Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Word From A Fellow (Conservative) American: A Trace of Truth

note: The following was written by a guest author and submitted to B&U. Views and beliefs expressed in this piece are not necessarily those of the management and staff of Balanced and Unbiased, I just thought it might be nice to bring in some different opinions once and a while.

Today, November 14, 2006, truth my have been found. President Bush's denouncing of Iran and their psychotic president may have a base. Traces of plutonium and enriched uranium have been found. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated that the Iranian nuclear power program is nearing completion. The traces of possible nuclear weapons material were detected by the I.A.E.A. They also have acknowledged that Iran refuses to cooperate with the U.N. John Bolton said that these two new discoveries "both demonstrate the urgency for the Security Council to act on Iran."

This probably won't have an affect on the international community just like the preceding evidence brought to light. America is not really taking a hard stand on Iran, the U.N. will be the ones to do anything about it, but even blatant disregard for its resolutions and orders won't rouse them into action. What needs to be done is sanctions on Iran, and if they don't cooperate, more sanctions. The next step would be, say a 48 hour deadline to let inspectors search the country for nukes. If they don't cooperate with that, bomb them.

This could turn into a failure for the west if nothing is done. Bush is on the right track, but now the terrorists and democrats have scared him into losing his balls. He is content to let the U.N. girls deal with it. What the world needs is a U.S. led NATO coalition to invade and pacify the country, then on to North Korea.

Alex B.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Liberty Throws Off Its Shackles

Finally, last Tuesday, a majority of Americans told George Bush and his party what they could do with their lies and right wing, partisan politics. The Democrats have swept the House, and have a majority in the Senate. I think the White House still doesn't know what happened.

Let me talk first about Don Rumsfeld. For all the talk about not wanting to inject a political decision into the final days of the election, wanting to show the troops that decisions aren't made about them based on politics, and it's just time for a new direction, Rumsfeld resigned because he had to. Had Republicans hung on to even one house of Congress, Bush would've never let him leave, seeing as how he's kept him on through everything else. But now that Democrats will have a lot more authority in Washington, it makes everybody involved on W's side look less weak if they do things on their own terms, because it would've only been a matter of time before Democrats kicked Donald out. I think American soldiers should be as pissed off as the rest of us, because the whole reason they're stuck in Iraq is a string of political decisions made by George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld. Bush was right about one thing, though, it is time for a change, and it has been for quite some time. I just think it's sad that changes weren't made until W realized that the game was up.

Enough with that now. For the first time in years, America will be on it's way to progress. We've got lots to do before the '08 elections. I hope that one of the first will be a raise in the minimum wage. Of course, we can hope that opportunities will come up to remove some recently added executive powers and privileges, and all sorts of improvements that the people could only dream of a few weeks ago.

You may have noticed that even though Democrats are the victors, there are no snubs of the Republicans, and there is a distinct atmosphere of cooperation and bipartisanship. This is very different from recent years, when Republicans were in power. Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't those the days when the extremist part of the party advanced it's own agenda, and prevented pretty much anything else for leaving the Congress? Weren't those the days when Congress made almost no notable accomplishments domestically, and allowed our president to lead us into nightmare in Iraq?

I say, it's about time somebody tried to find some middle ground. Democrats will try to work in a bipartisan manner, but the appropriate people will be held accountablefor the last 6 years. And if some republican wing nut should try to block us, he can't do a thing. I'm really hopeful for America when I look ahead now, because for once Congress has people in charge who care about you and me.

God bless America.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Why Does Everybody Hate John Kerry?

Maybe you've heard, maybe you haven't, but John Kerry has once again made headlines for something he probably regrets now. While speaking in California, he cracked a joke which (although he definitely didn't mean it to) seemed to imply that the men and women of our armed forces are stupid. That's not the end, he was reluctant to apoligize, and didn't do so for 24 hours. Now it's headline news and the only spot of bad news for Democrats coming into the election. Of course, I'd like to kick John Kerry right now, along with all the reporters who won't stop talking about his lapse of judgement. But cut him some slack! Almost any other Democrat could've said the same thing and it wouldn't have gotten this kind of attention. So today I'll be examing why everybody seems to hate John Kerry.

While I'm frustrated, let me say that John Kerry doesn't hate our troops. He served honorably in the Vietnam war, no matter what republicans say, and he supports service men and women just as much as you and I. What I don't understand is why republicans can't let the 2004 election go. The most common rebuttal for my criticisms of the president or even republicans in general is something about how at least we're better off than we would be with a flip-flopping injury faker. What does that have to do with anything? Your side won, and has failed to accomplish anything, so you continue to call the opponent in an election two years ago names that have absolutely no bearing on anything now that the election has been decided. I think it should be noted here that another common talking point among my conservative peers is how Clinton had no morals, so George Bush is good. Again, that's completely irrelevant, just let it go.

Having shown that I support John Kerry as much as the next democratic senator, I do have to admit that his public image is very succeptible to spin from the republicans. With this reality in consideration, I have a plan. What if Kerry switched his party affiliation to independent. He'd still get elected as long as he wants in his state what with his incumbancy and everybody knowing his name, and nothing he does or says could be used by the republicans against the democrats, because Kerry wouldn't be a democrat. He would still be a democrat in all but name, free to vote the party line, support causes, and he can take enough shots and jabs at the white house to drive them nuts. But Bush and Rush Limbaugh can't spin it and misconstrue it to mean that democrats hate our troops, not to mention America in general (not that they won't try for a while).

The good news though, is that I heard a guy on the news this morning saying that this has hardly affected Democrats as we close in on election day. I guess I'm done for now. Just remember that this election isn't about John Kerry (no matter how many republicans are trying to relive 2004), it's about George W. Bush's complete mismanagement of America and the War on Terror, and his refusal to change anything for the better.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Only in the South...

I like New Orleans, it's probably one of the oldest European founded cities in the country, and if anybody who's been there is to be believed (I never been farther south than Kansas City) it's got it's own, great culture. But it's also got a logistical problem: Mother Nature intended for most of New Orleans to be under a considerable amount of water (as I understand it, the only part above sea level is the "crescent" along the river that the French originally built). I feel that, while a bad thing, Katrina did give us the best opportunity we'll ever see for letting nature put the ocean back where it belongs.

Most logical people realize that land which is under sea level and within spitting distance of the ocean isn't worth the risk. Somewhere along the line, somebody who wasn't logical built a couple levees and a city where a city had not business being. People moved in, and every few years I'd see a documentary on how a big storm could wipe out New Orleans. Nobody cared though. Katrina changed all of that, and took the decision out of our hands. Now it's time to recognize that the hard part (getting out of New Orleans) has been done for us, and we just need to tie up the loose ends and we'll be rid of our (up until recently) death defying, sub sea level experiment.

All of this doesn't mean that I hate the people of New Orleans. If my house was flattened by a tornado, I'd hole up in the basement until it was over, then I'd camp out in my back yard and rebuild on the old foundation. If my house was somehow flooded (not likely since I live on a hill) I'd sit in the attic, with a boat ready to go if it was bad enough. My point is, I can understand why people want to go back to their homes in New Orleans, because I'd feel the same way. But I don't live in New Orleans, I live in Iowa on land that is quite a distance from any significant water (the great lakes are probably the closest) and quite a bit above sea level. I'll probably still have dry land even when the ice caps melt in a few years. The same can't be said for the crescent city.

There's also a considerable environmental reason to let New Orleans die in peace. Since the Mississippi River existed, it has carried silt to the delta in Louisiana to replace the land carried out to sea by various natural occurrences. When man came along and changed that rule, the wetlands along the Louisiana coast just began to slowly disappear, and the raging ocean could get a lot closer to centers of population. Even after Katrina (I think, but definitely before) the state of Louisiana was shrinking at an alarming rate. Let the river work it's magic (and God knows there's plenty of dirt in the Mississippi) and the buffer zone of wetlands will come back and do its job.

We have an opportunity here. Even if you just move the city a couple of miles inland, stop building a city on a lakebed that's only dry as long as conditions are ideal and the levee holds. People weren't meant to defy nature, and we're already getting away with more than we should.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Real Test Begins

Finally, Israel and Hezbollah have (mostly) stopped fighting each other in southern Lebanon. This in itself is a breakthrough, but the hardest part is just beginning. It will take the international community's continual involvement and evenhandedness to make this work. Evenhandedness includes not openly declaring that this was a major victory for Israel (it wasn't, if anything, Hezbollah proved once again that it has what it takes to survive in a slug-fest with Israel). Yes, George Bush, I'm talking to you. Israel and the various terrorist organizations it is continually trying to crush are like little boys fighting on the playground: if you want them to stop, you don't tell them that one was right and that he won the fight, that will just make the "wrong" "loser" keep going until he's victorious and in the right. It should be remembered here that Hezbollah thinks they are doing God's work too (and many Lebanese who've just seen their neighborhoods flattened feel that Hezbollah is the only thing standing between them and the armies of the West).

O.K., now that we've established that George Bush is an idiot, we'll continue on to the substance of this here piece. As history has so clearly shown, when left to their own devices, Muslims and Israelis have a tendency to kill each other. The obvious solution here is to not leave them to their own devices. Enter the U.N. international peacekeeping force. There were already observers in southern Lebanon before and during this whole fiasco, but they were unarmed (what were they thinking!?). When you're trying to keep two armed groups from shooting at each other, you need to have more guns than both of groups combined in between them. The one language everybody understands in the middle east is guns. They don't care so much for rules in our sense of the word, the only rule that seems to be constant throughout the region is that the man with the bigger gun has the right of way.

This peacekeeping force has to be armed, and it has to be international. Americans are equivalent to Israelis as far as Hezbollah and the Lebanese are concerned (and they're not too far off the mark). Americans should probably be a part of it, but in a diluted manner. Arabs aren't as angry at Italians, French, or Indians as they are at America. I think it would a very good idea to include some Egyptians and/or Jordanians too, just to keep up the charade of neutrality. These non-Americans are also a lot less likely to look the other way when Israelis push the line, but shoot any armed Arab they see. Stupid and inhuman as Bush has implied they are, Arabs can tell when they're getting the short end of the stick, seeing as that's what they've gotten since the rise of western Europe.

Maybe just as important as the peacekeepers, international public awareness and pressure is going to be needed to keep this whole thing rolling. Politicians are just dogs that do whatever they think the majority of people want them to do, after a bit, they'll just stop trying to do anything in southern Lebanon. We must keep asking "Is the ceasefire still being enforced?" "Are the peacekeepers being fair or are they just continuing Israel's war for them?" "Is a more permanent solution being negotiated?" Politicians don't like questions like this, because then they have to work, and keep going with their project. And the more time you stay with something, the more chance you'll do something that will cost you votes. That's the risk one takes when he/she put his/her name on the ballot. Live with it, and do some good while you're at it.

So, keep interested in Lebanon. Don't just move on when something else steals the spotlight, that's what you're expected to do, and you don't want to be some kind of pawn. Who knows, maybe this will be the start of a more stable middle east.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Big One

As far as I can tell, this latest terrorism bust was the real thing, and the perpetrators had the means to carry it out. This is a change from the other mostly fabricated busts we've had to endure this year. The Dept. of Homeland Security is patting itself on the back, and I'm sure the White House is full of old guys high-fiving each other. Oh, wait, Bush is on vacation in Crawford, so that's where the high-fives are. But before you all go voting republican this fall because they stopped a big terrorist attack, you should remember that all of the credit should go to British authorities. Brits figured out what was happening, and the Brits put a stop to it. Just reminding everybody.

I won't go into very much detail about the actual plot and stuff, because news this big has a habit of being beaten to death by any and all media. It contained the usual creativity necessary in plots with any chance of succeeding, although it does seem to be inspired by a 15 year old Al Qaida plan, and, surprise, the would be bombers were Muslims. Since you know all of that, I'm going to look at the bigger picture.

I read a book a little less than a month ago now, The Arabs, by David Lamb. It is about 20 years old now, and you should keep that in mind when reading it, but it's a great insight on Arab culture and the role the Islamic religion plays in every day life. I'd encourage everybody to read it. With the basic ideas from this book, and a fairly quick analysis of current events, one can piece together the root of our problem with terrorists.

Our problem is not a religion the promotes war. Islam encourages peace and tolerance just as much as Christianity or Judaism. It's the extremists who seem to have found some sympathy in recent years that commit these acts of terror. Other religions have these extremists, too. We've stepped on one too many feet though, and more and more people are fed up enough with us to lend a sympathetic ear to religious terrorist groups. A few simple things (for instance, not backing Israel without question) would take away a lot of moderate supporters that terrorists enjoy.

Another thing I find disturbing is that these people just arrested in the U.K. were all born and raised in the U.K. This is just the latest in a string of events in Europe that seem to point to widespread ethnic unrest within the Arab immigrant community. There were riots in France (not the labor riots, but the ones before that which were more racial in nature), the July 7 attacks in London last year, and now this, are just the most high profile events I can think of off the top of my head. All of these attacks involved Muslims who lived in western countries. Maybe it's just because we don't have as many muslim immigrants as Europe, but the U.S. doesn't have those kinds of problems. I haven't heard one case of Muslims or arabs in born and raised in America plotting to commit an act of terrorism against us.

What needs to be done in Europe is to integrate Muslims into society, not just let them do their own thing in their own part of the city while you pretend they don't exist. Integration would inevitably bring about representation in the government, which would help when dealing with muslim governments, since you've got your own Muslims helping you make policy decisions. When they feel like it's their country too, not just the native British or French's, immigrants won't be so quick to jump on the anti-western bandwagon (but they could still very easily do so if policy changes aren't made so that we don't seem to completely disregard arabs and Muslims).

There you have it. Ignorance breeds mistrust, and pretty soon you're killing Iraqi civilians and smuggling liquid explosives onto planes. Make an effort to understand other people and where they're coming from, and a lot of problems will take care of themselves.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Oil Stops Flowing

America's largest oil field (Prudhoe Bay in Alaska) has closed while Beyond Petroleum (here on referred to as BP) scrambles to repair corroded pipes in a 22 mile stretch of the pipeline that delivers oil to America. Analysts everywhere are in a frenzy telling people that gas prices are going to skyrocket and there's been talk (from the government no less) of opening the strategic reserves (a supply of oil the government keeps squirreled away in case of emergency). I'm here to fight the flow and convince everybody that this isn't the end of the world. Furthermore, there is no need even for mild panic.

Ever since I can remember, oil (and therefore gas) prices have risen steadily. The main reason for this is not instability in the middle east, or hurricanes in the gulf, or any of the other excuses oil companies throw out. Oil prices are raised because raising the price doesn't affect demand, as it would for any other commodity. Because demand isn't affected, supplies are a little tighter, which raises prices (it's a circle). Americans with their oil are like addicts with their drugs, we don't like to pay more for it, but we can't just not buy it. The idea that America pissing off the government of an oil producer causes some kind of drop in supply (which is implied when the price goes up) is a load of crap. They may hate us, but the money we pay the mid east for it's oil is what runs those countries. Plus, we've been rubbing shoulders with the mid east since before I was born. You may also remember gas prices spiking after Katrina, supposedly because refineries were damaged. Well prices went back down after a day or so. That's a pretty quick repair job for a big refinery if you ask me.

Because of some recent news events that are much bigger than an oil crunch, this headline has kind of been drowned out, but you can bet that somewhere, crooked oil companies (the only kind) will try to raise prices, citing this pipeline shutdown. I've taken the liberty of checking my facts, and Prudhoe Bay accounts for only 8% of our oil. Not a very big slice of the pie, and if Americans were conservation minded (which they aren't, sadly) they could easily cut consumption for a couple months to compensate. Since that's unlikely, we'll probably just import that extra 8% in the meantime. Before you all head out the door with torches and pitchforks asking for directions to the nearest Saudi embassy, let me share a little known fact: the country we import the most oil from is Canada (18% of imports), with Mexico in second (15%), and Saudi Arabia and Nigeria tied for third (12%). In total, 49% of our imported oil comes from countries in the Americas. Don't believe me?

There will be no large drop in supply, let alone some kind of crisis. If you wanted to go one step farther and see oil prices drop, you could start limiting your use, and encouraging others to do the same (you'll need those skills when the oils runs out and stops flowing for good in a few years). The real tragedy in this is for BP, whose profits are expected to grow 2% less than they did last year because of this fiasco, and isn't that horrible? Actually, the state of Alaska is losing a few million dollars every day that the pipeline is down (I'm guessing this is in lost taxes mostly).

So there you have it, no need to panic.