Violent Outbursts In The Muslim World

September 17, 2012

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Last week, there were violent outbursts in the Muslim world.  The cause of this explosion was reported to be an internet video that is insulting to the Prophet.  This is hard to support since the video was weeks old and unknown to most of the world until an Egyptian television station broadcast it.  Somehow, this video provided an excuse to attack the United States, protesting at American facilities, storming American consulates and embassies, and killing of Americans including an Ambassador.  A video that was never condoned by any official of the United States, never broadcast by or in the United States, possibly not even made in America or by an American, is an excuse to burn and kill.  If this standard was held for all speech, then when Rachel Madow said that the Westborough Baptist Church was wrong to protest at fallen servicemen’s funerals, the Belgian Embassy should have been torched rockets should have been lobed into the economic mission of Nepal, after all, there is probably someone in those countries that do not like Baptists.

Last year I wrote an article defending the President for his decision to not intervene in Egypt.  I also wrote an article questioning his decision to intervene in Libya.  I also wrote an article questioning the media outcry to intervene in Syria.  I am grateful to the President for resisting that call for action.  In all of these situations, American intervention would have justified the people of those nations fighting America to keep their own identity.  The activities in Libya may actually be more closely related to our intervention than to the video.  The other outbursts show a culture that is too ready to be insulted and to ready to resort to violence at the slightest context.  That these events occurred on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the United States and the graffiti stating that there are thousands of Osamas attacking America would betray that the video is of no consequence.

So what is the reaction to these attacks?  First, the embassy in Egypt put out a message that the United States did not condone the video and condemned the violence in Libya.  The media only looked at the first part of this message, the right condemning it as weak and the left as an explanation of the violence.  Currently the United States is intervening.  We are arming the Marines who guard out embassies (why they guard without bullets is something that cannot be understood).  We are calling on host nations to protect our sovereignty and our people.  We are calling for the arrest and punishment of those people responsible for damage to property and life.  All of these are responsible reactions to the crimes that were committed against America.

What else can be done?  Evaluations will have to be made to test the intent of host nations.  If they are honestly trying to bring criminals to justice, then the United States should work with them.  If they appear to be supporting the criminals and concentrating on demand that the United States change their basic believes to shut down free speech, then other actions can be taken including cutting off financial support.  There have been calls for cutting the support without investigation, that would be irresponsible.  There has also been harassment of the supposed producer of the video, this is also irresponsible. My suggestion to anyone who is insulted by a video is DON’T WATCH IT.


Random Thoughts

September 14, 2012

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It’s the end of the week.  Time to dump brain fragments into an article.

Should we hate Muslims?

In recent days, there has been more anti-American violence in the Middle East, including the killing of our ambassador to Libya.  Some are are quick to blame the Muslim world, or Islam in general, for the violence.  This is not the case.  It is violent extremists within the muslim community who are perpetrating the violence.  In fact, there were peaceful pro-American protests in Libya following the violence.  Violent extremists – be they Muslim, Christian, or Atheists – are the true enemy of society.

The typical Muslim is much like you or me – working to make sure there is food on the table, enjoying sports (although this may be soccer instead of football), and spending time with family. Your average muslim isn’t staying awake nights plotting ways to kill Americans; she’s staying awake because the baby won’t stay asleep.

If you don’t want to be judged by the words and actions of Pat Robertson and the Westboro “Baptist” Church, then don’t judge the Muslim world by the words and actions of a few.

Bacon Barter

Oscar Mayer is sponsoring a comedian’s trip across the United States.  He’s pulling a trailer with 3000 pounds of bacon.  He must trade the bacon for everything he needs – lodging, food, gas, etc.  I’m not really seeing the challenge.  People will gladly give you stuff in exchange for bacon.  If the guy had nothing but 3000 pounds of spinach … now bartering THAT for everything he needs would be a challenge.

Random Ken Griffey Jr. note

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Ken Griffey, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m attempting to become an Up and In .9er and was listening to episode 3 (from 2010) the other day.  They were chatting about Ken Griffey Jr. and how some younger fans don’t realize how good of a player he was in his prime.  I’m 37 and was discussing this with a 29 year old friend.  He had no clue that Griffey was a once-in-a-generation player before injuries took their toll.

How good was Griffey?  So good that he’ll waltz into the Hall of Fame despite a .260 batting average and a relatively modest 192 homers in his last 10 seasons – and a paltry 11 stolen bases.

In his first 12 seasons (starting at age 19) he hit .296 with 438 homers, 197 steals, an MVP award (top 10 six other times), eleven all-star appearances, and ten gold gloves.  438 homers is a good career for most players – and he was still just 30 at the end of that stretch.

Ignore the national polls

You’ll see news reports about about Obama or Romney leading or trailing by a couple of points in the national polls.  I’m never really sure why people care about the national polls.  We don’t have a national presidential election.  We use the Chuck E. Cheese model.  There are 51 smaller elections, and the winner of each of those elections gets a fixed number of points.  Collect 270 points and trade them for the big prize.

Realistically, 3/4 of the states aren’t in play.  Obama isn’t going to win Texas, nor is Romney going to win California.  It really boils down to handful of battleground states where either candidates have a realistic chance to win – and where the voters will be bombarded by ads and candidate visits.  While voters in some states might welcome a visit, most people I know here in Iowa just try to figure out a way to avoid traffic issues caused by visits.  I was delayed last Friday because they shut down the interstate to allow the presidential motorcade through – and I needed to find an alternate route home.

Baseball races

I still don’t like baseball’s extra wild card spots this year (I feel that it cheapens the playoffs), but it is certainly adding some drama to September.  The Phillies, long since given up for dead, have crawled out of their coffin to get back into the race.  The Dodgers and Cardinals are currently’s facing off in a four game series – if they split the series it could give the Phillies an opportunity to make up more ground.

In the American League, the Yankees have been slumping and the Orioles actually have a shot to win the East.  Baltimore is 19 games above .500 (81-62) despite being outscored by 20 runs this year.  The performance of their bullpen is allowing them to win a lot of close games.

Love my Kindle(s)

I picked up a “new” Kindle this week.  A friend is upgrading to a newer Fire – so I bought the old one (very lightly used) off him for substantially less than the new price.  That’s similar to the approach I used when buying my current Kindle Keyboard (I’m the third owner, and apparently the one one who did much reading with it).  The Fire was mostly bought as a tablet (poor man’s iPad) but may also give my wife the opportunity to test out eReading.

I bought another Lawrence Block book the other day.  I have a somewhat staggering 26 books (some are novellas) of his on my Kindle.  What would be really cool would be for Amazon to realize that I’m a fan and give me the option to buy all his other books (to complete my collection – I’m missing more than I have) at a reduced price.  Maybe offer a flat rate to buy all the remaining books as a lot.  Perhaps 40% off the current price?  They wouldn’t get as much for each sale, but they might make it up in volume – enticing people to buy books they might not have otherwise bought.

On a slight tangent, newer authors could offer lifetime subscriptions.  I like a guy’s first couple of books and I drop a couple hundred bucks and get the opportunity to download anything else he publishes in his lifetime.  Could be a good way for some younger authors to get some cash flow.

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Should We Drill For Oil in ANWR?

March 1, 2012

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Is it finally time to start drilling in ANWR to offset the high price of gas for our cars?

Drilling companies most often lease the rights...

Well, it’s that time again. Price of gas is climbing, the summer driving peak is approaching and the refineries will be adjusting their mixes. Every year we see prices rise in the spring and every time we hit a spike in price, a number of users start looking for ways to save money on gas.

Now we have Iran throwing a tantrum over their economic sanctions so they’re cutting oil shipments to Europe (Brits and French). While that may not sound significant, it still tightens the oil market and has impacted prices. The Saudi’s could increase production to offset this reduction by Iran but only time will tell if they do this.

This being an election year, it only stands to reason that the debate will once again come up over drilling, especially in ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge). This is not a new debate, it’s one that has been on and off again since the late 1970’s. It’s been a consistent battle of: left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative and house vs. senate.

Once the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) was put into use in 1977, there has been a liberal push to protect Alaska’s natural habitat. Numerous bills have been passed into law protecting one area or another. Every few years someone on the conservative side has introduced a bill to allow drilling in Alaska (in ANWR). However, every time a bill is introduced, the democratically controlled House or Senate has defeated it or it has been vetoed by the democratic president.

  • The sides were pretty well set from the start. I believe that the battle grew in the intensity in 1986 when the US Fish and Wildlife Service recommended that a large area in ANWR should be used for oil and gas development. The document noted that the economy needed the oil while those opposed to drilling noted that this development could threaten the caribou that live in the ANWR region.
  • In 1996, the Republicans controlled by the House and Senate. They approved a bill to allow drilling in ANWR but President Clinton vetoed the bill.
  • In 2000 the House passed another bill to allow drilling in ANWR but in 2002 the Senate defeated it.
  • In 2005 the Senate passed a bill to allow drilling in ANWR but included it in a budget resolution. The House removed the drilling feature after House democrats refused to pass the budget with the drilling addition.
  • In another 2005 showdown, democratic senators filibustered a defense appropriations bill that included a drilling provision.

Perhaps one the fiercest stances against drilling for oil offshore has been made by President Bill Clinton. In 1998 he signed a 10 year extension to a drilling ban to protect the US coastlines. This still allowed the drilling of the southern US which was already well established. I remember like it was yesterday President Clinton saying that drilling today won’t make a difference for nearly 10 years. He argued that making the change at that time wouldn’t fix the problems they had then. I kept thinking to myself; why not worry about 5-10 years down the road too? Why is he being so short sighted and just thinking about today?

It appears that Clinton’s thinking has come around after gaining a few more years of wisdom. In 2011, Bill Clinton told attendees of the IHS CERAWeek conference that delaying offshore permits at a time when the economy is still building is “ridiculous”. Furthermore, Presidents Clinton and Bush (George W) agreed on many aspects of oil and gas issues.

Today we are again faced with skyrocketing gas prices. AAA reports the national average for regular grade gasoline is $3.731 (2/29/2012) with the price one year ago listed as $3.375. The prices are climbing very early this year and we need to wonder where the price will peak. Better yet, we need find a solution to this and quit putting it off.

The “greenies” have pushed electric cars. Great thinking! I’m happy to see you’re looking for a solution. Right now though, electric cars suck. We can’t depend on that today just like we can’t wind technology (today). Those are potentially great long term solutions, but why limit ourselves to those two alternatives? We see that electric cars still need to run on gas, so we know that we’re going to need it for years to come. Thinking that electric cars are ready today is naïve and basing our decisions on the idea that electric cars will solve our problems is reckless.

If we open drilling today, it obviously won’t fix the problem today but it will help in a few years. Should we continue with this direction thinking that it won’t provide immediate relief? Continue thinking that we MAY harm the caribou if we move forward? Should we stake our economy and livelihood on that? Of course not, and that is why we see Bill Clinton’s thinking changing. He sees what is happening in the world. There is no green “silver bullet”. Wind and electric cars are not going to end these problems right now. It is going to take years to develop that technology and we have to still worry about the interim. If it takes 50 years to get electric cars & wind turbines developed to a standard that will actually work effectively for us, how are we going to manage the next 50 years? We need to drill. We need to use that drilling profit to fund additional research. We can’t scream carbon footprint and abandon fossil fuels entirely overnight.

We need to use some common sense. We need to plan for tomorrow so we don’t fail. We have to stop sending all of our money to manufacturer’s in China and oil moguls in the Middle East. Where is the pride? Where is the dominance? Where is the self-sufficiency that we need to re-establish?

Drilling and fossil fuels are not popular among the liberal crowd. Despite its lack of popularity, we are dependent and we need to address this. We need some long-term common sense solutions. People need to stop deciding everything based on their hearts and consider the logical business reasons too. This is not something that we can just go cold turkey on.


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Rules of Engagement

August 5, 2009

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This month I wanted to express my opinion on the investigations of the “war crimes” supposedly committed during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. A number of anonymous soldiers have testified to various news sources that during this latest military operation they felt that Israel had conducted itself unethically and attacked civilians as well as destroyed property in a style of “shoot first and ask questions later”.

As background I would like to point out a few things.

  1. All Israelis are required to serve in the army which is significant as you will get a number of people that will never agree with any level of violence as it may not be in their nature to be troops.
  2. The enemy in this scenario is not another army but a terrorist organization that makes use of suicide bombers and human shields making it very difficult to limit civilian casualties but under normal circumstances Israel is well documented to be better at limiting civilian casualties than any other army including the USA.
  3. Israeli politics and culture allows for if not even encourages people to express their opinion so this kind of rhetoric by troops after a conflict is nothing new. In fact, it is welcomed for troops to report war crimes which are then heavily investigated and acted upon.
  4. Finally, if you get 3 Jews in a room you end up with 4 opinions so complaints about any action taken by Israel even by Israelis is expected.

As to the allegations, my opinion is that it is very possible that this last military engagement may have had harsher rules of engagement then normal but this is really do to point 2 above. No organized military in the world is currently well equipped or trained to combat terrorist organizations using the methods that Middle East ones do in an urban setting without casualties. I believe that the Israeli army provides adequate warning to civilians prior to an attack but it has been well documented that the civilians often do not heed the warning or receive threats from the terrorist organizations not to heed them. These civilians are critical to a terrorist organization’s defense (human shields) and offense (media coverage of dead civilians) therefore the terrorist can’t afford these civilians to simply step aside and allow the conflict to occur between the two armed forces.

I will admit that recent failures in some of the Israeli conflicts may have prompted a harsher approach but I think based on the approach that organizations like Hamas take with Israel this is well warranted. In addition, based on the fact that most if not all of the complaints are coming from anonymous soldiers I have to question the validity. In closing I want to leave you with two thoughts.

One, if it was your son or daughter entering an urban setting with potential land mines, suicide bombers and civilian clothed militia, how many questions would you want them to ask before shooting?

Two, has anyone noticed that even some of the Arab leaders had compared the way Israel conducted itself to that of the terrorist groups? While I don’t ever want to see Israel sink to their level it is ironic to me that Israelis bulldoze a few buildings by mistake and they get this kind of negative coverage but Hamas shoots rockets at kindergartens and hospitals and nobody blinks.

In closing, I guess for those reading this that do not have any sons, daughters, cousins or friends serving in the Israeli army it will always be hard to understand why I support them being cautious in a way that may cause an accidental civilian death but keep the troops out of harm’s way. I think there is only so much precaution that is worth the death of an Israeli soldier and for people that really want to see an end to civilian casualties they should attack the heart of the problem – which is the way that terrorists situate themselves among these civilians.

Middle East Politics

July 8, 2009

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1 Comment

 As this is my first article for this wonderful site I will keep the writing general in order to introduce my point of view to all of our readers and open discussion.  Future articles will focus on specific events in the news.  First off, my views are not a commentary on any of the religions that are involved in the conflict in the Middle East as even though I believe the conflict does stem from religious differences it also stems from man’s ultimate love and struggle for power.

In my opinion the crisis in the Middle East has been miss managed for years by virtually any government that has gotten involved as some basic fundamental understanding of the situation is missing.  Perhaps understanding may even be a strong word as these players do understand what is going on but politically and in public they cannot admit to it.  Here in my mind are the basics which drive the conflict.

One, a majority of the conflict is driven by a minority of extremists who have been very effective in using the media to portray their views as a majority view.  Two, it has to be recognized that the minority from the Muslim side that is driving this extremist view has a very simple agenda which is to eliminate Israel from the face of the planet.  This is in their doctrines, it is their mission statement (loosely using that term) and it is the political agenda that gives them power in the region.  Three, the conflict has nothing to do with a few miles of land.

These three points demonstrate why a majority of the efforts to solve the Middle East feuds have failed.  In short, organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas are extremists groups that have legitimized themselves by creating a political agenda whose only mission it to eliminate Israel.  While this mission is masked by cries of freedom for the Palestinians and cries of Israeli oppression the truth is that these organizations need the conflict to continue in order to maintain political importance till they can achieve their mission.  That leads to the root cause of the failures of the past.  All the relevant players have concentrated on appeasement of these extremist organizations in order to sacrifice a little for the greater good of ending the conflict.  But if the conflict were to end in any peaceful scenario then the big losers would be these organizations.  Why?  Well for one they would fail in their mission to destroy Israel and two they would lose political relevance in their countries as the governments would be forced to get back to dealing with financial, educational and health issues within their countries which they do not want to do.

In closing, I believe the issues in the Middle East are not very well understood by most Americans and much of Europe is very anti conflict and therefore has taken on this idea of appeasement is the way to end all conflicts.  In fact, I believe this conflict is best ended with military action and just as the US discovered a while back that you don’t negotiate with terrorists the world has to recognize that this is the same policy you need to have with extremists groups such as Hamas.  Lastly, I think the media has done a huge disservice by miss reporting on the issues and the nature of the conflict and with this actually fueling the conflict.  I realize my views may be a bit extreme for the majority of our readers but I will try and demonstrate their merits in future more specific articles.


Peter Rabbit