Tuesday, April 15, 2014


As we all know, on September 11, 2012, there was an attack (actually three attacks) on the American Consulate and CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city.  Except for political purposes, there is no more tired news than Benghazi.  After all the four deaths in the Benghazi attacks were small compared to other attacks on our diplomatic missions,* only unusual in that an ambassador was killed; however, Charley Rose had the Deputy Director of the CIA, Michael Morell, on his program on April 3, 2014, that I found to be interesting and worth a listen.**  It should be noted that there has been a 9/11 since Benghazi with no published activity.

Morell's thought is that the original attack was by a group of extremists, maybe including some al Qaeda members, who wanted to go into the Consulate and cause some mischief  like their Egyptian compatriots did earlier.***  There were two other attacks and each picked up steam compared to the previous one.  The second attack was actually against the CIA compound, and they picked up some heavier armaments along the way.  The third attack was the most vicious and had the heaviest armaments.  Two of the deaths were actually at the CIA compound.

* http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2013/09/it-was-movie-trailer-after-all.html
**  (http://video.tvguide.com/Charlie+Rose/Michael+Morell/21826147/tvo-194941-season-22-episode-156 primary=Shows&show=Charlie%20Rose&display_mode=details&length=fullepisode)
*** In Egypt, 2000 Salafist activists protested against the film Innocence of Muslims at 5pm EET (11am EDT) at the US embassy in Cairo. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Benghazi_attack)


I suppose you know that prey animals (e.g. blue birds) have their eyes on the sides of their heads whereas predator animals (e.g. eagles) have their eyes on the front of their heads.  No doubt this placement of eyes is because prey animals need the maximum amount of field coverage to alarm them when something is coming, but predator animals find having three dimensional vision helps them focus their attack.

Personally, I don't like the food chain as it creates the maximum amount of pain.  We presume that plants do not suffer pain although plants sprayed with herbicides shrivel up and look to me as if they are in pain.  If I designed the universe, however, I wouldn't have developed the food chain and would have invented another way to keep populations in check.

But we have the food chain and it is, unfortunately, alive and well, and human beings most definitely have their eyes in the front of their heads.  So human beings with their ability to rationalize became the biggest predator of all.  In fact it goes beyond that.  We kill some animals not for food but just for their furs, for example, or their tusks.  Since we are predator animals, it is not surprising with our ability to reason that we developed increasingly efficient methods of killing other animals: from stampeding animals over a cliff, to spears, to the bow and arrow of several kinds, to guns.  We have to face it, hunting is in our nature, even if you or I don't do it, and there are even large societies that do not eat meat (e.g. most Hindus.).  a Hindu told me many years ago, that they don not like the idea of eating even plants but it is the course of least pain.

I like to think that domesticated animals for food are killed in a painless way, but I don't really know this to be true.  Certainly having them penned up in confined spaces is not humane.  The problem of hunting with guns is that we can kill animals into extinction (e.g. the passenger pigeon is a common example).  The elephant, for example, may be close to extinction although it is hunted only for its tusks.  But human beings are a part of nature and driving animals to extinction this seems to be a part of the design of things.

Since hunting is in our nature, the point of all this is that I have come to the conclusion that human beings should be allowed to hunt to a reasonable extent and doing so with guns is unavoidable in our society.  After all we even like to shoot each other.  We even like to shoot ourselves, but I don't like those who want to commit suicide to take others down with them, in many cases just because they are handy.*

Of course, hunting is not the only way human being drive animals into extinction.  We also do it by expanding our communities and take away the animal habitat.  Thus some animals, like deer for example,  seem to have adopted and you can see them running around to urban communities.  When the adopt to urbanization, they become a nuisance to us and we want to get rid of them.  Many people who find deer to be beautiful still don't want them eating the foliage in their garden.

The prey animal population (e.g. elk) of Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho was getting out of hand because of the loss of predator animals so they reintroduced wolves (http://www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/wolfrest.htm).  Frankly, I think I would rather be killed by a bullet than a wolf though I have never tried either.

* http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2012/12/in-aftermath-of-firearm-newton-ct.html

Monday, April 14, 2014


In 1942, Nazi’s invaded Canada and were rapidly advancing westward with the Pantzer Divisions overwhelming all resistance.  They finally had advanced to latitude 44 degrees and 56 sec. of Minnesota and began a push southward.  They quickly took Duluth.  Shortly thereafter they got to the outskirts of St. Paul, where I lived, and a group of us boys armed ourselves with bread knives and would quickly attack  small groups of Germans, killing them with our bread knives.  One time the force of Nazi’s included tanks and was too much for us so we beat a hasty retreat around the front of my house.  When we got to the other side, the Germans had set up a machine gun on the space on side of the house - rat-a-tat-tat, on and on.  It was an awful  slaughter.  I woke up with a start, trembling, to hear a woodpecker pecking on our metal rain gutter.  Scariest dream I ever had.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


I broach this topic with some trepidation and am unsure that it is appropriate for a "family" blog such as this one.  I'm talking here about Iowa politics.  I grew up in a urban environment, but Iowa is a farming state.  Remember the little ditty " Iowa, IOWA, that's where the tall corn grows?"  Well perhaps not surprisingly, the politics of Iowa, a farming state, is a little"earthy" shall I say?  I submit the following political commentary because it is out there on TV for all to see or Google.

It turns out that there is this Republican woman (and Iowa is one of two states that has never elected a woman to congress) by the name of  Joni Ernst, a veteran who is slightly ahead of her main opponent, Mark Jacobs, in polls for the vacant Senate seat.  Well she put this ad on TV that has gone virile.*  "I'm Joni Ernst.  I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm .  So when I get to Washington I'll know how to cut pork."    In Iowa, you have to be against government pork. Of course when it comes to certain farming pork, for example the subsidy for corn ethanol, that is a different matter.  What they they mean is to cut YOUR pork.

SO, one of her opponents, independent Bob Quast running as a long-shot write-in candidate on the Democratic ticket, not to be outdone, plumps for term limits but also says in HIS ad that he will take his glock, that he brandishes, and blow the balls off a sexual predator who murdered his sister.**

Where do they go from here?

* http://zap2it.com/blogs/joni_ernsts_gop_senate_hog-castration_ad_gets_colbert_report_the_soup_and_more_late-night_attention-2014-03
** http://qctimes.com/news/local/government-and-politics/elections/bob-quast-s-write-in-campaign-ad/youtube_d36abc9c-1960-50e2-9e42-4746becc0a4c.html

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Reported deaths in a war are a minimum number in the first place.  For one thing, once you are airborne out of the war zone, you are not counted as a death from the war even if you die on the plane or in the hospital where they take you.  Then there are the deaths from suicide occurring for decades after the war.  Although getting the proper statistics is impossible, it seems clear that more Vietnam veterans have died from suicide than the 58,000 killed in the war.*

Now consider the case of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars where the same military people have had even more than one tour in these wars and four tours are common.  So say you have had a tour and escaped any IED or suicide bomber attacks or a supposedly friendly-Afghan-trainee shooting.  No doubt you feel, "Whew!"  Then you are sent back again and maybe again and again.  The accumulative effect must be unbearable for many.  The maximum number of tours for someone in the Army seems to be four because of the length of the tours.  We should remember that there are no front lines in these wars and an IED or suicide bombing or supposedly friendly-Afghan-shooting can occur almost anywhere.  The number of suicides from these conflicts should eventually dwarf the official number killed in the conflicts.  The talk show Morning Joe accepts the number of  veteran suicides  to be 22 a day.  Another study indicates this figure of 22 suicides a day is most likely a minimum.**

So we should remember in going to war that the total human costs of the war will be at least twice those killed in the war itself.  In the case of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, it may well be several times more.

Also worth mention are life changing injuries that are many more than in previous wars because of perfected medical treatments that save the lives of many severely injured combatants (e.g. loss of limbs, defiguration, etc.).  One psychologist has said that many who survive an IED or suicide bomb, have had their brains shook and are "walking zombies."

* http://www.alternet.org/story/68713/120_war_vets_commit_suicide_each_week; http://www.alternet.org/story/68713/120_war_vets_commit_suicide_each_wee http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_died_in_war_in_Vietnam#slide=6
** http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/21/us/22-veteran-suicides-a-day/

Sunday, March 30, 2014


The economy of the Ukraine is the flip side of Japan.  Japan has to import everything, but they make value added products and do very well.  If ever there was a country that had a right to just moan and say, "Life is unfair."  it is Japan.  On the other hand the Ukraine is fairly rich in natural resources (especially much excellent farmland) and they do have industry,*but the management makes them one of the poorest countries in Europe.  In fact, people run benefits to help support their army!  Former Prime Minister and current Presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko says she will donate her campaign money to the Ukrainian military!  That is how sick the country is.  

Before one gets too excited about Tymoshenko, her "not-so-pretty" past is hardly encouraging though, for all I know, she may have changed.  "...she apologized to the crowd in Kiev last night for the unspecified mistakes of the past and talked about turning a page." ** She became wealthy in the natural gas business*** seemingly though sweetheart deals with the then President Lazarenko who was subsequently indicted, convicted, and jailed in the U.S. for money laundering among other crimes:
“Lazarenko received money from companies owned or controlled by Ukrianian [sic] business woman Yulia Tymoshenko … in exchange for which Lazarenko exercised his official authority in favor of Tymoshenko’s companies, and … Lazarenko failed to disclose to the people and government of Ukraine that he was receiving significant amounts of money from these companies.”**
Though the numerous criminal cases against Tymoshenko are complex, they appear to be political in nature and are given little credence.

* http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2014/03/not-again.html
** http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/23/yulia-tymoshenko-she-s-no-angel.html
*** Tymoshenko's company was United Energy Systems of Ukraine

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


This last weekend, I heard a lot of comments on the TV news programs that the solutions to the Ukraine's problems is to make them an economically sound nation.  Sounds like nation building to me.  So here we go again?

The Ukraine has enough natural resources (including perhaps the best farmland in the world) and industry that it should be a reasonably wealth nation.*

It seems by now that we have abundant examples that the transition from a dictatorship (Monarchy, Communism, etc.) to democracy is not easy.  People who have not lived in a democracy have a lot of difficulty transitioning to it.  Take the case of the Ukraine that has suffered much political turmoil.**.  They had the "Orange Revolution" in 2004.   The current government of a few months ago (and elected as recently as 2012) was a duly elected government, including the President Viktor Yanukovych  who was ousted by the mob at Kiev.  But much of the government is corrupt and stealing the country blind, which seems to be the trend.

Now there is to be a new election in May.  But will the results be any better than last time?  The mob represented a very small part of the Ukraine so my guess is that the results are unknown.  Americans are more docile than people in much of the rest of the world and wait for elections to topple politicians, but often the replacements are worse than the incumbents.  Replacing incumbents in the U.S. has resulted in political gridlock.  Though the public complains about the degree of unemployment in the U.S., the voters seem inclined to vote-in those who perpetuate the current situation.  It wouldn't be a surprise to me if the voters in the Ukraine will perform even worse.

So the big question remains, how do you lift an economy and employment when you have an uncooperative government?  Perhaps the biggest success story of nation building by another nation is Japan (Germany had the Wiemar Republic experience to build upon.), but in that case Japan lost a war and had a long occupation to facilitate the change to a democracy.  Are there any examples of nation building that have not involved an occupation, perhaps Brazil?  Perhaps it is too early in the Ukiraine and the Middle East evolution to tell, but the difficulties are clearly apparent in Iraq and Afghanistan or for Egypt and Libya, etc. as well.

*  http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2014/03/ukraine-failed-state.html
** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verkhovna_Rada