Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Afghanistan has been in the news a lot lately with the recent firing of General McCrystal. His comments disparaging the administration published by Rolling Stone magazine have led to McCrystal's replacement by General Petraeus as commander of our forces in Afghanistan. Petraeus's job will be to determine the length of our stay there. Stunningly, I have an opinion on the matter.
As I was saying, when we should leave and in what increments is the main object of debate at this moment in our nation's history. I was originally a supporter of the conflict in Afghanistan (but not Iraq) as I believe it is important to bring Osama bin Laden and his minions to justice for the terrible 9/11 attacks. The years have soured me on the viability of completing our mission there since bin Laden has clearly skipped town and headed to neighboring Pakistan. I wonder, what are the reasons for our staying further?
Many would say that we are there to prevent further terrorist attacks on our soil. The Taliban and Al Qaeda were able before the invasion to use the country as a safe haven for their attacks on America and her allies. The logic goes that if we leave they could do so again.
IMHO this argument has more holes than a block of swiss cheese after being used for machine gun practice. Even with our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq there have been attacks on our homieland's cribs. They have been unsuccessful, but that is just our good luck so far. If we want to be loved our government needs to make substantial changes to our foreign policy.
I could talk about how our special relationship with Israel raises Muslim ire or how our energy policy forces us to regularly deal with some pretty terrible people in the Middle East for quite a few pages, but I would rather point out more succinctly that our presence as an unwanted force brings about the likelihood that more terrorists are being created every day. I have many friends in the military and I know they do their best to avoid hurting civilians, but no matter how hard they try all it takes is one mistake or one bad seed from our side to create an angry orphan who has seen his parents blown apart at the hands of US forces.
Even though I know our military tries to do things the right way, they are working on a daily basis with the Afghan government. I trust those bozos about as much as I would trust a Catholic priest to babysit my kids (were I to miraculously have any). Corruption has long been a way of business in the country, as it is anywhere that has such a decentralized regime combined with extreme poverty. A nation with a medieval economy based on agriculture rather than industry, Afghans have to make ends meet any way they can, and often that is by means that would be considered questionable by Western sensibilities.
Opium is the route many have chosen and the authorities in the Afghan military and government are directly involved through ownership of the fields, bribery, or willingness to look the other way. Bribery, or "baksheesh," is just another cost of doing business in the country (and in many other Middle Eastern lands). Our presence in Afghanistan has not discouraged the farming of opium - in fact according to organized crime expert Misha Glenny's data, the drug's cultivation increased 1,000 percent in the first year after our occupation began in late 2001. The Taliban went from suppressing its growth to using the plant as a source of quick capital so they could refresh their weapons cache.
Our military has tried hard to stop the opium growers, but reaching them is easier said then done do to the country's geography. Yes sir, yet another problem hindering our chances of success in Afghanistan is the terrain. Some of the highest (literally and figuratively I suppose) mountain ranges in the world dot the landscape and the country is relatively large and inhospitable.
Most importantly there is zero infrastructure. Roads are few and far between - making it from one place to another is extremely difficult. I friend of mine who has spent several tours there with the Army Special Forces detailed to me how they would travel overland for several days to try to catch a force of Taliban by surprise, only to be spotted by villagers (usually children) who would warn the Taliban of the nearby US presence, allowing them to escape.
The rugged landscape also feeds corruption, allowing "warlords" enter the power vacuum and to take over turf like the head of an LA street gang, little worried that the government in Kabul will interfere in his domain. Many warlords have absolute power within their fiefs and cooperation with Kabul or the Taliban can be based on the whims of the individual warlord or the size of the bribes he receives.
There is no doubt we are a superior military force when opposing the Taliban on the battlefield. Every major offensive bent on removing the enemy from a certain geographical area has ended in success. Unfortunately, the Taliban can move to another place and resume operations and the whole process has to be started over again, like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.
Nevertheless, our commanders will continue to insist they can do the job, even though the situation is impossible. Why? Because if they do admit to the odds being stacked against them, another general with a more positive attitude (i.e. unrealistic) can easily be brought in to take their place. President Obama can't pull us out of Afghanistan - he believes the political backlash would destroy him. The politicians and the generals can't be seen to fail - their careers depend on success as the only option. Who or what will pull us out of this quagmire into which we have been immersed I can only wonder.
The land of Afghanistan has been referred to as the graveyard of empires, with the Russian and British empires both experiencing the wrath of the people and the land, who eschewed their presence there. We in our hubris will share the same fate - the only question is when and how many more great American soldiers have to be killed and maimed in the process as we continue on with this madness, the longest war in our nation's great history.
And now, your moment of long-term memory loss....
"This was a war of Obama's choosing. This is not something the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in."
-- RNC Chairman Michael Steele on Afghanistan
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I recently returned from a two day trip to Las Vegas, part of a week long vacation I took out west with some of my friends. Contrary to the title of this article I actually managed to get out of the city with most of my clothing intact. I'm not really much of a gambler so I avoided most of the games. In fact, I don't really even understand what is going on with craps, roulette, baccarat, etc. I did play the slot machines, which were pretty simple. You insert some money, push a button and then watch the wheels spin around and make some noises. Then you repeat this action until all your money is in the machine.
My only other wagering was done at the New York, New York casino sports book where along with my friends I placed a five dollar bet on the under in the Toronto vs San Diego baseball game. The teams took merely three innings to outscore the under and demolish our chances. Fortunately, the bookie had erred and given us a receipt for the Anaheim vs Milwaukee game instead. This game featured more runs than the Cubs have scored all season and was also a loser, if only barely since I think the Cubbies have a total of six for the year.
Not wanting to throw all my hard-earned cash into the wind and watch it blow away to the four corners of the Earth I walked much of the strip along with my buddies, who we will call Corey and Mark for the purposes of this story. I was left in awe of the amazing architecture evident in every direction. I had always thought the Eiffel Tower was in Paris. New York, New York was one of the most impressive hotels, featuring the major landmarks of our nation's largest city thrown up haphazardly as if the planet had swallowed the real city and regurgitated it in the Nevada desert. A roller coaster circled the property in order to bring the atmosphere in line with what Salvador Dali would have wanted.
We stayed at the Excalibur, a cheap knockoff of a thirteenth century castle built to resemble something your little brother constructed at the age of four with his Lego set. On the positive side, there was an In and Out burger nearby so the dude was at least able to abide.
Walking down the Las Vegas strip affords you the opportunity to meet all kinds of interesting people, most of whom are Latinos snapping their fingers in unison like the Sharks in West Side Story while they attempt to pawn off free passes to various strip clubs. One man did offer us a chance to see naked midgets jumping off of diving boards and I do admit we gave serious consideration to his proposal. This is something I do not believe you can see regularly in Greenville yet. Oh well, maybe next time.
My favorite casino was the Venetian, which boasts gondolas floating on a man-made canal within the premises as well as a ceiling painted as if it were the blue sky overhead. Another section of the hotel had elaborate frescoes that were as impressive at first glance as anything you can find in the cathedrals and palaces of Europe.
We also entered the famed Bellagio, where we were able to dine on their buffet, a massive spread which resembled a culinary Noah's ark, with seemingly every type of food from around the world represented. Unlike Noah's tiny skiff, this battleship contained enough food to repopulate several worlds rather than only one. I was reminded that I needed to apologize to Adam Richman for accusing him of glorifying gluttony after I hypocritically partook in three full plates (not to mention Burritozilla, but that is for another time). I vote we give every Haitian who lost his home or business during the recent massive earthquake there a free year long pass to the buffet to help ease my guilt.
Honestly though, as much glitz and glamor as exists all along the strip I had little interest in gambling, visiting strip clubs and prostitutes, or going to the various shows. Even superstars like Wayne Brady, Tom Jones, Celine Dion, Barry Manilow and the Thunder from Down Under can only keep my attention for only a few minutes or so. Well maybe a little longer in the case of the Thunder from Down Under.
Despite the easy availability of all these things, my favorite place was O'Shea's, an Irish bar/casino where we were able to obtain cheap beer and play beer pong. Call me a provincial redneck or an unenlightened slob if you will, but its the simple things that make me happy.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Just got back in from my week long trip to Las Vegas and Monterey, California. I learned many things, including what Carlos is not supposed to do at the table. A review of my accumulated musings will appear here in the not too distant future.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The state of South Carolina finally snapped Thursday after centuries of suffering in silence, demanding that the state of North Carolina "get the fuck off."
According to historians, North Carolina has been carelessly and inconsiderately sitting directly on top of South Carolina for about the last three hundred years or so.
South Carolina's proposal has brought mixed reactions across the state. Geologist Kevin Smithfield is concerned about the repercussions should North Carolina take the hint and actually depart its present location. "We've never in all of our planet's history had a land mass of this size just run off and take up a new position on the map. How will the fault lines be effected? Will Virginia, Maryland and the rest of the Northeast coast collapse in a heap like the last disastrous move of a Jenga game and crush South Carolina under their combined weight? These are all things South Carolina should have considered before making these rash demands"
Local pothead John Parker Williamson claims Smithfield is in wrong to be worried, pointing out that, "The world can just flip itself upside down and then South Carolina will be on top, problem solved."
Others are downright cheery regarding North Carolina's proposed departure. Travel agent Lisa Sundberg suggested in a recent interview that if North Carolina were to move down the coast a little bit it would become a Caribbean hot-spot right here in the United States.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley agreed with Sundberg, saying "I believe North Carolina's relocation to be great for our city. Here is yet another reason to come to our great city; we have Spoleto, historic plantations, and now 400% more beaches than before. Obviously this new property will be annexed immediately by the city of Charleston"
At this date we can only speculate what our northern neighbor will actually choose to do. The Tar Heel state has refused any comment as of press time. Whether the state will respond to South Carolina's ultimatum is still unclear.
If North Carolina does decide to evacuate, the geographic rearrangement may not be over. Florida is also rumored to have asked Georgia to get its ass out of its face.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Soccer's World Cup begins on June 11, creating a tremendous opportunity for the nations of Earth to get together in South Africa and celebrate peace and brotherhood through a shared love of "the beautiful game." I will now dissect the teams, looking at who has contributed the most to Red Cross efforts in Darfur.
On second thought, instead of that boring hippie crap let's pick the winners of the eight groups through the most violent, yet educational means available, a comparison of the military histories of the countries involved. Instead of just one group of death, we can have eight - let the senseless bloody carnage commence!
Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France
1. South Africa: The South Africans have surprised a couple of times, with victories in battles during the late 19th century over the British Empire courtesy of their Zulus and later on the Boers taking place on their home turf. Of course, both groups were later stomped out like the ashes of a near-dead fire by the British juggernaut. However, these whites (Boers) and blacks (Zulus) have united into a force the country has never heretofore known. They also own the home advantage and no home team has ever failed to make the second round - expect Bafana Bafana to go on to round two.
2. Mexico: Although well known for their trouncing at the hands of the Americans in the 1840s, the Mexicans have been known to surprise - with a successful revenge incursion into the United States led by their great striker Pancho Villa in the early twentieth century. A French force was also expelled from Mexico during the 1860s. The Mexicans also spent a lot of time during the last century practicing by killing each other - expect them to be prepared and move to the final 16.
3. Uruguay: I was not aware of this but apparently Uruguay is a small country stuck between the butt cheeks of Brazil and Argentina in South America. Hopefully planes fly there since they will finish on the bottom of their group and be sent packing with alacrity.
4. France: The French have struggled in the last one hundred years, with defeats by the Germans, the Germans again, Vietnam, Algeria, and god knows who else. Their glory days under the management of the great field general, Napoleon, referred to by soccer military historians as "The Special One", are far behind them. Expect the French to beat Uruguay, lose again to Mexico, and fall in a close contest to the home side, ending their 2010 campaign with the traditional spectacular failure.
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece
1. Argentina: The Argentian side is known mostly for the Falklands War of 1982. A few years earlier, the national soccer team had irked mighty England by cheating - using a method known as the "hand of God" to score a goal, defeating the English. The wrath of the scorned Brits was quick, they invaded the Falklands, a group of islands off the coast of Argentina. Due to a poor defensive backfield the majority of the Argentine soldiers were quickly massacred. Expect poor defense to be the Achilles heel of this Argentina squad as well. They fail to advance.
2. Nigeria: On the down side, the Nigerians have also been conquered by the British. On the plus side, like the Mexican team, the country boasts several different tribal groups as well as large Christian and Muslim populations, which have spent a lot of time killing each other in recent years. Unfortunately, I think they lack the experience necessary to advance out of this tough group.
3. South Korea: With the help of their allies the Americans, the South Koreans successfully repelled forces from North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union during the 1950s. Just watch reruns of MASH if you'd like to check out the highlights. With nearly 40 United States military installations in their country, expect the powerful friends of South Korea to help launch them into the next round.
4. Greece: Clearly the top of Group B, Greece can boast Alexander the Great amongst their former stars and home victories over the Persians at Marathon and Salamis (not to be confused with the deli meat), not to mention their great tie while playing a man down in the battle of Thermopylae, where they showed their amazing ability on the defensive side of the ball. Despite falling on hard times in recent years with losses in several wars against Turkey, expect the Greeks to win the group behind the strength of their defense, which is known to bore opposing teams and fans into tears of submission.
Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
1. England: A dominate world power from the 18th century up until World War II, England has perhaps the most experience in the field, with many great victories, mainly over the French. With a record of 0-1-1 against the United States and a clear record of being their boy-toy over the last fifty years, I find a second place finish in the group likely.
2. USA: The most unstoppable military force on Earth has claimed victory in two World Wars, a tie in Korea, a disputed loss in Vietnam, and wins over Grenada, Panama, , Yugoslavia, and Iraq (twice) in the last century alone. With an annual military budget just under one and a half trillion dollars, the United States is without equal in the field. The US side will steamroll the competition in the early rounds.
3. Algeria: The Algerians own a hard fought home victory over the French during their war of independence in the 1950s and 1960s and can also brag that they are the home of Zinedine Zidane, the dangerous Italian head-butter from the 2006 World Cup Final. Their guerillas invented many of the terrorist tactics still used by their Islamic brethren today. Unfortunately though, their victory is over the French after all and does not count for much in such a loaded section. The Algerians will finish a tough third.
4. Slovenia: Using vodka and hefty bribes, the Slovenians managed to win a playoff against Russia to make the World Cup. Interestingly enough, Slovenia is a former part of Yugoslavia, which broke up in the 1990s. The Slovenian soccer team will also break up after being clubbed to death like a baby seal by their three superior opponents.
Note: The above imagery nearly made me cry. Why do babies have to be so cute?
Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana
1. Germany: Obviously the class of the group, these Nazi bastards should advance easily based on their past victories over France, France, France, and France. Belgium, Denmark, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Namibia, and Tanzania can also be listed amongst their conquests. Only the USA and England (and Russia who failed to qualify) have given them trouble in the past. First place all the way for the Krauts despite the loss of midfielder Michael Ballack to injury. Deutchland Uber Alles!
2. Australia: Although not a country with a great military tradition Australia has shown great tenacity when given a chance to show their might. Just watch the film "Gallipoli" and you will see wave after wave of Aussie charge into machine gun nests with absolutely no hope of success. The saddest part of the movie is when Mel Gibson fails to die at the end. I feel the never say die yet die repeatedly attitude of the Australians will suit them well in this group, I expect them to surprise and advance in second position.
3. Serbia: The Chicago Cubs of war (I know you thought it would be the French) the Serbs are still mad about losing the battle of Kosovo to the Turks in 1448. That losing tradition has continued in the recent past while the country went under the alias Yugoslavia. Civil War losses to the Bosnians and Croats were followed by crushing bombardments by the USA and the defection of Montenegro, Macedonia, and even Kosovo itself. No one loves Serbia and neither does this prognosticator - say goodbye to the fourth place Serbs.
4. Ghana: The West African country of Ghana was ruled mainly by the Ashanti dynasty until the colonial period when they were steamrolled by the British bulldozer, much like the rest of the world. Considered a great civilization and a military power in its region during the medieval period, Ghana lacks the firepower without the absent Michael Essien to contend with the modern weaponry of this group, although even they can kick the sorry Serbians' asses. Third place and a trip home for these challengers.
Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon
1. Netherlands: The Netherlands or Holland (if you're into the whole brevity thing) have a long streak of success starting in the the 16th and 17th centuries with their successful rebellion against the Spanish, after merely eighty years of warfare. Clearly sticktoitiveness is not lacking in the Dutch spirit. Wins over Sweden and Indonesia and an impressive draw against England followed over the next fifty years, establishing a solid reputation. Van Gogh also cut off his own ear to impress his girlfriend which is totally bad ass. Too bad she turned out to be a dike. I predict the Dutch to advance second in the group and that you will vomit on an unfortunate pet of your choice when the complete puntacularity of the dike joke hits you.
2. Denmark: If you turned the map of Europe upside down, Denmark would be Germany's penis after it was put into a paper shredder. Their military has also been hacked up a bit over the past century with the Danes competing in eighteen different wars that historians have bothered to name as well as myriad rapes and pillages during the Viking era. Placed in the right group Denmark would have had a great chance, but the Dutch and the Japanese should prove to be too much. In addition, the refs have been cracking down on the hacking of players with axes this year and the Danes will likely struggle with red cards - 3rd place.
3. Japan: Renowned for their samurais, ninjas, and Kurosawa movies, Japan holds a high place in the history of beating the shit out of people. With two big wins over China, one thanks to the divine wind or kamikaze and the other due to the fact that the Chinese had all cracked out around the opium bowl. Another win against the vaunted Russians was followed up by a hard fought loss to the USA. Known for their advanced strategy and sneak attacks (surprisingly they are rarely caught offside), this offensive-minded Japanese side should ambush the opposition and finish top of the group.
4. Cameroon: Cameroon doesn't have much of a military history, but they do have Lake Nyos, which leaks a lethal gas into the atmosphere when it is feeling chippy. If the Cameroonians can trick any of their opponents into nearing Nyos they may have a chance. Otherwise they are pretty much fucked.
Group F: Italy, New Zealand, Slovakia, Paraguay
1. Italy: Far and away the class of a very weak group, the Italians, who once went by the name the Roman Fucking Empire split a lot of ass cheeks in twain with their boots in the old days. Fighting successfully against the Carthaginians, Gauls, Germans, Persians, Dacians, and many others, the Romans established an empire that has never been rivaled in the history of mankind. Sadly, the last 1500 years since the fall of the Romans has included quite a few defeats, but what the hell - everyone has a bad millennium. Besides, the Sicilians alone could defeat these cream puffs. Three easy wins and a pass to the round of 16 for the Italians.
2. New Zealand: I gave the New Zealanders short shrift earlier when discussing the Australians at the battle of Gallipoli. Those battalions were known as ANZAC and included quite a few Kiwis as well. These islands also boast a tough indigenous group of warriors called the Maori that have cannibalized the flesh of their human enemies on occasion. Expect opposing teams to be intimidated by the sight of the Kiwi defense gnawing on the skull of their star striker. Author's Note: Maoris are offended by cannibal humor finding it in poor taste according to spokesman Tamati Kruger - or did he said cannibalism tastes poor? I may have misquoted. Anyway New Zealand should eat their way through to the next round with a second place finish in the group.
3. Slovakia: Slovakia used to be part of Czechoslovakia, but they rid themselves of those worthless asshats in a desperate attempt to qualify, which they somehow managed to do. Sadly, without the Czech part their country is now often confused with the Greek dish souvlaki. Expect the Maoris and Italians to make souvlaki out of their fresh corpses. The Italians will do the cooking, of course. Mama Mia! 3rd Place.
4. Paraguay: A small country wedged between giants Brazil and Argentina in South America, Paraguay is a great example of the importance of coaching. Led by José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia from 1811-1840, the young nation managed to stay out of the affairs of their neighbors and enjoyed an era of peace and prosperity. When Francia retired due to death in 1840, Carlos Antonio Lopez (who apparently was kind of a fat ass) and later his son Francisco took the reigns and succeeded in getting the Paraguayan military some much needed practice. Of course, they lost all of these wars, most notably the famed "War of the Triple Alliance" ( a menage a trois never works out in the end), where Brazil and Argentina managed for the first time to agree on something, mainly that they hated the Paraguayans.
The retirement of the indefatigable Chilavert, who played all 11 positions for Paraguay from 1990-2006 will also hurt the squad. Recently, the country's military has tried to get their game in shape for the World Cup by staging a coup d'etat against the civilian government. Unfortunately the coup failed miserably and so will the Paraguayan soccer team - 4th place.
Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Cote d'Ivorie, Portugal
1. Brazil: Although not known particularly for their martial prowess (with the exception of the aforementioned thrashing of Paraguay), Brazil does have an impressive array of footballing weaponry, mainly the deadly feet of their starting eleven, which I would take over a saturating artillery barrage any day. Great players of yore like Pele, Socrates, Gattuso, and Ronaldo have left their mark on a grand tradition inherited by current superstars Kaka, Poopoo, and Doodoo. Coached by the defensive mastermind Dunga, expect Brazil to explode in a diarrhetic orgy all over the faces of their hapless opponents and achieve first place amongst the G crowd.
2. North Korea: As the owner of a tie with the United States in their 1950s conflict (with assists from Russia and China)and the only country in Group G with nuclear capability you would expect the Koreans to waltz through to the second round. As I have mentioned before, however, leadership is crucial and North Korea is burdened with the absolutely batshit crazy Kim Jong-Il at the helm. If anyone can fuck it up its that guy. Follow the link for more funny thanks to the genius of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. 3rd place.
3. Cote d'Ivorie: As you can tell Cote d'Ivorie was conquered by the French. This alone does not bode well for their chances. The country at least had the dignity to go by the name the Ivory Coast for awhile, but as you see even their nation's name was eventually degraded by the frogs. With the announcement that their best player, Didier Drogba, had broken his arm all hopes of a second round birth faded away. 4th place.
4. Portugal: During the 15th century the Spanish and the Portuguese actually had the gall to divide the world into two halves. According to the Treaty of Tordesillas, half of the acreage belonged to Portugal and the other real estate went to Spain. What's more, the two kingdoms had the military prowess to back up this outrageous development scheme, which would have made even Donald Trump blush red with envy. Portugal has lost most of their colonies from that era, including Brazil, who shook free from the boot of foreign domination in 1825. During this World Cup, expect the golden boots of Christiano Ronaldo to bring back that time of glory - 2nd place and a shot in the final 16 is assured.
Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile
1. Spain: The yin to Portugal's yang (does that mean they are the top or the bottom?) Spain also laid claim to half the world at one time. Like Portugal they have had a bad run of things lately with losses to France, England, seventy five different colonies, and a complete and total ass-kicking at the hands of the USA in 1898 when according to legend Teddy Roosevelt took turns beating up every member of the Spanish member individually, kind of the like the bloody fight scene in "Kill Bill Part 1". Even worse, they lost to the US soccer team in a meaningful match last year - no respectable team does that. Despite all these things, I believe they can manage a 2nd place in a weak group.
2. Switzerland: The Swiss misses have made a habit of hiding behind their mountain walls and avoiding conflict over the centuries. Neutrality has always been the nation's declared policy in the past. Well, guess what? There will be nowhere for the Swiss to run away to in South Africa - 4th place.
3. Honduras: No team of all the 32 is more qualified to win the World Cup than Honduras. They actually participated in a war that was started because of a soccer game. The "Football War" of 1969 with El Salvador resulted in thousands of casualties and no clear winner: except for the game of soccer. 1st place for this amazingly passionate and perhaps insane footballing nation.
4. Chile: One would think that Chile, who gained their independence from Spain, would therefore be the stronger team in the group. Not so fast my friends, as that raging douchebag Lee Corso would say. At the time of the Chilean revolt the French were actually at the helm of the Spanish government thanks to a succession crisis that had brought one of the Bonapartes to the throne. The efforts of field general Bernardo O'Higgins (his real name - frankly I don't think I could have made up a better one) helped to break the Chileans free from the French yoke after a ten year struggle that ended in 1820. As you know, we can't give much credit to a country for beating up on the French, so alas 3rd place belongs to Chile.
For some serious info on the World Cup let my good friend Robert drop some mad knowledge on you at http://www.futbolusa.net/