Sunday, August 31, 2014

Having to answer hyper-fascist and communist enemies has a bearing on personal morality, especially for those of us who are "different"


Throughout history, there have been two predominant models for authoritarian, totalitarian or repressive regimes, including violent movements.  They sometimes seem to come together on the other side of the world and look alike, but it’s useful to process them separately.

One model seems to be predominantly a fascist model.  For most of history, this was the most common.  One tribe, country, or religious entity considers all other cultures within reach to be enemies and seeks to conquer and sometimes exterminate them.  It sounds largely impersonal.  Often the belief system of the aggressor is rooted in fundamentalist religion.  Often that fundamentalism is a warped reading of more temperate scriptures, twisted to suit an aggressive agenda.  Many people would interpret ISIS that way now.  But perhaps the Roman Empire was often fascist, and in Old Testament times, various wandering tribes of the Israelites had to face “heathen” enemies who behave this way.

Fascist cultures often are very harsh with weaker or more dependent individual people in their own cultures, sometimes eliminating them out of sight.  This was obviously true of the Nazis, but it was also true in ancient Sparta.  In psychological or emotional terms, this can become convenient for “stronger” members of their own communities, who can blind themselves to the immorality of what their leadership is doing, and, more importantly, can avoid the personal challenge of loving someone who doesn’t “have it all” and is perceived as a burden on the group. 

We hate to admit it, but our own history of slavery and segregation contains elements of fascism.
Communist, or hyper-socialist, cultures, for all the challenges they cause for individual freedom, are newer, and seem more concerned with bringing “political” issues down the level of individual morality, with the possibility of manipulating personal shame and guilt.  Communist societies, like their capitalist counterparts, have their privileged upper classes – and China’s “post-Communism” makes no secret of its statist capitalism (and neither does Russia).   Like fascist societies, they often promote the idea of nationalism and a “common good” for “the people” and sometimes even some kind of manifest destiny, but they are much more focused on how individual people acquire their own wealth and status.  They put themselves in a position to manipulate the “bad karma” of many individuals, whose insular status in society was accomplished only with the unseen sacrifices of others.  

It does seem to me that a kind of socialist thinking does undergird the parables in the Gospels.   They seem to reflect an acceptance of the idea that life can never be completely “fair” as a liberal would like it and allow its individual members to innovate anything.   So the Gospels seem to make social connectedness, at some emotional level, and fellowship a moral necessity. 

The idea that life isn’t “fair” and that wealth isn’t really “earned” seems to undergird a lot of street crime and gang activity, some of which I personally see as an extension of the attitudes of the hype rleft.  If nothing was earned without the sacrifice of others, them nothing belongs to anyone.  People who enjoyed it and hoarded it have it coming to them.   That was the attitude I sometimes encountered from the radical Left in the early 1970s.

Sometimes Communist societies have gone a long way in trying to impose this kind of forced “fairness” by sharing of poverty.  I’ve often mentioned the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao in Red China in the 1960s.  But the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, often covered by Ted Koppel, provide even more striking examples (although Khmer almost took this to fascism). Consider too the movie “The Killing Fields”.  

Liberal, progressive and individualistic cultures have to deal with the challenges of these kinds of cultures, which can make existential threats.  We had WWII, and in 1962 we escaped from the worst with the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Today, they very worst imaginable threat from an asymmetric terror group might be an EMP blast, and there would be no red phone, no negotiation, no sea quarantine no submarine commander to avoid the worst.  To pull off a strike like that (as in the book “One Second After” (Books, July 20, 2012) an enemy would have to acquire nuclear materials, build a weapon, and launch it from a commercial vessel off shore and get past NORAD defenses.  That may sound like no small feat for a non-state or “unrecognized state” actor, but it is also true that our dependence on technology has risen very striking and presented a global vulnerability practically unprecedented in human history;  unlike the case with the Roman Empire, the end could come very suddenly.

The challenges which liberal cultures feel are imposed on them by enemies, as well as longer term sustainability changes from the environment (whether climate changed – man-made, or space weather, very much not man made but accentuated by dependence on technology) pose new moral problems for individuals living in these cultures. Cultures, even when well-meaning, can see someone like me as a "burden" or someone who could make others in the group into targets.  We saw these kinds of problems a half century ago with the male-only military draft for Vietnam and the growing public unrest over the unfairness of the deferment system, a huge issue during my own coming of age period, but often forgotten today.   A person like me, with poor social competitiveness (related to gender) but with special talents that allow me to impact the lives of others without gatekeepers watching, finds himself in a precarious position.  It’s useful to process the “moral implications” of such a position by accepting the fact that enemies (and huge natural forces) exist and that life sometimes knocks at the door.  “Personal responsibility” may be too small a concept.  The “Lord” can definitely “taketh away”.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

US discredits Judicial Watch claim that ISIS is preparing attack from Mexico; more on why young men fight this way -- recall the Vietnam draft


The El Paso Times says that US officials reject a claim by Judicial Watch that terrorists associated with ISIS are already present in Jaurez, Mexico, across from El Paso.  The EPT story is here.  The Judicial Watch link is here. It's pretty obvious that enemies of the US could try to exploit the child migrant crisis. 
  
Various other conservative news sites, including the Washington Times and Fox, repeated the story Saturday morning (with a degree of sensationalism, by email, with cheesy ads on the site in the case of TWT), but mainstream sites tended to ignore it.
  
Some British sites have been warning that ISIS behavior is a kind of psychopathy that is common in history and not necessarily explained by western values.  James Bloodworth writes “Tomorrow, the West” on Aug. 20, here.   Radical Islamists see a failure of people to comply with the demands of Islam as a crime against future generations, keeping them from paradise. This is not the same idea as the more obvious "commie" claim that westerners are spoiled, aloof cowards and have it coming to them as payback (Maoism).  It's more that the existence of a secular western civilization at all threatens paradise for them.  In this view, it's not personal.  I might well disagree with this assessment a bit. 
  
John Kerry and John McCain (with Lindsey Graham) both have op-eds on ISIS in the New York Times Saturday. Kerry’s is here. ISIS must be confronted and defeated militarily, the GOP says. 
  
Yesterday, I opined on why young men are duped into going overseas to fight “somebody else’s war”.  Later, I wondered if one could draw a parallel to the idea in the 1960s, promoted by our own government during the LBJ days, that young men were obligated to serve on the ground (in Vietnam) to protect “women and children” abroad.  That turned out to be a highly questionable idea – the whole draft experience, with student deferments and combat-free MOS assignments that I played to my own advantage (and sending others to the draft when I was a college math teacher).  But, of course, nobody I a western government seriously encourages joining another country’s or group’s Army. 
   
We can wonder why so many young men joining ISIS come from France, and why 16% of polled public opinion in France supports ISIS. Oh, yesterday was even "cheerier" as Vladimir Putin reminded everyone that Russia is a nuclear power.   

Update: Sept. 2

Zack Beauchamp has a story of moderation on the risk in the West on Vox, here.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cameron raises the threat level in Britain to "severe", surprising Obama; maybe Scotland referendum is even affected!


The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, delivered a stern warning to the world today before a press conference in which he announced that Britain was on “severe alert” for a terror attack, probably from radicals returning from fighting with ISIS.  This alert level is the second from the top, that would have corresponded to US “orange” level during the Bush days.  CNN has a detailed story an applicable video here. Right off the top, one wonders how this could affect Scotland’s vote for secession in September.

The speech came behind President Obama’s surprisingly soft-pedaled press statement late Thursday afternoon, where he fumbled “a snap from center” and said there was no detailed plan to act in Syria. It seems that Obama was not aware that Cameron was about to raise the threat level in Britain.  You can imagine how conservative papers are reacting; the Washington Times  calls this “A Tale of Tow Cities”, one in which terrorists imagine spoiled westerners should take their turn facing a world described by Charles Dickens.  So did Chairman Mao. Perhaps this is a guilt trip.

Cameron said that raising the threat level would enable law enforcement to become more aggressive in keeping radical fighters from returning to Britain.  It would facilitate cancellation of passports and visas.   Cameron also gave a very mixed view of free speech on the Internet.   This needs to be watched closely.

The self-radicalization of some young men, partly through social media (although these claims may be overstated) seems to demonstrate the cultural divides in western society, particularly with at least two young men from Minnesota (New York Daily News story ).  I lived in Minneapolis from 1997-2003 and saw the Hmong and Somali communities, but had no clue that this was happening to any extent in a blue, liberal area (but then again, there is the problem in the Anoka school system).  The Minneapolis Star Tribune's own coverage on this issue is extensive, the latest being here
   
The media played a video where an American is shown somewhere in the desert as talking like this was “Disneyland”, sleeping under the stars.   The young men, who often do not achieve well in American public school culture, drift and find that Islam gives their lives some meaning.  They say they are going overseas to fight for “women and children”, something they see someone like me as too cowardly to do (unless I’m really disabled).  But then they seem to have no idea that ISIS intends to do the opposite, to slaughter women and children who don’t practice their form of Islam.  This seems to be a cognitive failure.   They seem “stupid.”  They are easily duped. But we can remain aloof or contemptuous of them at our own ultimate peril, given the asymmetry of our world.  

Fox news (and other sources) report finding a trove of plans for a bioterror attack (using weaponized bubonic plague) on an ISIS "laptop of doom" (in northern Syria, analyzed in Turkey), link here. The actual article appeared in Foreign Policy Magazine Aug. 28, 2014, by Harald Doornbos and Jeenan Moosa, link here. This magazine is rather pricey in print, and is usually found in Barnes and Noble stores.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Don Lemon on CNN probes experts on what makes western recruits to ISIS tick


On Wednesday night, on CNN Don Lemon interviewed four guests on why young men from the West join terror groups like ISIS.  Guests included undercover investigator Murbin Shaikh in Toronto (link , as well as Paul Cruicksank  , Mia Bloom and Richard Schoebrl.
  
Shaikh presented a picture of young men growing up with few opportunities for “legitimate” validation and seeking quick fame and glory, an idea that social media promotes and an opportunity that social media may offer.   Still, why would doing something violent and wrong appeal?   One reason could be a perception that the “establishment” is corrupt and that people really didn’t earn what they have anyway, so it might as well be expropriated from them anyway.  This was an idea popular with the radical Left in the 60s and 70s.  Men who have grown up with gangs in the streets may be more likely to have the “skills” that a terror group wants, but some recruits don’t come from criminal backgrounds.   Another element is indoctrination with radical ideology.   Men don’t have critical thinking skills and tend to go along with the group, and may become suspect to “cult-like” thinking.  Shaikh says he was eventually taught personally how a violent interpretation of the Koran is indeed incorrect. 
  
Nevertheless, people who have become radicalized his way tend to see other “ordinary civilians” who belong in “spoiled’ or “oppressive” societies as part of the “enemy”.   That’s why they see ordinary people as sharing responsibility for what their  governments do.  This sort of belief has been common with violent insurgent groups throughout history.
  
Jim Sciutto, formerly with the CIA, and Jim Hayden speak here on the threat to the west 

Here’s NBC’s video of the appeal by the mother of Steven Sotloff.  

Vox Media takes the position that America airstrikes could make ISIS more dangerous, because previously ISIS didn't really need to attack the West to take parts of its caliphate.  Their link is here.  The wild card is asymmetry.  It takes only a tiny sleeper cell to inflict revolutionary damage with a WMD, and the targets could themselves be chosen by "asymmetric" reasoning that can make anyone visible into an enemy, even art home.  We also need to watch how we categorize things.  Legally (in the Boston Marathon case), a pressure cooker IED is a WMD.  In practice, it is not.  But a microwave flux gun, which could destroy electronics for a few city blocks or maybe a power substation, certainly is a WMD.  So is a box of missing cesium chloride. We need to pay attention.   

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

British intelligence identifies London rapper as connected to Foley beheading


According to USA Today, British Intelligence (M15 and M16) has identified a London rapper named Abdel-Majed Bary, 24, as the man speaking in the video showing kidnapped American journalist James Foley being beheaded.  The link for the story by Orin Dorell, on p 5A of the Wednesday paper, is here

The idea that a western musician was involved is shocking, but the suspect’s father has an interesting history.  Adel Abdul Bary has spent years in Egyptian prisons, sought and got asylum in Britain, and then was extradited to the US for the two 1998 attacks on US embassies in Africa.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

CNN, ABC, NBC try to find balance in covering ISIS; Rand Paul on adopting children from dangerous countries


I overslept Sunday morning, missing the first half of Candy Crowley’s State of the Union, after a big day on the road Saturday in central Virginia.  Then for the 12 noon rebroadcast, CNN pre-empted with coverage of the earthquake near Napa, CA, about 6.0 in magnitude.  But the August 2011 earthquake in Central VA (damaging the Washington Monument) had been 5.8.  I was last in Napa in 1995.
   
So I had to play Crowley’s interviews online at the site, here.  She interviewed Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jack Reed (D-RI) and British ambassador Peter Westmacott. 
  
Crowley grilled Graham and Reed on whether there really was a credible threat to the US homeland “within days”.  She said we have cried wolf many times before, and said these things about Saddam Hussein after 9/11.   Graham said there were several hundred American jihadists over there, but other more reputable sources put the count at about 70, but there are over 500 from Britain.
  
  
Fromm ABC, “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”  has a transcript with Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), link here. NBC Meet the Press also covered it.  One of shows (I think it was ABC) interviewed some jihadists in a basement in London, and one of them really said he wanted to see Sharia law implemented everywhere in the world, including the US.  He really said that with a straight face.
  
Also, today, Rand Paul was shown visiting Guatemala, and quoted as saying American families should be willing and eager to adopt Guatelalan children.  Then, what about Honduras?  El Salvador?   

A later story Sunday has John Kerry announcing that American hostage Peter Theo Curtis was freed in Syria. 
  
Picture: Monroe Institute, VA -- from my visit Saturday 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pentagon: ISIS "is like nothing we have ever seen -- Get ready"


Defense Secretary Chuck Hegel said today that the US must "get ready" for ISIS (or ISIL) and that ISIS is "like nothing we have ever seen", with the CNN story with Barbara Starr here. What does this mean?

Does he mean we should be ready for major ground operations in Syria and Iraq again?  Does he mean that American (and British, Canadian, other western civilians) should get ready personally for attacks?  Could this have anything to do with the power grid?

Only CNN presented the story this way late Friday.

But later accounts Friday emphasized the idea that ISIS believes in an "end of days" ideology which could help explain the barbarism.

ThinkProgress reported speculation by Texas GOP  governor Rick Perry (indicted?) that ISIS fighters would infiltrate the US through the Mexican border, probably with the help of Mexican or Central American drug gangs (link) but admitted he had no real evidence to back up the idea -- yet.  But -- connect the dots!


Update: Aug. 22

Vox Media has a card series on myths about ISIS, here. It's true that the group as affiliated with Al Qaeda had been active in Syria for years and had been brutal.  But it split off in Feb. 2014 and seemed to become even more violent, moving into northern Iraq this summer.

Also, today USA Today has a story "How dangerous is Islamic State? Returning Western militants pose threat to homeland", by Rick Hampson, link here.

Newsmax has a story an video quoting an ex-CIA officer saying there is no doubt ISIS sleeper cells are in the US.  The language that is quoted is rather belligerent.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ISIS execution of American journalist goes down a very nasty path; US, European countries conflict on ransom policies


CNN and other sources have been reporting that Special Forces had tried to rescue journalist James Foley, who was executed by decapitation with a video made by ISIS (or ISIL).  Barbara Starr’s report and video are here

President Obama addressed the nation on the execution today at 12:50 PM from vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, link to White House video here
  
It has also been reported that the executor spoke with a British accent, and British and US intelligence authorities are trying to identify the person.  ISIS apparently wanted to retaliate against American air strikes by executing an American civilian. 

Further, someone in ISIS actually sent Foley's family a brazen email (or multiple emails) with many threats, which would only have give military intelligence possibly useful leads.  If I got an email like this, I would probably mark it spam and never open it.

CNN reminds viewers that Foley was a freelance journalist, and had covered Libya before and been imprisoned before. 
    
Although US military forces can sometimes rescue civilians overseas, the US never pays ransom for kidnappings.  But some European countries will do so.   Likewise, the US presumably would not pay ransom for gang-like kidnappings in Mexico or Central America. 
   
The worst scenario would be such a kidnapping happening within a western country, even the US, by a domestically reared but radicalized terrorist.  It would seem that ransom should not be paid to appease a terrorist ever, even to save a life.  We could all become combatants someday. It seems as though ISIS looks at all civilians not of their religion as enemies and soldiers.  I did live through the military draft of the 1960s.  A lot of people have never seen that.  Of course, soldiers are supposed to be protected by the Geneva Convention (as are local civilians) and violation is treated as a war crime.  But ISIS (like Hitler or Stalin) doesn’t seem to care.  I covered all of this on one of my Wordpress blogs recently, link.
 
Other journalists in captivity include Steven Sotloff and about twenty others according to this Huffington Post article by Jack Mirkinson here

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Debate on asylum for persecuted groups around the world could prove challenging -- the "radical hospitality" idea


I’ve often written on these blogs that the Obama administration and the Congress (and courts, for that matter) can’t afford to send a message that it is OK for people (including children) to enter the country illegally.  Therefore, the administration is very unlikely to suggest that American citizens should take on the personal responsibility of fostering children who entered illegally.  The governor of Maryland has hinted at that, and some faith-based groups say this.

There is a different perspective, however, when it comes to changing the standards for political asylum.  These could apply to people already in the country, possibly illegally, or ambiguously (as in the movie “Documented”), or with visas about to expire.  Or it could apply to people known to want to enter the country from areas where they face danger or persecution.  Logically, this could apply to different situations of persecution:  families in gang-run areas of Central America, Christian or Yazidis in northern Iraq, or LGBT people in Nigeria, Uganda, or other countries hostile to them, even Russia.  Logically the considerations would apply for the immigration policies of various other western countries:  Canada, Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and the like. 

There could arise a situation where asylum would be feasible only if individual hosts stepped up to provide for them.   At least, it sounds logical to me that policies could be structured around this idea. 
It would certainly stir up debate if President Obama made a statement in a public address to this effect.
  
Some of these considerations applied to the Cuban refugees in southern states in 1980.
  
Chaldean Mark Arabo told CNN (video included) that children are being targeted by ISIS and even beheaded, in what amounts to genocide.

Should the US put boots on the ground after all?  ISIS would not last long against western armies, but then that would make it easier to recruit asymmetric actors into jihad.  ISIS probably doesn’t have the capability to build a nuclear weapon, but great harm might be done in local areas with smaller EMP devices (which can be non-nuclear) or radioactivity dispersion – things that have not happened in the west.   ISIS seems to up the ante on western civilization.  So the engagement of ordinary citizens takes on a new moral dimension. 


A story later Tuesday from Think Progress on the murder of come children in Hondouras after they returned from deportation makes the moral edge sharp.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Why countries and tribes fight even when there is prosperity ("God have mercy!")


“Global prosperity can’t guarantee peace”, Robert Samuelson writes on p. A15 of the Washington Post on Monday morning, link here. The online title is more explicit, “Global prosperity is no panacea: The post euphoric world.”   Samuelson points out that the biggest dangers could come from a financial panic not from the US, where there is strong regulation possible.  But we’ve already had the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and the Russian financial crisis of 1998.  Remember that Esquire cover, “What did you do after the crash, Daddy?”
   
On Sunday morning, Dr. Stan Hastey at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC preached, “God Have Mercy” and started out with a complete history of Israel and Palestine.  He pointed out repeatedly that agreements and treaties made repeatedly have never been carried out. 
   
The 1973 Yom Kippur War did result in the Arab Embargo and with an economic shock.  It also caused gasoline shortages and threatened rationing at a time when I needed personal mobility to “live out my own destiny”.  The same happened later, to a lesser degree, with the Iran hostage crisis.  I remember following the 1978 talks at Camp David between Begin and Sadat as if my world depended on it.  I didn't recall that Israel gave up the Sinai then.     
   
Global events always have the chance to knock on our own doors.
  
After the service, I mentioned George Meek’s work on the question of expropriation of Palestinian land and homes. Hastey said that this had never made any sense.
  
Religious tensions in this part of the world come about because people are somewhat oversocialized.  They don’t have our opportunity to excel as individuals (which is not free to others), and feel they mst share a collective tribal future together.  Not all of their allegiance is religious;  some of it is more like secular nationalism.  Look at what Putin appeals to now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Does Putin's food import ban mean that Russia is at war with the West?


Vladimir Putin is trying to make ordinary Russian citizens believe they are at war again, according to a column in the Washington Post, Wednesday, August 13, 2014, by Masha Gessen, on p. A19. The print title is "Russia's war economy", but the online versions has a more startling title, "Food import ban means that Russia is fully at war with the West", link here.  Russians are supposed to see the high grocery prices as a heroic war sacrifice, like in WWII.  "You no longer get to sit around in cafes".  Russia has apparently also banned public wi-fi.

It is pretty obvious how this ties back to the Russian anti-gay propaganda law of 2013, with the idea that Russians owe the country more babies and bigger families.

Gessen is the author of "The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin" (Riverhead, 2013).  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Iraqi cavalry rescues some Yazidis from ISIS


CNN reports that many Yazidis were rescued from Mount Sinjar by Iraqi army helicopters, video link here, Despite its incompetence, apparently the Iraqi Army was up to this task.

Many people reported families being broken, and not everyone was allowed to board.  Only a small percentage could be rescued now.

Despite the range of artillery held by ISIS and captured from the US, apparently no US humanitarian planes have had any problems.

There is also an exodus of people (Christians) from parts of Syria into Kurdistan in Iraq.   Some have had to cross into Syria from Sinjar and back to the Kurdish area in the far north. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Palestinian professor writes that Israeli policy encourages individual Palestinian "selfishness"


The Washington Post has an interesting column about “personal selfishness” in the Middle East, “Palestinians are forgetting how to stand together”, by Birzeit professor Adania Shibil, p B5 (Outlook) link here.  Israel has manipulated things on the West Bank so individual citizens can have cars and condos, even if they can’t move apart freely.  Many Palestinians, she says, have less personal reason to take the risks for fighting for bigger causes.  This sounds like the old “hyperindividualism v. solidarity” problem. The report also seems ironic in that in the past, it is expropriation of Palestinian lands for settlements that provoked controversy.

As I was testing a new computer today, I rewatched an old interview by Tom Brokaw of Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar on the DVD of the film “The Last Best Chance” by Ben Goddard, in which the interviewees note that nuclear weapons have been removed from the Ukraine.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Concerns mount that ISIS terrorists could cross Mexican border, using migrant children as shields


Vox is explaining a lot more about ISI (or ISIL) and Obama’s kid-gloves air strikes (as Obama heads for Martha’s Vineyard, a Clinton hideout, where I have never been because it is too much trouble to reach it), here.  True, it this is primarily about Sunni’s vs. Shiites, then why does ISIS pursue Christians, and why does it brag in slick social media about its brutality (and bullying).  Vox has said that ISIS comes from the “guilty remnant” of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

In some parts of Syria, ISIS actually “employs” people, runs the utilities and actually levies taxes. 
And some Western-born jihadists have bragged that they are coming back to eke mayhem on the US and Europe.
  
Some security experts on CNN have pointed out that ISIS terrorists could cross the US border from Mexico undetected.  This would logically raise the scenario of their trying to use unaccompanied minors as human shields, very likely collaborating with Latin American gangs and drug cartels. That is one good reason that the US cannot encourage the idea that illegal minors should come, even if some people think that Americans have a personal moral responsibility to shelter them from violence. 

CNN added a sobering story and video by Paul Cruickshank, here

Friday, August 8, 2014

Attack on Christians in northern Iraq by ISIS seems unprecedented in its brutality


I know I am going to hear about the new persecution of Christians by ISIS (or ISIL), particularly in northern Iraq, at almost any Protestant church that I attend.  I don’t get involved with the idea of victimhood, either for myself or for others.  But the latest reports on ISIS sound almost unprecedented, as they have apparently swept through villages in northern, largely Kurdish areas of Iraq, and driven Christians out of their homes, executing those who will not convert to Islam.  The media has reported heavily a situation with several thousand trapped on a mountaintop, with the Obama administration ordering airdrops for humanitarian aid.  ISIS seems to be trying to drive Christianity out of areas where it flourished in Biblical times, shortly after the life of Christ.  John Kerry has called it genocide. 
   
The persecution concerns both Christians and Yazidis who actually practice a kind of "folk Islam", Wiki article here. So indeed, ISIS is going after other Muslims more than Christians.
   
The most detailed CNN story is here.  Fareed Zakaria and Chris Cuomo discussed the situation Friday morning.  Cuomo emphasized the scale of the slaughter. Zakaria said that it would make sense for the US to help the Kurds, who are pro-Western, because foreign interventions work with a “client” that wants to fight.  (That’s why South Korea turned out better than South Vietnam.)  Zakaria also criticized the “new” Iraq government’s Shiite leadership for failing to represent the Sunni’s, and talked about the dangers of an Iraq controlled by Iran. 

   

Potentially ISIS could gain control of one fifth of the world’s exports, although the US has become much less dependent on foreign oil because of new North American resources, although most of this is gas and shale.   The brutality of ISIS does make one concerned about what could happen if it turned attention to the West.  With it’s money, could EMP weapons be possible?  (See "Major issues" posting Thursday.)  There were comments on AC360 about western jihadists fighting with them who have sworn to come back for revenge.

Janes Jeffrey confirmed this notion on CNN Friday morning.   
Wikipedia attribution link for ancient Iraq map. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Population demographics becomes divisive for developing countries asked to reduce carbon emissions


Eduardo Porter, in his “Economic Scene” column in Business Day, brings up the duplicitous population demographics issue again in an article “Reducing carbon by curbing population”, link here. Of course, the basic dilemma is obvious.  Birth and fertility rates are much higher in the developing world than in the developed world.  Infant mortality rates in some African countries are horrible.  People in this part of the world can’t feed that many babies.  But in richer parts of the world, there aren’t enough children to replace workers who retire, and to support the elderly, without immigration, which will lead to enormous political tension eventually.  Bruce Bawer had said all this in “While Europe Slept.”  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Will younger leadership soften the conflict in Israel and Palestine?


CNN has been discussing the age gap in attitudes toward the Middle East situation.  Generally, younger adults tend to be less polarized and more willing to consider the direct impact on civilians that current, older leadership.  This would tend to suggest that younger Palestinian leadership would not approve of using civilian facilities to launch attacks, and younger Jewish leadership would be more concerned about the ethical problems of expropriating property in the West Bank.

On the other hand, there is a core of young men who are idological about the "meaning" of jihad.  And in the US, there are men who will go to Israel to fight in the Army to join a cause higher than themselves, and who say they feel "needed".

There are conflicting reports about whether the very latest cease-fire is really a go or not, CNN link