Category Archives: Geopolitics

Syrian Refugees: To accept or not to accept? That is the question.

syrianThe answer is yes. Before you call me a bleeding heart liberal, let me explain.   I understand the risks of letting in people; after all ISIS could sneak someone in as a refugee.   They could also sneak someone in pretty easily over the Mexican border or the Canadian border or radicalize any number of people within the United States.   What percentage of refugees will commit crimes? Will it be any higher than the native population?   We already have a high crime rate, how many refugees have committed crimes compared to the general population? Compared to the already existing illegal immigrant population?   If we fear a refugee, perhaps we should fear our neighbor as well?   Then, you have to ask yourself the question: What would it take to keep us completely safe? The answer is a Government so invasive no one on either the right or left would want to live under it; it would mean no guns, border checkpoints at every county line, registrations of everyone, neighbor spying on neighbor.   In effect, it would be 1937 Germany.   No one wants that…except ISIS.   You see, I believe ISIS knows it can’t topple the United States by killing us; after all we do that pretty well enough already.   Think of the people that die from gun violence in the United States, from knife violence, from automobile accidents, by industrial accidents.   More people die in the United States as a result of slip and falls than all the terrorism we’ve ever experienced in our entire national history. So can ISIS beat us by killing us? The answer is no, they cannot. They CAN beat us by making us so afraid that we destroy ourselves, by destroying our way of life. You see, that is the real threat- at least to a nation. Oh sure, they may kill you or a loved one and that will be a tragedy, but it is a personal tragedy, not a national tragedy.   Too many Americans have died to give us the freedoms we have today for us to demean them by taking that freedom away ourselves.   Since 9-11 the war has been on foreign soil; we’ve felt comfortable knowing that “other people” namely our sons and daughters in the military were the only ones at risk. Well, the war has come home; why shouldn’t it? Do you think that you can wage war without being involved? We are all in this together, so prepare yourselves, be ready to confront any terrorist that appears, and be an American.   The man who shields you from a terrorist bullet in a crowded movie theatre may just very well be one of those recent Syrian immigrants.

Why No One is Right in the Global Warming Debate

We’re not going to prevent global warming.  It’s that simple, and we’re just going to have to live with it.   Whether you believe that global warming is man-made or a natural global phenomena; it is happening and we won’t stop it.   There are multiple reasons why it won’t be stopped.  China is outpacing the United States in terms of CO2 production and shows very little inclination to stop.  It simply isn’t in their national interest to do so.   A stable economy means a stable political environment and this means the party in power stays in power.     So China won’t be reducing carbon production for the sake of reducing global warming.   Additionally, there are a plethora of existing industrial countries as well as developing economies that are increasing their carbon production, which means that the U.S. piece of the carbon pie is getting smaller which in turn means that we can’t unilaterally change the global trend toward more carbon production.   Even if the United States significantly reduces its carbon production, the net global effect will still be to increase.   Even if there was political will in the United States to significantly reduce carbon production, there isn’t personal will.     Any appreciable reduction in carbon would mean serious lifestyle changes for Americans that few would be willing to agree to.   So we are in a world of adaptation now, now prevention.    But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing something in this country to stop it.  We just need to find ways to reduce carbon that are congruent and consistent with other policy goals.    The argument needs to change from “Is climate change real” to “What can we do that is good for the country that also reduces carbon?”

Even if you don’t believe that global warming is real, there is one fact that is indisputable.  Carbon comes from combustion of energy sources.   Energy sources cost money.  So if you reduce energy use, you save money and you also reduce carbon.    You also reduce your dependence on foreign fuel which results in greater flexibility in public policy and less need to engage in oil based foreign intervention.    Strategies that deal with increasing efficiency from vehicle fuel economy to home furnaces to electrical devices are all win-win scenarios for consumers, global warming activists, business people, and climate change deniers.     Energy saving technology is often new technology, and innovating new technology is something this country is good at.  We should embrace the race toward energy efficiency and use the global warming issue as incentive to produce efficient products that we can sell overseas.   Public policy initiatives such as reducing dependence on coal for energy production should be cast in the light of not cleaner energy, but possibly as keeping the coal in the ground as a strategic energy reserve.   Fights about oil pipelines shouldn’t focus on whether or not to build the pipeline, but how to reduce the need for the oil flowing through it.   We’ve been talking about reducing our dependence on foreign energy ever since the Eisenhower administration before I was even born.  Every President since, has mentioned it in their State of the Union address.  It’s time we developed a national consciousness and a national program akin to the manned Moon missions to actually accomplish what so many Presidents have pontificated upon.

So ask me if climate change is real, I’ll answer truthfully.  I don’t know.  I’m not a climate scientist.  I don’t know the validity of global warming models and don’t have the time to investigate, and even if I did I suspect I’d find contradictory data and results.    What I do know, is that I like my hybrid that gets 48 miles per gallon, and I like not giving the gas station all my money.   I like my 90%+ efficiency furnace.   I like my small but well-appointed condo by a lake.    I like my lightbulbs that will probably outlive me, and I like the thought that members of our military will have even a slightly less need to be deployed overseas and be killed because my country is less dependent on overseas oil.    After Sept 11, I went from a high horsepower sports car to a hybrid car.   Why?  I just wanted to do my part to save energy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.   And you know what, I don’t feel like my lifestyle has been impacted or my freedom curtailed.   I feel good about doing my part.   We need to change the argument in Washington, the tone in Washington, and get Americans acting together; because if we act together, there is very little that Americans can’t accomplish.

Jennifer Contrisciani, MBA

Crusaders = ISIS ?

crusades

At a recent prayer breakfast President Obama compared the actions of the Crusaders to ISIS.   He is correct except in one very important point… the last crusade ended in 1272.    Now I wasn’t around in the 1200’s but word has it pretty much the entire world was engaged in savage butchery.   The norm in those days was to sack a city, burn it, loot it, pillage it, put the men to the sword, rape the women, and then sell them and the children into slavery.    in the old testament the Jews slaughtered half the land of Canaan, torching cities and killing the inhabitants: every man, woman, and child (according to them because Yaweh told them to.)   Basically the world was starkly gruesome and without pity in those days.     Jump to today.  Western powers do their best to avoid civilian casualties.  A population is aghast at “torture” such as waterboarding.    We use super expensive Smart weapons to make sure we don’t kill the wrong people.  Sometimes we let the bad people go if they are too close to good people.   So while comparing the deeds in the Crusades to the deeds of ISIS today will show similar actions (sans videotaping of prisoners being put to death) at least a big chunk of the world sees those types of actions as repugnant, hence the comparison fails on a temporal basis.     That public opinion acknowledged, no one will deny that civilians get killed in modern fighting, but at least the goal of the military campaign is not specifically targeted against civilians.  War prisoners are sent to prison camps, not executed in a stylized barbaric fashion.   One may however argue that lethal injection or hanging isn’t all that great a way to execute a prisoner, citing the execution of prisoners in the US, or the beheading of criminals in Saudi Arabia.    Hmmm seems that perhaps the comparison might hold after all…  perhaps attempting to draw any moral argument is fallacious from the beginning, at least from an arguable philosophical sense.  Perhaps the only right… is indeed might.  The victors write the history books after all.

Honestly I’d Rather not see Brian Williams anymore

Jeff Koterba cartoon for February 6, 2015"Brian Williams Chinook NBC"News is about trust, and for it to be viewed as honest you need an honest news anchor.  In the way that Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow formed a trusted building block of our faith in the American news media, we need this kind of trust to hold the fabric of our society together.   The news used to form our national shared value system.  We’d all listen to the same broadcasts on a few networks and we’d trust the distinguished men who somberly delivered the news, and just the news.  Unfortunately most news has degenerated into a fragmented cacophony of sound bites that scream banally to a far right wing camp (Fox) and an ultra left wing cabal (MSNBC.)   CNN is at least attempting a middle course, yet many of its reporters still show a bias.    The major networks, NBC, ABC and CBS have all had their cases of obvious bias from CBS’s Dan Rather out and out lying about George W. Bush’s service record in an attempt to influence a Presidential election, to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell who is so blatantly fawnish on Obama one wonders if she has a picture of him next to her nightstand.  Maybe she and Chris Matthews (MSNBC) could form a threesome with her Obama picture and they’d both get Matthews professed tingle up their legs.   Now add Brian William’s war hero fantasy into the mix and we wonder if NBC stands for Neurotic Brain Condition.   Have we reached the point where there is no trusted news sources anymore?   I believe so.  It seems all media outlets are bought and sold, and we have been willing accomplices by watching only those news shows that pander to our preconceived political beliefs.     In Russia there was/is a saying “Pravda nyet Izvestia, Izvestia nyet Pravda.”   Translated that is a play off of the two main Soviet era news sources Pravda (truth) and Izvestia (news), wherein Russians believed there was no truth in news and no news in truth.   Have we come to that here in America?    Apparently so.  Although Brian Williams lie doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things, it is yet another symptom of the fact that in American media Izvestia nyet Pravda, Pravda nyet Izvestia.  How did we ever sink so low?

I am NOT Charlie

charlie

I deplore the violent attack on Charlie Hebdo perpetrated by Islamic extremists in Paris, but I am not Charlie Hebdo.   While supporting their right to free speech, I can’t agree with them in their negative depiction of a religious figure revered by a billion people.  It’s not in good taste in the same way displaying a cross in a bottle of urine or Mary, the mother of Jesus covered by feces in a New York gallery isn’t in good taste.   Yes, these organizations have the right to display just about anything, but it doesn’t mean we should like it.   We can at the same time support the right of free speech and pass judgment on what is good or bad.   That judgment doesn’t preclude it being shown.    So I won’t buy the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo with Mohammed on it, nor will I go see something that is derogatory to my religion.  Nor will I patronize businesses that act contrary to my core political beliefs, such as non-discrimination against people based on their race, religion, and sexual or gender preference.   That is my right.  So I am not Charlie.    That doesn’t make me an extremist, apologist, or a supporter of terrorism.   It makes me someone with a principled opinion.

Update on Israel vs. Hamas

Gaza 3

Update on Israel vs. Hamas 

In a previous post I correctly predicted that the current Israeli-Hamas flare-up would be different this time around. Perhaps the Central Intelligence Agency should hire me? At any rate, Israel has been pounding Hamas relentlessly. Unfortunately due to the nature of the conflict and the strategy of Hamas to locate their military assets in mosques, school yards and other sensitive buildings, Israeli fire has been resulting in significant civilian casualties.   We are seeing the pictures of dead children as in previous conflicts but unlike previous times, we are also seeing commentary linking the casualties to Hamas practices. This really hasn’t happened in a strong way before and this new development is giving the Israelis license to pound Hamas and to weather the negative publicity that Hamas has counted upon in the past to stop Israeli action.   In news today, Israel called up 18,000 additional reservists and Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it clear that this will be a protracted conflict. Public opinion in favor of Netanyahu and his strategy is running at an unprecedented 95% positive among Israeli Jews.   Oddly enough the leader of international pressure to halt Israeli operations has been led by the United States.   Russia is busy defending its actions in Ukraine, China remains neutral as usual and Britain and France are focused on Ukraine and stopping future Soviet aggression.   In the same way that Putin has blown off President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu has followed suite and rebuffed John Kerry’s peace initiatives. I guess he figures that if Putin can get away with it, then he and the Israel lobby in the US, will definitely be able to pull off thumbing their noses at President Obama’s futile efforts.   I certainly wouldn’t want to be a Hamas commander these days.   Apparently their main headquarters is underneath a hospital, and while it is unlikely that Israel would take it out without a strong (and very internationally public) warning to evacuate, the fact that the Israelis took out the Gaza power station shows they aren’t afraid to hit sensitive targets. Hamas definitely miscalculated and they (and all of Gaza unfortunately) are paying the price.   Meanwhile as long as Abbas can keep the West Bank in check, the West Bank Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority will come out ahead when all the dust clears.

Why Hamas might be in trouble this time

Isreal 2

What is missing from the latest Israel-Hamas flare-up?   Arab protest.   We aren’t hearing much from the surrounding Arab countries.   Previous fighting usually resulted in multiple Arab governments pressing hard for a cease-fire, and declaring condemnation of Israel.   Not much of that is happening this time. Despite Hamas running up their own civilian casualties and displaying their usual dead children videos, Arab governments aren’t pushing for a stop to the fighting.   Why?   Well for one, Hamas was allied with the Muslim brotherhood that is now persona non grata in Egypt.   The new Egyptian military government is perfectly willing to sit by and let Israel bloody the ally of its enemy.   Hamas chose unwisely in Egypt power politics.   Hamas was also an Iranian counterweight to Israeli action. As Iran moves closer to having a nuclear weapon, Arab governments such as Saudi Arabia become more concerned.   A neutralized Hamas would make it much easier for Israel to take action against Iranian nuclear targets. Even if they don’t take action, the increased threat of action will help US and allied countries in their nuclear negotiations with Iran.  Add to that the fact that Hezbollah is currently engaged heavily in Syria and Iraq, which further curtails Iran’s ability to strike Israel, in turn ratchets up pressure on Iran in the nuclear talks.   So, degradation of Hamas generally works in the favor of most Arab countries.   The plethora of other conflicts underway around the globe also works against Hamas.   Videos of paraded dead Palestinian children have to compete with ISIS beheadings, downed jetliners in Ukraine, and a host of other global strategies.   All of this means that Israel will likely have more time to sustain an attack on Hamas before international pressure mounts to stop it. Like the much younger sibling who smacks his older brother because he knows mom will intervene before he can get beat-up too badly, Hamas has antagonized Israel in the past with the rationalization that the international community and public opinion would step in (like mom)to save it before things got too bad.   It may not work out that way this time, and Hamas may end up far more bloodied than they anticipated.   It might even turn the population against them if they compare their status with that of the Palestinians in the West Bank.  

Another MALAYSIAN Disaster

Malaysian

 

I don’t think the Ukrainian separatists knew Malaysian flight 17 was a commercial flight.  It’s clear from the tapes that they thought it was a Ukrainian military transport.    Planes get shot down in war zones.  That’s a fact of war.  It’s dirty, it’s nasty, people die.  I guess that’s kinda the point in war, isn’t it?   Prior to Malaysian Flight 17 getting shot down, four different planes had been hit and blown out of the sky in the preceding few days.   Everyone knew it was dangerous airspace.   British Airways and Air France both detoured their flights around the war zone, however Malaysian Airlines decided to fly their plane straight through the war zone.  Why?  Well it saved a bit of fuel and a few minutes of flight time.   I’m not condoning war or violence, but war sometimes happens.   When it does, innocent people die.  But the victims of Malaysian flight 17 didn’t have to die.  Had Malaysian Airlines followed the same safety protocols as the British and French, those people wouldn’t have died.  To me, that’s even more criminal than the unavoidable random innocents getting killed in an ugly war.   The flight 17 deaths could have been prevented.  I hope that after all the geopolitical posturing is done, that Malaysian Airlines faces some consequences for their actions.   Thought you were saving a few thousand dollars in jet fuel; well you lost an entire multi-million dollar jetliner, millions in lawsuits and attorney fees, and cost nearly 300 people their lives.   Go take that to the bank Malaysian Airlines.

 

The Industry of Misery

Military Ceremony in GazaI try to not take sides in the Israeli Palestinian conflict, I really do.  I try to look at it dispassionately away from the standard “US support of Israel at all costs” party line.  I have friends who are Palestinian, and friends who are of Arab ancestry.   They are all wonderful, hard working and amazing people.   That’s why it is so hard to watch what is happening in the Gaza Strip right now.   Hamas seems to start their Quixotic attacks on Israel just when their political power seems to be starting to wane, and their useless attacks on Israel prop up Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian people.   At least the leadership in the West Bank has sense enough to not start a fight they can’t win, at least not as of the time of this writing.   Hamas preys on the Palestinians of Gaza, sacrificing them on the alter of martyrdom and maintaining Hamas power.  Hamas’ industry is one of perpetual misery perpetrated on innocent people, both Palestinians and Jews.   Israel uses missiles to defend its people.  Hamas uses people to defend its missiles.   By placing their launchers in neighborhood mosques and schools, they taunt Israel to strike them, causing civilian casualties that Hamas can then use to rouse popular support for their bellicose stance against Israel.  When will the Gazan Palestinians wake to the fact that Hamas is treating them akin to animals meant for slaughter? It pains me to see the predictable and totally unnecessary destruction that results from their useless attacks on Israel.   Neither side can ultimately claim legitimate right to the land.  The Jews, the Muslims, and the Christians all came and conquered and slaughtered at various times throughout history. While a few worry about political power, ancient wrongs, and indulging their penchant for murder, millions of shopkeepers, barbers, farmers, and children who just want to live peaceful, uneventful lives suffer.   There can be no perfect peace there, but can there be some semblance of co-existence?      I pray all can find it in their hearts to do what is right now, what is best for their people, not to live in the past reliving past wrongs.   May God grant some peace to Palestinians and Israelis.