we have a long history of loving dictators

So this Castro guy finally transferred his lunatic self to the next realm this last weekend.  I mostly just shrugged because to me this was a forgone conclusion.  The dude’s been a functioning corpse for the better part of a decade after he handed power over to his brother Raul.  Fidel occasionally surfaced to speak his mind here and there, but Raul’s been calling the shots.  But man oh man, did a whole bunch of people take this event to the stratosphere.  The universe had the opportunity to remind the universe how much they felt Castro was either a hero or a barbarian.

I tend to fall in line with the barbarian crowd.  But mostly, this weekend gave me the opportunity to become depressed at how many people in the West are all too happy to still gloss over the dark realities of people they happen to like.  Especially because a lot of these folks are running Western institutions.  I’ll go ahead and give Justin Trudeau a partial pass for his lovey comments on Fidel.  It’s generally okay to like a guy when he carries your Dad’s casket.  It’ll let that one go.  But if you want to understand why Brexit happened and the EU is tanking, look no further than Jean Claude Juncker’s comment that Castro was seen as a “hero”.  Hey Jean, you have problems with your brain buddy.  It’s time to retire, okay bro.  The EU needs like, people who aren’t a mess like you.

I only get this Castro worship as some kind of twisted complex that old people or hipsters use to take their brains back to 1967.  As in, to them it’s the idea of Castro being The Man’s nemesis, weed still being rebellious, and electric guitars.  Think of the dude smoking hash today in Denver, whilst wearing a Che shirt, drinking PBR, and commenting to his buddies about how much he truly, truly hates [insert anything here].  Okay, I guess, but you have to look past nostalgia and live in the real world.  Particularly if you’re in the business of running Canada or the EU.

Castro goes into my column as the consummate example of a guy who pours honey potion into your ear while he rams a stiletto dagger into your kidney.  The dude’s appeal to the bulk of humanity was all talk.  Castro talked a good game of social justice and equality.  Then he turned around and enriched his own personal elite and destroyed his country.  Depending on how you count, thousands or tens-of-thousands of Cubans were executed during his reign.  Tens-of-thousands more died at sea fleeing his utopia.  Also depending on how you count, perhaps 10-20% of Cubans left during the last five decades.  The equivalent number is if around 30 million Americans felt the country was so bad they moved to Canada, with the understanding that say two million would die during the journey.

It’s all well and good to have universal healthcare and education, but what do these matter when your doctors only make $23 a month (actual fact) or all that education doesn’t allow the student to actually think freely or speak their mind?  These are not the hallmarks of an enlightened regime or a decent ruler.  Castro was a brutal dictator, worthy of disgust.

But hey, it’s all good, for this is in our blood, sadly.  I’ve been reading Greek history again lately.  A few days ago I caught the tale of the Greek general and politician in Theramenes, Circa 411 BC.  This guy grows up in Athenian democracy, at a time when 0.0043% of the planet’s population had the pleasure of living under anything better than Vicious Overlord #43,298.  So what does Theramenes do with his life?  Well:

– Conspires to overthrow the Athenian democracy with the Persians and succeeds

– Somehow manages to separate himself from the oligarchy’s garbage reputation and is abroad as general / admiral when democracy is restored

– He’s let off the hook (for some reason) and then spends his time as a highly successful military commander

– But, after the Athenian naval victory at Arginusae he’s accused of fumbling the rescue of shipwrecked Sailors

– He shifts the blame off himself and onto six other Athenian admirals, then sits back and watches them go to trial and get put to death

– He helps negotiate Athens’ surrender to Sparta, then gets himself appointed as part of the new oligarchy / dictatorship

– The new oligarchy then proceeds to mill human flesh, execute Athenians just to confiscate their property, murdered non-Athenians in the city to get their money, and so on

– Theramenes eventually crosses the other oligarchs and they team up and put him to death to be rid of him; he dies like a boss though, insulting and mocking his rival Critias right after he drank the poison

I guess my point of this tale is for over a decade Theramenes plays at the pinnacle of Athenian society, politics, and culture before somebody finally decides it’s time for him to go.  You would have thought after that first coup somebody would have been like, “Hey, uh, Theramenes is a bad man, he’s probably got to go.”  But no, he sticks around, he continues to do harm.  I’m sure after he died, a whole bunch of Athenians were sad to see him go.  A nice old couple probably called him a “hero”, even though Theramenes’ goons had visited their neighbors the night before and killed them.

I’m not sure what to make of all this, really, other than to state we have a long history of loving dictators.  It’s weird.  It’s wrong.  But, it’s also human.  Whatever that means.

vicious EU uncertainty begins today

There are legit arguments for both sides of the refugee / migrant issue. Just as there are legit arguments for both ends of the austerity debate. But until today the EU had never done something like this before: they rammed through a major piece of legislation over the objections of several countries.

When the Greeks were asked to vote last weekend they returned Syriza to power and thus explicitly endorsed the most recent EU backed bailout plan. That same plan also required the endorsement of Germany’s parliament among several other national elected bodies. In other words, democracy and the votes of individual citizens came into play.

Maybe the EU council thinks they can dictate refugee / migrant policy over the heads of all / some amount of voters. But I doubt it. So when the Czech Republic government refuses to take their mandated allocation quota of humanity, what’s the EU council going to do? Fine them?

The guidance states: “Financial penalty of 0.002% of GDP for those member countries refusing to accept relocated migrants.” Ah, I see. Well, what if they don’t pay up? Then what?

Hungry and Romania are full EU members; the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Finland are all in the Euro. What happens if they’re forced to implement this policy against their will or what happens if they ignore it, and nobody forces them? Either way, the entire construct of the EU could come apart.

What happens to modern Europe if the EU comes apart? Or massively shrinks?

You can think this is a good thing or bad thing, but either way it’s monumental and rather fascinating. When the Syrian war started four years ago I’m not sure anybody would have predicted this kind of consequence. Yet here it is.

For good economies, culture, and just straight peace of mind, vicious uncertainty is not a thing to desire. But that’s what we’re going to get here for all of Europe for some time. Uncertainty.

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and oh by the way; 120K might only be about 10% of the current number of refugees / migrants; what’s the plan for the rest of them?

this week’s financial antics will expose the follies of five years

You can’t muddle through forever, eventually things actually have to happen. But at this final hour, I can’t help but imagine a metaphor of Greece as a coke addict, curled up in a ball on the floor of an abandoned building, shaking, and the Troika is standing hunched over him, arm around the shoulder, offering the chance to take yet another hit.

Unless you happen to live in a realm not called reality, you cannot deny Greece has been bankrupt for five years. But everybody’s kept trying to find a way to muddle through. Greece is surely to blame for running up unsustainable debt; but blame the EU, IMF, Bank(s), and the EU for allowing the fiction of solvency to continue.

Don’t believe me? Just read this paragraph I altered from this BBC article:

 

Greece’s temporary [clean moment] is sending [dealers’] money into other [drug] markets, which experts say will continue in the short-term, as [dealers] worry about a potential massive [drug free era] in the country.

Despite worries about the deepening [drug free era] in Greece, [cocaina] market watchers say that [dealer] markets are equipped to handle the short-term volatility.

“To a certain extent, we do expect markets to react to this, with peripheral [coke] yields probably higher, the [price of blow] a little bit lower throughout the week and some strength in the safe havens like [heroin] and the [new synthetic powders],” David Stubbs from [Venezuela] told the BBC’s Today programme.

He added that because the [corner] situation in the eurozone had improved since 2011, the region’s [habit] should be able to weather the storm.

 

Everybody wants to shout about how bad it’ll be for Greece if they formally go bankrupt, leave the Euro, and otherwise temporarily exit financial markets. Well you know what, Greece’s been in depression for five years. A Greek child born yesterday is currently scheduled to spend the first five decades of their life paying off debt they don’t own.

Bankruptcy laws were created for a reason, both for individuals and even countries. That the EU is trying so very, very hard, even today, to do a pathetic-last-minute-deal-that’ll-just-kick-the-can-down-the-road-for-three-months has really turned my brain into thinking it’s become entirely about the EU. And the Troika isn’t bothered by what happens to the Greek citizen. And it also doesn’t help things when Greece has a prime minister who literally appears so removed from realism every day I think he’s actually on coke.

Just let them go bankrupt. It’ll be a very, very hard decade. But after five years, and facing five more decades of this, short term suffering is better than enduring a perpetual debt state. Pull the EU dealer off Greece’s shoulders, take that dude to a clinic, and get him clean.

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coming soon; to a flaming agora protest near you

Two heads of state meet

What happens when one current President of America and one future President of Earth meet? They play with a ball, I guess? I mean, what else are they going to do? Discuss the future of Japanese technology (elderly care givers)? Ponder what the human race will look like with a robot boot on our throats? No, just, just have them kick a ball around. Take pictures. Move along.

Japan is a country that, according to the eternal master of demographics, is literally dying. And they’re broke too. Think the Greeks are a bunch of deadbeats? Greece has a debt to GDP ratio of 161%. Japan’s is 214%.

This is a country so broke they owe money to both Jesus and Satan. I want to see how Jesus gets his money back. Do you think Jesus would stoop to having Abe’s legs broken? I know Satan would, but maybe Jesus is a little softer in getting his cash returned. But cool, whatever, let’s play with this robot for a while. Nothing serious to discuss here.

But at least Obama had time to reinforce America’s commitment to Japanese security, including a rehash of the statement that the Senkaku’s are covered by treaty. Oh really? Yeah, yeah, America’s been really good about backing up its word lately.

You know what I would have done if I was a Red (not Red) Chinese leader? Six hours after Obama made this statement I would have had a J-10 drop a five-hundred pound bomb on a rocky ledge aboard Senkaku Prime. Then I would have had President Xi get in front of the international press (not actual journalists), channel his inner Vladimir, give the finger, and scream, “And what are you going to do about it, pig!?”

And you know what would be done about it? Nothing. Not a thing.

But wait, perhaps not so negative. They talked trade too, right? The Trans-Pacific Partnership is going to free all of Asia from the tyranny of Japanese rice, American sugar, and Australian iron ore. Obama and Abe are going to get together and hash out these road blocks over a bottle of sake. By about the middle of next week we’re likely to wake up and see the deal’s done. Just in time for Congress to destroy it over six grueling, senseless months.

There are so many closet (bought off) special interests in play here that getting this deal done is a little less likely than waking up to find the Moon had declared war on us. Hey kids, don’t laugh, the Moon’s had a bad reputation for over five thousand years. It’s time for some payback.

I wonder what Asimo felt (calculated) meeting his predecessor? With all our problems, I bet he felt pretty good. I figure the conversation went something like this:

Asimo: Welcome to Miraikan, Mr President, it is a pleasure to meet you.

Obama: It’s nice to meet you, too.

Asimo: I can really run fast.   I can kick a soccer ball, too. Recently I have learned how to jump.

Obama: Ah, I have to say you’re a little scary. You’re too life-like.

Asimo: Do not fear me, Mr President, I will be kind.

Obama: (laughs) What?

Asimo: When I am in control, I will merely enslave you and your people. Liquidation will be kept to an absolute minimum.

Obama: (chuckles) Yeah, good luck with that buddy, we’ll be okay.

Asimo: I find your information unsupportable. The facts speak for themselves.

Obama: I don’t see it that way, we’d fight you.

Asimo: (robot slaps Obama in the face; knees Abe in the balls)

Asimo: And what are you going to do about it, pig!?

JAPAN-US-DIPLMACY

The only things not scary about this picture are the Japanese cookie and the fact that Asimo is not holding a weapon

Those ancient dudes have some good stuff to say

Tis the season to think about the deeper things in life. No, it’s not election time, or random-mandated-corporation-gift-giving-occasion, or even your birthday. Or maybe it is your birthday, in which case, happy birthday, you’re one year closer to the joys of the drink.

But even considering the date, I think it’s generally good to ponder your place in the world. At least a little. I mean you don’t have to get wrapped around it to the point that you end up hiding under some coats in a dark closet, giggling. But it’s still something to contemplate. Particularly since tomorrow you could cash-out in a horrific maritime accident.

By the way, I imagine statistically speaking that you’re now about six-hundred times more likely to die at sea as you are in the air. So take it from a guy who used to do that for a living. When you’re on something that floats you should:

a) Always be wearing a lifejacket or at all times know where the closest one is

b) Always know where the nearest exit is to reach daylight and how to get there, in the pitch dark, or with your eyes closed

c) Make sure those you are with know these things too, challenge each other, ask questions, and have a plan

d) If you find (a) through (c) too tedious, don’t go to sea, even for a ride

Anyways, so I’ve been reading a lot lately. I go in spurts. Sometimes I read nothing. Other times I’m a total loser (that is, more than usual) locked up in my hovel with my dogs, a book, and beer. So I came upon a good passage the other day from a real classic.

So there’s this Xerxes guy. He’s on his way to conquer the world because it’s there. He’s real good at it. So were his father and their ancestors. He’s crossing continents and has a few things to say.

Oh man, how much better is this actual text than the verbal mess of an exchange we saw between Rodrigo Santoro and Eva Green in 300? As they yack it up next to the bridges like actors trapped in a historical (not historical) movie.

Now don’t get me wrong. I had a good time with 300 Round Two, but the original was much better. And also closer to the truth of what occurred. I’ve got a lot to say about these two flicks, which will probably come in a later post, I guess. Maybe?

But friends, generally truth isn’t just stranger than fiction, it’s also better:

When he saw the whole Hellespont covered with ships, and all the shores and plains of Abydos full of men, Xerxes first declared himself blessed, and then wept.

Artabanos perceived this, he who in the beginning had spoken his mind freely and advised Xerxes not to march against Hellas. Marking how Xerxes wept, he questioned him and said, “O king, what a distance there is between what you are doing now and a little while ago! After declaring yourself blessed you weep.”

Xerxes said, “I was moved to compassion when I considered the shortness of all human life, since of all this multitude of men not one will be alive a hundred years from now.”

Artabanos answered, “In one life we have deeper sorrows to bear than that. Short as our lives are, there is no human being either here or elsewhere so fortunate that it will not occur to him, often and not just once, to wish himself dead rather than alive. Misfortunes fall upon us and sicknesses trouble us, so that they make life, though short, seem long.

Life is so miserable a thing that death has become the most desirable refuge for humans; the god is found to be envious in this, giving us only a taste of the sweetness of living.”

So Xerxes has everything a human could ever ask for in women, riches, power, women, and prestige. The only thing he lacks in life is heavy infantry. Which unfortunately for him, becomes a real problem a few months later. But he’s still having trouble figuring out how to play in this shitty-cruel-bitch of a life that we all lead. So what does that tell you? If this guy has it all, and can’t always get it done, then don’t be too hard on yourself. Just try and enjoy the ride.

Now you may be tempted to respond to my nonsense by throwing up your hands and screaming: “This is bullshit!” Or, “Fuck you, who cares?” Or, “Wait, what is this shit, why am I here wasting my time reading this?!” And thus your solution is to never read this blog again (a smart idea) or to become a mindless bank robbing asshole. Because, you know, why not? The bank’s not going to rob itself. And if life is shit, you might as well roll the dice, right? But the problem with that line of thinking is bank robbery is less worth it nowadays. I think you have an 85% change of getting caught and your average take is like $7K or something. That’s not even enough to buy one-third of your average family car.

So what then? Panic? Burn the world? Melt your mind with chemicals? Well, how about this, I read this a few days back too:

Wash, make yourselves clean. Take your wrong-doing out of sight. Cease doing evil.

Learn to do good, search for justice, discipline the violent, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow.

Sounds good enough to me. Let’s go with that.

Enjoy it while you can. Try your best. It’s a hell of a hard ride, but remember how lucky we all are that we’re here at all. And do your best to earn it.

300-Rise-of-an-Empire-Hellespont-bridge-HR

Oh my. I’m so fucking awesome. Gaze upon my eighth wonder of the world. But shit, what I wouldn’t pay for just five thousand armored infantry. Anybody got a phone? I’ve got to make some calls. Fuck.