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Friday, March 31, 2006

Post #1

 

AFRICA ROUNDUP

 

From the Mail & Guardian in South Africa:

Mending American fences
Embattled Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo will try to mend fences with the United States, but US politicians are fuming over the debacle with former Liberian president Charles Taylor. He disappeared just before he was due to be extradited to face trial for war crimes and then Nigeria recaptured him before their President was due to meet with President George W Bush.

Last page of an ugly chapter
As word trickled through of the capture of former president Charles Taylor, huddles of Liberians began to congregate around the nearest radio. For the first time in years, the Champions League football was switched off in favour of the news. “This is a great day,” said Jerome Verdier, head of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Who belongs to another age?
"I think I have discovered the clinching argument for closing the United Kingdom’s House of Lords. It is the presence in that chamber of a peer called Lady Jenny Tonge. Last week the baroness opened a debate about Botswana with an attack on the Gana and Gwi Bushmen of the Kalahari," writes George Monbiot.

Nigeria's 'betrayal' of Taylor made in the US
As one of Charles Taylor's closest advisers warns of "bloodshed and chaos" if the former Liberian president is extradited, analysts say the international community must act quickly to prevent his supporters from re-arming. Taylor, currently in exile in Nigeria, faces 17 counts of crimes against humanity brought by an internationally backed special court in Sierra Leone.

'The war is definitely behind us'
The Côte d’Ivoire electoral process is falling into place. The Independent Electoral Commission is in place and functioning. Antonio Moneteiro, the United Nations high representative for elections, left the country this week, his job done. The presidential candidates are starting to make themselves heard.

Feeding off the word of God
A Christian charismatic revival is sweeping Kenya and Uganda and its surrealism is intensifying. Each weekend, especially in Nairobi and Kampala, tens of thousands attend "crusades" at sport stadiums and public parks at which American evangelists and their equally ebullient brother and sister preachers from Africa fling hope at the masses.

Tsvangirai in battle for pole position
Sometimes our fate is written in our names. Never has this been truer for Morgan Tsvangirai, whose name means "sea dweller" and "the edge of sea". Tsvangirai talked up a storm at the congress of his faction of the Movement for Democratic Change as he tried to paddle his divided party to shore, warning the government of a "cold season of democratic resistance".

Dwindling fish sparks feuds in Kenya's Lake Turkana
A once bountiful lake in Kenya's parched north-west has turned into a nightmare for local fishermen, forced into deeper waters and hostile zones in search of fish migrating from receding southern shores. Weapons, mainly AK-47 assault rifles, have been added to their usual gear alongside the poles and nets.

No rest -- and limited govt support -- for Namibia's aged
The sight of an elderly person caring for children with Aids-related illnesses -- and grandchildren who may have been orphaned by the pandemic -- has become a common one in Namibia, and the Southern African region as a whole. According to the 2004 Common Country Assessment, grandparents provide care for most orphans under the age of 18 who live in rural areas.

Price of basics soars beyond reach of poor Zimbabweans
Grace Chidanyika (39) is a mother of three girls, two of whom are in school and very bright. One's dream is to become a lawyer, while the other hopes to be a banker. As the children talk about their dreams, their mother's eyes cloud with tears as she wonders how she is going to raise the money for their tuition fees.

Getting its own back
Charles Taylor, the fugitive former leader of Liberia who gained notoriety for masterminding brutal armed conflicts in West Africa, is back in the news. Speculation is rife that Nigeria may extradite the former warlord to his homeland. In 2003, Taylor was forced into exile in a peace deal that had the broad support of African Union leaders.

Ivorian rebel leader attends Cabinet meeting
Guillaume Soro, leader of the New Forces rebels who occupy the north of war-divided Côte d’Ivoire recently attended his first Cabinet meeting in more than a year. Up to now Soro has refused to travel to the main city, Abidjan, in the government-controlled south since President Laurent Gbagbo’s forces broke a long-held ceasefire agreement in November 2004.

Kenyans fight for cheaper food prices
As famine continues to ravage parts of Kenya, a non-governmental organisation is urging authorities to reduce the cost of basic food stuffs, particularly maize flour -- the staple food. A survey by the group, Bunge la Mwananchi, has indicated that while food is for sale in affected areas, it is too expensive for the people living there.

Top officials charged in fraud scandal
Kenya’s attorney general recently signalled his willingness to tackle the country’s biggest corruption scandal by charging five men, including the former governor of the central bank, with fraud. The "Goldenberg" scandal was made public 14 years ago and cost Kenyan taxpayers the equivalent of $700-million.

Tsvangirai's olive branch 'a hoax'
In the latest power play in the divided Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the Morgan Tsvangirai faction has hand-delivered letters to estranged office bearers Gibson Sibanda and Welshman Ncube, inviting them to attend the party’s congress at the weekend. Paul Themba-Nyathi, a spokesperson for the pro-Senate MDC faction, however, dismissed the Tsvangirai overture as a "hoax".

Mugabe seeks peace with UK
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, his eyes fixed on his legacy, has engaged President Thabo Mbeki to broker “dialogue” with Britain that could end hostilities with its former colony. Mugabe accuses his arch-nemesis, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, of being the major driver of mobilising international opposition to his rule.

Nigeria divided over 'third-term agenda'
High above the traffic jams and street vendors choking on exhaust fumes, Nigeria's larger-than-life politicians stride majestically towards the edge of towering billboards, arms gesturing to the great visions that lie just beyond the paper borders. The elections might be more than a year away, but the country is throwing itself into one of its favourite sports -- politics -- with a vengeance.

Scramble to plot course for Kenyan constitutional review
Groups in Kenya that include politicians and activists say they will present plans to complete a review process aimed at providing a new Constitution for the East African country. This follows their dismissal of the February 24 appointment of a presidential committee to jump-start the constitutional review.

'Let's give unity a chance'
"We must recognise and respect each other. We must understand what unites us: the need to fight and defeat the Zanu-PF regime, the Zanu-PF culture. I do not have time to condemn and fight other soldiers," says Arthur Mutambara, the new president of the pro-Senate faction of the MDC.

The last scene of a tragedy
"Tragedy is knowing the right thing to do and not being able to do it. President Yoweri Museveni's February 23 election victory is tragic. He changed the Constitution to eliminate the presidential term limit. Most people knew that if he stood for president, he would ensure victory by hook or by crook," writes Godfrey Chesang.

Later, Gators – there’s more spring cleaning to be done.

31 mar 06 @ 1:36 pm est

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Post #1

 

WHY CAPITALISM SUCCEEDS,

AND SOCIALISM FAILS

 

Because of my standard tracking into a left-wing ideology as a young adult, and my fairly recent political switch, I’m still confronting many intellectuals and traditions of thought for the first time. This morning, I’m reading the Edward Younkins review of Michael Novak's concept of democratic capitalism (which is acknowledged as the overarching principle historically employed, and championed, in the United States by both major political parties) and I was struck by this insightful sentence:

Capitalism succeeds because it is an economic theory designed for sinners of whom there are many, just as socialism fails because it is a theory designed for saints of whom there are few.

I don’t think I’ve ever come across that before, and if I did it simply didn’t register then as it does now in the gray matter of my brain, but that really captures the fact of the matter, doesn’t it?

Yeah, that’s a keeper.

30 mar 06 @ 9:20 am est

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Post #1

 

From Within The Veil:

PART II: IS HABITAT FOR HUMANITY BECOMING A FEEL-GOOD SHAM?

W.E.B. DuBois said the problem of the 20th Century would be the problem of the color line; solidly within the color line in the culture of the United States stands African Americans, obscured from view by something similar to a veil -- those within are visible behind that veil, but precisely how clearly? Those within obviously see beyond that veil, but again . . . exactly how clearly? I believe the challenge of the 21st Century will prove to be the same as the challenge of the 20th Century but with this distinct difference: the “special” burden presented by the challenge (and that which must be shouldered) will no longer be on those from without the veil. No, the special burden in the 21st Century will be on those of us within the veil. As it should be.

March 29, 2006

Like most University of Florida graduates, I’m celebrating this week, and not just a little bit. The Gators making the Final Four for the third time in thirteen seasons is the basic reason. The bigger reason, though, is that this 2005-06 basketball team appears to be such a fantastic group of guys representing our school so admirably. In contrast, that may explain why my conflict with Habitally, the Tallahassee chapter of Habitat for Humanity has disturbed me so much – I’m confronted with a local chapter representing the entire organization so poorly.

With the able assistance and counsel of a big sister who happens to be an Ivy League graduate, I’m trying to take a step back. That’s because my goodwill toward Habitat for Humanity is not completely shot. Close, but not completely.

So, I’m going to push the re-set button and make a plea for someone, somewhere, within the Habitat for Humanity family to step into this breach and act as though they are, in fact, part of an organization still functioning as a Christian ministry. But first, I have to walk through the latest insult.

Here’s Mr. Fred Harris, President of the local chapter:

Dear Mr. White,

I received a copy of your blog and would like to respond to your concerns and questions.  As I have not been directly involved in this matter . . .

Um, you were directly involved in this matter. My initial complaint was sent to you and in your executive director’s response, she copied that to you. It’s a small point to be sure, but the first paragraph hasn’t been completed and the weaseling has already begun. Not a good sign.

I glean from your post the following facts:

1. You live in a house that you have owned for a decade and which is adjacent to Yuma Street where Habitat for Humanity constructed several houses. 
2. One of the homeowners living in the house which apparently is directly adjacent to your back yard is a single mother with children. 
3. Since they moved in your back yard has been used as an "expressway" which I take to mean that numerous trespassers are crossing your property. 
4. Various criminal activities have occurred, such as shooting your house with a BB gun and vandalizing your shed and you imply that these acts were caused by this woman's children. 
5. Finally, you believe that Habitat should pay you for the damages that you have incurred and pay to build a fence between the two yards.

Fair enough, except that number five should state that I believe Habitat for Humanity should take responsibility for a situation it directly created. That is, if you’re genuinely interested in what I “believe.”

First of all, let me express my sympathy for your situation.  We should all be entitled to peaceful enjoyment of our homes without being subjected to vandalism or trespassers.  However, your attempt to hold Habitat responsible for your difficulties is misplaced. 

Again, I’m seeking to have Habitat take responsibility for a situation it has created.

Habitat did not "develop" Yuma Street, we just bought lots on it and built houses, just as other builders have done on Yuma Street

When you take multiple lots that were previously undeveloped, all of those closest to my property, and “develop” them, call me crazy – but I think that makes you the developer. What, did you PRAY them into existence?

Further, our investigation indicates that your problems don't stem from your neighbor's kids as much as they do from kids from the nearby housing project.

Investigation?

This is the first I’ve heard of some kind of investigation. Do tell me more, Mr. Harris.

You are surprised by Habitat's response that it has "no moral or legal obligation" to do as you asked.  I agree that the language that Mrs. Armesto, our executive director, used to describe Habitat's position, when taken out of context, appears to be inflammatory and for that I apologize. 

Sigh. The infamous non-apology apology.

Followed up by the kind of dodge the nation is learning to love to spot – and I think most of the country has also learned to give it the respect it deserves – none. “To do as I asked?” Please. And for the record, no, I’m not surprised, I’m shocked that a Christian ministry would dare tell an aggrieved homeowner, before any kind of real investigation could possibly have been concluded, that it has “no moral or legal obligation” here. Perhaps you’d better have a conversation, Mr. Harris, with your construction supervisor, William Stone. He immediately recognized the moral difficulty. In fact, he’s the only party at Habitat for Humanity who has taken the time to engage the “humanity” of a homeowner confronted with a problem and treated me with any kind of respect. Surely you’ve thought about the meaning of that word “humanity,” haven’t you? You know, “the quality of being humane; benevolence,” and all that “Christian” stuff? Ever heard of it, practiced it? And I don’t mean play-acting with a hammer, either.

So, under your pre-condition one (a pickaninny who can’t appropriately comprehend what he’s reading and the context in which it is delivered), your pre-condition two (a pickaninny who gets all riled up for no good reason based on something that only “appears” to be inflammatory), for that and only that, you apologize.

Well you can keep that apology, Mr. Harris.

Please understand this, I’m not going down the pickaninny path in order to play some kind of race card here. I have white neighbors who are upset about this situation too and they have been similarly marginalized. You tell me you’ve conducted an investigation, yet a quick survey of my neighbors (who are well aware of this situation and the suddenness of its occurrence) reveals no apparent interactions with any of your so-called investigation or investigators.

And God knows, no one from Habitat (outside of my initial conversation with Mr. Stone) has asked me a dadgum relevant thing.

But when viewed in the context of her entire response, however, it is logical and appropriate.

How I do wish I could drop such a “logical and appropriate” situation right next to Lou Armesto’s house and yours, just to give y’all a little bit of badly needed “context.”

Habitat has a comprehensive program to screen our partner homeowners for need and ability to pay the no interest mortgage and we do provide them mentors and counseling during their process for home ownership in order to help them be responsible homeowners.  We provide them an opportunity for home ownership and all the attendant responsibilities that go with that status.  Once they have acquired their home from Habitat, they are just like any other homeowners in our community.  They have to mow their lawns, maintain their houses, pay their taxes and do everything that any other homeowner has to do.  Once they become homeowners, however, we have no ability to require them to do anything but to pay their mortgage.

So, let me see if I have this right: as a function of your Christian ministry (see, I just can’t get away from the rock upon which you are founded – although y’all obviously want to run as fast as you can from that rock) you take a class of folk with little understanding of the rights and responsibilities of homeownership, run them through your basic process, and at the completion of said basic process, it’s sink or swim time? And then you get to wash your hands of the matter, cease being a Christian ministry, and put on the cloak of a mortgage lender?

You cannot be serious! Mathematical certainties alone make it an absolute probability that the problem I’m presently enduring could have and should have been foreseen. Especially when you’re developing multiple units! You have failed me on the front end, Mr. Harris, and you’re failing me on the back end now.

I’m going to ask you and your local chapter, and your international headquarters as well, to pray on this matter. Specifically, is this not true: Jesus indicated that Christian morality must extend beyond the law. That is unquestionably true, is it not?

Your complaints are not so much that Habitat has directly caused you damage, say by our own crews or volunteers trespassing on your property or by constructing a property that floods yours.  Instead, you want us to indemnify you for the fact that you are not happy with your neighbor and believe that her kids have vandalized your home.  You believe that we have a legal obligation to do so because we built homes in that neighborhood. 

You see, there you go again. The weaseling lawyer, standing on high, talking down to poor little ole pickaninny me. I want you to indemnify me? No. Wrong, again. First things first. That means, come hell or high water I am going to drive this one point home: what I’m seeking is to have Habitat take responsibility for a situation it has created.

No builder or lender is held to the standard that you would hold us to. 

Correct. You’re not simply a builder or a lender, and why the hell do I have to keep reminding a Christian ministry of that?

Would you be complaining to the commercial builder or bank because you didn't like your neighbors?  I doubt it.  Would you have legal grounds to do so?  I don't believe you would. 

You know, I can’t quote you chapter and verse of scripture. I have many failings, past and present. But I think I’m clear on this: Christians, most especially when they hold themselves out to be doing the Lord’s work, are rightfully held to a higher standard than any mere commercial builder or bank.

But you want Habitat to pay for damages that we had nothing to do with, except that we built that house and accepted your neighbor into our program. 

You know, you can repeat that line as much as you want. My position is that you have responsibility here. No matter how much you cry otherwise. The only remaining question is will you meet your responsibility and bear your burden.

For how long would you require Habitat to be the guarantor for your neighbor's behavior?  Will future vandalism also be the responsibility of Habitat?

I think you and I both know that is a gross mischaracterization of where I’m coming from.

My question to you is whether you have contacted the homeowner directly to speak to her about your concerns?  Also, have you contacted the law enforcement agencies about the damages you have suffered or the Housing Authority regarding its obligation to mitigate this type of activity?  Wouldn't that be more appropriate? 

It strikes me that here is where you are most insulting. Had you been legitimately interested in conducting a “thorough” investigation, there wouldn’t be a need to ask these questions, would there? You’d already know that the Housing Authority (a mighty convenient target – how telling) is irrelevant to this matter. It is laughably absurd, as my neighbors will attest, to push this off on the projects and the kids that live there. We’ve never had this problem prior to your arrival, as I’ve previously indicated. Had I (and my neighbors) been granted some status other than pickaninny, perhaps that would have sunk in by now. Had you been legitimately interested in conducting a “thorough” investigation, you might have ascertained just how deeply that last homeowner is implicated in all of this. In fact, maybe you know all of this already – your construction supervisor sure wasn’t clueless about it.

I really didn’t think (after your executive director wrote a textbook example of how *not* to interact with people negatively impacted by your well-intended good deeds) that you would be – yet again – “So corporate! So callous! So cavalier!” yet you’ve managed to top that prior disrespect. Shall we go for the trifecta, Mr. Harris, or will some Christian in your organization, SOMEWHERE, rise and address this matter in a humane and respectful fashion?

To assist in resolving this problem, we asked Habitat's most recent past President, Captain Tommy Mills of the Leon County Sheriff's Department, to meet with your neighbor.  He did so, spoke to her and inspected the premises.  She too complained of the kids from the project cutting through her property . . .

Now that is truly rich!

and Captain Mills saw the 6 foot wide walkway that the kids had worn while cutting through.  He says that there is no way that pathway could be the result of your neighbor's kids, as it is obviously the path for numerous people, not just a few, and he believes that this pathway is being used by the kids from the nearby project, which was confirmed by your neighbor. 

When you say, “my neighbor,” do you honestly mean to put forward that your “investigation” constituted questioning the party I identified as the source of the problem and NO ONE ELSE!

My God, is this just pure incompetence . . . or bad faith?

She also told Captain Mills that she had spoken to her two kids and cautioned them against trespassing on your property and, to her knowledge, they have obeyed her and remained in their back yard.  She shares your concerns about the traffic and would also like to see these kids stop cutting through her property as well as yours.

What about her friends rambling through any ole time of the day or night? Ask her about that?

Unfortunately, it appears that even if a fence were erected, the kids from the housing project would just shift their path to the next available unfenced area and so to completely fix the problem, it would require that a fence be constructed that extended the entire length of Yuma Street, which is impractical and inordinately expensive. 

What a shameful travesty. There’s really no other way to term this: you’ve constructed a lie that seeks to absolve you of any responsibility and if I hadn’t been a party to all of these events, I simply would not have believed you could stoop so low.

Alternatively, perhaps you could petition the Housing Authority to fence their property so that the kids wouldn't have the ability to cut through.  We would be glad to assist you in this process, if you would like us to.

The projects, the projects, the projects – has it not occurred to you what you are really saying here?

As you correctly report, Habitat for Humanity is the 14th largest builder in the United States, but it is hardly analogous to Wal-Mart.  Here's why.  Wal-Mart is a single entity with an extremely successful business model, Habitat, while also enjoying success in providing housing to those who live in substandard housing, is an aggregate of individual local affiliates that do not receive any significant funds from the Habitat International organization. In fact, we tithe to Habitat International to support its activities.  So the numbers you use on amounts donated to Habitat are likely true when all the local chapters are combined, but certainly not true if you are attempting to show us as a huge corporate behemoth. 

I have no problem with huge, corporate behemoths. Kinda like them, think they do a lot of good. My problem is with a Christian ministry cloaking itself in the garments of a corporate behemoth when it suits that ministry, and shedding said cloak when its time for the feel-good song and dance.

The Tallahassee Habitat for Humanity affiliate is a separate entity supported exclusively by our community - people like yourself.  Most of the people involved, including me, are volunteers.

I believe that you can see from our investigation that the problems that you are experiencing are caused not by Habitat or by a Habitat homeowner, but from the kids living in the nearby housing project constructed by the Housing Authority. 

Mr. Harris, believe me when I tell you this, the sheer paternalistic arrogance you’ve displayed is breathtaking.

Honestly.

The leadership of Habitat is not divorced from our own responsibility, but in this case I don't believe that the problems are the result of actions of Habitat.  If you would like to talk to me directly, feel free to call me [].

Now, I’ve initiated a complaint with you and tried to work through this situation without any publicity. I told you in my initial, private, complaint that I supported the concept of Habitat for Humanity and understood what I *thought* y’all were trying to do. But, I further indicated, the situation had become intolerable. Never in my wildest dreams did I think Habitat for Humanity would completely piss on my concerns and have the audacity, after all of that, to say . . . call me!?!

You conduct a sham investigation, the result of which is your Christian ministry directly shifting all of the blame for this predicament on the weakest and most vulnerable members of our community, and you magnanimously tell me to feel free to call you.

My God.

My God!

I would appreciate it if you would post this letter to your blog . . .

Done.

so Habitat's position can be accurately portrayed.

Done.

Thank you.

Fred Harris, President
Tallahassee Habitat for Humanity

No, thank you.

For the record, my earlier blog post was forwarded to the following Habitat for Humanity International officials who appear to be members of their Board of Directors:

Nic Retsinas, Chairman
Ron Terwilliger, Vice Chair
Janet Huckabee, Secretary
Paul Ekelschot, Treasurer
John Stack, Vice Chair

The earlier post was also sent to these two individuals:

Jonathan Reckford,
Chief Executive Officer,

Chris Clarke,
Sr. V.P. of Communications.

Similarly, this post will also be sent to the same parties.

I’ve not heard one peep from anyone up in Americus and, logically, local affiliate matters simply can’t be the focus of their work and I certainly understand that. But if this situation, including the remarkably ham-handed local interaction with homeowners who believe they are aggrieved parties, isn’t extraordinary – God help Habitat for Humanity!

To conclude, I’m hereby requesting what I didn’t think I had to specifically request: a personal, face-to-face meeting with me and my neighbors. Preferably, the Habitat for Humanity representative at that meeting would be Mr. William Stone.

29 mar 06 @ 10:31 am est

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Post #1

 

TOO ANGRY TO WRITE PROPERLY

 

I've written a response to the latest Habitat for Humanity correspondence but, on reflection, it is far too angry to post. I'm going to sleep on this once again and, God willing, pare my response back in the morning and post some more then. I'm going to have to move on to the next phase because I'm just dwelling on my anger right now.

 

28 mar 06 @ 8:03 pm est

Monday, March 27, 2006

Post #2

 

HAS HABITAT, AS A CHRISTIAN MINISTRY, SWALLOWED THE LIBERATION THEOLOGY KOOL-AID?

 

Here’s a blog you may want to check out, Assistant Village Idiot. In response to my post about my depressing interaction with the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, I received notice of this February 25, 2006 post and found it very, very interesting. It laments the seemingly inevitable leftward tilt of so many well-meaning organizations. Then the blogger provided a personal example relevant (it seems to me) to my current property dispute:

Habitat For Humanity has long been a favored charity for lefties, but at its outset, tried to be nonpartisan and evenhanded. It seemed for awhile to be an excellent place for conservatives and liberals to get together and do some good. It shows generosity to the poor, while not enabling poverty. I still think the sweat-equity, community participation, interest-free loan method to be excellent on many levels. I’ve even been able to overlook Jimmy Carter’s dishonest political claims because HFH is such a good idea.

* * *

Yet I have grown weary of HFH’s increasingly leftward tilt. The latest issue of Habitat World (also available online) cannot get off the first page without launching into the badly slanted statistics about poverty in America, the minimum wage, and CEO salaries. Hellooo, Habitat! CEO salaries are completely irrelevant to your mission. Attention! Even if your data about wages were not deceptive, it would still be not your calling to be putting your efforts there. People donate money to you because they want you to build houses.

* * *

[A]s the advocacy people and the coalition people increasingly take over the board, the magazine, and the organization, the building people will become less important. And long after the final scene of Animal Farm replays in the HFH boardroom, people will still be sending money in the false belief that they’re building houses.

Keep your eyes open, so that you notice your personal point of departure when it occurs.

Well.

Point made.

That, naturally, made me think of Haiti and a particularly useful piece in the Wall Street Journal by Robert A. Sirico discussing the absolute mess made in Haiti by the “liberation theology” of Jean-Bertrand Aristide:

It should be said that there are many sincere people among the adherents of Liberation Theology. Their claims about the evils of certain dictatorships are often correct, just as Mr. Aristide was largely correct in his youth when he decried exploitation of the masses by the Duvalier regime. The theory is similarly right about the moral priority of helping the poor and about the evil of systems of government that neglect their plight.

When Liberation Theology was at its height, the Vatican dealt cogently and fully with its errors in the area of faith and morals. Just as serious, however, were its errors in the area of economics. Rather than seeing the state as a frequent source of oppression, Liberation Theology saw private ownership and capitalism that way. But if you eliminate property and the exchange economy, what are you left with? Not the utopia for which the socialists have long dreamed. You are left with a state that must centrally plan an economy, which no state anywhere can do with efficiency or an eye to prosperity. The result is economic chaos, from which the poor suffer more than anyone else, as John Paul II noted in an encyclical on economics in 1991. And of course, without private property to resist the power of the state, despotism is inevitable.

Lacking a coherent view of economics or an understanding of how society functions and develops, Liberation Theology ends up with precisely what it decries most of all: centralized power exercised on behalf of the few at the expense of the many. The story has been repeated so many times in the past 100 years that one would think that even theology students would get the message that socialism is a very bad idea. But somehow, there are always those who think that the next attempt under the right person will at last bring Heaven to Earth.

I think I may have found the source of the outrageous indifference of these local Habitally people to what they’ve done to my property. And it’s an attitude quite prevalent among the left-wing. Heavy on “rights,” ignorant of “responsibilities.”

More tomorrow.

27 mar 06 @ 10:21 pm est

Post #1

 

HABITAT UPDATE: A DELAY

 

Unfortunately, the kid was seriously sidetracked today and I could not clear up some confusion on a couple of matters related to Habitat for Humanity situation. Tomorrow, that should be satisfied. I’ll post the Fred Harris response then.

27 mar 06 @ 8:51 pm est

Post #4

 

GATOR POWER!

 

The University of Florida defeated number one seed, Villanova, 75-62!

Even the New York Times has taken note of this Final-Four-bound Gator basketball team:

Only one team remaining in the N.C.A.A. tournament has needed no last-second shots, no crazed comebacks, no inconceivable upsets. Florida's road to Indianapolis was rather uneventful. The Gators treated the first two rounds like a formality. They were tested by Georgetown in the Round of 16, but not by Villanova.

Most of the field in this year's tournament could be separated into two categories — big and slow vs. small and fast. The Gators, that rare team with both size and speed, dwarfed the Wildcats from pregame introductions. The only real suspense came five minutes before tip-off, as the crowd tracked George Mason's victory over Connecticut.

"Florida — they're just great," Villanova guard Randy Foye said. "They are great all around."

Fans of teams like North Carolina are so jealous, they are whining about this perhaps being the weakest Final Four ever. That’s ridiculous, obviously, and (just to flip the script) this has been the best tournament ever – so says Billy Packer and Jim Nantz.

Way to go, Gators!

26 mar 06 @ 11:12 pm est

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Post #3

 

THE MEDIA REVOLUTION CONTINUES TO EVOLVE

 

We’re in the middle of a media revolution that’s playing out at hyper speed and no one can know precisely where it leads. But we can know that we are, in fact, in the middle of one. For instance, for a political manifestation of the revolution, the Miami Herald is exhibit “A” today:

First, the headline:

Political blogs buzzing with attacks on GOP senators

Next, the substance (which is, for a media company, a humbling admission):

There are always accusations, vitriol and downright pettiness in the halls of the Florida Capitol. Most of the time, apart from a fist-fight on the House floor or a legislator sending a lobbyist a box of manure, it rarely becomes public.

That has been changing in the past few months, thanks to the Internet. News organizations, as well as individuals, have created blogs dedicated to politics in Florida and in Tallahassee. For many legislators and lobbyists, these blogs have become required reading.

Much of the information is often the kind that doesn't make papers, such as polls, or staff changes with someone's campaign. Some of the blogs have a partisan bent and often rail against the mainstream media's coverage. But lately, the blog items -- and, more important, the anonymous comments posted by blog readers -- have taken a nasty turn.

There are repeated attacks on Senate President Tom Lee, whose push to force lobbyists to disclose their fees has earned him what appears to be the undying enmity.

The rival camps of Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and Attorney General Charlie Crist -- both running for governor -- often snipe at each other. And lobbyists themselves take shots at other lobbyists.

The newspaper has no choice but to cover this story; some of their most avid readers are all talking about it and scurrying to blogs (as they admitted, some run by newspapers themselves) to read the latest.

This 2006 election cycle is going to be fascinating at the state and national levels. The rise of blogs and other new media forms guarantees this occurrence.

Is everybody ready for the wild ride to come?

26 mar 06 @ 10:58 pm est

Post #2

 

THE ROPE-A-DOPE

 

I’ve been telling a close friend, a rabid Democrat who hates the hell out of Dubya, that the Democrats are preparing to walk right into a rope-a-dope strategy with the upcoming 2006 elections. Doing what they do best, bitching and moaning (and being very predictable about it), the Democrats are casting about from one disaster meme to another but consistently basing it all upon one foundational assumption. Representative John Murtha, who has within the last year earned the title Surrender Monkey, states it nicely in a new Weekly Standard article written by Stephen Hayes:

There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went there," said Murtha. "None. There was no connection with al Qaeda, there was no connection with, with terrorism in Iraq itself." This is now the conventional wisdom on Iraq and terrorism. It is wrong.

A new study from the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, paints quite a different picture. According to captured documents cited in the study and first reported in THE WEEKLY STANDARD in January, the former Iraqi regime was training non-Iraqi Arabs in terrorist techniques.

Beginning in 1994, the Fedayeen Saddam opened its own paramilitary training camps for volunteers, graduating more than 7,200 "good men racing full with courage and enthusiasm" in the first year. Beginning in 1998, these camps began hosting "Arab volunteers from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, 'the Gulf,' and Syria." It is not clear from available evidence where all of these non-Iraqi volunteers who were "sacrificing for the cause" went to ply their newfound skills. Before the summer of 2002, most volunteers went home upon the completion of training. But these camps were humming with frenzied activity in the months immediately prior to the war. As late as January 2003, the volunteers participated in a special training event called the "Heroes Attack." This training event was designed in part to prepare regional Fedayeen Saddam commands to "obstruct the enemy from achieving his goal and to support keeping peace and stability in the province."

* * *

It is early, but the emerging picture suggests that the U.S. intelligence community underestimated Saddam Hussein's interest in terrorism. One U.S. intelligence official, identified only as an "IC analyst" in the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on Iraq, summarized the intelligence community's view on Iraq and terrorism with disarming candor: "I don't think we were really focused on the CT [counterterrorism] side, because we weren't concerned about the IIS [Iraqi Intelligence Service] going out and proactively conducting terrorist attacks. It wasn't until we realized that there was the possibility of going to war that we had to get a handle on that."

No “operational” connection between Saddam and al Qaeda my butt. That assertion in the 9-11 report is certainly going to turn out to be one hell of an indictment of our Euro-centric intelligence services and State Department. The very people who have been bashing the Bush Administration the most.

They had a failure of imagination then, like most of us, about Islamic radicals and the Democrats have a failure of imagination now, about Saddam and al Qaeda.

That’s the rope-a-dope. The documents are in custody and the hints were clear (more than likely) from the start. But drip the documents out. Allow them to be vetted, and reach a certain critical mass, then begin the release.

Summer 2006: there should be plenty to talk about with respect to progress in Iraq as well as the crimes of Saddam and al Qaeda.

26 mar 06 @ 8:33 am est

Post #1

 

HABITALLY

 

The local President of the Habitat for Humanity chapter has responded to my blog post and requested that I post their response here as well.

I will do so on Monday.

26 mar 06 @ 7:36 am est

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Post #1

 

ELITE EIGHT!

 

One of the tremendously satisfying things about this Gator basketball team’s postseason run is going back and reviewing the thoughts from the other team prior to the game. For instance, here are two little snippets from a Georgetown Hoya board prior to our 57-53 victory yesterday:

[1]

On the "FWIW (not much)" front -- the ESPN College Game Day crew weighed in with their analyses and predictions. Surprisingly, both Digger and Lavin picked us [Georgetown] to beat UF. They also picked BC to pick Nova and then the Hoyas to advance to the Final Four. Predictably, our pal Dougie G. picked UF and Nova, with UF advancing to the Final Four. He said something to the effect that Roy has not gone against anyone like Horford yet, and that Horford was going to have his way.

[2]

Green went against somebody like Horford -- Sheldon Williams -- and had him for lunch, dinner, and dessert, [so] we'll see. Luckily, Gottleib has been wrong about almost everything that has to do with this tourney so far, and he seems to be keeping on track.

Obviously, Doug Gottlieb knew a little something about the discussion topic. And for the record, at the end of the game it was Al Horford that clinched the game for the Gators. As Mike Bianchi noted in the Orlando Sentinel today:

[Joakim] Noah was his usual self Friday night, scoring 15 points, pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking five shots. Meanwhile, Horford did the dirty work under the basket. He was charged with covering Georgetown's hulking 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds in Georgetown's last tournament victory against Ohio State. Against Florida, Hibbert had 10 points and four fouls.

Even though Horford had 12 points, six rebounds and two blocks Friday night, his biggest play wasn't even on the boxscore. With 30 seconds remaining in the game and Florida trailing by 1, Noah missed a shot, Horford kept the ball alive and Corey Brewer retrieved it. Brewer drove into a crowd, hit a fade-away jumper, was fouled and completed a three-point play to give the Gators a 55-53 lead.

On the next trip down the court, Georgetown missed a shot, Horford retrieved the rebound and was fouled by Hibbert. He hit the two free throws to secure the victory.

Noah was on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week; Horford should have been on the cover of Hardhat Monthly. Noah is the posterboy; Horford is the tough guy.

Until Noah's stock began a sudden surge in recent weeks, it was actually Horford who was considered a more coveted NBA prospect. He's a better shooter and rebounder than Noah and runs the floor and handles the ball just as well. At 6-feet-9, 240 pounds, Horford has given the Gators the rebounding, the toughness and the low-post presence on defense that they've been missing in recent early exits from the NCAA Tournament.

Now that’s what I’m talking about. Can those Snappin’ Gators, those Fightin’ Gators, win one more game and advance to the Final Four? LSU is already in, we might as well make it a conference pair.

25 mar 06 @ 7:48 pm est

Friday, March 24, 2006

Post #1

 

MICHAEL, MICHAEL, MICHAEL

 

Early on, I recognized the merit of Michael Yon as he bravely followed his fellow Americans, fellow Soldiers, doing their j.o.b. in Iraq. He’s nobody’s mouthpiece and clearly his own man.

That’s all good.

But his latest entry strikes me as curious, probably because I’m more interested in the political process and he isn’t interested in playing semantics.

Unfortunately, semantics count. Especially these days. Michael wrote:

Throughout 2005, I said in writing, on the radio and television that Iraq is in a state of Civil War. It had been in that state for decades. I’d point to all the kindling heaped around the country and point to the smoke on the horizon, but most people politely dismissed the warnings.  Now the fire is bigger.  Listen.  Listen!  Iraq is in a state of Civil War.  Much bigger than it was a year ago, and next year it will be bigger still, if we do not recognize that there is a FIRE! 

Arrrggghhhhh.

Damn soldier, that’s a mighty loose use of the concept of civil war. Charles Krauthammer has committed the same mistake, so Yon’s in fairly good company. For the other side of the argument, Ralph Peters argues for caution and a more sober approach:

Before we declare the next series of Islamist mob hits a civil war, let's consider the scale of a few real ones:

* In our own Civil War, over 600,000 Americans died in four years.

* In the brutal Spanish Civil War, hundreds of thousands died fighting, while an unknown number of others perished as a result of the struggle's general effects.

* During the Chinese civil war, tens of millions died - exact figures will never be known.

* Millions died as a result of the Korean and Vietnamese civil wars.

* How many millions died in the Russian civil war will never be known.

* The last decade's interrelated civil wars in the former Yugoslavia killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.

* The series of African civil wars sparked by the genocide in Rwanda and spilling into Congo/Zaire and the Great Lakes region killed 3 million to 4 million - while the Clinton administration whistled past the graveyard.

* Other African civil wars, from Biafra, Angola and Mozambique through Sierra Leone and Liberia to Sudan and Ivory Coast, killed at least 10 million - indeed, it would be hard to find a better vantage point from which to ponder the effects of real civil wars than the tragic African continent.

Does any of this really sound like Iraq? Only Saddam's attempted genocide against the Kurds and the Shi'a Marsh Arabs came anywhere close.

As this column long has maintained, civil war is one of the many possible futures Iraq could face. But you'll know it, if you ever see it. Meanwhile, hysterical claims only play into the hands of terrorists and thugs who crave an Iraqi civil war almost as badly as Donald Trump craves publicity.

And because semantics does count, loose claims of civil war clearly play into the media game desperately needed by the Islamists (in fact, its their only hope). It’s especially disconcerting to see one of our fairest “players” get “played” in this way – however earnestly held the assertion is.

If the nation has been in a “civil war” now for decades, you have robbed the common understanding of civil war of its meaning. So what is Iraq now enduring, as distinguished from that decades long “civil war,” one can’t help but wonder? And when an unserious Democratic opposition wants to use that claim of civil war to begin its abandonment of this battlefront in the War For Freedom – why go down that road, Michael?

24 mar 06 @ 9:24 am est

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Post #3

 

MR. HUMPHRIES

 

Given the sad news of the passing of his wife, I can’t help but think of the man himself, Frederick S. Humphries, and I found a link to a great video over at Rattler Nation (they got it, of course, from YouTube) – it was a signature of President Humphries that the students and alumni absolutely loved, and its easy to see why. The present football programs at Florida, Florida State and Miami are built on this kind of spirit. I wish U.F. had something similar. These are the words:

Rattler Strike!

When the dark clouds gather on the horizon,

When thunder and lightning pierce the sky,

When faith is but a glint in the eye of a fallen Rattler

            and hope a lost friend,

When the sinews of the chest grow weary

            and those muscles in the leg grow tired

            from those hard-charging linebackers,

You must ALWAYS remember . . .

The Rattlers will

Strike!

Strike!

And Strike again!

Look out!

Great stuff.

 
23 mar 06 @ 6:00 pm est

Post #2

 

MRS. HUMPHRIES

 

I’ve been negligent in not noting the passing of FAMU’s former first lady, Antoinette Humphries.

 Memorial to Antoinette Humphries

Services were held today in Pittsburgh. Here are initial newspaper notices in Tallahassee and Nashville. I’m not aware of any plans for a memorial service in Florida. Of course, the thoughts of many Floridians (and folks from all over) are with her family.

May you rest in peace, Mrs. Antoinette McTurner Humphries.

23 mar 06 @ 5:50 pm est

Post #1

 

STANDING TALL FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

 

As usual, Florida boy Jason van Steenwyk serves up a worthy correction to a wayward Army General (Paul Eaton) still jonesin’ to screw Donald Rumsfeld

[Eaton:] It is all too clear that General Shinseki was right: several hundred thousand men would have made a big difference then, as we began Phase IV, or country reconstruction.

Once again - and I'm tired of the NETTIES ("Not Enough Troops) ducking and dodging this rather obvious question: Several hundred thousand men from where, General?

I’m beginning to think the whole point of this meme isn’t to argue that more troops should have been secured; instead, it’s an underhanded way to argue that the effort should never have been undertaken. It’s a variant on the anti-war pacifists who roll with the argument of all the atrocities and horror stories because they believe there should NEVER be war here in utopia.

Another curious constant: military officers standing up to the Secretary of Defense. Think about that for a minute. Can there be any greater proof that things had gotten completely out of control in the Clinton era? The military has always made an alliance with Congress, and we wind up getting procurement items not really needed – but this was perfected, I think, beyond all precedent in the 1990s. A Rumsfeld was desperately needed. All the howling only serves to reinforce my firm belief on that point.

Finally, Jason does a good point-by-point evaluation of the General’s opinion piece and also takes pains to direct his readers to the comments section of the post for further interesting discussion.

23 mar 06 @ 10:20 am est

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Post #1

 

From Within The Veil:

IS HABITAT FOR HUMANITY

JUST A LIMITED, FEEL-GOOD SHAM?

W.E.B. DuBois said the problem of the 20th Century would be the problem of the color line; solidly within the color line in the culture of the United States stands African Americans, obscured from view by something similar to a veil -- those within are visible behind that veil, but precisely how clearly? Those within obviously see beyond that veil, but again . . . exactly how clearly? I believe the challenge of the 21st Century will prove to be the same as the challenge of the 20th Century but with this distinct difference: the “special” burden presented by the challenge (and that which must be shouldered) will no longer be on those from without the veil. No, the special burden in the 21st Century will be on those of us within the veil. As it should be.

March 22, 2006

Really, in all seriousness, has Habitat for Humanity become just an increasingly hollow, feel-good sham? I ask this question because of a personal episode still unfolding here in Tallahassee. We’ve owned a house on the Southside of town for more than a decade. We were advised not to purchase in this neighborhood for a variety of reasons but its proximity to Florida A&M University was too good and we got the house for a relatively inexpensive price.

All in all, we’ve been pleased and the neighborhood has not been any problem whatsoever. To the rear of our house, beyond our back yard, was nothing but greenspace – so, what was our only concern at the time of purchase and most of the period since? You guessed it, skeeters, skeeters, and more skeeters. Those monster would eat you alive.

That all changed a few years ago. The local chapter of Habitat for Humanity arrived as a developer, of all things. I’m fairly certain public money was used, probably by Habitat in certain exclusive ways, to develop the properties. An unused cul-de-sac off of Country Club Road (our neighborhood is a transitional one; exclusive houses are a short distance away along with project housing in the opposite direction) was extended back to our property line and multiple single-family units were put in. Unfortunately for us, the single mother placed in the last unit adjacent to our yard has some boys who like to be mobile and she’s dealing with the kind of stuff many single mothers deal with. Young males are a lot to handle and, as a result, our problems have cascaded since the Habitat for Humanity units were finished.

Suddenly, “things” would mysteriously show up in our yard:

 Bike in Back Yard

Our utility shed, that had never been touched, was vandalized:

 Shed Vandalized

And a BB gun was apparently used to put a hole in one of our house windows, forcing a replacement, and a hole in the vinyl siding along the rear of our house. To cap everything off, our yard has suddenly became an “expressway” of sorts for her kids, her boyfriend, and now folks from all over the area to use as a shortcut.

The situation had become completely intolerable and I complained in a detailed correspondence via e-mail to local Executive Director, Lou Armester, and local President of the Board of Directors, Greenberg Traurig attorney, Fred Harris. I asked for (1) the immediate construction of a more suitable fence along the property line whose character was modified completely by the development instigated by the arrival of Habitat for Humanity, and (2) restitution for the damage to our property.

I received a surprisingly verbose response from Ms. Armester that apparently was reviewed by Mr. Harris which may be adequately summed up by this one sentence that completely floored me:

Habitat has no moral or legal obligation in this situation.

What the . . . what the . . . I’m telling you, I had to read it again and again just to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding what clearly looked to be a total dismissal of the problem as someone else’s dirty laundry. That’s how shocked I was.

So corporate! So callous! So cavalier! And this is Habitat for Humanity? This got me to thinking: what do I really know about Habitat? My maternal family owns a few hundred acres of land in Andersonville, Georgia, not far from where this organization got its start. I’m quite familiar with them and even know a friend here in Tallahassee who claims to have participated as a youth at Koinonia. All the more reason why I ask, this is Habitat for Humanity?

Well, perhaps a positive 1995 article in City Journal by Howard Husock is nevertheless illuminating:

Habitat is a $67-million-a-year enterprise [RattlerGator: now that figure is likely approaching $200 million per year], successfully raising funds both through direct mail and corporate and foundation solicitation. A sophisticated media department in the group’s renovated brick headquarters on the main drag in Americus tracks press coverage. Habitat already has house-building chapters in over 1,100 American cities and towns, up from 350 in 1991; it has built 35,000 houses to date and is putting up 4,000 more a year, ranking it an estimated 14th among U.S. builders. Support comes not only from individual volunteers pounding nails and laying vinyl but from dozens of major national corporate sponsors such as Dow Chemical, Black & Decker, and Popeye’s Chicken, which underwrite costs, donate tools and materials from storm doors and windows to foam insulation, and encourage their employees to volunteer their time. With 150 new local chapters opening a year, the possibility of building 10,000 homes annually—which would make Habitat (HFH to its insiders) the nation’s top home builder—seems well within reach. Its goal of 20,000 homes built annually by the year 2000 is not out of the question. Habitat also operates abroad and is already the largest builder in such developing countries as Zaire and Malawi.

But it is not only for the sheer number of small, simple, low-cost new homes it is putting up that Habitat is noteworthy. Its methods are as notable as its product. It is, one might say, the Wal-Mart of American social policy. From its origins in the rural South it has spread nationwide, challenging a range of previous ways of doing business—in this case the business of housing the poor and improving poor neighborhoods. It has offered a new vision of what type of housing assistance should be offered those of modest means, emphasizing ownership, not subsidized rentals. It has a new vision, too, of how those who become its “partners” (“not clients or recipients,” insists Fuller) are chosen. Need is a prerequisite but is not sufficient; screening by citizen boards, generally with close links to local churches, is also required.

* * *

In devising the program, Fuller set out some inviolable ground rules: the houses must be well built but simple; they must be owned by the families who live in them; they must be built by both volunteers and the prospective owners themselves; the “partner” families must be screened by a “family selection committee” and must pay back a mortgage over 20 years, though Habitat would not charge interest. Finally, no government funds should go toward the actual construction—although Habitat does accept government land and subsidies for infrastructure projects.

Now, correct me if I wrong but that does seem to suggest a quite possible “legal” responsibility for the problem I’m confronted with. Additionally, it may be my old-school understanding of things but there does seem to me to be an iron-clad and unquestionable “moral” responsibility applicable here.

Even if she was of a contrary opinion, what could possess an executive director to write such an inflammatory response? As a part of its mission, Habitat maintains that:

We seek to develop homes and communities in which people can live and grow into all that God intended.

Yet Habitat, acting as a local developer, “has no moral or legal responsibility” for a problem it has directly created? Mind boggling. I’ll write more on this as the situation warrants but I have to admit, I’m now intensely curious about Habitat and their “fund for humanity” and how they do (or do not) keep faith with their charter. When I read that:

Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian organization dedicated to eliminating substandard housing and homelessness worldwide and to making adequate, affordable shelter a matter of conscience and action.

my immediate questions are these: (1) in their drive for ameliorating poverty and substandard housing, are they only paying attention to inculcating into their partners the “rights” of home ownership and completely ignoring the “responsibilities” of home ownership?, and (2) are they so vain among the local leadership that they are completely divorced from the concept of “responsibility” themselves?

No moral or legal responsibility? May God have mercy.

22 mar 06 @ 11:19 am est

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Post #3

 

TERRELL OWENS? A DALLAS COWBOY? THE HELL YOU SAY!

 

Terrell Owens has been hired by the Dallas Cowboys.

I've been a Cowboys fan for quite some time. I will never cheer for that clown or for the Cowboys for as long as he is on the team.

The bastard should have been banned from the game by Tagliabue and made to petition for readmittance before any team could even consider taking on his services.

If a white guy had clowned Donovan McNabb and the Eagles the way this fool did, there would be a national uproar right now. Black people would be leading the charge, primarily because the history of exclusion at the quarterback position. But a black receiver – who compares his quarterback unfavorably with another QB who just happens to be white – gets a pass. Hell no. And he has the audacity to put out a damn rap talking about how he got over? Hells no!

This is sick, and T.O. is a diva that the Cowboys can and should do without. May an unjudicious hit delivered by an outraged Philadelphia Eagle find its way to one of his lower extremities.

21 mar 06 @ 10:47 pm est

Post #2

 

IS THIS THE KISS OF DEATH FOR THE BASKETBALL GATORS?

 

We’ve made the cover of Sports Illustrated (albeit a regional edition):

 Noah on S I Cover

Or is it just a signal that the spotlight is about to leave Joakim Noah and wander off to . . . any other member of our starting five.

21 mar 06 @ 10:05 pm est

Post #1

 

BLOGS, BLOGS, BLOGS

 

Blogs are, of course, exploding all across the nation. For an interesting sample of how one major Florida paper is doing in the blogosphere, check out this St. Pete Times link. There, among other listings, you will find this collections of blogs associated with the paper:

Here are blogs written by or associated with the St. Petersburg Times and tbt.com:

YOUR LIFE

Money Talk
Your money and tax questions answered by Times personal finance editor Helen Huntley. [
Go there]

Stir Crazy
Daily home cooking and menu suggestions from Times food editor Janet Keeler. [
Go there]

TECH AND GAMES

Hard Korr Gamer
Latest video game reviews and news from Josh Korr. [
Go there]

Tech Times
Computer and Internet news, thoughts and important links from Times personal technology editor Dave Gussow. [
Go there]

ENTERTAINMENT

Stuck in the 80s
Hosts Gina Vivinetto and Steve Spears are trapped in the land of parachute pants, new wave music and John Hughes movies. Party on! [
Go there]

The Ill Literate
Our world viewed through the diseased mind of Rick Gershman. [
Go there]

Blogjam: Pop music
Times pop music critic Sean Daly talks music, culture and more in the newest interactive blog. [
Go there]

Blogjam: TV
Times television critic Chase Squires shares his crazy takes on TV shows, stars and more. [
Go there]

Party time!
Society reporter Amy Scherzer blogs on the events and happenings around Tampa Bay. [Go there]


Ante Up Poker: Do you love poker?
Tbt* editor Christopher Cosenza and Bet On It columnist Scott Long discuss the finer points of poker and give advice on how to better your game. [
Go there]

POLITICS & MEDIA

The Buzz: Florida Politics
Times staff writers report the news on the state's political scene. [
Go there]

Media in the Mirror
Times media critic Eric Deggans leads an online discussion about media, society and our times. [
Go there]

EDUCATION

The Classroom
A continuous dialogue on Pinellas public education. Superintendent Clayton Wilcox posts news, raises questions and answers reader comments. [
Go there]

College Bound
Teen film critic Billy Norris shares his adventures as he decides which college to attend. [
Go there]

Road Trip
Teen writer Lyndsey McKenna of the XPress team chronicles her quest for a driver's license. [
Go there]

SPORTS

Bulletin: USF sports
Watch the action on and off theplaying fields. News and thoughts by Times sportswriter Greg Auman. [
Go there]

High school sports
Catch the latest news and views from the Times sports staff. [
Go there]

There are many more links to local and national blogs of all sorts.

21 mar 06 @ 5:11 pm est

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Post #2

 

THE PRESIDENT MAKES A PUBLIC ADDRESS ON FEBRUARY 26, 2003 NEARLY ONE MONTH PRIOR TO OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM

 

The next time another unserious apparatchik insists George W. Bush wasn’t honest with the American people about Iraq, remind them of this public appearance nearly one month BEFORE Operation Iraqi Freedom began:

I've listened carefully, as people and leaders around the world have made known their desire for peace. All of us want peace. The threat to peace does not come from those who seek to enforce the just demands of the civilized world; the threat to peace comes from those who flout those demands. If we have to act, we will act to restrain the violent, and defend the cause of peace. And by acting, we will signal to outlaw regimes that in this new century, the boundaries of civilized behavior will be respected. (Applause.)

Protecting those boundaries carries a cost. If war is forced upon us by Iraq's refusal to disarm, we will meet an enemy who hides his military forces behind civilians, who has terrible weapons, who is capable of any crime. The dangers are real, as our soldiers, and sailors, airmen, and Marines fully understand. Yet, no military has ever been better prepared to meet these challenges.

Members of our Armed Forces also understand why they may be called to fight. They know that retreat before a dictator guarantees even greater sacrifices in the future. They know that America's cause is right and just: liberty for an oppressed people, and security for the American people. And I know something about these men and women who wear our uniform: they will complete every mission they are given with skill, and honor, and courage. (Applause.)

Much is asked of America in this year 2003. The work ahead is demanding. It will be difficult to help freedom take hold in a country that has known three decades of dictatorship, secret police, internal divisions, and war. It will be difficult to cultivate liberty and peace in the Middle East, after so many generations of strife. Yet, the security of our nation and the hope of millions depend on us, and Americans do not turn away from duties because they are hard. We have met great tests in other times, and we will meet the tests of our time. (Applause.)

This weekend marked the three-year anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom. United States Central Command, under the command of Army General John Abizaid, commemorated the occasion with the release of a Fact Sheet detailing their three years of steady progress:

In just three years, the people, the Government and Security Forces of Iraq have made tremendous and steady progress: the elimination of a brutal dictator, the democratic election of an Iraqi Government, the development of an Iraqi Constitution, the restoration of Iraq’s infrastructure beyond pre-war levels and the establishment of an increasingly effective Iraqi Security Force that in time will be able to take over from Multi-National Force - Iraq. 

As their march towards a stable democracy continues, the United States Embassy – Iraq and Multi-National Force – Iraq remain committed to the people and Government of Iraq while it shapes and seats its new government, a government in which all Iraqis have a voice and their rights are protected and acts as a partner in the war on terror.

 

WAR ON TERROR

  • Before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq, under the control of Saddam, was an enemy of the U.S. and the civilized world; today it is an ally of both as well as a global partner in fighting terror.
  • The aim is to defeat the terrorists and their allies at the heart of their power - and Coalition Forces are achieving that goal. Coalition and Iraqi Security Force Operations in Iraq continue fighting the terrorists and regime remnants in Iraq, who seek to overthrow a democracy, claim a strategic country as a haven of terror, destabilize the Middle East, and strike America and other free nations with ever increasing violence.
  • Since 2003, Iraqi Forces have fought alongside Coalition Forces in Najaf, Samarra, Fallujah, Baghdad, North Babil, Mosul, Al Anbar, and a host of other locations.  Although Iraqi Forces have endured thousands of casualties, have been attacked multiple times each day, and have suffered losses through brutal intimidation attacks, there remains no shortage of volunteers ready to step up and defend the sovereignty and freedom of their nation. 
  • Fighting the enemy here in Iraq makes it more difficult for them to strike us in the U.S. We can decisively weaken the ideological extremists, led by bin Laden, Zawahiri and Zarqawi, by stabilizing Iraq, and actively helping Iraq help themselves against this threat.
  • Now that the people of Iraq are permitted to choose their own destiny and advance by their own energy the terrorists are being marginalized; last year, tips to Coalition or Iraqi Security Forces regarding terrorist activity or locations only numbered about 400 a month, by year’s end more than 4,500 calls per month provided information on terrorists or resources whereabouts. 
  • Operations continue to degrade the terrorist network.  Since January 2005, we have killed or captured more than 122 key leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Information compiled from White House reports, 2006 MNF-I press conference transcripts, and MNF-I Report “2005 Year in Review”

IRAQI GOVERNMENT

General Governance

  • The Iraqi people took responsibility for their government with the transfer of sovereignty and the establishment of the Interim Iraqi Government on June 28, 2004, the December 2005 elections more than 300 parties and coalitions were registered, and roughly 11 million voters participated, including many who had opposed the constitution and boycotted elections in January.
  • The Council of Representatives (CoR), the parliament elected under the new Iraqi constitution, convened on Thursday, March 16, at the Parliament Center in Baghdad.  275 representatives were sworn into Iraq’s new four-year government. The formal seating or convening of this CoR symbolizes an important step in Iraq’s pathway to democracy. This representative body will serve as the basis for establishing a broad-based government of national unity for Iraq.
  • In 2003, the authoritarian control of Saddam’s regime allowed few of Iraq’s 18 Governorates any real authority.  Today, those 18 Governorate Councils, in addition to 90 District Councils, 194 city or sub-district councils, and 437 neighborhood councils established since the start of OIF equate to and promote a decentralized governance system that provides more than 19 million people the means to engage in local policy discourse.
  • It is unknown if civil society organizations even existed under the totalitarian regime of Saddam; however, now in 2006, there are more than 561 civil society organizations in 18 governorates established as part of a campaign targeting grassroots democracy.
  • Today, there are more than 40 countries and international organizations with Embassies and Missions established in Iraq, cementing Iraq’s position in a cooperative, global community.

Information provided by MNF-I, DCS STRATEFF, Policy Division

Ministry of Education

  • In 2003, approximately 6.1 million children were enrolled in Iraq’s lower education system. Of these only about 2.96 million were expected to graduate from secondary school. Now, in 2006 nearly 25% of the Iraqi population either attends a school of, or is directly employed by, the Ministry of Education. With a 2006 budget of $1.9 million (up 66% from 2005), the ministry oversees more than 20,000 school sessions in over 14,731 school buildings, administrative offices, and educational facilities nationwide.  The MoED provides the oversight and training needed to support 500,000 teachers in their work with 6.28-6.4 million K-12 students a 3-5% increase from 2003.
  • In 2003 there were 14,731 kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools, most of which suffered from years of neglect by the Saddam regime, an insurgency intent on intimidating teachers and students, and the damage caused by war.  Over the last three years nearly 6,000 of those schools have been renovated or undergone some form of rehabilitation.
  • In 2003, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MHESR) consisted of 22 universities, 46 institutes or colleges within the Community College system, 2 commissions and 2 research centers. Since 2003, MHESR has, in addition to continuous work on its facilities and infrastructure that had been largely destroyed by war and looting,  has been able to install nearly a dozen new colleges within its university system.

Information provided by Iraq Reconstruction Management Office

Ministry of Health

  • Iraq's Ministry of Health (MoH) on 4 September 2004 initiated the first polio immunization program in the country since the start of the war in March 2003, in an effort to protect 4.7 million children from the infectious disease.  After two rounds of National Polio Immunization Days in the summer of 2005, 98% of Iraqi children under five have been vaccinated for polio.
  • With support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union (EU), who contributed over US $2.5 million, the Iraqi authorities succeeded in immunizing the vast majority of children in the first three days of the campaign, UNICEF said. A total of 25 million doses of vaccine were purchased with help from a $3.2 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Information compiled from the MNF-I Reports “2004/2005 Year in Review” and Iraq Reconstruction Management Office report “Rebuilding Iraq” (Feb 06)

IRAQI SECURITY FORCES

General Security

  • Today, ISF independent operations account for more than 36 percent of total operations conducted.
  • Since 2003, 34 Forward Operating Bases out of a peak total of 110, have been transferred to the Iraqi Transitional Government, transferred to the ISF or closed.
  • Controlling its national borders and preventing infiltration of terrorists and foreign fighters wishing to use Iraq as a safe haven or conduct acts of terror, was possible due to operations in Al Anbar, Tall Afar, and the Western Euphrates River Valley area.  These operations, along with the establishment of 258 border forts resulted in the successful restoration of border control to the people and government of Iraq in late 2005.  
  • Since 2003, 258 Border facilities, 309 police stations, 14 academies and branch schools, 26 unit headquarters, and 67 fire stations have been built or rehabilitated.

Information compiled from 2006 MNF-I press conference transcripts

Ministry of Defense

  • After being formally dissolved May 23, 2003, the first 1,000 recruits of Iraq’s new Army began training Aug 2, 2003, today the Ministry of Defense forces now number 112,900; with 99,500 in the Army, 600 in the Air Force, and 800 in the Navy, and 10,800 in various support force units.  
  • The Iraqi military was rebuilt from scratch since 2003.  The Iraqi Army absorbed the Iraqi National Guard to form 10 Iraqi Army combat divisions.  There are now 101 trained and equipped combat battalions in the Iraqi Army – all of them are in the fight.  This includes a (Special Operations Forces) Counter-Terrorist battalion, a Commando battalion, and Strategic Infrastructure battalions.  Most recently, the Counter-Terrorism battalion rescued a retired Iraqi Army Brigadier General who had been kidnapped and was going to be killed by his captors.  Today, 49 Iraqi Army combat battalions, 13 Brigade headquarters, and two Division headquarters control their own battle space.
  • Iraq’s Navy is now operational with a Patrol Boat Squadron with five Predator-class Patrol Craft, an Assault Boat Squadron with 25 Fast Assault Boats (FABs), and a Marine battalion, all of which serve to defend Iraq’s coast, territorial waters, vital ports and offshore assets against both external and internal security threats.
  • Iraq’s Air Force has five fully operational squadrons capable of conducting a variety of airlift, utility, intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.  The squadrons include one C-130 transport squadron, two ISR squadrons with CH2000, Compair, and Seeker aircraft, and two helicopter squadrons with UH-1s and Bell Jet Rangers.  The IAF recently purchased 10 Mi17 Hip helicopters which will soon form another helicopter squadron. 
  • Iraq’s three Military Academies are committed to professionalizing the Iraqi Military.  Rustamiyah has graduated 73 from the Sandhurst model course, Zahko has graduated 411, and Qalachoun currently has 188 enrolled.  Between the three institutions, 653 have graduated from the 3-week newcomer’s course.
  • Since 2003, construction on 12 major military training facilities was completed and 10 other projects are ongoing.

Information provided by MNSTC-I Public Affairs

Ministry of Interior

  • In 2003, Iraq had a dilapidated internal security force. Today the Ministry of Interior has over 127,845 professionally trained and equipped members.  Of those, over 88,962 are trained and equipped regular police officers and the other approximately 38,883 are assigned to National Police Forces, Commandos, Public Order Division, Mechanized Police Brigade and Border Enforcement.
  • In November 2003, Iraq’s only formal police training academy opened in Jordan, today, there are 12 police training academies including 8 basic police academies that instruct the10-week basic training course, designed to better prepare the police for the challenging environment in which many will serve.  
  • In 2003, Iraq was unable to independently provide security for its own borders, today 20,391 border enforcement personnel have completed training and 258 border forts have been built, or are currently under construction, to help Iraq’s Border Enforcement officers patrol and secure Iraq’s borders.
  • Since 2003, 20 provincial SWAT teams of 32 personnel each have been trained and equipped, and one more is scheduled to complete training by December 2006. 
  • Since 2003, 277 Iraqi Police construction projects were completed across the 18 provinces and 11 major cities.  This included 37 Police Headquarters, 187 Police Stations, and seven Highway Patrol Stations.

Information provided by MNF-I/Ministry of Interior Liaison Officer

IRAQI ECONOMY

  • When Coalition Forces began Operation Iraqi Freedom, they entered a country whose energy infrastructure had deteriorated over many years. The U.S. Embassy and MNF-I set out to help the Iraqi government restore oil facilities, increase production, and improve refining, natural gas production, and pipeline facilities, by year-end 2005, 179 oil projects have been pursued worth $1.16 Billion, 42 have been completed worth $110 million. Production is on par with prewar levels at 2.0 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) and exports of 1.3 million bpd.  Over 350 pipelines have been repaired and revenues are up to $24.5 billion from postwar levels of $5.1 billion in 2003. 
  • The U.S. Embassy and the Government of Iraq continue to address the issue of Iraqi unemployment, today, about 1.5 million Iraqis are employed under reconstruction efforts, working on schools, clinic, roads and numerous other infrastructure projects, and the overall national unemployment dropped in 2005 to 28% (as reported by COSIT) or 12-18% (as estimated by MNF-I).  
  • Since 2003, 32,574 new Iraqi businesses have been registered.

Information provided by MNF-I, DCS STRATEFF, Economics Division

RECONSTRUCTION PROJECTS

  • The Iraq Relief & Reconstruction Fund ($2.5 billion) and supplemental Appropriations ($18.4 billion) have been committed to the re-building of Iraq. As of 7 March 2006, $18.6 billion (of which $11.4 billion is obligated for DoD projects) has been obligated on Iraqi reconstruction.
  • Since March 2003, more than 11,600 construction projects have been started.  More than 9,340 projects, valued at $9.3 billion, have been completed.
  • Since March 2003 $9.6 billion (IRRF 1 - $2.5 billon, IRRF 2 - $7.1 billion) has been focused on providing reliable essential services (electricity, water, transportation, telecommunications, and oil).  More than 2,412 essential service projects are either completed or underway.
  • Before March 2003, Iraq averaged 4,300 MW of peak electricity generation, supplying Baghdad with 12-24 hours of power a day by diverting power from the rest of Iraq, left with 4-8 hours of power, however today the average Iraqi citizen has 7 hours of electrical service in Baghdad and 10-12 hours in the rest of the country.  It is expected to be 12 to 14 hours over the next year. 
  • Before March 2003, only 5.5 million of Iraq’s 25 million citizens had access to a safe and stable water supply. Iraq’s cities suffered from inadequate sewage systems, today nineteen potable water treatment facilities have been built or rehabilitated, providing a standard level of service to about 2.7 million more Iraqis. In addition eight centralized sewage treatment facilities have been rehabilitated, adding capacity to benefit 4.9 million Iraqis.
  • Health care for some ethnic groups was almost nonexistent under Saddam's regime, today there are over 300 new health care facility projects across Iraq and over 270 projects underway to be completed by mid-year 2007 allowing an additional 7 million Iraqi citizens, regardless of ethnicity, geographic origin, gender, or religious affiliation, access to health care that was unavailable under the old regime.

Information complied from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division, Public Affairs and IRMO Feb 06 report “Rebuilding Iraq

To close out this post, who better than Wretchard the Cat:

In retrospect three of the decisive weapons of victory in Iraq will have been the 190 military transition teams which raised the new Iraqi Army, the Transitional Administrative Law which made a new coalition government possible, and the US Armed Forces itself, which held up the shield behind which the training and political components could take shape. It now seems fairly clear that many of the 'far better' strategies which were suggested in 2004 and 2005 in place of CENTCOM's may not have been as good as they were made out to be. There were many calls for more American troops on the ground, up to 400,000 men. There were even calls for a return to the draft to rescue a "broken army". It had been suggested that it was a "mistake" to fire the old Saddamite Army, which alone could maintain control, or so it was said. In the end, CENTCOM's strategy did not prove so amateurish after all. If the public has ever heard of the MTTs, the political transition process or the River War it will not be the result of their concealment. These three decisive weapons were lying in plain view from the end 2004 onwards though their significance had not been noted -- their existence hardly even acknowledged -- by the Press even until now. Ironically, this may have contributed to overall success. The enemy in reading the leading newspapers of the West remained ignorant of the doom descending upon their heads, confirmed in their eventual victory even as catastrophe overwhelmed them. Thank you MSM.

I have argued on more than one occasion (especially when Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was under withering attack for not properly playing the public relations game) that “failing” to actively play the P.R. game does not hurt us. And it does not do so because we have a steadfast President who will not cut and run. Having a rock-solid President is far more important than satisfying the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party and their public relations sycophants.

19 mar 06 @ 7:15 pm est

Post #1

 

PLEASE TAKE NOTE THAT THE SURRENDER MONKEYS ARE IN TACTICAL RETREAT OVER IRAQ

 

They won’t admit it, and they sure as hell don’t want you to notice it, but America’s punk ass surrender monkeys are slowly but surely moving on to their next bitching and moaning meme where Iraq is concerned. Wretchard, ever on the case, has noticed:

Politically what's interesting is how the narrative has changed. Nobody is talking about the Sunni insurgency succeeding any more. Even the press hardly makes the claim of an insurgency on the brink of success. As late as November 2005, the Daily Kos was boasting: "The occupation is exacerbating terrorism in the country. America is losing, the insurgency is winning. Maybe we should say, 'has won.'" But by the December 2005 elections this view could no longer be held by anyone with the slightest regard for the facts

* * *

Instead of insurgency the talking points have changed to how Sunnis might soon become victims of an ethnically hostile Iraqi army in a Civil War. Going from a boast of conquest to a portrayal of victim is usually an indicator of something. In my view, the shift of meme from the "insurgency" to a "civil war" is a backhanded way of admitting the military defeat of the insurgency without abandoning the characterization of Iraq is an American fiasco. It was Zarqawi and his cohorts themselves who changed the terms of reference from fighting US forces to sparking a 'civil war'. With any luck, they'll lose that campaign too.

From the outset, they have been desperately and shamefully hoping for American failure. I will never forget that fact.

Ever.

19 mar 06 @ 3:37 pm est

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Post #2

 

WE’VE GOT TO GET A HANDLE ON DISCIPLINING AMERICAN LAWYERS

 

Read this post from Dafydd ab Hugh at Big Lizards to understand why. The basic story concerns the latest outrage surrounding the Zacarias Moussaoui case:

As near as Big Lizards can figure out the agendas, here is what the AP story seems to say....

1. The allegation comes from Robert Clifford and Gregory Joseph, lawyers for family members of victims of the 9/11 attack. The lawsuit filed by the family members claim that United Airlines and American Airlines could have prevented 9/11 by stopping the hijackers from getting on the planes with knives and boxcutters.

2. The government also wants to prove that: if they can show that 9/11 could have been prevented if Moussaoui had told them about the knives and boxcutters, then Moussaoui should be put to death.

3. Contrariwise, the lawyers for the airlines clearly want for their jury to believe that 9/11 could not possibly have been prevented; that it would have happened the way it did regardless of any attempt to prevent boxcutters from being carried onto the planes. That way, it wouldn't be the airlines' fault.

4. And of course, Moussaoui's lawyers would also like to prove that, since then their client's lies would not have led to any deaths that wouldn't have occured otherwise. It wouldn't be Moussaoui's fault, either.

You follow?

So the plaintiff's lawyers and the prosecutors both want to show that 9/11 could have been prevented; and the defense lawyers in both cases want to prove that it could not have been prevented.

According to the allegation, the airline lawyers read the prosecutor's opening statement and became very worried. If the prosecution proved its case, it would be very hard for the airlines to evade a judgment. So allegedly, the airline lawyers contacted Carla Martin of the TSA and told her to queer the case: she had to get the FAA witnesses to change their stories and say that no FAA order would have stopped any of the hijackers

Isn’t that incredible? All the more incredible because it’s so . . . plausible. In trying to quickly explain this situation to my wife this morning, I mixed up the Plaintiff’s lawyers and Defense lawyers in the civil case – and that, on reflection, seems apropos. The “prosecuting” attorneys in both the civil and criminal cases are adversarial to one another – increasing the likelihood (or so it seems to me) for the confusion of justice with liability concerns – and highlighting the probable inadequacies of the law enforcement model in effectively prosecuting the Global War on Terror as a component of the larger War For Freedom.

The 21st century is going to demand a reconfiguring of civil and criminal processes, both foreign and domestic. I am tempered in my outlook by this lament from John Hinderaker at Power Line:

As a lawyer, I suppose I shouldn't complain; but as a citizen, I think it's ridiculous [RattlerGator: he’s commenting here on the drive to write a law prescribing rules for how close one may protest at a funeral]. If a bunch of crazies show up waving signs at a funeral, the appropriate course is for an able-bodied man--there should be at least one at any funeral--to take a sign and break it over the ringleader's head. One of the basic problems in our society is that nearly all informal sanctions have been forfeited, so that there is hardly any middle ground between passive acceptance of antisocial behavior and a felony prosecution. Legislation and criminal prosecution are blunt instruments that cannot be brought to bear against every deviancy that may arise.

Agreed. But a so-called “officer of the court” such as Carla Martin? Or how about a former Executive branch official from an earlier administration now lobbying for a foreign government or foreign corporation?

18 mar 06 @ 11:43 am est

Post #1

 

THE NEW 2006 VERSION

OF AMERICA’S

NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY

 

The London Telegraph, on America’s newly published National Security Strategy for the President’s second term:

The document, published yesterday, reasserts the right to pre-emptive strikes as a means of self-defence should the union deem itself liable to devastating attack by weapons of mass destruction. This reflects Washington's view of Iran as a threat not just to Israel and Iraq, but also to America itself, a perception inadequately understood on this side of the Atlantic.

It also exposes the repeated assertion by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, that military action against Teheran is not on the cards, for what it is: an attempt to forestall criticism from the Labour Party and from his Muslim constituents in Blackburn, rather than an honest assessment of American options.

The most marked change since a previous National Security Strategy was issued in 2002 affects Russia. Having been one of the first to rally to America after September 11, 2001, Vladimir Putin established a good personal relationship with George W Bush. Yet the new document regrets "a diminishing commitment to democratic freedoms and institutions" on the Kremlin's part.

China's transition is judged incomplete and Beijing is faulted for "locking up" energy supplies around the world in a discredited mercantilist fashion, and for supporting misrule in resource-rich countries.

The sweep of the new strategy, from fighting terrorism to promoting free trade and responding to pandemics, is impressive. Its steadfast commitment to democracy is admirable. Besieged at home, Mr Bush has reiterated a bold vision for transforming the world. These are not the words of a lame-duck president.

Beseiged at home; surrender monkeys shrieking all over the place. Yet remaining steadfast and strong. That’s principled leadership from the man at the top.

Now, what are the highlights of the strategy? Here’s how the administration summarized things:

“The ideals that have inspired our history – freedom, democracy, and human dignity – are increasingly inspiring individuals and nations throughout the world. … We choose leadership over isolationism, and the pursuit of free trade and open markets over protectionism. We choose to deal with challenges now rather than leaving them for future generations. We fight our enemies abroad instead of waiting for them to arrive in our country. We seek to shape the world, not merely be shaped by it; to influence events for the better instead of being at their mercy.”

President George W. Bush
Letter Introducing The National Security Strategy
March 16, 2006

And here are some bullet points from the document:

1.         The first pillar is promoting freedom, justice, and human dignity – working to end tyranny, to promote effective democracies, and to extend prosperity through free and fair trade and wise development policies.

2.         The second pillar of the strategy is confronting the challenges of our time by leading a growing community of democracies.

And, finally, here are some of the substantive focal points that serve as the foundation upon which the pillars stand:

The President’s National Security Strategy specifically focuses on the following areas:

Champion Aspirations for Human Dignity

Strengthen Alliances to Defeat Global Terrorism and Work to Prevent Attacks Against Us and Our Friends

Work with Others to Defuse Regional Conflicts

Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Ignite a New Era of Global Economic Growth through Free Markets and Free Trade

Expand the Circle of Development by Opening Societies and Building the Infrastructure of Democracy

Develop Agendas for Cooperative Action with the Other Centers of Global Power

Transform America’s National Security Institutions to Meet the Challenges and Opportunities of the 21st Century

Engage the Opportunities and Confront the Challenges of Globalization

America: the last, best hope.

18 mar 06 @ 9:40 am est

Friday, March 17, 2006

Post #2

 

AFRICA ROUNDUP

 

From the Mail & Guardian in South Africa:

Top officials charged in fraud scandal
Kenya’s attorney general recently signalled his willingness to tackle the country’s biggest corruption scandal by charging five men, including the former governor of the central bank, with fraud. The "Goldenberg" scandal was made public 14 years ago and cost Kenyan taxpayers the equivalent of $700-million.

Tsvangirai's olive branch 'a hoax'
In the latest power play in the divided Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the Morgan Tsvangirai faction has hand-delivered letters to estranged office bearers Gibson Sibanda and Welshman Ncube, inviting them to attend the party’s congress at the weekend. Paul Themba-Nyathi, a spokesperson for the pro-Senate MDC faction, however, dismissed the Tsvangirai overture as a "hoax".

Mugabe seeks peace with UK
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, his eyes fixed on his legacy, has engaged President Thabo Mbeki to broker “dialogue” with Britain that could end hostilities with its former colony. Mugabe accuses his arch-nemesis, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, of being the major driver of mobilising international opposition to his rule.

Nigeria divided over 'third-term agenda'
High above the traffic jams and street vendors choking on exhaust fumes, Nigeria's larger-than-life politicians stride majestically towards the edge of towering billboards, arms gesturing to the great visions that lie just beyond the paper borders. The elections might be more than a year away, but the country is throwing itself into one of its favourite sports -- politics -- with a vengeance.

Scramble to plot course for Kenyan constitutional review
Groups in Kenya that include politicians and activists say they will present plans to complete a review process aimed at providing a new Constitution for the East African country. This follows their dismissal of the February 24 appointment of a presidential committee to jump-start the constitutional review.

'Let's give unity a chance'
"We must recognise and respect each other. We must understand what unites us: the need to fight and defeat the Zanu-PF regime, the Zanu-PF culture. I do not have time to condemn and fight other soldiers," says Arthur Mutambara, the new president of the pro-Senate faction of the MDC.

The last scene of a tragedy
"Tragedy is knowing the right thing to do and not being able to do it. President Yoweri Museveni's February 23 election victory is tragic. He changed the Constitution to eliminate the presidential term limit. Most people knew that if he stood for president, he would ensure victory by hook or by crook," writes Godfrey Chesang.

Putting Swaziland’s Constitution to the test
Swaziland’s oldest opposition group, the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress, will register as a political party to test the kingdom’s controversial new Constitution. The new basic law, endorsed by King Mswati III earlier this year, makes provision for freedom of assembly, but remains mum on whether it is legal for political parties to contest seats in Parliament.

Farmers need mechanisation, irrigation -- and free stuff
Having experienced a disastrous harvest last year -- the worst in a decade, according to the United Nations World Food Programme – Malawi now appears set to improve its food situation. Agriculture officials were earlier this week reported as saying that a maize harvest of 2,4-million tonnes was expected shortly, thanks in part to good rains that had ended months of drought.

'How ridiculous can we get?'
In two seemingly unrelated events, the east of Zimbabwe was rocked recently -- first by a violent earthquake and then by the election of Manicaland local hero Arthur Mutambara as the president of the pro-Senate faction of the Movement for Democratic Change.

Education for all not yet all-embracing
"Our biggest problem is that we have no school; none of the children can study," says Edmond Tadahy, as his five-year-old daughter clambers across his lap. The kitchen in the home of this father of five, located in a remote village in north-eastern Madagascar, is filled with the acrid smoke of roasting coffee. On this vast Indian Ocean island, stories like Tadahy's are common.

Rebellion in the Delta
The hymn We are Fighting for Jesus rang out across the Niger Delta as a boatful of balaclava-clad militants brandishing machine guns and rocket launchers greeted the international press corps. In a bizarre masquerade, the latest militia group to lay claim to the oil fields on the Delta handed astonished journalists a 69-year-old American hostage.

Zimbabwe capital a cholera 'time-bomb'
Residents in Harare say they live on a "cholera time-bomb" as the Zimbabwean city struggles to clean up garbage and maintain sewers in an outbreak that has already cost 27 lives. An unusually wet rainy season compounds the problem, especially in slum areas like Dzivarasekwa, about 10km north of the city, and the sprawling semi-urban area of Epworth, to the east.

Angola's dangerous profession of motherhood
Walking into the Angolan capital's main maternity hospital, the first thing that hits any visitor is the stench: a nauseating combination of blood and excrement. After a short while, the stomach settles and the eyes adjust to the poor light in the Maternidade Lucrecia Paim; then, the true wretchedness of the grey walls and broken windows begins to sink in.

'Things don't look good' in Uganda
Five candidates are vying for the Ugandan presidency, while close on 1 000 are contesting Parliamentary seats in 214 constituencies as well as the 69 districts which are reserved for women. Miria Obote, wife of former head of state Milton Obote, is the Uganda People’s Congress presidential candidate.

The 'challenges' of Darfur
How serious is South Africa about halting massive, ethnically targeted human destruction in Darfur in western Sudan? Is President Thabo Mbeki prepared to support the robust, international force required to protect millions of vulnerable people and the increasingly tenuous humanitarian lifeline upon which they depend?

Kibaki on borrowed time
If corruption was the lubricant that in the past oiled Kenya's politics, it is now the enfant terrible that gobbles up its progenitors. Three weeks ago, this horrible child of Kenya’s politics strolled into town, scalping no less than three of President Mwai Kibaki’s ministers and his personal assistant.

MDC congress hopes to mend party split
The beleaguered opposition Movement for Democratic Change -- at least the pro-senate faction -- buckles down this weekend for a congress, the outcome of which could set the tone for "reunification" talks with the wing headed by party president Morgan Tsvangirai.

Quaking in their beds
Ten-year-old Zimbabwean Dianna Matika, who had a heart ailment, is one of the confirmed fatalities after an earthquake measuring 7,5 on the Richter scale hit Southern Africa in the early hours of Thursday morning. The girl from the eastern Zimbabwean city of Mutare died three minutes after the quake struck.

Mswati emulates Mugabe
There is a disturbing sameness about the way South Africa’s two most vexatious neighbours negotiate their way up the proverbial creek with nary a sign of a paddle. Swaziland's King Mswati III appears to be emulating President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. In the finest Austin Powers tradition, the mini-me king is attempting a Murambatsvina-style slum clearance of his own.

And a few stories from the BBC:

GENERAL

Spain, Mauritania in migrant deal

Kenya church in Aids apology

UN refugee worker killed in Sudan

Liberian leader wows US congress

Ivorian rebel takes cabinet seat

UN arms bans 'repeatedly defied'

Libya in 'milestone' nuclear deal

Chad's troops 'foil coup attempt'

BUSINESS

Kenyans face corruption charges

'TV chaos' fear at SA World Cup

MORE FEATURES

African internet cable warning

An elaborate Mali greeting

Being gay, Christian and African

That must be quite a closing story, don’t you think?

17 mar 06 @ 1:00 pm est

Post #1

 

THE LITERARY DIVA OF THE PALM BEACHES ON THE GREAT PRETENDER

 

Meet Rhonda Swan, self-proclaimed Literary Diva at the Palm Beach Post:

Position at The Post: Assistant Metro Editor
Here since: 2005
Hometown: Springfield, Massachusetts
What I blog about: African-American literature
What I do when I’m not working: Raise kids, read and write books
Literary resume: Author of BUSTED: Never Underestimate a Sista’s Revenge, a witty tale of love, betrayal and revenge in the era of Internet dating; and Speaking My Mind ... in Poetic Verse, a volume of poetry.
Favorite author: Bernice McFadden.
Guilty pleasures: America’s Next Top Model and General Hospital. (I am so ashamed!)
Addictions: Shopping and Starbuck’s soy vanilla latte (I’m in a 12 step program that covers both)
Why I Should Take Over for Miss Know-Nothing Paula Abdul: I directed a church choir for more than 10 years, so not only do I know bad singing when I hear it, I’m not afraid to say, “You were off key and it sounded bad, boo!”
Motto: Get on with it already - you can sleep when you’re dead.

And don’t miss her recent entries concerning the author Millenia Black. She has a new book out titled “The Great Pretender” and recently cancelled an appearance at a local book store.

I don’t have time to follow-up on the controversy right now but it sure looks interesting as hell – how do we come to terms with being an American while coming to terms with being an African American. This is what I suppose all the fuss is about. And if so, I have a feeling that it will go forward precisely as the debate has over the use (or non-use) of the term “nigger.”

You know what I’m saying, my Nig?

And oh yeah, the woman has a blog.

17 mar 06 @ 12:03 pm est

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Post #3

 

THE MISSION

 

Why did we invade Iraq, you ask? And God knows, there are far too many asking just such a punk ass question these days. We invaded Iraq to:

attack, disrupt and defeat terrorism, deter and defeat adversaries, deny access to WMD, assure regional access, strengthen regional stability, build the self-reliance of partner nations’ security forces, and protect the vital interests of the United States.

Here’s the document that statement comes from; it’s the mission of the United States Central Command.

And speaking of the military, how about ten popular military slogans:

 Ten Military Slogans

Which is a good lead into citing Operation Swarmer – Air Assault:

 Operation Swarmer

Finally, how about a photo of one hell of a leadership team; fighting against the odds versus a “curious” loyal opposition and a mainstream media living in a surrender-capable bubble:

 Admin Testimony in the Senate

That’s America, y’all: live and in living color.

16 mar 06 @ 8:23 pm est

Post #2

 

DON’T MIND ME, I’M

JUST TESTING THE DISPLAY

 

I’ve decided to quit trying to fight the preset template and allowing for the smaller width.

Now I’ve got to calibrate the different styles and see how this plays out.

So, bear with the kid – okay?

16 mar 06 @ 11:55 am est

Post #1

 

EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE

A BANKER – WONDER WHY?

 

Freakonomics discussed the trend in a post yesterday, specifically mentioning Prosper.com, and Wal-Mart. Next, they dropped this interesting nugget:

In [today’s] papers, look for news that Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television and majority owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, is buying Metro Bank in Orlando, renaming it Urban Trust Bank, and will try to parley it into a network of banks to serve the currently underserved urban populations across the U.S. Although I haven’t read anything about it lately, I recall that Russell Simmons was trying to start a debit-card network in urban areas as well.

And there was one very interesting comment by one of their readers:

A big reason for the increased interest in serving lower income areas over the last few months would be the enaction of the new bankruptcy laws in October. Lending to the poor has traditionally been high-risk (bankruptcy), high-reward (high interest rates), and now that it is so much harder to declare bankruptcy, there is much less risk for the lenders.

Also, when the mainstream banks fled urban areas in the 60s and 70s, payday lenders, check-cashers, pawnshops, and other businesses filled the void. These businesses have exploded over the last decade, and mainstream banks are looking to re-enter this market. It will be interesting to see whether these banks offer traditional services or focus mainly on replicating the fringe economy. For a good read on this, check out Howard Karger’s Shortchanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy.

And, as predicted, here are the stories on Robert Johnson: Forbes, Orlando Sentinel, and the Washington Post – which is the most detailed and informative.

Robert L. Johnson, the founder and former chief executive of Black Entertainment Television, said yesterday that he acquired a tiny Florida savings and loan and plans to move it to Washington to use as the springboard for a large consumer financial services company aimed at black customers.

The bank, to be renamed Urban Trust, is part of an effort by Johnson to build what he hopes will be the country’s largest minority-owned financial services company, one positioned to attract major Wall Street investors as it seeks to foster and profit from rising black wealth. The company is meant to compete with the nation’s most elite financial firms, but, its new chief executive said, it will also spend “a lot of afternoons in churches” advocating homeownership.

“Urban Trust will . . . bring more access to capital to individuals and families who need it, especially those that need help managing their assets and their wealth in a better way,” Johnson said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that a well-capitalized, well-managed black-owned financial institution will be welcomed.”

While average household net worth of blacks is far lower than the national average -- $15,500 vs. $71,700 in 1998, according to the latest figures compiled by the Federal Reserve -- it is growing far more rapidly than the national average.

In establishing Urban Trust, Johnson wants to reverse a decade-long slide in the number and performance of small, undercapitalized black-owned banks across the country whose traditional markets have been invaded by mainstream financial institutions.

Very interesting private sector development; more, please; faster, please.

16 mar 06 @ 11:48 am est

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Post #3

 

ROLLIN’ AS A

BUSH REPUBLICAN

 

As a proud 9-11 Republican, I’ve watched with great interest as George W. Bush has tried to steer the Grand Old Party into comprehending its role as the Governing Ole Party – and suffered some blowback from Reaganites, so-called Realists, Libertarians and other members of the multiple coalitions of the willing that make up the modern Republican Party. Daniel Casse in the L.A. Times has a good discussion of the situation:

Rather than trying to unite his party behind less contentious issues, Bush has been steadily steering the Republican Party into policy areas where it never has never been very confident but that can no longer be ignored: healthcare, immigration, retirement. Coupled with national security, they have become some of the most contentious, pressing and divisive issues the country faces.

Most of the loudest Bush critics within the Republican and conservative world believe that the party must return to its Reaganite, shrink-the-government roots. "The Republican Party needs to start a dialogue that will get it back on track as the party of small government before it loses what is left of its principles, reputation and heritage," Bartlett writes in "Impostor."

Bush, however, seems to have recognized that tackling these difficult and long-term issues requires Republican imagination to go beyond "limited government." Replacing our Social Security system with individual, private savings accounts, after all, requires more government spending, at least in the short-term. Increasing border patrols, administering a guest-worker program or hiring more Arab-language linguists at the CIA and FBI requires larger, more expensive government. The much-derided Medicare drug plan actually has, buried within it, the first seeds of means-testing and market competition among health plans, which conservative Republicans have long sought. But to get even this, Bush had to sign on to a very expensive entitlement expansion.

This tension between the modern conservative agenda of promoting accountability, competition and individual choice on the one hand and the Reagan vision of small government on the other is rarely acknowledged by Republican leaders. But it is at the heart of many of the disputes between Bush and his conservative critics.

For his part, Bush has never successfully packaged his ideas as a new vision for the Republican Party. "Compassionate conservatism," the line he used during his first campaign, died an early and much-deserved death.

Nevertheless, the basic framework for a new kind of conservative, Republican politics is out there. In addition to his support for accountability and choice in domestic policies, Bush has indirectly advanced the case for what I have called "strong government" — harnessing the power of the federal government to achieve conservative ends, domestically as well as abroad.

Strong government may in some cases require bigger government. But it is in stark contrast to the large, inept and weak government that characterized Democratic programs for decades. Bush's strong government recognizes that the U.S. has no choice but to lead the fight against Islamic terrorism and to try to promote some form of democratic government in the Middle East. But it also recognizes that laissez faire is an insufficient response if the policy goal is accountability in schools or a transformation of our entitlement programs.

The writer wasn’t fond of the term “compassionate conservativism” but I think that is still the deal in conjunction with the “ownership society” theme. Along, of course, with strength on national security and projection of American military power is still a winning ticket.

14 mar 06 @ 4:59 pm est

Post #2

 

FRIEND OR FOE? WELL, THAT’S COMPLICATED.

 

I’m re-reading Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s long piece in Commentary, “The United States in Opposition.” I first read it perhaps a year or so ago and was blown away by it. It explained so much that I’m still amazed I had never heard of it before. So, when I discover that a British blogger I’ve begun to occasionally read, Melanie Phillips, has a new book coming out, and I read how she describes the book:

[Londonistan] is an attempt to explain how Britain managed to become the principal hub of Islamist terrorism in Europe.

It is an analysis of the cultural, political and social developments that allowed this extraordinary development to occur. It is a story in which institutions across British society – the judiciary, security circles, the Church of England, the universities, the media – have all been complicit in creating a climate of moral inversion, intellectual confusion and deeply prejudiced irrationality which has allowed clerical fascism progressively to colonise what has become a moral and cultural vacuum.

Far from Britain learning at long last the lessons of this debacle, the book concludes that it is still heavily into a state of potentially lethal denial and appeasement of extremism. This has cut the ground from under the feet of truly moderate British Muslims and, most dangerous of all, failed to engage with what is principally a repudiation of reason and the bedrock values of liberal democracy. The result is that, despite Tony Blair’s image as a cheerleader for America, Britain is now the weak link in the defence of the west.

I quite naturally think of Moynihan. We think of Britain as an ally for obvious reasons but the intellectual elite of that nation has been an enemy of ours for quite some time, and they have heavily influenced the wayward thinking of leftists here at home and all over the globe.

14 mar 06 @ 4:57 pm est

Post #1

 

NASHVILLE & SEC TOURNAMENT BASKETBALL

 

One exuberant Gator fan made a beautiful post about the tournament that just concluded and I wanted to share it because I thought it was so good. It’s behind a subscription wall so there is no link to the post:

Nashville is the perfect location to host the tourney. Within one block is the entrance to Gaylord, world famous Jack's ribs, several restaurants, and also the world famous (for country music fans) Broadway Street bars (Tootsies, Roberts Western World, The Stage, etc.)

For country music fans, it's very eerie. You can sit in Roberts, about the size of a waffle house, listen to unreal live music, and check out the pictures of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, all playing at one time and getting their start on the tiny Roberts stage.

It was very neat. And when you walk outside, you're not but 70 yards from the entrance to Gaylord [the basketball arena].

Tickets were plentiful (especially when UT and then Kentucky lost). Scalpers were selling tickets to the Sunday game for $5 for the lower section.

Nashville is very small and clean. Absolutely beautiful city. Gaylord is a basketball/hockey arena, which is so much nicer than watching in the cavernous Georgia Dome. Just all in all a much better city and venue for the tourney.

As if you didn't know, we [the Fightin’ Florida Gators] are, by far, the most despised team by all other fans. Everyone that was at any of our games was cheering for the opponent.

The Rowdy Reptiles brought about 50-75 and they had an upper deck section behind a basket. Didn't matter. They were unbelievably loud and into the games every second. No other school even had a specific student section (LSU had a small one). I was in the bottom level each game and could easily hear the Rowdies chants. The best one came at halftime when the Arkansas mascot took a 3 pointer, missed everything, and then Rowdies broke into a long, loud, and hilarious, AIR-BALL. Then when the Hogs long haired center fouled out, the Right-Left was booming all the way from the upper deck.

On Sunday, I sat one row over from Brewer's mom, Green's family, and Berry's family. We talked to Corey's mom a few times, and she is just an awesome fan. All were very into the cheers, chants, everything. It was very neat. [University President Bernie] Machen had a seat a few rows in front of me, just sitting in and amongst all of the fans. I thought that was very cool. Several football players were one row behind the family members and were also into the game.

Saturday morning I took a friend to Gaylord Opryland Hotel to show him the digs (we're staying there for the football game vs. Vandy). It might be the most impressive, and sprawling hotel in the Southeast. Unbelievably huge, with beautiful rivers and streetscapes inside the atriums, it is really impressive. As we were walking down the hallway, we almost ran into [Florida basketball player and the only Senior on the team] Adrian Moss, who turned a corner and was in front of us. We didn't even know the players were staying there. We continued down the hall, and AMoss went to the lobby, where all of the players were. Everyone was quiet and subdued, presumably getting in game mode. Seeing them off of the court shows you how huge the guys really are.

Watching the game in person, this is just the perfect team. Everyone likes one another, everyone roots for one another, everyone clearly respects coach big time. The after game celebration was tremendous. The players were having a great time, talking with fans in the crowd. Noah went into the crowd and made a cell phone call. Brewer hugged everyone, including two Gaylord arena ballboys wearing Dr. Pepper shirts, no affiliation with the Gators even. Brewer did not stop smiling.

When a guy hollered (right next to me) "2 championships in two years, let's make it one more next year," Horford responded clearly by saying "Next 2 years" . . . with 2 fingers extended

I heard every word clearly and that was exactly what was said..

Green spanked [Assistant Coach Larry] Shyatt so hard on the butt when he was about to climb the ladder it knocked him off stride. Lots of laughing.

Green appears to be painfully shy around everyone. When he was announced MVP, Noah, Horford, and Brewer were jumping all over him, and he was almost embarrassed.

When Richard was leaving the court Saturday after the LSU game (we were at the tunnel where they were exiting), somebody said "Great game Richard, what'd you have, 100 rebounds". Richard laughed and then specifically thanked the fans for coming. Very cool.

Living in Atlanta, these were my first games this year. I could not have come away more impressed with the entire organization.

Go Gators!!!!

Yeah, I’m definitely envious of that Gator fan.

14 mar 06 @ 4:53 pm est

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Post #2

 

FLORIDA: SEC BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT CHAMPS!

FLORIDA STATE: WAITING FOR THE COMMITTEE

TO DO THE RIGHT THING

 

In what had to be one of the more bizarre tournament championship games ever, Florida prevailed over Carolina 49-47. It was a deeply unsatisfying game for me but the win was incredibly satisfying. I hope that makes sense to you. The Gators played down to the competition for the third-straight time against the Gamecocks. That’s the unsatisfying part. But the win was Florida’s second straight conference tournament championship and marked the third straight time the Gators have appeared in the final game of the conference season.

Those are basketball-school bona fides. Under Billy Donovan, this basketball program has arrived and now expects to compete for championships.

Thank you, Billy D., thank you very much.

I’m making this post before the selections for March Madness are made but I surely do hope that Florida State is given a place at the table. Some Gator fans believe it would be a joke if that happens but I beg to differ. If you describe quality wins constrained as something of a slave to the dumb-ass RPI – maybe State has only one quality win. But if you watch basketball, and pay attention to the conventional wisdom, what does their record show?

They gave Purdue, a member of the Big Ten, their worst loss of the season. I’m sorry if I’m an old school guy, but that counts.

Nebraska, that team from the Big 12 that finished in the middle of their conference and made it to their conference semi-finals? State smoked them, 74-60. I count that as a quality win.

A one-point loss to UNC and a one-point loss to Duke? Those games argue in favor of State. Slaves to the RPI get their panties wet over the difference between #150 in their RPI and #300 when there simply is no functional difference in those teams.

For the record, the Sagarin is probably more authoritative than the RPI and State shows up at #29 there – that’s an 8-seed.

Hell yeah, they should be in the tournament. And they should be there without apologizing to any damn body. They are a very dangerous basketball team and that was proven in the O’Connell Center this season.

12 mar 06 @ 4:10 pm est

Post #1

 

HARD TO ARGUE WITH THIS LOGIC

 

Gerard Van der Leun asks:

Is discrimination wrong?

Almost always.

Is it wrong in this case?

Probably.

Can this discrimination, distrust and suspicion be reversed?

Not in this decade.

Did Bush lead us into this realm of discrimination?

No.

Did some sort of innate xenophobia within many Americans lead us here?

No.

What led Americans into this frame of mind, expressed in a rare show of political unity, is the repeated behavior of a culture and a religion over a long period of time.

If a lot of members of your family spend a lot of time killing and threatening members of my family, I might be willing not to condemn every member of your family, but that doesn't mean we're going to be doing a lot of business deals over lunch.

I’m not pleased with the response to this ports deal. Not pleased at all. But I can follow, and appreciate, the point being made.

However, this is the challenge for a nation leading the world into a 21st century that will be far, far less about Europe and much more about the rest of the globe: you’re not going to have the luxury of repeating this kind of xenophobic mistake too many more times.

You’d better come to terms with that fact. The sooner, the better.

12 mar 06 @ 4:02 pm est

Friday, March 10, 2006

 

A REMINDER: SAYFIE REVIEW AND FORT REPORT

 

With the 2006 Florida Legislative Session just underway, it’s useful to note two good sources for contemporary political news in Florida: one is Sayfie Review and the other is run by my old staff director in the Florida Senate, The Fort Report.

Two good sources, and not cut from the same cloth.

10 mar 06 @ 11:20 am est

Post #1

 

BLACK ENOUGH?

 

Swapan Dasgupta, writing in the Calcutta Telegraph on the historic trip just recently concluded by President George W. Bush to India, noted a certain failing found within the largest democracy in the world:

India , it would seem, is still mentally unprepared to cope with its new global status. Jawaharlal Nehru and the other eminent Nehruvians such as V.K. Krishna Menon may have been passionately interested in international affairs. Unfortunately, that interest was tempered by what can be best described as a monumental chip on the shoulder. Nehru, who was culturally steeped in Anglo-Saxon mores, was over-anxious to show that his heart went out to all the colonized peoples. Likewise, Menon never got out of the propagandist role he assumed as head of the India League in Britain. In attempting to be a “quality” in world affairs — Menon’s description — India ended up as a preachy, sanctimonious bore. Except with the Mountbattens and the liberal set in Hampstead, the British and American establishments tended to be more at ease with Ayub Khan and John Kotelawala than with earnest Indians who shopped in London but pretended that Moscow was paradise. Despite her fierce espousal of national interests, Indira Gandhi carried this arrogant pretence to macabre heights.

It is not merely the leadership that indulged in this inverted snobbery. Feigned indignation directed at the West became a national philosophy and led to disastrous policy choices. Every failure stemming from sloth and incompetence was laid at the door of the colonial legacy. Excellence and entrepreneurship were shunned and mediocrity was celebrated in the name of self-sufficiency and third worldism. The economists and historians were, predictably, the worst culprits. “It has been well said,” wrote Jagdish Bhagwati, one of the early refugees from India’s socialist conformism, “that any elementary mistake in economics can be turned into a profound truth by ingenuously making the right assumptions to deduce what you want . . . India suffered the tyranny of anticipated consequences from the wrong premise.”

God almighty, talk about hitting close to home! That might as well have been written about African American leadership from the 1960s onward and our political proxies in the Democratic Party.

You are forever having to prove your “black” bona fides and demonstrating that you remember where you came from that you not only get trapped in an echo chamber but an intellectual circularity loop.

India is finally seeing the light and breaking out of their loop. Can black people in the United States be far behind?

10 mar 06 @ 9:51 am est

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Post #3

 

OUR SOCIETY REQUIRES A FEROCIOUS STREAK

 

Speaking as a conservative Canadian, David Warren continues to pose the relevant question:

Do our people, does our government have the spine for the mission we have chosen? To do our modest share in the West’s response to an existential threat? In the end, it will be a question of whether we are capable of shame. For only those capable of shame last the course.

* * *

Against barbarism, the civilized must never be soft. Against barbarism, the civilized must be ferocious.

That’s what I’m talking about. And it applies worldwide.

9 mar 06 @ 10:42 am est

Post #2

 

LOOK TO THE PHILIPPINES, MY FRIEND

 

Make sure you read Wretchard's piece on “The Cult.”

The idea of treating the Jihad like a mental disease or lunatic cult may sound like an innovative approach. But in war, probably more than any other profession save one, the new is very, very old. An old but fascinating document describing the approaches developed by Colonel Edward Landsdale to suppress a Communist insurgency in the Philippines on a shoestring budget will remind the reader how dirty and cunningly fought the Long War was. Historians may have called it the "Cold War" but those in it shot real bullets and died very permanent deaths. After the Second World War Communist hit squads were swarming all over the island of Luzon in a battle to seize power that gave no quarter and showed no mercy. Facing them were a bunch of American and Filipino officers who built what in later years was nostalgically referred to as the Army of MacArthur and Magsaysay; men who slept on canvas cots and made up tactics and weapons as they went along. The Terry-and-the-Pirates atmosphere is illustrated by the way they cooked up their own napalm.

Read it all.

The Philippines have been fighting the “Long War” for quite some time. In fact, the “Cold War” for them is subsumed within their Long War.

9 mar 06 @ 10:18 am est

Post #1

 

WHY DIVERSITY, PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD, MATTERS

 

Michael Barone, on flexibility and a respect for not only diversity but differences:

As William H. Whyte pointed out in his 1957 classic The Organization Man, corporations hired people not for their skills and abilities but on how well they fit in with other people in the organization. So General Motors didn't hire Jews, because it was clear they wouldn't fit in at the Bloomfield Hills Country Club. So, at a time when auto styling was important in sales and at a time when the demand for different kinds of vehicles was growing, the Big Three denied themselves the services of members of a group with a demonstrably superior ability to understand the rapidly changing tastes of people unlike themselves.

Instead, they hired and promoted people who assumed that everybody in the marketplace was just like themselves. Stupid.

Some free- market economists argue that racial and ethnic discrimination is likely to die out because it's economically irrational. It's an attractive argument, and one I long to believe. But the experience of the Big Three suggests that the people running big organizations can take a long time to wake up to that irrationality. I was blessed to grow up with parents who believed that discrimination against blacks and Jews was morally wrong and led their lives accordingly. As a result, I was always hostile to such discrimination and thought it was not only wrong but stupid. General Motors' plight, as sketched out in the Wall Street Journal article, is just the latest evidence that I was lucky enough to be led early on toward a view that is correct.

Not simply “correct,” but a historically “American” point of view. This is quite easy to see when you examine American history as a part of world history. Leftists, and isolationists on the right-wing, however, are dead-set against doing that.

It’s often said that green is the only color that matters in America. Not true.

9 mar 06 @ 8:59 am est

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Post #1

 

FLORIDA’S 2006 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

 

The Florida Senate and Florida House officially open the 2006 Legislative Session today and Governor Jeb Bush will deliver his final State of the State address this morning at 11 a.m.

7 mar 06 @ 9:15 am est

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Post #1

 

PORT STORM = REACTION TO CARTOON INTIFADA?

 

Is that the dealio? Mark Steyn seems to think so:

For five years, beginning with the designation of “war on terror,” the president’s public presentation has been consistent: Islam is a great religion, religion of peace, marvelous stuff, White House Ramadan Banquet the highlight of the calendar, but, sadly, every barrel has one or two bad apples, even Islam believe it or not, and once we’ve hunted those down we’ll join the newly liberated peace-loving Muslim democracies in a global alliance of peace-loving peaceful persons. Most sentient beings have been aware that there is, to put it mildly, a large element of evasion about this basic narrative, but only now is it being explicitly rejected by all sides. William F. Buckley and George Will have more or less respectfully detached themselves from the insane idealism of shoving liberty and democracy down people’s throats whether they want it or not. And, on the ports deal with Dubai, a number of other commentators I respect plus a stampede of largely ignorant weathervane pols have denounced the administration for endangering American security on the eastern seaboard. I can’t see that: The only change is that instead of being American stevedores employed by a British company they’ll now be American stevedores employed by a United Arab Emirates company.

But what I find interesting is the underlying argument: At heart, what Hillary Clinton and Co. are doing is dismissing as a Bush fiction the idea of “friendly” Arab “allies” in the war of terror. They’re not necessarily wrong.

No, they aren’t. And in this column I think Mark Steyn nails things perfectly, especially in his closing:

What Democrats seem to be doing with Dubai Ports World, whether they realize it or not, is tapping in to a general public skepticism (to put it politely) about the entire Muslim world. In that sense, the ports deal is the American equivalent of the Danish cartoon jihad: increasing numbers of Europeans -- if not yet their political class -- are fed up with switching on the TV and seeing Muslim men jumping up and down and threatening death followed by commentators patiently explaining that the “vast majority” of Muslims are, of course, impeccably “moderate.” So what? There were millions of “moderate” Germans in the 1930s, and a fat lot of good they did us or them.

Despite being portrayed as a swaggering arrogant neocon warmongering cowboy, President Bush has, in fact, been circumspect to a fault for five years. But the equivocal constrained rhetoric is insufficient to a “long war.” And from all sides, more and more people are calling its bluff.

Now, given that the Democrats have become the most unserious major American political party in history (certainly in my nearly 30-years of adult life) – it should be amusing to see the dance engaged by Hillary and Bill Clinton and all of the rest of the gang. I heard on the radio last week Jesse Jackson stating the obvious and defending the ports deal, while I’ve had conversations locally where black folks kinda sorta know the deal but want to engage in the game and harm Dubya in any way they can.

So it goes.

5 mar 06 @ 7:19 am est

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Post #2

 

MY PRESIDENT

 

He’s on the j.o.b. in South Asia:

 Dubya in Hyderabad

Keep on keepin’ on, Dubya.

4 mar 06 @ 9:48 pm est

Post #1

 

GIVING DONALD RUMSFELD HIS DUE

 

Apparently, it takes Newt Gingrich to give Donald Rumsfeld his due. In the face of unwarranted criticism of the latest Quadrennial Defense Review, Gingrich has a quite different opinion:

This was the most thorough and systematically managed review in Pentagon history. The review board, co-chaired by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England and Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, spent half a year forcing changes in a complex bureaucratic system famous for its ability to hide and wait for the current civilian leadership to disappear so it can continue its old, comfortable ways. Only by sheer force of will has the senior leadership, under the direction of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, muscled through substantial and historic change in the Defense Department.

This effort to craft a change-oriented QDR has to be seen in the larger context of change throughout the Defense Department. The fact that Gen. Peter Schoomaker was brought out of retirement to impose Rumsfeld's vision on a reluctant Army is the best example of the determined, systematic change involved. Schoomaker has become the most single-minded Army modernizer since George Catlett Marshall.

What Donald Rumsfeld has incontrovertibly accomplished (curbing the Marine Corps and their “special operations capable” but not part of the Special Operations Command mythology, announcing to the U.S. Army that our rapid deployment forces mentality is now driving the train, among others) demonstrates just how well he has moved forward with transformation.

4 mar 06 @ 9:47 pm est

Friday, March 3, 2006

Post #2

 

A REPORT CARD OF SORTS ON

FLORIDA’S GOVERNOR J.E. BUSH

 

Florida Trend's conclusion? He’s clearly one of the most influential and consequential governors in the modern era. They close out their piece with a long series of quotes (answers to direct questions?) from Jeb:

I’m really not focused on my legacy. It’s not in my nature to be particularly reflective anyway.

We’re still a weak constitutional executive compared to places like New Jersey, where the New Jersey governor can line-item veto budget appropriations and put in the budget any number they like. Can you imagine having that power?

I think it’s really important to have a strong executive in a state as dynamic as Florida. Because I think if you allow the Legislature to be the dominant policy-maker and they begin to micromanage the executive, then you get paralysis. In a state like Florida, you need to seize the opportunity and deal with the problems and move on.

I’m sure I’ve changed. I just haven’t had time to reflect on it. I have a deeper respect for public servants, people that work in government, not just the ones that work in our office that will probably leave when I go, but people who are career people. I think I appreciate their service more now, having been here seven years, than when I was running, for sure.

There should be a discussion. There should be some mention of the fact that evolution is not the … that there are some unanswered questions in life. I would consider myself, I guess, a creationist because I think God created the heavens and the earth. That makes me a creationist, doesn’t it? I don’t think my views should be imposed to create the Sunshine skills standards or the standards for curriculum development. That should be done by teachers and education professionals.

My faith also makes it hard for me to issue death warrants. I can tell you that it’s not easy for me. It troubles me ... even with these incredibly atrocious crimes that are committed. It’s a joyful existence around here but for that.

The job ... is kind of fun. It’s a place where you can steal other people’s ideas, and they don’t seem to be too upset about it. I’m going to miss that a lot.
I will be the first and I hope not the only governor ... to have cut taxes every year, and I’m proud of it. I love it. I just think it’s fantastic, and I like it when people get mad that I do it, that I propose it and I’m proud of it. And I think it’s humorous that they get mad.

I’m not sure that I can ever have a job like this, so I may have to just recast the whole thought process because if I compare it to this, it will pale.

My brother, whenever he comes here, pulls up in this gigantoid blue baby … you got to get goose bumps when you see Air Force One land — it doesn’t matter who’s in there coming off the plane … it’s just an awesome thing. When he leaves, after he comes and does his thing, he looks over, when I’m with him, he’ll point over, “is that your little plane over there?”

In a state like Florida you need to seize the opportunity and deal with the problems and move on. This is not a static place. This is not a place for stasis thinking. This is a place for dynamic action.

In spite of our problems, we are in our ascendancy right now. There’s only two ways you go in life, whether it’s your own personal life or your business or your state. You’re either in your ascendancy or in your decline. You don’t stay in place anymore. The world moves too fast.

That last observation is a hard, hard point of view but difficult to argue against. Well done, governor.

3 mar 06 @ 4:43 pm est

Post #1

 

HOORAY FOR CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS

 

Christopher Hitchens slays Francis Fukuyama:

The first requirement of anyone engaging in an intellectual or academic debate is that he or she be able to give a proper account of the opposing position(s), and Fukuyama simply fails this test. The term “root causes” was always employed ironically (as the term “political correctness” used to be) as a weapon against those whose naive opinions about the sources of discontent were summarized in that phrase. It wasn’t that the Middle East “lacked democracy” so much that one of its keystone states was dominated by an unstable and destabilizing dictatorship led by a psychopath. And it wasn’t any illusion about the speed and ease of a transition so much as the conviction that any change would be an improvement. The charge that used to be leveled against the neoconservatives was that they had wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein (pause for significant lowering of voice) even before Sept. 11, 2001. And that “accusation,” as Fukuyama well knows, was essentially true—and to their credit.

The three questions that anyone developing second thoughts about the Iraq conflict must answer are these: Was the George H.W. Bush administration right to confirm Saddam Hussein in power after his eviction from Kuwait in 1991? Is it right to say that we had acquired a responsibility for Iraq, given past mistaken interventions and given the great moral question raised by the imposition of sanctions? And is it the case that another confrontation with Saddam was inevitable; those answering “yes” thus being implicitly right in saying that we, not he, should choose the timing of it? Fukuyama does not even mention these considerations. Instead, by his slack use of terms like “magnet,” he concedes to the fanatics and beheaders the claim that they are a response to American blunders and excesses.

It’s interesting to see a “public intellectual” morph into a punk ass surrender monkey when the inevitable happens – and life in all its complexities manifests itself.

3 mar 06 @ 3:06 pm est

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Post #1

 

TESTING, TESTING, TESTING

 

I am going to be testing out some blogging tweaks over the next few days and may or may not post here; and if I try to post, things may or may not work as planned.

Or maybe I’ll say to hell with all of it . . . but hopefully not.

Until this is all worked out somehow – later, Gators!

2 mar 06 @ 2:22 pm est

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Post #2

 

AFRICA ROUNDUP

 

From the Mail & Guardian in South Africa:

‘Things don’t look good’ in Uganda
Five candidates are vying for the Ugandan presidency, while close on 1 000 are contesting Parliamentary seats in 214 constituencies as well as the 69 districts which are reserved for women. Miria Obote, wife of former head of state Milton Obote, is the Uganda People’s Congress presidential candidate.

The ‘challenges’ of Darfur
How serious is South Africa about halting massive, ethnically targeted human destruction in Darfur in western Sudan? Is President Thabo Mbeki prepared to support the robust, international force required to protect millions of vulnerable people and the increasingly tenuous humanitarian lifeline upon which they depend?

Kibaki on borrowed time
If corruption was the lubricant that in the past oiled Kenya’s politics, it is now the enfant terrible that gobbles up its progenitors. Three weeks ago, this horrible child of Kenya’s politics strolled into town, scalping no less than three of President Mwai Kibaki’s ministers and his personal assistant.

MDC congress hopes to mend party split
The beleaguered opposition Movement for Democratic Change -- at least the pro-senate faction -- buckles down this weekend for a congress, the outcome of which could set the tone for “reunification” talks with the wing headed by party president Morgan Tsvangirai.

Quaking in their beds
Ten-year-old Zimbabwean Dianna Matika, who had a heart ailment, is one of the confirmed fatalities after an earthquake measuring 7,5 on the Richter scale hit Southern Africa in the early hours of Thursday morning. The girl from the eastern Zimbabwean city of Mutare died three minutes after the quake struck.

Mswati emulates Mugabe
There is a disturbing sameness about the way South Africa’s two most vexatious neighbours negotiate their way up the proverbial creek with nary a sign of a paddle.
Swaziland’s King Mswati III appears to be emulating President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. In the finest Austin Powers tradition, the mini-me king is attempting a Murambatsvina-style slum clearance of his own.

Bob’s lift doesn’t reach the top floor
It is official -- Zanu-PF’s financial crisis does not go right to the top. The party has not held its weekly politburo meeting since the beginning of the year because it cannot afford to fix the lift in its 14-storey Harare headquarters. The party is battling to raise what sounds like the huge sum of Z$160-million (R6 154) needed for spares and maintenance.

Gono goes too far
Divergent groups -- ranging from the International Monetary Fund to Cabinet ministers, the security establishment and the opposition -- want Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono reined in, albeit for different reasons. “Some of the issues he touches are outside his domain,” complained opposition Movement for Democratic Change shadow secretary for economic affairs, Tendayi Biti.

Graft scandals rock Kenya
The fallout from a growing list of corruption scandals in Kenya is intensifying by the week as national and international outrage at the apparent rot at the heart of President Mwai Kibaki’s regime swells. Recently, education minister George Saitoti, Kibaki’s personal assistant Alfred Getonga and the president’s close ally Kiraitu Murungi exited the corridors of power.

Mauritius looks west
Mauritius may be one of the world’s most glamorous destinations, but agriculturally speaking, there’s not that much of it to go around. As a result, the island’s government and farmers have begun looking west -- to the far larger, neighbouring island of Madagascar. For the Malagasy administration, this holds out the promise of increased investment.

Children of the night
Mary has spent the day gathering sheaves of grass to feed the cattle, weeding the vegetable patch and helping her mother cook dinner over a charcoal fire: the life of any African girl in any African village. But as daylight begins to fade, Mary slips away from the family’s mud hut and strides down a sandy track into the nearest town.

Uganda’s elections ‘won’t be free and fair’
For many reasons, President Yoweri Museveni’s army is the key to Uganda’s first multiparty election in 25 years. Not surprisingly then, his people are trumpeting his National Resistance Movement as the only party that can control the army. Museveni won elections in 1996 and 2001.

AU supports Somali split
Hopes of recognition for Somali land’s 15-year independence have been raised by the favourable report of an African Union mission that visited the territory last year. The report, a copy of which the Mail & Guardian has obtained, comes at a time when signs of a new flexibility in African thinking on boundary issues are emerging.

Hard-fought battle for West Nile voters
Uganda’s West Nile has become one of several hotly contested regions in the country’s presidential campaign. In a bid to woo West Nile voters, who traditionally favour opposition candidates, President Yoweri Museveni announced a new hydroelectric power plant on the Nile to serve the region.

Swazi bomber gets two years
One of the 16 accused of a spate of petrol bombings in Swaziland has pleaded guilty to charges of high treason. He has been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with the option of a R10 000 fine. Mduduzi Dlamini admitted to bombing the Sandleni constituency centre last August.

Portrait of Uganda’s rebel prophet, painted by wives
His rebel group is one of world’s most notorious, reviled for an incongruous mix of religion and brutality, but Joseph Kony, the chief of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, is a mystery to most. For nearly 20 years, the elusive guerrilla supremo’s fighters have terrorised vast swathes of northern Uganda with an unholy blend of murder and wanton destruction.

Mbeki’s had it with Zim
President Thabo Mbeki is no longer prepared to grit his teeth and stare down his critics to defend his “quiet diplomacy” approach to the troubles on his northern front. In an interview with the SABC last Sunday, he as much as conceded that he had been duped into believing that informal talks between the Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change would yield a political breakthrough.

Feet to the fire for Gbagbo
Four months ago it was the tardy disarmament process that delayed elections in Côte d’Ivoire. Installed as Prime Minister in December, Charles Konan Banny was expected to prioritise this. But new and highly divisive political wrangles have put the brakes on his quest.

Vehicle saga shows Kenyan govt lacks budgetary teeth
“Why didn’t you prevent this?” is a question Kenyans may start asking legislators soon, concerning a report about the government’s purchase of luxury vehicles in 2003 and 2004. Entitled Living Large: Counting the Cost of Official Extravagance in Kenya, the 23-page document was issued last week by the local chapter of Transparency International.

Independent journalists registered
The Media and Information Commission finally registered journalists at the Zimbabwe Independent on January 31 after refusing to accredit them recently. The commission, created through the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act , took issue with a story the newspaper ran last year and over a misunderstanding about the paper’s shareholding.

 Africa, from top to bottom.

1 mar 06 @ 2:19 pm est

Post #1

 

THIS ANGLOPHILE FROM CANADA

 

This man, David Warren, does challenge you – in an Old Testament kind of way (or so it seems to me):

[Here] is the [connection] between penitence and freedom, between the beautiful season of Lent and the astounding fact of the Resurrection. Through suffering we build ourselves up, we rise; we must not waste suffering. Not only in this central image of redemption through the Cross, but in its echo across every field of human [endeavor], has the Western world itself been raised. Democracy came of this, and the tradition of free inquiry, and so many charitable institutions that still feed the world’s hungers, even after we have ceased to [honor] the religion that was present at their creation. To look into history is to rediscover Christ, in the narrative of the West.

And to rekindle the conscience and faith that remains in us, often hidden from outward view, is to embark on that same path of discovery. The self-indulgence of our fat capitalism gets in the way. Not that I find anything wrong with the pursuit of prosperity in itself, with the often self-denying [labor] of investment and return. It becomes wrong only when we, in our laziness and foolishness and from the accumulation of riches, become the fatted calf; when we mistake the fruits of others’ [labor] for some entitlement to ourselves.

Not only Christianity, but all great religions, have recognized the purpose of material wealth: that it exists in the end to be given away. All recognize the unalterable fact that the enjoyment of material wealth cannot survive our death, and therefore we must prepare to lose everything. To my mind, Christianity alone fully rises to this universal fact of death, from where it stands, on the shoulder of Jewish prophecy. Death itself cannot be good, for it is nothingness; but death may be made to serve good, including the eternal good of the dying. Hence the Christian notion of “a beautiful death”, for which we must prepare all our lives.

Made to serve good, including the eternal good of dying.

It takes a bit to begin wrapping your head around that idea.

1 mar 06 @ 1:14 pm est


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