Klitschko Throws His Hat into the Ring

Posted in International Political Scene, Sport/Pol Crossover, The Quick Hook on August 21st, 2013 by Ian Paregol

scoop[1]On August 9th, The Bench Jockeys wrote about the intriguing connection between professional athletes and their pursuit of political office at the conclusion of their professional careers. http://thebenchjockeys.com/?p=1321

As if on cue, on August 14th, boxing’s reigning world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko announced his plans to run for the presidency of the Ukraine in 2015.  Klitschko, nicknamed “Doctor Ironfist,” makes a formidable foe in any ring and his entre into the political scene in the Ukraine will make for a fascinating sideline once the election heats up.  Malaysian news source The Star followed the good doctor’s announcement by offering an article for its readership on …wait for it…. the connection between professional athletes and political office.  That’s another Pat Riley on the back for The Bench Jockeys who again offer our loyalists insights before the larger media outlets can catch up.

Tags: , , , ,

Careful What You Wish For…

Posted in International Political Scene on November 20th, 2011 by Ian Paregol

November 20, 2011 – It has almost been a full year since Tunisia became the first country to undergo a regime change in what has been called the “Arab Spring.” The wave of change which has swept North Africa and the Middle East has been supported economically, diplomatically and in the instance of Libya, militarily, by the United States.  As is our want at The Bench Jockeys – and since the first missiles began to fly in Libya – we have wondered about the unintended consequences of supporting such a compressed series of governmental upheavals.

And this week, we got our first look at how all of this might suss out. Tunisia’s Hamadi Jebali of the Ennahda Party is  Read more »

Tags: ,

The Day of 7 Billion Scares Up Debate

Posted in International Political Scene on October 6th, 2011 by Ian Paregol

We are teeing this one up before it hits the mainstream media.

October 5, 2011 – According to the United Nations and barring some unforeseen catastrophe, the world’s population is projected to cross the 7,000,000,000 threshold this Halloween, October 31, 2011.  That seems rather appropriate since “The Day of 7 Billion,” as it is known, absolutely horrifies me.  Each day – we are talking each day, folks – the number of humans on the earth grows by more than 221,000.  This is not just births; this is births less deaths.  And because the population grows at an exponential rate, the per day growth rate edges up each day. 

In 1960, the world population was estimated at 3 billion.  We hit the 6 billion mark in 1999.  Let’s break that down a bit:  from all of antiquity up to 1960 to attain a population of 3 billion and then just another 39 years to double it.  In 1999, the United Nations estimated that we would reach the 7 billion mark in 2013.  Humans, being the overachievers that we are, will meet this troublesome milestone two years early. 

And here is the scary part.  Since the turn of the new millennium, we have been told that we are much more aware of the impact of unchecked population growth and we are much more proactive with respect to woman’s health needs; we have been told how fertility rates are declining and how the use of contraception has reached the developing world.  I don’t see it.  We went from 6 billion to 7 billion in 12 years.  That’s a growth rate of 1.3%.  It’s lower than it was in the 60’s, but it’s still too high.  In the UN’s 1999 Report, “The World at Six Billion,” the United Nations Population Division suggested that we would hit the

  • 7 billion mark in 2013              (14 years from the 6B threshold);
  • 8 billion in 2028                       (15 years from the 7B threshold);
  • 9 billion in 2054                       (26 years from the 8B threshold);
  • 10 billion in 2183                     (129 years from the 9B threshold). 

The United Nations Population Division surely can see that the data plots an ever-decreasing interval for each successive billion in growth up to 1999.  What possible factor could they have considered to account for a sudden reversal in the trend line?  For the UN’s numbers to work, as the population reaches 8 and 9 billion, the growth rate will need to be less than 1% – a rate we have not even sniffed.  And the UN projection of reaching 10 billion in 2183 is ludicrous.  That would require a growth rate of a mere .082% (not .82%, .082%) over that 129 years.  Who reviewed this document?  Assuming that there are no cataclysmic events, The Bench Jockeys will bet every collective cent they own that the 10 billion mark will be attained by 2050 – that would still require 38 years of less than a 1% growth rate, a ratio we have well-exceeded for the last 4 billion souls.

Tags: , ,

Arctic Build-up is Chilling

Posted in International Political Scene, The Quick Hook on September 24th, 2011 by Ian Paregol

In mid-July, The Bench Jockeys wrote about the Northern countries “no-limits” race for the Arctic’s prize resources as climate-induced accessibility to the polar ice cap takes shape.  That provocative piece was entitled, “The Artic Melt Heats Tensions.”  Click here to read the article: http://thebenchjockeys.com/2011/07/14/arctic-melt-heats-tensions/

More than two months after we published our findings, The Huffington Post is now starting to report on the growing military build-up in Russia, Canada and Norway that the Bench Jockeys told you was developing into a flashpoint.  We may not be able to cover every newsworthy event on the planet, but we do strive to bring our readers valuable content about the issues that the mainstream media may assume the general population is too unsophisticated to grasp.  If you are interested in why military conflict in the Arctic Circle is a stone-cold lock, read The World in 2050:  Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s North Future by Laurence Smith.  I picked up that gem after researching the material for the piece on the Arctic Melt as I became more and more convinced that the Middle East is not the world’s only tinderbox.  Folks, it may be cold in the Arctic Circle, but sparks are going to fly. 

The link for the Huffington Post story follows:


Tags: , , ,

Arctic Melt Heats Tensions

Posted in International Political Scene on July 14th, 2011 by Ian Paregol

A very quiet but steadily growing international military presence has begun to develop in the world in a region other than the Middle East or Northern Africa, but thus far, it has gone virtually noticed.  In this looming conflict, Russia, Canada and Norway have already deployed troops and constructed command centers.  The US and Denmark will also be involved in this battle, but both countries are playing close to the vest so as not to shift popular attention to this emerging ‘hotspot.’

Global warming (or some other polar climate changing condition for those of you who do not buy into the whole global warming argument) is creating a shipping lane along the northern coasts of Norway and Russia during the summer months, something that has not existed since the Ice Age.  The Eurasian portion of the route, called the Northeast Passage (or the Northern Sea Route) is the polar equivalent of the Holy Grail for oceanic transport companies.  Transit along this passageway reduces the sailing distance between Rotterdam and Yokohama (two of the world’s most well-developed ports) from 11,200 nautical miles to 6,500 nautical miles and cuts 40% off of the shipping costs.  Historically, goods flowing from Rotterdam to Yokohama were shipped via the Atlantic, into the Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal, past the Somalian pirates, around India and through Indonesia.  With the potential Northern Sea Route, the geo-political landscape greatly changes.

According to United Nations data, over the past three decades, temperatures above the Arctic Circle have risen at about twice the rate of the global average, and Arctic sea ice contracted to its smallest area on record in 2009, covering 22 percent less than the previous low in September 2005.  To the West, Canada and the US are already partial beneficiaries of a melting Arctic as the Northwest Passage from Seattle to Rotterdam saves shipping companies equipped to tackle the icy waters of Canada 2000 nautical miles and allows them to avoid the Panama Canal.  The fly in this ointment:  Canada is already claiming control of the entirety of the Northwest Passage.

But control of the sea passage is not the only high stakes angle in play along the Arctic waters.  According to the US Geological Survey, the Arctic accounts for 1/10th of the world’s known conventional oil reserves and 25% of the undiscovered reserves.  According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China is well-aware of the resource upside of global warming and has designated significant resources in constructing an Arctic research laboratory and conducting polar studies.  Russia’s NATO ambassador has stated that it would “not be defeated” in the “fight for resources” in the Arctic region  Folks, notice the word choice?  Those are military terms.

The US supported a revolution in Panama and spent more on the Panama Canal than it had on any construction project the Nation’s history.  Egypt actually enslaved its own people to construct the Suez Canal.  The Northwest and Northeast Passages are critically important to global transportation and the energy resource fronts and there will be conflict over control and access.  A new oil rush is coming,… and if 25% of the world’s reserves are in the Arctic, you can bet the US will be there,… providing some humanitarian support.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Libya: 100 Days & Counting

Posted in International Political Scene, The Horseshoe, US Politics on July 1st, 2011 by Ian Paregol

During the initial days of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the Bench Jockeys wrote about our take on President Obama’s decision to partner with NATO forces in supporting air strikes in Libya.  (See http://thebenchjockeys.com/2011/03/22/odyssey-dawn-whats-that-flower-you-have-on/  and http://thebenchjockeys.com/2011/04/05/butler-fails-to-execute-while-us-may-be-executing-to-fail/ )  Now over 100 days into what was deemed a “limited” operation in Libya, we are still asking:  What is the objective of our military involvement in Libya?

Both Democrats and Republicans oppose the intervention for an array of reasons:

  • the cost of the effort,
  • the potential for escalation and the US long-term role in a prolonged civil war,
  • the message it sends to other countries about the US definition of sovereignty, and
  • the lack of defined objectives

But the true Congressional opposition lies in the potential for unchecked military action in the Executive Branch by the weakening of the War Powers Resolution of 1973 (WPR).  By soft-peddling the President’s actions in Libya, the Administration has Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

What happens when you cross a Cricket with a Grudge?

Posted in Chazerai, International Political Scene, Sport/Pol Crossover, The Horseshoe on March 26th, 2011 by Ian Paregol

I’ll admit it, I don’t understand cricket. Having read synopses of the rules associated with the sport, the terminology used and the elements of the game, it just does not fit into my sports experience paradigm.   The field makes no sense (oval); the positions make no sense (there’s a player called the “silly” and there is another slot called the “sillier”); and the scoring makes no sense (I can’t even describe that in some pithy way).  See if you can make heads or tails of this………..

I thought not.

However, there is no other arena where sports and politics are seemingly more entwined this Spring than in Mohali, Chandigarh, India as Pakistan squares off against India in the semi-final match of the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup on March 30th.  For those of you who remain inside your Western Hemisphere boxes, Pakistani militants, from the terrorist group known as Lashkar-e-Taiba targeted Mumbai, India in November 2008 with a coordinated three-day attack during which 164 residents were killed and more than 300 were wounded in shootings and bomb blasts.  The attack is now commonly referred to as “26/11,” – which kind of sounds like our 9/11 –  so this is a big deal in India.  The scars from the 2008 attacks remain fresh in the hearts and minds of the home team, and as a result, this semi-final match takes on ominous quality with the winner of the cricket match advancing to the World Cup finals and the loser of the potential regional conflict facing nuclear annihilation.

For those of us in the West who have never had a formal introduction to cricket (and really, you need more like a graduate level course than an introduction) we assume that cricket is predominately a fancy-man sport played in England and in few of its former territorial islands by well-dressed gents.  However, in both Pakistan and India, cricket is “the game.”  Fans are rabid – so much so that during this year’s ICC Cricket World Cup, violence has erupted prior to less ideologically-ripe matches outside India’s stadiums resulting in a very physical response by Indian police patrols.   Take a look at this guy.   He is not going to be too thrilled if Pakistan advances to the finals.

This week’s Pakistan-India contest may lead to heightened tensions on the sub-continent, or perhaps, this gentleman’s game will yield greater cooperation and understanding between these two nuclear powers.  Well,… that’s probably not going to happen.  But, here’s an instance where both sides would be happy with a geo-political draw.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Odyssey Dawn, what’s that flower you have on?

Posted in International Political Scene, The Horseshoe on March 22nd, 2011 by Ian Paregol

What in the wide world of sports are we doing in Libya?   If my pre-Hope history is correct, in 2007, then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama was of the opinion that “the president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”  I suppose one’s opinions may change when you’re the one making the decisions, but Obama’s failure to secure congressional support for this action is not a matter to be taken lightly.

Apparently, the reason the Administration agreed to join in Libya’s fracas was because the “Arab world supported action in Libya.”  Now we learn…. well, maybe, not so much.  According to the Arab League Secretary-General, leadership supported a no-fly zone, not tactical air strikes which could cause civilian casualities.   The question that no one is really considering is:  who is really in this from the Arab World?  Qatar is providing military support and the United Arab Emirates is offering humanitarian aid.  That’s it.  Qatar and the UAE are not necessarily the Arabian version of the Super Friends (that’s a little cartoon reference for those of you who grew up in the 70’s).

Further, President Obama has suggested that this action barely qualifies as a war.  Just like the wealthy girl who gets an invitation to the party because she gives the best presents, the US was apparently included in the Libyan Target Practice E-vite because we had some “unique capabilities.”  Uh,… unique capabilities for starting a war with a Muslim country – which we seem to be pretty good at lately. (I think we are now up to three in the last decade.)  Adm. Mike Mullen has stated, “[We are] leading it now. We’re looking to hand off that leadership in the next few days.”   That’s like playing Old Maid with two other players and you are only holding one card.  At that point, all three players know who is getting stuck with the Old Maid.

So now we have a new operation to fund, “Odyssey Dawn.”  Did they come up with that via some kind of web-based, military operation, random name generator?  What the hell does Odyssey Dawn even mean or convey?   Certainly, it is no more menacing than Operation Delightful Sunrise.  And just to be even-handed, who coined George Bush’s magnum opus, Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Wouldn’t that have been more precisely named, Operation Kill My Father’s Potential Assassinator?

Either way, this is not what an already fractured Congress needs this Spring.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,