Saturday, November 15, 2014

ISIS Sets Sights on Saudi Arabia

According to a recent report in the BBC News the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) have now turned their gaze toward Saudi Arabia and all those Saudi oil fields.

For ISIS to successfully engage the Saudi monarchy and overthrow the royal House of Saud and the hundreds of related Sheiks that have held power and sway over the region for nearly four centuries would be the most destabilizing event for, not only the region, but the entire world of nations and the economies of the current lead nations -- The United States of America and The European Union -- in particular. Those two superpowers, especially Europe, have allowed themselves over the course of the last century to become completely dependent on the energy exports from the Saudis and any cut-off or delay in delivery of those exports would drive the EU to its knees in a matter of weeks, if not days. The United States would fare a bit better in the long term, however, the immediate effects of such a takeover by ISIS of Saudi oil production could be just as devastating to most of North America.

Almost overnight ISIS would turn from a troublesome Islamic activist terror organization to the holder of some of the largest and richest oil property in the world. They could literally hold the fate of the entire Middle East region in the palm of their hand forcing the political will of those nation's leaders and peoples to bow to their demands and wishes, particularly as it concerns issues important to them -- Sharia Law, making their brand of Islam the only acceptable Islamic faith and with it all that that would entail as it relates to women's rights, those of more moderate and reformed thinking muslims, and especially the future of the State of Israel. We are already too familiar with the fate of Western journalists, Christians and Arabs not "fundamentalist enough."

Of course, the United States of America could never allow such a condition to exist. At least, I use to think that was the case before the current U.S. President was in office. Now, I'm not sure what could happen if what the BBC reports as a possibility would become a reality. I'm sure it would mean the U.S. and possibly several of its European allies would send their young men and women to fight along side a misogynistic monarchy that has already existed for far too long -- but exactly what would be the marching orders coming from this White House? Would it be to ensure, at any cost, that ISIS or any other terror group will not be successful in overthrowing the House of Saud? Or, would the U.S. and its allies continue with the kind of war strategy the U.S. has engaged in since the infamous Vietnam War? Wars that are never wholly won but simply and agonizedly prolonged year after year while the war machine of those nations continue fattening their proverbial wallets and the military industrial complex becomes ever more bloated?

There are valid arguments for why having some group like ISIS in charge of the Saudi oil fields is not a good thing. The greatest is how a group like ISIS would have the world oil market in their tight grip and could literally crush markets and nations by squeezing tightly on that market.

There is also the Israeli factor which cannot be ignored. The kinds of pressure an ISIS in control of the world's largest oil reserves could put on both the U.S. and the EU over its long standing support of the State of Israel could prove disastrous for the future of that tiny Jewish nation. I am of the opinion that Israel can hold its own, but that is an outlook not shared by most. The majority opinion holds that without the financial and military support from the United States of America Israel would fold like a paper napkin if the Arab world surrounding it, led by an oil rich, financially strong ISIS would crush it in a matter of days. However, Israel has too much history of exactly this kind of scenario and when the smoke has cleared Israel would still be standing. Or, as is also likely, no one would be standing as Israel would implement its own brand of the "final solution" and unleash its 'Samson Initiative' upon itself and the entire Middle East region leaving nothing behind except radioactive glass in its wake.

There are a couple of positive outcomes to consider if ISIS were to engage the House of Saud and soundly defeat it. It would force the most oil gluttonous nations (U.S., Europe) to actually develop alternate sources of energy and stop this insatiable desire for fossil fuels. That would certainly remove any economical axe over the head of the West moot. Without the demand for the Saudi oil ISIS would lose any financial leverage it could hope to have over the West. This could also force the West to invest more into the military strength and policies of its only ally in the region, the State of Israel, which would spell disaster not only to ISIS but all terror aspirants in the region.

It would also be a kind of emotionally satisfying payback for all the terrorist funding the Saudi Sheiks have been funneling into terror organizations for all these past decades. Sort of fulfilling Hillary Clinton's prophecy that "You can't expect to put snakes in your own backyard and not get bit."

The other positive factor of having ISIS in Saudi Arabia? -- They would be headquartered in one location and one or two strategic warheads could put an end to their leadership and organization once and for all. Of course, like the snakes Clinton spoke of, without severing the entire head, the tail will simply grow a new one and become a different kind threat down the road. To a government use to kicking cans down the road that may be something this President and Congress could tolerate. Leave it for the next group of inept to deal with.

In reality, there is no lasting good or sound outcome with having some group like an ISIS taking over an oil rich nation like Saudi Arabia. The House of Saud may be the devil, but it is the devil we know and, at least for now and the foreseeable future, a devil we can still manage and deal with. I can only hope that the leaders of the free world can get it together enough to recognize the threat and deal with it rightly before it is too late.

Big Financial Shift is Coming - Says Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn

James Wolfensohn, former president of The World Bank and CEO of Wolfensohn and Co., addressed Stanford Graduate School of Business students with details about his work at the World Bank during its transition years and how the equation between developed and developing countries is changing.

Wolfensohn claims that in the next 40 years, a global power shift will see today's leading economic countries drop from having 80% of the world's income to 35%.

U.S. Marine Sgt Tells President Obama What He Needs To Hear

President Obama gets an ear full from an ex-Marine, an Iraq War veteran and freedom loving American named Manny E. Vega.

Mr. President were you listening? ... ARE you LISTENING?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Star Wars: Tarkin" - A Book/Audiobook Review

“A man of black and white tastes. He loved clear lines, precise architecture and an absence of clutter.”

“Star Wars: Tarkin” answers the troubling question of how a young lad born and raised by a prominent family on one of the outer rim planets (Eriadu), places normally reserved as breeding grounds for rebels, thieves, gangster thugs (the Hutts), hijackers and smugglers (Han Solo) could produce a man like Wilhuff Tarkin who would rise to the Empirical rank of Grand Moff. Not only rise in the military but also politically to the point of becoming the most trusted advisor and confidant to the Emperor of the Galactic Empire secondly only in loyalty and stature to that of the Sith Lord Darth Vader.

Beginning in the early days of the construction of the Empire’s infamous Death Star orbiting the Outer Rim planet Geonosis, to its completion and first interstellar flight just shortly before young Jedi Luke Skywalker and his fellow rebel forces destroyed the moon-sized planet killer along with its commander Grand Moff Tarkin; “Star Wars: Tarkin” tells the general’s full biography, filling in the blanks with requisite flashbacks and flash-forwards.

To quote Tarkin himself, “Interesting,” is how I would describe James Luceno’s novel of this well known but little understood icon of Star Wars legend. Luceno allows us to get up close and personal with the life of this Empirical War Lord. To delve into his thoughts, hidden plans, dreams, hopes, successes and failures. To realize that although the maddening and evil heights he reached were stellar, in the end he, like all, was just a man with feet of clay.

The story, particularly its audio version, is told with such minutiae and dedication to detail, even to the subtle description of falling ash from a destroyed human being as a result of Tarkin’s cold military calculation for victory. The reader or listener’s imagination of the reality Luceno paints with words is opened up to its full potential within the Star Wars universe.

Luceno has successfully done with “Star Wars: Tarkin” what George Lucas did in “A New Hope” … return the fan to a place of wonder in worlds anew and offer a fresh view from the dark side that Lucas so miserably failed to reveal in the film versions I through III.

Two-Thumbs-Up to James Luceno for maintaining his record for being one of the bestselling Star Wars veteran authors out there. If you don’t already own “Star Wars: Tarkin,” especially the audio version, then I highly recommend making this a part of your library. It is available from Amazon.com., Audiobooks.com, Barnes and Noble, your local library or anywhere where books and ebooks are sold.

Doctor Who Ratings Slip - Now the Blame Game Begins

One season with the new Doctor and at the close of it the verdict is in. Fans of Doctor Who still haven’t totally warmed up to Peter Capaldi as the 12th (or 13th depending) Time Lord. It isn’t that he isn’t a good fit for the role it is simply most fans are still infatuated (and rightly so) with the over abundant performance of the previous actor who played him ... Matt Smith.

The ratings on BB1 in the UK and BBC America in the colonies also give witness to the frustration being felt by many of the viewers of the long-time staple in sci-fi programming.

The ratings certainly are not dismal (nearly 5.5 million in the UK), but they do show a significant enough drop over previous seasons that some at the BBC are beginning to wonder if it is a matter of their chosen lead or has the Doctor reached viewer saturation and need a rest after this coming 2014 Christmas special.

Blame cannot be laid at the feet of the scripts as this season has shown some phenomenal writing ... nor can it fall squarely on the shoulders of the production staff. Steven Moffat, though hated by some, continues to steer the TARDIS and its Time Lord in the right direction.

That leads one thing left -- Peter Capaldi. I am of the opinion that Peter is certainly not the blame for the slight fall-off of viewership, but his performance of this regenerated Doctor is so great and so completely different from the previous three who came before him, particularly the hyper-exuberant Matt Smith, that fans simply haven’t caught up yet to just how fantastic a change it is. This Doctor is the product of having finally come face to face with the warring side of his nature, that side the Time Lord has spent millennia keeping from himself and the rest of the universe. However, it is a side most familiar to his enemies, the Daleks, the Sontarans, Cybermen, and especially The Master (or Mistress) in 2014. They do not fear the Doctor because he is a Time Lord, but they see in him a destructive force so great that it brings even great dread. As Peter Capaldi’s Doctor starts becoming more aware of this hidden darkness within himself he even dares to ask Clara that all important and revealing question, “Am I a good man?”

I would hope that the BBC and those in charge of making decisions as to the future of the show give Capaldi, Moffat and the writers time to continue fleshing-out this new Doctor and give all the fans room to finally realize the brilliance behind his new face.

I believe that in time Peter Capaldi’s portrayal of Doctor Who will be rated as one of the finest in its six decade-plus existence.