Friday Roundup

October 21, 2011

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No new episode of Treasure Hunt today.  My creative energies have been diverted elsewhere this week.  A secret project is underway – more about that next week (hopefully).

If you’re thinking of buying a Kindle, check out my review from a couple of weeks ago.  I touch on the pros and cons of each model.  What’s great for you might not be a good fit for someone else.  If you like the article and decided to take the plunge, consider buying through the links on the site – we’ll earn a small commission on the sale.

You can now check out Kindle books at many public libraries.  Check out this feature!  I’ve been making slow progress on the print edition of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and downloaded the Kindle version from my library.  You can’t use 3G to download, needing instead to use either WiFi or USB to transfer the book.  Nonetheless, a cool feature.

This is article 1002 for The Soap Boxers.  Want to see them all?  Explore the archives.

The World Series is underway.  It’s currently tied at one game apiece, with the Cardinals taking game one and the Rangers game two.  A huge play in game two occurred when Elvis Andrus moved to second base on  slightly errand throw.  Albert Pujols touched the throw from the outfield ever so slightly, slowing its path to catcher Yadier Molina and making it impossible for Molina to cut down Andrus as he tried to advance.  As a result, the double play was no longer in order.  Making the situation even worse for the Cardinals, Andrus moved to third on a the run-scoring sacrifice fly by Josh Hamilton.  Had he been at first base when Hamilton came to bat, he would have been unable to advance on the fly, and the throw from right field to second base is much shorter than the throw to third.

Last Saturday, Chad Dawson scored a controversial TKO in a boxing match against light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins.  The key sequence in the match involved Dawson lifting Hopkins into the air and throwing him to the canvas.  An injured Hopkins was unable to continues and the bout was called.  On Tuesday, the WBC declared the match a technical draw and reinstated Hopkins as the champion (the reigning champion must LOSE in order to lose his belt; he retains the title in the case of a draw).  This is an interesting – and seemingly correct – decision.  I’m not much of a boxing fan, but find it interesting to see the result of a contest changed after the fact.  This simply doesn’t happen in team sports.

As a lover of Tigers, I was saddened by the shooting of 49 animals – including 18 Bengal tigers – after their owner opened their cages and committed suicide.  I fully understand the decisions that authorities were faced with, and can’t fault them for their choice.  I place the blame on the owner, Terry Thompson, who put the animals in danger by released them.  Thompson had been convicted of animal cruelty in the past.  While the Bengal Tiger is the most common of the Tiger subspecies, there are fewer than 2500 of them in the world, and the death of 18 in one event is a blow to conservation efforts.

On Thursday, we heard reports that Libyan leader Gadhafi (Qaddafi) was killed in a crossfire between his troops and those of the National Transitional Council.  His death ends a 42 year reign over the African country.  Observers wonder if this will embolden rebels in other countries, such as in Yemen, where rebels have called for the resignation of president Ali Abdullah Saleh.  For some interesting insights into Libyan/American relations, I’d suggest Nelson DeMille’s novel, The Lion’s Game.  It’s fiction, of course, so you can’t treat it like a history book (although many of those books indeed contain fiction), but it’s an entertaining introduction to the culture.

Why Libya?

March 21, 2011

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For the last few weeks I have been defending the President’s stand of non-intervention in the political upheavals of the Arab world. I have applauded him as he has stood by and allowed the people of each country work out their problems on their own, even though there has been much violence. It cannot be the job of the United States to look at each conflict around the world, determine who is “right” and then act as enforcer, police, bully, what ever term you want to use. I understand when we retaliate against an attack or come to the aid of an ally, but I do not see the reason to get into what can be considered a family squabble, but at the least is a civil war.

If we just look at the last 50 years (to get by WWII, and be in the historical time frame that most of us can still remember) there have been numerous wars, events and terrible occurrences around the world some of which the United States became involved in and some that we remained hands off. I am only selecting a few, there are many that I just do not have the space to address. First let’s look at intervention. First in the list would be Vietnam. We started off supporting our ally, France, then our ally South Vietnam. Although I may not like how it was managed, I can at least understand our involvement. Next came Haiti, six separate times. These were all humanitarian effort to oust dictators. Our aim was well meant, but obviously we failed as Haiti remains one of the poorest, most oppressed countries in the world. Panama and Grenada were targets of President Reagan in the 1980s. Why? Basically we did not like the people in charge. If that is the criteria for military intervention, then during the same time period we should have attacked the Soviet Union, France and Argentina. We didn’t, but was that just because we could push around the smaller countries?

Somalia and Yugoslavia were the targets of President Clinton. Both of these were humanitarian in a way. We went in to kill those people who were killing people we decided were innocent. They may have been, but being that judge is a dangerous position to put ourselves. To be fair, President G.H.W. Bush started the Somalia effort. Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan I discussed in previous articles. In Iraq, an ally (Saudi Arabia) asked for help after Kuwait had been conquered, then the second round was because Iraq violated every part of the cease fire agreement (all of that noise about weapons of mass destruction doesn’t matter). Afghanistan supported and harbored a group that publicly claimed responsibility for attacking us. And now we are bombing Libya. Again I ask why?

If we look at the conflicts that we avoided, I am sure to rankle some people. President Carter avoided involvement in Nicaragua. As a result, a pro-American regime was ousted from power. I still think it was the correct choice. Presidents Clinton and G.W. Bush avoided Angola, Sudan, Uganda and more in Central Africa. True these were horrible situations with barbaric murders and tortures, but by my (selfish) criteria, not our problem. And right now, we are standing by for Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. So I ask a third time, why are we getting involved in Libya?

President Obama can claim to be supporting the community of nations in enforcing the United Nations Resolution. There are plenty of resolutions that we have not supported. He could also claim to be trying to get oil prices down for the common man, but I think he will avoid that since he accused President Bush of fighting in Iraq for oil. Besides, if he really wanted oil prices to go down, he would allow drilling here in the United States, both on land an off shore. I really cannot figure this out. I was glad when he stood by and allowed Egypt to work out its problems. I thought that he was following the same path here. But suddenly, when Gadaffi started to win, the UN and our president decided to step in and be part of the problem. My hope now is that few if any Americans parish during this struggle, and that the United States does not become the focal point of hate for the new leadership that will emerge through out the Arab world as a result of these recent rebellions.

Freedom is Contagious

February 28, 2011

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There is a lot of news from the Middle East about people overthrowing dictatorships to have personal freedom. I applaud this effort and support them at least in emotion and praise. I have heard complaints from commentators that President Obama is not doing more to support these efforts. I disagree with that criticism. We (Americans) had to fight for and earn our freedoms. If the French had come in with superior weapons and force and beat up the British, we would have had a lot of problems. First, we would have had an obligation to support everything French for eternity. Secondly, we would have had a fifth column within the country ready to overthrow our government as a puppet of the French. Third, there would have been a certain segment of our society that would have hated everything French just because they interfered with our sovereignty.

The President should always support, verbally and emotionally, any efforts to advance freedom around the world. That is what this country stands for. Our willingness to help, including the sacrifice of our own blood and treasure, without hope of territorial gain, is what truly sets us apart from the rest of the governments that have ever existed in the world. But getting actively involved is another question. We have tried and failed several times to create new nations in our image. Iraq and Afghanistan are the two most recent examples. Both will eventually emerge as some sort of hybrid of what we think is a free and democratic nation and what the Afghans and Iraqis choose to implement.

Should we be bombing Colonel Gadaffi and his forces? Sure he is a bad man, but who will step in if we knock him down? The people toppling him will be better off without us so that they can choose their own leadership. We may not like what they come up with, but that is part of what freedom is all about, the freedom to make mistakes.

No I am not equating Iraq and Afghanistan to Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Iran, Syria, and Morocco. In the current round of uprisings, it is the people fighting their tyrannical governments. When the people of Iraq and Afghanistan rose up in the 1980’s we did not interfere directly. When Iraq invaded two neighbors, we responded. When they broke every condition of the cease fire, we conquered them and attempted to establish a new, democratic government. When Afghanistan harbored a group that had publicly claimed responsibility for a deadly attack against us, we conquered them and attempted the same nation building.

In the cases of what is going on now, it is internal to each country and should be handled by each country without some bully forcing what decisions are made. Just as I supported President Bush in his decisions with regard to Iraq and Afghanistan, I support President Obama in his current actions with regard to the freedom uprisings. I find the verbal cannonade by professional talkers obscene. One group claims that these uprisings are a direct response to a speech President Obama gave in Egypt last year. The other group claims the credit should go to President Bush for establishing democracies in the region. Both accretions are ridiculous. The uprisings are the result a people fed up with governments that have failed the people they are responsible for. They have risen up against the bullies. There was a fabulous headline in the papers this weekend that I feel captures the whole story, “The Walls of Fear have Fallen.”

Book review: The Lion’s Game

March 17, 2009

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The Lion’s Game
by Nelson DeMille

John Corey, former NYPD detective and current member of the anti-terrorist task force (ATTF) has a rather straightforward task to complete on April 15th. He and his team are to take custody of a terrorist who has turned himself in and transfer the terrorist from LaGuardia airport to a federal facility in New York City. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty can go wrong, of course. The terrorist, a Libyan named Asad Kahlil, makes quite a splash immediately upon arrival in he United States. Khalil quickly escapes and begins work toward his real mission – a mission that has been many years in the planning. John Corey and his team are a few steps behind Kahlil, and a great cat and mouse game begins. The lion begins to stalk his prey – and the prey have no idea they are being hunted until the very last moment.

The book moves back and forth between the viewpoints of John Corey and Asad Khalil, and also has flashbacks to Khalil’s adolescence. This allows DeMille an opportunity to let the reader inside the head of Khalil. We are able to understand why Kahlil acts the way he does – how his past and his country’s culture have shaped him as a man. We also get the opportunity to see how a major terrorist campaign is planned and carried out. Asad Khalil has revenge on his mind, and he has brought death to the “land of the infidels”.

John Corey and his sidekick, Kate Mayfield, are worthy adversaries for Khalil. Corey is a brilliant detective, but he rubs a lot of people the wrong way. He has some big problems with authority figures and also has a tendency to tell jokes that offend certain ethnic, religious, and gender groups. He has a tendency to operate outside the rules from time to time. Subtlety is not his stock in trade. These are some of the reasons why he is former NYPD, rather than active NYPD. Kate Mayfield, on the other hand, is the shining example of a by-the-books FBI agent. She, too, is a brilliant investigator, but she stays within the rules.

The synergy created by their partnership aids them greatly in working the case. They are a step behind Khalil out of the gate and have to play catch-up. However, they manage to muddle their way through bureaucratic red tape (and some folks who seem to be playing for a different team) and eventually figure out what Kahlil is up to and aggressively give chase in the latter portion of he book, culminating in a final, dramatic showdown.

* * *

I first encountered this book when I stumbled across the audio version in Barnes and Noble. I was about to take off on a solo trip from Illinois to New York State. The audio version of the book appealed to me for two main reasons. It was bargain priced, and it was 25 hours long. The book captivated me for the entire 25 hours.

Since that initial listening, I have listened to the audio version at least two more times, I have read the book twice, and I have listened to the abridged edition of the audio book. I don’t make a habit of overdosing on one particular book, so I obviously enjoy this book a lot. The Soap Boxers gives this book a rating of “freaking awesome”!

In my opinion, the abridged edition of the audio book falls fall short of the unabridged edition. They had to cut to book from 25 hours to 9, so obviously some of the plot had to be lost. However, I’m not a big fan of the way they made some of the cuts. Also, I much prefer the reading job done by Scott Brick on the unabridged edition to the job done by Boyd Gaines on the abridged edition. Gaines doesn’t really do anything wrong, but Brick is simply awesome.

Nelson Demille

The Lion’s Game – Book


Nelson Demille

The Lion’s Game – CD