Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Move, A Pause In Writing & A New Blog

To those of you who have read this blog over the last six months please accept my apologies for not being consistant over the past month. I have tried but things in my personal life have consumed more of my time.

As of November 20, 2006 I will have moved to Europe. This new geographic location was decided upon well before the US midterm elections, of which, I was happy with the outcome. Bi-partisanship is a good thing! The move overseas was precepitated by my wife accepting a promotion at work and with that the upheaval and generalized choas of boxes and suitecases began. I am happy to report that the choas is now concluded.

With the decision to move and my nagging conscience telling me to write a blogpost I settled upon an idea that has entertained every expatriot in Europe-journal ones experiences-which in this technological era contains the sketches a brand-new blog. This point was pressed by a close friend over farewell coffee and I embrace the idea.

So, an end to this blog and the beginnings of a new one.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Predictions

President George W. Bush is hoping to be underestimated one last time. Promising that his Republicans will hold both the House and the Senate on Tuesday, the President used Air Force One to hopscotch the Sun Belt and Midwest as he closed out a campaign that could determine whether he spends the next two years on offense or defense.

This blog has been silent throughout much of the campaign. Personal and professional reasons are to blame. With twenty-four hours to go before the election Emerson Darcy has decided to voice opinions on a few influential races.

Md.: Steele vs. Cardin
Pa.: Santorum vs. Casey
Mo.: Talent vs. McCaskill
R.I.: Chafee vs. Whitehouse
Nev.: Ensign vs. Carter
N.J.: Menendez vs. Kean
Wash.: Cantwell vs. McGavick
Conn.: Lieberman vs. Lamont
Ohio: DeWine vs. Brown
Mont.: Burns vs. Tester
TN: Corker vs. Ford, Jr.

In Maryland, Democrat Ben Cardin has held Steele off by 7 points in the latest Rasmussen poll. The 10-term congressman from Baltimore has formed strong alliances in the state, including one with his primary opponent, Kweisi Mfume, the former president of the NAACP. In addition, Cardin, who voted against the Iraq-war resolution, has brought in Sen. Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton to help shore up support among the base. Emerson Darcy predicts a Cardin win.

Pennsylvania’s junior senator, Republican Rick Santorum, is fighting for his political life. After narrowing the lead of Democratic challenger, state treasurer Bob Casey, to single digits in August, polls now show Casey's lead back near double digits. Of these Quaker state players, Emerson Darcy predicts a Santorum loss and President Bush will lose one of his most consistent and conservative allies in the Senate.

It may well be the closest Senate race in the country; Missouri’s showdown between Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill has been remarkably polite. Talent, the Republican incumbent, and McCaskill, the state’s auditor, are both well liked locally. However, Emerson Darcy predicts the conservative state will stay conservative with a Talent victory.

Who would have thought that in the famously independent state of Rhode Island, a left-leaning Republican senator is in a tight race with a party line Democrat. Lincoln Chafee trails Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse by about two points, according to the latest polls. Whitehouse, who was formerly the state's attorney general, has campaigned on an aggressively national platform, saying not just Rhode Island's future but “the structure of power in Washington” is at stake. This may be nice campaign spin but nothing more. Rhode Island will stay independent with incumbent Lincoln Chafee.
Nevada's first-term Republican senator, John Ensign, has faced little strong resistance, from Democrat Jack Carter though Ensign’s once sizable lead has been cut to 9 points in a recent Rasmussen poll. Carter believes that Ensign is a Bush clone, vulnerable in a state where the president's approval ratings are in the 30s. Much depends upon voter turnout tomorrow. Emerson Darcy predicts an upset win for Democrat Jack Carter.

New Jersey seems like an easy Senate seat for the Democrats to hold on to. The incumbent, Democrat Bob Menendez, who was appointed in January when Sen. Jon Corzine became the state's governor, is a seven-term former congressman. The state has been solidly Democrat in the last four presidential elections and disapproval of President Bush is high. However, polls show a dead heat between Menendez and his challenger, Republican Tom Kean Jr., a state senator whose father was formerly the popular governor of New Jersey and grandfather a congressman. Kean's attempts to paint Menendez as the product of a broken New Jersey political system, rocked by scandal over the last decade will work. Governor Corzine will be handed a political defeat as Emerson Darcy predicts a Kean victory.

Washington Senator Maria Cantwell's double-digit lead in January over Republican challenger Mike McGavick has dwindled to four points, according to a recent Rasmussen poll. She is also facing heat from some fellow Democrats over her vote in support of the war in Iraq and her refusal to back troop removal timetables. However, Democratic Senate heavyweights Barack Obama and Russ Feingold, who have both come to Seattle on her behalf and former President Bill Clinton support for her will help her keep her small lead and ultimate victory in tomorrow’s election.

It has been an interesting autumn. The former vice presidential candidate lost his primary to challenger Ned Lamont. Lamont’s victory emboldened progressives and old liberal Democrats across the country. Lieberman’s main vulnerability: steadfast support for the war in Iraq proved fatal in the primary. In a state that is increasingly disdainful of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy such vulnerability is what Mr. Lamont has hammered upon. However, in a three-way general election run, Emerson Darcy predicts that Lamont loses, showing Democrats that an independent bid was Lieberman’s best shot and their worst nightmare.

It’s a political platitude “as Ohio goes, so goes the nation.” If it’s true, the GOP is probably a bit nervous about the Buckeye state. Democrat Sherrod Brown, the progressive congressman from Avon, has taken a narrow lead to unseat two-term incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine. Both parties have pulled out all the stops for their respective candidates: President George Bush has plans to attend a private fund-raiser for the senator in Ohio and both former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Sen. John McCain will lend their support. On the other side of the ticket, Sens. Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton have thrown their high-wattage support behind Brown. Current scandals involving the high-ranking state GOP leaders will affect the popular incumbent and widely perceived moderate nice guy Mr. DeWine. Emerson Darcy predicts Ohio will chose Mr. Brown.

The big question facing Big Sky voters is whether they agree with Jon Tester, an organic farmer, former teacher and the president of the Montana Senate or want to stick by the senator who has brought $2 billion in federal funds to the state over the past 18 years. Montana's three-term Republican senator, Conrad Burns, has turned into one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the country seeking re-election. Burns, ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff is his downfall and Emerson Darcy predicts a Tester win.

In Tennessee, Senate GOP candidate Bob Corker has one advantage that the man he replaced, Sen. Bill Frist, did not: Corker is not an incumbent. Democrat Representative Harold Ford, a shrewd and dogged campaigner, did his best to tie Corker to Bush’s Washington throughout the campaign. But this is a contest that boils down to who is more “Tennessee,” Corker has an out that most other Republican candidates this year did not. Also, the Republican’s cheap, race-baiting TV ad (“Harold, call me”) worked, sadly, but not in the obvious way. The controversy it generated actually was the first time many voters in East Tennessee learned that Ford was an African-American, a fact that can still cost votes in that region and sadly precious ones for Mr. Ford. Emerson Darcy predicts a Corker victory.

It will be an exciting election. Upsets are guaranteed as well as surprises. This is one prediction Emerson Darcy know he is right about. On a final note, all readers are strongly urged to vote! This campaign season has been negative and intense. It is the nature of the beast known as American politics. To those sick of politics, historically, there have never been “good old days” because American politics have always been dirty to some degree. Let this knowledge not be a determent, rather resolve that through participating in the experiment called American democracy you lessen the degree of negativity.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Counter-Punch

As I perused the many online articles today I could not believe my luck when I came across Mr. Klein's.

I had made up my mind to write a piece today on the very same topic and after reading Mr. Klein's have decided to include it below for visitor's to read.

The point of Mr. Klein's article as well as my attempt in today's blog was to point out how the Democrats have found their voice in 2006. It was silent in 2002 and hardly heard in 2004 much to the discredit of standard-bearer John Kerry. Now, however, it seems that emboldied by scandal and public unrest, distrust, and general tiredness of Republican control the citizens are interested in a change. This is good.

The reasons however, are a bit difficult to understand. The questions are: 1. is Democratic answers to the issues of the day REALLY different than their Republican opponents? And 2. Campaign style is nice, but more importantly is substance reaching the public?

I will not try to answer these questions. I leave that to my readers and those voters out there. If real change is to occur it is hoped that it is for the right reasons not the obvious.

Finally, though it is good to see the Democrats fighting, unified at last, at least on a defensive strategy, it is hoped that the substance of ideas spoken of above is present if the Democratic Party is offered the chance to serve the American public.,9565,1551985,00.html

Friday, October 27, 2006


The White House said today that Vice President Dick Cheney was not talking about a torture technique known as "water boarding" when he said dunking terrorism suspects in water during questioning was a "no-brainer." Such comments were made in an interview Tuesday with WDAY of Fargo, North Dakota, when Cheney was asked if "a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives." The vice president had replied, "Well, it's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in."

Peppered with questions about the remarks, White House spokesman Tony Snow said Cheney did not interpret the question as referring to water boarding and the vice president did not make any comments about water boarding. He said the question put to Cheney was loosely worded.

Human rights groups have complained that Cheney's comments amount to an endorsement of water boarding, in, which the victim believes he is about to drown. President Bush, asked about Cheney's comments, said, "This country doesn't torture. We're not going to torture." Such a comment from the president should be seen as following the standard response from his White House, though such deniability is just stupid considering the media attention paid to detainees in Cuba; in addition to secret CIA prison camps throughout Europe.

As reported on, Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement, "What's really a no-brainer is that no U.S. official, much less a vice president, should champion torture. Vice President Cheney's advocacy of water boarding sets a new human rights low at a time when human rights is already scraping the bottom of the Bush administration barrel."

With US mid-term elections a week away the White House has given the Democrats some material to campaign with. The question is will they?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


"They say all politics is local, but it's not always the case," Michael J. Fox says in the 30-second commercial backing Senate candidate Claire McCaskill in Missouri, a Democrat. "What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans -- Americans like me."

Simple and straight forward; but is quite evident is that Mr. Fox is shaking. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease and supports research on embryonic stem cell for a potential cure, also has lent his celebrity to Democrats Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, running for the Senate in Maryland, and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, who is seeking re-election; both of whom also back stem cell research.

The ads have triggered a backlash, with some such as conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh criticizing them as exploitive. Limbaugh went as far as to claim that Fox was "either off his medication or acting."

To be fair, Mr. Fox has acted sporadically in smaller roles, such as in a several-episode guest appearance earlier this year on ABC's "Boston Legal," playing a business tycoon with cancer and in other roles since his diagnosis Fox generally has sought to control his movements, though his illness was evident.

What is most depressing from this episode is the fact that Mr. Limbaugh’s comments are so shameful considering his own situation. A recovering drug addict, Mr. Limbaugh asked for compassion and understanding from fans and opponents during his ordeal and apparent relapse a few months ago.

Put aside the fact that Mr. Fox made his comments as support for a Democratic candidate in an election. Put aside the fact that Mr. Limbaugh, a conservative “shock” talk show host is opposed to any Democratic victory November 7, 2006. Both share a physical problem, though let us be fair, Parkinson’s is of a completely different magnitude; this however does not excuse the fact that Mr. Limbaugh decided to attack Mr. Fox.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Siege

Republicans are battling to keep control of Congress. But polls and analysts in both parties increasingly suggest Democrats will capture the House and possibly the Senate on Election Day Nov. 7. Democrats need a 15-seat pickup to regain the House and a gain of six seats to claim the Senate. Everything could change overnight for President Bush, who has governed for most of the past six years with a Republican Congress and with little support from Democrats. Democratic victories essentially could block his remaining agenda and usher in a period of intense partisan bickering over nearly every measure to come before Congress. This means that a loss of either chamber also could subject the Bush Administration to endless congressional inquiries and investigations.

Some of President Bush's fighting in the trenches is likely to be with fellow Republicans as they seek to find a new standard bearer for 2008, and distance themselves from an unpopular war, the unpopular president who waged it, and congressional scandals that include inappropriate e-mails to House pages from ex-Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla. Already, Republicans are showing divisions on Iraq policy. Fresh skepticism has come from Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner of Virginia, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, a longtime Bush family loyalist.

What is certain however, if Republicans lose their majorities, it will be that much harder for Bush to hold together already splintering GOP cohesion on Iraq. While the Senate has been difficult for Bush, even with GOP control, the House for most of his presidency has delivered for him. That might change now. The White House traditionally loses seats in midterm congressional races. The most recent exception was 2002, when the Republicans picked up seats. President Bush has barely over two years left. The loss of either house in voting next month could hasten his descent into a lame-duck presidency.

Many Democrats see the upcoming elections as a mirror image of 1994, with the parties reversed. Polls in 2006 show a more dramatic tilt toward the Democrats than polling in 1994 showed a tilt toward Republicans. But redistricting has made far fewer congressional districts competitive. A Democratic takeover of one or more chambers would all but guarantee that Bush would not get his Social Security overhaul or further tax cuts through Congress.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Darfur Violence Spreads To Chad

This is something that was inevitable. It was not a matter of how, but rather of when.
Sudanese Janjaweed militia and Chadian rebels have attacked at least 10 villages in southeast Chad in the past two weeks, killing over 100 people and displacing more than 3,000, local and U.N. officials now say.

The attacks are part of a spillover of violence from Sudan's western Darfur region, where violence has increased as seasonal riverbeds dry out after annual rains, becoming passable to rebel jeeps and Janjaweed on horses or camels. As reported by Reuters,"first we were attacked by local Chadian Arabs and the Janjaweed," said Usman Mucktar Hassan, sitting exhausted and dusty after fleeing his devastated village of Djimese Djarma.

The rainy season offered a brief respite from violence as wadis became impassable. But with the rains almost over, horses can again get around and in a few weeks rebels will be able to circulate freely in their trademark Toyota pickups. Locals say 10 villages have been attacked since October 4. While intervention by the Chadian National Army and local authorities appears to have calmed the situation since Saturday, it remains precarious.

UNHCR is seeking a secure site for Chadian civilians who have fled violence, now estimated at 55,000. However, the apparent alliance of Chadian rebels with Sudanese Janjaweed also increases border tension, with Chadian and Sudanese officials trading blame over rebel attacks despite a string of top-level agreements to mend ties.

The victims have always been and will remain, the women and children. Since, no international pressure seems to be effective, many around the world who care deeply about this issue are heart broken at such news. Prayers to those caught in the middle.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The First Domino?

Public polling underscores the political difficulty for Republicans, particularly DeWine and gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell. A New York Times/CBS News survey reported that 70 percent of Ohioans surveyed said the state and the nation were on the wrong track. Nearly two-thirds rated the economy as bad, suggesting more anxiety about jobs and pocketbook issues than elsewhere in the country. Sixty percent disapprove of Bush's handling of the war.

For more than a decade, Ohio was the place where Democratic dreams went to die.
Now, in the state that sealed President Bush's 2004 re-election, even Republicans concede Rep. Ted Strickland is on track to become the first Democratic governor in 16 years. At the same time, Rep. Sherrod Brown has clawed his way to a large lead in the polls over GOP Sen. Mike DeWine. Democrats have led for weeks in races for two House seats long in Republican hands, and party officials talk giddily of snatching two or three more seats, gains that would almost certainly portend an end to GOP control of the House.

Already Republicans have abandoned plans to advertise or run their highly regarded get-out-the-vote program in races to replace Brown or Strickland in the House. Republicans dismiss talk of a political tidal wave. Increasingly, their goal however, has been to minimize losses at a time of widespread voter discontent over the economy, the war in Iraq and corruption. Sensing danger, they urge voters not to lash out indiscriminately, despite unhappiness with President Bush, outgoing Republican Gov. Bob Taft and a steady diet of scandals.

Still, not even Democrats could dream up the corruption double feature that has unspooled in recent days, GOP Rep. Bob Ney pleading guilty in the Jack Abramoff scandal last Friday, and party fundraiser Tom Noe going on trial in a separate state corruption probe Monday. All in all, Democrats should feel very good about their chances, though with prior election experiences against President Bush and Republicans chances are fleeting.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A New Plan For Iraq

Violence in Iraq could end "within months" if Iran and Syria joined efforts to stabilize the country, says Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

As reported on the BBC the move would "be the beginning of the end of terrorism".
The idea for the US to open talks with Iran and Syria over Iraq is said to be under consideration by a panel of experts examining US policy on Iraq. The panel, led by former US secretary of state James Baker, is also said to think that "staying the course" is untenable.

Two observations. The first of which is a universal sigh of relief and general thought of, “better late than never.” It seems that citizens and hotly contested Congressional candidates have long ago agreed that "staying the course" is untenable. The second observation is why has such an option not been thought of earlier? Oh, that is right, one nation we are trying to stop making a nuclear reactor and the other we have considered a terrorist state (while we create one before our very eyes). Well, then I guess my first observation still is true, better late than never.

Final thought, interesting how such "ideas" make national media news weeks before President Bush and his Republicans fight the mid-term elections.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sanctions, Again?

President Bush said Saturday that the U.N. Security Council had sent a "swift and tough" message to North Korea that its claimed detonation of a nuclear bomb was unacceptable to the world. Mr. Bush spoke shortly after the council unanimously approved a resolution penalizing the reclusive communist nation for its announcement the test on October 9.
"This action by the United Nations, which was swift and tough, says that we are united in our determination to see to it that the Korean Peninsula is nuclear-weapons free," the president told reporters in brief remarks from the White House's South Lawn.

Mr. Bush said North Korea still had a chance for "a better way forward" and promised economic assistance to the impoverished country from the United States and others if it would verifiably end its nuclear weapons program.

This last statement is a bit confusing for me. First, the U.S. has spent the last week denying that there has been a test. Second, the North Korean people due to Korean censors will not hear such promises of economic assistance and if they could what type of assistance can the U.S. offer that has not been offered during the last decade?

There is much at stake beyond the obvious. It is hoped that calm prevails.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


A "weak and divided" international response on sending UN peacekeepers to Darfur is playing into the hands of the Sudanese government, a report says as reported by the BBC.

The International Crisis Group says diplomacy has "failed" and targeted sanctions are now needed to prevent the humanitarian situation from worsening.

It calls for economic measures to be applied to key business interests, in particular Sudan's petroleum sector.

An estimated 200,000 people have been killed during three years of fighting. This very report has wasted precious paper and said nothing new. The bottom line is that Khartoum will continue to exploit divisions, believing it can act with virtual impunity as long other nations are distracted by the threats of North Korea and Iran. Countries like Britain and the US argue that sending UN peacekeepers to Darfur is the only acceptable option, whilst other key players such as the UN special representative to Sudan, Jan Pronk, has suggested shifting the focus to bolstering the overstretched African Union (AU) force.

Though, the 7,000-strong AU peacekeeping force has been recently granted an extension of its mandate until the end of the year, allowing actual numbers on the ground to grow to 11,000 it NOT enough; especially since the Sudanese government has repeatedly rejected plans to transform the African force into the 20,600-strong UN mission agreed to by the Security Council in August, claiming their presence would constitute a breach of sovereignty.

Those who have read prior posts know my feelings on this subject. Thus, I will keep my opinion to one sentence saving you and my heart from more exertion than necessary. When the sovereignty of individuality is compromised there is no longer sovereignty of the whole.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Little Dragon

Maybe due to the fact that this is election season, but I find that while I used to be content in sharing the news in a nonbiased way, I have more and more found myself at odds with this vision.

Take the situation with North Korea. The UN Security Council is debating action against North Korea over its claims that it carried out nuclear tests, with China and Russia urging sanctions.
China, North Korea's traditional ally, has called for punitive action against the country but like Russia it is against the use of military force. Japan has also urged sanctions, while South Korea said its military was remaining on high alert.

Amidst the rhetoric stated above, the Security Council is discussing a US proposal to impose strict sanctions. The US ambassador to the UN said while the US would not rule out using force, it was seeking a diplomatic solution.

The US has proposed a 13-point draft resolution, wants to see the sanctions brought under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which means they would be mandatory and ultimately enforceable by military means. I would be in favor of using military force in a scenario similar to what Israel commando’s did to the first Iranian nuclear plant project. However, poking a dragon, no matter how tiny, is not really a good idea. All this is to say that while in my heart I would like to use force to take care of North Korea, realizing the opportunity of having China and Russia, vexing allies, but allies nonetheless against North Korea is better than not having their support at all. So, it is with hope that this UN resolution is not only agreed on by all but passed with enough teeth to bite the dragon back.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Death In Moscow

The murder of Anna Politkovskaya, an outspoken journalist, is also a blow against freedom of speech in Russia.

Ms. Politkovskaya’s journalism was distinctive. Not for her the waffly, fawning and self-satisfied essays of the Moscow commentariat. Nor the well-paid advertorial now so pervasive as to be barely noticeable. She reported from the wrecked villages and shattered towns of Chechnya, talking to those on all sides and none, with endless patience and gritty determination.

She suffered death threats aplenty. On more than one occasion, Russian special forces threatened to rape and kill her, leaving her body in a ditch. Each time she talked them out of it. In 2001, she fled to Austria after receiving a direct warning to leave Russia or else. In 2004, on her way to the siege of a school in the North Ossetian town of Beslan, where she hoped to mediate between the Chechen hostage-takers and the Russian military, she was poisoned, and nearly died. Whoever killed her on Saturday October 7th was a professional, intending not to warn her, but to end the problem she presented. She was shot in the body and the head; the pistol was a Makarov, the assassin’s favourite. It was left by her side: in that trade, weapons are used only once.

She will go down as a martyr, in the beleaguered causes of free speech and public spirit. It would be nice to think that Russians will find her example inspiring. Sadly, they may well conclude that speaking out on unpopular topics is best avoided. It hoped that this is indeed not the case, however as recent Supreme Court battles atest and daily news of legal suites announce the most renowned Western democracy faces war between the government and fourth estate that Mr. Politkovskaya knew only too well.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

New Toryism

A friend of mine, a card-carrying Republican emailed me the other day in frustration that the Conservatives in England were not being conservative. Neither surprised nor shocked in the response, my rationale was laid out to him. I attempt to do so here now for the rest of you.

Conservatives came to Bournemouth probably looking for two things from their new leader - a clearer sense of the things he stands for, and some idea of what he would do to achieve them.

After a low-key performance at the end of a low-key conference, enlivened only by a minor spat over tax and the antics of Boris Johnson, they may well have left feeling only half satisfied. There was plenty in Mr. Cameron's speech about what he stood for - the NHS, the family, marriage, the environment, security and social responsibility. And some of it was clearly designed to send out some core signals to his party and voters. Notably, that pledge to put the NHS and the family center of his agenda, to reject "pie in the sky" tax cuts that would jeopardize the economy, to go green even if it hurt and, once again stealing Tony Blair's discarded rhetoric, to be tough on the causes of crime.

There were a couple of sentences which sent distinct shudders through some of the delegates who, perhaps, feel their leader is a bit too far ahead of them. Such as his references to the NHS being one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century (it was introduced amid controversy by a Labour government) and supporting marriage between same sex couples, ideas taboo in Tory ideology twenty years ago.

Though the Conservative Party has opened up a six-point lead over Labour following the conference, a new opinion poll by ICM has suggested Mr. Cameron was more popular than Chancellor Gordon Brown, who is expected to replace Tony Blair as Labour leader and prime minister. Researchers asked who would make the better prime minister, with 45% choosing Mr. Cameron as against 34% for Mr. Brown.

And there within is the ultimate rub. Mr. Cameron may wish to take his time building his new, oak tree labeled party by first imprinting his own brand on the nation's consciousness but he really does not need to, since such a brand is not too different than the current occupant of No. 10. Consider it as nothing more than Tory lite. Conservative in name, Labour in substance.

Perhaps more dangerously, there are still those in the Conservative party and its supporters in the media, who came to the conference unconvinced by Mr. Cameron. He may believe he has plenty of time to do the convincing, particularly while the Labour party is looking inward over the leadership issue. And though, he will have to hope his doubters are prepared still to give him that time there really is no need. After this performance his party can be in no doubt that they are now led by, as he said himself, a liberal - not neo - conservative. And the emphasis is very much on the liberal.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Latvian Votes

The opposition New Era party had a narrow lead Saturday partway through Latvia's first parliamentary election since joining the European Union and NATO, an early exit poll showed. It is Latvia's first parliamentary ballot after joining the European Union and NATO in 2004.

The poll conducted by the Leta news agency as voting continued in the small Baltic country showed New Era, which campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, with 19.5 percent of the vote ahead of Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis' People's Party with 18.7 percent, several hours before polls close.

The two right-wing parties have historically been at odds, and earlier this year New Era dropped out of the government coalition led by the People's Party. Despite New Era's lead, the three parties making up the minority ruling coalition had nearly 45 percent support, meaning that the current government could be given a mandate by the president to stay in power if the result holds up. The Greens and Farmers Union, one of the coalition partners, was in third place with 16.8 percent in the poll, while the Harmony Center, a left-wing party supported by With few hot issues in the campaign, the election's main question is which of the largely similar right-wing parties will be given a mandate to lead Latvia's traditionally shaky coalition government.
Though experts have been predicting a low voter turnout due to a lack of major issues and a campaign marred by corruption scandals and 20% of eligible voters still do not know who they will vote for or whether they will vote at all, it should be said that no one should expect any of the parties to emerge as a clear winner.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pacific Unrest

Citing U.S. belligerence and pressure, North Korea said Tuesday that a nuclear test was being planned though they fell short of saying when: "the field of scientific research of the DPRK will in the future conduct a nuclear test under the condition where safety is firmly guaranteed," the statement said and reported on The Foreign Ministry added, "The U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war and sanctions and pressure compel the DPRK to conduct a nuclear test ... as a corresponding measure for defense."

Japan on Wednesday pressed a divided U.N. Security Council to adopt a statement urging North Korea to cancel its planned test and return immediately to six-party talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear weapons program. This must be seen more expedient, since Tuesday was the first time North Korea has made an official announcement that it is going to conduct nuclear tests. Previously, it has said it had the right to conduct such tests.

Such a scenario would significantly set back diplomatic efforts with North Korea and have serious implications for regional security, according to a House Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday said North Korea's test firing of seven missiles, including a long-range ballistic missile in July, a nuclear test would bring Pyongyang's relations with its neighbors to a new low, the report found. Moreover, the tests might prompt not only Japan, but also Taiwan and possibly South Korea to begin their own nuclear weapons programs.

Six-party talks on the country's nuclear program have been stalled for months. In addition to the United States and North Korea, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have been participating. "We are not going to live with a nuclear North Korea," Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill told the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University Wednesday. "We are not going to accept it. "North Korea "can have a future, or it can have these weapons. It cannot have both," Hill said. The U.S. and its allies "are in a very tense time" in dealing with Pyongyang.

This is an issue that offers both political parties in the United States an opportunity to discuss an issue of national security directly to the public. This is a diplomatic opportunity for China to finally be seen by the United Nations and more importantly, the United States as a player for international peace, rather than antagonism. An arms race is not what the Asia Pacific rim wants at the moment and the absolute last thing the world needs as the NEEDS in Africa and the Middle East have shown.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Walter Where Art Thou?

I have thought much about this topic during the past few days. Sadly, I must admit that I am part of the generation that did not see Walter Cronkite's tearfully declare a president dead or follow Dan Rather, Ted Koppel, and Peter Jennings from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the nighly anchor desk. I have been left recalling a childhood that was personally, most enlightening. For example, I remembered ABC nightly news discussing the 1988 presidential election, PBS news hour and the first time I watched CNN for breaking news (the Challenger shuttle disaster). The news for me has been informational not personal as to what anchor I prefer nor has it been partisan. During the 2004 presidential election I watched coverage on all major cable news channels. However, as Fox News Channel celebrates its ten years on air I would feel remiss if I did not mention a few things:

1. Fox News Channel marks its 10th anniversary this week in an unusual position: knocked back on its heels. The network is in the midst of its first-ever ratings slump. The years of explosive growth have ended at Fox. Viewership over the first eight months of the year was down 5 percent compared to 2005, with a steeper 13 percent decline in prime time, according to Nielsen Media Research.

2. Loved by some, loathed by others, Fox News Channel has been the biggest success in the cable industry and profoundly changed television news since its signal turned on Oct. 7, 1996. Fox News beat by a year his plan for overtaking CNN and grew to more than double its rivals in viewership. It made stars of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and put "fair and balanced" into news history textbooks.

3. Opinionated talk is now a staple on the TV dial, with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, Lou Dobbs on CNN and Nancy Grace on CNN Headline News. Fox was first. Though Fox's critics consider "fair and balanced" camouflage for an agenda, whatever the truth, news watching became increasingly partisan as more Democrats watched CNN, more Republicans watched Fox, according to a 2004 study by the Pew Research Center for the People in the Press. The year Fox started, CNN had more Republican viewers than Democrats.

It is true that as the times have changed so has news coverage, how the news is gathered and reported as well as what the public, at large, is willing to watch. Fox News is apart of the media and they are not leaving. It is hoped though that with age comes maturity.


President Bush, on a campaign swing in the West, is arguing the Democratic Party is weak-kneed on national security and shouldn't be trusted to hold the reins of Congress saying, "if you listen closely to some of the leaders of the Democratic Party, it sounds like -- it sounds like -- they think the best way to protect the American people is, wait until we're attacked again," as reported by CNN.

It has been a tough start to the week for the president. Persistent questions about a recent intelligence report that suggests the Iraq war has helped recruit more terrorists, and a new book, "State of Denial," by journalist Bob Woodward contends Bush misled the country about the war and in the latest development, a State Department official confirmed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did receive a CIA briefing about terror threats just about two months before the Sept. 11 attacks. These events have been overshadowed in equal measure by the scandal of Republican Congressman Mark Foley.

However, as President Bush delivered the administration's oft-repeated claims about the Democrats it hoped that reality soon sets in. It has been the president’s own Party, in control of the Senate, that has blocked most of the Administrations recent national security initiatives NOT the Democrats. Moreover, it was this president who in his 2002 State of the Union Address publicly stated flawed intelligence as reason to go to war with Iraq, and as far back as 2002 Mr. Richard Clarke, former Intelligence Czar under the Clinton Administration, and in charge of the White House situation room on September 11, 2001 explained in detail the Bush Administrations lack of interest in the various threat warnings prior to attacks in his book Against All Enemies.

Of course with any scandal there is unintentional blowback upon the leader of the Party, who happens to be the president. As breaking news suggest the psychology behind such actions (alleged molestation as a child) and questions about House Speaker Hastert’s ability to rule over the House of Representatives, least of all his own Party members in its chamber there is much to write and talk about. However, with less than six weeks before the Congressional mid-term elections it is just plain incorrect for the president to blame problems within his personal control as well as his Party’s on the opposition.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Scandal In Congress, Again

The readers should be warned that every once in awhile this blog becomes partisan and biased. The following post is one such biased effort.

Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., abruptly resigned from Congress on Friday in the wake of questions about e-mails he wrote a former teenage male page. His departure sent Republicans scrambling for a replacement candidate less than six weeks before midterm elections in which Democrats are making a strong bid to gain control of the House. He had been considered a shoo-in for a new term. The resignation further complicates the political landscape for Republicans, who are fighting to retain control of Congress. Democrats need to win a net of 15 Republican seats to regain the power they lost in 1994. Foley's aides initially blamed Democratic rival Tim Mahoney, a former Republican, and Democrats with attempting to smear the congressman before the election. This might be the typical reaction in an election race but then irony sets in.

What is ironic is that Foley in addition to being a member of the Republican leadership, serving as a deputy whip also and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee; Foley was the chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, had introduced legislation in July to protect children from exploitation by adults over the Internet. He also sponsored other legislation designed to protect minors from abuse and neglect. Such inappropriateness is not new to Congress that has seen affairs over the last decade claim the political lives of many members. In 1983, the House censured two lawmakers - Daniel Crane of Illinois and Gerry Studds of Massachusetts - for having improper relationships with pages.

In 2003, Foley faced questions about his sexual orientation as he prepared to run for Sen. Bob Graham's seat. At a news conference in May of that year, he said he would not comment on rumors he was gay. He later decided not to seek the Senate seat to care for his parents.
Republican’s will try to forget him as soon as possible by distancing the Party and senior leadership from him. In fact, Florida Republicans plan to meet as soon as Monday to name a replacement in Foley's district, an area around Palm Beach County that President Bush won with 55 percent in 2004 and is now in play for November. Though Florida ballots have already been printed with Foley's name and cannot be changed, any votes for Foley will count toward the party's choice. Conservatives will most likely use Foley as a whipping boy, an attempt to use his alleged sexual orientation for political means. This would be wrong, and in itself inappropriate, but the attempt will be made.

Therefore, a disclaimer, of sorts, should be made known. If Mark Foley is gay, his actions do not represent homosexuals who are fighting for social and legal recognition. Mr. Foley’s actions shame heterosexuals too, for his actions perpetrate a fraud upon those who support gays and struggle for them. More importantly, however, Mr. Foley has been disloyal to the institution he was elected to. Congress has had, at times, a sordid history with members’ actions. Mr. Foley’s has now been added to that list, but the idea of representative government, child advocacy and the larger issue of being a responsible person have been betrayed.

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Leap Of Faith

The Iraqi government declared an immediate curfew in the capital, Baghdad, on Friday to run until Sunday morning. A three-day curfew was put in place in Baghdad and three provinces in February after the bombing of an important Shia shrine sparked violent protests, but pedestrians were allowed to walk to mosques.

This move affects both vehicles and pedestrians, a spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister said. The spokesman did not reveal why a curfew was being put in place, but sectarian violence and blasts have been increasing in recent days. Late on Thursday, the brother-in-law of the new chief judge in Saddam Hussein's trial was shot dead in Baghdad.

Vehicles have been barred from the Iraqi capital on a number of occasions in recent months, but now there is another curfew, announced on state broadcaster Iraqiya. "The government has decided to enforce a curfew on vehicles and individuals starting from Friday evening until 0600 on Sunday morning."

Shia and Sunni militia groups have increasingly been engaged in tit-for-tat attacks on each other since the al-Askari shrine was bombed in February. A Sunni-led insurgency that erupted after the ousting of Saddam Hussein is also continuing. On Wednesday a US military spokesman said that there had been a spike in violence coinciding with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on Monday, and that suicide attacks were at record levels. While Iraqi security forces are making a concerted effort to end sectarian violence by targeting death squads, the killings continue.

This is of course, not a accurate portrayal of Muslims nor those Arabs who call themselves Shia and Sunni. Such sectarian tensions always have been a part of Iraqi culture. However, it is hoped that during this holy month both sides can be blessed spiritually; that these individuals are truly touched in the profound way to stop the fighting. This is a hope that leads to another, a hope shared by countrymen everywhere: an end to the American occupation. The question is are Iraqi’s ready to take this leap of faith?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


The war in Iraq is inspiring new terrorists and worsening the threat to America. This is the estimate by America’s 16 spy agencies in their National Intelligence Estimate, written in April, but partly leaked this past weekend.

Of course, this notion has long been considered self-evident by opponents of the war in Iraq. The question is can the Democrats, traditionally seen as weaker on security, use this report and make political gains before November’s congressional elections?

It is true that until now, the Democrats have been tripped up by Iraq. Grassroots supporters and activists hate the war as do leaders like Howard Dean the chairman of the Democratic national committee as well as Nancy Pelosi, Democrat minority leader in the House of Representatives. However, many prominent Democrats did support the invasion of Iraq, specifically Hillary Clinton, likely to run for president in 2008. The result has been internal convulsions, though not quite the same as what happened to the Democratic Party during the Vietnam ear. The party as a whole is torn between those who see near civil-war in Iraq as an obvious target for attacking President Bush and, on the other side, the Democratic would-be presidents, who need to look tough on terrorism and supportive of the armed forces. The result has been fodder for Republican spin-doctors and neither wing fully prevailing.

The estimate should be an opportunity for Democrats to make up their minds. President Bush denied on Tuesday September 26th that the war has made America less safe and he agreed to declassify parts of the document. But damage has been done: some of the report reflects what many anti-war voters have been saying. “The Iraq Jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives” says the report, and is recruiting “supporters for the global jihadist movement.”

President Bush’s troubled foreign policy has been rich opportunity for the Democrats for some time. Some two-thirds of voters apparently think America is less respected than before, and a similar share believe that other leaders have little respect for their president. The trouble has been that the Democrats’ own views are hardly inspiring. In early September they proposed a “Real Security Act”, a 500-page bill that is more a rambling foreign-policy manifesto than clear alternative policy. True the Democrats want more done to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, they want to achieve “energy independence” by 2020, and for Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to be fired. They also propose screening 100% of incoming air- and sea-borne cargo at foreign ports, and working to turn other recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission into law.

As the months close on the Congressional election, Democrats can boast a few advantages on other aspects of foreign policy. Democratic populism on trade and outsourcing thrills middle-Americans, including white-collar workers who worry that globalisation means lost jobs and declining wages. The relatively small number of black voters President Bush wooed by paying attention to AIDS and development in Africa in 2004 largely left him after Hurricane Katrina last summer.

But on other issues, the Democrats are indistinguishable from Republicans: both parties staunchly support Israel, a mistake, though understandable as Democrats have kept most Jewish voters. Where the Democrats have lain low, which is disgraceful has been during the debate about coercive interrogations of terror suspects, content to let the Republicans fight among themselves. Here is an issue that clear opposition should be heard, though sadly, the American public has been left with silence. For those who care the question still remains, can the Democrat’s rally around this intelligence estimate, find their voice and fight a strong opposition campaign that may return both House’s of Congress to them? We shall soon see.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Truth, Lies, & President Clinton

In a contentious taped interview that aired on "Fox News Sunday," former president Bill Clinton vigorously defended his efforts as president to capture and kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

"I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president, we'd have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him," Clinton said, referring to Afghanistan. "We do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is one-seventh as important as Iraq," he added, referring to the approximately 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

The fact that Mr. Clinton has to defend the efforts as President that the 9/11 Commission reported and in its findings found no fault with is truly sad. As Republicans get prepared for the Fall elections their tactic of wrapping candidates and the Party as a whole in the flag while campaigning on the issue of national security does not seem to work due to two factors.

One factor is an energized Democratic base, lead in part, by a vocal and energized former President. Another factor is that the American electorate at large no longer believes that the Republican Party can handle the issue of national security better than their Democratic opposition.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Son's Mission

On occasion this blog intentionally diverts from political news of note to discuss other topics. Readers of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy should be pleased with the news that an unfinished book by Tolkien has been edited into completion by his son and will be published next year.

Christopher Tolkien has spent 30 years working on The Children of Hurin, which his father started in 1918 and later abandoned though extracts from The Children of Hurin have been published before. The story involves the elves and dwarves that feature in much of Tolkien's work.

With a coup in Thailand, social protests in Mexico and Hungary and very testy Iran it was thought to give some uplifting news today. Hope all enjoyed.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mexico Finale

Mexican leftists, who say the July 2 election was stolen, declared their candidate their "legitimate president" on Saturday, a symbolic move reducing the risk of street protests to make the country ungovernable.

Aides said Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who narrowly lost the election, would use mainly political means rather than widespread protests in leading opposition to conservative President-elect Felipe Calderon. While supporters voted to swear Lopez Obrador in at a ceremony on Nov. 20, just days before Calderon takes power. Lopez Obrador said he would name ministers to his parallel government and that it would operate from voluntary donations. As quoted in Reuters he said, "we won the presidential election. I accept the post of president of Mexico because we reject an imposition," he told cheering followers who gathered under torrential rains. "We will never give up."Earlier yesterday, leftists protested against President Vicente Fox at the nation's Independence Day military parade.

But the campaign has clearly lost momentum and few now doubt Calderon will rule the country, although he will continue to face constant sniping from Lopez Obrador and a large bloc of leftist lawmakers in Congress. However, more and more Mexicans want Lopez Obrador, a former mayor of the capital, to end the protests. Though much about the Mexican election is still disputed and bitter it is hoped that having Mr. Lopez Obrador as a vocal opposition in the Mexican Congress and not in the streets is better for the Mexican people and Mexico.

Friday, September 15, 2006

George Clooney & Darfur

Actor George Clooney on Thursday told the U.N.'s most powerful body that if it did not send peacekeepers to Sudan's Darfur region millions of people would die in what he called the first genocide of the 21st century. Clooney was addressing Security Council members at an informal briefing organized by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, which recently set up a Darfur Commission of Nobel Laureates.

In the report on CNN, Clooney said, "after September 30 you won't need the U.N. You will simply need men with shovels and bleached white linen and headstones." Nice quote, Mr. Clooney. Dramatic for the microphone and gathered press, but bleached linen and shovels are the things Darfur has gotten familiar with over the last twenty years. What is different now is that the mandate of African Union peacekeepers in the region expires at the end of the month and the Sudanese government has refused to approve their replacement by a U.N. force. Clooney did stress the point that if U.N. forces were not sent to replace them, all aid workers would leave and the 2.5 million refugees who depend on them would die. This is true and the world needs to be reminded of this simple fact over and over again.

This genocide has been happening for twenty years making sporadic headlines until most recently in the past three years more international pressure has been brought to the issue. Mr. Clooney is not the first celebrity to find a cause to fight for. In the mid-eighties Bono threw a concert to get rid of hunger in Africa. The concert was a success though the mission result is a perpetual process. Make no mistake if this genocide continues unchecked it will not be the last. It is sad though that an A-list Hollywood actor is the best hope for women and children in Darfur.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Big Brother Bear

Ukraine has told NATO it is shelving its aspirations to join the Western defense alliance because of widespread public opposition and to preserve the former Soviet republic's relations with Russia. "We have explained that because of the political situation in Ukraine, we will have to take a pause, but the time will come when a decision will be made," new Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich told a joint news conference Thursday and reported on CNN, after talks with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and NATO ambassadors. Russia fiercely opposed the previous pro-Western Ukrainian government's intention to join NATO's Membership Action Plan, a path towards eventual entry into the U.S.-led military pact. Yanukovich, regarded as closer to Moscow than reformist President Viktor Yushchenko, who came to power in an Orange Revolution after defeating Yanukovich in a flawed 2004 election, said he did not want to complicate Ukraine-Russia relations. On Wednesday, Ukraine won the promise of negotiations early next year on broader ties with the European Union that could include a free trade deal.

All this means is that what Moscow (Putin) and allies in the Kremlin wanted to accomplish but were blocked in 2004 now have been successful in completing. This is very unfortunate indeed. For central and eastern European neighbors, particularly Poland, this is a possible confirmation of their worst fears. A Ukraine that is once again a puppet to a regime in Moscow, for the West it is equally disappointing. Mr. Yanukovich adding to remarks with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that Ukraine had to convince society. Such a move only convinces those who were skeptical of Ukraine worthiness to join NATO like France that they were right, while confirming what critics view as cow-towing to Russian demands. Society was convinced by Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004 now we are just confused.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Let The Game Begin

Moderate Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who has bucked President Bush on tax cuts and the war in Iraq, defeated a conservative challenger Tuesday in a contest that could be crucial in the larger fight for control of Congress. With 72 percent of precincts reporting, Chafee had 25,728 votes, or 55 percent, to Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey's 20,750 votes, or 45 percent.

This is a disappointment to Democrat's nationwide who had hopped for a Laffey win. With Chafee out of the November election it was widely speculated that Laffey would lose to his Democratic opponent and thus open the Rhode Island Senate seat to a Democrat, while in the process adding to the hopeful seat gains needed to take back control of the Senate from the Republican's.

Is it really a disappointment? Was Chafee's primary win really in doubt? Even the most optomistic Democrat and in this election year there are many, would with a shrug, concede that Chafee was going to win. Does this detract from the other nationwide primary outcomes? No, not at all. Primary wins by incumbents and challengers, particularily in the Southwest indicate that all is still going according to Democratic plan. Much of this is hope and either political side of the ideological aisle should suddenly become over confident (this is true for Republican's who wipe their brows at Chafee's primary win). There is still much, much more campaigning to do, especially since the contenders know each other now. Let the game begin.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hallow Anniversary

Five years after terrorists used airplanes as weapons to attack the United States, families of some of the nearly 3,000 victims gathered at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and an open field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania for solemn ceremonies. President Bush is taking part in tributes at all three locations.

This blog will include some biased opinions. I have tried since the conception of this blog to purposefully write on events offering, as my header suggests, an unbiased and apolitical viewpoint. As some world events have dictated, I broke from this endeavor, however not without a warning to readers. On the fifth anniversary of September 11, 2001 I stray once more.

Most American's look to this day with sadness. I wish not to detract from the seriousness of the crime committed or the lives lost. I wish though to gently remind those who have observed this solemn day of the countless acts of terrorism that have occurred before September 11, 2001. We American's like to personalize this tragedy and in doing so forget the centuries of conflict and thousands of lives lost in Ireland and Spain and Palestine. The Day of the Jackal was a good book to read and had sufficient material to be turned into two films by Hollywood, but the seriousness of Carlos, and the psychological, physical as well as financial terror inflected on Western Europe over the past thirty years has been forgotten. Forgotten too are the countless acts of "little" terror inflected throughout South America and Africa in the past forty years. As I observed my moment of silence I thought of those who died on September 11 and I also thought of those who have died during the time periods listed above. This global war has been raging for a long time. The main players have changed as well as motives but the violence is universal. Two concepts that can not be forgotten.

Every news show is marking the anniversary and television shows on this days events have been made, including two feature films. I might see one such film today but then again, as I try to decide what is more respectful I might just choose to take a long walk in reverence to those who died.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Beginning Of The End

Tony Blair has faced further questions about his leadership this week.
In a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart Mr. Blair repeated a call that he wanted an end to personal attacks in his party. Earlier in a speech in London he warned the Labour Party risked defeat at the next election if in-fighting continued. His comments came after former Home Secretary Charles Clarke criticized the PM's likely successor Gordon Brown. If all the bloodletting and fighting over his departure date has taken its toll on the prime minister - and there was a fresh round of it in Saturday morning's papers - he was not letting it show. Addressing an audience of loyal Blairites, at a long-planned event in central London, Mr. Blair was in relaxed, almost jovial form. The prime minister was not in denial exactly - the first thing he said when the standing ovation at his entrance had died down, was "I haven't gone yet".
But he had obviously decided to treat the events of the past week as a bit of a distraction, a minor bump in the long road to the eventual "triumph of Blairism", as last week's leaked memo had it.

Gordon Brown has begun a fight back against his critics by insisting he had nothing to do with an attempt to unseat Tony Blair as prime minister. In an interview for the BBC's Sunday AM, Mr. Brown said he had told anyone who had asked him that it was for Mr. Blair to decide when he stepped down. The chancellor said he would welcome a leadership contest. Mr. Blair later said he "accepted the assurances" when asked if he believed Mr. Brown had not tried to unseat him. In the BBC interview, Mr. Brown swept aside claims he lacked the ability to get on with other ministers. He insisted he was a "team player" but said chancellors sometimes had to "say no" to other ministers in the interests of the country. Yes, this is true but for sake of Cabinet continuity and Labour Party unity current Party infighting must stop.

Two recommendations are offered here. The first of which is that Mr. Blair should step-down by this October. Next May, local elections take place and with Labour lagging in the polls behind the Conservatives and their charismatic leader David Cameron having a new Labour Party leader like Mr. Brown is the best course of action. The second recommendation is that this course of action be made public at the Labour Party conference. The infighting between those who follow Mr. Brown and Mr. Blair would cease. It would also for a moment, and a moment is important, stop the countless speculation in the press that whom, until recently where the opposition. One thing is for certain the next few months will be interesting.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Darfur, Again

Western policy is in near despair over Darfur, and governments are turning to Russia and China to see if they can put pressure on the Sudanese government to accept a UN peacekeeping force.

The problem is that while the government of Sudan has said the current and cash-starved 7,000-strong force from the African Union can stay after its current mandate runs out at the end of September, it insists that the AU troops cannot be incorporated into a more powerful replacement UN force of up to 17,300 soldiers and more than 3,000 police.
It said that such a UN force, mandated only last week by the Security Council, would violate its sovereignty and suggested that it was a bridgehead for the removal of an Islamic-oriented government. Furthermore, it hinted that the force might attract Islamic fighters to combat it, because Osama Bin Laden has already identified Darfur as a battlefield.

Instead, the government says it intends to send its own troops to fight against the rebel forces that did not accept the recent peace deal agreed in Nigeria, especially the National Redemption Front. This is the worst possibility since any increase in fighting, making the provision of aid difficult or impossible. What else needs to be remembered is that Africa does not always follow the script. The African Union force apparently does not even have enough money to pull its troops out, so it might stay anyway and if a deal can be worked out, it might yet form part of a UN force.

Monday, September 04, 2006

No Rest For The Worker

It is hoped that visitors to this blog have had a pleasent weekend. A relaxing long-holiday. If one would peruse through my prior posts around holiday's one will read biased and unflatering statements on the specific occasion. Labor Day is no different so leeway is requested now.

First a little history. Labor Day has been celebrated on the first Tuesday in September in the United States since the 1880s. The September date has remained unchanged, even though the government was encouraged to adopt May 1 as Labor Day, the date celebrated by the majority of the world.

Labor Day is generally regarded simply as a day of rest and, unlike May Day, political demonstrations are rare. Maybe they should be? The bulk of our labor force is no longer in factories but in retail. They do not work in mills but rather at McDonalds and grocery stores around the country. So as the various forms of celebration like picnics and barbecues, fireworks, water shows and many public art events allow families to travel before the end of summer and teenagers to party before school starts the people who need the day off to rest are in fact at work.

Enjoy your week.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Unpleasent News From Afghanistan

Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is expected to soar by 59% this year, providing 92% of the world's supply of opium, the United Nations says. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime predicts a 6,100-tonne harvest of opium, with much of the rise coming in Taliban strongholds in the south.

The US is the main backer of a huge drive to rid Afghanistan of opium. But a top US drugs official warned Saturday that Afghanistan could be "taken down by this whole drug problem". The $2.7bn drugs trade accounts for about a third of Afghanistan's economy. The simple fact is that Afghanistan is increasingly hooked on its own drug.

This has occurred because in the northeast warlords and weak government are to blame, the. Granted public opinion is increasingly frustrated by the fact that opium cultivation in Afghanistan is out of control, but for farmers poppy crops buy the food. And here is the rub. The political, military and economic investments by coalition countries, investments that were to support the Afghan population, in essence, prevent this very problem from occurring, is not having a visible impact on drug cultivation.

President Karzai must make significant arrests and convictions using the judiciary that the coalition had helped train and establish. This is one reason why the massive program to destroy poppies and offer help to farmers to grow alternative crops that has been under way for two years has had little effect. It is hoped that effective action by the President Karzai will help control this problem and in time destroy it altogether.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Forgotten History Lesson

U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris told a religious journal that separation of church and state is "a lie" and God and the nation's founding fathers did not intend the country be "a nation of secular laws." The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate also said that if Christians are not elected, politicians will "legislate sin," including abortion and gay marriage. Harris made the comments -- which she clarified Saturday -- in the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention, which interviewed political candidates and asked them about religion and their positions on issues. Separation of church and state is "a lie we have been told," Harris said in the interview, published Thursday, saying separating religion and politics is "wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers."

Such comments are very disturbing when one reviews the history of the United States, in particular, the history of it founding fathers. When founding fathers Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, both of whom were agnostic met with John Adams and the other members of the Declaration committee to decide who would write the Declaration of Independence they did not think of religion. When James Madison who had loose religious ties through his wife wrote the majority of the Constitution he too was not thinking of making laws that were secular or “Christian” rather laws that would help his country survive.

The idea of Separation of church and state came from the very vivid, very real memory of their heritage. The theocracy of Puritan Virginia and Dutch New York as well as the civil war in the mother country (England) that produced the “protectorate” of Oliver Cromwell that when he died the very leaders who had killed King Charles I asked his son Charles II to come back to England and assume the throne. With this recent and real heritage of religious strife, our founding fathers found ways to legislate that protected the religious freedoms of those who wished to practice their beliefs with laws that protected religion from the state. In doing so, the State would be protected against, at times, an over zealous religion (Protestantism). This is an important concept forgotten and more often than not only considered in one context. Our founding fathers wanted to protect religion from the state and the state from religion in equal measure. Ms. Harris and her comments represent exactly what America’s founding fathers feared the most and tried in the Separation of church and state to avoid at all costs.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Looming Question?

Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said today he would not have ordered the capture of two Israeli soldiers if he had known it would lead to such a war. According to an interview on Lebanese TV and reported by the BBC, Nasrallah said, "Had we known that the kidnapping of the soldiers would have led to this, we would definitely not have done it.”

With more than 1,000 Lebanese dead in the 34-day conflict and much of southern Lebanon in ruins the looming question is how will the Lebanese people respond? The destruction of their country at the hands of Israel was prompted by the actions of a group (Hezbollah) that was supposed to protect and defend them. Such an omission on national television by Nasrallah sends a signal that some public backlash has already occurred and such an appearance was made in the hope to forestall potentially more extensive anti-Hezbollah sentiment to grow.

A recent international magazine cover had Nasrallah with the title of victor in the most recent conflict (battle) against Israel. The bigger question is who has won the larger war in public opinion. True, much of the Arab world publicly sided with Lebanon, including tacit (Jordan) to blatant (Iran) support of Hezbollah and against Israel, ergo the United States but what of the Lebanese themselves? This the world will have to wait and see.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Bush's Hallow Rhetoric

President Bush has again promised that the government will learn from mistakes made during Hurricane Katrina. This was made in his weekly radio address to the nation as he mentioned how the disaster exposed deep-seated poverty and a lack of readiness to deal with the crisis. Moreover, he said disaster response would improve and committed $110bn to rebuilding New Orleans and other affected areas.

The president made such remarks because next week Tuesday is the first year anniversary of the disaster where more than 1,000 people were killed when the hurricane struck the Gulf Coast of the US almost a year ago. But his words are close to being considered more than just hallow, but callous as well. Fewer than 200,000 of the original half-million inhabitants have returned to their ruined homes.

Katrina revealed that federal, state and local governments were unprepared to respond to such an extraordinary disaster. How will it respond to a biological attack from our enemies? Katrina also exposed a deep-seated poverty that has cut people off from the opportunities of their country. Where are the educational monies, small business loans, basic social services that will help our citizens living in the Gulf Coast obtain such opportunities?

As a year will mark the tragedy all the government and our president has to say is more words. The president said that this work would require the sustained commitment of our government, the generosity and compassion of the American people, and the talent and vision of people determined to restore their homes, neighborhoods and cities. For the people living in the Gulf Coast such rhetoric has long ago turned hallow. They want action!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Serious Talks

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, has said his country is ready to start "serious talks" with six world powers on Wednesday. Iran submitted a written response to the demand by the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany to suspend uranium enrichment.
Iran denies Western claims that it is developing a nuclear weapons program, maintaining that it has a right to civilian nuclear technology. Supreme leader Ali Khamenei made it clear on Monday that Iran would reject international pressure.

The US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany have offered Iran a package of incentives - including the offer of help with civilian nuclear technology. The details of Tehran's written response have not been made public, but Iranian officials previously have said their response would address ambiguities over its right to nuclear technology.

It is well known that enriched uranium is used as fuel for nuclear reactors, but highly enriched uranium can also be used to make nuclear bombs. Iran points out that as a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) it is entitled to a nuclear power program and says it has broken no rule though Western powers accuse Iran of concealing an enrichment program, and Washington has refused to rule out military action.

That Iran is “talking” to the West is a good thing. It is important and the Bush Administration with its UN Security Council allies should engage Iran. It has been maintained in prior posts the importance and support of active engagement of Iran. Iran does deserve the right to a nuclear power program and the West must support this. If not, the reaction might be the very accusations currently being made by the West.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Salute To Science

After watching the highly entertaining, yet disturbing independent film Side Effects this past weekend a silent laugh could be heard after reading the headline. However, upon reading the story a salute to science is in order.

An experimental HIV drug won't cure the disease but could be an important tool in managing infection, especially in patients who have developed resistance to existing medications.Anti-viral drugs called protease inhibitors have been the gold standard for treating HIV since the mid-1990s, but the virus is becoming increasingly resistant.

The existing combination of pills also produces side effects such as problems with cholesterol or blood fat, as well as problems with body shape and the distribution of fat.
U.S. researchers reported the early results of a trial that randomly compared a new class of drugs to protease inhibitors at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto last Thursday."At 25 weeks, approximately 85 to 95 per cent of the patients had viral loads that were below the level of detection," said Dr. Martin Markowitz, a professor at Rockefeller University in New York who presented the trial findings. The compound, known as MK-0158, was tested in 198 people who recently began treatment. Existing drugs interfere with how HIV copies its genetic material once it enters a cell or with how the genetic material gets expressed after it enters human chromosomes — two of the three steps the virus must complete.

The new class of drugs, called integrase inhibitors, stops the genetic material's ability to integrate with the host chromosome. Doctors at the conference were excited about the potential of the new class of drugs, but caution it could be months before the drugs are ready to go to Health Canada or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval.This is excellent news in the on-going fight against this horrible disease. The question now is after the trial, how long before the FDA will approve these new drugs and how much will they cost?

Bed & Breakfast treat

If one has never had the chance to stay at a Bed & Breakfast I highly recommend the experience.

After a stressful month and a half, I knew that my wife and I needed to get away. Our new apartment is nice and the little time we have spent in it has produced the feeling of an "almost on vacation" mentality the past two weekends. However, we have still been at home.

So it was with that in mind that this weekend, I secretly packed our bags on Friday and after picking my wife up from work we sped away to our cozy room at the Covington Manor. Covington is a lovely B&B in the rural village of Cambridge, WI. The stay was wonderful: relaxing with excellent conversations with other guests and the best french toast and blueberry jam I have ever tasted.

Friday, August 18, 2006

NSA Program Illegal

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor struck down the NSA program, saying it violates the rights to free speech and privacy. Furthermore, she declared that the program "violates the separation of powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, the First and Fourth amendments to the United States Constitution, the FISA and Title III."
Her ruling went on to say that "the president of the United States ... has undisputedly violated the Fourth in failing to procure judicial orders."

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the Bush Administration disagrees with the ruling and has appealed. "We also believe very strongly that the program is lawful," he said in Washington, adding that the program is "reviewed periodically" by lawyers to determine its effectiveness and ensure lawfulness.

When this dispute first occurred a question asked but not with sufficient closure was the Bush Administration had not followed the very procedures it is now held to violate? In the post 9/11 blitz to approve national defense and military operations such a request would have been granted. If the Administration was sensitive about time delays it is probable that such approval would have been rushed and with little to no opposition, the president would have received what he had wanted.

What the United States and “the West” is fighting for in this War on Terror is the very civil liberties that Judge Taylor upheld. The idea that the people who govern are answerable to those they govern and not the other way around. The battles fought daily in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as on the Internet through hundreds of blogs is over ideas. Yes, people are dying, but people have been dying for ideas in time memoriam.

The best way for the Bush Administration to show our enemies that America is the “land of the free” is to accept the ruling. The president can still go to Congress and ask for such authority and with Republicans, controlling Congress, the Administration might have a better chance there than with activist judges.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The State Of Our Financial Union

Historical cycles are funny things. They can help act as warnings as well as predict future events to a lesser degree. Lately, the 1920s and the late 1970s through the 80s have been coming to my mind a lot. The report today from the Congressional Budget Office gave me pause to reflect upon those two periods once again.

The CBO said it expects slower economic growth next year, with gross domestic product rising by a projected 3 percent in 2007, compared with 3.5 percent this year. This latest economic forecast was part of an updated budget outlook. The report shows CBO expects slightly slower growth next year than it had projected in March, when it saw the economy growing by 3.4 percent in 2007, taking out the effect of inflation.

The CBO also predicted that the U.S. budget deficit would rise to $286 billion in fiscal 2007, up from this year's $260 billion projected deficit. The CBO's fiscal 2007 deficit projection was higher than the $265 billion it projected in March. CBO's projections for inflation, minus volatile energy and food prices, are higher than its March report. The CBO said it expects core consumer prices to rise by 2.6 percent in 2006 and 2.5 percent in 2007.

Consumer prices including energy and food are projected to rise by 3.5 percent in 2006 and 2.5 percent in 2007. CBO also said the general fiscal outlook remained unchanged for the coming decade. This is not necessarily good news for Republicans this fall, especially with the president hoping for an opportunity to present his case on tax cut permanency, while other Republican candidates attempt to forgot their voting support for the president. This is also not really good news for Democrats who have yet to come up with solid opposition policies that are substantial in substance rather than Republican lite. The consumer prices will rise by 3.7 percent I predict if the price of crude oil rises and diplomacy fails with Iran. This is not wild speculation on my part, but real possibility. The other real possibility is that the amount of individual debt will increase by 2 percent. The American quality to spend money and our levels of personal debt are two large problems. Unfortunately world events and certain politicians have enlivened this quality. If we are not careful, history will repeat itself.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

To Live Life

A funeral is an opportunity to conduct introspection. Surrounded by family and friends the berived are enabled to look upon the life lost in a new light--to see how their loved one had affected other peoples lives for the better. Often, the words spoken, but more often than not those unspoken are the true testiments to the life of the deceased.

Today at the funeral, reflection upon life, mine, as well as my uncle's took place and I must admit that it was a good part of the healing process.

To truly live life to the fullest is something not many do. To attempt to do so is important and each attempt helps us eventually succeed. This is something that I took away today and wished to pass along. With all the sadness and fear this is something important to remember.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Cease-fire Holding, Barely

It is too early to say who "won" the war over southern Lebanon because, despite a ceasefire, the fighting might not be over. Beyond that, the political and military structures that might prevent a future conflict have yet to be put in place. For if such structures—removal of Hezbollah from south of the Litani River and removal of Israeli forces altogether, extension of Lebanese government authority and army in the south, insertion of major international force—are successful, then Israel would be able to claim a victory of sorts. Hezbollah would not have been crushed but it might have been contained.

However, the potential for a prolonged and messy guerrilla war looms large, especially with the current ceasefire just barely holding. If the ceasefire breaks down and a guerrilla war happens, Israel will have lost. There is still hope for the ceasefire holding and hope for peace. It is interesting though that the Israeli soldiers kidnapped have largely been forgotten in the violence and Hamas has become nonexistent.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

High Stakes

There is a historic moment in Mexico and Mr. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, taking the opportunity, yet again, to cast Mexico's contested presidential contest in apocryphal terms. Those actually were the words used on Sunday at the latest of his mass rallies.

Since July 2, when the presidential election was held, Mexico has lurched its way through an acrimonious and divisive political crisis. Mr. Lopez Obrador says he is the victim of mass fraud at the ballot box. Mr Lopez Obrador and his supporters want all the votes recounted, not just the sample that has just been looked at again in recent days. Their chant is deafening: "Vote by vote, polling station by polling station."

The central square in Mexico City and the surrounding roads have become a tent city in the past few weeks, crowded with protestors taking their message out on the street.
Banks, government buildings and hotels have all been blockaded - symbols, say those involved, of the institutions that have kept the majority of Mexican people in poverty and out of government. Symbols that Mr Lopez Obrador stands against.
The findings of the partial recount reveal significant irregularities and/or Mr Lopez Obrador closes the gap substantially by a legitimate re-examination of the ballot papers, thus the electoral authorities may yet yield to his demand for a wider recount—possibly even of all 41 million votes. Some have likened this whole experience to Ukraine's Orange Revolution. This may not yet be a revolution, but a struggle is certainly underway. Mexico's future is not yet set in stone.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hopeful Optimism

The U.N.-brokered cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel will begin at 8 a.m. (1 a.m. ET) Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a taped statement Saturday.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora agreed on the time, though Annan urged both sides to stop fighting immediately.

According to CNN "preferably, the fighting should stop now to respect the spirit and intent of the council decision, the object of which was to save civilian lives, to spare the pain and suffering that the civilians on both sides are living through," Annan said.

I have not been wrong before in my blog, but my post of yesterday did not give much hope to Hezbollah agreeing to such a plan. Today, however, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that his militia would honor the call for a cease-fire once a deal on the timing was reached. And the Lebanese government, which includes two members of Hezbollah, unanimously approved Security Council Resolution 1701 today.

What is unfortunate is that Israel is preparing to expand its operations in Lebanon before the cease-fire will take effect. This might be a strategic move that will aid in military success and is part of operations, but it will not help Israel in the eyes of public opinion and the United States should lay a firm hand on its ally and prevent more violence this weekend. As to this actually happening and to the cease-fire let me say that hopeful optimism is what is needed.

Friday, August 11, 2006


The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a new resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah. Some observers say too little too late, while others are more optomistic.

Resolution 1701 calls for "a full cessation of hostilities", and UN and Lebanese troops to replace Israeli forces in southern Lebanon. The US Secretary of State said the deal should "open a path to lasting peace between Lebanon and Israel" reported by CNN.

The governments of both countries are expected to discuss the resolution at cabinet meetings over the weekend. However, hours before the vote, Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered his army to prepare to widen its offensive in southern Lebanon. This action shows the intent of Israel as well as the hollowness of the resolution. Israel is not willing to stop fighting, because, sadly, Hezbollah will not follow such a cease-fire. So, in short, the fighting will continue as all sides are pressured into stopping the violence.

The historical and political perspectives on this current conflict are being written daily but unless the United Nations will be able to effectively backup Resolution 1701 it will be remembered that the Israeli-Hezbollah-Hamas War of 2006 was the death of the UN.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

An Opportunity

British authorities said today that they thwarted a terrorist plot to simultaneously blow up several aircraft heading to the United States using explosives smuggled in carry-on luggage. Security was raised to its highest level in Britain, and carry-on bags were banned on all flights. Washington raised its threat alert to its highest level for commercial flights from Britain to the United States amid fears the plot had not been completely crushed. The alert for all flights coming or going from the United States was also raised. British police arrested 21 people; supposedly capturing the main suspects in what U.S. officials said are the earmarks of an al-Qaida plot.

Though this is a major inconvenience for travelers and the news focus has shifted once again, at least for a day, away from the Middle East it is important to remember that al-Qaida are the terrorists we (US military and government) should go after. The homegrown terrorism daily endured in Iraq is largely of the occupation’s making and subsequent sectarian violence a branch of this terrorist tree.

Since 2003 most American’s have been side tracked in body and in mind. Iraq and all that has unfolded since the initial military operations has consumed media attention as well as public opinion and Congressional action. With this said, diplomatic relations, congressional appropriation bills, and fact-finding trips have taken place to Afghanistan, and sadly violence has continued between Afghan rebels and coalition forces.

But, al-Qaida has largely been forgotten.

The terrorist plot uncovered today is scary because there is no doubt about its circumstances or implications. However, it is also a VERY big opportunity for the Bush Administration and Democrats.

Al-Qaida has provided a clean slate for President Bush to go after Osama bin-Laden, again. Yes, since 2001, military operations have continued with the aim to hunt bin-Laden down, but todays plot unveiling offers the Bush Administration a chance to refocus. Define the mission to a public growing skeptical of Bush’s leadership in the War on Terror. It is likely that pressure has been placed on Pakistani President Musharraf to help ferret bin-Laden and his fighters out of the Pakistani mountains that border Afghanistan where bin-Laden is said to be hiding since 2002. The uncovering of this recent terrorist plot and spotlight on al-Qaida might now provide the additional weight that Musharraf and Bush need to conduct new operations against bin-Laden.

Democrats also have an opportunity with this terrorist plot discovery. A ground swell of grassroots activism (a large part of Party politics) has begun and top-Democrats who have been seen as centrist or supportive of President Bush’s policies in Iraq, namely Senator Joseph Lieberman face primary challengers and defeat. This internal re-organization and battle of ideas within the Democratic Party has been effectively exposed by Republican strategists and used to Republican advantage over the past few years. This does not have to continue.

Democrats have the opening they have sought for many months in order to change the debate, define the mission—military as well as diplomatic—and put aside potentially debilitating in-fighting over the Iraq war. This is the time to seize the initiative from the Republican spin machine.

The War on Terrorism has always had one main objective: al-Qaida. It is time to fight our prime enemy with renewed determination, clarity of direction and focus. This can and must be achieved. It does not require internal Party debate or polls. The only question is what Party will act first?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Resolution

The United States and France reached agreement on a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an end to fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas as a first step toward a political settlement of the conflict. The U.N. Security Council received the draft to review, send it to their governments and suggest any changes. A vote could follow Monday or Tuesday.

The draft resolution calls for a “full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations,” as reported by Reuters.

To use a phrase popular a century ago, bully for them. It has only taken three weeks and hundreds of dead, hundreds more displaced, and a polarized sectarian state in Iraq, Iran, and every over country in the Middle East immediately surrounding Israel for a resolution to be written. It should be stressed that this is only a draft resolution, so as is all too often the case, a country may object and effectively stall a cease-fire. Countries like China or Russia or Germany may be such a country, though I believe everyone wants a cease-fire and wants it quickly.

As for the United States, recent reports show that support for President Bush is waning. As my blog yesterday indicated his leadership on the crisis in the Middle East has been weak and ineffective, so I am not surprised at such a report.

I have not wished this blog to become partisan nor biased. Events over the preceeding weeks have become very personal and have influenced my posting. For my readers I offer this as my explanation and make this final observation. Perception in politics is key to popularity as well as survival. The same applies to diplomacy and the perception by the Arab world of the West, in particular, the United States has not been improved by the Bush Administration's actions these past few weeks or the presidents "working" vacation in Texas.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Profiles In Leadership

With the crisis in the Middle East and my flu bug I thought it would be prudent to write a few short impressions on two well known world leaders: Tony Blair and George Bush

One leader cancels his vaction.

One leader decides to continue his vacation plans.

One leader called for an immediate cease-fire after the crisis began.

One leader has not called the Prime Minister of Israel until a few weeks ago, after two weeks of fighting.

I will write more on this topic tomorrow.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Phone Call

It might be the heat or the fact that allergies or a flu bug has decided to make my life miserable at the moment but I find myself increasingly short tempered. So, when I attempt to write an unbiased blog on world events I find myself unable to accomplish this with the current crisis in the Middle East providing me with news, sadness, a headache, and a temper.

Israeli planes have been dropping leaflets on southern suburbs of Beirut telling residents to leave ahead of new military operations against Hezbollah. In Israel, the army has reportedly been told to plan a push into Lebanon as far as the Litani river, which is up to 30km (19 miles) north of the border, according to the BBC; and in turn Hezbollah has warned Tel Aviv could be attacked if Israel's actions intensify.

Fighting raged on the ground in south Lebanon today with four Israeli soldiers killed and Hezbollah again targeted northern Israel, killing at least eight civilians. Amidst this,
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called for a lasting solution to the conflict.

Where is the United States? Specifically President Bush? Startling reports over the past few days that only recently had the president actually talked with the Israeli prime minister on the phone. Response by the Bush Administration throughout this crisis has been pathetic, but such reports indicate a ghastly breakdown in Oval Office diplomacy.

Recent attempts to restart a cease-fire initiative have fallen short. Today is Thursday and the hope to “force” a diplomatic development as Secretary Rice wishes to accomplish before the weekend is widely considered unlikely. Maybe she would accomplish her mission if the president picked up the phone and called the leader of Israel.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

No Ceasefire

An Israeli ground and air operation is under way near Baalbek in Lebanon , a Hezbollah stronghold more than 100km (60 miles) north of the Israeli border. Israeli forces have also pushed deeper into south Lebanon aiming to set up what Israel dubs a "security zone". All this after hope for a ceasefire would be called yesterday. Now, Israel said it would resume air strikes after a 48-hour partial halt, after the Israeli security cabinet on unanimously approved widening Israel's ground offensive in Lebanon.

While most of the world wants an end to the fighting most international citizens have underestimated the resolve and support of the Israeli public. This is something that Secretary Rice must understand if, indeed, a cease-fire will occur in days as she announced.

Monday, July 31, 2006


To readers who have been puzzled for lack of posts from me over the past weekend, especially on days that proved to be most noteworthy I offer the explanation: I have been moving.

A process that the majority of adults loath, I have moved out of the apartment that I called home for two years into a slightly smaller one-bedroom loft. In the process, my access to internet and therefore ability to write was encumbered. This is the case until Thursday when I receive my internet/TV activation. Until then, Bear Rock Cafe and Starbucks have become my home away from new home. To friends reading this who have heard this story I beg your patience.

Call it a miracle, I would like to think of the whole process as excellent crisis management skills. In twenty-four hours I found a new apartment and over the next forty-eight hours I moved into my new space. Yes, it has been stressful, and with professional and personal obligations, I am exhausted. However, this quick process does point to the ability to make something happen if one follows a timeline and is committed to that timeline.

Using this background information I have mentioned my thoughts turn to the Middle East. Only now with gross negligence in bombing, has Israel joined a cease-fire. This action is good, needed, and long overdue after the failed response by the US (and that is what it has been) to mediate this crisis, in particular the mockery of personal diplomacy that has been Secretary Rice's performance.

Peace in the Middle East is possible, a cease-fire, prisoner exchange, and other components of diplomacy to end this particular cycle of violence can occur. The individual groups intimately involved in this crisis and the US must be committed to a realistic timeline.

Diplomacy, like filling moving boxes is often a slow and laborious process. However, it can be done efficiently. This is what has been lacking from the US and Israel in dealing with this crisis and it is exactly what needs to change.