Religion cause of war; Let the those in the Middle East fight it out among themselves and leave us in peace…

March 29, 2015

UPDATE (3-29-15)

Since I first posted this a coalition of Arab states has announced its intention to form a combined military force to fight the rebels in Yemen and elsewhere. It’s basically the Arab states vs. militant Islam and Iran. Egypt has promised to send troops into Yemen if need be. Meanwhile, the U.S. is supplying support short of military intervention in Yemen. Amid all of this, the Arab states are not so keen on the nuclear deal Washington is trying to work out with Iran. There are doubts Iran will halt its move toward gaining nuclear bomb capability and they feel that Iran (which is Persian not Arab) will continue to meddle in their affairs. Some analysts see the idea of a united Arab military force as a move to get independent from Washington. A united Arab force has been attempted in the past but without success.

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In the Middle Ages Christian Crusaders marched off from Europe and into Asia to defeat the Muslims and take back the Holy Lands.

Today groups claiming to represent Muslims are trying to defeat the largely Christian West and take over the whole world.

How many wars throughout history have been fought in the name of religion or with religion a major component of disputes?

While most of the major religions preach peace and love, a lot of violence is committed in their names.

It is claimed that the Muslim religion calls for the killing of non believers. I wouldn’t know. I mean is that the actual tenets of the religion or an interpretation by some? Both those who simply want to use the religion in their own quest for power and those who oppose the religion no doubt push that line. And I suppose some sects of Islam are hardcore and want to kill the infidels.

Certainly through the ages Christianity or the Christian way of life has been used as a banner for fighting wars.

The religious right in our own nation I believe supports capital punishment. And I imagine by and large the Christian right is all for sending our good Christian youth to far off lands to fight the non-Christians.

(As I understand it, right-wing Christians believe strongly in Israel. For one thing the Israelis are obviously not Muslims and for another, they are just misguided Jewish people, whose land in the end times will be conquered by Christianity in the second coming of Christ — or something like that.)

Right now the United States foreign policy in the Middle East is super complicated, with the Obama administration finding itself supporting disparate factions in various nations. Even though since the Iranian revolution of 1979 Iran has been basically our enemy, we are in some instances uneasily cooperating with that nation in Iraq in a fight against ISIS. And in Syria where a civil war of sorts rages, with multiple factions who fight each other while trying to oppose the current dictator, Assad, the U.S.is wishing it could topple Assad, but has to be concerned that some of his opponents are part of Al Qaeda, the entity of course that attacked the U.S. on 9/11.

And now Saudi Arabia is bombing Yemen, and contemplating sending in ground troops, in support of the government there that has been pushed out by rebels who are allied with Iran, an enemy of Saudi Arabia. And I believe the enmity between Saudi Arabia and Iran has to do with each nation not sharing the same version of Islam.

Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq for years with an iron fist and kept the competing religious factions from each other’s throats. But we helped topple him with much loss of American lives and wound up with the nation in chaos and continued war.

Make no mistake, always our interest in that region of the world was oil and keeping shipping routes open.

But we have our own homegrown oil supply now and even alternative sources of energy and new technology.

Do we really need the Middle East anymore?

While I see the United States of America as having a role and in fact a responsibility in world affairs with its status as the world’s superpower, part of me feels this way:

Let those in the Middle East fight over their religion. Let God decide who is right.

Just leave us in peace and out of the mess.


Budget airline gives me pause; depressed co-pilot deadly…

March 26, 2015

It’s bad enough one has to worry about dangerous flying weather and mechanical malfunctions, and terrorists when flying in an airliner, now we may have to worry whether the person piloting the airplane is depressed.

The unconfirmed news today is that the co-pilot who investigators determined deliberately crashed a jet with 150 aboard (all dead now) into the French Alps had a bout with depression and had taken some time off from his flight training. But he seemed to have gotten better and was rated as fit to fly. He had been among the top in his class.

Well we don’t really know for sure about the depression thing — but that is the news today.

We do know, however, that the pilot was locked out of the cockpit after leaving to — I don’t know, use the restroom?

And how is it that the pilot can be locked out of the cockpit? Even if the other person meant no harm, the other person might become incapacitated.

While I understand the technology is such nowadays that it’s getting where modern jetliners nearly fly themselves with the pilots basically monitoring things, I think maybe safety procedures need to be reviewed.

I for one don’t want a pilotless plane, and I also want someone, and maybe more than one, with much experience at the controls. The co-pilot, who did not have a large amount of flying time, was left in charge.

After so many hijackings and terrorist actions in the sky there was a big deal about securing the cockpit from intrusion. But what if the danger is in the cockpit itself?

The airliner is question was operated by something called “Germanwings”, a “low-cost” or “budget” version of Lufthansa.

I’m not a frequent flyer to say the least — but I have been up there on numerous occasions and plan to be again (maybe). I have never flown Lufthansa, but kind of always wanted to. One reason is that I just like the name. Another is that it is German and I am partly of that heritage and it just seems that anything with the designation of “German” bespeaks quality — I mean the Germans have a reputation in quality, and craftsmanship, and science and technology. But the low-budget (or low-cost) part gives me pause. I don’t feel more secure if I am up there in something that is low-budget.

I’m sure Lufthansa officials are already trying to see if there is not something they can do to improve their quality check and fitness tests for pilots. I think the whole industry should.

Of course it is still early with a lot of unanswered questions. We really don’t know exactly how this happened — it could still be an act of terrorism. But the evidence from the flight recorder and other preliminary info points to a deliberate act by a co-pilot, who managed to either get the captain of the ship out of the cockpit or took advantage of his absence to do the unthinkable.

And it raises the question, when is someone with a history of depression ready to go back to normal work? And if the someone has people’s lives in his or her hands, is the person ever fit for the job? I don’t know.

Of course when we put a stigma on things like depression we in the process discourage treatment.

I’m just glad that I am not a frequent flyer and that I really don’t have to fly.

They say that flying in an airplane is far safer than driving your car. Just tell that to someone in a crashing airliner.

And I hope I don’t seem glib here: the sorrow that has to have engulfed loved ones, including parents of their teenage children who had been to Barcelona, is enough to break my own heart just imagining it.

I guess what I really mean is that we just can’t cut financial corners on airliner safety.

 


My Lai: war is an ugly thing, plenty of guilt to go around…

March 25, 2015

I just read a long piece by Seymour Hersh about the My Lai Massacre some 47 years ago this month. Several hundred unarmed civilians were killed.

Though lengthy I can boil it down by saying that U.S. soldiers murdered civilians in cold blood, men women and children, including babies. And it was not an isolated incident. It helped turn the American public against the war.

Not stressed but mentioned in the article, the enemy (and that is a question, who was the enemy? but that is a different story) committed atrocities just as savage (but of course that does not make immoral behavior right — nothing we could ever comprehend should make our own boys baby killers).

I found it interesting that the article describes My Lai of the time as a peaceful village and indicates that our intelligence mistakenly identified it as a Viet Cong base (the Viet Cong being part of the enemy). But later the article reveals that some of the men there belonged to the Viet Cong. Of course that is the problem, the United States unwisely interjected itself into a civil war, a war of insurgency, albeit one supported by the Soviet Union (to a lesser extent Red China) and its satellite then known as North Vietnam. It was not the good guys coming to the rescue of an innocent country from invading Nazis.

(Those of us who were not there were constantly informed throughout the war by journalists that it was not a war of territory and that there were no front lines actually. Many areas supposedly held by the South Vietnamese government (our ally) were controlled by the Viet Cong (some of them local villagers) by night. It was a civil war, with outside assistance, with the two world superpowers of the time, the United States and the Soviet Union, backing opposites sides in a proxy war, that was really an extension of the Cold War — and I give this background for the benefit for those younger than I or for those who just never paid attention, but then the latter probably would not bother to read this anyway.)

The article told of how our military covered the massacre up as long as it could and that once uncovered no one ever went to jail over it, although one lieutenant, guilty as he no doubt was, served as the fall guy for his superiors who surely knew what took place and in fact no doubt ordered it. (Okay some of this I am saying, in addition to what I read in the article.)

Some of those soldiers who took part claim they were directly ordered by their superior or superiors to kill everyone. And it may well be that not everyone there took part in the massacre.

I recall hearing the story of an American army  helicopter pilot who happened upon the scene and rescued civilians.

The incident occurred in March of 1968. I was in Army basic training at the time, and as luck would have it I was sent to Germany. My only connection if you can call it that was that when I was promoted to Specialist 5 or E-5 My Lai was the current events question.

And there was actually another massacre at a nearby village the same day and apparently many more, although smaller in scale, during the course of the war.

And it quotes North Vietnamese officials of that time saying that the massacre helped them eventually win the war by both supporting their own recruitment efforts within Vietnam and by turning the American people against what turned out to be a most immoral project for America.

We all know now that our leaders throughout that long war knew it was all hopeless and wrong but supported its continuance so they would not be blamed for losing. If you can make that kind of decision it seems to me you’re missing a moral compass.

Our current wars in the Middle East are by no means a carbon copy of Vietnam. But there have been atrocities committed by our soldiers and private mercenaries our government hires. And no doubt attempted cover-ups too.

Atrocities occur in all wars.

War is an ugly thing.

Why do some people love it so much?

p.s.

When I was growing up and playing army I always thought only the bad guys committed outrageous acts, certainly not our side. I was naïve.

P.s. P.s.

And this was not meant as a comment on our current foreign policy which must include what to do about ISIS (and Al Qaeda), except we can’t become ISIS or terrorists or wanton murderers in the process.

p.s. p.s. p.s.

And when I write something like this I always feel obligated to say with all sincerity I have nothing but total respect for military personnel who carry out lawful duties and orders. When I was in basic we had a class in which an officer told us we must follow lawful orders. He said we were not obligated to follow unlawful orders. But if we disobeyed something because we at the time thought it to be unlawful we could be punished if the authorities found otherwise after the fact. What would you do? The answer is you don’t really know until it is too late.

(Of course the atrocity at My Lai was unlawful on its face, but you had the fog of war, youth, incompetent leadership or higher-ups in the war zone who stayed far enough away, either in helicopters or back in air-conditioned headquarters, that they could collect their combat badges for future promotion to further their careers, while claiming ignorance of what was going on at the actual scene.)

A fellow platoon member over in Germany did a tour in Vietnam as a door gunner on a helicopter. When sober he would brag about killing everything that moved, and supposedly quite legally in what were called “free fire zones”. But when he had too much to drink he would cry about the same thing.

As bad as war is it may be a necessary evil at times, I suppose.

The Seymour Hersh article from the New Yorker magazine is worth reading:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/30/the-scene-of-the-crime


Ted Cruz has at least one thing in common (maybe two) with Joseph McCarthy…

March 23, 2015

Two opportunists: Ted Cruz, top, Joseph McCarthy, bottom.

 

Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz looks a lot like the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy. That was the first thing I noticed when watching a video of his presidential campaign announcement today. I mean physically. Admittedly I know little about the guy (yet).

From what little I do know, however, I can’t take him seriously. But the New York Times seems to, at least in two news stories I just read. Editorially, of course that paper would never accept him, but they know trouble maybe when they smell it.

(For anyone reading this who does not know who Joseph McCarthy was, well look him up in Wikipedia maybe, but in short he projected fear and wielded power in the early 1950s by accusing people in and out of government as being members of the Communist Party and being communist operatives. He seldom if ever provided real proof, often just waving pieces of paper with supposed lists of subversives that were never checked out. He was finally brought down for the shameless demagogue he was, but not before ruining many lives.)

I was impressed by Cruz’s oratorical ability. I had never heard him speak. I’m always impressed by that, even when I can’t stand the person’s politics. I mean you even have to give Adolph Hitler his due at ability in oratory. Even if you don’t know German (I don’t, just a few words) you can watch and listen and feel the effect or imagine the effect it might have on people desperate for hope and wanting to feel better about themselves and have some other group to blame for their plight and to dislike: Hitler, the Jews and non-Germans and homosexuals, Cruz, undocumented immigrants and homosexuals and Democrats.

With what I know so far of Cruz’s hard reactionary-right stances, it is difficult for me to imagine him winning a nationwide election when the winners of the past have had to move toward the center of the political spectrum.

But what if Cruz did manage to pull in Tea Partyers and others who have reportedly skipped voting because they did not like establishment Republicans who they see as no better than liberal Democrats? And then what if capturing the Republican nomination he faced off against, say, Hillary Clinton (the only likely Democratic candidate at the moment)?

He’s a better speaker. More vibrant. He has the voice, poise, gestures, and he’s got that old-time religion. Cruz announced his candidacy at a Christian university.

He was the first hopeful of either major party to announce.

McCarthy’s single theme was weeding out communist infiltrators within our ranks. Cruz’s I don’t know, except he seems to champion “Christian values” and equates anything that government might do for people as against those values. When he just mentioned the word “Obamacare” to his partisan crowd he got derisive laughter. He equates things like national health care to the taking away of liberty. That works with the home crowd. But will it work on the national scale? Maybe if he were to be nominated he would tone that down a bit (or not).

I have a theory too that I have posited before. Barack Obama first won the presidency in part because of the novelty of being the first black president. Well the novelty has worn off. Maybe the electorate this time around will be searching for an exciting leader, not a novelty such as the first woman president. Just a thought.

But still I just don’t see Cruz as leader of the United States.

(And I have to mention he was born in Canada and even though our constitution limits the presidency to natural-born citizens, most experts seem to think because his mother was a natural-born citizen of the U.S. he qualifies. This question has never been addressed by the high court. Former presidential candidates George Romney (Mitt’s dad), born in Mexico, and John McCain, in the Panama Canal Zone, faced questions in that regard.)

I don’t know if he is anything like or can be at all compared to Joe McCarthy to any great degree (other than looks)  But I do think that both men are/were opportunists.

You always have to watch out for opportunists.

p.s.

From background I have just read Cruz has more intellect than McCarthy ever did. That’s not so much as good as it is dangerous.

 


Let’s abolish factory farms and push for humane animal treatment…

March 19, 2015

While I don’t think about it much, when I do I am appalled at the factory farming method of raising pigs and chickens (and other animals) so we can eat them (and in the case of chickens I guess you can say eat their young before they are even born).

I’m talking about those giant swine factories where the poor mother pigs (sows) spend their entire pregnancy (and life I guess) in a cage barely big enough to move around in.

Not all pigs are raised that way, but I imagine the bulk of the pork we eat is.

In times past the common method or a common method was to let the critters roam in pastures or range land. Pigs can root up all kinds of things to eat. In the parts where I live or nearby they used to roam the valley floor and hillsides, feeding on acorns from oak trees when in season.

Even in the proverbial hog pen or pig sty at least the critters can move around in a healthy manner. But in the factory farm method space is money. Raise more pigs in a smaller space.

(Oh, and I raised some pigs as a teenager in Future Farmers of America. They do like to wallow in mud if they can. They have no pores in their skin, and it’s a way for them to cool down in the hot weather. They are actually clean and intelligent animals by nature.)

And we all know how most chickens spend their lives in coops.

Then there is the way we kill the poor things. What got me going on this little essay is a video I saw of chickens fresh off the truck, still alive, hung upside down, sent down a line through a machine that slices their heads off. According to the video narration, some of them manage to survive by moving their head at the last moment. But then they can’t survive the next step, being dipped in scalding water.

(And do any of you recall that absurd and gruesome video with Sarah Palin that circulated on the web? The one where in the background someone was pushing live turkeys upside down into a mechanical contraption that mutilated their heads. My dad told me that my grandmother Walther used to go out to the yard and grab a chicken with a cane and then chop its head off for the day’s dinner. Somehow that seems a little more humane. But I have a cousin born and raised on the farm where my grandmother did this and he told me he can’t stand the sight of an animal being killed. His dad raised sheep, and as I recall he didn’t like the killing either and let someone else do the dirty work.)

Trying to come up with a more humane way to slaughter animals in our food chain is something like trying to come up with a humane system of capital punishment, somehow nothing seems appealing or satisfying to the conscience, that is unless you get off on killing…

But as consumers we really ought to give some thought to it and put pressure on the meat producing industry.

Capital punishment is a different subject and I should not have conflated the two, I was just trying to come up with a simile of sorts. I’ll stick to the question of killing animals to eat from here down:

Hey, I’m no vegetarian. And I know where hamburger comes from or how it is made.

I did tour a cattle slaughter plant once. It was a relatively small one. I have to say, while not the most appealing thing to watch, I did not witness anything inhumane at that particular one. The cow, fresh off the truck, was held in a small chute, and before the poor thing knew what was coming it was stunned with a metal rod between the eyes that came shooting out of a gun. Next, the unconscious animal’s throat was slit after being hoisted upside down on a cable. Then the carcass, bleeding out along the way, moved into the slaughter house. There its hide was mechanically ripped off. And then of course the carcass was cut up into everything from the finest steaks to hamburger.

Not fun to even think about but I don’t think there was really any pain for the animal.

But we have all read and probably even have seen some videos of animals being mistreated at slaughter houses while they are being held to kill. And we’ve seen diseased and disabled animals abused, drug along on the ground.

So, if I had my preference there would be no factory farms, and the handling of animals would be as humane as possible, and the killing of them would be too.

But I am like most consumers, I’m not likely to take any immediate action in that regard myself. But if there were some way I could support such a movement that was practical I would.

I do often buy so-called “free range”  or “cage free” eggs, but more from habit than anything else. I mean the brand I buy always seems good. I have read that even when chickens are raised in the so-called free range or cage free methods the eggs can be just as contaminated with various bacteria as those from caged ones if not more so. But maybe it is more humane to the creatures.

Humans eating meat and using animal products is something I accept, but I would not mind a bit if all the factory farms were done away with and if all those who mistreat or basically torture animals were prevented from doing so.

The industry will cry: the cost, the cost, the consumer will have to pay the cost.

Yes, doing the right thing can have its costs.

————–

P.s.

In my real job, as a truck driver, I sometimes haul poultry products and other meat products. So I profit from the industry myself. I’m still for humane treatment of animals, at least as humane as practical.

 

 

 

 


It’s hard to find a credible candidate for president…

March 15, 2015

The United States does not have a good system for electing presidents I’m thinking.

I mean how do we come up with almost nobody we could take seriously running for president?

And how is it that the Democratic Party only seems to have one contender? Hillary Clinton.

And how is it that on the Republican side there is virtually nobody the bulk of the electorate knows anything about? There is Jeb Bush with the family name, the family who has produced two recent presidents, but who knows anything about Jeb, other than he was the smarter brother who the Bush family thought for sure would be the one to become president? They never had any idea that the family goof off would capture the highest office in the land.

While I probably don’t care for the politics of Mitt Romney he seems to look like a president, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the GOP finds itself having to beg him to get back into the race.

But it’s not the party that makes the difference. It’s the fat cat donors. When Romney saw them backing off he dropped out of the race. It seems they were reluctant to back the man who lost to Obama last time around.

I mean Romney is rich enough maybe to practically pay his own way, but that would not be good business, and strangely enough I don’t think you can actually buy an election like that.

As evil as the influence of big donors is, their donations still represent or signal likely support among groups of voters. Money is how we express support in this country.

I recall the former husband of Arianna Huffington (was Mike Huffington his name?) tried to buy a senatorship in California with his own fortune, but it did not work. He ran as a conservative, and after he lost he came out of the closet as homosexual. His wife divorced him and turned liberal.

I digress. Sorry.

Hillary has found herself involved in an email flap early on (and she has not formally announced her candidacy yet), and I admit it perplexes me, that is both her actions and the whole idea of documenting emails itself. Technology has created something new in the realm of public record and Freedom of Information Act law that does not seem to be clear. I mean it is likely true that she was wanting to keep stuff confidential as much as she could, not only purely private matters but public too — most public officials do. But it still seems unclear whether she broke any laws or did not do what many others, including her challengers, do.

But anyway, if she drops out — before she officially drops in — then what? The Democrats seemingly have no one else — no one.

Now once upon a time it was the political parties who came up with the candidates in smoke-filled rooms at raucous conventions. But nowadays the conventions are more like coronations. Primaries have taken over their job.

In one way that would seem more democratic (small d). The voters get to decide.

But who can afford to run and campaign in all those primaries all over the nation?

Only those who can get millions of dollars, mostly from fat cat donors, can run.

And you better believe that fat cat money buys influence. Money has much more influence over politicians than voters.

Barack Obama did manage to put together a campaign organization that attracted a large amount of small donors, but that is not how it usually happens and it was an unusual situation — the first black president appealing to young people, getting them convinced he could make a difference.

But his time is coming to an end and the great black hope has not changed Washington politics.

I’m not so sure but what the old-time party system was not better or at least as good.

The political parties have been weakened by candidates running independently with the backing of big donors.

They have been so weakened that it’s hard to find someone credible to run for president.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Civilization breaks down in Ferguson, Mo.

March 12, 2015

Was just reading about the shooting of two police officers overnight in Ferguson, Mo. Fortunately it looks like the officers’ wounds were not life threatening, although one was actually shot in the face near an eye.

And this comes after, after mind you, the police chief turned in his resignation.

This happened during a demonstration in front of the police station in which stories indicated protesters were mostly peaceful, but not altogether, and in which protestors even fought among themselves.

It seems as though civilization has broken down in that town. I’m glad I don’t live there and wonder who would want to. Of course poverty and life circumstances offer some no choice I suppose.

All of this as everyone knows is the result of the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman a few months ago. The black youth had just pulled a strongarm robbery (for a box of cigars) from a convenience store and then was walking down the middle of a street with some others when he was confronted by the policemen. Some reports said the officer knew of the robbery some said he did not. But it was reported that the officer was ordering the youth not to walk in the middle of the street. The youth did not cooperate with the officer and one version (the accepted one I think) says he struggled with the officer and then he was shot. The officer was cleared of wrongdoing. But the city of Ferguson, run by whites, was not. The federal Justice Department has found the place to be corrupt, with the police department fining people simply to jack up revenue (not a new idea for small town police departments).

I’m wondering, though, at this early juncture, if whoever fired those shots last night was not some outside agitator, white or black, who simply for some demented reason wanted to stir the pot of anger.

Also, about the shooting of blacks by white officers. It seems that over the past few months we keep getting these reports — and it is not always black victims.

But a big problem is how police handle detentions of citizens. Why is deadly force used so often?

I had meant to do a post on this before last night’s incident.

I mean if someone, say, only has a knife, why does an officer fire a weapon. I mean in many cases, just back off — especially if other officers are around. There has to be some alternative to deadly force.

But now I have gone into a different subject and have run out of time…


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