First it was cartoons…

…now it’s teddy bears… What’s next?

As reported by msnbc.com:

Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, protested Friday outside the presidential palace in Khartoum, demanding the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad.

The teacher, Gillian Gibbons, gave her class an assignment. Exerpts from the article describing the assignment are:

The case began with a classroom project on animals in September at the private school, which has 750 students from elementary to high school levels, most from wealthy Sudanese Muslim families.

Gibbons had one of her 7-year-old students bring in a teddy bear, then asked the class to name it and they chose the name Muhammad, a common name among Muslim men. Each student then took the teddy bear home to write a diary entry about it, and the entries were compiled into a book with the bear’s picture on the cover, titled “My Name is Muhammad.”

But an office assistant at the school complained to the Ministry of Education that Gibbons had insulted the prophet by comparing him to an animal or toy.

The teacher was subsequently arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced to 15 days in prison and deportation. What she could have been sentenced to could have been up to 40 lashes, six months in prison and a fine the charge of inciting religious hatred. The reaction to the verdict and sentence? Here’s some examples put forth by the article:

They (they demonstrators) burned pictures of Gibbons and called for her execution, saying, “No tolerance: Execution,” and “Kill her, kill her by firing squad.”

…the Muslim cleric at Khartoum’s main Martyrs Mosque denounced Gibbons, saying she intentionally insulted Islam…

“Imprisoning this lady does not satisfy the thirst of Muslims in Sudan. But we welcome imprisonment and expulsion,” the cleric, Abdul-Jalil Nazeer al-Karouri, a well-known hardliner, told worshippers.

“This is an arrogant woman who came to our country, cashing her salary in dollars, teaching our children hatred of our Prophet Muhammad,” he said.

Hardline clerics who hold considerable influence with Sudan’s Islamic government, have sought to whip up public anger over the Gibbons’ case, calling her actions part of a Western plot to damage Islam.

Let’s stop right here for a reality check. Does anyone else see the absolute absurdity & lunacy of this event?

For the proponents of this “religion of peace” to state that their religion is tolerant in light of the above event shows that they are only tolerant on their terms. If anyone cares to browse the text of the Koran (found online in multiple places on the Internet), it will become painfully clear that these proponents are either liars or have no idea what they are talking about. In many places it states that the infidel and their ideas must be killed and otherwise not tolerated.

Note that the children named the bear, not the teacher, and the parents said nothing (and I’m presuming that the parents knew what was going on). Under the logic that these clerics are spouting, shouldn’t the children and their parents be punished too? No, let’s blame the foreigner because she didn’t enforce our religious law even though she doesn’t share our belief system. This is hypocritical beyond belief.

And yet these same clerics want to preach to their congregations to love Allah and Muhammed without reservation. Stop & think for a second – what is one of the most loved toys in the world? Teddy bears. Most of us that had one as a child usually have fond memories of our beloved bears bordering on unconditional love. Wouldn’t it serve the clerics better to build on fond childhood memories rather than raise a stink over a toy’s name? No, they would much rather build on the intolerance of others and hate of anything not of their own teachings.

And speaking of teaching, who hired a foreign teacher? A private school that caters to mostly wealthy Sudanese Muslim families. Could it be that (gasp) these same families wanted to provide a more rounded education to their children than the mindless obedience demanded by government-run religious oriented schools? Horrors!!

How about the name, Muhammed? So now a cartoon cannot be drawn depicting him nor a teddy bear named after him without igniting a firestorm of protests. What about all the unworthy (by the Koran’s definition) men that are named after Muhammed? If the name means that much to the Moslem world and should only be spoken in reverence & given to the worthy, isn’t it blasphemy to give the name to a potentially sinful, nonreligious person?

A cleric made the statement that the teacher’s actions were “part of a Western plot to damage Islam.” I’m going to have to disagree with that statement – the clerics and the rabid, intolerant followers are doing a fine job of damaging Islam all by themselves.

I Still Don’t Trust or Like Hillary

In a previous post waaaay back in 2006, I stated my reasons for not liking HRC. Now that she is running for the highest office in the land, I thought I would add to and update my reasons for disliking the female of the Clinton name…

HRC cannot take a stand on an issue (for very long…) Besides the aforementioned flip-flopping in the original post, it took 6 speeches and two weeks to clarify her position on issuing driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, and even now I have no idea where she really stands on this issue. Why is it so hard for her to take a position and stick with it without changing it because of a focus group’s findings? Or better yet, clearly state what her position is on the issue.

HRC takes a very biased view of the law (updated) When thinking about the above issue and HRC’s actions on the illegal immigration issue, HRC cannot and will not make a statement that people that are in this country illegally are criminals!

Healthcare reform (updated) In the last Democratic candidate debate, HRC made statements to the effect that everyone would be covered by governmental healthcare coverage. Not affordable coverage, but something that would be managed by the government. When was the last time that the government ran anything efficiently? All you need to do is look at other countries such as Canada, England, and France to see what raving failures their healthcare systems are.

Taxes (updated) HRC has come out (along with all the other Democratic hopefuls) in stating that she will want to raise your taxes. Of course she will – how else will the bills be paid for the bloated agency that will manage and pay for the government run healthcare system?

HRC plays the gender card badly HRC and her entourage have accused her opponents of attacking her because she is a female of the species, but tries to tell the rest of us that she is as tough as the rest of the boys. I’m sorry, HRC, you cannot have it both ways. And besides, if she is elected President (shiver!!), would you think that the rest of the world would give a rat’s behind that you are a girl, especially those female-repressing dictators, despots, and madmen?

HRC avoids tough questions Otherwise, why would she go after Tim Russert like she has, and her staff puts planted questions in her audience? Probably because she doesn’t want to take a position on almost anything that could hurt her chances of being elected queen, er, President.

HRC is not open to scrutiny HRC has made statements that documents on her role as First Lady are open to the public…that is unless you ask for them. The Clinton Presidential Library will not release any of the former First Lady’s papers because of a request by her husband not to release any letters pertaining to a shopping list of topics (which is just about everything). Given the incident with the Rose Law Firm billing records, should anyone really be surprised?

Do we really want more drama in the White House with another Clinton? Just think back during the eight years that Bill was President with all the scandals and controversy surrounding him and HRC, and that is what you would get if HRC is elected President. I sure don’t want it. Do you?

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Unlike last year, we made it down to my mother-in-law’s house without incident or sickness.  And this year, we’re making the food!

Roast pork with all the trimmings was the fare this Thanksgiving, not turkey.  In my opinion, turkey is overrated and difficult to cook where it is moist, tender, and delicious to all.  Not that I don’t want or like turkey, it just takes soooo long to cook, and praying all the while that it turns out perfect.  So while you turkeyoholics are munching away on your dry, white turkey breast, we’ll have been feasting on the succulent “other white meat”.

On a more serious note, remember to give thanks for all of your blessings, and offer up a special thanks for the people in our armed services that will not be able to spend this Thanksgiving with their families.

At Least One Democrat Gets It…

Senator Joe Lieberman gets it.  Although he is technically an Independent, he is still an old-school Democrat.  And he knows what is important.

In a speech at the Center for Politics and Foreign Relations/Financial Times breakfast at The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, he addressed the Democratic Party and the threat that Iran presents.  The following are excerpts from that speech:

We could rightly criticize the Bush administration when it failed to live up to its own rhetoric, or when it bungled the execution of its policies. But I felt that we should not minimize the seriousness of the threat from Islamist extremism, or the fundamental rightness of the muscular, internationalist, and morally self-confident response that President Bush had chosen in response to it.

But that was not the choice most Democrats made. Instead, they flip-flopped.

It did not happen all at once. In the weeks and months after September 11, Democrats and Republicans put aside our partisan divisions and stood united as Americans. As late as October 2002, a Democratic-controlled Senate voted by a wide bipartisan margin to authorize President Bush to use military force against Saddam Hussein.

As the Iraq war became bogged down in a long and costly insurgency, however, and as President Bush’s approval ratings slipped, Democrats moved in a very different direction—first in the presidential campaign of 2004, where antiwar forces played a decisive role in the Democratic primaries. As you may recall, they also prevailed in Connecticut’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary last year.

Since retaking Congress in November 2006, the top foreign policy priority of the Democratic Party has not been to expand the size of our military for the war on terror or to strengthen our democracy promotion efforts in the Middle East or to prevail in Afghanistan. It has been to pull our troops out of Iraq, to abandon the democratically-elected government there, and to hand a defeat to President Bush.

Iraq has become the singular litmus test for Democratic candidates. No Democratic presidential primary candidate today speaks of America’s moral or strategic responsibility to stand with the Iraqi people against the totalitarian forces of radical Islam, or of the consequences of handing a victory in Iraq to al Qaeda and Iran. And if they did, their campaign would be as unsuccessful as mine was in 2006. Even as evidence has mounted that General Petraeus’ new counterinsurgency strategy is succeeding, Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq, reluctant to acknowledge the progress we are now achieving, or even that that progress has enabled us to begin drawing down our troops there.

But another reason for the Democratic flip-flop on foreign policy over the past few years is less substantive. For many Democrats, the guiding conviction in foreign policy isn’t pacifism or isolationism—it is distrust and disdain of Republicans in general, and President Bush in particular.

I offered an amendment earlier this fall, together with Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, urging the Bush administration to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization and impose economic sanctions on them.

The reason for our amendment was clear. In September, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testified before Congress about the proxy war that Iran—and in particular, the IRGC and its Quds Force subsidiary—has been waging against our troops in Iraq. Specifically, General Petraeus told us that the IRGC Quds Force has been training, funding, equipping, arming, and in some cases directing Shiite extremists who are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers.

This charge had been corroborated by other sources, including the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, the independent assessment of the Iraqi Security Forces led by General Jim Jones, as well as the on-the-ground reports of our division commanders in Iraq.

It was also consistent with nearly three decades of experience with the IRGC, which has been implicated in a range of terrorist attacks against the United States and our allies—long before the invasion of Iraq.

In light of this evidence, Senator Kyl and I thought that calling for the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization was a no brainer. Rather than punishing Iranians indiscriminately, it would apply a set of targeted economic sanctions against the part of the Iranian regime that was responsible for the murder of our troops in Iraq.

One big reason Kyl and I thought that calling for the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization would be politically uncontroversial was because a bipartisan group of 68 senators, including several of the Democratic presidential candidates, had already signed onto a piece of legislation introduced earlier in the year that asked for the IRGC’s designation along exactly the same lines as our amendment. Whatever the differences or disagreements on foreign policy or even on Iran, I assumed that tougher, targeted economic sanctions against the IRGC were something that we could all agree on.

I was wrong.

What happened instead is a case study in the distrust and partisan polarization that now poisons our body politic on even the most sensitive issues of national security.

First, several left-wing blogs seized upon the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, offering wild conspiracy theories about how it could be used to authorize the use of military force against Iran.

These were absurd arguments. The text of our amendment contained nothing—nothing—that could be construed as a green light for an attack on Iran. To claim that it did was an act of delusion or deception.

On the contrary, by calling for tougher sanctions on Iran, the intention of our amendment was to offer an alternative to war.

Nonetheless, the conspiracy theories started to spread. Although the Senate passed our amendment, 76-22, several Democrats, including some of the Democratic presidential candidates, soon began attacking it—and Senator Clinton, who voted for the amendment. In fact, some of the very same Democrats who had cosponsored the legislation in the spring, urging the designation of the IRGC, began denouncing our amendment for doing the exact same thing.

The problem with the Kyl-Lieberman amendment of course had little to do with its substance, and a lot to do with politics.

I asked some of my Senate colleagues who voted against our amendment: “Do you believe the evidence the military has given us about the IRGC sponsoring these attacks on our troops?” Yes, they invariably said.

“Don’t you support tougher economic sanctions against Iran?” I asked. Again, yes—no question.

So what’s the problem, I asked.

“It’s simple,” they said. “We don’t trust Bush. He’ll use this resolution as an excuse for war against Iran.”

I understand that President Bush is a divisive figure. I recognize the distrust that many Americans feel toward his administration. I recognize the anger and outrage that exists out there about the war in Iraq.

But there is something profoundly wrong—something that should trouble all of us—when we have elected Democratic officials who seem more worried about how the Bush administration might respond to Iran’s murder of our troops, than about the fact that Iran is murdering our troops. 

There is likewise something profoundly wrong when we see candidates who are willing to pander to this politically paranoid, hyper-partisan sentiment in the Democratic base—even if it sends a message of weakness and division to the Iranian regime.

The Senator is extremely blunt in his assessment of the current political climate in Washington.  Unfortunately, it is spot on, and probably what caused the Democratic Party to kick the Senator out.

The phrase “…Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq, reluctant to acknowledge the progress…” is just as disturbing as “…we have elected Democratic officials who seem more worried about how the Bush administration might respond to Iran’s murder of our troops, than about the fact that Iran is murdering our troops.”  So politics is more important than the lives of our soldiers.  What is almost as disturbing is that the safety of the American people is not as important as the politicians would have us believe.  No, Bush-bashing is now the focus of the Democratic Party, and damned be the rest of us.

And if we think that the rest of the world ignores this, think again.  Middle-Eastern culture values strength and abhors weakness.  And they definitely view the United States Government as being divided and weak.  This puts the United States at risk worldwide.

Where I have problems is that there are not enough politicians of character in Washington willing to put their political careers on the line to do the right thing, which is to put the safety of the American people (and soldiers!) first and politics second.  No, many of them are beholden to the wild-eyed politicos that helped them into office.  Why am I not surprised?

Quite frankly, I do not see anything changing even after the elections a year off.  Sure, the political rhetoric will intensify, but the fact of the matter is that political sniping and character assassination will be the standard operating procedure of the politicians leading up to the election.  After the election, all bets are off except for more talk and less action.

So in this next few months, I will be looking at the Presidential, House, and Senatorial candidates with a close eye on their positions and character, and party affiliation be damned.  And that’s the way it should be.  Unfortunately, I think the pickings are pretty poor this year.  But that’s for a different post for a different time.

But you know, if Joe Lieberman was to run for President, he might actually get my vote simply because he gets what is important for the United States.

Energy, Global Warming, & The Economy

With crude oil prices edging toward $100 a barrel, and gasoline prices past a national average of $3.15 a gallon, I thought it would be interesting to explore the relationships of energy, Global Warming, and the economy.

Energy:

Energy, specifically petroleum related, is mostly purchased by the United States from Middle Eastern countries. As everyone knows (or should), this region is becoming increasingly unstable. Additional pressures to the supply of Middle Eastern petroleum supplies come from India and China as they rapidly develop their economies. The markets react by speculating that oil futures will increase in price. This translates to higher prices at the pump.

The reaction of Congress is to raise CAFE standards, mandating higher miles per gallon for all vehicles. In many respects, this is unnecessary. Higher gasoline prices will eventually dictate a shift in consumer preferences toward higher mileage vehicles. Should the automotive companies not react, then they will lose market share, and eventually close their doors.

One of the alternatives that has been proposed is alternative energy sources such as ethanol and biodiesel production. While this route appears to be feasible, a widespread production and distribution network is years in the future. Short-term relief is not in the immediate future.

Other transportation energy alternatives include hybrid, fuel-cell, and pure electric vehicles. While these alternatives are possible, and in some respects are already in production, there are drawbacks to some of these technologies from an environmental respect. For instance, components of the batteries used in electric vehicles are not environmentally friendly in either the mining or in the processing/manufacture of these batteries (post here).

Regardless of what energy that is used for powering our vehicles, what about the generation of electricity that allows our society to function? Without electricity, computers, lights, elevators, and many other essential appliances would cease to function. In other words, our country (and most of the world) would stop dead in its tracks.

Nuclear energy is not dead, but a new plant has not been built for 20+ years. Coal & gas fired generation introduces CO2 into the atmosphere. Wind power and solar power isn’t as reliable as demand requires. And there are only so many dams with hydro-electric facilities that can be built.

So here is the problem – there is no easy solution, nor would the solution be as inexpensive in the short run as everyone would like. We are far short of the energy independence that was outlined in a previous post.

Global Warming:

Global Warming is becoming a huge political topic, and the data is being spun in so many different directions that confusion on this issue reigns supreme. For instance:

In 2004, history professor Naomi Oreskes performed a survey of research papers on climate change. Examining peer-reviewed papers published on the ISI Web of Science database from 1993 to 2003, she found a majority supported the “consensus view,” defined as humans were having at least some effect on global climate change. Oreskes’ work has been repeatedly cited, but as some of its data is now nearly 15 years old, its conclusions are becoming somewhat dated.

Medical researcher Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte recently updated this research. Using the same database and search terms as Oreskes, he examined all papers published from 2004 to February 2007. The results have been submitted to the journal Energy and Environment, of which DailyTech has obtained a pre-publication copy. The figures are surprising.

Of 528 total papers on climate change, only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers “implicit” endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no “consensus.”

The figures are even more shocking when one remembers the watered-down definition of consensus here. Not only does it not require supporting that man is the “primary” cause of warming, but it doesn’t require any belief or support for “catastrophic” global warming. In fact of all papers published in this period (2004 to February 2007), only a single one makes any reference to climate change leading to catastrophic results.

How can this be? I’ve addressed this topic in a previous post titles Politics and (Junk) Science. Politics, funding, and power all contribute to the spinning and misinformation that is published.

Of a larger concern is the recent announcement that China will soon be a bigger contributor of CO2 than the United States. China is not the only producer of CO2, but India is progressing toward the status of a high producer. Part of this is due to their “developing economies,” but coal mine fires also are a huge contributor.

What bothers me is that the Global Warming fanatics are screaming for the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but nary a word is stated about China & India. And both of those countries get a pass on the Kyoto Protocols while the United States is flamed for not signing that treaty.

The Economy:

Consider this excerpt from Business Week by Alan Zibel:

Making big cuts in emissions linked to global warming could come at considerable cost to the U.S. economy: between $400 billion and $1.8 trillion in reduced growth over the next four decades, a new study says.

The study published Monday by a nonprofit research group partially funded by the power industry concludes that reducing emissions of carbon dioxide — the main greenhouse gas linked to global warming — will require “fundamental” changes in energy production and consumption.

The Electric Power Research Institute said the most cost-effective way to reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is to make many changes at once, including expanding nuclear power, developing renewable technologies and building systems to capture and store carbon dioxide emitted from coal plants. Reducing demand for fossil-fuel power is also key, the institute said.

The EPRI cost estimate is based on a 50 percent economy-wide cut in carbon emissions from 2010 levels by 2050. Without such a cut and the shifts in technology it would bring, the Energy Department projects that U.S. carbon emissions will rise from about 6 billion metric tons a year in 2005 to 8 billion metric tons by 2030.

The report calls for more modest cuts in emissions than some proposals currently being considered in Congress. Bigger cuts could well be more expensive.

What all of the above means is that we are going to be hit with higher energy costs no matter what. It doesn’t matter if the companies are going to buy carbon credits, develop alternative energy sources, or modify their equipment to emit less carbon dioxide, we are going to pay for it. And our elected officials, the politicians, aren’t going to help. In fact, I think they are part of the problem.

The politicians need to show that they are doing something worthwhile, and since Global Warming is the next biggest “crisis” that has been published, they will do what they can to show that they care. And in the process of “caring,” they will drive the economy of this country into the ground with unnecessary legislation and regulations. Lost in the process is the health of the United States and of its citizens.

Our civilization, as we know it, needs energy in different forms for it to prosper and survive. But there must be some “common sense” in developing new forms of energy as well as making compromises in weaning ourselves off of Middle Eastern oil and not sinking the economy of the country on futile efforts to combat a problem that scientists cannot agree upon. A delicate problem indeed, and one that I do not believe that our politicians can solve.

No, our politicians need to stay out of the Global Warming & Save the World business. Instead, they should focus on developing incentives to develop new energy technologies and industries (no, not carbon credit offsets…). They should also grow some backbones and intelligently allow development of resources within the boundaries of the United States Territories, and to take the high road of putting the country first and not their political careers.

In our personal ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up or else all go down as one people. – Franklin D. Roosevelt