The Huckleberry Hounds of War

autumn2As Bugs Bunny once said to Yosemite Sam, “Of course, you know this means war.”  Yeah, I’m talking about the comic book opera being played out between London, Washington, Congress and Damascus.  Don’t get me wrong. I’m the first guy in line to see a smartass like al-Assad get slapped.  However, let’s put things into perspective: there isn’t a schoolboy alive who hasn’t seen this playground scenario a hundred times.  Some kid thinks he can get away with murder (in this case, literally) and some other kid says, “No, you can’t.”  Good luck trying to talk that one out over a juice box.

But I’m also declaring war on all those wishful thinkers out there who wouldn’t recognize reality if it dropped an Acme anvil on their heads.  Get the message, you wily coyotes: the hard truth is, you’re never going to catch the roadrunner and bullies exist.  They’ve been living on our planet since Fred Flintstone had to defend himself against the Neanderthal hillbillies, two caves over, who kept stealing his fire and peeing in the water supply.  From that primeval moment until the present day, human history has been a running battle between those of us who want to be left alone to grunt and scratch as we see fit and a bunch of scuzzy buggers who never seem to see it that way.  Wake up and smell the Sarin, people!  Bashar al Assad is one of those guys who thinks the rules don’t apply to him.  We all know these folks; we’ve met them a million times.  He and his Ba’ath Party buddies are simply pumped-up versions of those morons from grade school who got their kicks beating up the little kids.  They’re bullies, and no amount of pink shirts is going to change that.

However, it’s not actually the bullies of our world who are the problem.  They’re easy to spot: just follow the blood stains.  Our real problem is those misguided Good Samaritans who are controlling the agenda.  They are somehow under the delusion that we’re just one honest dialogue away from a political solution with Bashar and his ilk.  They are convinced that reasonable people can reason with a guy nasty enough to spray paint an unsuspecting population with poison gas.  It boggles the mind.  Unfortunately, these pie-in-the-sky debaters are part of the problem not the solution.  And, let’s be clear, this isn’t just the Barack Obama’s Sylvester and Tweety Show.  I’m looking at you venerable Parliament of the UK.  Remember what happened the last time the British decided not to take action over “… a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.”  You Brits ought to be ashamed of yourselves.  My point is, as we theorize and chatter about who did what to whom and how many dictators can dance on the head of a bloated corpse, the bad guys are taking time to reread their ruthless manual and reload.  Then, when, invariably, push comes to shove in Syria, it’s going to take twice as much time, three times as much energy, and four times the body count to finally get rid of these clowns.  Regime change on the ten year plan isn’t pretty; just ask the marines in Afghanistan.

The fact is, the Pollyannas of our time, and their abhorrence of history are condemning our children and/or our grandchildren to eventually die in that same “far away country.”  Their abject ignorance is just as deadly as al-Assad’s poison gas.  Therefore, let it be known, that I, for one, am no longer willing to let you off the hook just because you’re dumber than the average bear.  After all, Yogi never got it right even when Boo Boo pointed it out to him.  So, get out of the way, or, as the man said, I will “Cry havoc and loose the Huckleberry Hounds of war.”

Olympics: A Postpartum World

The Olympics are over, and for those of us who have been going solid walls of TV coverage for the last two weeks, there’ll be a day or two of decompression – postpartum depression, if you will.  Since there’s only one way to “get the athlete off your back” and that’s going cold turkey, there will be some minor side effects.  They might include (but are not limited to) engaging in meaningless tests of skill with your friends or relatives, listening to various national anthems on YouTube and experiencing an uncontrollable urge to visit Jamaica.  Not to worry, though: these cravings will pass with time, and normal (whatever that is) will happen again, whether you like it or not.  Good luck!

Incredible as it seems, while you and I were gone, the world was carrying on without us.  Ironically, just as Team GB (Great Britain, for the uninitiated) was proving it could still run with the big boys, David Cameron’s coalition government was showing some serious signs of Banana Republic instability.  Davey boy needs to get his political house in order before the Olympic honeymoon‘s over, or he’s going to be relegated to shouting insults from the other side of the aisle.  Bad as that seems, Europe’s problemo numero uno is still the red ink that’s hemorrhaging out of Greece, Italy and Spain.  It’s obvious that the cozy relationship Angela Merkel had with her Gallic neighbours died when the French people au revoir-ed Sarkozy in May.  Angie better start cracking the Euro whip, or, overwhelmed by his own ideology, newly-minted French president Francois Hollande is going to try retrofitting his 20th century politics into Europe’s 21st century problems.  The last thing Europe needs right now is another dose of what got them into this mess in the first place!

Meanwhile, over in the desert, Bashar al-Assad is going for the gold as Syria’s candidate for dick-tator of the year.  At last count, he had out-Mubarak-ed Mubarak, and with the help of his Iranian buddy Ahmadinejad, was going for the full Gaddafi.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t we just slap the crap out of Muammar for half the malfeasance this guy is getting away with?  Assad is hanging onto power in Syria by his eyebrows, and if he thinks his friends in Tehran are going to pull his almonds out of the fire, he ought to give his head a shake.  As of the massacre in Aleppo, the only way Assad is going to end his days is Syria is getting dragged through the streets of Damascus in his underwear — and there’s nothing he can do about it.  Prolonging the agony is not going to save him.

It’s not all bad news, though: in America, Mitt Romney has named his running mate, Paul Ryan.  Ryan is a game changer.  Suddenly, the American presidential election is a whole lot more than just uber-cool Obama versus Massachusetts’ answer to The Man from Glad™.  It’s now a campaign of ideas.  Finally, somebody’s going to have to start talking about all the red ink America’s been accumulating (I’m looking at you, Barack) and offer something more than “hope” as a solution.  This may be the first time — ever — that an incumbent president had to run against the other party’s vice-presidential choice!  But what the hell!  We may even get beyond Wheatley versus Pedro (ala Napoleon Dynamite.)  Who knows?

Tons of other stuff happened while you and I were watching Usain Bolt dismantle the record books and rebuild them in his own image.  For example, somebody discovered a huge island floating in the Pacific, north of New Zealand.  It’s called a ‘pumice raft,” and it’s made of coagulated rocks from an undersea volcano.  Apparently, this thing is as big as Belgium!  And, oh yeah: the Americans went interplanetary again and landed a rover on Mars.  The pictures are fantastic.

So, don’t get too bothered about your Olympic hangover.  There’s plenty of other things going on in the world.  Besides — football season starts in less than three weeks, and the World Series is right around the corner.

Why Are We Taking Syria Seriously?

I can say, without much fear of contradiction, that Bashar al-Assad is a punk.  Back in the day, Sinatra could have taken the guy!  Yet, here we are, eighteen months into the Arab Spring, and he’s still kicking around.  Muammar’s gone; Hosni’s on his last legs; and both of those boys ate ruthless for breakfast.  Yet there’s old Bashar, still bashing away at the opposition as if he didn’t have a care in the world.  He looks like Monty Python’s idea of an accountant, for God’s sake!  And he didn’t even seize power like a proper tyrant; he inherited it from his dad!  Just like you and I got the gold watch and the antique power tools.  So why is he getting treated like the bogeyman he never was?

The problem is everybody’s taking Syria seriously.  We’re all acting as if Bashar dines at the Head Table.  He doesn’t!  In any place other than Damascus, the waiters are shouting, “Ba’ath, Party of none.”  (In case you’re keeping score, Assad’s Syrian Ba’ath Party is the last fragment of a crowd of regional secularists, whose only other claim to fame was Saddam Hussein.)  The country might be strategically placed in the Middle East and have a few powerful friends, but that’s about it.  Syria hasn’t been a player on the world stage since right around the time Nero was getting his first violin lesson.  So let’s just put things into perspective, historically speaking, shall we?  This is the decaffeinated version, but it’s close enough for our purposes.

Syria sits on a multitude of ancient civilizations.  Humans have thrived there since before we quit hunting and gathering and started planting cash crops.  The brag is Damascus is the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth.  It’s easy to believe, since Syria sits on the crossroads of the old land routes from Egypt and Africa to Europe and the Far East.  Two millennia ago, it was so important that Rome sent Pompey the Great to conquer it, which he did in the 1st century BCE.  At one time, Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, right behind Alexandria and Rome itself.  In the 3rd century AD, there were two (and perhaps even three) Roman Emperors born in Syria.

However, on the “What have you been doing lately?” front, when the Roman Empire collapsed so did the fortunes of Syria.  Across the next two thousand years, the local environs were a battleground for any itinerant thug with an army.  For one brief, shining moment after the Moslem conquest, Damascus flourished again, but that came to a screaming halt on a sunny day in 1260 when a horde of Mongols showed up and put the boots to the whole area.  (Mongol devastation was so complete that it wasn’t until the early 20th century that Syria regained its pre-Mongol population.)  After another couple of centuries of chaos, the Ottomans came calling, around 1510.  However, by then, the trade route from Europe to the East had shifted to the sea.  Syria became a backwater, where it languished for 400 years.

In the early 20th century, the Ottomans were falling apart at the seams.  To complete the decline and fall, they allied themselves with Germany in World War I.  Syria was once again conquered by a marauding adventurer – this time, Lawrence of Arabia.  After the Ottoman surrender, the entire Middle East was chopped into bite size by British and French colonial bureaucrats, and Syria was given to France.  One World War later, the French went home; Syria was on its own for the first time since 64 BCE.  Not surprisingly, they weren’t very good at governing themselves: for the next twenty-five years, they pretty much played presidential musical chairs.  In 1970, Defence Minister Hafez al-Assad (Bashar’s daddy) said, “To hell with this noise!” and took control of the country — permanently.  He died in 2000, and here we are.

History shows us that Syria has always been easy pickings for anybody with a sword and an attitude but the plain truth is that, for the last forty years, it’s been punching way above its weight class.  Syria’s powerful “friends” have been using it as a surrogate; first Nasser and his Pan Egyptian nonsense, then the Soviets and now the Iranians and their minions.  Separated from its benefactors, Syria has neither the economic nor military heft to be anything more than a pain in the ass – even regionally.  I don’t know how we forgot that Bashar and his cohorts are nothing more than street corner gangsters, but we better remember that soon.  The guy’s a punk and he’s capable of anything he can get away with.  That makes him dangerous.

 Last Week’s Puzzle Answers

Here are the answers to last week’s puzzle.  I’ve left a space after the first two in case you want to go back and try your luck again

24 H in a D
24 hours in a day

90 D in a R A
90 degrees in a right angle





Zero A in a F H
Zero atheists in a fox hole
There are 2 S to every A
There are 2 sides to every argument

6 S. on a S S
6 sides on a Stop Sign

3 S and you’re O
3 strikes and you’re out

There are 8 N in an O
There are 8 notes in an octave

8 P in the S.S. plus P
8 planets in the Solar System plus Pluto

1 P is worth 1,000 W
1 picture is worth 1,000 words
7 W of the A W
7 Wonders of the Ancient World

1 W on a U
1 wheel on a unicycle

64 S on a C B
64 squares on a chess board

20,000 L under the S
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

G and the 3 B
Goldilocks and the 3 Bears

1 is the L N
1 is the loneliest number

12 L of H
12 Labours of Hercules

28 D in F except in a L Y
28 days in February except in a Leap Year

Every C has 9 L
Every cat has 9 lives

12 D of C
12 days of Christmas

4 S in a S D of C
4 suit in a standard deck of cards

2 is C; 3 is a C
2 is company; 3 is a crowd

76 T led the B P
76 Trombones led the Big Parade

12 M in a Y
12 months in a year

K 2 B with 1 S
Kill 2 birds with 1 stone

13 in a B D
13 in a Baker’s Dozen

3 B M
3 blind mice

1001 A N
1001 Arabian Nights

4 H of the A
4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse

3 P in a H G
3 periods in a hockey game

40 D of R in the G F
40 days of rain in the Great Flood

4 Q in a D
4 quarters in a dollar

6 P on a S F
6 points on a snow flake

12 S of the Z
12 signs of the Zodiac

S W and the 7 D
Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs