the very thing it set out to destroy: a terrorist safe haven. I would argue that it was poorly executed, and very stupid, and possibly even criminally negligent. I would also argue that the Bush tax cuts were detrimental to our economy, or that how is it fiscally-conservative to fight a war without raising taxes to pay for it, and turn an abundant surplus into a devastating deficit? And I still argue this, but never will I bring up the evil conspiracy argument.


Well among other things, it's just dumb. And incredibly pointless. And I know how stupid you look when you argue things such as Obama is a Kenyan-born Marxist Secularist while also somehow an Islamist...just as stupid as you look when you argue that Bush knocked down the World Trades. Yet I do believe that poor decisions, unintended consequences, innocent mistakes and stupidity sometimes are the reason these conspiracy theories exist. Like invading a foreign country for sketchy reasons or not thoroughly investigating the death of a sitting Supreme Court Justice.

I think that in this hyperpartisan foul year of our Lord A.D. 2016, political belief has become interchangeable with religion, and maybe it always has been. We are quick to blame the other side for any bad that happens on our side, while always seeing our side as the well-intentioned one. Some also say that we are innately hardwired to believe in conspiracy theories. I know I was at one point, as a child, when I became fascinated in UFOs and secret societies and government coverups. But, ya know, I eventually grew up. And even more significantly, I like to believe I gained some common sense and critical thinking skills along the way.

And if you let emotion or partisanship get in the way of common sense and critical thinking, well, you may or may not be an idiot, but you damn sure look like one.

Scalia died peacefully in bed, one year older than the current life expectancy of an American male. Let's try to give society the benefit of the doubt, that maybe just maybe, it wasn't the CIA smothering him with a pillow (then leaving the murder weapon on top of the body). 

Maybe, just maybe, sometimes crazy awful life-altering things just happen. Sometimes it actually is a small group of hijackers with box cutters. Or the weather. Or just one guy with a gun. 

Except with the JFK assassination...that shit was a goddam cover-up.

Friday, January 29, 2016

This Is Where Democracy Fails

And that is what democracy looks like!

And I don't see us coming back from this one, folks.


Fareed Zakaria's piece today in the Wash Post, regarding the fact that years of dishonesty on behalf of the Republicans to their base, dishonesty about starving that big government beast, about the danger of the deficit and immigrants, about trickle-down economics, about pretty much everything, is what led to the likes of Cruz and the Donald, while thoughtful and informative totally misses the point.

The very nature of this two-party Constitutional Republic of ours has but one single rule that is constant: the party that is not currently in power exists solely for regaining power back. When the freshly defeated conservatives in the beginning of 2009 told their fellow colleagues in the House and Senate that their sole purpose from now on is to ensure Barack Obama and his fellow Dems FAIL, even if that meant the entire country failing, shit, ESPECIALLY if the entire country fails, well that is what I call accidental honesty. They were simply doing what is required of this rigged charade we call democracy.

This has been going on since the beginning, make no mistake. The only difference, and it is a big difference, is that it was never easier to galvanize a political base than in 2009, 2010, 2014 and so on. And that is because of THREE factors:

1.) Black
2.) Democrat
3.) Big city

I can't help but wonder if Obama and his team on the campaign trail naively overestimated the nature of this democracy and the individuals that make it up. Did they ever really think that this liberal-ass black community activist turned elitist professor from the southside of liberal-ass Chicago with a "Muslim" middle name and a father from Kenya could possibly unite a country of countries? Winning election and reelection was the easy part. But governing, you know, the part that truly matters, is another.

Interestingly, our democracy and our free-market system, those two main facets that make us uniquely American, allow for, encourage, and even force us, to bet against just bets against our money, the other against our intellect.

We all have teachers in our lives who we never forget, and one of the few in my life is Tom Babcock, my Spanish teacher for two years in high school, with whom my class and I all watched the Twin Towers crumble live on TV that morning. He once said that America is the "bratty teenager of the world." We are one of the youngest countries, yet very successful and extremely powerful. We know it all. Screw all the others, like France, Iraq, Sudan, and China, who are ancient and have seen it all, who look down on us like an old grizzled war veteran to a 16-year old suburban kid whose only concern is next Saturday's soccer game and think, boy oh boy, have you got a whole lotta growing up ahead of you. Sweet kid..

But grow up, how? Besides waiting centuries for inevitable wisdom one thing could be done. The Founding Fathers saw this coming, and fearing that the public's freedom to choose their own leaders would be undermined by a dumb public, they created the free library system which we still have. Today though it's not enough, but the modern day equivalent may well be heavily subsidized, high-quality, debt free higher education for all. Incentivize it, so it's easy to accomplish whether you're Harvard-inclined or are better with your hands and prefer night school. At least then we'd have better critical thinking skills, at least then we'd have people questioning whether banning all Muslims, getting past the fact that it's immoral and unAmerican, could ever be practical or logistically-sound.

My inner cynic though thinks we just have to wait a few centuries and figure this whole thing out as we go.

Monday, January 25, 2016


With few places more exotic, my lovely girlfriend and I embarked on January 13th to be foreigners in this distant land for a few days. And it was breathtaking.

But to make it to heaven sometimes you must go through hell, or in this case China. And more specifically, Beijing Airport. It was an experience in itself to say the least, having to connect here and go through a secondary security inspection just to walk through to our next flight. This behemoth of an airport, which feels and looks like a large plane hangar, but with high-end mall-style storefronts truly is where capitalism meets communism, and awkwardly. The outside temperature is 26°, the entire place is unheated, and the bundled up scarf wearing baristas, customer service reps, and store clerks surely don't seem to mind.

Soon however we were in Bangkok, and even though we arrived at the fantastic Amari Watergate Hotel in the dead of night, the humidity was punishing. Quite the opposite of Beijing. The entire time here, the day time temperature averaged 91°, the humidity continued to be punishing...and this was the cool season.

But the Thais seemed to be used to it, and even if they weren't, they probably wouldn't complain. What we encountered here on a daily basis was the happiest, simplest, and most humble culture of people. From our tour guide to the bell hop to the street vendors, nothing but the utmost generosity, and welcoming smiley faces. Probably a legacy of centuries of ingrained Buddhist thought.

For this country has nearly always been peaceful, not meddling in foreign affairs but also not allowing to be meddled with. One wouldn't even know that a royal family and King still run the county, or that just a year and a half prior a military coups took place here. Of course, a relatively civil and peaceful one somehow.

We were privileged to see pretty much all of what is Thailand, minus the resorts on the southern peninsula, which we had no desire to see anyway. Of course we had to be stereotypical tourists to do all of this, which included walking the bustling streets of Bangkok, viewing and walking about within the most intricately designed gorgeous temples, shopping for unheard of deals and eating the most delicious of food, driving through the countryside to Kanchanabori to ride elephants, stopping at the floating markets along the way. We sipped from the tops of coconuts and feasted on the freshest of wild fruits which could've been grown in the Garden of Eden itself, which alone is a good enough reason to visit.  I stuck my feet into a tank and watched as hundreds of fish gave me a pedicure. We zip-lined tree to tree from hundreds of feet up in the forest canopy, rafted in the River Kwai, boated in the Mekong, crossed into the country of Laos where we drank snake whiskey and tiger penis liqueur, saw the border of Myanmar, and laid our heads for the last four nights in the beautiful moat-surrounded city of Chiang Mai.

It was the vacation of a lifetime, and it came to a close after we departed Chiang Mai to arrive back to the drab and coldness of Beijing Airport to connect to JFK.

Our 13 hour flight left Beijing at 10 am, and as if straight out of a sci fi novel, we arrived safely at JFK... at 10 am.

Before heading home though, we stopped at IHOP, succumbing to hunger for a meal that didn't contain any white rice and fighting back the intense jet lag that was coming, and just hours before the intense blizzard that was also coming.

Thailand is and was amazing. There really are no words.

But damn, three days later and I am still fighting that jet lag.

In Defense of the Donald

I was jogging on a treadmill in a hotel exercise room in Omaha when I saw his now famous presidential run introduction live on CNN, a speech that touched on all the important issues such as illegal immigration, building a wall to keep out immigrants and making Mexico pay for it, and immediately deporting tens of millions of illegal immigrants.

And I will not mention his last name. The last thing the internet needs is more of that word and hence more free publicity. No, from hereafter, the subject shall be referred to as he/him/this guy.

This is a guy who was a sleazy New Jersey developer for most of his life, a Democrat at that, a guy who extolled the benefits of making deals with the government, greasing the wheels of democracy, and maximizing profit. He proudly owns dens of filth and sin, and has filed bankruptcy several times.

In other words, for most of his life, he epitomized everything that the Republican base feared and hated, the very base that now he polls with virtually 100%.


Because, simply, he saw an opportunity and ran with it. It was quite business-like and therefore, quite him.

He saw from miles away the seething anger of an American public climbing the slow crest of the horrific Great Recession which seemed to spark from a match to a full blown arson so perfectly (and conveniently) right about in January 2009, between Bush's exit and Obama's entrance.

Suddenly, a conservative base that would otherwise despise an East Coast elitist sleazeball Casino developer channeled their hate towards a Midwest elitist Harvard educated Constitution lawyer. And he saw this, from miles away.

Testing the waters of fear and stupidity by dipping into and becoming a driving force behind the "birther" bull shit, realizing that this would work politically, realizing that the vast majority of one voting bloc could simply go against reality out of jealousy and ignorance.

No, I truly doubt this guy is a Hitler-esque racist, or an ignorant bigot, or dangerous man.

He is simply a pandering liar, and more specifically, a lying politician.

I truly can't believe he believes what he says.

And that is a giant compliment.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Myself, far from a participant in any organized religion (because, you know, I went to Catholic school for 12 years), yet I frequently find such beautiful language within the Bible, ancient yet so very relative to today...

"The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

The Bible, that textbook that every Christian places above all else, yet every Christian I know personally is completely against allowing the Syrian refugees in. Because ISIS. Because Islam.

I really do try, when I debate these individuals, to relay the absolute fact that you can use the Bible to justify good. You can use the Bible to justify bad.

You can use the Qur'an to justify good, and you can use the Qur'an to justify bad.

But when's the last time we agreed even on the facts?


I recently watched an ISIS fighter and his totally indoctrinated barely 6-year old son on a youtube video somewhere in the desert near Raqqa. To paraphrase, in the clip the man rants about the tough life here. His tough life, and the fact that the tougher the better, for all of this here on this world does not matter.

All that matters is the afterlife, and the tougher the worldly experience, the better the next will be.

And then it hit me.

The root cause is not Islam. It's not even religion.

It truly is all a matter of geopolitics. Religion is merely a tool, and determined by geography.

For years, there were men like this, women and children too, in Syria, Iraq, and any other shithole dictator-led country, barely living, in oppressively hot desert lands where air conditioning is the last concern, where money made in the few actual jobs buys next to nothing any way, where your own government may very well kidnap you in the dead of night and torture and kill you ANY day or time.

Depending on where you live, religion may be used as a feel-good Sunday social gathering or a straight up psychological defense mechanism to block the harsh reality that is your life from you.

Islam just happens to be the dominant religion in said shithole countries.