Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Never underestimate the importance of geography

I'm sending high praise to the North Carolina Sandhills for making possible a sweet harmonic convergence. Fresh fruit is one of the pleasures of late spring and summer. I've been getting my fill of strawberries for about a month, but I was hoping to catch fresh strawberries along with blueberrie and peaches at the same time. I suceeded. As of last weekend, the strawberries were still coming in strong. At the same time, the first peaches and blueberries came in from the Sandhills. Tonight's dinner consisted of a bowl of peaches, strawberries and blueberries all at once. It even left a little juice in the bottom of the bowl. I have to rinse out my goatee.

Reading Iraqi blogs

Found interesting reading on Iraqi blogs tonight. The posts go from the somber to the whimsical.

Treasure of Baghdad describes a community funeral for victims of bombing last week in front of a falafal stand. Apparently, the deaths took place in a neighborhood where various sects of Muslims live. A Christian woman was among the 14 victims.

Ibn Alrafidain gives an account of a neighbor who was detained by Iraqi commandoes. Also, showing racism knows no boundaries, he describes the treatment received by a Sudanese neighbor, a Baghdad resident for the last 15 years.

At 24 Steps to Liberty, there's an account of a family gathering where part of the conversation centered on how your fashion choices may kill you. It closes with an interesting quote from the blogger's aunt:

“Now what do you say?” my aunt asked me, referring to that I might be the last Iraqi who is still in favor of the war. “Do you still like what happened in Iraq?”

I wanted to answer her, but I was really hungry. I didn’t want to be deprived of food at 3pm! Also, I didn’t have evidences to back my answer up!

Talisman Gate, authored by Nibras Kazimi, an Iraqi who is currently a visiting scholar at the Hudson Institute relays news on a Moqtada Sadr fatwa. Apparently Sadr issued an ordering forbidding his followers from practicing an underground Shi'a movement called Sulukiyya. Among other beliefs, Sulukiyya offers the road to divinity through sexual stimulation. Kazimi wrote that it is also believed that Sadr dabbled in the practice a little himself.

The Neurotic Iraqi wife finally convinced her husband to give her a tour of the Red Zone in Baghdad. Good pictures.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Carolina gator catcher

We may have to call '06 as springtime of the gator. Not to be upstaged by Florida gators, the N&O profiles Wilmington gator wrangler Jimmy English. The increase of coastal area subdivisions has moved humans and gators closer together in NC. He has a permit to catch gators in several Brunswick County subdivisions. He releases the catch into more secluded swamps.

English is certainly worth a profile. You may call this his business philosophy:

"More habitat, more Yankees, more gators," English said. "I love 'em all. If it wasn't for these Yankees scared to death of every little snake, I wouldn't have no job."

He also has worked on movie sets to keep gators and other creepy crawlies away from the stars.

Good read.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Nyrd Skynyrd

The credit or blame, depending on your perspective, for turning this thought wheel into motion came from David Boyd's post on "Sweet Home Alabama" being ranked as somewhere in the top ten of all time conservative rock and roll tunes.

I've never been a big fan of the Skynyrd big hits. In fact, "Sweet Home," "Free Bird," "Tuesday's Gone" and "What's Your Name," were among several that didn't make it to my desktop when I ripped music from my CDs. (I actually think "Free Bird" is a good song, but I guess I've heard it a few too many times.)

If you dig a little below the surface, you find the real deal. I don't have a favorite Skynard tune. "One More Time," "I Never Knew," "Comin' Home" and live versions of "Gimme Back My Bullets" and "Simple Man" get a lot of play over my way.

I don't know if their music qualifies as conservative rock or not. Actually, they are hard to pin down. "The Ballad of Curtis Loew," shows that black and white southerners could certainly get along at least on personal basis in the pre-Civil Rights days. "All I Can Do Is Write About It," foresaw the strip mall occupying the former cow pastures way back in the '70s. "Four Walls of Raiford" is as haunting a tribute to Vietnam Vets that I've ever heard.

You may certainly call Skynyrd politically incorrect. If you're interested in impressing a woman with the depth of your rock and roll coolness and can't resist playing a little Skynyrd, it might be best to keep "On the Hunt" in the hole, especially if she has some feminist tendencies. "I Never Dreamed" would be a better start and might even open a few doors. Better yet, play the tune and don't tell her it's Skynyrd.

I like listening to a variety of music, but always seems to come back to '70s rock and roll. Skynyrd can make a strong claim to being the best of the decade.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Will the spirit of R. Milhouse Nixon visit in '08?

The readers at Daily Kos may have their sights set on a Tennessee stud. Al Gore has received 68% of the vote at an ongoing poll at the web site. Russ Feingold runs second with a meager 15%. Hillary doesn't even register 1%. Just under 11,000 votes have been cast so far.

I love getting a laugh at the expense of Gore. Like the time the all the hair product started running down his face as he gave a frothing at the mouth speech under hot stage lights a couple of years ago. However, I take him seriously as a presidential candidate. He has proven he can win votes, a lot of them. You have to pay attention to that.

Guarino has a good post on Gore's prospects here.

Everybody loves chicken

This is the most viewed story today on the Yahoo news site. I'm not complaining. I'm a sucker for animal stories too.

Don't forget about the Greeks and Turks

Two long-time enemies who've tried to make nice with each other the last ten years, literally ran into each other earlier this week. Two F-16s, one Greek, the other Turkish, collided with each other over Aegean Sea Tuesday. The crash killed the Greek pilot. While the Turkish aviator survived, he refused to be pulled from the Aegean by a Greek rescue helicopter. He waited for one from Turkey to arrive. The two were shadowing each other just off the Greek coast. Greece claims ten miles out from its coast as its waters. Turkey says anything outside six miles of the Greek coast is international waters. This week's incident took place between the boundaries. Greece claims its jet was in its territorial waters, while Turkey says its pilot was flying in international waters.

Leaders from both countries expressed regret about the incident, but it has raised tensions. Even though it is not as glamorous as some of the other conflicts in this old contentious world, this is one of the most bitter rivalries of the past 200 years. Even Lord Byron decided to get involved on behalf of the Greeks in 1824 . Alas, he died of a fever before he saw any action.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Must've been one helluva pooch

Oregon's Raymond Weaver may find himself in civil court for running over his neighbor's dog. The neighbor, Mark Greenup, is seeking $1.6 million from Weaver in a loss of companionship claim. Weaver hit the elderly dog, Grizz, 13, two years ago. Greenup's contention:

Greenup, whose claim is usually reserved for the loss of a spouse, says the dog provided each member of his family with solace, affection, friendship, love and protection.

My advice to Greenup; get another dog. Growing up, we may have had leash laws, but they weren't enforced. Neighbors running over neighbor's dog didn't send shockwaves through the community. We had a dog that decided to take a nap behind the neighbor's car. I'll write it off as a case of bad timing, no lawsuit though. Is there a statute of limitations on these type things?

Update: A judge has ruled that dogs are personal property, snuffing out the loss of companionship suit. Weaver isn't off the hook though. He apparently ran over Grizz intentionally. He'll have to pay something. The whole thing sounds too bad.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Iranian, Jews, Christians and others to wear colored badges

The Iranian parliament, called the Majlis, has passed a law that would require Jews, Christians and Iranians of religious faiths other than Islam to wear colored badges. Under the law, Jews would wear yellow, (sound familiar?), Christians red and Zoroastrians blue. The legislation must be approved by Grand Ayatollah Khameini before it becomes law.

Is history really cyclical after all? I've always wanted to believe we traveled along a road pointing straight to the future, no turnarounds. I'm sure that's a view too naive. How many more tea leaves do we need to read to understand that the current diplomatic approach to dealing with a potenially-nuclear Iran reeks of weakness?

I'm not saying to lock and load tonight. Diplomacy may yet work, but Ahmadinejad and the mullahs have to believe that if the talking goes nowhere, we're willing to hit them with all we've got if that's what it takes. As ugly as armed conflict is, it holds the potential to grow much uglier in the future if we don't show the resolve and willingness to do something right now. There's still plenty of people living today who were around the last time a militiristic nation required a religious minority to wear yellow badges. We know how it turned out when those who could do something about it lacked the stomach to head 'em off at the pass.

Update: Opinion Journal posted that the badge story has been disputed. One Mideast analyst claims it is false. Anther says it is true, but that the law was passed two years ago.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dunn invites pres to join in celebrating "the Father of the Airborne"

The town of Dunn has invited President G. Walker Bush to join the annual festivities honoring Dunn native General William C. Lee who led the formation of American airborne units in World War II. Someone who will attend is another NC soldier, General Hugh Shelton, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The US military tabbed Lee to create a quick strike unit capable of matching the airborne skill of its German adversary. Lee oversaw the development of paratrooper training at Ft. Benning, Ga. and became the first commander of the 101st Airborne Division. He was responsible for moving its command to Ft. Bragg. He missed leading the 101st in the Normandy invasion due to a heart attack that sent him back to NC. His paratroopers dropped shouting "Bill Lee."

The Lee celebration began in 1986 with the opening of Dunn's General Lee Museum. This year's celebration will be held June 6-10. The White House says it will confirm showing or not showing about 10 days before the event.

BTW: Lee and Shelton are both NC State alums.

At least they have good medical care

Carlos Alberto Montaner writes that the persecution and humilition suffered by Cuban human rights advocates trickles down from the top. Montaner maintains that Fidel Castro issues the orders that result in beatings and other mistreatment of those who criticize his rule:

It is not a question of isolated acts perpetrated by sadistic characters. It's a carefully thought-out plan. Inside the prisons, the guards have been instructed to kick political prisoners mercilessly and to let them die if they fall ill, as is happening to Héctor Maseda, Héctor Palacios, Oscar Elías Biscet and a dozen other democrats incarcerated for writing articles, lending forbidden books, asking for a referendum or distributing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Montaner contends that this approach stems from Castro's take on the world around him:

This barbarousness derives from Fidel Castro's psychological nature and his upbringing while young. Castro is a corpulent and aggressive fellow who constantly needs to prove to himself and to the world that nobody can challenge him with impunity on any grounds. As a teenager in school, he bet that he could run headlong into a wall. He did so, and the concussion kept him in bed for four days. Later, at the university, he grew up in an extremely violent environment, where leadership was imposed through the physical elimination of adversaries or by total intimidation.

The Cuban people deserve a break. Read it all.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

But do they offer horseback riding?

As America charges into the 21st century, we now have a nude dude ranch in the Arizona desert. Part-owner Dave Landman makes his sales pitch:

"It's hard to go back to wearing a bathing suit once you've tried it nude," Dave Landman, one of six new owners, told the Arizona Daily Star.

Man's best friend indeed

A 9-year old boy whose family moved to Colorado after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina was saved from a rushing river by a yellow Lab named Zion. The boy, Ryan Rambo, fell off a raft into the Roaring Fork River Sunday. Chelsea Bennett, 13, Zion's owner, describes the rescue:

"A little boy was going down in his life jacket," she said Monday. "He was screaming for help."

Zion jumped into the river and swam toward Ryan, Bennett said. "He grabbed onto my dog, and my dog brought him into shore," she said, adding that she helped Ryan climb onto the bank.

"I asked what was wrong. He was really cold, and he told me he was with one other person, which was a male adult."

Dogs are the most wonderful creatures ever created. You can tell that to your cat. While your at it, email the story to Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Hasani. I'm sure he'd love reading about the heroic deed of a Lab named Zion.

The hounds beat gators and bears too.

Those western rivers are an awesome sight to behold, but they don't play. They're ice-cold too, nothing but melted snow.

Update: Just found out that the link on Ryan Rambo and Zion requires registration. Here's a post on the rescue from today's Rocky Mountain News.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush landing with thud at home?

It appears that President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad's mystical letter to George Bush has not created ripples of enthusiasm through the Islamic Republic of Iran:

Just four days after Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter to the US, his advisors are so disappointed in the American response which did not respond as well as they thought it would, that fear a wave of criticism will rise about his gesture from inside the country. According to political analysts, after Ahmadinejad suffered a defeat in attempting to allow women to attend sporting events in public stadium, his team banked that the letter to US president George Bush would create a breakthrough and enthusiasm among the youth of the country.

Bush had no choice but to react with silence to the letter. Perhaps the chilly response of the Iranian people is a sign that many want the Twelfth Imam to remain in the well.

Florida's killer gators gain worldwide attention

Authorities in Florida have confirmed two deaths by alligator, while they await a coroner's report on whether a killer gator was the primary cause of a third death. I've noticed a difference in the headlines between American and foreign outlets in reporting the death.

Here's a a few samples from overseas:

"Florida in fear as alligators go on killing spree" The Telegraph

"Shadow over sunshine state as three women killed in a week" The Guardian

"Gator rampage kills three" Melobourne Sun Herald

"Florida witnesses wave of alligator attacks" Xinhua

The headlines in the states seem a bit more blase:

"2 More Fatal Fla. Gator Attacks Reported" ABC, WaPo and San Jose Mercury News (They all use the same AP story)

Maybe death by wild animal sounds more exotic the further you reside from the story. It did find the foreign reports more informative.

Bush shows hand on immigration

President G.W. Bush officially revealed his five-point plan on solving the problem of illegal immigration tonight. Point one calls for more border security. The president proposes sending 6,000 National Guardsman to back up US Border Patrol for at least a year. In addition, he seeks a high-tech approach to catching illegal immigrants trying to cross the US-Mexican border. Points two through five deal with a guest-worker program, sanctions for employers who hire illegals, a path to citizenship and an emotional appeal to the notion of the US as a "melting pot."

Overall, I find the proposal milquetoast, but his border plans sound good. While I don't agree with all of two through five, I can accept them if plank one is accomplished. Right now, I'm taking "I'll believe it when I see it" approach to GWB's committment to securing the border.

Legal immigration continues to be important to the US. However, throughout our history we've taken pause after any great influx of immigrants and those were the foreign-born who arrived legally. We have to take time to measure the impact of what we have at present and that means stabilizing the number of illegal immigrants who are already here. The only way to do so is to seriously secure the US/Mexican border.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Musings on the Chris Daughtry vote

I've never watched a single episode of American Idol, but I find the reaction to the rejection of Chris Daughtry spellbiniding. While not a viewer, I know the Idol details because I listen to Rock 92 on the drive to work and they're all over the results the next morning. I knew in the opinion of many that Daughtry had emerged as the most talented of this year's crop. I never expected what came after his loss.

At school Thursday morning after returning to my homeroom from hall monitoring, I found a perfectly quiet classroom. I was quite pleased that the mice hadn't played while the cat was away. The situation soon changed.

A girl asked almost immediately, "Mr. Jordan, did you watch American Idol last night?"

I couldn't even get the word "no" spoken.

She said, "Can you believe Chris lost? That wasn't right."

An electric-like buzz ran through the whole room. I think every kid started talking at once. Later while monitoring class change in front of the school, I heard a couple clatches of kids walking by and the topic was Chris Daughtry. It continues while listening to the radio and reading the web, the theories abound as to why Daughtry lost. Not all the locals were Daughtry fans either.

What to make of it all?

Losing can't be all bad for Daughtry. It looks like it's his call on becoming the lead singer for Fuel.

The Daughtry shockwaves were not limited to his homeland. Read here, here and here.

Lest you think it's only us rustic NC types who celebrate our latest Idol celebrity, check out the reaction to Katherine McPhee, the immediate benefeciary of the Daughtry stunner, as she visited her old high school in Los Angeles. Even LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined the fun.

Finally, via Poli Pundit, John Podhoretz compares the Daughtry loss to a presidential primary. Podhoretz contends Daughtry's appeal was too narrow to gain enough support among voters who lost their favorite contestetants in previous weeks.

There it is. One of my longest posts ever and it's dedicated to a television show I've never watched. Will I watch in the future? I've no idea. You do have to hand to the show, it's on to something successful. It's woven itself into the fabric of our culture.

Update: I'm not registered with the NY Post, but I was able to read the entire Podhoretz article the first time I hit the Polipundit link. If you want to read it all. Try that.

Update II: Need to clarify my Fuel line. It looks like it's Daughtry call on mulling the offer from Fuel. Nothing seems concrete on either side.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Love riding the bandwagon

I don't know much about hockey, but I'm glad to be riding the Carolina Hurricanes bandwagon. I've been wanting to write about the Canes for awhile, but hesitated because on the opening day of the playoffs I announced I'd jumped on Carolina's coatttails. They were spanked by Montreal that night. They quickly bounced back and I observed several things that I thought would make a good blog posts, but I hesistated. Since they don't play tonight, maybe I can get away with it without hexing anything.

The N&O has a good profile on 21-year old hotshot Eric Staal, Carolina's leading scorer. He's certainly earned the respect of current team leader Rod Brind'Amour:

If he was playing in New York right now, he'd be a superstar.

Even though I hardly ever see the puck, I do hear Staal's name called all the time. I got to watch the third period and overtime of Game 2 against New Jersey. No one scored for most of the period, but the play was intense. Jersey scored a long goal with just over 20 seconds and it looked bad, but the Canes pulled the goalie and Staal scored the tying goal with three seconds left. Carolina went on to win in OT. Sweet win. I'm going to enjoy the ride because you never know how long these things will last.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

China wants Gitmo detainees

China today demanded that the US and Albania send five Chinese Uighur detainees from Guantanamo back to China instead of Albania. The US agreed to send the five, who were deemed not to be terrorist threats, to Albania for fear they would be persecuted if returned to China. The Chinese claim the men are part of a terrorist group with ties to al Qaeda that is waging a separatist campaign in China's northwest Xinjiang, a Muslim region. The War on Terror takes strange twists. There's also no doubt that China doesn't discriminate when comes to cracking down on any religious movement.

Time for a full-time GA?

The News and Observer concludes its three-part series on the NC General Assembly and money by looking at the problems ordinary citizens face when trying to serve in the elective body. The business of the General Assembly requires a great deal of time. Legislators depending on full-time jobs to keep the bills paid find it extremely difficult to find the time hang on to their posts. However, don't look for a change to a full-time legislature any time soon:

Yet few members or observers of the legislature expect an overhaul.

"The General Assembly is like a ship; it will take the will of the body to turn it," said (Malcolm)Graham, the Charlotte senator. "It needs to change. But a lot of the retired guys like it like it is."

Reflexively, I'm against paying full-time wages to NC legislators. On the other hand, I read this Thomas Sowell column late last year that proposed paying members of Congress $1 million a year. He claims it will bring more people with real-world experience to Washington. Of course, we couldn't pay that much for reps in NC, but I like it better than the current system. On a third hand, if I had one, I don't mind the other extreme either. Limit sessions to about a month and get them out of town. I guess I don't know what I really want.

Rupert Murdoch to host fundraiser for Hillary

Conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose empire includes the Fox News Channel, will hold a fundraiser for the current Deomocratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. An unnamed source calls the relationship between the media and political titans cordial:

The Financial Times quoted one unnamed source as describing the Clinton-Murdoch connection in this way: "They have a respectful and cordial relationship. He has respect for the work she has done on behalf of New York. I wouldn't say it was illustrative of a close ongoing relationship. It is not like they are dining out together."

The fundraiser will take place in July.

No Super Best Friends repeat on South Park tonight

Comedy Central is taking a pass at capitalizing on the hype of David Blaine's failed attmept to set the underwater breath holding mark. I knew the answer before I checked it out, but I couldn't resist. In '01, the show spoofed Blaine as a cult leader who led his followers to descend upon Washington, DC. He even made the statue of Abe Lincoln come to life to highlight his powers. Blaine was stopped by the Super Best Friends. A league consisting of Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Lao tzu, Moses, Joseph Smith and Muhammad. CC is holding true to its religious sensitivity, at least where Muslims are concerned. Instead, we'll be treated to the spelling bee contest the South Park boys entertain with the home-schooled kids.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Democrats get the big money in Raleigh

In part two of its series on money and the North Carolina General Assembly, the News and Observer shines the light on the Democratic money-making machine in Raleigh. Senate Pro Tem Marc Basnight and House Speaker Jim Black can get big bucks to candidates who gain their favor. Basnight poured last minute money into a western NC senate campaign and extricated a Republican from a safe senate seat. Black spends several nights a week on the road raising money. GOP turncoat Richard Morgan poured out the gravy in buckets too:

In a recent budget, Black, Basnight and Richard Morgan, who was co-speaker of the House, placed nearly $14 million in reserve accounts and then gave the money to nonprofits and governmental agencies in favored lawmakers' districts.

While it's easy to take potshots at the Dems in NC, this is a power thing, not a party thing. Just makes it that more painful to realize these guys have their hands on $2 billion in surplus revenue.

Stone rolls out of tree into brain surgery

It looks like brain surgery on the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards went well today in New Zealand. Richards lost his grip while climbing a coconut tree with Ron Wood. Initial reports said Richards suffered a mild concussion. After Richards complained of headaches, doctors discovered a clot on his brain, which does not automatically lead to surgery. However, factoring in Richards's age, 62, and his lifestyle, doctors decided to drain the clot. No confirmation on whether he remains hospitalized or has already been discharged.

It doesn't look like the fall changed Keith, at least just before the surgery:

His wife, Patti Hansen, flew to Auckland and has been by his side since. According to The Sun, she smuggled miniature bottles of vodka into hospital for him. The paper had previously reported that Richards gave up drinking and smoking after the fall.

I remember seeing "Gimme Shelter" in the early '80s while a student at Appalachian State. The scene I remember most is the band in Muscle Shoals cutting up to a recording of "Honky Tonk Women." Keith turns up a fifth of Jack Daniels and starts chugging it like a beer. Now he's 62 and apparently survived falling out of a coconut tree and a subsequent brain surgery. What a constitution. I hope he keeps the run going, but I suspect he should give up coconut gathering, off the ground anyway.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Show me the money and get it done in Raleigh

The News and Observer started a three-part series today on lobbyists in Raleigh. Good lede:

Beth Petty, director of the Charlotte Regional Film Commission, wanted advice a couple of years ago on hiring a lobbyist. She turned to someone in a position to help: House Speaker Jim Black's political campaign director, Meredith Norris.

Norris recommended that Petty consider one of eight lobbyists. Most of them had done more than simply provide lawmakers with information about their clients. They also had helped lawmakers win re-election by giving and raising campaign money.

Norris suggested that once Petty had someone in mind, "it is a good idea to ask Speaker Black, Speaker [Richard] Morgan and Senator [Marc] Basnight their thoughts on the lobbyist."

That e-mail message, dated March 25, 2004, spoke to what many at the legislature already know -- to make things happen on Jones Street, you need more than a good idea or a worthy project. You need to play an insider's game built on money and connections. And that means lobbyists and campaign contributions.

It's almost too discouraging to read the whole thing. I'm not against people organizing to have their interests represented in the capital, but the money flow just gets out of hand. I'd love to see the General Assembly go back to meeting about 5 months every two years.

Goss; Negroponte's preliminary match?

Michael Duffy of Time gives a detailed account of Porter Goss's downfall at Centeral Intelligence. A power struggle between Goss and national intelligence director John Negorponte and the presumptive nominee to head the CIA General Michael Hayden. Duffy's article points out how Negroponte and Hayden had already begun chipping away at Goss's turf:

In April Hayden let it be known that his office would be taking over the critical job of terrorism analysis--connecting the dots in all the raw data gathered on terrorists--a role the CIA had jealously guarded for decades. In an unusual public speech, Hayden likened the CIA's slow-to-change attitude about roles and missions to "crowding the ball."

According to Duffy, Goss's many shortcomings as an administrator left him little leverage in the fight agaisnt Negroponte and Hayden.

However, it's Duffy's concluding paragraph that raised my eyebrows:

Goss's departure means Negroponte's next test will be facing down the Pentagon, which has steadily been gathering clout in intelligence since the war on terrorism began. Everyone knows that battle will make the tug of war with the CIA look like a warm-up, if only because Rumsfeld's skills as an infighter are unsurpassed. But Negroponte will at least have an ally in Michael Hayden at the CIA.

For all those anxious for Rumsfeld's departure, a loss on this front would likely bring it. An interesting struggle during interesting times.

BTW: I don't quite know what to make of Negroponte photo.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Chinese anti-spitting campaign

The Chinese government is attempting to educate its citizens who like to travel abroad. It has undertaken a campaign to educate Chinese travellers to not spit in public when oversees. It seems that many Chinese value hocking up a lugee as a good practice to keep the lungs clear. Many of the complaints about this Sino quirk have come from Singapore.

Dumping the ayatollahs

I posted earlier this week about Reza Pahlavi's plans to head a movement to overthrow Iran's mullahocracy from within. Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz today posts an interview with an American-based Iranian dissident with the National Union for Democracy in Iran who lays out what he thinks it will take to make such a movement a reality. The leader is not identified, but his comments show the complexity involved in overthrowing a regime with sophisticated methods of breaking dissent.

He dismisses widespread popular support for controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

They did not choose Ahmadinejad. The election was a total fraud. The turnout was far, far lower than claimed. Some of those from poor neighborhoods, south of Teheran, did vote for Ahmadinejad - but not in nearly as high numbers as the regime claimed. Ahmadinejad was also supported by the Revolutionary Guards. These are the same thugs who fought to keep the regime in power.

He also paints a picture reminiscent of Cuba when it comes to many Iranians wanting to get out of the country:

You also see the hatred of the regime in the number of people who have run away from the country. I know many, many people who have risked their lives to flee Iran. Some are living illegally in Turkey, Bulgaria. They drown in major rivers trying to cross to Europe. In the first Turkish cities across the Iranian border, there are huge populations of Iranian refugees, who are prepared to live in horrible conditions, just to flee Iran.

On how the West should react to a nuclear Iran:

They should not be sleeping at night. If they are sleeping at night they are fools. They should take Ahmadinejad at face value. This is no rhetoric for political consumption, or domestic consumption, or international consumption. He means what he says and says what he means. And when I say "he" I mean "they" - the regime.

There's a great deal more interesting observations contained in the interview. Whatever happens in Iran, it will be messy and difficult. It would be tempting to punt. However, the mess will go nowhere and who knows how much more troublesome and deadly it may become if we let this situation brew for several years. I don't see a cold war with the mullahs as an acceptable position. An internal dissolution would be great, but viability of this happening is uncertain at best.

NC sitting on a $2 billion surplus

The state more than doubled projected revenue growth this year. Yesterday, the General Assembly announced a surplus of $2 billion. A growth in real estate sales was singled out as the greatest source of revenue explosion. General Assembly leaders were quick to note that much of the money must be used to play catch up on various budgetary matters. Some Republicans are calling for an end to a half-cent sales tax increase impelemented in 2001. Democrat State Sen. Linda Garrou says that a freeze in the gas tax may be possible.

This shows that NC is capable of earning money. It needs to be spent wisely. Legislators should also use the opportunity to do something about the gas tax, the highest of any neighboring states. The freeze should only be a start. I say a slight cut should follow.

The General Assembly goes into session this coming Tuesday.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Breakfast of champions

Found the best quart of strawberries of the season yesterday. I bought them off a truck on 220 at Lake Brandt. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I believe Nelson's out of Kernersville was selling them. I'll give them a plug anyway. This batch has the classic strawberry flavor and are dripping with juice. They helped set my day right this morning. I sliced up several over a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats. I don't know how many berries I used, but the milk turned pink. The world seemed right all day long. I hope the strawberries hold out until the early NC blueberries and peaches start coming in. A great trifecta, especially on a bowl of butter pecan ice cream. I'm anticipating the local watermelon too, but I'm willing to wait.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Self-serving post

It's fun to beat the pros to the intriguing stories on the web.

Son of shah wants to overthrow Iran's mullahocracy

Found via Threats Watch, Reza Pahlavi, son of the late shah, says he is a organizing a movement aimed at overthrowing the government of Iran. In an interview with Human Events, Pahlavi answers a wide range of questions and presents his philosophy of an Iran freed from an Islamist therocracy. A sample includes:

Pahlavi's opposition to any type of US military intervention:

As a matter of principle there’s no way that I can support any kind of military intervention regardless of the crisis because as a matter of principle, and as a nationalist, I cannot even imagine the fact that my country could be attacked, and today it’s a very different scenario from, let’s say, the Second World War where you are occupied by Nazi forces and there’s a liberating force coming in. This is a strike against Iranian installations that are part of our national assets. That it’s used wrongly by the wrong people is beside the point. So there’s no justification as far as I’m concerned.

He has no problem with state of Israel and even speaks of a kindred bond with the Jewish people:

We have a biblical relation with Jews, and we have no problem with modern day Israel.

On how he feels about the Iranian people supporting his cause and spurning the mullahs:

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to find out that the minute you criticize any aspect of this regime you are going to be at the very least incarcerated, possibly tortured, and at the very worst, executed. Last week, there were six bodies of women found in South of Tehran, because of the new edict by Ahmadinejad—and I’m not saying “edict” as a cleric because he’s not, but the new law—to further strengthen the strict code of how you dress! People can be fined if they happen to have a dog on a leash because dogs are supposed to be bad in Islam. You cannot even walk your dog on the street and not be fined. Imagine if you were to criticize the regime! Don’t you think people get that? They do.

He also claims to have contacts within Iran's Revolutionary Guard and discusses his thoughts on the institution of the Peacock Throne.

I don't know if he has any chance of pulling it off, but I like his spirit. I hope he succeeds.

Good read.

Primary news; Richard Morgan falls

Richard Morgan will have to find a new way to save the NC GOP from itself. Losing to a candidate backed by the state party, Morgan will not return to Raleigh for a ninth term. Joe Boylan defeated Morgan by a 52-48 percent count.

I don't have a problem with Morgan trying to steer the GOP in a direction he believes is best for the party. However, I have a big problem when he cuts a deal with the majority party and uses that power to punish his intra-party opponents. While NC Republicans have plenty of problems aside from Morgan, his actions only served to keep the party disunited. He received a well-earned defeat.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Better hide the matches

A GOP-proposed $100 rebate to Americans in attempt to ease the discomfort of rising gasoline prices appears headed for nowhere. Thank goodness. I'm still sizing up new Republican House leader John Boehner, but he gets props from me for his blunt dismissal of the rebate idea:

"I don't like the proposal. And over the weekend I heard back from my constituents. They thought it was stupid," said Boehner, an Ohio Republican.

Repub senators hatched the rebate scheme. No wonder the pundits ponder how long a GOP majority may survive. The Democrats schemes are no better. Neither party seems to want to give up grandstanding and get down to the business of developing a realistic energy policy. I say drill more here, and at the same time, start serious work into finding alternatives. I'm sure I ask for too much.

"The Lost City," history and politics in Cuba

Humberto Fontova takes on what he sees as political snipes at Andy Garcia's recenlty released "The Lost City." Set in Havana on the eve of Castro's takeover of the island nation, Garcia portrays the plight of a Cuban middle class family during the revolution. Garcia plays the lead role and directs the film.

Fontova contends that mainstream media critics fail to appreciate the political history of "The Lost City" because of their "fantasies and hallucinations of pre-Castro Cuba, Che, Fidel, and Cubans in general." Instead of a destitute island of simmering rage and despair, Fontova pulls out a UNESCO report on pre-Castro Cuba to highlight the critics' ignorance:

Here's a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) report on Cuba circa 1957 that dispels the fantasies of pre-Castro Cuba still cherished by America's most prestigious academics and its most learned film critics: "One feature of the Cuban social structure is a large middle class," it starts. "Cuban workers are more unionized (proportional to the population) than U.S. workers. The average wage for an 8 hour day in Cuba in 1957 is higher than for workers in Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany. Cuban labor receives 66.6 per cent of gross national income. In the U.S. the figure is 70 per cent, in Switzerland 64 per cent. 44 per cent of Cubans are covered by Social legislation, a higher percentage then in the U.S."

Fontova directs much of his criticism of the critics toward Stephen Holden of the New York Times:

The New York Times' Stephen Holden also sneers at Garcia's implication that "life sure was peachy before Fidel Castro came to town and ruined everything."
In fact, Mr Holden, before Castro "came to town," Cuba took in more immigrants (primarily from Europe) as a percentage of population than the U.S. And more Americans lived in Cuba than Cubans in the U.S. Furthermore, inner tubes were used in truck tires, oil drums for oil, and styrofoam for insulation. None were cherished black market items for use as flotation devices to flee the glorious liberation while fighting off Hammerheads and Tiger Sharks.

I haven't seen the film and don't know if I'll get around to checking it out. However, Fontova's article points out the many misunderstandings of Castro's take over of Cuba. It was probably time for Batista to go, but the Cuban people certainly deserved a better future than the one delivered by Fidel and Che.

BTW: Garcia has maintained an above the fray attitude toward politics when it comes to "The Lost City:"

In my movie, I try not to validate, preach or take sides in an old fight. I prefer to recapture a time when Havana was the “Paris of the Caribbean,” a vibrant, elegant and cultured city threatened and subverted by violence and social injustice, then torn apart by a revolution that became misguided and, finally, betrayed.

Here's Holden's review.

Monday, May 01, 2006

East African Taliban, snoring Chinese soldiers and Camp Euro Gitmo

I came across some interesting blurbs on Strategy Page today.

From Somalia, the US Defense Department is torn on whether to support warlords who oppose Islamic courts which have gained popularity for their ability to rein in some of the anarchy that has consumed the country since the withdrawl of UN peacekeepers in the mid 1990s. Like the Taliban in post-Soviet Afghanistan, Islamic courts are bringing the rabble to justice. The problem is their support of terrorism and the imposition of Shari'a law. Some in the Defense Department are worried that opposing the courts will portray an image of a war on Islam.

In China, new armed services recruits face rejection for snoring. Strategy Page concludes the plan makes sense for China and should promote better morale among troops.

Finally, from Europe, an average of about two dozen arrests of suspects with terrorist ties take place weekly. They're getting convictions, and when they don't, they're holding suspects for extended periods of time without specific charge. Damn that influence of American culture.