The Rush to World War III


The hammer sees only the nail, the sword craves blood, and the bullet yearns for a target. The world is now at the greatest risk for nuclear war at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Certainly North Korea (DPRK) is a threat to stability in the region, but is it worth going to war over? Why is this happening now, and what are some solutions?

Why Now

The US goes to war when powerful interests align. Our country has a rich history of shedding blood for money, going all the way back to the American Revolution. It’s what nations do, placing the economic interests of the country ahead of human lives. It’s not pretty, but it’s a fact. From the Trail of Tears to the false flag “Remember the Maine” and on to the Gulf of Tonkin, the US has manipulated public opinion to justify wars for economic and political gains.

Remember the war in Iraq? After 9-11, the US craved (understandably) justice. When the bombs started falling in Baghdad, I’m ashamed to admit that I cheered. Intelligence supported the fact that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell, whom I trusted, came on television to state this. The US went to war, and after years and as many as a million deaths, Iraq remains a quagmire. The truth of that war may never come fully to light, but we know that Cheney and Rummy believed that democracy was the answer to Middle East instability, and that by smashing Saddam’s dictatorship, the US could prop up a new government favorable to our interests. Oh, and oil. In that instance both the military industrial complex and oil companies stood to profit enormously.


Fast forward to Korea, now.

Saber rattling on both sides is nothing new. DPRK loves to issue fiery threats against the US. Little Kim is a little unhinged, that is true. But is he truly a suicidal one? If North Korea attacks the US, that regime is finished. Dictators want to remain in power, so it’s unlikely that this particular despot would go out of his way to attack the US, bringing about his certain demise.

Trump needs a war to distract the country from the investigation into his finances and possible collusion with Russia. Furthermore, the military industrial complex wants to see more spending by the federal government so they can build tanks, bombs, planes, ships, and submarines. There are trillions of dollars at stake. Wars have begun for far less.

The suspicious timeline

How is it that suddenly DPRK has miniaturized warheads? This assessment, in a story from the Post a few days ago, is based on the Defense Intellegence Agency. It’s not a consensus from all of the agencies who review intelligence. The NSA and CIA have yet to weigh in. So that abrupt assessment is suspect. Furthermore, even if DPRK has managed to miniaturize the warheads, they likely have not developed a re-entry vehicle capable of delivering the warhead to its target without burning up. Upon re-entry, the temperatures soar. As of only a few weeks ago, it was believed that North Korea was five years away from achieving these milestones.


Fear is the mind killer

The mainstream media thrives upon bad news and fear. By playing to our fears of a nuclear holocost, the march to war becomes something which the American public is more likely to accept. After all, North Korea is an “evil empire” bent on killing innocent Americans, right? The fact that Lil Kim uses bombastic rhetoric only serves to bolster the case against him.

Solutions

China remains the key. China can apply enough economic pressure to convince Lil Kim to abandon his weapons programs, at least or a time. Long term, the best solution, as insane as it sounds, is another case of mutually assured destruction. DPRK is a protectorate of China, and war with them means war with China. War with South Korea means war with the US. This would ultimately de-escalate tensions because both sides would understand the rules. Eventually, China should initiate a regime change in North Korea, propping up a government easier to manage.

Perhaps a fully staffed State Department is in order? A president who understands geopolitics?

The US faces a similar dilemma with Iran and Russia. If diplomacy fails, the alternative is unthinkable. Because World War Three is a war with no winners.

Shameless self-promotion

Finally, if you’re interested in reading about the aftermath of the next world war, please check out the WRATH series!

The Art of Hypocrisy

FOLIO VOICES
story by SEAN T. SMITH

The Carl Vinson carrier strike group is poised to unleash hell. President Trump has promised that if China cannot reign in North Korea, the United States will handle the “problem.” In past weeks, the U.S. sent 59 cruise missiles into a Syrian airbase, closing it down for about six hours. Our forces also dropped the MOAB, aka the “mother of all bombs,” on a mountainside in Afghanistan. Cable news media fawned over the “beauty” of our firepower. In recent years, our military has conducted drone strikes throughout the Middle East, and has waged prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet as a nation, we cling to the belief that we have the moral high ground and the United States is a shining paragon of virtue and morality.
In short, we have refined hypocrisy to an art form. Our nationalism blinds us to history, our ignorance compels us to blind faith, and our faith binds us to destruction. Our leaders reflect these beliefs, and our commander-in-chief exemplifies the nation’s staggering propensity for self-righteousness. We reap the consequences of our collective hypocrisy globally and nationally every day, and as the world hurtles toward the abyss of nuclear war, it is worth examining our faith.
MORAL HIGH GROUND?

In April, the Iraq Body Count project (IBC) reported civilian deaths from violence are 173,686–193,965 from the second Iraq war. A National Geographic article published in October 2016 puts the number of deaths considerably higher, at almost a half-million.
Airwars reports that this March alone, 1,200 civilian casualties occurred in Syria as a result of coalition air strikes.
The U.S. is the only nation in the world to deploy nuclear weapons in war. Conservative estimates place the cumulative death toll in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at 225,000. The narrative is that these bombs were necessary to end World War II, and save American lives. This may be true, but the fact remains that those bombs resulted in nearly a quarter-million civilian deaths.
The U.S. also boasts more people in prison, by far, than any other nation on the planet.
According to the CIA, 56 countries have lower infant mortality rates than the U.S. Some of these countries include Bosnia, Cuba and Latvia.
Today, 46 million Americans live in poverty; the poverty rate in the United States is the highest in the developed world.
Do these statistics sound like a nation that has the moral high ground?
NUCLEAR STANDOFF

President Trump has discovered that his ratings go up when bombs fall, a fact that gives Americans a good reason to pack a bug-out bag and stockpile seeds and dried food. North Korea has nuclear weapons, and its fearless leader seems almost as anxious to play with his toys as ours does. Unlike Jack Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, who took the world to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis and who were each careful and calculating, we now have Donald Trump and Kim-Jong-Un, two man-babies playing a game of chicken with nuclear warheads.
Whether it’s Iran, Syria or North Korea, what gives the United States the right to make a preemptive strike, including a nuclear one? The argument can be made that it’s in our national best interest. That is not a moral argument, however, and selling such an action to the American people always involves moral superiority. The enemy is “evil.”
If war breaks out in North Korea, hundreds of thousands of civilians will die. North Korean artillery will shell Seoul, and there is no way for coalition forces to stop the ensuing slaughter.
If we start wars that result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of women and children, how can we still claim to be virtuous?
GOD MUST BE AN AMERICAN

Without the evangelical vote, Donald J. Trump could not have won the Electoral College. Christian fundamentalists, who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, largely supported him because he stated that he’s pro-life. Many were single-issue voters who ignored his statements on other issues, and who also decided to overlook his public statements and lifestyle choices.
Many of the same people who voted for Trump because he claims to be anti-abortion don’t seem to mind rushing to war and killing innocents. They also overlook the bodies of immigrant children washing up on shores both foreign and domestic.
The pro-war, pro-gun, anti-safety-net group defines itself as “pro-life.” Yet they voted for a narcissist billionaire who wants to cut programs for the poor. How is this possible? After all, Jesus said, “If you wish to be complete, sell all of your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven; then come follow me.”
The same folks who howl about government intrusion are perfectly willing to insert the government into our bedrooms and women’s wombs. Protestors carrying signs and bibles shout that All Lives Matter, yet somehow the Black Lives Matter movement is wrong.
We have collectively become so inured to hypocrisy that we no longer even recognize it. Unless we take the time to examine our beliefs and our actions as a nation, we can no longer call America the leader of the free world.
We must lead by example. We must show, rather than tell; act rather than pontificate.

____________________

When the Towers Fell: The Beginning of a New Era


When the towers fell fifteen years ago, the world changed. We couldn’t know then how profound the impact of those despicable terror attacks would be, or that all these years later the United States and the world would still be reeling from the consequences.

In the years leading up to 9-11, I was cynical about politics, to say the least. I recall the embassy bombings in Africa and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole,  and at the time, I wondered whether this was something our own leaders had cooked up to distract the country from the investigation into the Clinton administration, in some sort of “Wag the Dog” scheme.

But watching the Twin Towers crash down against the crisp September sky, I saw evidence that evil existed, and that it was here. Those attacks pierced our collective sense of imperviousness to attack, destroyed our security, and kept us awake at night. There was much fear during the first few weeks. I was on an empty flight from Nashville to Charlotte the day that commercial flight was opened up. There were about ten people on the entire plane. A middle-eastern man boarded ahead of me, and I sat directly behind him. Another pretty big guy sat across the isle from me, and we looked at each other and nodded without speaking. If that guy with a beard even coughed wrong, we’d have beaten him to death. After we landed, the poor guy turned around and smiled at us, and I saw that he had a shirt with “I love Jesus” written on it.

When President Bush gave a speech from the still smoking ground zero, I thought to myself, “Thank God Bush won, and not Al Gore.” For evil must be defeated; it cannot be ignored. When the President talked about a war on terror, that sounded right, a call to action backed by force and resolve.

I was watching a Gator football game with friends when the news broke that the bombing had begun in Afghanistan, and I cheered along with the rest of the bar to shots of entire mountainsides going up in flames. There was a certain fulfillment in seeing that, a kind of gratfication. People started chanting “USA!” I was probably one of them.

In March, when the United States began bombing Baghdad, I was riveted to my television, hypnotized and thrilled by the images of flames blossoming into the night sky. When the President landed on an aircraft carrier, I applauded the swift and just victory.

I was swept up in the drama and the patriotism like most of the country at the time. The yellow ribbons and bumper stickers. It cost me nothing.

A price too high

I was writing songs in Nashville at the time, but in my day job I was a salesman, and many of my long-time customers were soldiers with the 101st Airborne. I met wives who lost husbands, children who lost their daddies. The toll continued to rise over the years, and I met men who suffered from PTSD after multiple deployments. Folks I’d known for years saw marriages crumble around them.

Those men and women paid a price that I did not. For most of us, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were wars we watched on television. I had a friend of mine who came back from his second tour of Iraq, and he wasn’t the same man anymore. He’d gone in full of enthusiasm, and emerged with something taken from him. I never pried, because I wasn’t there, couldn’t share that particular bond with him. One night, though, after  a few too many drinks, he told me. He talked about the boredom, the fear, and the intense adrenaline rush of combat, how it’s almost addictive. And how he’d watched some of his brothers die in front of him, and how he couldn’t stop seeing it.


We civilians can’t know what that’s like. It’s easy to sit in your recliner and howl for war, when you aren’t the one enduring long deployments, IEDs, mortar attacks, and PTSD.

America’s longest war is still being fought, and our men and women who served the country are not being taken care of properly. It is shameful.

Consequences

The 9-11 attacks lead directly to the invasion of Iraq. Clearly, that war was a mistake of catastrophic magnitude. Without proper intelligence, we destroyed the infrastructure of a country that posed no significant or direct threat to the U.S. The Bush-Chenny administration went to war assuming that democracy was the solution, and that if we rebuilt what we destroyed, we would have a new ally in the middle-east, in the same way that after WW II Japan and West  Germany became allies.

Those assumptions ignored the history of sectarian violence in the region and the vast cultural differences between the East and the West. The fighting between Suni, Shia, Kurd, and Jew dates back more than a thousand years. What hubris to think for a moment that democracy and tanks could solve the underlying issues.

Now, with Iraq and the entire region destabilized, ISIS poses more of a threat than Al-Queada ever did. With systemic bombings and attacks throughout Europe, ISIS has proved to be resilient, resourceful, and deadly. They continue wage a war of terror on the west, escalating and improving their tactics.

Unfortunately, the United States played directly into the terrorist’s hands. Terrorists win by instilling fear. The west is convulsing with fear at the moment, with nationalist movements sweeping Europe, and Trump’s rising popularity in the U.S. Terrorist’s win when we loose our civil liberties and change our way of life. We are now openly debating unraveling the Constitution of the United States by doing things like banning Muslims, restricting free speech, and allowing survailance at unprecedented levels. Torture, drone strikes against American citizens, and impeding upon the freedom of religion are diametrically opposed to the values our country was founded upon. That’s what the terrorists want.

Furthermore, when we begin to use language that makes it seem that we are at war with an entire religion, the terrorists celebrate. This plays directly into the terror handbook. They want to convince recruits that the west is bent upon another crusade, because it makes recruiting easy.

The Next War

I pray that before we send our citizens to fight again, we will have all of the facts straight. I hope that my sons don’t fall in some far-off place because people like me cheered from bars. And I pray that when we go to war the next time, the reasons will be just and true.

I pray that history does not remember 9-11 as the beginning of the end for this great nation.



Yes, the World is Going To Hell in a Handbasket

When the wolf really is at the gates

One of my favorite children’s tales is The Boy Who Cried Wolf; my  boys understand it well. Parent’s know how frustrating it is when kids exaggerate or fabricate danger, provoking a response from us that is out of porportion to reality. The moral, of course, is that when the danger is real, help never arrives.

A good friend of mine, a staunch conservative, is fond of saying “Sean, people have been saying that the world is going to hell for as long as there have been people.” He’s right about that. Humans have always found reasons to fear the future, whether justified or not. The biblical flood is a part of mankind’s collective memory, with varying versions found on most continents. Furthermore, some form of Armageddon or the Apocalypse is also a part of most major religions.

Jesus said he was coming back soon, and the early apostles took that to mean within decades, looking to the heavens for signs of the return of the king. Since those days, Christians have proclaimed that the end times are upon us with regularity, and pointed to the alignment of prophecy and circumstance to justify the dire predictions.

In the U.S. an entire subculture has evolved around the idea of “being prepared,” and folks with varyng degrees of committment and motivations go to great pains to monitor the news while stockpiling food, weapons, water, and medical supplies to ride out The Fall while providing security and a future for their families. A lot of these folks are highly intelligent, skilled people with military backgrounds.

There is a certain tendency  in mainstream media to write off the preppers as crazy “tin-foil -hat” people. I write post-apocalyptic fiction and military thrillers, and I’m afraid these folks are right. The trouble is, no one is listening. I’m about to purchase a firearm for the first time in twenty years, and I’ve got a bug-out plan and a go-bag.

Why now?

The world has always been a dangerous place, and evil men are relentless in their quest to weild power over others. Our capacity for goodness, self-sacrifice, cooperation and innovation is in a constant state of war with our innate propensity for violence, destruction and atrocity. The religions of the world understand this ongoing battle between light and darkness.

For the first time in human history, mankind has the ability to eradicate himself in multiple ways. Nuclear winter, biological warfare, climate change, and Artifical Intelligence are all pathways to destruction. The doomsday clock is ticking, and the fate of the world hangs on the brink of a yawning abyss.  With the rise of nationalism, a resurgant Russia, and immigration problems that are doomed to grow worse, I fear for our future. The causes of danger and the methods of our self-destruction are tangled together.

Nationalism

Trump’s ascent to power is not an anomoly common only to the United States. The United Kingdom voted yesterday to exit the EU, bolstered by a populace reeling from and outraged by the infux of immigrants and the perception that they have lost autonomy and surrendered sovergeinty to the European Union. France’s far-right intends to call for a similar refferendum, as does Sweeden. Scotland will likely leave the U.K. in favor of joining the rest of Europe. The union itself took a huge hit, loosing 1/6 of its economy. There is enough momentum building that could propel the E.U. right off a cliff, taking the rest of the world with it.

The recent surge in nationalism around the world is inextricably bound to other factors. First, there is the anti-intellectual movement, which propagates the idea that experts are not experts, scientists are not scientists, and Facebook memes and snappy twitter characters hold the real knowledge. This age of unreason came to the United States with Sarah Palin as its poster child, and has come of age in the last months with Donald Trump now representing the party of Lincoln. Just about every country in the world has some version of Trump at the moment, from neo-nazis in Germany, to the South Pacific, and even South America.

Nationalism itself relies upon fear of others. It is the creed of walls and war, and history remembers this while men forget at their own peril. The last two world wars were the result of nationalism run amuck, and at the height of the cold war the Soviet Union and the U.S. took the world right up to the bitter edge of extincition. Bombers in the air, ICBM missiles awaiting launch codes, submarines stationed off coasts silent and deadly. While the far right in European countries beats its collective chest, Vladimir Putin is licking his chops. When Trump calls for abandoning our founding principles and wipes his ass with the Constitution, China sees opportunity.

Immigration and the refugee crisis

The rise of nationalism thorughout the west is tied directly to the refugee crisis, immigration, and the financial collapse that occured at the end of the Bush presidency. It’s an adverse reaction to globalization, and a longing for the dream of simpler times that were never simple nor true.

Had the United States not invaded Iraq, we wouldn’t be here yet. That war created a vacuum, which led directly to ISIS, which wants to kill the world and is spurring the influx of refugees throughout Europe. Failing economies make ideal breeding grounds for fear and xenophobia, and when there are legitmate concerns over terror attacks like Brussels, Paris, and Orlando immigration becomes a hot-button issue. Close the borders and let them drown, comes the battle cry. Already hurting economies are struggling to cope with people who aren’t assimilating quickly enough. It’s a global powder-keg.

Global Warming

As climate changes lead to more severe storms, droughts, and shifting weather patterns, the immigration crisis is going to get worse.

Mass migrations and displaced populations will continue to put pressure on the developed nations. Unfortunately, in this age of unreason, many politicians and voters believe that the experts have it all wrong. Global warming, my ass! It’s snowing outside. Never mind that the iceshelves are melting at rates that confound even the most aggressive models, the oceans are growing more acidic, the bees are dying off, and water shortages and wildfires are commonplace even in the West.

The combined effect of global warming and nationalism will inevitably lead to wars. Remember the fall of rome? Goths,  Visigoths and Vandals, displaced populations, sacked the capital more than once. The Huns came roaring across the planes.

  
The people who deny climate change are either doing so because they have a vested intrest in doing away with envornmental restrictions, or are just plain duped by the propaganda campaign funded by the first group. Either way, the result is that nothing gets done in time to stop what’s coming, let alone prepare for it. Because that is going to take cooperation, and with the rise of nationalism, cooperation is turning into a bad thing, for we musn’t work with the enemy. Build a Wall!!!

WAR

Despite reductions in nuclear arsenals, men have more than enough warheads ready to launch and trigger a nuclear winter. There are multiple flaspoints.

  
1. The Middle-East

Whether it’s ISIS, Iran, or Israel, the Mid-East has long been a bomb waiting to go off. In addtion the the sectarian violence betwen Shia, Sunni, and Kurds, there is also the universal hatred for Israel. A war there could start in many ways and quickly escalate. Israel has nuclear weapons and those nukes are key to its defense doctrine. They will use them if attacked by Iran, and Iran  seems intent upon wiping Israel from the map.

2. Russia

Russia annexed Crimea, and is actively engaged in the Ukrainne under the guise of humanitarian aid. The fact is, many residents of Eastern Ukraine support a stronger relationship with Russia, so the country itself is divided, making this civil war vulnerable to Russian intervention. As Russia militartizes the artic, this also opens a pandora’s box. Canada and the U.S. are vying control of resources below the melting ice and for the sea lanes which are opening up due to global warming. Russia rages against the sanctions placed on it, and resents the expansion of NATO into it’s traditional sphere of influence. Putin can’t wait to see a weakened Europe, a distracted U.S.

3. China

China is building airstrips on islands manufactured out of coral reefs in waters contested by Japan and the Phillippenes. Last week, Chinese aircraft came dangerously close to U.S. warships in the region,  and flybys are becoming a common occurance. How long before someone makes a mistake? One with international, and perhaps catastrophic consequences. Furthermore, China and Russia are working to improve their relationship, planning huge infrastructure projects together and developing trade relations in an effort to cut the United States and Europe out of the loop.

4. The United States

  

  
If Trump wins the Presidential election, God help us all. This guy has advocated giving nuclear weapons to the Saudis, expressed admiration for Putin, and is one word away from declaring war on an entire religion of more than a billion people. He believes his own hype, and this is incredibly dangerous, thinking that international relations are nothing more than business deals he can bullshit and bully his way through.

If Trump doesn’t win, then all that outrage that got him this far is going to be seeking an outlet. We may end up destroying ourselves in the end. And where the U.S. goes, so goes the fate of the world. 

Given the current state of affairs, that’s a scary truth.

Defeating Radical Islam

  The west is at war with radical Islam, whether our politicians acknowledge it or not. The United States does not want this war, nor does Europe; but hoping to avoid a fight is a sure way to loose when the fight has already begun. The enemy is among us, and they want to kill us. We must accept that truth, understand the reasons for it, and execute a plan designed to defeat the enemy.

I happen to have Muslim friends, kind and good people who want nothing of any soort of war. Unfortunately, they are in it too, and on the front lines, for they must lead the fight to reclaim thier religion and wrest it from the hands of the radicals. Of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, based on PEW polls, roughly 10% are fundamentalist Islamists. That means worldwide, about 160 million people believe that killing those who leave the faith, stoning women, beheading people, and murdering in the name of religion are perfectly acceptable ideas. Ideas which originate in the Q’uran. 

If only 10% of those radicals are willing to become jihiadis, that leaves 16 million highly-motivated true believers willing to die tomorrow and take as many infadels with them as they can. This is a threat the west can no longer ignore or take lightly, because many of those jihadists already live here. 

In the wake of the worst terror attack in the U.S. since 9-11, coming on the heels of San Bernadino, Paris, and Brussels, the United States must accept the fact that radical, jihadist Islam is at war with us, whether we like it or not, and we must do whatever it takes to win. There is no single silver bullet, and the battleground is complex and evolving. 

Victory demands a multifaceted, nuanced approach. This war has been going on for over a thousand years, and it’s not going to end for decades. 

A Bit of History

The Islamic Caliphate captured  Jerusalem in 637; initially the Caliphate was tolerant of other religions, including Christians and Jews, but eventually became more conservative, expelling and executing those of other faiths. The current Islamic State models itself on the Caliphate. When the Godfrey and his knights took Jersualem in 1099 during the first Crusade, the fighting was bloody and both sides commited atrocities. The Crusades would go on for centuries, with Muslims and Christians battling for control of the Holy Land.

PikiWiki_Israel_13177_Christianity_and_Islam
The Ottomon Empire eventually took over from the Caliphate, and became a dominant world power. Constantinople was a center for global commerce for six hundred years. The empire, already in decline, sided with Germany during World War I, and following that defeat, the Allied Powers carved out a new nation… Turkey. There was a power vacuum in the Middle East left by the empire, as the British and French took the lead in influencing politcs in the region.  The French   controlled Syria and Lebanon, and the British held Palestine and Iraq.  Arabia and Yemen emerged. Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar were British Protectorates.

Following World War II,  with France and England reeling from the effects of the war, the mideast fought for independance from a long era of  European colonialism.  Israel was recognized as a nation in 1949 on lands that Palestine claimed, fomenting anger among the  Muslim populations throughout the region. More than once, Israel was attacked by its neigbors.

Demand for oil powered the economies of the entire Middle East, with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran building powerful armies and growing wealthy. The Soviet Union and Untited states fought proxy wars, propped up dictators, and vied for influence in the region in order to keep the oil flowing.

The U.S. toppled Sadam, and pulled out without a clear plan, leaving the country vulnerable to corruption and invasion. ISIS swept through Syria and is now in Iraq.  They now sposor terror throughout the world, and claimed the last two mass shootings here in the United States.

 Boko Haram, ISIS, the Taliban, Al Queda, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and organiztions like them are growing more sophisticated and dangerous, recruiting via social media and communicating through encrypted emails, building sleeper cells and striking across thousands of miles. They prey upon the young, making attactive the idea of killing in the name of God. They have declared war on everyone who doesn’t agreee with them, longing for the apocalypse, and willing to die to obtain that goal.

So how do we stop the enemy?

Burst the Liberal Bubble

While liberals want peace and harmnony, (admirable goals), we tend to ignore the fact that evil exists, and the only way to defeat it is to fight. Not with mere words and calls for unity, but with bombs and blade and resolve. Religion is coming for us at the tip of a spear.

Liberals don’t want to offend, are reluctant to appear to hate, and will twist themselves into mental and emotional knots to avoid the truth because they don’t really understand it. The idea that humans are willing to die for religion seems a bit uneral to them, disconntected from their reality, and they cling to the belief that all religions are basically benign and created equal.  Radical Jihadist  Islam is inherently violent, and all the rainbows and unicorns in the world won’t change that. Wake up, people!

Cut off the money

The Saudis fund terror around the globe. Most of the 9-11 attackers were Saudi men, and ISIS gets  the bulk of its money from various back channels that end with the Kingdom. In the United States, and around the world, the Saudis fund many Mosques which subscribe to the brand of Sunni Wahhabism shared by ISIS. This is an austere interpetation of the Koran, a literal one.  According to their beliefs,  only those who folllow Whhabi are chosen. Others, including Muslims, are defiers of god. They are to be hated and persecuted. 

Poll  after poll shows that the citizens of Saudi Arabia hold deep hatred for the United States. They are not allies, not really. We buy oil from the Saudis because we must, and we fear thier power. OPEC controls oil prices, and if prices spike, our ecnomoy goes into free-fall.

The United States must become energy independant. This means renewable energy like solar, wind and geothermal. It means building more nuclear plants, and investing heavily in research for fusion, which is the holy grail of energy. Essentially limitless, safe, and inexpensive energy. 

This is going to take decades, but it is within our power. Only by becoming energy independant can we stop the Saudi influence on our economy and the way the Kingdom spreads its particular branch of Islam around the world. Without the money, it’s power will wane.

Increased domestic survailance

war

It is a terrible truth that a free society is vulnerable to attacks, and that the only way to prevent more loss of life is by giving up some of our liberty. This is not to say that we need an authoritarian government, only that there is a balance between our civil liberties, constitutional rights, and national security. We need to be vigilant, and some of that is going to be invasive. The NSA will be monitioring our phones and internet activity as the war ramps up, more so than they already do. More street cameras, more drones over our soil. It is scary. Big Brother is watching, and he’s going to keep doing it. There is no other way.

Judges will need more lattitude to issue wire taps and search warrants. The FBI will have to step up its intellegence gathering abilities, utilizing moles and undercover operations in the way that the CIA did during the cold war. Mosques which preach radicalization must be monitored. Immigrants with leanings toward Jihad must be deported. Citizens who fund terror groups must be put in federal prison.

Rather than open our borders to an influx of refugees, the U.S. needs to find a solution within the Middle East, and do it quickly. The innocents fleeing ISIS deserve a place to live in peace. As terrible as it is, that doesn’t mean that place is the United States. Germany is reeling from the influx of refugees, as are most other European countries. 

Stopping ISIS

The immediate threat is ISIS. The United States must form an international coalition which includes Russia and Iran, along with the EU.  This would entail boots on the ground, and would only be a temporary solution, because eventually power would haave to revert back to Syria and Iraq. The swiftest solution, although not pretty, would be to essentially give Putin the ability to do what must be done in Syria, going in with tanks and infantry, then rebuilding in the aftermath but maintaning a presence and influence in country. The U.S. is going to have to do the same thing in Iraq. 

There will be collateral damage, and we’ ve got to be ready for it. We won’t be able to leave for decades. There will be a constant insurgency, and American lives will be lost. Eventually, Iraq should be divided into separate autonomous states, with the Sunnis, Kurds, and Shia each with thier own nations. This would drastically cut down on the sectarian fighting.

Reformation and Enlightenment

Since the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and do not  subscribe to the violent beliefs of the Jihadists, they must take their religion back and propel it from the dark ages into the 21st century. Christianity went through its own evil period with the Inquisition, but eventually this gave way to the enlightenment.

The only way this can happen with Islam is for Muslims to act; the west needs to empower them. This means funding alternate mosques and schools. It means pouring money into regions where the only schools are Maderas for boys who are taught to hate before they are taught to read.

Within the United States, we must not condemn all Muslims. This is exactly what the terrorists want, an over reaction which only breeds more hate. However, while our next President must make it clear that we are not at war with Islam, he or she must acknowlege that we are at war with Radical Jihadist Islam, and find a way to unify the country, including Muslims rather than excluding them. We need them to be in this fight, with us, rather than against us, for they are us.

  


War on Solar in the Sunshine State

sunset

Why does Florida rank behind the rest of the country in solar production?

Politics and greed, two all too common bedfellows.

Florida ranks third in the nation for potential rooftop solar output, yet comes in a dismal 16th in actual production.  “It defies logic,” says former Governor Charlie Christ. “It’s absolutely absurd.” Northeastern states like New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are ahead of the Sunshine State when it comes to rooftop solar, despite snow and cloud cover.

Follow The Money

The utilities in Florida have waged a systemic campaign against rooftop solar because they view it as a threat to their monopoly on power. Investor-owned utilities (IOUs) rack up staggering profits from coal, gas, and nuclear power. They make money through infrastructure projects and rate increases, and to protect their profit margins, wield tremendous power in Tallahassee among our state lawmakers. “The power companies hold sway here, and the consumers are at their mercy,” said state representative Dwight Dudley, the ranking Democrat on the energy subcommittee in the Florida State House.

Florida Power and Light, which proposed a 24% rate hike to the Public Utilities Commission this year, generated $1.65 BILLION in PROFIT  last year for its shareholders. The oil and gas industries, which are heavily subsidized by the federal government, are pouring millions of dollars into Florida to thwart the growth of rooftop solar, aligning themselves with the utility companies.

Former Republican legislator Nancy Argenziano, who chaired the Public Utilities Commission until 2010 stated this: “The legislature is owned by utilities. To me, it’s extremely corrupt. The legislature takes millions from utilities, who make billions from the decisions of the PSC. They get what they pay for.”

Every year, the utilities spend millions of dollars on paid lobbyists to whisper in the ears of our legislators. They hold a carrot and a stick, because in addition to the money spent on lobbying, the utilities also spend millions each year on campaign contributions. Since 2007, utilities spent more than $12 million on lobbying, delivering an average of one lobbyist for every two legislators.

More money flows to legislators through PACs, funded by oil, coal, and natural gas interests.  Energy magnates the Koch Brothers funnel dollars through various shadowy organizations, where the dark money can be spent without public scrutiny in order to slow the growth of solar in Florida.

In a display of unparalleled greed and deception, the utilities responded to the grassroots campaign mounted by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy by outspending them and counterattacking.

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Vote No On One!

Last year, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy assembled an impressive and diverse coalition of forces in an effort to make solar more viable in Florida. From Tea Party voices like Debbie Dooley, who helped to found the party, to green organizations like the Sierra Club, the SACE sought to place an initiative on the ballot that would protect rooftop solar in the sunshine state.

The utilities redoubled their efforts, and introduced an initiative of their own. Slickly marketed and blatantly deceptive, the “smart solar” amendment gives more power to the utilities, masquerading as a “green” initiative, while being funded by dirty coal. Investor-owned utilities spent $4 million on the campaign. 60 Plus, a seniors group which got more than $15 million from the Koch donor network, ponied up more than $1 million. They confused petition-signers and even adopted similar language to that of the SACE campaign, ending with deceptive wording which will ultimately appear on the ballot in November.

Should the amendment pass, the utilities will have free reign to hit solar customers with high fees, monthly charges, and up-front costs. And that is exactly what they will do.

Pulling at heart-strings

One manipulative argument from the utilities is that solar customers are unfairly subsidized by those who do not have solar, and that this results in an unfair tax upon low-income families.

This is part of the bait-and-switch campaign the utilities have waged in Florida and in other parts of the country.

First of all, the energy produced from oil, natural gas, and pet-coke is already heavily subsidized by the federal government.  The utilities begin with an unfair advantage, and ignore the fact that the energy they produce would cost more if the playing field were level.

Second, the value of energy from rooftop solar gets devalued by the utilities. A recent study by Arizona’s largest utility found that the value of solar is actually 50% more than the costs associated with it. When homeowners install solar on their roof, they are paying for the cost of the panels, not the utility. The excess power that flows back into the grid comes with no other hidden costs like power-plant upgrades, disposal fees, shipping costs, and environmental upgrades. Furthermore, the increased power leads to greater capacity for the utility, including peak usage times. Finally, rooftop solar leads to greater grid security in the event of an outage.

Subsidies for solar are dwarfed by those for oil and natural gas, which reveals that the argument made by utilities is a bold-faced lie. If utilities were so concerned about the welfare of their customers, they wouldn’t be posting billions in profits, doling out huge bonuses to executives, and increasing rates for everyone.

Moving Forward

Utilities must come to grips with the fact that a business model formed a century ago is outdated now, and face the fact that over the next 50 years, renewable energy will change the paradigm of monopoly.  In Florida, solar has suffered from the political attacks waged largely by conservatives who are in the pockets of utilities, but that perception is changing rapidly. Many conservatives are shifting their attitudes toward solar, not out of concern for the environment, but because solar gives citizens the ability to become energy independent, and because it is a sound financial investment.

Rooftop solar is a choice many people make to invest in their future, and we should have the freedom to exercise that choice. The oil companies and utilities don’t want you to be able to choose to go solar because they are afraid to lose their monopoly.

 

America needs a Reformation

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Religion and politics have been wrapped around one another for thousands of years. From a purely political standpoint, religion was frequently used as a means to control the populace and consolidate power.This was true of the Egyptians, the Aztecs, the Romans and Jews. As Christianity spread throughout the world, first through the travels of the early Apostles, and later by the growing Catholic Church, the teachings of Christ were often subverted and forgotten. The masses did not understand the simplest tenets of their own beliefs, for services were held in a language they did not understand and read from Bibles they could not read.

When Martin Luther published his famous The Ninety-five theses in 1519, he sparked a reformation, and shook the world to its foundation. With the invention of the printing press, believers had access to translations of the Bible for the first time, and the Catholic Church lost its monopoly on the faithful. In many ways, the reformation was about returning to the past, rediscovering something  true and old, rather than finding something new.

The core of the reformation was the primacy of the cross,  placing faith above works, and Justification by grace, which is not earned, but rather comes from God himself. The reformation focused on the teachings of Jesus rather than the laws of men. This, too was later twisted for political ends, with the rise of nationalism throughout Europe.

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Christianity in America needs a reformation

As the 2016 election looms, the Christian vote becomes crucial in determining who the next President of the United States will be. Once again, politics and religion are interwoven, and with consequences which will reverberate around the globe. Christians in the United States are not as homogeneous as the Catholic Church was, but over the last forty years the evangelical movement has morphed into a political beast which equates belief and faith with a clear political agenda. It’s an agenda that is often blatantly contradictory to what Jesus taught.

As the younger generation leave churches across the country in droves and membership dwindles,  prominent church leaders scratch their heads and bemoan the intrusion of humanism and secularism, point fingers at liberals, and grow more conservative. Rather than turning to the cross, they instead turn to politics.

Here are a few important ideas that seem to have vanished from the collective Christian mind in America:

Judge not

You, therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgement upon someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things.” (Romans 2:1)

With the absurd debate over transgender bathrooms and gay-rights all over the news, Christians seem oddly focused upon codifying their judgements, and howling insults and hate from the pulpit and the rooftop. This is not only contradictory to what the New Testament teaches, but it also serves to drive a wedge between believers. It is a terrible stumbling block for many. Hypocrisy and judgment will kill belief as surely as the plague, and the church in the U.S. is ravished by these things.

Humility

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Jesus taught much about humility. Not the kind of humility that we should take pride in and use as a weapon, but actual humility. Somehow, Christians still line up behind leaders, both religious and political, who exalt themselves every day. From the T.V. preachers with fleets of jets to Donald Trump, Christians get behind these clowns in spite of the obvious contradictions between what they profess, what they do, and what they actually believe.

“Woe unto you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all the other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.” (Luke 11:42-43)

By focusing on law, men turn from the truth. Laws are of man, while God is God. Yet here in America, we have reverted back to the same sort of legalistic thinking which led Jesus to revile the Pharisees. Law becomes subversive to faith, eroding it, undermining it, ultimately destroying it.

Jesus preached charity

“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26)

In the United States, where success is conflated with goodness, this idea of charity has been engulfed by the religion of capitalism. Prominent church leaders and politicians have made the claim that God invented capitalism, which has nothing to do with Christ. Worse, the poor are paid lip-service on Sunday morning, then demonized throughout the week, called lazy, freeloaders, and nastier things by talking heads on the news. Folks ought to re-read the Sermon on the Mount, and then the rest of the Gospels.

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While there is nothing wrong with wanting a limited government, this demonization of the poor has taken on tones that would make Jesus weep, and many Christians speak this sort of hate with their own mouths.

Jesus taught love

At the heart of Christian belief is love. Love is the greatest commandment.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. ” (Matthew 22:37)

We have forgotten this, it seems, in America. We routinely see hateful speech coming from those who sit in pews every Sunday, from those who preach at the pulpit, and from leaders who sway voters because they make the claim that they are Christian.

While Jesus spent most of his time with outcasts, criminals, and prostitutes, in churches all across this country there is the spirit of judgement, exclusion and hate, rather than that of acceptance and love.

Conclusion

Since the rise of the “Moral Majority” in 1979, the Christian Right has become a potent political force in the United States, with the majority of Christians identifying with the Republican Party.

Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, it’s time for Christians to re-examine their faith as it pertains to politics. Because Trump’s entire existence on this planet has been defined by greed, hate, infidelity, arrogance, and lies.

Regardless of the outcome of this Presidential election, the church across America needs to solve the problem at its core. The only way to do that is to turn back to the words of Christ.

 

 

Sprinsteen and Me

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I met Bruce backstage just before the show. The crowd thundered, the lights were up, and chants of “Bruuuuuuce!” shook the concert hall. I’d promised myself not to gush and fanboy, but there I was in the same room with the E-Street Band and the Boss himself was grinning at me.

“Hey, man,” he said in that raspy voice I’d heard a million times on worn out cassettes and CDs. “How’ya doing? I’m glad you could make the show. I read your book, and it’s pretty good. I thought you might like to join me onstage for the last song. We’re gonna close with “Chimes of Freedom.”

“Um,” I stammered, aware that I was sweating profusely and that I couldn’t feel my legs.

“Well? Do you know the song? You look like an idiot just standing there. Can you speak?

Of course, that never happened and it never will, but it’s a nice dream. Bruce Springsteen has inspired me for about thirty years now, and it’s both funny and more than a little absurd in the way that he and his music have influenced my life. I wonder what I’d say, if I had the opportunity to speak in coherent sentences.

The Music and Memories

I saw Springsteen in concert for the first time back in 1986 on the Born in the USA tour at the Orange Bowl in Miami. I’d been a casual listener before that, but the concert changed me into a lifelong fan. There was an electricity in the air, a palpable thrum and connectivity throughout 80,000 people, and when he launched into Glory Days, there were tears in my eyes.

In my mind, perhaps the most amazing thing about Springsteen’s music is the way it grows with you. When I heard Glory Days, I was a senior in high school, and the song meant something entirely different then than it does to me now. Same thing with The River; I felt the quiet desperation in the lyric and that mournful harmonica riff, and I knew I didn’t want to wind up like that, where I looked back years later with a misplaced fondness upon a youth wasted, where being trapped was a way of life. Later on, I could relate with a certain horror to some of the bleak songs, yet I found hope in them, too. Born to Run and Thunder Road acknowledge boundaries and the self-made prison life can become, yet are ultimately gloriously triumphant. A lot of his music is about pushing through, breaking those chains, and busting out.

Badlands is probably my favorite song of all time, and when the bridge launches I still get chills every time and if I’m driving I have no choice but to speed up and start belting out the words at the top of my lungs, much to the horror of my wife and children. I once explained this necessity to a police officer, and, being a fellow Springsteen fan, he understood and tore up the ticket.

Inspiration

I love movies, books, and music that are about overcoming defeat through sheer force of will, and Bruce’s anthems are as good as it gets. When I hear Trapped, Light of Day, and Wrecking Ball in sequence, my chest swells and there is a singing feeling in my soul virtually nothing can dampen.

I hear persistence, hard work, and discipline thumping from the speakers in a way that makes me want to do whatever must be done, no defeat, no surrender. It makes me want to be a better man. His music makes me believe in dreams.

So what would I really say?

I’d stammer and look like an idiot, of that I’m certain. But I’d like to think I could manage this, at least:

“Thanks, Bruce.”

 

 

 

Tears of Abraham, now Available!

What would another civil war really look like? That’s the question I try to answer with this new thriller, set in the near future.

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The country is more polarized than it has been at any time since the years leading up to the first Civil War, and there is a deep undercurrent of anger which is now spilling onto the streets. If Democrats win the White House, where does all that rage go? There is a revolution of some sort on the horizon, and it is my fervent prayer that it’s not the violent kind. Once, folks on the fringe spoke of it in whispers, but now the idea is gaining traction, with politicians and leaders using rhetoric designed to incite outrage.

One reader noted that “if Hemingway and Clancy wrote a novel about the next American Civil War, it would be this book.”

I wrote this book to entertain, but also to spark a dialog. Those who clamor for war seldom know what that really means, what the cost will be.

I hope you will read, enjoy, and talk about it!

http://www.amazon.com/Tears-Abraham-Sean-T-Smith/dp/1618688197

 

 

 

 

America Never Stopped Being Great…and here’s why.

Breaking-Light-in-Lamar-ValleyThe sky is not falling. Despite the ongoing narrative from many politicians who capitalize on fear and anger, America is still a great nation. We are bombarded by posts on social media and on the evening news claiming that the country is in free-fall. That we have squandered the light which made us a beacon of hope to the world. Nonsense.

We have plenty of problems, and I write  often about them. In spite of our flaws and our divisions, the United States remains great and will continue to be unless we allow ourselves to succumb to the self-fulfilling prophecy these political clowns and talking heads are perpetuating. In terms of opportunity, ideals, economy, resources, and global power, the U.S. is yet a “city on a hill” which far surpasses the hopes of even our visionary founding fathers.

Why is everyone so angry and afraid?

Scroll through your news feed on any social media site. “We have gone off the rails,” Trump howls. “God’s judgement is upon us,” Cruz wails. “When a million people stand up and fight, they win,” Bernie extols. But Sharia Law is not coming, our guns aren’t being confiscated, Mexicans aren’t streaming across the borders raping and pillaging in hordes, and FEMA won’t stick you into a death camp. The gloom and doom makes you want to build a bunker and start stockpiling seeds food for the coming apocalypse.

The trouble is, this insidious mentality has crept into our national psyche in a way that endangers the future. This fear-based thinking ignores reality, overshadows the things that are true and good all around us. So here are some things to remember.

Ideals

Democracy works. America began the “great experiment,” and despite the absurd Presidential election we are watching, the Republic is still the best thing going. The division of power between the branches of government functions as it was designed to, and the Constitution remains intact. Yes, there are issues, and Congress and the Executive branch often don’t get along. That’s by design.

The U.S. continues to champion  human rights and democratic ideals around the world, and while there is some hypocrisy there, the truth is undeniable that the U.S. does much good in the world. When there is a terrible tsunami, earthquake, or genocide, the world still turns to the United States.

We have come far as a country. Black people are no longer considered 3/4 of a person and aren’t chattel; we have a black president. Women can vote, and we might have a woman in the Oval Office within the next decade. We have made great strides in the war on poverty and gay rights. Freedom of religion, the arguably single most important founding principle upon which our nation was built, is still protected.

Economy

The United States has by far the most powerful in the world and this will continue to be true for the foreseeable future. Employment is up, the national debt is down, and we may well see a balanced budget again soon. Listening to the politicians, you’d think that the U.S. ranked just above Afghanistan in terms of GDP.

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Resources

Our national resources made this country the envy of the world. Of course, our greatest resource is our people. We are a melting pot, and still attract the best and brightest from around the globe. In terms of sheer natural resources, the U.S. continues to be at the forefront, coming in at #2 behind only Russia. Forest, coal, water, oil, and natural gas are tremendous national assets. The U.S. is ahead of Russia with its ability to exploit these resources, and will do more to protect and manage them.

Despite the fact that the U.S. is falling behind many western countries in education, the existing brainpower of our populace continues to exert a significant “brain drain” on the rest of the world. Our scientists lead the world in more fields than we can count, and we are on the cutting edge of technology, health-care, and entertainment.

Power

Listening to Donald Trump pound a podium, one could be led to believe that Putin is holding off on invading Europe and the East Coast only because Trump might win. God forbid. We hear about catastrophic cuts to defense and claims that the Obama presidency has weakened our armed forces beyond repair, making us vulnerable to threats real and imagined. The truth is, Russia is aggressive, and so is China. So how does U.S. defense stack up? Note the disparity in spending between the United States and the rest of the world.

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For those of you who read my work, you may guess that I’m a hawk. I’m certainly for maintaining a robust military. The United States is able to influence global geopolitics because of both its economic and military strength. Our Navy continues to add new ships with staggering technology and capabilities. Our Air Force boasts the most lethal fighter jets and bombers in the sky. Our infantry is the best-trained on the planet, and our special forces operators are the most deadly.

Culture

America gave the world Rock and Roll, Blues and Jazz, Saving Private Ryan, Grapes of Wrath and Born to Run.

Our innovations birthed the internet, the i-Phone, Microsoft, and Tesla. We are risk-takers and explorers, and we’re stubborn. The Protestant work ethic is strong in us, and while our values have evolved with the times, the Christian ideals of God, Country, and Family remain at the core of our national soul.

So the next time you hear someone say that we need to “make America great again,” I hope you will remember these things.