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Jan 2005 -- Dec 2005

On this page we ask selected questions from the media, our visitors, and from our own sources. We hope they are thought provoking along with our tentative answers.

20 March 2005

Fatal bedfellows

Which of the two views is more likely?
  • Bin Laden is waging defensive jihad. Islam is little more than a vassal to the West. He has had enough.
  • Bin Laden is waging offensive jihad. He wants to restore the Taliban as the theocratic hegemon of the fertile crescent, funded by Saudi, Iraqi and Irani oil, guarded by the nukes of Pakistan and Iran.
  • Both the above.
  • He is driven by something else.

Given that he has strong support throughout the Middle East; given that his inner cadre is intensely loyal; given that the mullahs are training potential jihadis by the thousands; does the answer make any difference?
From his side, it seems obvious he will exploit any avenue to get whatever he can get.

From our side it matters little what his real motivations are. What matters most is how we respond. At the moment, we are raging like Samson in the Philistine Temple. His very strength did him in. As a metaphor, Samson's fate is chilling.

Consider what has happened since 12 Sept 2001.
  • We have alienated many; only a token number of "allies" have joined the fray in a token way.
  • We have wasted our nation's capital and youth on false premises. We are economically weaker.
  • Islam has been galvanized.
  • The American electorate has become deeply divided at a time when Cold-War solidarity is badly needed.

The walls have cracks. Will they crumble? Fear and arrogance make fatal bedfellows. We have become a closed society.

To be sure, there is and always has been a desire for freedom, if not democracy, in the Middle East. But democracy is not the tradition; old traditions die hard as new ones are born ever slowly, by evolution.

Bolshevik terrorism of a century ago changed the world. So it is with bin Laden in our time. It was "supposed to be" the other way around in the American view.

History will provide the answer.

12 March 2005

Help Wanted - A Crystal Ball
  • Where can you go to get an idea of what is coming?

    On the Internet there are several interesting sites. Some of them follow:

    "No technology available can keep the
    planet alive like its current living veneer."
    Steve Palumbi, Stanford Univ.

    What Palumbi is really saying is that humanity with its technology must come to terms with nature, which for us is a mere veneer on this orb in a vast and profound universe. It has already shown itself to be too fragile to be tinkered with in the ways that we are. Only ecosystems provide renewal. We must realize our role will be to find ways for society to maintain the stability of these systems without destroying their ability to keep the planet livable as the heaven it is. Until our society becomes one of "calm and temperance" living in harmony with nature, we can have peace. BUT NOT UNTIL.

    Solving this problem should be a priority all over the world. Until it is, there can be no real peace on earth.

    5 March 2005

    Robbing Poor Peter to Pay Rich Paul

    Beating the drums first for deep tax cuts for the rich, then a year or two later, pointing up needs to reform Social Security because it will be running out of money some 10 - 30 years hence (depending on how you calculate it) makes good politics. For the guys in office it has tangible advantages, like another four- year term.

    But what do these two things in tandem mean to the average American?

    First the tax cuts--they plunged the nation into the red. Every American now owns more debt than many can even calculate, for accurate data are just not available. Others feel that the debt is imaginary, or that the government can just print money and pay it off--which no responsible government ever does.

    However, if you read the financial news you will realize that in fact, the deficit is being covered by selling US Treasury securities. Is that OK? Of course -- unless no one is there to buy. In America, that may soon be the case. So the US government offers them to foreign banks who usually buy them. The kicker is the history of that word "usually"; it is becoming "not so usually." Many banks are buying less US debt than they once did.

    On our present path, the day will come when the foreign banks will balk--the day when America can no longer service its debt, support war, maintain its technological leadership, and oh yes, support Social Security, not to mention health care.

    Guess which of these will have to go? Was this the plan from the get-go? Probably. See Plutocracy for more.

    • 4 March 2005

    • Addictions and Things.
    • Where are bin Laden and al Qa'ida getting their financing?
    • From bin Laden's business interests is the short answer. But they have largely been identified and the banking system he exploited so well has been tightened up.
    • Then how are they still able to pull in money?
    • No one knows how much, but a new source has become public--poppies. Poppy farming was prohibited under the Taliban; now it comprises 60% of Afghanistan's Gross Domestic Product, GDP.
    • See Matthew Quirk, Atlantic Monthly March 2005 for more on poppies.
    • Drugs are a drag. Decades and billions for interdiction have gone for naught.

    • Society has to pay extra for the war on drugs, not to mention the burglaries and other crimes addicts commit in supporting their habits, as well as the prison system needed to house offenders committing drug-related crimes.

      Certainly, making drugs available to young and impressionable people is wrong. Just as certainly criminalizing drug use and possession is, too. The latter has not prevented the former; it is, and has been far too expensive. There has to be a better way. but we are not looking.

      Being too expensive for us, our war on drugs and heavy incarceration rate fit bin Laden's strategy of economic depletion perfectly.

      4 March 2005

      Mirage or Smoke Screen?
      Where is the energy shortage?
      It's everywhere; that's why gas is so expensive--or so common opinion goes.

      Well, it you care to research it, it is NOT everywhere. Lets take petroleum as a common denominator in what follows.

      HYBRID cars. They are here now--in the USA. Some boast 50 miles per gallon (21 KM/Liter) of gas.

      Flexible Fuel Cars. These too are here now. They run on gasoline, and either ethanol or methanol (alcohols) in a 15 to 85 ratio. This stretches your gas mileage by a factor of 5.67 or to about 280 mi. gal (119 KM/Liter). Millions of cars already sport flexible fuel, most are in Brazil.

      Would this not be expensive?

      Of course. Making the switch will not be cheap, but the technology is proven, well proven and accepted. The switch could easily cost $15 billion.

      Can we afford that?

      You can answer for yourself. We now spend more than that every 15 weeks in Iraq! Where is the mirage; where is the smoke screen?

      See Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek 7 March 2005 for more.

      4 March 2005

      The Heat is on -- For What?

      Where is bin Laden?

      Mr Bush replies "We are keeping the heat on... He can't come out into the open."

      We don't know either, but after nearly three and a half years, it might be safe to conclude that present methods are not working. Who can resist a $25,000,000 bounty? Every day, a dozen tips fly in; every day a dozen tips fly out--worthless. All those who know where bin Laden is are turning up their noses at riches.

      What does that tell you?


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