Venezuela, Oil “Revolutions”, and The Sick Man of the West.

Following these Venezuela events a bit, mostly from Jason Silva’s posts and my own experience and knowledge as a Marine in Latin America. Some things never change, eh guys? My only question to what degree are we and our oil industry involved, (this started under Obama), and who are the major US players. I’ll wager anyone there are several special ops teams with at least eyes on, and who knows maybe fanning the flames a bit. Roadside bomb here, cop shot there; Another Ukraine and Syria, all about gas and oil…10% of our imports come from here.
Shut it down (by sanctions) and oil prices could go through the roof, just in time for oil guys around the world…including Russia and Iran, and hey, yes: the USA. Now THAT is deep state, meta: these companies don’t worry about politics (as such) it’ll just be a great boost to the bottom line, just like everyone from George Washington to Smedley Butler, to General/President Eisenhower warned you.
Keep on eye on this, keep an eye on Turkey and Erdogan, on Putin as he responds to US “sanctions” over the war we created in Ukraine, on Korea and on China. Keep an eye on nationalistic yearnings by Iran and the Saudi family. Then realize when the Republicans crowed and triumphed over Reagan “winning the Cold War, they forget history. That Germany was touted as “beaten” in World War I by politicians and media for 20 years. That afterward those years were just looked at as an Interregnum, realize that to play our own game of winning by spending the Soviet Union into ruin…is a simple process by our economic adversaries. A flare up here, a crisis there, and we are spending so much money on “Defense” that our country hasn’t touched infrastructure or the welfare of the citizens in almost 40 years.
There are several accounts now from other Western nations where we are now not looked on as a world leader. Not because of the soft power of an Obama administration interested in lifting up third world nations, or the angry rhetoric and bigger-stick approach of Trump, but because when they and their citizens visit our nation, they don’t see the “American Dream.” They see decrepit cities, crime, unhappiness, third world societal benefits or worse. All indicators point to the Social Democracies as being the new yardstick for that Dream: quality of life, economic and social mobility.
Wherever that leaves us after the next four years, with not only these adversaries but also resurgent European nations once again taking over the world leadership role, remember one thing: it wasn’t liberalism or conservatism that got us there…it was politicians in the pockets of international industrialists and oil cartels that took a great, special notion, that of a free people determining their own affairs in a peaceful and prosperous manner, and turned it into the “Sick Man of the West.”


Koch brothers video on quality of life: the perverse twisting of “economic freedom”.

Charles Koch’s video is here:

What is amazing about this propaganda is that he takes the accomplishments of progressive countries and subtly infers it as a capitalist accomplishment.

The truth? In the last bastion of pure western capitalism, the USA quality of life is down, and dropping. It is directly related to corporate greed: taking jobs unnecessarily overseas, cutting salaries and benefits at home, and transferring vast amounts of wealth to the already incredibly rich. All while ignoring infrastructure, making vast profits from our children’s university educations, and effectively turning them into indentured servants.

I’m including just a few stats from different agencies worldwide. I try to use links from non-progressive websites to have the best sources: take a look! Germany is going through an “economic miracle“. The top ten spots for quality of life are all social democratic countries. The “failed states” map shows that we are on par with Greece, which is currently inundated with political unrest because apparently their elites raped their country too.

The truth is the loss of the American middle class is why our quality of life isn’t even close to that of other western nations. Currently it is the socialized democracies that provide their citizens with accessible tools like education, healthcare, quality work life and viable safety nets and pensions that are letting those nations forge ahead while the USA forgets that for a Republic, financial security IS freedom.

Chateau Rigaud Faugeres 2007

     Ok so I haven’t written about wine for a while; it isn’t for lack of experimentation. I recently went and hit Total Wine and B-21, two of the largest wine retailers in the Sarasota-Bradenton-St. Pete area. I bought about twenty-five bottles in the $12-$30 range; the best of the litter so far is Chateau Rigaud “Faugeres” 2007.  Here is the Wine Advocate review. Parker barrel tasted it, and I agree with the “vivacity” and “ripe-richness”.  The family had a great dinner tonight, Jim M. is home so he cooked up some great rack of lamb ribs while i did the garlic mashed potatoes and a seafood pot pie. We had a key lime pie and coffee for dessert. Now the pot pie is simple yet awesome; Bristol Bay, Alaska salmon, Alaskan cod, sautéed pearl onions. I added a bit of browned sage sausage for the hell of it this time. And even though the crust came out buttery, sweet, and brown, we decided to put it off until brunch tomorrow: just too much. So: back to the wine. We had this huge platter of grilled lamb, the wine was slightly less than room temp at the beginning of the meal maybe 65f. it was good, but interestingly the tannins were in the forefront, (and they WERE there) and then the Parker fruit bomb burst at the end. That was fine, it went well with the well-herbed and spiced chops, even with the roasted garlic mashed. As it warmed up to room temp however, everything smoothed out. I took a swig straight from the bottle after everyone hit the rack, (went to bed for you brits) heathen that I am. Silky, but without the density Parker mentions-not that it isn’t structured, but if HE says density, I figure a little overload. This was just a nice middle-way, more than water but less than milk. Nice. Next, a couple of ounces in a stemless Riedel Burgundy glass. The nose is…fragrant, almost like that of an excellent IPA- the follow through swallow is a blend of tannins and round sweetness that usually means a pricier wine. Absolutely coats the teeth and the glass afterward, you’ll need the enamel-replacing toothpaste, and i guess that’s a good thing. Parker says a “mind-boggling value”. Maybe a bit of hyperbole on his part, but this wine at $14 beats the rest that I had in the $20-$30 range for French and Spanish reds this month. Finally: the grapes. The bottle says appellation Faugeres, and that it is a red Languedoc wine. I was thinking a Merlot-Cabernet blend- it is actually Syrah and Grenache, like many Cotes du Rhones. Whatever; it is good.

Insane Clown party politicians…

     I just had an epiphany: the only way the leaders of our country could get us sixty-three trillion dollars in debt and no balanced budget proposal in sight  – as a matter of fact, Obama is proposing more “stimulus”- Is because they are all insane buffoons clinging desperately to power by spending the country into oblivion. We as a people generally want a living wage and the ability to improve ours lot in life, reasonably priced health care and education, the ability to defend ourselves, and  a clean and safe environment to raise our children and live. These are basic government functions.

     We really have none of that. So, where is the money going?

     Which leads us to the insanity part. At what point does what both parties have done to our country in the last 20 years NOT constitute insane behavior?  They spent every dividend that could have come out of the end of the cold war in 1989:  political, peace, financial; the country is not one bit better for this spending…we are so far worse off it could only have taken someone dedicated to destroying America to have done a better job at it. When individuals continue a course of action that is clearly detrimental, and they do it over and over, it is a psychosis. They have lost touch with reality. The only other possibility? That they are all criminals, and we really do have ‘gangsta” government, and there is no more “American” ideal.

     We need to end the self-perpetuating power of the two political parties. National and Federal term limits, great ideas that need action. Limiting crossing over between branches of government is another. Ending the vast perks that federal and state representatives in all branches of government get is a final piece. Should we really allow the luxurious party atmosphere that pervades Washington, D.C.?  Why should reps get catered meals and cocktails, expense accounts and free trips all over the world? Why incredible health care plans and magnificent pensions for already wealthy reps, when so many in America don’t have the basics? Check out some of these links. You will be astonished, if not horrified. Really: who gets a pension for five years service in this day and age?? These are the things that have to change first, for America to get its priorities back.

Great Men

Ok…I find that I often resort to Hyperbole. Like my brother-in-law Jim M. stated in one of his columns, the word hero is overused. So I think,  is the term “Great Man.” But recently two men have passed who I think qualify…it is the end of an era with them gone. I would compare it to the day Adams and Jefferson died…or similar. Two great men, and I guarantee you’ve never heard of them, so an attempt to educate…

      Jay Hammond and Walter “Wally” Hickel. Two mavericks before it was cute, two self-made men who owe nothing to no-one except for ambition and ability. Both defined the era of Alaska statehood more than any other.  Hammond, a marine corps fighter pilot in world war II,  provided Alaskans w/the framework for the permanent fund. He believed in simple common sense, and you’ll never meet a humbler appearing ex-two time governor than this man. He, like Sarah Palin, married an Alaskan native and created a Lake Clark spread for his family that might rival  the days of  “Big Valley” or “Bonanza”…Alaska style.

     From the appearance of his hotel, the opulent grand dame of Alaska the  “Captain Cook“,  you’d think Hickel the opposite. The man who has a 10,000 bottle of wine cellar at the Crow’s Nest and has written several books barely had an education. Legend has it he arrived in state with thirty-seven cents but  a boat-load of confidence. To go from that to founding the “Institute of the North“, where world leaders traipsed into his presence long after he was out of the executive office to discuss the future of countries above the 57th parallell…Amazing.

     I won’t go into too much detail. You can hit the links and explore their biographies. Just remember as you look at the current crop of politicians hoping to get elected and then immediately kowtow to every interest that will further their selves…remember two humble men in a far off corner of our empire. Two guys who could have been prototypes for John Galt, but with the empathy and compassion that is necessary to  lead.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

Ok, i told my bro-in-law I’d get writing again, and what a nice topic this is: a Cotes du Roussillon Villages wine…I saw it at the Wine Discount Center on Elston, actually got an email from them here. This is, as the write-up mentions, a Top 100 wine this year…for $11.99!

     I decanted the bottle yesterday.  Like many French wines, it is a blend: Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan, the last being an old vine deignee. The first sip while eating a little ham and brie? A little too muscular, slight pepper, and even medicinal. extreme dark, obscuring coloration, heavy on the palate w/slight tannins.

     Doesn’t sound like I would like it, eh? Well i gave it an hour, and then tried it with beef, a better pairing as the first coupling was one of opportunity, while the second was by design. Mmmm. A convergence. The wine had relaxed, was much lighter on the palate (which is what I am looking for these days) while the pepper from the syrah was much more forward but in complete, absolute harmony with the other elements. This is a mouth filler without overstaying its welcome. Long finish… but round. Little tannins to speak of.

     Ok, you say that was by design, an intended result by the addition of the beef dish? No. I corked it overnight. Today around one I had lunch, and there was not a hint of difference after a day. Longevity- we like that in a wine. And according to the Spectator, this is just the beginning of Bila-Haut’s run. Drinkable 2010-2017. This, at this price? Get it by the case.

Polish Presidential Plane Crash

      No, this isn’t the start of a bad joke..the President of Poland, Lech  Kaczynski, and the Chief of Staff of the Army were killed in a plane crash in Russia.  They were on the way to a memorial service for victims of the Katyn forest massacre. Not a bad joke, but tons of irony there. And as we look, tons of irony everywhere. First, Kaczynski’s twin brother is head of the opposition party. President Obama just reneged on a deal to provide Patriot missiles to Poland in return for hosting U.S. missiles interceptors (read part of the “Star Wars plan)- reneged after the Poles greatly angered the Russians in accepting those missiles. This comes into play because the Poles, who liked George Bush and supported him with combat troops in his wars, is being treated like an out of favor suitor by the Obama administration. The Poles, and other affected Eastern Europeans, have not jumped on the Obama bandwagon.  And then of course there is why they were offered the missiles in the first place: Poland is the largest of the former Soviet satellites to embrace the West.

     So: I could write a conspiracy column. If we were still in the cold war, I would. Just remember that before the cold war, before the Soviets, the same stuff went on. Just under a different name. Now the continuation of the “Great Game” seems like fantasy.  Maybe so, but Obama has practically given Russia the green light to recoup its’ regional hegemony. Don’t be surprised if they do. Just remember that  sometimes when you think you are the clear-cut winner in an ideological struggle, the other side lies low, regroup, and strikes when the iron is hot.

The Assassination of Americans by our own government?

     The Obama administration just authorized the assassination of an American jihadist in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki. This is a step that George Bush never took, and one that should alarm all Americans. Why? Because the target is not  only an American, but a non-combatant. He hasn’t taken up arms against his country, but he has recruited others to do so. What does this mean?  Well, it is a very small step into killing any other ideological opponent that just disagrees with you abroad, or at home. Lets forget about the abroad part for now. It’s the at home part that concerns me. As the Obama administration tentatively has already taken steps to identify “domestic terrorists“, how long until he has the ability to kill Americans in our own country, without them once touching a weapon, and without trial? I hate to say it because I like action, not words. But America was meant to be a country in the middle, not extreme left or right. That is why Gerald Ford first instituted a ban on political killings thirty-five years ago. So that America wouldn’t turn into the dirty little dictatorships: the Maoists, the Khmer rouge, the Stalinists, the Tontons Macoute. So that the CIA wouldn’t repeat the secretive political killings of Vietnam. When you get actions like these, you are one step away from being not a Nobel prize-winning statesman, but a Nazi.

     Condolences to the families of the Massey Mine explosion in West Virginia.  I wonder what people think about the idea of federalizing or state owning of mines and minerals? It would be interesting if miners were treated like soldiers: 30 days off, free health care, and a pension after 20 years. What if all people in Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky profited from the minerals under their land? I keep wondering why in this modern age a few massive international or national companies are allowed to continue garnering huge wealth for a few while the brave souls who provide it get…dust…and explosions…and preachers who assure them their reward will be in heaven.Two Alaskan governors helped make Alaskans owners of their own state, and every year every single citizen gets a dividend check.  Jay Hammond, probably the most decent man to govern any state anywhere, put the idea in motion. Another two-time common sense governor, Wally Hickel, continues to champion the idea in his books. Some years its been as high as $3000 a person, kids included. Why don’t other states go this route? I feel for the people of Appalachia. Capitalism works, but only when the wealth is shared. Otherwise it becomes fascism.

Drugs and Freedom, and the Iditarod

     Lance Mackey is hours away from winning his fourth straight Iditarod. Never been done before. Some are holding their breath in anticipation. Not for the historic crossing of the finish line in Nome, but for the drug test afterward. Mackey holds a medical marijuana usage card, and for the first time the Iditarod is going to test mushers for alcohol and marijuana. 

    Should they test these guys?  All people worldwide have their vices, all athletics have their magic potions to enhance performance, from HGH to steroids. Our pilots and soldiers, especially special ops guys, use amphetamines.  The first question any Alaskan should ask is: how could pot or a jigger of whiskey give Mackey a win?

     Alaskans are fortunate that geography and a vast mineral inheritance allow them to do things a little different from the lower 48.  As you dash frantic but restrained into Kaladi Brothers or Cafe del Mundo to get your morning fix, as you collapse into a chair at the Bear’s Tooth or Darwin’s to take the edge off the day, even as you appreciate that first taste of a good, round, big red to compliment your meal- try to think like an Alaskan. Do we need outdated thinking, often promulgated by people who benefit from these laws and strictures, to rule your brief spot on this earth?

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