|June 11, 2015||Posted by admin under Bardstown, Nelson County, News In General||
Thursday, June 11, 2015 — Boy howdy, it has been a very LONG time since I last wrote in this space. I’ve even moved this blog to a newer, robust server (not by choice, but the company that was doing my hosting for several of my sites decided in their infinite wisdom to get of the website hosting business and focus solely on domain registrations).
The simple truth is that website hosting is so inexpensive now that there’s not that fantastic a margin for a smallish outfit. But for you and me, it means we can put up a blog for nearly nothing (or actually nothing if you use a free blogging site like Google’s Blogger, LiveJournal, etc.).
Let me warn you this post has nothing — absolutely nothing! — to do with local news. It is simply a rambling post about a portion of my past. So there, you’ve been warned.
About a year ago, I was doing some goofy searches on eBay. For those who don’t know me, eBay is to me what Wal-Mart is to a value-conscious shopper — I just about live on eBay (with the exception of the time I’m busy with the Nelson County Gazette). I have purchased thousands of dollars of stuff via eBay the past 15-plus years. If I don’t need an item immediately, I buy it on eBay if its a better deal (plus shipping).
BLAST FROM THE PAST. And during my search for eBay for items with a Nelson County connection, I stumbled upon a part of my history — the CB radio QSL card I designed when I was 12 years old.
I was stunned, to be honest. I hadn’t seen one of the cards for 30 years or more. But beginning when I was 10, I got involved with CB radio after my sister’s father-in-law to be gave my parents an old Hallicrafters CB-3A CB transceiver. I actually used it while the antenna — a HyGain CLR-2 ground plane — was laying across a bench in the basement.
By radio, the first person I talked to was Wathen Bottom, a man of many talents and interests beyond that of watches and jewelry he sold at his store on North Third Street. My father bought my mother her engagement ring from Wathen Bottom, and 40 years later, so did I.
But CB radio was to me and my generation what Facebook and social media are to today’s kids. For the first time, you could easily break free of the physical constraints of your home and neighborhood (and in my case, my parents restrictions on riding your bike past My Old Kentucky Home Motel) and travel the area.
My CB name (or “handle”) was “Bourbon Boy.” My father, who soon had a CB in his car, took the name “Barrel Stave.” After a couple of years, I got involved in CB radio clubs, locally and then regionally. They had regular meetings and then “coffee breaks” — which usually were a form of flea market/picnic that usually included a fundraiser of some sort.
My best friend at the time, Scott Gordon and I — with the support of his mom, Garda Gordon — started the first local CB radio club in Bardstown. Scott and I were ahead of our time with our suggested name — we supported “Bourbon Capital CB Club” but we were overruled by the adult teetotalers who wanted the club name to be “Town & Country CB Club” (this was long before Farmers Bank & Trust co. changed their name to Town & Country).
Scott — whose handle was “Cricket” — and I also got into QSL cards — the postcard-sized cars that CB’ers traded among themselves, kind of a calling card with your name, address, callsign and CB handle. Many CB’ers spent considerable time and money creating unique QSL cards with original artwork and four-color printing.
ART NOT MY STRONG SUIT. Despite my limited drawing skills, I decided to make my own QSL card that would include me and my Dad, our handles and KFQ-0935 call letters, and some sort of graphics — humorous, of course. After lots of time doodling, I settled on a design — a figure of a smiling young man dropping an empty bourbon bottle into a trash can and holding up a fresh cup of booze with the other hand for Bourbon Boy; for Barrel Stave, I drew a bourbon barrel with a CB antenna on top it.
My Dad approved of the design, and after careful proofreading and re-proofreading, we set out looking for a printer. We ended up going to Hub City Printing in Elizabethtown, where we order a couple of hundred postcard-size cards, one-sided in black and white.
So you can imagine my surprise when I ran across the eBay listing and seeing my artwork looking back at me from my computer screen.
Scott and I gave out our QSL cards to all our CB contacts, and we even mailed them to the people we talked to (the truth is that the card were originally intended to confirm your contact with another radio operator; they were never intended to be traded, sold or collected).
The popularity of CB QSL cards gave rise to clubs whose only purpose was to allow members to swap and trade QSL cards without having to actually contact other operators. For a small fee — $2 or $3 — you sent the club 25 or 50 of your cards; in return, they sent a nice membership certificate and 25 or 50 different cards from their membership roster. Oh, and every member received a unique membership number, which in CB lingo, was referred to as a “unit number.”
For example, Scott and I joined a number of QSL swap clubs … I joined the Honey Bee QSL Swap Club based in Louisiana; the Michigan QSL Swap Club, the Wiggly Worm QSL Swap Club of Michigan, and others that I don’t remember. We each acquired a great many cards, and sent out our cards to these clubs. I also purchased a rubber stamp with the club’s logo, and the big thing was to stamp your card with the logo of clubs to which you belonged.
The popularity of the clubs didn’t go unnoticed by Scott and I; once you were a member of a couple, you were on their membership roster, and other members wanting your card would send you a dozen or so different cards to get yours and some others of your collection, sight unseen. It was a lot of fun, but Scott and I also wondered if it could also be profitable.
I put pencil to paper, and reasoned that if we charged $3 for a membership, we could give a nice membership certificate and pocket the rest of the funds left over (minus return postage). We traded memberships with half a dozen or more QSL clubs, building our club stash of cards, then began soliciting membership. We agreed to go beyond the $3 fee for 25 cards; for those wanting more cards, you could go for 50 or even 100 — as long as you paid the appropriate fee. We set a much-discounted rate for repeat customers.
There was damn little overhead to the business beyond membership certificates, envelopes and postage. We expected to make out ok, and once we got our club logo stamp going, we could promote the club on all of our cards we sent out, as well as to other QSL clubs. This was going to be big!
Or so we thought.
We rented a post office box for the club mail. The response was slow, since we depended our memberships with other QSL clubs to promote our QSL club. We received several applications and money orders, but then realized we didn’t have a bank account or other accomodations for deposting money or cashing checks. We setup a checking account and deposited the funds. It was slow going. Very, very slow. I paid to have a club stamp created — the Central Kentucky QSL Swap Club. I still have the stamp somewhere, it was the only one of its kind. It was expensive to have made, and we weren’t going to be able to offer anyone a decent rate to purchase one.
Then one day Scott brought me a letter he received from a fellow QSL collector. He basically read us the Riot Act because of our pricing structure, which he recognized as a way to make some money. He called us greedy bastards or something like that (among other things). Scott was visibly shaken, and it was a very bitter pill to swallow.
We DID go into the QSL club buisness to try to make some money. Neither of us thought it might offend anyone, and in retrospect, it was probably the fees we asked of our members who wanted swap additional cards with the club that set the guy off. It soured our view on the whole QSL swap club idea. I probably still have in storage somewhere a couple of applications and money orders from members who joined and got their cards — and I felt guilty about depositing the money after getting ripped about making money from the club. I never deposited those money order.
Mowing yards was easier money to make and left me with no guilty feelings about charging for my services. I still have a shoebox or two filled with CB QSL cards somewhere … and thanks to eBay, I also have in my possession one of my original QSL cards that was traded around by collectors and survived to return to its home after nearly 40 years.
Ironically, I can’t put my hands on it to scan it and post it here, but I will.
“.. 10-4, this is the Bourbon Boy clear and gone … “
|October 13, 2013||Bardstown, Nelson County|
|April 13, 2013||News In General, Urban Legends|
|March 28, 2013||Posted by admin under Bardstown, Nelson County, News In General||
By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette
Thursday, March 27, 2013 — For many months now I have been hearing people tell me things along the lines of “I hear ‘those people’ are taking over all the hotels” or “Did you hear that ‘some of those people’ are able to get no-interest loans (or tax breaks) to buy up all our local convenience stores?”
If you haven’t heard these stories that are quietly shared (and at times, not so quietly shared), you may not be aware that “those people” are immigrants from the Indian subcontinent — typically India or Pakistan.
As the story goes, the U.S. government is providing these immigrants with low or no-interest loans with which they can buy up local businesses, particularly hotels and minit marts. The recent sale of a number of local minit marts to new, presumably immigrant owners have triggered a recent wave of rumors and speculation about “those people” taking over.
I took a call on my radio show (“Brooks & Company”) recently from a woman who complained of immigrants buying local businesses and then laying off “American employees,” which apparently included the caller. I don’t know the exact circumstances surrounding her claim, but I believe the new owner of a business — regardless of his nation of origin — has the right to extend employment to whomever they wish to hire.
But the question remains — does the U.S. government have programs to give immigrants low-interest or no-interest loans with which to snap up local businesses and “put Americans out of work” as some claim?
According to the Urban Legend Reference Pages (www.snopes.com), this and similar claims of have been circulating since the late 1960s. According to Snopes:
“Almost without exception, versions of this rumor mention a single, specific ethnic group. The tale isn’t about wanting to close the borders to all immigrants; its a backlash against one particular group of new arrivals, usually one which is perceived to have developed a sudden large presence in the teller’s neighborhood.”
This is what has happened in Nelson County — in the past year the ownership of a couple of well-known local minit marts has shifted to the hands of (presumable) recent immigrants from India, Pakistan or other area in the Indian subcontinent. The stories I hear mention that government programs give the new owners free loans with which to buy these businesses — loans that allegedly are not open to American citizens.
Is it illegal or new to buy and sell a business? Some apparently hold the belief that perhaps it should be if you talk with an unusual accent or hail from a foreign land. But even the purchase of a business does not guarantee success in the marketplace by anyone; success or failure is not guaranteed, but hard work to achieve success is the basis for what we once called “The American Dream.”
Is this dream still alive? There’s no doubt to me it is. Not only is is part of American culture, it attracts people to come to our country in order to pursue their own dreams.
The rumors and whispered complaints are based on fears that breed resentment — resentment fueled by false stories that provide the justification for hatred. Years ago, the signage for a local hotel boasted that it was “American owned” — a not-so-subtle message that meant “Stay with us if you want to avoid staying in an immigrant-owned establishment.”
Its a sobering reminder that even in the 21st Century, we aren’t as far removed from baseless suspicions of unfamiliar newcomers and racism as we might wish to believe we are.
For more information on the urban legend, click here to read the entry at the Urban Legend Reference Pages.
|May 29, 2011||Posted by admin under News In General||
By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette
Sunday, May 29, 2011 — As a guy who has “been around” on the Internet since the days it was available only on college campuses, I’ve seen more than my fair share of scams, hoaxes and just downright lies in my e-mail inbox.
The most common of these are usually related to the advance-fee scam or other form of the “Nigerian scam.” But some of these hoaxes are mostly harmless — they only annoy others by filling their in-boxes and perhaps causing needless alarm and concern.
The latest hoax e-mail I received warned that the cellular telephone number database would be soon handed over to the telemarketing companies, and suggested you follow a link to the national No-Call List. The link and the website are legitimate; the warning in the e-mail is not.
This hoax has been circulating since at least 2004, and makes its rounds every couple of years. The FCC’s own regulations block cell phone calls by telemarketers without prior approval of the individual. Cell phone owners may still register with the No-Call List, but it is not going to provide any real additional protection.
The version of the hoax I received read as follows:
REMEMBER: Cell Phone Numbers Go Public this month.
REMINDER….. all cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive sales calls.
…. YOU WILL BE CHARGED FOR THESE CALLS
To prevent this, call the following number from your cell phone: 888-382-1222.
It is the National DO NOT CALL list It will only take a minute of your time.. It blocks your number for five (5) years. You must call from the cell phone number you want to have blocked. You cannot call from a different phone number.
HELP OTHERS BY PASSING THIS ON .. It takes about 20 seconds.
This hoax wrongly states that the No-Call List registrations expire after five years; the truth is the FCC announced in 2007 there are no expiration dates for registrations on the national N0-Call List.
In 2007, the FCC published a web page devoted to this e-mail hoax and its many variations. For details you can visit the web page at: ‘The Truth About Cell Phones and the Do Not Call Registry.” The FCC also followed up its web site with a 2009 press release found here (this is a pdf document, so please allow time for it to download).
KEY COMPONENT OF HOAX E-MAILS. One of the common components found in the majority of hoax e-mails is the request to “e-mail this to everyone you know” or a similar admonition to forward the message in order to “help others.” Forwarding e-mails of this type may be harmless, though it can be annoying to those who realize its a hoax.
An excellent resource I use to determine if an e-mail is a hoax is the Urban Legends Reference website at www.snopes.com. But be aware that some hoaxers — in an attempt to improve the perceived validity of their messages — include a statement that suggests the e-mail was checked out by Snopes.com and found to be legitimate.
I never automatically forward an e-mail when asked to do so. Before you do so, you’ll save yourself some embarrassment by checking it out on Snopes.com first.
|May 27, 2011||Posted by admin under News In General||
By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette
May 27, 2011 — I have had the same personal e-mail address since 1997. That’s not a big deal, granted, but using this e-mail address for so long means that my address is probably on every SPAM and scam address list floating around in cyberspace.
The e-mail I received today (show below) is representative of the typical scam e-mail that makes it through my filters and winds up in my inbox. Frankly, I rather enjoy some of them, as the better ones tend to get creative in their efforts to separate you from your money.
The scam listed below is very common and well documented and know as an advance fee fraud by different names. By enticing the recipient with the thought of easy millions, the goal is to get you hooked into paying for “fees” that will be required to process the money and transfer it to your account. Read on …
Date: Fri, 27 May 2011 10:29:49 +0100
Read and get back!!
I am Mr. KOH Beng Seng Independent Non-executive Director Chairman of Bank of China Ltd, Hong Kong. An Iraqi named Abrahem Hussein Raheem,a business man made a numbered fixed deposit of Sixty Five Million Five Hundred Thousand United State Dollars only in my branch. He died during a bomb blast in Iraq,After further investigation it was also discovered that Abrahem Hussein Raheem did not declare any next of kin in his official papers including the paper work of his bank deposit. And he also confided in me the last time he was at my office that no one except me knew of his deposit in my bank. So, Sixty Five Million Five Hundred Thousand United State Dollars is still lying in my bank and no one will ever come forward to claim it. I am sorry to have used this media to contact with you as i have to use this email for personal security reasons as adviced by my lawyer, so kindly send your response to my personal email below. I am ready to share 50/50 with you if interested in this deal, kindly note that i have contacted you with a paid domain for security reasons so i need you to copy this email: firstname.lastname@example.org of mine and send me your complete details if interested.
Your earliest reply will be appreciated as i state my email again for your perusal email@example.com
If you engage your common sense, its easy to see this for what it really is; the grammar and spelling are the first clues, not to mention the fact this is an attempt to steal money and launder it.
Why do they still send these e-mails out? Sadly, because they get results. When the victims finally lose enough money and realize they’ll never see the millions they were promised, they seldom go to police. What they were wanting to do was illegal anyway, so the last people they’ll tell their story to are officers of the law — and that’s something the scammers are banking on.
A local woman was sentenced recently for her part in a somewhat similar scam that funneled thousands of dollars to individuals reportedly in Nigeria. Law enforcement officials can’t go after the foreign scammers, but they can — and do — prosecute their accomplices here in the U.S.
If an unsolicited offer sounds too good to be true, chances are it is — particularly if it involves activity that’s dishonest, unethical or downright illegal.
|May 15, 2011||Posted by admin under News In General, Politics||
Sunday, May 15, 2011 — It finally happened — for the first time in the two years I’ve had the stickers on my vehicle rear windows, someone understood their meaning.
The stickers I’m referring to are the “Who Is John Galt?” vinyl decals on the rear window of my vehicles. The phrase is one of the notable ones from the 1957 novel by Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged.” The first one-third of the novel was recently turned into a movie, which included screenings at a couple of different theaters in Louisville.
My wife and I saw the movie at Tinsel Town theater off Westport Road in Louisville; as someone who has re-read the novel numerous times, the movie was a must-see event to me. For my wife, it was more of a question of investigating what it was that I found so captivating about Rand’s novel.
In the couple of years my vehicles have sported the “Who Is John Galt?” decals, I have had several people, from gas station attendants to drive-in car hops ask about it and who John Galt is or was.
The truth is that if you haven’t read the novel, explaining the meaning of the phrase could consume a lot of time. Rather than bore them to tears, I simply explain to the curious the question is a catch phrase from Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel which describes an American where corrupt government bureaucrats and lobbyists manipulate legislation and use the media to control public opinion in a campaign to cripple successful businessmen and steal from them the rewards of their labors — their profits.
Everyone who has heard my description of the novel instantly makes the connection — they realize its a novel that has some interesting parallels to the current economic situation.
“Atlas” is, of course, a work of fiction that is designed to promote a philosophy that embraces unencumbered capitalism and suggests that businessmen and women seeking to make a profit will make just and moral decisions; if success and making money is your goal, decisions that don’t support that goal would be illogical.
Rand’s philosophy that fills the book is called “objectivism.” The characters in the book — the ones who are the movers and shakers in the business world — won’t buy into the liberal/progressive line of thought that it is a successful business has a “duty” to give away its profits to charity or to support/subsidize those businesses or individuals who are less successful. Following Rand’s philosophy, individuals are the ones who decide if they wish to give to charity — it should not be up to business concerns to do so, nor should government impose its will (via taxes, coercion, etc.) to force businesses to do so.
Since the election of Barack Obama as president in 2007, there has been a surge in the sales of “Atlas Shrugged.” And if you read the book, some of the Obama Administration’s actions since 2008 nearly dovetail with the sort of things you would expect to read in the book.
We have businesses this past week — oil companies — that have been castigated by the press and members of Congress because of their profits; these were profits they legally earned and entitled to. How did they earn them? By investing in the infrastructure; by taking the often substantial financial risks involved in oil exploration; and by making sure supplies are maintained.
These oil companies now are being criticized for the money they earn, while at the same time they are not in control of the world price of oil, nor do they control the price fluctuations created by market speculators. But if you have read “Shrugged,” the criticism sounds familiar; it would be right at home in the pages of the novel if they were aimed at any of several industrialists whose crime in the public eye was an interest in “‘making money.” But as the book goes on to describe, without the men and women who run the companies large and small, our economy would likely collapse.
After watching the price of a gallon of gas jump last week, one of my Facebook friends suggested that the U.S. needs to create its own national oil company. I would counter that instead of a national oil company, the government should get out of the way of the development of new oil fields, the creation of new refineries and instead establish a pro-business attitude toward energy production that includes domestic coal, natural gas and oil.
Our economy depends on a steady supply of relatively inexpensive energy; renewable energy sources make for great sound bites on the six o’clock news, but the truth is they are neither feasible nor as affordable as coal, natural gas and oil.
This isn’t to suggest that alternative energy research be ended; no, quite the opposite. As with any developing technology, it needs to be matured and improved upon — not used as a backdrop for presidential pronouncements that gas prices are high and going higher.
Government’s role should be to enable new businesses to prosper — from local city and county government, all the way to the nation’s capital.
Why doesn’t government do this now? Why are government regulations appear designed to keep businesses from thriving? Why did our president suggest numerous times that government’s role is to “spread the wealth around” from those who are successful to those who are not? Why ask questions that can’t be answered? Or, as asked in the pages of Atlas Shrugged:
Who is John Galt?
|April 4, 2011||Posted by admin under Politics, World Events||
By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazettte
Monday, April 4, 2011 — Let me start by saying that as just one of a zillion pundits and armchair generals, the following screed is based solely on what is being reported by media here at home and abroad. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s begin, shall we?
President Barack Obama has committed U.S. military forces to Libya in support of rebels seeking to oust its leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi. By U.N. resolution, a rather fragile coalition has been formed to establish a no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians from Gaddafi’s military assault on the rebels. The secondary goal is regime change, though the majority of our coalition partners don’t have the stomach to admit that or take part in that mission.
The president — aware of criticism from his peacenik activists and liberal base in general — has been quick to state that the U.S. isn’t leading the coalition, and our role is supposed to be minimal. The president seems to suggest that the U.S. role in this operation will be over in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, history isn’t on the president’s side.
Gaddafi is the Arab world’s Charlie Sheen — but not only is he a crazed madman, he’s one with a substantial military and enough money to keep solidiers employed attacking his own people. And like Charlie Sheen, Gaddafi isn’t leaving the public stage without a fight.
Now that the U.S. has been involved with airstrikes and cruise missles, the Obama administration seems to want to pull the U.S. back on the sidelines as the weapon of last resort. If there was an organized military supporting the rebels, that stance might be tenable. But the Libyan rebels are a mostly leaderless, rag-tag group of inexperienced fighters who turn tail and run when pro-Gaddafi forces begin to engage them. From international press reports, the only thing stopping the Gaddafi military from overrunning the rebels is that they retreat faster than Gaddafi’s forces can advance.
President Obama has vowed that no U.S. boots will land on Libyan soil; I hope that’s a promise he and the entire coalition can keep. But airstrikes can only do so much to limit the pro-Gaddafi forces ability to go after the rebels. At some point, the rebels need organization; they need leadership; and they need weapons and training.
Several weeks ago the president signed a secret “finding” which allows the CIA to covertly assist the Libyan rebels. We’ve seen the U.S. provide covert assistance like this numerous times around the globe; I’ll admit I was surprised to read that Obama went along with it given his liberal record. Will the CIA be able to organize the rebels? Time will tell (doesn’t this break the vow about “no U.S. boots on Libyan soil,” even if they are CIA-hired boots and not military boots?).
U.S. airstrikes were intended to be a “shock and awe” campaign that would convince pro-Gaddafi military forces to quit or switch sides. I’ve not read evidence that either of those outcomes has occurred. Obama’s recent statements on Libya make the U.S. appear timid to act decisively; given the ease with which pro-Gaddafi forces are pushing the rebels around, it would appear that they need some decisive, substantial help. If not the U.S., who? NATO?
The Obama administration is in a quagmire that has no simple solution. Allowing Gaddafi to rout the rebels and destroy them in the process would undoubtedly embolden him to once again sponsor terrorist acts against U.S. and coalition partners. But Gaddafi has the money and military might to continue this war with the rebels. And Gaddafi knows that the coalition partners don’t want to put their military on the ground in Libya. He can simply play a war of attrition against the rebels.
At the same time, we’re seeing increasingly desperate, violent acts in other Arab and African countries. Ousting Gaddafi from power may be the least of our worries. I won’t even discuss the difficulty of establishing a new government in Libya should Gaddafi step down on his own.
If the U.S. is going to give the rebels a chance to win, they’re going to need more than tepid military support. They will need advisors, weapons, training and more. Gaddafi shows no signs of leaving power peacefully, and while my preference would have been no U.S. involvement in Libya, I believe the Obama administration needs to unleash the full fury of American power to get the job done as quickly as possible. No more timid statements about this not being a war, and this action not being about regime change. It really is a war, and regime change is one of its goals.
I’m sure part of the CIA’s mission in Libya is to identify a leader or leaders with whom we can give support, knowing they will be favorable to U.S. interests in the region once Gaddafi is no longer in charge. Historically, covert U.S. activities regarding regime change have been a mixed bag; sometimes the leaders we support turn out to be worse than the ones they replaced. We’re at the point of no return, and the president needs to recognize that.
How Libya will turn out won’t be determined quickly, but decisive, overwhelming military action may help push Libyans along the path to a new government and new leadership.
|March 26, 2011||Posted by admin under Politics||
By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette
President Obama and his Administration seem to be all over the map regarding U.S. participation in the effort to protect Libyan citizens — particularly anti-Gaddafi rebels — from the military might of Col. Muammar Gaddafi. As an autocrat whose ruled his country with an iron fist for 40-plus years, it is unlikely Gaddafi would step down from power as happened in Tunisia and Egypt.
Obama has been quoted saying this action “is not a war,” though his defense secretary had earlier defined enforcement of a no-fly zone “an act of war.” When the mainstream media picks up on the inconsistencies in the administration’s message, you know its bad.
I find it ironic to hear the complaints from Congress — particularly from the Liberal Left faction. This same group of Democrats likely voiced the same complaints about President George W. Bush.
But Obama has been hesitant in his role as commander-in-chief when it comes to defining our role in Libya. The U.S. seems to want no part in leading the coalition, which includes France and Britain. But France and Britain have little desire to hold the Libyan hot potato, and wish to pass it to someone else.
The U.S. wants NATO partners to handle the no-fly zone, and we seem to be focusing on regime change, i.e., targeting specific targets to break down support for — or eliminate Gaddafi. The Arab countries are already frowning at the loss of civilian life from the coalition’s military operations. Obama’s statement that Gaddafi “must go” doesn’t match the rhetoric from his administration, which insists that regime change isn’t the military action’s goal.
BEYOND LIBYA. The bigger question in regard to the Middle East is which leader will be the next to fall; the news about Libya has overshadowed the continued protests against governments of African and Middle Eastern countries. The list includes Iran, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman and others. In Saudi Arabia, the government is increasing its handouts to citizens in hope of quieting unrest and calls for reform. And the results aren’t in from Egypt and Tunisia, where the people await elections and the formation of some sort of government.
The U.S. has no interests to protect in Libya; however we do have relationships with other Arab countries that are critical — including the supply of crude oil and the home port for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. Will the president use military action if protesters in any of those countries are attacked?
Obama will address the nation on Monday to address Libya and U.S. involvement there. I, for one, will be watching and listening. Press reports out of Libya say that Gaddafi’s forces are entering towns on foot or by vehicle, engaging in urban warfare as they go — type of door-to-door, street-by-street fighting you can’t fight with smart bombs, laser-guided rockets and cruise missiles. If Libya turns into an urban fight, it will require the U.S. and/or its coalition partners to get boots on the ground there. I’m betting neither Congress or the American people have the stomach for a ground war in Libya — or any other African/Middle Eastern nation.
DON’T FORGET ISRAEL. The news out of Libya has also pushed aside national attention on the increasing number of rocket attacks the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has launched on Israel. The Israelis have been retaliating, but have promised to unleash greater force if the rocket and mortar attacks continue.
AHEAD. The danger lies in the unknown — which country with definite U.S. interests will succumb to political unrest? Will Israel draw the U.S. into a conflict with Hamas? Will Obama push us into another military action, or pass the next one off to the United Nations? With the level of political unrest continuing to build in that region and a presidential election 18 months away, the president may have no choice but to make some difficult choices prior to November 2012.
|January 29, 2011||Posted by admin under News In General, Politics||
By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette
Tunisia is one of those Arab countries that most of us in the U.S. hear little about. The most memorable thing about Tunisia for many Westerners comes from references to its cities in movies, including World War II films and the Indiana Jones movies.
But the revolution in Tunisia — now known as the Jasmine Revolution — threatens stability in a region of the world where stability is in the national interest of most of the industrialized world.
Let’s not kid ourselves: Tunisian President Ben Ali was an autocratic strongman who was on good terms with the West. He and his family lived like royalty — while the many Tunisians suffered from unemployment and underemployment. Elections were rigged, as Ben Ali was not going to tolerate losing. Human rights violations were standard operating procedure for the state’s police forces, and criticism by the media was not tolerated.
With Ben Ali in exile, the big question that remains unanswered is: What’s next?
History is littered with autocrats who fled their countries in the wake of popular uprisings. What leadership force can fill the vacuum of power left when a dictator is deposed?
Often, the power of the military helps decide who will ascend to national leadership; the backing of a major power (like the United States), is a big plus.
But the U.S. — and the Western world — has much at stake if the unrest in Tunisia spreads as it appears to have spread to Egypt. The reason is oil; instability in the Arab world threatens the world’s supply of energy. At the very least, commodity speculators gamble that the spreading instability will probably make Arab oil more expensive — increases that will quickly trickle down to higher prices at the gas pump.
Oil is one of the fuels that powers the industrialized Western world. And our own U.S. economic recovery depends on the availability of (relatively) inexpensive supplies of oil. Should the Jasmine Revolution spread to other Arab countries, the results won’t be pretty. Egypt is already on the brink of the overthrow of President Mubarak. The military forces have reportedly been friendly and supportive of the protesters. His family is reported to have arrived in London; can he be far behind?
What sort of government will replace these autocrats? Is it reasonable to expect free, democratic elections in countries where a corrupt political culture has been the norm for decades? Or will a new strongman rise to the top with the support of the military and its allies? And will this new leader wish to be a friend or foe of the Western democracies?
The protesters in Tunisia and Egypt are calling for democratic reforms in their governments; let’s hope that the new governments they select are a departure from the autocracy of the past and a step toward the freedoms that they seek.