Monday, March 2, 2015

Square peg, round hole




So Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is in the US to address Congress, and the pro/anti battle lines are drawn.  As much as I pride myself on my knowledge of the goings on in the world, I'll admit my understanding of Israel is like that proverbial mile-wide, foot-deep river.  Somebody please throw out some positions for me to ponder.

Generally I'm a supporter of Israel.  Pretty strong, actually.  I admire their tenacity, their vigilance, the fact they keep their eye on the prize....namely never again letting themselves get into a position where they can be annihilated.  They seem to have taken a pretty nasty looking piece of real estate, land that the former Arab landlords had done virtually nothing with during their stewardship, and made it bloom.  Now some of it at least is green and productive.  

Their relatively tiny defense force routinely kicks the ass of combined Arab armies many times their size and potential power.  Israel doesn't seem to be a serial rattler of their nuclear sabre.  They have nukes, and everyone knows it, but they never talk about them.  

Nukes seem to be Israel's unspoken ace in the hole.  In contrast, Iran (which isn't Arab, BTW) wants nukes, but they've stated publicly what they will do with theirs, and it doesn't have a pretty ending.  Israel just seems smarter than their adversaries.

My understanding is that the Palestinians are upset with Israel because they want a homeland of their own where they can run their own lives without interference.  I don't blame them.  It is also my understanding that Israel offered them that IF they could show they were capable of policing their own people.  

When they could crack down on the forces that lob missiles at Israel and otherwise plot to kill Israelis, then Israel would back off and adopt a "live and let live" policy.  But Yassar Arafat (the PLO leader at the time) realized that if that happened, he would be without a job, so he scuttled the offer.  Yes...No?

Egypt accepted Israel's offer (and it cost Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat his life) and kept their hot-heads relatively in line, Israel ceded the Sinai back to them, and all has been quiet on that front for decades since.  It can work.

That will apparently still not happen with Gaza and the West Bank because the thugs Israel wants the authorities to crack down on are the very thugs in power....Hamas.  I can't say I blame Israel for maintaining a strong upper (iron) hand.  When a neighbor's avowed policy is to kill you, you can't unilaterally let down your guard.

On the flip side, I don't understand why Israel keeps allowing new settlements to be built on "disputed" land in the West Bank.  Why?  Is that the ONLY land left to build on?  I don't think so.  This just seems like pouring salt on an open wound.  Why go out of your way to piss off your opponent?

At the heart of it all is the fact that the Arabs are miffed that Israel still controls land captured during the Six Day War back in 1967.  (Arabs don't want Jews on ANY land in the region, period.)  They need to get over it.  

Look at history: most countries today, in every part of the world, include land that at one time or another was part of another country.  The entire Mideast is land taken from the Ottomans (Turkey) after WWI, who earlier stole it from...uh...I can't remember.  My state of Texas is in fact land that was claimed by "Texians" who kept it as a war prize after the defeat of Mexican strongman Santa Anna back in 1836.  And do we need to talk about how the first Europeans in the New World seized lands from Native Americans?  Shit happens, OK?

So on the surface my sympathies are with Israel 90% of the time.  Am I missing something?  Are there some material facts I'm not considering?  Why can't cooler, more reasonable heads sit down and work things out?  

'Course, following that reasoning, why can Democrats and Republicans sit down and work things out?  *sigh*

S




Thursday, February 26, 2015

Point / Counterpoint


The West, led by the United States, as well as Israel and most of the UN, are dead set against Iran developing nuclear weapons.  Of course we are.  Iran's leaders don't seem to think the way we in the West do.  They see sacrificing a few million of their own people in a counter-strike in order to wipe out Israel a fair trade.  Their idea of "national pride" is near suicidal.  The same goes for North Korea.

But what right do we have in telling them they can't pursue a nuclear program?  How can one sovereign nation, or group of nations, tell another sovereign nation what they can do internally?  As long as they don't use their nukes against others, shouldn't that be their right to have them?

It would be like the OPEC nations prohibiting the US from pursuing hydraulic fracturing to recover more domestic oil.  Of course it would be against their national interests for us to do so, but they don't have the right to prohibit us from doing it.

Seems to me we are just throwing international law out the window here.  That said, this is one area where I think Civil Disobedience is justified.


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The US and Europe are also all bent out of shape over Russia's incursion into Ukraine and their annexation of the Crimean peninsula.  It just seems like a land grab, much like what Nazi Germany did when they took over Austria and Czechoslovakia prior to WWII.  That's how we see it at least.

But the Russian psyche is much different than ours.  They have a long memory and remember how they have been invaded repeatedly from the west.  That's why after WWII they set up all their Commie proxies....E Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungry, etc....between Western Europe (read: NATO) and themselves.  

If the West attacked again, they could devastate those proxy countries before they reached The Motherland.  At least that was their plan.  Now with many of their former Warsaw Pact allies (?) actually part of NATO, and right on their border at that, they are super antsy. 

When Russia saw the overt courtship going on between the West and Ukraine, they no doubt saw full-fledged European Union and NATO membership for Ukraine on the horizon.  Their already tightly wound paranoia snapped.  I think we were a bit too "bull-in-a-china-closet"-ish.  Now it's gonna be difficult if not impossible to get that genie back into the bottle. 

As I see it, here's our dilemma:  We need to punish and marginalize Russia for their actions without actually pushing them over the edge (letting the Russian Federation dissolve).  

Remember what happened the last time we took down evil (Iraq, Libya, and soon Syria)?  What we got was dramatically more dangerous than what we dismantled. Of course we (the West) could collectively take Russia down, but would that necessarily be a smart thing to do?

S



Thursday, February 19, 2015

DAMN PASSWORDS, No 26...with EDIT



Have I mentioned how much I hate passwords?  Oh, yeah, I have....many times.  Anyway, they have once again kicked me in the butt-tock.  My collection of multi-colored sticky notes attached to the inside of one of my desk drawers, containing various passwords written in my own secret code, have become a bit too secret.  I suppose I no longer trust myself with my own passwords, as I can't decipher any of them.

I found on my desk a survey request from my vet.  When I last took the dog there they asked that I fill it out and send it in to HQ.  It seems it becomes part of their job evaluation and a kind word would be appreciated.  

So I fired up the 'puter and, following instructions, was directed to a website.  You guessed it, the first thing it required is that I sign in.  Sign in to an account I haven't used in years, with an account password that has long since gone the way of the Dodo bird.  Sorry vets.  I'd love to help, but my lack of a #%&* password won't let me.

Then I just read one of my favorite blogs, The Chubby Chatterbox, where he asked that readers go to a site that published one of his stories and leave a comment there.  I tried, but once again it asked for my Wordpress account name and the dreaded password.  And once again....crash and burn.  I tried using a couple of passwords that I vaguely remember from back in the day, but without luck.  Sorry Stephen, I tried.  :(

Hard as I might want to be an active participant in things 21st Century-ish, at heart I guess I'm just a yellow pad and #2 pencil kind of guy.  *sigh*

S

EDIT:  On another recent occasion I was locked out of an account so I thought I'd just re-register.  Problem was, it wouldn't accept any of my email addresses, or my first name, or my back name.  Out of frustration I tried to register as F__K Y_U, but they said that was inappropriate. 

I'm thinking of putting a hacker on retainer, just to get me into my own accounts.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kinda makes that Mars/Venus thing look silly, doesn't it?




I know many people who simply don't watch/read the news at all because they find it depressing.  Oddly enough I find some of the most disturbing world news to be intensely interesting.  Since before 9/11 I had an interest in terrorism, and after 9/11 I had a plethora of books on the subject to feed my fascination.

To me, keeping up with events in the Mid-East and Europe today is better than a trip to Disney World. *so is having a root canal....bad example*   I'm always trying to figure out why people think the way they do.  Based on the news coming out of the Mid-East, it's pretty obvious to me the Eastern brain and the Western brain don't come off the same assembly line.

I recently saw reports by journalists on the front line along the Iraq/Syria border, and another inside Jordan.  In both cases a crowd was drawn to the TV cameras where average townspeople seemed to be all excited about the rapidly growing ISIS movement and said they would love to go join the fight themselves.

Were these sincere sentiments, or were they just wanting to be on the record as ISIS supporters because they can see the little white Toyota's with the machine guns mounted on top getting closer?  (I thought the Jordanians were all up-in-arms over the ISIS murder of their captured pilot a few weeks ago?)

What are they thinking?  "Oh wow!  How cool is that?  Lopping people's heads off....that's one bad-assed M____ F_____.  THAT'S what I want to be!  I want to walk down the street and have people nod at me and whisper to their kids, 'That guy is a head lopper.  If you work hard and study diligently maybe someday you can be a head lopper, too.'" 

I don't get it.  It must be an East brain/West brain thing.  I don't see the appeal.



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Do you think George W. Bush is pacing around his Preston Hollow home in North Dallas these days saying, "OMG....what have I done?"  Don't get me wrong.  I'm probably one of the few who honestly believes W didn't deliberately lie to us to get us into war.  I knew of him when he was the Texas governor and found him to be a decent, bipartisan, fair chief executive.  

I can see him wanting to kick someone's butt after 9/11....it's just human nature when a sucker-punch attack happens on your watch.  However I think he had some devious, sinister advisers, the most visible being Richard "The Dick" Cheney and his mafiosi sidekick, Donald "The Don" Rumsfeld.  

They assembled the mosaic of available intelligence to show The Boss that a Mid-East adventure was justified.  By the time W figured out (?) he had stepped in doo-doo up to his eyeballs it was too late.  All he could come up with is "We're trying to bring democracy to the Mid-East."  *snicker*  It's hard to let go of a tiger when you're holding on to its tail for dear life, huh George? 

The idea of bringing "democracy" to the Mid-East is, was, and always will be a farce.  The last thing those backward people think about is democracy.  Self preservation says you get all you can from where ever you can.  Evil as Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gadaffi and the rest were, they did keep a lid on things in the region.  There's something to be said for the status quo.  Washington obviously missed that memo.

S 


Monday, February 16, 2015

How will you react?




We live in a very cruel world.  Not a day goes by that the 24-hour news doesn't remind us of this.  Sometimes it's just pure meanness, but more often it has religious/political overtones, disenchanted Muslims being the usual perps.

Over the weekend there were multiple shootings in Denmark, initially looking like a copycat of the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris last month.  Then there was the burning-to-death murder of the Jordanian pilot in Syria, and now the multiple beheadings of a dozen Christian Egyptians in Libya.  And too many bombings around the world to count....it's just too easy to blow up a bus or a train.

Closer to home we've seen the lone wolf attacks on the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa and the hatchet attack on a policeman in NYC, and of course the Boston marathon bombers.  The authorities have told us of some of the plots being hatched that they've broken up at the last minute, but we'll probably never know of many others.  Suffice it to say there are too many soft (undefended) targets for the police to watch them all.  Attacks can happen any where, any time.

And they WILL, here.  Count on it.  It's just a matter of time.  So here's my question:  When it happens, how will you react?

Remember after 9/11?  Buildings in NYC and Washington were attacked, and many people who worked in tall buildings in other cities stayed away or even quit their jobs because they were too scared to go to work.  And when commercial airlines were allowed to fly again a few days after the attacks, many planes left their gates close to empty.  For quite a while this scared off leisure travelers, and the hotels, casinos, and resorts that catered to them suffered.  Like the ripples on a pond caused by a single tossed stone, the effects were far reaching.

So if a terrorist bombs the Chicago "L", are people going to stay away from Dallas' DART, or the Bay Area's BART?  If they attack a church or synagogue in LA are people in Minneapolis or Miami going stay away from their house of worship?  And even more importantly, are you going to self-censor what you say around the water cooler or write on your blog or on Facebook?  (K is certain I have a jihad contract out on me already :)


I remember years ago I had a trip planned to London just a few weeks after their horrific train bombings.  K told me to stay off The Tube (London's subway) if I saw anyone get on who looked "middle eastern" and was carrying a backpack.  Guess what, virtually everyone who rides The Tube looks middle eastern and carries a backpack!  So what did I do?  I traveled around town via The Tube.

When it happens, will you close your curtains and crawl into a hole?  Will you still take your summer vacation to Disney World?  (OK, now that one scares me more than any terrorist ever could!)   Will you still ride your transit system to your job on the 40th floor of a downtown office building?  Will you blink?

If you change your lifestyle (beyond just being more aware), then the bastards win.  Will you let them?  It's not too soon to start thinking about it.

S


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Guns!




I'm on a roll....my last several posts have pissed off a lot of people.  Now I'm really gonna stroke people out.  My topic today is GUNS!

It would be pretty easy to make the argument that the world would be better off if there were no guns at all.  (Hunters might disagree, but that's a topic for another day.)  No guns would mean fewer wars, robberies, accidental shootings, and ex-spouses offed by their former mates, all good things.  Some countries have even outlawed guns in the hands of private citizens, with varying degrees of success.

Fact is, though, in the USA there are already well over 300,000,000 guns in the public domain.  Fortunately most are in the hands of decent, law abiding citizens, but sadly more than a few are in the hands of some really bad people, hereafter referred to as "the Bad Guys".  What makes them "Bad Guys" is the fact that they disobey laws.

Guns are a major political issue.  One group wants to ban them entirely, one group wants virtually no restrictions at all, and another group is somewhere in the middle. 

Those who want to ban guns are IMO living in La-La-Land.  Even if a law was passed that said everyone must turn in their guns, only law abiding citizens would comply.  Bad Guys, by definition, disobey laws, and this is one they would surely disobey.  Guns are the tools of their trade, just like a hammer is to a carpenter, or a Word program is to a writer.  We will NEVER get rid of all guns in America.

The crux of the "ban-'em-all" argument is that the Constitution says only MILITIAS can be armed, not individual citizens.  To which I say, it's a moot point.  Those 300M genies are NOT going back in the bottle.

At the other extreme are the hard-core NRA types who say they will give up their guns only "when you pry them from my cold, dead hands", and I believe they're speaking literally.  They will (reluctantly?) agree that felons and the mentally insane shouldn't have guns, but not much more.  I'm always amazed by the power of the NRA.  (Full disclosure:  I'm not a member of the NRA.)

Unless you're one of the unlucky ones who lives in a high crime area, you've probably never been the victim of a violent crime, which might lead you to say people don't need guns.  The odds of being attacked are infinitesimal.  Not true.  You can be a victim anywhere.

Some examples:  I have a friend who was shot when he was caught in the middle of a botched robbery.  He walked in to a rather nice restaurant on Mockingbird Ave in Dallas, not far from the fashionable M Streets and Lakewood, at the wrong time.  (He recovered.)

My cousin and her husband were once the victims of a home invasion.  They lived in a comfortable neighborhood, but were run over by armed intruders who ruffed her up and pistol-whipped him so badly he needed brain surgery.  (Fortunately, he recovered, too.)

And this lady....


She was visiting friends at the high-end Shops of Legacy, the same neighborhood where K and I lived for three years, when she was abducted.  Now, five months later, she's still missing and presumed dead.  I've parked in the same garage she did, dined at the same restaurants, and walked along the same streets. *gulp!*

I think the middle-grounders are on the right track.  Some people definitely should not have guns, but others, those who know guns, all the safety rules, and the legal obligations of gun ownership, should be allowed to have them, and even carry them concealed.  Odds are they will never need to use them, but the odds are their house will never burn to the ground, either, but they still want the protection of fire insurance.

It's relatively easy to identify who the good guys are.  They agree to being fingerprinted and photographed, a very detailed 2-3 month long background check (by local, state, and national law enforcement), and take safety classes and pass proficiency tests with their firearms. 

These measures seem to work.  In the most recent year my gun-totin' state of Texas has records for, the number of crimes committed by over 500,000 licensed concealed handgun carriers was only .1897% of all crimes reported.

If you ask a concealed carrying gun owner why he carries, he will likely tell you there are too many Bad Guys, and not enough good guys (cops).  True.  Cops are almost always RE-active.  They show up AFTER a crime has occurred.  

A super efficient police force might take 4-5 minutes to respond to a call for help, but in many cities that might be 30 minutes or more.  In rural areas it might take an hour.  Most violent crimes are over in less than 2 minutes.  

Unless we're prepared for a DRAMATIC increase in taxes to support 5 times (?) as many cops as we have now (and good luck even finding 5 times as many potential cops!), enough to put one on every corner, we can't depend on the police to protect us.

The real answer to the "to have or not to have" guns issue is finding out how to get guns out of the hands of the Bad Guys, and that is an answer we may never find.  *sigh*  Figure that out, and everything else will fall into place.

Some might say, "two wrongs don't make a right".  Just say "NO" to guns.  Others will say it's human nature to want to protect yourself, and the more you tell people they CAN'T do something, the more they'll want to do it.  

Bottom line:  Guns are here, now.  People already have them.  Many people will carry them concealed for protection.  I would rather see them reasonably regulated and made legally available to those who are vetted and properly trained, than have them purchased with no restrictions from a guy named Rocko in a back alley somewhere.

S


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Whap! Thank you, sir. May I have another? Whap! Thank you....


I had an interesting exchange in my previous post with It's.a.crazy.world regarding my feelings for / perceptions of Islam, and I mentioned the peaceful nature of Buddhists and Hindu's in passing.  This in turn reminded me of a conversation I had with an Indian friend recently.

He was telling me about his native country (he is an IT professional here in the US now and his wife is a doctor), and he enlightened me considerably.  He told me that there are as many Muslims living in predominantly Hindu India as there are in the next door Muslim country of Pakistan.  I had thought that when the British vacated control of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 the Muslims and Hindu were seriously segregated.

The Hindu are a very benign, inclusive people.  When their country was founded their revered leader Mahatma Gandhi pointed out the colors of their flag (saffron...orange to us...representing their Hindu citizens, white their Christian citizens, and green their Muslim citizens) was meant to show respect for all.

Here's the tie-in with my post of yesterday:  My Indian friend explained that in recent years with the rise of militant Islam terrorism has become a terrible problem in India.  India claims, and they have proof, that Pakistan is turning a blind eye to the extremists living there and fomenting trouble inside India.  The goal seems to be to cause a backlash against the Muslims living in India, sparking a religious war the ruthless extreme Muslims feel they can win.  The last thing they want is "peaceful co-existence".

Why are there so many disaffected Muslims around the world?  What is it about Islam that makes it so easy for extremists to subvert?  (At least "subverted" is what moderate Muslims say has happened to their religion.)  Where did they learn to be so ruthlessly cruel?  Are such atrocities really called for in the Quran?  

There are entire sects (Wahhabis, for example) who are devoted to this unbending, my-way-or-the-highway, take-no-prisoner, version of Islam.  Rule, or exception?  Every religion has their nut cases, but do millions of Muslim militants still qualify as "exceptions"?  There's a big gray area there.

Honest question:  How many "other cheeks" should we in the West turn when extreme Islam comes after us?  How much should we accept before we become a doormat?

S

Please don't be shy.  Thoughtful comments would be appreciated.