Friday, March 10, 2006

Responses to "Greatest Danger" Post

First off, my apologies for not having posted the next pieces in the terrorism series. I have been swamped this week with math as I get ready for my GMATs, and the past couple days I just haven’t been able to get my head above water. But I do hope to resume the series tomorrow, and finish it sometime next week – I take the GMATs next Friday, and spreading it out over the week will get it accomplished and provide time for studying. In the mean time, thanks for your patience.

In the mean time, I had an amazing night out tonight, got home late, took 2 practice quizzes, and find myself with a ½ hour before I have to crash. And while that isn’t enough time for a full post on terrorism, it is enough time to whip out a quick post on a topic I have wanted to write on all week: The great responses I’ve gotten to my poll.

The responses that I’ve gotten regarding the 10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World have been outstanding, to say the least. And while I have made my opinions quite clear in the original piece, many people don’t see the comments, so they don’t see these great alternative opinions, which are often great food for thought. So without further ado, some of the best posts I’ve received on the 10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World!

I chose 'other': propoganda. The war thus far has been in large part a propoganda war, which the enemy understands and embraces and we simply don't. It underlines everything, present and future.
Otto | Homepage | 03.07.06 - 10:28 pm | #

I voted as well and like Suzanne, I find it hard to pick just one, so I picked other. One other option you could also pick is "The West itself." Not that it is clearly more dangerous than any of the other option. Nonetheless it is very a danger to itself, methinks!
the bloke | Homepage | 03.05.06 - 6:44 pm | #

The aging of the Western population and the lowering of the reproductive capacity/ desire of the Western young. We are demographically destroying ourselves.
Indigo Red | Homepage | 02.20.06 - 12:06 am | #

I voted other - I belive the greatest danger to the west and humanity in general is money.
Nan | Homepage | 03.06.06 - 6:21 am | #

Excellent post. I'm with a previous commenter about the diminishing (or soon to be) oil supply. I would add, though, for the US one of the greatest threats is simple indifference. Many people are more concerned with the sex lives of celebrities than with the dangers we face. Indifference to the dangers we face will kill us sooner than anything else. I posted about this a few months ago. Here's the link if you're interested.
James | Homepage | 02.20.06 - 8:33 am | #

I think one of the biggest dangers in the western world is trying to appease the Islamic mosques that will not end preaching the destruction of the western world. Cannot perform collective punishment, even at the expense of hurting ourselves. As well, the ability to be allowed to incite violence in a democratic forum agsainst the west in western citys and streets, mobs of people inciting violence and threating with violence cannot be allowed. This also makes the divide bigger as you say.

Overpopulation, as mentioned in a post already, is huge. Egpyt, will be so bad in 20 years, no room, no food, no water. The number of people that need the resorces of this planet, is just going out of control, and I don't just mean oil.

Indeed, energy demands are raising, so is their price, and so is the dependentcy. Russia used Energy as blaikmail, who's going to hold a people hostage by not giving them energy next.

But there is also a divide growing in western politics, which I think is a bigger threat to west than anything else. In Europe, but more important the U.S., Liberals and Consevatives have two very different ideas on how democracy should look and be operated, and the divide is growing farther apart every day. Gore can't go to Saudi Arabia, and say that America is abusing Muslums. We're not, and he is inciting hate towards the U.S.,and that is unpatriotic. Liberals are saying the zaniest stuff in order to badmouth Bush, at the expense of their own country. And at the expense of others opinions towards The U.S, and at the expense of fair policy in the U.S. They are very soon, going to be going ballistic on one another(It already has started), but even worse. It has the potential to do a great amount of damage toward western government, and the Raical Islamists will just sit back and laugh, and watch the western governments destroy themselves if we all don't get back to the center.
Dr. Schmenghs | 02.20.06 - 2:53 pm | #

I voted... picked other, because I believe it's a general lack of personal responsibility for our own actions and how those actions affect our fellows that could be our downfall.
Lyman | Homepage | 03.07.06 - 5:35 am | #

Although I think our differences with the Arab world are a huge concern, and Global Warming is just as much, I believe the biggest concern is the current direction of our government. It's not just that we're losing our civil freedoms, but also that we feel so self-righteous in meddling into the affairs of others when it's none of our business. There are a lot of other superpowers & I'd imagine they're growing quite tired of us bullying them all in the name of 9/11. Unfortunately, I think 53% of Americans happen to agree with the direction we're's no wonder on the most hated country list, only 2nd to Iran.
jane | Homepage | 03.06.06 - 4:28 pm | #

Your #7 would be mine #1. As for #10, I think the greatest underestimated danger to the World is... a possible invasion from Outer Space. Imagine a superior alien race observing our actions on Earth. Just like we are nervous that Iranian mullahs acquiring nukes, they might be getting nervous that we might export our violence to the Outer Space. So, a preventive strike might be possible to send us back to the Stone Age... for the sake of safety of the entire Galaxy... Maybe they are debating our fate on Alpha Centuri as we speak.... Breaking news: 4342245 votes for destroying Earth, O against, 2 abstaining....
Sonia Belle | Homepage | 02.20.06 - 7:08 pm | #

The major problem we face is religious nutjobs on both sides dagging the entire world into their idiotic holy war.
Dennis Dale | Homepage | 03.10.06 - 12:35 am | #

We are our own worst problem. Capitalism and lack of community is what will destroy our society
xo-jk | Homepage | 03.10.06 - 2:27 am | #

I voted for the split between Islam and America. The Arabs are experiencing, first hand, the depths of our hypocrisy and dishonesty, and no amount of BS is going to change their minds.

I'm afraid that they don't know or don't care that half of us DO NOT support Bush's middle east policy. I mean 30% of the people in this country think Saddam had a hand in 9/11. It's not a far stretch to assume that most Arabs believe that we all support George Bush and his actions.

That scares me more than anything.
Argent | Homepage | 03.07.06 - 2:49 pm | #

I voted the divide between Islam and the West. Actually I think it's worse than a simple divide and more like a clash of opposite cultures, but it certainly shows no signs of cooling down.
Tovya | Homepage | 03.07.06 - 5:13 pm | #

I voted for the split. Until people understand that they don't live by the same understanding of the world, it's impossible to do anything about it.
Ezzie | Homepage | 03.05.06 - 11:45 pm | #

Interesting idea. I would add overpopulation as one of greatest dangers we face. Overpopulation causes environmental problems, it strains ecosystems, it forces people to move to new areas, it deletes resources. Overpopulation will make global warming worse. To feed an overpopulated world we need more fresh water and nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen fertilizer requires oil. Fresh water and oil are in short supply. An ever increasing population guarantees wars over water, food and energy. Our current economic systems depend on growth which, up to this point, has been been primarily provided by population growth (which is why immigration is such a big issue). Common sense tells us this continuous population growth is unsustainable. The challenges of creating societies that do not depend on population growth will force us to rethink many aspects of our lives.
LogicalOne | Homepage | 02.19.06 - 8:31 pm | #

Have you seen China and india? Insane.

Disease due to overcrowding will wipe a whole bunch of us out. Aids is already on its way, whats next?

(Looking forward to those credits, so holding thumbs!)
Devon | Homepage | 03.06.06 - 9:53 am | #

Over population. Because we are already running low and it is just a matter of time when we use it all up.
ikatron | Homepage | 03.09.06 - 5:49 pm | #

I vted for to many people overpop that will kill us in the end.
peace percy
percy | Homepage | 03.09.06 - 3:18 am | #

I would add the following danger to your list: Our dependency on oil.

As a matter of fact, almost half of the threats you mentioned would be managed much more efficiently if we did not have to rely so heavily on oil.

Why do Russia and China protect Iran? Why do we tolerate that Saudi Arabia promotes such an intolerant version of Islam? With what money are the radical madrassas in Pakistan being financed? What natural resource can have the most dramatic impact on our economy? Etc.
Filou | Homepage | 02.19.06 - 11:44 pm | #

I voted for dependence on oil. It seems to drive so many of the other issues and has the added benefit being destructive to the environment. Politically, socially and environmentally destructive is hard to beat.
James | Homepage | 03.06.06 - 10:15 am | #

economic dependence on oil (and coal). It is at the root or a signficant factor in 7 of the 10 "Greatest Dangers"
mallory | Homepage | 03.08.06 - 11:29 am | #

I voted for terrorism. I hate those suicidals...
el patro | Homepage | 03.06.06 - 11:17 am | #

Iran is from the book of revelation.
rockyjay | Homepage | 03.06.06 - 9:09 pm | #
Hi I took poll Nuke Iran too plz.
The WTF Blog... | Homepage | 03.07.06 - 7:46 pm | #

One final note: By the time I got through the first 30 posts, I had counted 11 people who had indicated that they wanted to select multiple dangers, or even have an all of the above. It’s a testament to how dangerous the world has become, when so many dangers are so relevant to our daily lives. I’ll finish off by reiterating that we each need to find the little ways we can relieve the tension in these dangers, and that’s why I write about them. Remember the greatest changes in this world have been effected by a very few people!

10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
The Conflict between the West and the Middle East
Terrorism, The Danger within Other Dangers

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Posted by Scottage at 3:25 AM / | |  

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Terrorism: The Danger within Other Dangers: Definitions

Second post in the 10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World series
Part 2a

I had a conversation with a friend the other day, and eventually the conversation turned to the various dangers that face the world. I guess it’s a popular topic for me these days, what with spending so much of my time writing these articles.

We turned to the question of why terrorism is so scary today, and the first answers were pretty standard: because a terrorist attack generally speaking targets non-combatants, innocent civilians that may even be sympathetic with the cause of the attackers; because an attack can happen at any time, in any place; and because the attackers have no morality, no conscience to dictate that their actions are wrong. But perhaps these attributes that we assign to terrorism are not 100%. And if we are going to combat terrorism, we need to know what we’re fighting.

Let’s turn back to those definitions we were looking at in the first Terrorism post. Kofi Annon said that “any deliberate killing of civilians for political purposes was terrorism”. This is a very broad definition, and could include a wide variety of actions that I don’t consider terrorism. The temptation is to just lump all immoral historical events into the broad term “terrorism”, but this will only prevent us from fully understanding the challenges we face today, and finding solutions to the prevent another catastrophe like 9/11 or the subway bombing.

According to this definition, I think you would have to consider many of the death sentences passed out the by US legal system to be terrorism. Many civilians have been killed in Iraq, and certainly the political aspirations tied in with that conflict are clear, but our war in Iraq is not terrorism as much as it is a military occupation. The destruction of the city of Hama by Syria and the killing of thousands of dissidents by Stalin’s government were horrible historical incidents, but they are not terrorism; rather, they are examples of dictatorships maintaining control militarily.

Now let’s examine to the definition found in the much narrower definition put forth by The Metropolis Times: “the murder of civilians and the destruction of property in order to provide fear in the population at large for political gains”. This narrows down the scope of terrorism quite a bit, and I’m partial to it because I believe that injecting fear into an otherwise peaceful society is a primary goal for terrorism (though we’ll hit on that later). But does it really define what’s occurring?

Once again, terrorist actions today all fit into this definition. Do the incidents we mentioned earlier? Death sentences would not be terrorism by this definition, fitting two, maybe three of the four criteria; death sentences are the murder of civilians, and while some are for political gain and others are to incite fear (fear against committing a particular crime), rarely do the two meet, and property is never destroyed. Iraq would not be terrorism by this definition, as the goal has never been to incite fear, but rather to effect change in governments.

On the flip side, Hama and Stalin’s murders may fall under this heading of terrorism. Stalin rarely destroyed property, while Hama was flattened, but both were cases of inserting fear into a society for political gains, and both involved a tremendous number of murders. So perhaps the definition still falls short, or perhaps these incidents should really be classified as terror.

David Brett points out that, regardless of the definition of terrorism that we adopt today, terrorism is now synonymous with “disturbing images of militants acting out in the name of Islam.” Certainly, this is the terrorism I set out to address with these posts. David uses the Encarta definitions for terror: “Political violence: violence or the threat of violence, especially bombing, kidnapping, and assassination, carried out for political purposes.” This definition brings up a great point in saying “the threat of violence”, since sometimes the threat of a terrorist activity is sufficient to halt a country in its tracks.
Again, this definition hints at, but does not actually point to, the motivation of injecting fear into a society, and I do believe this is at the heart of terrorism today. I know this is controversial to say, but most Muslims I know put a tremendous value on life, any life, and do not take it carelessly. They simply put a higher value on God and country. It’s why crime is not as big an issue in most Islamic countries as it is in most Western, secular countries. Many Muslims I know point to random killings as true barbarism, and would never imagine treating life with such disregard. Of course there are many exceptions to that statement, but many more people who fit into that mould.

So if there is this value on life in the majority of Muslim people, how can they commit these horrible acts? Part of it is a tactical military decision, and part of it is a growing frustration in the bleak conditions of their lives, and we’ll explore both of those issues later in this post. But part is the motivation to instil fear into our society, to make us fear the normal aspects of our everyday lives. Let me say that again: to make us fear the normal aspects of our everyday lives.

One of the most common misconceptions is that terrorists are going to attack packed stadiums, political rallies or other special events, but that never really does happen, does it? Think of an occasion where that has occurred. There was a bomb targeted for the Atlanta Olympics, but that’s the only special event I think of off the top of my head that was targeted. We say that’s because we beef up security so much for these events, but that is not in. The real reason these events aren’t targeted is that they are not part of our everyday lives.

Buses, subways, office buildings, discotheques, cafes, even a college campus, these are the common scenes of modern terrorism. They are the little events that make up our lives. And by causing us to fear these little events, terrorists are destroying the fabric of our society, slowly but surely!

And let’s add in the concept of the threat of terrorism. If the purpose of terrorism is to inject fear into the everyday activities of our life, then, assuming that destructive acts of terrorism are still fresh enough in people’s minds, the threat of terrorism can be as effective as terrorism itself. The mere threat of terrorism pushes the government to spend massive amounts of money bolstering security, convinces people not to travel or even not to leave their houses, and slow down those who do leave their homes as they experience heightened security. More often then not I think no terrorism was planned, but a bit of chatter can be a powerful weapon.

So let’s encapsulate this into one definition. Starting with the definition put forth by The Metropolis Times, and adding in the components I just mentioned, terrorism is the murder of civilians, the destruction of property, and the threat of murder and destruction in order to provide fear into the daily lives of the population at large for political gains. Further, if we want to describe the specific terrorism that this series of posts is addressing, we would simply change the end of that statement, “for political gains”, to “in the name of Allah”.

To me, this definition works. No longer is the destruction of the city of Hama an example of terrorism, as the actions weren’t meant to cause fear in people’s daily lives, but instead to cause a fear of speaking out against the government. The same is true of the Stalin administration’s actions. But it would cover all of the activities we normally think of as terror, and gets far closer to describing the motivations behind terrorism. You can draw your own conclusions, but I suspect this definition gets us closer than any other we’ll find. If you have a better one, please, put it forward!

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Terrorism: The Danger Within Other Dangers: Overview
10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
The Conflict between the West and the Middle East


Posted by Scottage at 2:55 PM / | |  

A Few Images of Life in the US after the UAE Ports Deal

Credits to my gf for sending me these great pics of life after the UAE Ports Deal:

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Posted by Scottage at 2:25 PM / | |  

Monday, March 06, 2006

Terrorism: The Danger within Other Dangers: Overview

Second post in the 10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World series
Part 1

Welcome to the second post in the 10 Greatest Dangers series, this post focusing on terrorism and its recent role in world events. I decided to use the poll to determine what my next topic would be, and was surprised when, last Monday, terrorism was at the top of the list. But if that’s the people’s choice, so be it.

I almost didn’t include terrorism in my list of the Greatest Dangers because, unlike all the other dangers, it is a tool, a weapon of other dangers. While the Israel/Palestine and Pakistan/Russia conflicts can be considered either major fronts in the conflict between West and Middle East covered in my last post or seen as unique conflicts, and while Dilution of Freedom can be considered a result of that same conflict or as a unique trend that started long before the present conflict with the Middle East, terrorism (in its present form) can only be seen as a weapon.

Without the conflict between West and Middle East, terrorism as we know it today would not exist, and would not be the great issue that concerns us all. Terrorism today is not the same as the terrorism we witnessed coming out of Ireland and other locations; it’s global, it not only attacks the perceived oppressors in the front yard, but the oppressor’s home society an ocean away, and all the oppressor’s allies and friends. Instead of considering innocent victims to be unfortunate necessities, modern terrorism specifically targets innocents.

These differences in terrorism are the direct result of the conflict with the Middle East, and their use of terrorism as one weapon in the larger conflict. So why even consider it as a unique danger? Because the ramifications of terrorism are vastly different from the ramifications of any other threat we face today! And those ramifications need to be examined and dealt with if we are ever going to truly win the war on terror. And because, according to Daled Amos, we had 6,991 people murdered and 12,382 people injured from terrorism in 2005. That makes terrorism a significant danger.

OK, before I go further, let me stop for a second and talk about the goals of this post. I believe that by exploring these dangers, and broadening our understanding of the conflicts, we can begin to work towards avoiding these dangers and a better future. I also think that today, more than ever, it is essential to understand the peril of the world today, and to make decisions with an eye towards their effects on all the future of all people.

Some of what I say will not be popular; will be down-right scandalous. By all means, disagree with me, enter into debate, and tell me and everyone how you believe it to be. But the object here is not to spew hatred, so show respect for everyone’s opinions, even if you wholeheartedly disagree.

The first step in understanding this danger is defining it, but this is not as easy as you may think. The UN has been unsuccessfully trying to define a terrorist or terrorist action for years. Soccer Dad reprints an article in September 2005 on the latest attempts by the UN to define terrorism:

Previous efforts, extending over 8 years, had failed to come up with an agreed terrorism definition. This time there was high hope that the UN would “get it right.” Drawing from the recommendations of its own High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, Secretary General Kofi Annan had put great emphasis on a definition of terrorism and a strategy aimed at combating terrorism and terrorism support and financing. It was time to make it clear, he said, that any deliberate killing of civilians for political purposes was terrorism. He lobbied for, and received strong support for such a definition from international leaders at both the Riyadh Counter-Terrorism Conference and the Madrid Terrorism Summit. So what happened?
Unfortunately, too many countries, particularly in the Middle East, are still wedded to the same terrorist tactics they have used for decades to address their perceived grievances. They maintain that there must be a right to resistance against occupation and that such right encompasses tactics of violence against civilians. Such a "right to resistance" concept carries with it nefarious implications not only for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but also for the coalition presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Take a look at Kofi Annan’s definition of terrorism. “Any deliberate killing of civilians for political purposes.” Can we say that the US’ presence in Iraq would not include any deliberate killings of civilians for political purposes? I don’t believe so. Yet, I don’t consider our presence in Iraq to be terrorism. For this reason, Soccer Dad brings up an excellent point: he indicates that a clear definition of occupation, and its relation to terror, would help clarify the difference. We’ll look at this in some depth in the second post on terrorism, dealing with the definitions roots of terrorism.

We’ll also look at a definition presented in The Metropolis Times in September 2005 which I think is closer to the truth. In his post “What is Terrorism”, Adam says: “A decent definition of terrorism could be something like "the murder of civilians and destruction of property in order to provoke fear in the population at large for political gain." Now that’s an interesting definition! It injects the motive of inspiring fear into the definition, and that I believe to be closer to the heart of the most recent mutation of terror. The roots of the word speak of this motivation, and it is what I believe makes terror so different from the other dangers.

In the third post on terrorism, we’ll examine the geography of this issue. Terrorism has a different meaning to Israelis than it does to Americans. It means something different to someone from Iraq than it does to someone from London. We’ll examine the roll geography plays in terrorism, and how different countries deal with the challenges terrorism offer. We’ll also look at an excellent set of posts, called the Bloody Borders Project, which has recorded and mapped out every terrorist attack for the past 4.5 years (since 9/11). This leads to some amazing insights, and deserves more in-depth analysis.

And in the fourth post, we’ll examine some things we can do to fight terrorism. I know, people out there are shaking their heads, saying “if a terrorist wants to succeed a terrorist will succeed, and there’s nothing we can do about it.” Well I hate to tell you, but you are absolutely, 100% dead wrong. We can do things and we must do things, on a personal level and on a government level, to prevent terrorism from spreading. Deep Thought has this to say:

First, we have to recognize that fighting terrorism is a three pronged battle: security at home, aggressive action abroad, and 'counter-recruiting'-- preventing terrorists from reaching their objective in the streets, slums and countryside of countries where they have roots. To fight a successful war on terrorism, we need a plan for all three.

For clarification, the third section of Deep Thought’s piece includes his “hearts and minds portion”, reaching out the communities who are fostering this terrorism and trying to improve relations. And that is very important, and we will focus on that. But there are other ways that individuals can help too, and we’ll talk about them, and examine how individuals play a roll in fighting terrorism in Israel and other countries, where the number of unsuccessful terrorist attacks by far outweigh the number of successful terrorist attacks.

No question, terrorism is making a significant impact in the lives of millions, maybe billions of people around the world. It affects how we live our lives, and injects a level of fear that is constant, that always exists. Who knows when the next terrorist attack will occur, or where? The grocery store, gas station, my office building? Will it be me, my neighbor, my lover, my best friend that’s there at the wrong time? These are the questions we now face daily. And these are the issues we will explore this week.

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10 Greatest Dangers to the Western World Series
The Conflict between the West and the Middle East


Posted by Scottage at 1:35 PM / | |  

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Jessica Alba

OK, I prefer doing serious pieces, so this is out of the ordinary for me. But I had never really looked at Jessica Alba before posting the piece yesterday about her and Playboy's underhanded move, and now that I've seen her, WOWOWOWOW!!! She is very sexy. Totally hot. And it wold not be fair to such a sexy lady not to show her off a bit more (with normal photos, not naked ones, don't worry...not that type of site).

For those of you looking for the serious stuff, don't worry, I have 3 posts I'm in the middle of, and after grabbing a bite, I'm going to finish them and post. But in the mean time, here are more pictures of a beautiful, sexy, incredibly hot woman, showing off in a cute bikini: Jessica Alba!

A lot nicer than looking at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, huh?

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Posted by Scottage at 1:50 PM / | |