Sunday, July 30, 2006

On to the Rock

Hanging Rock has stayed in the same place all summer. I think I need to get there. Tomorrow looks to be as good a time as any.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Back from the hills

I just got back from a few days in Cullowhee. While I had to spend most of my time inside a Western Carolina University classroom at the North Carolina Teacher academy, it felt good just being in the NC mountains. For those not familiar with Cullowhee and WCU, the town and campus sit in the bottom of a bowl ringed by mountains. Look in any direction and you see a ridge. Every morning there I loved watching the fog burn off hills and rise up and dissapate in the sky.

We did get a chance to take a ride one evening. We traveled south on NC 107 along the Tuckaseegee River and eventually Lake Glenville. A beautiful ride in itself. 107 ends at Cashiers and merges into US 64. From Cashiers we traveled west to Highlands, another curvy ride complete with beautiful vistas. Highlands is a gorgeous little spot. Don't ask me why, but it somehow reminds me of Sausalito, CA.

Just west of Highlands, we hit Bridal Veil Falls. Bridal Veil is not famous because it's a spectacular fall, its location makes it unique. The falls, more like a steady shower, fall right of the mountain to the shoulder of the highway. In the past, a side out allowed motorists to drive under the falls. However, a rockslide has put an end to that. From Bridal Veil we went to Dry Falls, a beautiful fall that's worth taking a little time just for gawking. From Dry Falls we drove west toward Franklin. That trip takes you through the Cullasaja Gorge, another ride providing striking views. From Franklin we completed the loop back to Cullowhee with a short detour through Webster. A highly recommended drive.

I'm always grateful for any time I get in the NC mountains.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Israeli military strategy looks transformational

Linking to Debka File burned me one time before, but I couldn't resist this. If nothing else, it makes good reference material in discussing Israeli military strategy in its fight against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Yesterday's attack on Hezbollah's bunker headquarters was an attempt to possibly shorten the duration of military activity. If they had successfully liquidated Nasrallah et al, it certainly would have changed the dynamic of the fighting. According to Debka, the next step is light force attacks into Lebanon:

Now, small, swift in-and-out ground raids to sterilize southern Lebanon of Hizballah fighters and rocket launchers will begin to figure largely in the Israeli campaign. To ease the action of these special units and the air force - and remove civilians from the line of fire - some 300,000 Lebanese were instructed Wednesday night, July 19, to move out of the south Lebanon to a line north of the Litani River.

It is not clear how this mass migration can be effected when many of the roads and bridges were bombed out by Israeli jets. Hizballah is also blocking their path.

If this stratagem does work, it will leave the IDF with a broad sweep of land 38-40 km deep inside Lebanon, quite a different proposition from the 1-km security zone Israeli officials were discussing at the outset of the campaign. The Olmert government is clear on one point: Israel will not send large-scale tank and ground forces to seize control of the south and risk being trapped there again as it has before. Hizballah can be expected to take advantage of the spaces in the region for small-scale, painful strikes and ambushes against the swift-moving Israeli special ground forces. The Shiite terrorists will also persevere in their attempts to send contingents across the border into northern Israel, accompanied by heavy Katyusha attacks against Israeli civilians, where human distress and shortages grow daily.

The Lebanon war has thus entered a new, broader stage.

We'll see what the future holds. If this does prove to be Israel's strategy, it shows they are adopting the transformational approach the US is using in Afghanistan and Iraq. Go in with small, but highly trained and lethal units who won't lose a toe to toe battle with terrorists. Because of light numbers, they are more suscpetible to ambush and it is hard to stick around long enough to hold ground pried from the enemy.

There are some parallels between US and Israeli approaches in attacking enemy leadership. In Afghanistan, we took out Mohammad Atef, Osama's right-hand man and master of strategy. He ranked higher than Zawahiri at the time. Fortunately, he didn't live long enough to become as famous. It's reasonable to believe that Atef's demise changed the equation for al Qaeda.

We aimed our first shot in Iraq at a palace where Saddam, Uday and Qusay were hanging out. We didn't get them, but imagine the equation change if we did. We also came close to nailing Saddam a few weeks later.

The transformational approach takes longer than using conventional ground forces. However, the greatest source of condemnation against Israel is collateral damage among Lebanese civilians. With a massed ground attack, air and naval fire would continue. Added to it would be tank and massive artillery fire. Civilians casualties may easily increase. The ground must be cleared for an invasion force.

BTW: I found this news item in the middle of the article interesting:

Central Israel became one large gridlock for five hours as security forces staged a manhunt for a Palestinian suicide bomber from the West Bank heading for a crowd center. He was caught in Hod Hasharon.

Movin' on up; news on our first black former president

To some residents there, Bill Clinton is no Angel of Harlem.

However, Captain Ed believes their wrath at Jefferson Clinton is at least partly misdirected:

It's unfair of Harlem residents to target Clinton for their woes, or at least him alone. New York has a number of factors that play into the sharp increase in housing costs, most of which have to do with their high tax rates and top-down rent control. The latter comes from a market that has too much demand and too little supply in the first place. Eventually that market effect would have driven people to Harlem for better prices; Clinton just made it trendy to do so.

Voinovich drys tears and supports Bolton

George Voinovich writes in the WaPo today that he will support the nomination of John Bolton as US Ambassador to the UN. Bolton is currenlty serving on a recess appointment that will expire when the Senate adjourns this fall. In order for Bolton to continue serving, GW Bush must renominate him and the Senate must confirm him.

Says Voinovich:

For me or my colleagues in the Senate to now question a possible renomination would jeopardize our influence in the United Nations and encourage those who oppose the United States to make Bolton the issue, thereby undermining our policies and agenda.

Should the president send his renomination to the Senate, I will vote to confirm him, and I call on my Democratic colleagues to keep in mind the current situation in the Middle East and the rest of the world should the Senate have an opportunity to vote. I do not believe the United States, at this dangerous time, can afford to have a U.N. ambassador who does not have Congress's full support.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The world's struggles aren't limited to Israel and Hezbollah

The Counterterrorism Blog has two interesting posts on other potential flashpoints in the world.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross writes that Turkey has told both US and Iraqi ambassadors to take proper steps to remove fighters from the Kurdistan Worker's Pary (PKK) who are hiding in Iraqi Kurdistan. A recent PKK attack in Turkey killed 15 Turkish soldiers.

In another post, Douglas Farah warns there is talk that Iran could use its many agents in Bosnia to stir unrest there if things continue going badly for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Lightning strike: midsummer reflections in the backyard IV

We got some daytime fireworks at the Sunset Hills condos today. As a friend and I sat in my backyard this afternoon, we heard a little thunder rumble in the distance, but didn't see any lightning. It seemed that the storm was maybe going around us. Suddenly, a big arc of lightning stretched out over the top of us immediately followed by a violent clap of thunder. We made quick entry back inside.

A few minutes later I heard a knock at my door. It was my neighbor, who told me to look at what the lightning struck. He said a tree was on fire. I immediately looked at one of the tall pines in our courtyard on Overlook St. He then pointed to the distance where a tall pine on Mimosa stood burning like a tall torch. The Greensboro FD got there soon enough and nothing spread to the other tall trees.

I now see how many forest fires break out the arid west. I'm glad we're not in the arid east.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Will to Kristol: whoa pardner

George Will takes Bill Kristol to task for his call to take out Iranian nuclear facilities. Even though he doesn't mention Kristol by name, Will criticizes him for seeing a clear solution through a bank of fog, smog, smoke and perhaps a few mirrors:

The administration, justly criticized for its Iraq premises and their execution, is suddenly receiving some criticism so untethered from reality as to defy caricature. The national, ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque to most people, but to "The Weekly Standard" -- voice of a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, "neoconservativism'' -- everything is crystal clear: Iran is the key to everything.

Will is right to point to the zealous tone of Kristol. However, I agree with Kristol that we have sent a perception of weakness to Iran and Syria. Whether this is actual weakness, our ponderous system or some sort of rope-a-dope, we don't know yet. I very much disagree with Will's willingness to rely on the stability of the status quo in the Middle East. It may be stable for us, but it's not for the people of the Middle East, just ask an Israeli. If we adopt Will's position, we need to get busy on developing energy alternatives and start warming up the oil drills here.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Braves need to see this tape

I posted earlier about my pleasure with the Braves sweep of San Diego over the weekend. They did it by scoring a lot of runs, not with stellar pitching. One win was 15-12. If he has a tape of this game, maybe David Boyd should ship it to Atlanta to help them prep for winning high-scoring still at the saw mill big lumber slugfests.

Grilling blueberries: midsummer reflections in the backyard III

Got the grill out again over the weekend. Burgers, big burgers filled it up. They were very good, but there was too much for just two people. I grilled peaches again and I added blueberries to the menu. How do you grill blueberries? Very carefully. Actually, I wrapped them in foil and placed them in the middle of the grill after I pulled off the burgers. After chowing down on the main course, I opened the foil and the blueberries had turned to a nice purple color. Combining them with the peaches made the berries a little tart, but I like them that way. The leftovers hit the spot the next day.

The charcoal is still dry.

Klein and Kristol on Bush's failed Iran policy

I find myself agreeing with Joe Klein and Bill Kristol that the Bush adminsitration's policy toward Iran has been weak and ineffective. If nothing else, it certainly gives that appearance.

Says Klein:

But it is also clear now that a major consequence of George W. Bush's disastrous foreign policy has been an emboldened Iran. The U.S. "has been Iran's very best friend," a diplomat from a predominantly Sunni nation told me recently. "You have eliminated its enemies, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. You have even reduced yourselves as a threat to Iran because you have spent so much blood and treasure in Iraq."

Now Kristol:

For while Syria and Iran are enemies of Israel, they are also enemies of the United States. We have done a poor job of standing up to them and weakening them. They are now testing us more boldly than one would have thought possible a few years ago. Weakness is provocative. We have been too weak, and have allowed ourselves to be perceived as weak.

While I agree with Klein that our Iran policy has so far failed, I don't agree with him on the details. There is no doubt the elimination of Saddam on the west and the Taliban on the east has given the Iranian mullahocracy some breathing room. I'm sure the administration was aware that this would be case. I think the decision to take out two brutal regimes proves far more effective than propping them up to keep Iran boxed in to ensure the survival of the status quo. The latter would only create an illusion of stability, while the former can lay the groundwork for fundamental change.

He also condemns Bush et al for not being assertive in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I believe that all past efforts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict peacefully have been noble, but we have been too willing to concede that this is the ultimate source of unrest in the Middle East. While it is one of the most important, it is not the only reason for so much turmoil.

I tend to agree with Kristol's take. I intrepret it as claiming nothing is wrong with the policy, but that its implementation has conveyed weakness. Further, Kristol calls for US strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities much sooner rather than later. He adds a call for GWB to leave St. Petersburg and fly directly to Jerusalem to stand in solidarity with Israel.

One thing to remember, especially for Iran, is that in the past other hostile powers have percieved the US as weak. History has proven that what belligerants saw as weakness was actually the ponderousness of our system. Some of those past enemies are now among our closest allies and it's not because we were just a bunch of nice guys.

Diamond perusals; Northside Chicago meltdown continues

I didn't watch much baseball over the weekend, but it reads like an interesting one.

I watched a little of the Cubs and Mets. Chicago was cruising 5-0 when I went to the backyard to do a little reading. I came back in and the Mets had cut the lead to 5-2. I took the dog for a walk and got back just in time to watch David Wright belt a two-run homer to make it 13-5 Mets. To top it off, I find out Wright's blast put the finishing touches on an 11-run inning that included two grand slams. A wind blowing out in Wrigley combined with the current Cubs' pitching staff can lead to those results. It sounded like the Cubs' fans were in a mood to riot if baseball etiquette allowed such things. With only the Royals and Pirates separating the Cubs from baseball's worst record, it's hard seeing Dusty Baker in the saddle too much longer. As much as it pains me to say it (Part I), you've got to tip your hat to the Mets. Strong teams win games like this when they fall behind a weak team.

I didn't get to watch any Braves ball, but I'm pleased with the three game sweep of the West-leading Padres. Atlanta went double figures in runs in all three tilts. Despite, the sweep, no encouraging words on the pitching. One win was a 15-12 slugfest. My immediate goal is for the Braves to reach .500 and stay in that neighborhood. At the moment, post-season hopes may be quixotic, but, when they match up, I hope the Braves can put a hurting on teams still in the hunt.

I know Sam Hieb has to feel good about the Redlegs four-game sweep of the Rockies. They needed it because the Cards took all four from the Dodgers.

As much as it pains me to say it (Part II), never count out the Yanks, who swept the powerful defending world champ Chisox. NYY sits only a half-game behind the Bosox. The series may serve as something of a wake-up call for the Chisox, who may have to play even better ball to snag a wild-card berth, providing they don't catch the Tigers, who took three of four from the lowly Royals.

Keep playing ball.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A global mess

Greg Sheridan writes that the world's multinational bodies are impotent in dealing with the explosive world events that have unfolded over the last two weeks. Unfortunately, the alternative to multinationalism, US power, isn't sprinting to the line either:

Global order has traditionally rested on these two pillars: US power, expressed through its alliance system and its state actions, and multilateral institutions such as the UN. Of the two pillars, the US in vastly the more powerful and more important.

But one extremely unpalatable consequence of the Iraq imbroglio seems to be a diminution of US influence in certain parts of the globe.

The multilateral system, on the other hand, works best when it is working in tandem with US power. It's wickedly politically incorrect to say so, but the multilateral institutions set up after World War II were established essentially as a more palatable expression of US power.

Partly because of European irresponsibility, partly because of Chinese obduracy, partly because of US clumsiness, partly because of dedicated Islamist calculation, and for many other reasons besides, the multilateral system is now as often working against US power as with US power.

Whichever way you slice it, the bottom line is that global governance has crucially broken down. This is amply evident in the North Korean missile crisis, the Mumbai bombings and the inter-state conflict growing in the Middle East.

There is no consolation in this for anyone, except perhaps for the progenitors of disorder, the terrorists themselves.

Read it all.

Israel's Gillerman tells it like it is

Israel's ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman provided perhaps the greatest moment of clarity ever witnessed at Turtle Bay.

Gillerman said that if the Israel succeeds in driving Hezbollah from Lebanon, it will a victory for freedom in Lebanon. It's worth watching.

His speech (pull the Real Player slider to just before the fourth dot)

His press conference--more clarity

His meeting in the hallway with the Palestinian UN ambassador (scroll down to the image for video)

A sample of opinion in Lebanon (via LGF)

More observations from Lebanon

The resolve and frustrations of the Israeli people

Thursday, July 13, 2006

That little insurgency in Iraq is a Jewish thing

For those who believe wars should unfold in some uniformed cookie cutter fashion, get a load of this:

Iraq's parliament speaker Thursday accused "Jews" of financing acts of violence in Iraq in order to discredit Islamists who control the parliament and government so they can install their "agents" in power.

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani hinted that the Americans and Israelis did not want to see officials of Sunni and Shi'ite parties running the country because "this is not their agenda."

Mr. Speaker is a Sunni. On second thought, maybe wars in the Middle East do have some symmetry, no matter how many women and children you hide behind when you fight, we know who forced you to take such unmanly action.

It'll be interesting if this latest conspiracy takes root here. (Via LGF)

That boat was rockin' at taxpayers expense

NC government officials seem to be scrambling to explain how a state-owned ferry was used for partying officials while paying customers were left to simmer in the sun over Independence Day weekend:

The DOT wouldn't say who approved the ferry's use, but said the governor had requested an inquiry.The News & Observer reported that the ferry Floyd Lupton was used for a cruise for about 200 state and local officials, who munched seafood and sipped beer and wine while listening to a steel drum band.

The two-hour cruise gave the officials an up-close view of sailing vessels at Morehead City and Beaufort while thousands of other people who paid for tickets stood in long, hot lines.

It wasn't cheap either:

Taxpayers paid $2,800 for fuel and staffing on the ferry. The band cost the port authority $1,200 and the catering bill hadn't arrived. Alcohol was provided by economic development agencies.

BTW: Why doesn't the News and Record do some original reporting on this story?

Daughtry headed to the studio

It doesn't look like American Idol was a bad gig at all for Guilford County's Chris Daughtry. At the conclusion of the current Idol tour, he's slated to hit the studio for a solo album. He also has collaborations planned with established rockers.

It's always good to see a local guy get a break.

Hewitt's advice to McCain

Hugh Hewitt penned a cyber-memo to John McCain. The words are not minced.

The Geneva Convention and the treatment of American POWs

Captain Ed writes today that we need to get over the pretense that bending over backwards to provide all Geneva Convention provisions to terrorists will somehow protect American POWs from current and future mistreatment:

Name me a war where our enemies abided by the GC.

That isn't an argument that we should not abide by the GC, of course; we signed the document, and we should honor our commitment. However, let's quit pretending that this will gain us anything in the way our enemies treat our men and women, once captured. Perhaps someone can explain that supposed benefit to the families of Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker.

Read it all.

Update: Opinion Journal takes the Bush Administration to task for a Pentagon memo that it believes is a cave-in to the Supreme Court's Hamdan ruling. It claims the White House is now taking a self-administered political beating that may well have implications down the road:

Already, in the wake of this reversal, the Bush Administration's critics are talking about the "illegality" of its previous failure to abide by Geneva rules. We'll predict that it won't be very long until some European magistrate indicts Donald Rumsfeld or National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley or some other U.S. official for "war crimes" for this failure. The Pentagon's new memo won't be much of a defense.

Debate on today for Voting Rights Act extension

Today the US House is debating a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act. If you're reading in somewhat real time, you can tune in to C-Span on the tube or watch and listen here. As can be expected, the debate has been emotional at times.

It's important to understand that extension of the entire 1965 act is not up for debate. Provisions that eliminated literacy tests and poll taxes are untouchable. The debate centers around Section 5 of the act and three amendments proposed that would alter it. Section 5 requires certain counties' election practices to be under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Justice for another 25 years. The leadership of both parties and the Congressional Black Caucus support the extension of Section 5 without amendment.

Also, it needs to be known that Section 5 does not apply to all 50 states. Only 16 states fall under it. In the case of Gerogia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Arizona, almost all local jurisdictions would face the 25-year extension. States such as NC, Virginia and Florida only have specific counties covered.

Debate over Section 5 is not limited to a black vs white or left vs right dichotomy as this indicates:

"If Congress goes and passes the current version . . . as is, with a 25-year extension . . . then there is a significant danger that the measure is struck down," said Richard Hasen, a law professor at the Loyola University Law School in Los Angeles who describes himself as part of the Democratic Party's left wing.

"What I sense is that there are a number of people who are supporters of the act but who don't want to speak up for political reasons and say the act has to be updated, to say that 2006 is not the same as 1965," Hasen said. ". . . We still need the act but it needs to be adapted to deal with new realities."

Two of the amendments deal with applying Section 5 provisions to all states and the third deals with a provision that will require multilingual ballots in certain jurisdictions.

The charge for amendments comes from Charlie Norwood and Lynn Westmoreland, both Georgia Republicans. Much of their argument centers on the fact that some jurisdictions in Georgia and other states are under Section 5 for violations that occurred as far back as the 1960s. It does not address issues that have taken place as recently as 2000 and 2004 in areas not covered by Section 5.

I find myself agreeing with Hasen. It's time to focus on voting rights violations of the present. I also sympathize with Norwood and Westmoreland. It is not fair to place the albatross of past racial injustice around the necks of those who were not alive at the time. The only thing many of them are guilty of is being born in a certain state or county.

If nothing else, you can't accuse C-Span of being boring today. I think it's important that this issue is being discussed openly and passionately. That's much more preferable than breezing through this as the White House and the Congressional leadership of both parties wanted.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Taking prisoners in war, a moment in history

As indicated in the post below, dealing with prisoners is always an issue during war. It's true in the current war and has been through history.

Right now I'm reading Burke Davis's biography of Chesty Puller, considered by many the greatest US Marine of all time. During the Korean War as Puller's First Marines pushed from Inchon to Seoul, Davis writes that a Marine private had to make a quick decision:

On one of the fiery days of the drive toward Seoul a popular chaplain, Father Keating, captured five North Korean soldiers and herded them along as prisoners. He hailed a passing Marine jeep driven by a Private Wolff: "Son, take these prisoners off my hands. Get them to the rear before they're hurt.

"I can't Father. I'm running ammo to the edge of town, and they're getting low. I can't stop to do it."

"Private, this is an order. Take them over."

Wolff looked rearward at the burning city. "You mean they're mine now? Under my repsonsibility?"

"Yes."

Wolff pulled up a light machine gun and sprayed the group, killing all five. The outraged Keating went to Puller and demanded action. The Colonel listened carefully, ordered Wolff arrested and the priest went away content that he had done his duty.

Ten minutes later Puller asked an aide: "What outfit was it that lost all those boys last night?"

"Barrow's company sir."

"All right. Give that boy Wolff a BAR and send him up there."

Those are certainly situations I'm glad not to deal with. However, all three involved made their choices. The private believed it more important to get badly needed ammunition to his mates. The priest believed it his duty to report a violation. Puller decided he should arrest the private, but knew he would be more valuable fighting the enemy. It goes to show that choices are not always so clear cut in the effort to survive and win in battle.

Peters on taking prisoners

Ralph Peters writes that it's time for the US to stop taking prisoners in the War on Terror. While it may sound brutal at first, Peters's ideas are more within the practice of warfare than the conditions handed down recently by the Supreme Court:

The oft-cited, seldom-read Geneva and Hague Conventions define legal combatants as those who visibly identify themselves by wearing uniforms or distinguishing insignia (the latter provision covers honorable partisans - but no badges or armbands, no protection). Those who wear civilian clothes to ambush soldiers or collect intelligence are assassins and spies - beyond the pale of law.

Traditionally, those who masquerade as civilians in order to kill legal combatants have been executed promptly, without trial. Severity, not sloppy leftist pandering, kept warfare within some decent bounds at least part of the time. But we have reached a point at which the rules apply only to us, while our enemies are permitted unrestricted freedom.

The present situation encourages our enemies to behave wantonly, while crippling our attempts to deal with terror.

Peters's proposal will surely shock many, but it is not the raving of a madman. As he points out, at no time in history have those who dress as civilians to fight a war received a special status. Those who do not distinguish themselves as combatants often feel the incentive to hide and fight behind innocent civilians. It doesn't seem reasonable to offer them any special status.*

(I don't what I get when I link to the NY Post. If you only get a partial article with the link above, try this one. Once on the RCP page, scroll down to the Peters's article in the Morning edition.)

*I botched this sentence in the original post. I wrote "unreasonable," but I can't figure out how to do a strikeover in Blogspot. I also left out "know" in my explanation at the bottom of the original. My editor is officially "on double secret probation, whatever that is."

Study of racial attitudes in Durham reveals surprising results

A study of racial attitudes in Durham surprised researchers by revealing that Hispanics held many negative views about blacks. Those conducting the study also determined that Hispanics apparently brought these attitudes to the area with them because the study showed whites having positive attitudes toward blacks. Overall, black attitudes toward Hispanics were tolerant.

Here's a quick summary from the study leader:

"What surprised us most was the high level of negative stereotypes on the part of Latino immigrants," said Paula McClain, a professor of political science at Duke University and the study's lead author. "We were also, I guess, pleasantly surprised at the low level of stereotypes of blacks held by whites in Durham. Less than 10 percent of our sample of whites held negative stereotypes of blacks. And that blacks were more tolerant of Latino immigrants than Latino immigrants were of blacks."

While it doesn't receive a great deal of attention, there are tensions between blacks and Hispanics in parts of the country. As these stories indicate, the tension is real in LA. Potentially, the most explosive demographic time bomb planted by the tremendous influx of Hispanic immigration into the country is the friction it creates between the two groups. Some may dismiss it all as a class issue instead of racism. However, doing so may cloud the reality of the situation and will not make it go away.

BTW: As far as Dr. McClain's quote that "we were also, I guess, pleasantly surprised at the low level of stereotypes of blacks held by whites in Durham," is concerned, she wouldn't be guilty of doing a little stereotyping would she? Surely not.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The menu: midsummer reflections in the backyard II

In the previous post, I mentioned my weekend cookout. At first, I wanted to describe what went on the grill, but I changed my mind, believing the menu deserved an exclusive mention.

With peppers all over the place, I decided I needed to cook with them. I found a London broil at Southern Family Market. I bought 2 1/2 pound roast for $5. I came home and cut it into eight sections. I took five of them and coated them with Valentina hot sauce. I then cut up a few pepper over it and put it in the fridge to marinated. Realizing that everyone my not have my appreciation for hot food, I marinated three sections in Worcestershire sauce.

After firing up the grill, I put six ears of silver queen, de-silked, but still in the husk, around the edge. I also picked up a trick from a buddy of mine. I took an onion and rubbed it over the grill, it's supposed to help prevent sticking, and left it to the side to steam up. I then took the roast sections and seared them in the iron skillet. After the searing, I placed them in foil and cut up plenty of pepper, onion and tomato over the top. I wrapped them up and on the grill they went. I also had a green tomato that fell off the vine early. I cut the top and bottom off, salted it and off it went to the grill's edge.

As we waited for the main course to cook, I looked around and saw a big bowl of peaches, more than I would eat. A new idea born. I peeled a few, don't try to take out the pit, and onto the grill they went. Continuing to look around, I still saw a bunch of peppers. Out came the knife again and sliced peppers to the grill.

The corn stayed on the grill for at least an hour. Except for the very top, the ears stayed moist and sweet. I wanted the beef cooked medium, but it came out medium well, no damage done though. The onion worked well and the result of the green tomato will keep some of my crop from ripening this summer. The peaches were great. I guess the sugar carmalized. Next time, I need to have ice cream or whipped cream on hand.

The weekend feast continued Sunday. I went to visit my parents in Statesville and the dinner table spread did not disappoint. A tender pork loin complemented with green beans, with a few October beans thrown in, corn, canteloupe, tomatoes, mashed potatoes, all fresh. For desert, fresh peaches and ice cream over pound cake. I brought a few leftovers home too.

I still have a good bit of the peppers and onions from the grill. Along with the leftovers I'm mulling over my next meal. I've already used the green beans and corn mixed with a little of the pepper and onions. It made a nice summer vegetable soup. Tonight, I'm thinking of cutting pork loin over the pepper and onions and re-heating them in the skillet. Right now I'm contemplating putting them over rice. We'll see how strong the appetite is this evening.

Keep the charcoal lit.

Peppers everywhere, hoping against blossom rot, the grill: midsummer reflections in the backyard I

I'll admit that as I began my summer vacation, I wondered how much I would enjoy it. For the previous three summers, I had a great job where I traveled all over the country and got paid to do it, (best paying summer job ever.) Unfortunately, it didn't happen this year. It was a great job in that it wasn't just about the travel. I got to be great friends with my co-workers and certainly started feeling a sense of entitlement at having the experience every summer. While I miss it, the regenerative powers of summer have the karma balanced properly.

I'm back on good terms with my backyard. It's all about 200 some square feet behind my condo closed in by a privacy fence, but I'm glad to be reaquainted with it. Staying away from home during the summer can put you in a landscaping hole. A months worth of unchecked weed growth presents the most daunting of tasks, especially for a classic procrastinator such as myself. This summer I'm able to stay on top of the yard and I'm a better man for it.

I've set out about 20 pepper plants and four tomato vines. The jalapenos and Anaheims have been going strong for more than two weeks. I set out the tomatoes a little late, but they look healthy and are filled with green tomatoes. I am wary about several reports of root rot in the area. With root rot, everything looks good until the tomato starts to ripen. Fruit on a plant with root rot will cave in from the bottom about the time it starts to redden. The weather is to blame. This year we've had extended dry spells followed by excessive rainfall, a potential deadly combination for tomatoes. I hope to dodge that bullet.

A return toward mastery of the backyard has brought a reappearance of the grill, actually it's my neighbor's grill, but it's in my backyard. With the overflow of peppers, I needed to use them fast. Fresh salsa didn't make a dent in them. I gave away a few, but they still covered my kitchen counter. It was time for a cookout. I first wanted to do it Friday, but it seemed too rushed. Nonetheless, people started dropping by, it's alluded to here, and the party was on. Saturday rolled around and the cookout was on. I told several people about it and most of them showed up along with a few they'd talked to and I hadn't. Party on once again and all of it spent in the backyard.

Great to back on good terms with the backyard.

Racism: a cycle of...?

Interesting local blogging this weekend on racism in politics.

Hogg's Blog has coverage on an anti-racism rally held downtown Friday evening. Hoggard attended the rally and is willing to listen to community leaders wanting to deal with racism in Guilford County, but he certainly sees plenty of flaws in some of their contentions:

I’ve been told that I, as a white man, can’t judge as to what is, or is not, racism. Perhaps this is true, but if I am going to be asked to join an effort to fight racism, I will find it very hard to fight what I can’t see. Suspension rates in our schools clearly smack of some kind of racism in my book, as do the City Council decision to oppose the T&R process and many aspects of the ongoing police investigations. To the black leadership, I say K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid), at least in the early stages, and you will gather more support.

It sounds like a reasonable request to me. I tend to disagree with his contention that suspension rates indicate some form of racism. I don't teach in Guilford County, but I am a public school teacher and from what I've experienced, suspension is a usually a last-resort tool. That doesn't mean race is not a factor, but placing the paramount focus on racism can limit a school's ability to discipline in way that's fair to disruptive students and those who usually obey the rules and desire a more orderly school experience. Nonetheless, a discussion of high suspension rates, no matter their cause, is one that could benefit the community.

Sam Hieb weighs in on the extension of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Forty NC counties would be affected. Sam concludes:

My gut reaction is releasing the electoral system from the stranglehold of the federal bureaucracy will not restrict voter accessibilty but will improve it.

I think Sam should trust his gut.

Racism and politics a mix, more emotional than analytical, that often illicits a rise in blood pressure from many on both sides. While the political system plays a role in protecting Americans against racism, it is unrealistic to see it as the best remedy to cure the racism residing in the human heart.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Joe Biden: he-he-he-he

Let me start by saying that I don't think Joe Biden is an anti-Indian bigot, but I won't feel sorry for him catching hell for his crack about having to speak with an Indian accent if he steps into a 7-11 or Dunkin Doughnuts in Delaware. I'll also not lament the fact that the mainstream media will cover his behind instead of annointing him as the poster child of the moment for low-brow American bigotry. I don't think what he said was bigoted, but more likely a case of poor judgment.

I don't mind watching him catch hell because I've seen enough of his act in Senate hearings. Whenever he's questioning someone he plays for the cameras. During the Samuel Alito hearings, it took him about 20 minutes of posturing before he got around to asking a question. A couple years ago I watched him during a hearing harangue John Ashcroft about torture.

In a body with plenty of sanctimonious pricks, Biden often stands the most erect of all. Buck up and weather the storm Joe.

BTW:Biden explains himself here.

Little heard back stories on the war: the homefront

Victor Davis Hanson looks at the history of western appeasement to Islamists and how it might affect the outlook of Democrats on the future of the war against terrorism.

Hanson points out that before 9/11, radical Muslim beliefs were much more tolerated by the West's rightists than on the left:

In the 1980s some conservatives saw the jihadists in Afghanistan or the Wahhabis in the Gulf as valuable bulwarks against global Communism. On the Western domestic front, even extremist Muslims — in their embrace of family values and resentment against modernism — were considered bedrock conservatives. Supposedly, they shared the same understandable concern about Western “decadence,” such as promiscuity, homosexuality, crass popular culture, and family dissolution.

So, despite clear evidence that many conservative mosques in the West were promulgators of a sick backward extremism, many social reactionaries hardly wished to upset their fellow travelers. Add in common distrust of Israel, and no surprise that the pages of The American Conservative will still sometimes resemble those of the Nation.

Since 9/11, the left has taken up much of the apologia for radical Islam:

Indeed, a radical Leftist always faces a dilemma when a fellow anti-American sounds fascistic. The usual course, as we have seen since September 11, is either to keep silent about such embarrassing kindred spirits, or to weasel out by suggesting our own hegemonic tendencies pushed a once reasonable “Other” in lamentable directions.

The result? Killers and terrorists have been able to operate openly in European capitals. Here in North America, in the 58 months after the Twin Towers fell, numerous cadres of terrorists still continue to be rounded up — without a peep of condemnation from mainstream Muslim groups, who have instead crafted an ingenious cult of victimization, predicated on sympathy from the Left. Ask yourself: In the fifth year since September 11, is it more likely that Islamic associations in Canada or the United States will condemn global Islamic extremism or complain about purported Islamophobia and the sins of “Zionism”?

Hanson also criticizes the US for doing nothing to ease dependence on foreign oil:

The truth is that as long as American petroleum demand, coupled with restrictions on our own energy development, helps drive the world oil price up, we are simply funding psychopaths who otherwise would have no viable economic means of support. Without Saudi petrol money, Wahhabism, the godhead of Islamic fascism, devolves into just another localized lunatic sect. So we talk seriously about new alternative energy, and seriously do nothing — in the vain hope that the price soon collapses or, barring that, we can stop the guy on a motorbike in Damascus or Ramadi from delivering millions in cash satchels from Saudi financiers to al Qaeda killers.

He finally cautions those who see political gain in American failure in Iraq:

Who knows — perhaps President Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Wesley Clark, and Attorney General John Edwards may soon appear on television extending support for democrats in Baghdad or deploring unlawful disclosures that emboldened terrorists plotting to blow up Washington.

Because this generation of the opposition, in a foolish and short-sighted manner, has turned an American struggle into George Bush’s futile war, it will either have to abandon the democracy in Iraq or recant and assure the rest of us that its past hateful and extremist rhetoric was just politics, and they are now going to unite us and lead us on to victory over the primevalists after all.

Another good read from VDH.

Anti-racism rally set for tonight

Many of Guilford County's prominent black leaders will lead a rally tonight to highlight what they see as racial injustices committed recently. Organizers cite nine cases that grew "out of a culture of racism," highlighted by the situation with former police chief David Wray and last week's firing of county manager Willier Best, as impetus for the rally.

I doubt this rally will do much to improve race relations in Guilford County. While I have yet to hear a sound reason for firing Best at this time, I find it quite narrow-minded and divisive to chalk it up to racial bigotry. As for Wray, he's been gone almost a year and the police department seems to be running smoothly under the leadership of interim chief Tim Bellamy, who is black.

When things don't go our way politically, it's tempting to attribute our defeat to some overriding evil. The charge of racism in politics is pernicious. How do you defend yourself against charges of racism, especially when black politicians make the charge against white opponents? Many whites accept the charge of racism uncritically. Others compile a list of what they percieve as black racism and the argument is on. Usually, it results in a battle for momentary ascent on the high ground of moral righteousness. The dust will settle and most move on to other issues until a dispute occurs between politicians of different races and the charge to the top starts over again.

Most of the current grievances are political at heart. I think the current method of electing county commissioners, city councilmen and state legislators at the district level makes charges of racism a much more attractive political tactic. Guilford's black leaders don't have to worry about appealing to large blocs of white voters to get elected and the reverse is true for white leaders. While district representation was used to ensure minorities were elected, a reasonable short-term solution, it's long-term effect has been to segregate voters into racial enclaves where those who seek election don't have to venture too far outside the concerns of their districts to ensure victory.

For those who don't think county-wide elections will work for black politicians, refresh yourself on local history. In 1968 Guilford was the state's first county in the 20th century to elect a black representative, Henry Frye, to the NC House. Frye had to appeal to voters in all corners of the county and did so successfully the first time and in subsequent runs. He even went on to appeal to voters statewide by being elected as the chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

The Wray situation and Best firing would make sound and legitimate campaign issues for the Greensboro City Council and county commission respectively. However, the current system will likely prevent the discussion to escape the confines of race.

To be fair, one of the issues inspiring tonight's rally, a high suspension rate among black students in the county's school system, is not political, but once again, limiting this serious issue to racism will make it harder to get to the heart of a very real problem.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Tales of the Taepoedong, waylaid Chinese trains, Koreans in Japan disagree, Japan and South Korea disagree over islands

Officials with Japan's Defense Agency say that North Korea's launch of a Taepodong long range missle failed. North Korea claimed the launch successful. Japanese defense experts dismissed the possibility that the North Koreans destroyed the missle to keep out of the range of US territory. An official said he doubted the North Koreans have the ability to abort the flight of the Taepodong.

In the meantime, Strategy Page reports of bizarre behavior on the part of North Korea not directly related to the missle launch. Over the last few weeks, North Korea has kept Chinese trains sent to the country carrying aid. The Koreans keep the trains and send their crews back to the Chinese borders. The North has refused Chinese requests to return the trains.

Two leading Korean groups in China, one aligned with the South, the other with the North, adopted different stances over the missile launch. On the heels of the launch, Mindan, the group aligned with the South, renounced an agreement it reached in May with the North Korea-aligned Chongryun. The leader of Mindan claimed Chongryun had no intention of bucking Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, officials with Chongryun voiced concern that Koreans, especially students at Korean schools, may face harassment over the launch. The group even instructed principals of the schools to abolish ethnic uniforms.

Finally, Japan demanded that South Korea halt a survey into a group of islands that both countries claim.

Former human shield puts British rocker in coma

I'm riding Tim Blair's coattails this morning, but I couldn't ignore this. New Zealander Christiaan Taylor Briggs, who served as a human shield for Sadaam Hussein prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq in '03, stands accused of punching Billy Leeson following a dispute on a bus in North London. The punch knocked Leeson to the ground and he suffered a skull fracture when he struck his head on a footpath. The news report said Leeson's attacker ran off laughing. Leeson is in a coma and reported as in critical but stable condition.

Bad timing: Whale watchers watch whale kill

I found this via Tim Blair. Tourists on a whale-watching tour in Norway witnessed the killing of a minke whale by a commercial whale boat. Whale watching tours normally keep their distance from the commercial boats, but this time their paths crossed.

UN Human Rights Council votes to condemn Israel in emergency session

In its first major vote since its formation earlier this year, the UN Human Rights Council in an emergency session voted to deplore Israel's recent incursion into the northern tip of the Gaza Strip. The resolution condemning Israel contained an amendment proposed by Switzerland saying that armed Palestinian groups should be called to account as well. The resolution was proposed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Itzhak Levinon, Israel's UN ambassador in Geneva, likened the action to a diplomatic ambush:

Israel's ambassador to the UN's European headquarters in Geneva called the session "a planned and premeditated" attack on his country, and said it continued the anti-Israel bias set by the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission, which was phased out this year.

Anne Bayefsky sees the new HR Council as a repackaged HR Commission:

The credibility of the flagship of UN "reform," the newly-created Human Rights Council, sunk during its very first session, which ended on Friday, June 30th. The deck chairs on the Titanic had been rearranged when the Council replaced the discredited Human Rights Commission.

Bayefsky points out that as a myriad of human rights abuses take place around the globe, the Human Rights Council chose to single out one nation:

NO, THERE was only one country singled out by the UN Human Rights Council, and that was Israel.The Council decided that the program for the first session should focus discussion on five issues; the first one being the "human rights situation in the occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine." (The rest were "support for the Abuja Peace Agreement," and three thematic subjects.) The Council placed criticism of Israel permanently on the agenda of all future sessions. It gave only the special investigator on Israel what amounted to a permanent mandate. On its final day, the Council passed just one resolution condemning human rights violations by any of the 192 UN members, and directed it at Israel. When it was all over, the Council decided to hold its first special (emergency) session within the next few days - on Israel.

The United States and Israel were two of only four UN members who voted against the council. Neither holds a seat on the body at this time. It's ironic that a body created to prevent the ascesion of evil regimes such as Nazi Germany focuses all its outrage on a democratic nation born despite the devastation wrought during the aforementioned nightmare.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Tigers still sitting atop the heap

Baseball is approaching the all-star break and the Detroit Tigers have the best record of all. They padded their record with a 10-4 win at Oakland today. I'll have to admit that I'm a little behind on baseball this year. The Carolina Hurricanes run to the Stanley Cup took my attention away from the troubles of the Atlanta Braves and I stopped looking at the standings. However, Detroit has my attention. Jim Leyland works some more magic. Kenny Rogers is still a strong hurler. Other than Ivan Rodriguez, I'm not familiar with their players. I'd love to catch a Tigers/Chisox game on the tube. Don't ask me why, but it seems baseball is better when they have a strong squad in Motown.

Update: I just educated myself on the Tigers. It looks like Detroit may have a chance to live down the John Smoltz trade. Late last season, the Braves sent top pitching prospect Zach Miner to the Tigers for closer Kyle Farnsworth. Miner is 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA so far this year.

Miner's fellow starter Nate Robertson has a blog based on his prowess as a gum chewer. He's having a good season on the mound too.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day

Just waiting for the fireworks to begin. It's been a great Independence Day. Spent a little time with a neighbor whose a Vietnam Vet. It seemed a good way to pass the day. I love July 4. For whatever reason, it seems appropriate that our country points to a day in the dead heat of the summer as its birthday. The blood is pumping, everything's growing and the energy of the sun is at its height. Great to be living in the land of the free. Happy Independence Day.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Artificial whitewater on the Catawba has impact on the Nantahala

The impact of the US National Whitewater Center near Charlotte will have an impact on the NC mountains. The center won't be diverting any water flow from mountain streams, or for that matter the Catawba River, but it will affect the population demographics in the NC high country. Over the years, many world-class whitewater athletes have moved into Western NC in order to train with the Nantahala Racing Club (NRC), one of the top whitewater training groups in the country. However, many of these athletes are relocating to Charlotte to train at USNWC.

While the Charlotte facility will reduce the population of world-class athletes, the NRC president believes it will have an overall positive impact on whitewater sports in the mountains:

NRC president Steve Zarnowski of Asheville said the Charlotte center should make the local paddling program stronger.

“We see Charlotte as being a better place for our athletes,” Zarnowski said. “It gives them an opportunity to work, go to school and train in the same area. It’s difficult for them to do that here.”

The center hoped to open last month, but gaining roadway rights to the center created a delay in the opening. It does plan to open this summer though. The facility will be the world's largest artificial whitewater course, but will not serve solely as a training site. It will be open to the public and offer a wide-range of outdoor activities, including whitewater raft trips. I've always loved NC's variety of outdoor activities and the facility should enhance the state's image as an outdoor mecca.

Cinderella Man good Independence Day weekend viewing

Thanks to HBO, I believe I've pieced together enough segments of Cinderella Man to now lay claim to seeing the entire movie. I'm glad I did. The story of James Braddock is certainly worth re-telling today. I also thought Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger were superb in their roles as Jimmy and Mae Braddock. Paul Giamotti deserved his Oscar nomination for playing Braddock's manager, Joe Gould, and I liked Craig Bierko's portrayal of Max Baer, even though Baer's son, Max Jr., says the movie exagerrated the heavyweight's cavalier attitude.

What I found most striking about the movie was the values of the Braddocks. They believed in working hard and taking care of the family. Whether working in the ring or slaving away at the docks, Braddock knew his success would mean success for his family. Even after retiring from the ring, Braddock continued working and even started a successful business. He served well during World War II as well, neither is reenacted in the movie.

I also appreciate the vivid boxing scenes set in the 1930s, a time when boxing rivaled baseball as the most popular sport in America. The fight scenes showed how much drama could be packed into a three-minute round.

Too bad it didn't perform as well as expected at the box office, but I highly recommend a holiday viewing of Cinderella man.

Jimmy C speaks

Former President Jimmy Carter offers up an op-ed in today's WaPo calling for fewer secrets in the US government. To remedy this situation, the man from Plains calls for amendments to the Freedom of Information Act to bring the US "more in line with emerging international standards."

Stacked up against other Carter pronouncements during the Bush II era, this one is rather mild. He points to an 81 percent increase in secret information from 2000 to 2005, but refrains from passing too much judgment on the administration. Instead, the piece focuses on the wrangling one must endure to gain access to government information:

Moreover, the response to FOIA requests often does not satisfy the transparency objectives or provisions of the law, which, for example, mandates an answer to information requests within 20 working days. According to the National Security Archives 2003 report, median response times may be as long as 905 working days at the Department of Agriculture and 1,113 working days at the Environmental Protection Agency. The only recourse for unsatisfied requesters is to appeal to the U.S. District Court, which is costly, timely and unavailable to most people. Policies that favor secrecy, implementation that does not satisfy the law, lack of a mandated oversight body and inaccessible enforcement mechanisms have put the United States behind much of the world in the right to information.

It's hard to argue against transparency in government. However, Carter does not offer any specifics. What information does Carter want made available? Does he believe any government information be kept secret? Does he really believe the US lags behind nations such as South Africa and Jamaica where transparency is concerned?

When Carter speaks, it's usually to point out something he sees as wrong. Don't expect any cheerleading. Carter has always displayed a strong streak of Puritanism, which has been known to create a dour outlook on things. I'll have to hear more before I determine if he's on to something here.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Do I look like a Peckerwood Peasant to you?

I don't read Daily Kos that often, but a buddy of mine alerted me to a recent post on the South by diarist edencho, who, with a mental acuity rivaling that of Jethro Bodine , launches into a hate-filled diatribe against conservative southerners.

Here's the condensed version: the South is populated by Peckerwood Peasants still fuming from the abolition of slavery, who do all their shopping at Wal-Mart and display Confederate flags all over the place. These hapless fools serve as the foot soldiers of the country club Republicans who use their power to manipulate the stupid oafs who vote them into office.

Besides showing an utter lack of appreciation for the nuance and contradiction that is southern history, edencho shows a knack for fantasy writing. Edencho relies on the most bigoted stereotypes to describe the south. While there are no doubt many of the types edencho describes around us, I doubt their power as a voting bloc. I've been voting in NC since 1980 and I don't recall encountering too many Peckerwood Peasants at the polls. Maybe I just go at the wrong times.

Edencho also taunts the spirit of Ronnie van Zandt with this choice observation:

... and recent data showed that Alabama was the fastest growing state in America....regarding waistlines that is! A 2005 study of CDC data found that a whopping 27.7 percent of the population (well above the national average) the Yellowhammer state gives a new meaning to crimson tide: the gallons of ketchup that the lard ass peckerwoods pour over their buckets of deep-fried food. Not surprisingly fellow peckerwood meccas Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee were among the runners up as national repositories for the obese.

I'm laughing too hard to get mad at edencho. Instead, I'm grateful for being reminded that willful ignorance and bigotry don't stop at regional lines. Edencho, a southern man don't need you around any how, but thanks for the enlightenment.

Reasoning for firing Best still not satisfying

While some of the seven Guilford County commissioners gave their reasons for voting to fire county manager Willie Best, none of them made a good case for swinging the ax. I'll admit I've devoted little attention to commissioners this year. In part it's due to the pacific atmosphere that's surrounded meetings so far this year. It never crossed my mind to tune in channel 13 on meeting nights. It looks like that will change now.

Commissioners quoted in the News and Record today seemed to focus on Best's leadership style as a main cause for their discontent. It's not unusual for one to fall out of favor in job situation because their personality just doesn't have enough zing to it, but it rarely leads to grounds for immediate dismissal. Commissioner Billy Yow pointed out Best's handling of a pay raise situation, but Best admitted he made a mistake and handled the matter appropriately.

If it were time to discuss extending Best's contract as manager, perhaps some of the arguments above would be understandable. At that point, commissioners could say we appreciate the job you've done, but now that you're at the end of your contract, we believe it's time for a change in direction. A boat that traditionally has always found stormy seas, the Guilford County Commission had finally experienced some smooth sailing. It just seems a strange time to pilot the craft into a squall.

The Love Me Tender summit

I got a big kick watching Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi at Graceland yesterday. Too bad the King wasn't around to see how he inspired one of the coolest moments in world diplomatic history.

All the -isms and political discourse

I'd love to claim prescience, but I didn't anticipate how timely this would have proven.

Earlier this week when seven Guilford County commissioners, all white, voted to fire county manager Willie Best, who is black, claims of racism spilled forth from some of Best's supporters, most notably commissioner Skip Alston. While Best's opponents left their motives open to interpretation by intially refusing to explain their votes, Alston certainly sensationalized the situation by throwing the rotting corpse of Jim Crow high into the air. In this morning's News and Record, some commissioners voting against Best gave some reasoning for their thinking. A non-assertive approach to county matters seemed to be prominent in creating the discontent with Best. This did not deter Alston who still maintained that Best's race did him in.

David Hoggard attended Thursday night's meeting and could definitely feel the tension in the air. He blames both black and white commissioners for displaying a "hatred for each other the likes of which made me cringe in my seat." He calls the scene a "racial train wreck" and believes the damage will be long-lasting. I believe Hoggard may be right where political leadership is concerned, at least for the near term, but I don't think it will ripple through the average citizens who pay little attention to the proceedings of county government.

I'll go to the Left Coast to point out another straw man created by Jon Carroll, who just doesn't see any reason to get so worked up over the New York Times' revelation of the SWIFT program. Carroll writes that GW Bush showed outrage earlier this week to stir up the anti-semitic wing of the GOP base. I'll let Carroll's words speak for him:

Also, the name of the New York Times contains the word "New York." Many members of the president's base consider "New York" to be a nifty code word for "Jewish." It is very nice for the president to be able to campaign against the Jews without (a) actually saying the word "Jew" and (b) without irritating the Israelis. A number of prominent Zionist groups think the New York Times is insufficiently anti-Palestinian, so they think the New York Times isn't Jewish enough.

As they comment on two different issues, Alston and Carroll both place emotion over reason. Instead of offering a defense of Best's job performance, which may well be justified, Alston snatches Jim Crow from the grave. Carroll is just downright flippant, a good example of Parker and Stone's San Francisco smug. Most of us South Park fans know how that one turns out.