What Makes People Do Such Things?

Posted July 21, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , ,

Why would any country supply irregular troops with high powered, sophisticated missiles? Why would anyone possessing such missiles fire them indiscriminately at a flying object some 35,000 feet above? Why would these irregulars, once the plane shot down had been confirmed to be a civilian, non-combatant carrying about 300, not have stood down and allowed international aide workers to humanly collect the remains?

Why would a country bristle at the notion they were using disproportionate force in trying to stop missile attacks? Why would that nation act indignantly even though the death toll was running about 500 of them to 2 of us? Why would a country allow itself to get “suckered” in so that any response, no matter how justified, was likely to kill non-combatants?

Why would one religious sect wreak havoc upon another, all in the name of Allah? Why would the political establishment insist upon no realignment of government ministries, assuring a continuation of violence? Why would anyone send another to self detonate a massive bomb in hopes of killing an many innocents as possible?

Power and wealth offer as good as any explanation. If you have what you consider too small a share or maybe you have been cut out entirely, one can understand efforts, within certain bounds, of trying to correct the imbalance. Money and the personal power to get money can usually be attributed to most conflicts.

This weekend in Philadelphia, the Catholic Archdiocese made all in order in the Cathedral. The occasion was the visit of a relic, a two once sample of Pope John Paul’s blood. The faithful were invited to worship in front of the blood sample and use the occasion to seek divine intercession. Hmmm.

Besides creating the allusion of vampires and other blood suckers, why would any foist such a thing on others hoping for something better in life?

All of these events, in one way or another, defy rational explanation. They do reveal the lengths man is capable of going while at the same time offering what he purports to be a rational explanation.

What makes people do such things?

Slow Boil Over A Surrogate War

Posted July 20, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Politics, Iraq War, Barack Obama, Iran, Republican Party, Democratic Party, Afghanistan, Israel, Africa, Syria

Tags: , , ,

The downing of Malaysian Air flight 17 was a shock. As time as progressed, the justification of the senseless murders of almost 300 people is no less murky.  Our madness slow boil seems centered upon a surrogate war.

Was this simply an accident of war or was the missile attack part of a premeditated message? The 300 unlucky passengers had nothing to do with either side in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Malaysian Airlines is based in Kuala Lumpur, in an entirely different continent.

What message could be contained in this tragedy?

Reports that insurgents or possibly just local residents were scouring the debris fields picking up valuables including credit cards has added disgust. Instead of treating the death scene with respect, it appears to have turned into an opportunity for quick gain, at least for some.

Is that the message, human condition is abominable?

According to a New York Times report, the air route which the plane was using was open… open that is until the plane would have reached the Russian border. Unbelievably, the Russian airway authorities had closed the airspace beginning with its Ukrainian border eastward.

Flight 17 was downed about 50 miles short of the border. The question of the day is what would have happened had the plane not been short down?

The second question of the day, why would Malaysian Air have flown a route it could not have completed?

There are many conspiracy theories possible. A more straight forward explanation is human error. Sophisticated surface to air missiles in the hands of irregular military types makes no sense on all accounts. Command and control is lacking with irregulars.

Non-combatants should be expected to assume they are not a target, so flying the same route they have always flown ought to be expected. A responsible airline, however, would have been expected to have checked for any alerts.

The Ukraine conflict is a surrogate war. The West (Europe plus the US) versus the Russian Federation. The West is trying to extend its influence east and the Russians are trying to block these efforts. For the West, bluffing and then looking the other way is a preferred strategy. For Russia, bluffs normally do not exist. This contrast of style was for sure a contributing factor.

The top people on both sides know this, yet were willing to play the surrogate game.

The surrogate game is being played in other lands too. Syria, Iraq, Gaza, and to an extent, in Afghanistan to name a few. The mess called central Africa is another place to observe non-combatants dying from outside influence.

The problem with these wars is that the sides are not clear. Who are the good guys and who are the bad ones. The US has a role to play but it is not around the use of US military force.

More likely the US role is to reiterate where our influence will be placed, where we will be neutral, and where we will not exert any influence. Once these positions are made clear, then we must ensure our actions support them. The current world confusion has arisen because the US has gone silent (while still exerting force) and allowed itself to believe it could expand its influence unrestrictedly.

Expanding the European Union was risky, expanding NATO was bordering on foolish and trying to convince the Russians that “star wars” was good for them was a joke.

Most of the world is poverty stricken. Most of those region’s would be leaders are simply people in pursuit of personal wealth. Democratic rule (as we know it) is just not going to happen. Some form of benevolent authoritarian government is the best those populations can hope for.

Telling the American people that open elections, capitalism, and human rights will bring much of the world into the 21st century is a disservice to everyone and for countries such as Russia and China, represents a threat to their established governments. It times for the rhetoric which President Obama and members of Congress select to get real.

Real in the sense of the facts, real in the sense of what is truly possible.  Real in the sense of McDonalds or Subway or Nike or Facebook or Twitter.  These social forces will do more than bullets and bombs.

Summer Recess

Posted July 19, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Politics, Republican Party

Tags: , , , ,

Congress is lumbering into its summer recess. This is the time our Senators and Representatives use to recharge their batteries, attend fund raisers, and otherwise plan for their next Congressional session.

The notebook that contains their fall upcoming plans is bare of substance, unfortunately.

For Representatives, a plan book might correctly reflect certain needs of their district. They are, of course, “representatives” of those who elected them. “Must do’s” which raid the public trough and return tax dollars to their local district will help the district and get each representative reelected.

But is that short sighted?

Without knowing the specific wish list each Representative has developed, it is safe to say their list is incomplete. There are important legislative bills that impact all districts, some directly and others indirectly. Immigration reform is an obvious challenge which may seem remote to some districts yet the way the US handles economic refugees says a lot about who the citizens of our 50 States have become.

Another top of the list bill should be a broad list of infrastructure projects aimed at maintaining roads, bridges, railways, and rivers. At the heart of this essential work would be appropriate taxes to pay for it (no free lunch). While it does not matter which tax is increased or newly added in order to afford infrastructure repair, gasoline is an ideal place to begin.

The idea of raising gasoline taxes, unfortunately, is “off the table” and that says the worst about our representatives. The US and a few other third world countries still offer gasoline at the $4 a gallon or less (an unsustainable appeasement to voters).  The modern industrialize world, on the other hand, have all increased gasoline taxes in order to covered road related expense and to encourage more fuel efficient transportation.

Even an exceptional country like the US would do well to consider this. It is not a sure bet that our Representatives will even consider infrastructure maintenance, much less how to pay for it.

Our representatives’ tactics (as opposed to a strategy of ensuring a sound infrastructure for maximum economic results) simply do not include taxes to pay for necessary services.

If you were to ask them, however, about the role of productive assets and depreciation write offs each business uses, my guess is they would be able to cite chapter and verse. He might say, “a business invests in machinery and equipment and receives a tax deduction from its revenue equal to a prorated portion of an assets value based upon the asset’s productive life”.

The representative knows a wise businessman/woman would save this deducted amount so that they could maintain the asset (say a machine or truck) so it would last a long time, and when it was too old to be useful, there would be enough money to replace it.

The fundamental law is that assets wear out and must be repaired and ultimately replaced. Why cannot our Representatives comprehend the US public productive assets the same way?

One might think these public servants were absent from class when depreciation was taught.

Non-Combatants

Posted July 18, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Politics, Republican Party, Democratic Party, Conservatives

Tags: , , ,

On a certain level, the Ukrainian insurgency is understandable. The West wants to draw the Ukraine away from Russian Federation’s influence in an attempt to weaken Russia.   The Russian Federation wants to do the opposite.

Russian strategy involves weakening the Ukrainian government (minimizing nationalism forces) and as a result, allowing century old natural ties between the Russians and Ukrainian people to show through. Just as drawing boarders around certain middle east territory and calling it “Iraq” or “Syria” does not make a natural nation, claiming the lands known as the Ukraine are separate and distinct from Russian ties is just as hollow.

On another level, however, special interests in both countries are mainly interested in their personal wealth.  Surprise, surprise. These special interests are closely linked to the national leaders (who also seek wealth enhancement).   From this alliance, foreign policy is drawn.

A weakened Ukraine will serve the needs of corrupt leaders best allowing them to divert money to themselves. In this regard, the Russian Federation’s self interest plays into the time honored practice of political leaders fleecing their people. The West’s strategy assumes a “zero sum game” and what Russia loses, the West gains.  

The Ukrainian insurgency has pitted Russian supplied “insurgents” against the formal Ukrainian military (surrogates for the West). Innocent Ukrainians as well as combatants from both sides have died in sporadic skirmishes. The loss if life on both sides has been senseless especially given the stated goals of the common people.

I wonder whether the political leaders think about these deaths?

Yesterday, however, there was an event that made these deaths look small. A Malaysian Airline Boing 777 jet plane, carrying close to 300 non-combatant passengers, was shot down while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

The already senseless insurgency can boast of even greater collateral damage.

It might be understandable were the downing of the 777 an isolated non-combatant event. When boys play with guns, bad things happen.   Just look to Gaza, Iraq, or Syria to see the impact of proxy wars upon the local non-combatant population.

I wonder whether they teach this (non-combatant collateral damage) in the schools where young men and women go to get their Statecraft degrees?

Over Saturated and More

Posted July 15, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

The last week New Jersey newspapers have been full of rumors about further Atlantic City casino closings. With the recent announcement of the Trump Plaza closing, the total this year comes to 4. The popular question is why?

A PhD is not required to answer this question. Since Atlantic City’s hay day, casinos have sprouted up in nearby Pennsylvania as well as Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maryland. In short, there are too many gambling locations for too few gamblers.

A harder question to answer is why have only certain casinos closed?

Atlantic City has two clumps of casinos. The largest number are strung out along the boardwalk next to the ocean. For reasons that are not clear, the cliental which frequents the AC boardwalk are lower blue collar. While this cohort does frequent the casinos, they are not “big rollers”.

The streets on the opposite side of the Boardwalk casinos present another marketing problem. There, one finds homeless and unemployed people (urban poverty). The prospects of a casino hotel guest taking a walk around the nearby neighborhood is not too attractive.

So the Boardwalk located casinos have relied upon “drive-in, drive-out” guests.  In other words, the casino could be located anywhere which was a convenient drive.

With the overall market size decreasing due to the new casinos in other States, the Boardwalk casinos were left to compete on the basis of what each offered compared to other Boardwalk casinos. Some tried harder than others. Those that have closed were not competitive enough.

Atlantic City’s urban poverty is not a new phenomena. As each new casino was announced to great fanfare, politicians promised jobs, new housing, and in short, a new Atlantic City. The new city on the hill never happened and now the die is cast with no more promises about a bright future.

The Beauty of Athletes

Posted July 14, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: baseball, FIFA, football, ice hockey, soccer, sports, Tour D'France, world cup

This past week the residents of Cleveland rejoiced on the news that Labron James would return to play basketball for the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is considered a great athlete and maybe the best playing basketball today. Basketball players are all tall men (or women), some just taller than others. Their ability to almost float in air as they drive for the hoop is magical.

College and Professional football teams are busily preparing for their 2014-15 season. Each team has picked their best athletes and are filling their heads full of new plays. While the goal of each team remains making gobs of money, the speed and agility of these player, cutting left or right and then accelerating to top speed is breathtaking.

Baseball has reached its mid-summer break. Time for the annual “all-star” game. In a hard to imagine the picking process, fans select the starting “all-star team” by voting as many times as they wish for the player of their choice. All Stars? The second half of the 2014 Baseball season will begin later this week. Winning teams for sure make more money. They almost always possess the best players too. Hitting a baseball traveling at close to 100 mph is an amazing accomplishment.

Not to be overlooked, ice hockey professional teams are also screening junior league players for future stars. Come the winter, winning hockey teams can thrill the audience and crowd out basketball as a fan favorite with their full rink dashes and powerful slap shots. For those fortunate franchises, hockey means money.

Stepping back, it appears we have a deal with organized sports. We pay for tickets, television rights, and merchandize. In return we expect to see great athletes, performing great athletic feats, and of course, winning. Fair deal?

Yesterday made one wonder.   The FIFA World Cup Soccer championship took place in Brazil. Germany beat Argentine 1-0 after 120 minutes of full out effort by both teams. Watching these athletes run, cut, and jump to head the ball and then racing back on defense was awe inspiring. Looking at each athlete, there was no sign of fat. Each player was fit and gave no hint of wanting to pause. (I cannot think of now popular American sports athlete who look this fit.) While most of these athletes play for club teams and earn a good living, playing for a national team is an honor. Lots of money was made by FIFA but for the players, it was about winning for their country.

What could be more demanding and athletic than world class soccer? Hmmm.

How about bicycle racing and the Tour d’France?

Spying On Germany

Posted July 13, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Politics, Republican Party

Tags: , ,

A new kerfuffle involving the sprawling US spy bureaucracy made news this week. The CIA station chief was deported by the German Government over charges the CIA had recruited German citizens to spy on their government.

Immediately two views were put into play… “friends don’t spy on friends” and “Everyone does it”.   Do either of these apply?

It may be true that most all nations do some type of spying on other nations. Industrial espionage has long been charged against countries like China and France. Recent NSA revelations makes it clear that the US spies on everyone at least to the point of collecting the data.  France and China (and a lot of other countries) have discrete connections between key government agencies and policy makers, and private industry. Government intelligence gatherings helps these businesses who in turn employ more French and Chinese citizens.

The key to this type of spying is “deniability”. In fact the first rule of spying is that the spy agency must deny any involvement in order to shield its government from consequences. The denial must be believable, however.

In the case of the German spying, the entire story may not have been leaked yet. The actual CIA involvement may have been as little as seeking very low level information and in no way aimed at undermining the German Government. Who knows. Local German politics could also have blown this situation out of proportion. Maybe.

What is the case, however,is the CIA got exposed with its hand in the cookie jar. On that basis, the CIA station chief should have asked himself/herself to be relieved or, if silent, should have been recalled by Washington immediately. The Station Chief needed a “time out” in order to refocus his/her priorities on how to conduct undercover work.

And while the Station Chief was in “time out”, what about his/her administrative head where ever that person resides? And while we are at it, it might be fruitful to follow the chain of command, maybe all the way to the CIA Director. Why?

To do nothing sends a confusing message. The US could be saying “we didn’t spy”, so there is no reason to recall anyone. The evidence and past revelation of NSA spying strongly indicate otherwise. Or, as it appears in this case, “yes we did spy but there was no harm so there should be no foul”. But good spy craft would not have been uncovered and weakened spy organization does not portend good things for the future.

Saying nothing also implies a lot and tells Germany it does not count. Nothing short of an official apology will do.

Stepping back from the specifics of this issue, another troubling example of US government agencies operating without sound leadership and governance. While examples of this happen with all Administrations, it seems that President Obama’s has produced more over a wider range of departments. It suggests that the role of chief executive is far more difficult when political appointees are added to existing bureaucracies. Without clear direction and accountability, these political appointees will find it easier to “go along and get along” than provide governance. And, when a line is crossed, unless the chief executive holds the department head accountable, the next excursion is likely to be worse.

Hmmm.

 


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