Monthly Archives: April 2011

Terrorism: It’s certainly nothing new

This is Dr. Art Pitz. If you have a chance to attend one of his lectures, do so. He puts complex issues in layman's terms. You'll learn something. Photos from

Many of us, I suspect, didn’t give a lot of thought to terrorists or terrorism prior to Sept. 11, 2001. The attacks that killed nearly 3,500 people in the United States that day certainly got our attention.

But terrorists and terrorism have been in the world for a long time, including acts of domestic terrorism in the U.S. That’s according to Dr. Art Pitz (, a retired professor at Black Hawk College.

Based on a course he teaches, Pitz spoke on “International Terrorism: A Brief History” at a Black Hawk seminar held in March in Moline.

I attended his talk because the topic sounded interesting, and I have worked with Pitz in the past and wanted to say hello.

When I was a newsman at WOC Radio, I used the good doctor, who now is an adjunct professor at Augustana and St. Ambrose, to provide expert commentary in two areas, history and politics.

“Terrorism in the modern world began with the French Revolution (1789-1799), so it’s been around for quite some time,” Pitz told his audience. During the Reign of Terror (1793-1794) that was kicked off by the revolution, he said 40,000 people were executed by guillotine.

The more modern form of terrorism used on 9/11 has its roots, he said, in the late 19th Century. That’s when a small group of Irish terrorists fought against the British, who occupied Ireland, by bombing London subways.
“That’s where it begins,” Pitz said. “The British successfully quashed them.”

He said there have been many terrorist groups since then, including the Nazi regime in Germany that destroyed its opposition and persecuted Jews.

Terrorists, Pitz said, have a couple of definable characteristics: They have specific goals, usually regime change. And they cannot bring the change about by peaceful means, so they turn to violence.

He said they often use bombs to accomplish their purpose. “A bomb in a rubbish bin,” he said, “could be anywhere at any time. That’s gets our attention.”

In addition, Pitz said terrorists:
* Use acts of violence because they “aim to have far-reaching, psychologically damaging affects.”

* Aren’t concerned about killing innocent civilians because it’s for a greater purpose.

* Work as an organization that’s difficult to penetrate from an intelligence point of view.

* Usually are non-state entities, which makes tracking them difficult.

* Violate all the known rules of warfare.

U.S. citzens should have an understanding of terrorism, Pitz said, because we’ve had it in our own history and not that long ago. An example of domestic terrorists, he said, is the Ku Klux Klan.

“It carried out violence to achieve its goal against civilians. It lynched people without a trial. Burned them, sometimes before they were dead,” he said. “Civil rights workers in the south knew in the ’50s and ’60s that they were at risk of their lives. And some of them lost their lives to the KKK.”

Pitz said the Klan had 5 million dues-paying members in the 1920s. “That’s much, much larger than al Qaeda. In the state of Indiana, you could not get elected to any office … unless you were supported by the Klan. It was not just a southern organization.”

But Pitz said lone terrorists are the terrorists most difficult to track down.

An example, he said, was John Allen Muhammad who, along with a younger partner, carried out the 2002 Beltway Sniper Attacks, killing at least 10 people.

There is some good news in all of this: Your chances of dying at the hands of a terrorist are remote.

According to Pitz, an individual in the U.S. is far more likely to get hurt in a highway crash than by a terrorist’s bomb. In fact, he said more people die on U.S. highways in a given year than have been killed by all of the terrorist actions of the last three centuries.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist acts stand out in our minds, he said, because no previous terrorist act in recent times had killed that many people.

We also are fortunate, Pitz said, that we are not one of the societies that have to deal with terrorism on virtually a daily basis.

“Israel has enemies,” he noted, “that want to wipe it off the face of the earth. We’re blessed by way of comparison.”

But that doesn’t mean the U.S. is out of danger.

We know who the terrorists are and why they do it, Pitz said. There have been no attacks since 9/11, “so our intelligence folks must have figured some things out.”

But he said another attack could happen tomorrow.

Copyright 2011 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece submitted as a column to The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Uncategorized



There, I’ve eaten at a sushi bar and broadened my horizons

Our waiter took this shot of us at Blue Sea, a sushi bar. Some of us were broadening our horizons.

I’ve been to a bar or two in my life. OK, OK, the truth is, I’ve visited a lot of bars in my 62 years. I prefer to think of them as pubs; it sounds better.

But Thursday night, March 31, 2011, marked my first visit to a sushi bar.

Sherry and I had spent the week in fabulous Branson, Mo., and were headed home.

We had stayed Saturday night, March 26, on the way to Branson, with our son Brendan and grandsons, Pierce and Cade, at their home in St. Peters, Mo., a St. Louis suburb.

And we did the same thing March 31 on our return trip home.

On the 26th, Sherry and I had treated everyone to dinner at the Village China Wok in St. Peters. On the 31st Brendan said he was going to broaden our horizons and treat us to dinner at a sushi bar, Blue Sea in Chesterfield, Mo., also a St. Louis suburb.

What is sushi?

In my terms, it’s little cakes of fish — or something similar — surrounded by rice and wrapped in seaweed. says sushi began as a method of preserving fish centuries ago but has evolved into an artful, unique dining experience.

“In its earliest form,” the website says, “dried fish was placed between two pieces of vinegared rice as a way of making it last. The nori (seaweed) was added later as a way to keep one’s fingers from getting sticky.

“Technically, the word sushi refers to the rice … but colloquially the term is used to describe a finger-size piece of raw fish or shellfish on a bed of rice or simply the consumption of raw fish in the Japanese style.”

The site also says, while sushi is not solely a Japanese invention, these days the Japanese style is considered the de facto serving standard.

Sushi “can be eaten as is or is often dipped into shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) and then eaten. Great care is taken in the creation of the dish and the many methods of preparing the food indicate the importance of appearance to the educated consumer.”

I’ve eaten a little sushi before at oriental buffets but never considered making a meal of it. But that’s what Brendan and I did at Blue Sea.

While Sherry, Pierce and Cade ate more conventional meals, Brendan and I opted for the $25 all-you-can-eat sushi entree.

A checklist was provided to us so we could order different varieties of it, and we certainly did. Shrimp, eel, squid, salmon and octopus are some that we tried.

But before we ordered the sushi, Brendan suggested we have an appetizer.

“Great!” I proclaimed.

Now to me an appetizer is chicken wings, onion rings, fried mushrooms, cheese sticks and the like.

But those items apparently don’t fly for someone broadening his horizons at a sushi bar. Brendan ordered two bowls of edamame — that’s a fancy name for green soybeans.

Edamame in pods, I was instructed, is eaten by squeezing the beans out of pods with one’s fingers.

Edamame is OK, but I’m not really a fan of it.

Perhaps that’s because the first time I ever ate it I was uneducated about it and, thinking it was merely peas in a pod, ate both the soybeans and the pods — with disappointing taste results.

This time I ate only the beans, which I found tolerable, particularly when washed down by Sapporo beer.

The sushi, taken by itself, also was good but seemed a bit bland for my taste buds. So I spiced them up by dipping them into a bowl of soy sauce.

Soy sauce and I go back a long way. Whenever I have rice, I drench it with soy. Yummm!

I started the evening at Blue Sea using — or, actually, trying to use — chopsticks. But my only success was spearing food items with them. So I soon switched to silverware.

The bottom line for our night at Blue Sea is that I got full on sushi and broadened my horizons in doing so.

I also may have avoided gaining weight that night, something I certainly can’t say after every meal.

“Is sushi healthy?” I asked Brendan at one point.

He replied, “Other than sumo wrestlers, have you ever seen a fat Japanese man?”

Good point.

Copyright 2011 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on April 6, 2011 in Uncategorized


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