Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The Real Survivor Fiji – Military, And The Human Toll
Let’s see, what are the positives of the coup? Increased military checkpoints equal reduced crime – that’s good for tourism, right?
The large tourist developments that congregate around the airport are isolated from the rest of the civilian life activity – that hides some of the ugly side of running a military rule country, right?
Most of the touring world located in Europe and North America haven’t plugged into the political issues that are stifling the island nation – so ignorance is bliss, right?
Well in a country the military has taken over since December 5th, things are grinding to a halt and it doesn’t look good for future either. The human toll under the present set of circumstances is increasing and it doesn’t look like it will get any better soon. After all, the innocent citizens of Fiji will not even be able to have a say (vote) until 2010 if the Commodore is to continue to have his way.
Excerpts from the New Zealand’s National Business Review -
By Nevile Gibson, Editor-In-Cheif – National Business Review (NZ) 1-Mar-2007
The holiday conundrum: Fiji Island resorts allow you to get away from the everyday environment of work, household duties, telephones, television, even newspapers.
Yet since the December 5 coup, Fiji’s resort holiday business has nosedived. And personal experience over the past weekend indicates nothing has changed for the holidaymaker.
Patrols concentrate on gatherings of young people, who are leading suspects for street crime, burglaries and drug abuse. A new crime in the statistics, threats and swearing at military officers, has boosted the number of arrests to 1200 from Dec 5 to February 15.
Monday’s editions of both papers this week led with the story of the death of a 19-year-old, who had been assaulted by soldiers and police a month ago when taken into custody. The Times reported this was the second such death and the story is attracting international attention.
The Times also reports an unnamed organisation has documented 200 cases of official human rights abuse while the Fiji Human Rights Commission has 20.
No doubt some heavy-handed treatment is being handed out but the media reporting, particularly in the just-mentioned report, shows a heartening degree of robustness.
Fiji has a five-star holiday industry grafted on to a third world economy.
The main source of tourists is Australia and New Zealand, where news of the coup has been widely reported and where the governments have imposed travel bans.
But elsewhere in the world, I was told, the news has not filtered through, mainly because little of note has occurred and perhaps there is a greater tolerance of these tourists to hot country politics.
But the industry is far from healthy and it will fall well short of its aim this year to exceed $F1 billion in turnover. Hotels Association president Dixon Seeto was quoted at the weekend as saying, “We have to face the reality here that things are not normal.”
The effects on employment are palpable, as full time workers were still on reduced hours and casual staff are jobless.
A costly coup
While the day-to-day impact of the coup is largely invisible to visitors, the economic impact is already considerable, if not as bad as previous ones.
Latest Fiji Reserve Bank forecasts show negative economic growth of 2-4 per cent in 2007, mainly from the decline in tourism. RBF governor Savenaca Narube also confirmed in his latest statement that the key industries of sugar, fishing, forestry, agriculture and mining were also faring badly.
Government budgets are being shrunk and each day brings news of sackings from the public sector. But the finance minister, Mahendra Chaudry, who was himself overthrown as PM in a previous coup, is using the crisis to create a new future for Fiji based on an open economy.
At the weekend, he revealed a programme to remove all state business monopolies, notably in aviation, electricity, telecommunications and television. The companies affected are Telecom Fiji, Fiji Electricity Authority, Fiji Television and Air Pacific.
Quoting from the Rogernomics textbook, he promised a better deal for consumers from greater competition and choice. This is radical stuff for a nation in the Pacific, where land ownership remains largely communal and therefore is unlikely to attract the kind of investment or productivity that can take agricultural output to its full potential.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Cruising On Corn E85 – Not A Smooth Ride
The average vehicle driving American would dearly love to be able to do their level best to reduce our dependence on oil and the geopolitical pressures its use presents our country.
It would be nice that ALL cars were FlexFuel capable (able to use both gasoline and E85 for ease of transition to the use of renewable biofuel) and every fuel station provided an E85 fuel pump.
The average city living American, however, may be uninformed as to how difficult a proposition this switch can be. Many believe that all we have to do is “just do it” and everything will be fine – but this pursuit of reduced dependence on fossil fuels has its domino effect on the infrastructures that are already dependent on the easy cellular-fiber sources that exist.
Further, it takes energy to convert fiber to fuel so the question has to be asked, is this move to E85 really economically feasible?
Excerpts from The Telegraph (Alton, Illinois), originally published in two parts -
1) Ethanol demands send farmers scrambling & 2) Ethanol push has livestock producers worried
Becoming less reliant on foreign oil has become the favorite sound bite for politicians.
By MAGGIE BORMAN - The Telegraph - 02/26/2007
From the president to the governor, leaders are putting taxpayer money where their mouths are, subsidizing production of ethanol from the heartland's golden corn crop.
Ethanol, the colorless, flammable liquid produced by the fermentation of sugars from corn and other plants, puts the kick in alcoholic beverages, the pop in popcorn and is used in foods from cereal to soda pop.
Most of the ethanol used as a gasoline additive in the U.S. comes from corn grown in a few Midwest states known as the Corn Belt. Illinois is the nation's No. 2 ethanol producer and the No. 2 biodiesel producer.
In 2007, Illinois' 10 ethanol plants will produce more than one billion gallons, and three biodiesel plants will produce more than 120 million gallons.
The governor has supported a rapid expansion of the E85 infrastructure.
The governor's plan, among other things, would invest $25 million to help build five biodiesel plants, boosting the state's production by 200 percent to 400 million gallons per year, or the equivalent of 25 percent of the state's annual diesel fuel needs by 2017.
Although his means of financing are far from clear, Blagojevich wants to invest $100 million over the next five years to build up to 20 ethanol plants across Illinois, with an additional $100 million over the next 10 years to build four plants in Downstate Illinois using new technology to create ethanol from plant waste materials such as corn husks and wood pulp.
Ethanol has many supposed benefits - weaning Americans off foreign oil, increasing local industry and jobs, reducing global warming and aiding grain producers, among them.
But many people question the validity of the rush to subsidize the ethanol industry. They want to know if America has the ability to produce enough ethanol to become totally foreign-oil free. Ethanol is placing, in particular, a lot of burden on corn supplies, which affects livestock producers, world food banks and corn food products.
Where will all the corn come from?
In December, Chuck Hartke, director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said Illinois produced about 1.7 billion bushels of corn last year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's year-end statistics released last week estimated the 2006 corn production at 10.5 billion bushels, the third largest on record, but still a 5 percent decrease from 2005.
More than 70 million acres of corn were planted for grain production. Corn acres are expected to increase dramatically this year, due in large part to the rapid increase in fuel ethanol production capacity.
The U.S. ethanol industry has a capacity to produce about 5 billion gallons per year, but more than 4.5 billion gallons of capacity is under construction, according to Ethanol Producer Magazine. The USDA planting estimate for this year forecasts an increase in the range of seven million to 10 million acres of corn.
"Currently we are using about 400 million bushels of corn to produce ethanol in Illinois, and by the end of 2008 we should be consuming close to a billion bushels to produce ethanol," Hartke told the Chicago Tribune in December.
Here is an easy formula to remember: 1 ton of corn equals 39.4 bushels, which equals 110 gallons of ethanol.
All this would increase the corn needed for distilleries to 139 million tons, Brown said. This would yield nearly 15 billion gallons of ethanol, satisfying only 6 percent of U.S. auto fuel needs (this estimate does not include any plants started after June 30 that would come online in time to draw on the 2008 harvest).
At the end of January, the Illinois Farm Bureau said Illinois farmers might expand corn production acres by at least 9 percent over the 2006 levels, according to a survey conducted at the Corn and Soybean Classic meetings around the state. If realized, Illinois farmers would plant about 12.6 million acres in corn this spring - the highest corn acreage since records began in 1866.
Ethanol push has livestock producers worried
No one questions the need to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign oil. But pushing ethanol as the solution has people like pig farmer Ken Doyle worried.
Doyle, who runs Hickory Grove Pork Farm between Carlinville and Gillespie, said production of ethanol stands to deplete the corn stock that livestock farmers count on to feed the animals that feed much of the world.
"Those of us that are well-fed and warm at night don’t consider the impact an increase in feed prices will have globally," Doyle said. "That is a rather sobering aspect of this that the press isn’t covering. Right now we have all these politicians beating on their chests speaking about how wonderful it is to have alternative energy, but there is a downside for the hungry of the world that is quite frightening."
Controversy remains over the use of America’s fertile cornfields as the best and most economical means to replace gasoline. The demands are having an impact on livestock producers, consumer food prices, exports and world food banks.
While ethanol-related industries and the National Corn Growers Association have asserted that corn-guzzling ethanol demands outlined under President George Bush’s energy plan can be done, even the president recognizes it may be difficult to meet his goal of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol by 2012.
"Ethanol produced today comes from corn, and we’ve got hog growers and chicken growers that need corn to feed their animals," Bush said while speaking at a DuPont plant in Delaware last month. "Therefore it’s going to be kind of a strain at some point in time on the capacity for us to have enough ethanol to make us less dependent on oil."
Steve Ring, general manager of Hog Inc. in Greenfield, a Greene County-based cooperative composed of about 100 pork producers whose principal business is the manufacture of feed for hogs, said many pork producers were not counting on how quickly the market would respond to the ethanol boom.
"We are facing a new dilemma. In 2006, the country raised the third-largest corn crop in history. Because of the current and projected demand from the ethanol industry, corn prices are the highest they have been in 10 years," Ring said.
In October 2005, Ring said the average his cooperative paid for corn was $1.65 a bushel. In October 2006, the price averaged $2.85, and in December 2006, the average was $3.65. The price as of Jan. 26 was $3.78.
"So our price of corn has jumped 72.7 percent from October 2005 to October 2006. It jumped 121 percent from October 2005 to December 2006, and 129 percent (on Jan. 26)," Ring said. "That is one heck of a change in a short period of time."
It takes about 10 bushels of corn to raise and finish a hog to market. Utilizing the current price of corn, it represents an increase of $21.30 per hog, Ring said, noting that most other ingredients have also increased.
Ring said Hog Inc. has had a few hog producers that have already discussed dropping their hog operations and only raising grain. If hog producers have older buildings, for example, that need to be replaced within a few years, "it is difficult for them to pencil out a profit with current corn prices that may well increase."
"As the ethanol industry grows, it will require more corn," Ring said. "While there is talk out of Washington about cellulose crops (another means of ethanol production), the technology for corn and the tax incentives will keep pressure on to grow corn-based ethanol."
The ethanol industry has a 51-cent-per-gallon tax advantage while the livestock industry has no tax incentives.
"I have read several reports that estimate the ethanol industry can pay $4.05 per bushel for corn when crude oil is $50 per barrel. The higher crude oil goes, the more the ethanol industry can afford to pay," Ring said.
Ring supports the use of ethanol and less reliance on foreign oil. He owns a flex-fuel vehicle and purchases E85 on a regular basis.
Ring’s final concern is the impact corn-based ethanol would have on U.S. consumer food product costs and corn for export to the world’s hungry.
"My sincere hope is that legislators will have an open discussion on the positive and negative aspects of an aggressive expansion of the ethanol industry.
Dan Kallal, who lives in the rural area outside the Macoupin County town of Chesterfield, and his brother, Dave, own and operate Kallal Brothers Inc., where they raise grain and livestock.
"We are shifting to growing as much corn as we can, as price will be a factor if we have to buy corn," Dan Kallal said. "Feed costs are about 60 to 70 percent of our production cost so if we have to buy $4 corn, it will definitely affect us."
Kallal said the demand for corn-based ethanol production would have a global effect as well; there won’t be as much corn meal to donate to the World Food Bank for other countries, nor will there be enough corn for export.
"It is a global market, and if we are competitive we can export; if we aren’t, someone else will pick up the market."
Doyle, who along with his family runs the Hickory Grove Pork Farm, a farrow-to-finish swine facility that includes a breeding herd and a market herd, said his farm purchases all of its corn.
"Feed costs are about 60 percent of our operation and it takes about 10 bushels of corn to create a market weight," Doyle said. "With a dollar and a half increase on corn it equates to about $15 per pig increase."
"The outlook for our industry in 2007 is not positive. When you are dealing with a global economy, this doesn’t just affect our operation but every operation in the world," Doyle said. "In a world market, it is demand for feed grains -- not just corn -- that has gone up."
The price of feed grains in time will affect the cereal, dairy, eggs, beef and pork products Doyle said, as well as the World Food Program, which feeds more hungry people than any other agency.
References Here & Here>>
Monday, February 26, 2007
A Hollywood Moment Meets An Inconvenient Truth
Can you say Al Gore? … I knew you could.
It is not enough that Al Gore, during the Oscar telecast last night, got everyone on camera (almost) to say the word CRISIS when they were hammering home the less than truthful message of his Oscar award winning lecture … ahh! … errr! … “Documentary”.
No, the seas are NOT going to rise 20 feet but the Gore household uses at least twelve (12) times the electricity than the average American household while he pursues the Nobel Peace Prize!
This in from Instapundit –
AN INCONVENIENT UTILITY BILL
By Glenn Reynolds - February 26, 2007 - posted at 06:46 PM
"Gore’s mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES)…
. . . The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy.
In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh—more than 20 times the national average. Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359."
Sunday, February 25, 2007
The Quest For Hollywood Cash & Caché
It’s a small pond with a lot of very big and influential fish. Hollywood political money, for some on both sides of the process, is more about position and stature than the value of the money and the power it brings.
Rob Reiner, through his political appointment and failed attempts to direct how Californians live and pursue their lives, is only one example of the abuses that may take place when Hollywood money and influence meet up with the potential of placing someone with real political power into office … any office.
All one needs to do is review the events of the past week after a major fund raising event to see how important it is for liberals to court and carry the majority of the “Hollywood Cash & Caché”.
Excerpts from the World Socialist Web Site (a liberal insider’s POV) -
The “scramble for Hollywood:” the Democratic Party and entertainment industry liberals
By David Walsh - 24 February 2007
The squabble that erupted this week between the camps of Democratic Party senators and presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois might best be described as a skirmish in the “scramble for Hollywood.”
The dispute brought to the foreground a sordid reality of contemporary American politics: the general hustling for cash from corporate contributors and wealthy donors that dominates US election campaigns, and the role, in particular, of studio executives and other major figures in Hollywood in funneling tens of millions of dollars to the Democratic Party.
Two Democratic heavyweights for the 2008 presidential nomination - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama - decided to bring their arsenals into the open. And the first salvo has been fired by Clinton in response to remarks made by Obama fundraiser, David Geffen. Image Credit: EARTHTIMES
Clinton and Obama, along with the other Democrats, are presently battling over Hollywood’s treasure trove of campaign funds.
As everyone in America knows and the media brazenly acknowledges, winning the presidential nomination of one of the two major parties depends in large measure on collecting more money than any of your rivals. Success in fund-raising is the principal indication that you are a “serious” candidate. It both confirms that you have the backing of powerful corporate and financial figures, the people who count, and encourages further support from these circles.
During the Presidents’ Day recess of Congress this week, many politicians found themselves fund-raising in southern California. Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Senator Barbara Boxer of California, Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois and Senator Joseph Biden, another presidential hopeful, were among those who held one or more events in the Los Angeles area.
Obama’s campaign grabbed the spotlight by organizing a $2,300-per-ticket Beverly Hills reception Tuesday evening, the most significant event this month, attended by film stars, studio executives and others. The affair raised some $1.3 million.
Jennifer Aniston, Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Morgan Freeman, George Clooney, Barbra Streisand, Ron Howard and Dixie Chicks’ lead singer Natalie Maines were reportedly among those who attended. Obama, according to press reports, told the mostly film industry crowd, “Don’t sell yourself short. You are the storytellers of our age.”
The Hillary Clinton-Obama dispute broke out the following day after remarks made by the host of the event, film and recording mogul David Geffen (along with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of the founders of DreamWorks SKG), appeared in Maureen Dowd’s column in the New York Times. Geffen, who raised $18 million for Bill Clinton during his presidency, has thrown his support and considerable influence behind the Illinois junior senator and rival of Hillary Clinton. Geffen asserted that Hillary Clinton was “overproduced and overscripted,” according to Dowd. He criticized her for not apologizing for her 2002 vote in support of the Iraq war.
Dowd wrote that relations between Geffen and the Clintons ruptured in 2001, when the president, during his last hours in office, pardoned international commodities trader Marc Rich while refusing to free political prisoner Leonard Peltier, the American Indian Movement leader who was framed up for the deaths of two FBI agents in 1977.
Geffen commented, “Yet another time when the Clintons were unwilling to stand for the things that they genuinely believe in. Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it’s troubling.”
The Clinton camp quickly shot back and the battle of press releases was on.
The stakes are high for the Democratic candidates. According to Eric Alterman in the September 2004 edition of the Atlantic Monthly, “During the 2000 election cycle, zip-code areas on average yielded slightly more than $35,000 in political contributions, while residents of Beverly Hills, 90210, ponied up slightly more than $6.2 million. In the same year Pacific Palisades, Bel Air, and Brentwood were each good for $1.7 million to $3.3 million.
“In 2002 entertainment ranked first among all industries funding Democratic Party committees, and roughly 80 percent of the industry’s party contributions went to Democratic candidates and committees; just 20 percent went to the Republican Party. From 1989 up to the start of the current election cycle Hollywood had given the party nearly $100 million for federal elections alone—close to the $114 million Republicans received from their friends in the oil and gas industries. Together with organized labor and the trial bar, Hollywood is now one of the three pillars of the Democrats’ financial structure.”
The Hollywood elite is not a monolith. Film studio and entertainment industry executives, leaders of the handful of enormous conglomerates that largely determine what Americans and much of the world see on cinema and television screens and listen to on CD and radio, belong to the same financial-corporate oligarchy that has a stranglehold over every aspect of American life. These are multi-millionaires and billionaires who have a very large say in determining who should hold political office and protect their interests.
The Center for Responsive Politics notes that the film industry has specific issues which it pursues with the politicians it helps bankroll, including “trade, copyright protection and free speech concerns.” The CRP continues, “While many of the big-name stars give mainly for ideological reasons, the corporate executives who run the industry take a more pragmatic view in dispensing their campaign dollars.
“A perennial concern of the industry is copyright protection, particularly as it concerns the practice of sharing music and video files via the Internet.
The film industry executives lean toward the Democrats for cultural and political reasons. The success of their business in this day and age depends on a certain “permissiveness” in the social atmosphere. The dominance of the Christian Right, for example, would not be helpful to those often attempting to market violence and sexual suggestiveness, nor would it accord with the temperaments and lifestyles of writers, directors, actors and musicians by and large.
The economic concerns of studio chiefs and their general political inclinations merge and overlap with the outlook of the extremely well-heeled layers who make up the upper echelons of the film and music industry in Hollywood and organize support for the Democratic Party — figures like Geffen, Spielberg, Streisand, Rob Reiner, Laurie David (producer-comic Larry David’s wife) and others.
No doubt, in many cases, a sincere desire to see social reform and improve the general conditions of life motivates such people in supporting liberal politicians, as well as environmental and charitable causes.
However, this is a privileged layer that sees the world and the political process in the US through a thick haze. Its particular brand of liberalism is shaped by a terrible distance from the working population and its concerns, the degree to which it is shielded from everyday life in general by managers, assistants and intermediaries of every sort, and its essential satisfaction with its own lot.
The continued flow of Hollywood cash to the Democrats, whatever the motives or intentions of its organizers, is a deeply reactionary fact of American political life.
At Maxine, we wonder why all of this Hollywood Cash & Caché can't be directed toward issues of self-reliance and the kind of social reform that leads toward self-determination in the pursuit of happiness here in America … what is so really wrong with that?
I was reminded this morning in a presentation at the church I am prone to attend … with all of the liberal bashing that George Bush gets for being “dumb”, one assumes that the point these people seem to be making is that they posses greater knowledge than others … any others, save themselves.
1 Corinthians 8:1 states that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” - I am beginning to think with the more I listen and watch to what is being said this last week in Los Angeles, that people from the upper echelons of the film and music industry in Hollywood like those who organize support for the Democratic Party - figures like Geffen, Spielberg, Streisand, Rob Reiner, Laurie David (producer-comic Larry David’s wife) and others feel they have great knowledge … but lack love.
The Oscars are on tonight so here at MAXINE we plan on tuning in to "feel the love".
NOTE: After watching last nights Oscar presentations ... the key to get Hollywood Democrat CASH a flowin'? ... one word - CRISIS!
Friday, February 23, 2007
Money Sacks Vilsack Before Attempting First Pass
Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa Governor who entered the race early to be the Democrat Party nominee for President 2008, exited the race just as early.
This is notable in that (as cited here in a recent post at MAXINE) Tom Vilsack led Senator Hillary Clinton in a poll taken late last year.
In the post entitled "Clinton Gauntlet Has Been Laid Down – Hillary In" we wrote the following:
You see? It has already started ... the manipulation ... a poll that was reported December 21, 2006 out of Iowa (caucus straw poll) had Hillary fourth behind third place (are you ready for this) Tom Vilsack - WHO? - Tom Vilsack! - WHO? - TOM VILSACK! (Political Experience: Governor, State of Iowa, 1998-present / Senator, Iowa State Senate, District 49, 1992-1998 / Mayor, Mount Pleasant, Iowa, 1987-1992.)So now he sacks himself because he doesn't believe he can raise enough MONEY! Well, that's the effect of the ol' McCain-Finegold election reform bill has ... no way to get money unless you already have it!
This from KCCI - DES MOINES, Iowa -
The poll asked Iowa Democrats which candidates they would vote for if the 2008 Democratic caucus were held today,.the top three candidates were Sen. John Edwards at 22 percent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Barack Obama at 22 percent and Vilsack at 12 percent. U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York came in fourth at 10 percent.
Former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, right, answers a question from moderator George Stephanopoulos at a candidates forum held by the AFSCME in Carson City, Nev., on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007. Image Credit: Rich Pedroncelli -- AP Photo
Excerpts from the Sacramento Bee -
Vilsack drops out of presidential race
By MIKE GLOVER -- Associated Press Writer - Last Updated 1:40 pm PST Friday, February 23, 2007
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Democrat Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor who built a centrist image, abandoned his bid for the presidency on Friday after struggling against better-known, better-financed rivals.
"It is money and only money that is the reason we are leaving today," Vilsack told reporters at a news conference, later adding, "We have a debt we're going to have to work our way through."
Vilsack, 56, left office in January and traveled to early voting states, but he attracted neither the attention nor the campaign cash of his top-tier rivals - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama and John Edwards. He even faced obstacles in his home state.
In the most recent financial documents, Vilsack reported raising more than $1.1 million in the last seven weeks of 2006 but only had around $396,000 in the bank. Some campaign finance experts contend candidates will need $20 million by June 2007 to remain viable.
"I came up against something for the first time in my life that hard work and effort couldn't overcome," he said, his wife, Christie, and two grown sons at his side. "I just couldn't work any harder, couldn't give it enough."
Former Iowa governor and Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Vilsack, with his wife and sons by his side, announces he is withdrawing from the race at a press conference on Friday, Feb. 23, 2007, in Des Moines, Iowa. Image Credit: Steve Pope -- AP Photo
Other campaigns immediately began to seek out Vilsack's well-respected staff, hoping to pick up talented political operatives with experience in the first nominating state, and his political backers.
Vilsack was the first Democrat to formally enter the 2008 race when he announced his candidacy in November. His February departure underscores the warp speed of the 2008 race. In previous presidential cycles, candidates didn't announce until the fall, just a few months before the first caucuses and primaries, not more than a year before.
As governor of Iowa, Vilsack had carved out a reputation as a centrist balancing his state's budget and refusing to raise taxes, while emphasizing increased spending on such priorities as education, health care and higher wages. Until recently he chaired the Democratic Leadership Council, the party's signature centrist group.
More recently, Vilsack has been among the more aggressive Democratic candidates in his call to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, calling for Congress to cut off funding.
His parents were well-to-do and sent him to a private preparatory school, but his mother was an alcoholic who beat him and his father suffered trying financial reversals.
Vilsack managed to transcend his difficult childhood to build a successful career in law and politics, serving as a mayor, state senator and two terms as Iowa governor.
In a sign that Vilsack might abandon the race, he recently accepted a position lecturing at the Drake University Law School in Des Moines and had become a consultant for MidAmerican Energy Co.
The Real World Survivor Fiji – Cultural Icons Suffer
Island nation cultural history and methods on how societies operate and evolve is an extremely important component to island life.
Anyone who has traveled the Pacific knows that the undercurrent of how things operate is colored in island tribal tradition and that this is true whether one finds themselves in Kauai, Hawaii – the north island of New Zealand – or Fiji.
In Fiji, however, the transition from island tribal culture to democracy has been tainted through an acceptance of the culture of the “Strong Man”. Through coup after coup - if the military does not care how the operations of government are working - Rule by caveat.
The greatest causality of this coup enterprise approach is the ever dwindling power of Fiji’s Great Council of Chiefs (GCC). Island culture without respect for the strength of its leadership tradition is just an ugly game of “Survivor”.
Excerpts from The Fiji Times Online (a three part series) -
The GCCs lost aura
ROBERT MATAU - Friday, February 23, 2007
The ever assuring voice of the Great Council of Chiefs has helped shape Fiji into what it is today. Without this august body we would not have modernisation in its present form, nor would we have adopted the Western concepts of governance and democracy.
In the absence of their voice through their current stand-off with the military, we take a look at the GCCs history and the consequences that shaped this institution up until recent times.
SINCE that first shot was fired on May 14, 1987 in Fijis unknowing parliament, the fluidity of Fijian politics has never recovered from the so called coup culture.
Caught in this vice-like grip is the Great Council of Chiefs, the last bastion of the Fijian race. For many years Fiji has looked up to the Great Council of Chiefs for answers to a wide range of its problems in its darkest hours.
And many times they have bailed out a nation on the brink of collapse with their wisdom and aura.
That is why it has been revered and tagged with the label, august institution.
The continuous silence on the part of the chiefs has also fuelled rumours that the GCC may have been too politicised, and, that what the public now hears is only the voice of the institution called the GCC making decisions but without the full mandate of all chiefs.
This school of thought is also bold enough to claim that the GCCs aura and manna have been lost.
Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimaramas public swipe at the GCC, though considered harsh by many, has also given fuel to that same school of thought.
The erosion of chiefly rule, stemming from the 1987 coup, was sensed and opposed strongly by the late Josevata Kamikamica.
He said the chiefly body should be apoliticial, with reference to the Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei Party the first political party to receive the backing of the chiefly body.
Mr Bainimaramas slating the GCC was blasphemy in the eyes of any Fijian. But could it be that he knew certain truths within the roots of all things chiefly that gave him the ammunition to conduct the so called clean up campaign, starting with the GCC?
In the absence of the chiefly voice maybe it is an opportune time to review the roles of this institution, its origins and what its initial functions were.
The Great Council of Chiefs was a brainchild of William Pritchard, the British Consulate who initiated the first ever general meeting of chiefs in Levuka on December 14, 1859 to pave the way for the cessation process of Fiji to the British Crown. Like the 1997 Constitution, the old Matanitu could understand what its true purpose and benefits were.
Their ignorance of understanding the issues was interpreted by the Colonialists as a major threat to their chosen leading chiefs led by Ratu Seru Cakobau the then Vunivalu of what was to be regarded by many, as the leading military and naval power in Fiji, supported by white historians.
At the same time, Cakobau, who became fascinated by the Hawaiian monarchial system through his secretary Samuel A St.John, assumed the title Tui Viti. He was sending out the message that he held absolute power throughout the divided yet pocket and strongly entrenched matanitu that made up Fiji.
Each matanitu - Each small state had their own chief and there was no recognised paramount chief in their eyes.
The opportunity to consolidate his position through the first of many coups (with the overthrow of the principle chief of Bau the Roko Tui Bau) during his own lifetime and his continued skirmishes, armoured with muskets and fierce warriors was a war itself against the ancient Fijian chiefly hierarchy. A hierarchy that had stood the test of time over 15 generations before his time.
In the eyes of the old matanitu or old guard if you may, the uprising Bau matanitu was a junior state yet it had the gall to challenge the old ways.
To achieve his goals, Cakobau subjected the seniority of many other matanitu and gave prominence to the lesser matanitu that gave him their support forming the provinces to be their leader. Many of these old matanitu were at war with the emerging power for a long time including that of Rewa, Verata and Lau under the Tongan prince Enele Maafu.
Next UPDATE - Assessment of the British advance party to check Ratu Serus claims as Tui Viti
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The Real World Survivor Fiji – No Civilian Rule
Back in early December 2006, the military commander of Fiji (Commodore Frank Bainimarama) decided that the legally elected Government of Fiji wasn’t handling affaires to his liking – so, he ordered the military to take over the Government and oust the Prime Minister.
Since this event, Fiji’s economy has plummeted, the country has been suspended from its participation in networking trade organizations, and the coup has been roundly rejected by the United Nations and Fiji’s neighbors.
The latest development of this coup saga has the now Interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama, stating that he would retain both the Interim PM and Commander's positions to ensure that the interim government's mandate is properly implemented - Government and Military as one.
Further, “He” had laid out a "road map" to democracy which included plans for a constitutional review, a census of Fiji's 900,000 people and an examination of electoral boundaries in the next two years.
"Under this roadmap, Fiji will be ready for a general election and a full restoration of parliamentary democracy in 2010," Interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama said in a statement.
Excerpts from a posting at fijivillage -
Commander Has No Faith in Civilian Rule, Will Remain Interim PM
By fijivillage - Feb 21, 2007, 12:53
According to the Pacific Islands Forum Eminent Persons Group report obtained by Village News, Commodore Bainimarama has said the RFMF holds the view that it does not have confidence in any civilian authority to conduct the exercise unsupervised.
While the EPG has said that the December 5th takeover was unlawful and the Commander should vacate the position of Interim PM, it also said that it recognizes that the legality of the events must ultimately be determined by the court of law and the EPG does not presume to preempt such decisions.
The report also states that the EPG heard conflicting opinions on the level of support for the interim government and the ousted government. It said that the support for the ousted government amongst the Indigenous Fijians reportedly remains strong while the interim government seems to have gained support among other communities.
The EPG report also said with the national census, review of the constituency boundaries, voter education and registration and the implementation of an electronic voting system, the interim government believes that the next elections could be held within three to five years.
The EPG said it recognizes that political issues in Fiji are complex and have a long history but it has restricted its report to the key events immediately leading up, or directly relevant to the events of 5th December 2006 and since.
In its recommendation, the Eminent Persons Group clearly states that the next democratically elected government of Fiji should be encouraged to examine the roots of Fiji's coup culture and the steps that need to be taken to eradicate it.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
MAXINE Opens Up PJM Online Voting Precinct
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Anglican World Raises The "Bar" - With Post Meeting Reaction UPDATE
Last year, several Episcopal churches in the United States applied for, and got a reporting process that gave them the ability to not have to recognize the leadership of the newly elected U.S. Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who supports gay relationships and openly gay priests in leadership positions.
Anglican traditionalists believe gay relationships violate Scripture and they have demanded that the U.S. church adhere to that teaching or face discipline.
Yesterday, at a world gathering of Anglican leaders in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Africa, decided the U.S. Episcopal church must bar gay bishops and prayers for gay couples looking for a formal recognition of their life union (wedding).
Standards, well, are standards!
Veiled rebuke … the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, arrives on Zanzibar with the Archbishop of Tanzania, Donald Mtetemela. Image Credit: Reuters/Emmanauel Kwiitema
Excerpts from The Guardian (UK) -
No schism for now: Williams gets tough on liberals to save the church
· Episcopalians ordered to give up on gay blessings
· Anglicans must wait on decision of US bishops
Stephen Bates - The Guardian - in Dar es Salaam - Tuesday February 20, 2007
The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, kept the worldwide Anglican communion together, at least in the short term, but at the cost of imposing unprecedented sanctions on the US Episcopal church to force it to abandon its liberal policies towards gay people.
A communique issued late last night after a fraught five-day meeting in Tanzania of the primates - archbishops and presiding bishops of Anglicanism's 38 provinces - laid new ground rules for the US church and gave it until September 30 to comply. The plan allows, effectively, for the setting up of a church within a church in the US with the appointment of a senior cleric to oversee dioceses which feel unable to accept the Episcopal church's liberal leadership.
The church's bishops will also have to give an unequivocal undertaking not to authorise any rites of blessing for same-sex couples and to confirm that no more gay bishops, living in same-sex relationships, would be confirmed in office. The crisis in the Anglican communion was sparked by the Episcopal church's election, in 2003, of Gene Robinson, a gay bishop.
The communique said: "If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between the Episcopal church and the Anglican communion as a whole remains damaged at best and this has consequences for the full participation of the church in the life of the communion." The primates have accepted the right of the leaders of other provinces to trespass on the US to minister to conservative parishes. This has particularly applied to Archbishop Peter Akinola, the primate of Nigeria, who consecrated Martyn Minns, a conservative evangelical vicar in Virginia, as a Nigerian bishop to oversee parishes that wish to opt out of the Episcopal church.
Bishop of Western Tanganyika Gerard Mpango walks past a choir during the Solemn Eucharist, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007 at the Anglican cathedral in Zanzibar. Leaders of the world's 77 million Anglicans, in Tanzania for a closed, six-day conference, traveled by boat from the mainland for a Solemn Eucharist in the only Anglican cathedral on this predominantly Muslim archipelago on the Indian Ocean. Image Credit: AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo
Archbishop Williams, looking discomfited, admitted that the cost of getting Archbishop Akinola to join the other primates in signing the unanimous communique was allowing him to continue to trespass on Episcopal church territory, at least for the present.
Dr Williams, who nominally heads the 78-million strong Anglican communion, also admitted that he did not know what would happen if the US bishops only voted narrowly in favour of the demands, or how the idea of a primatial vicar overseeing US dioceses would work. "It's an experiment," he said. "Pray for it."
The move will dismay many within the Episcopal church who had hoped that they had done enough at their convention last June to comply with the demands of the Anglican communion that they should row back on their support for gay people. Many have seen the battle since Bishop Robinson's election as the latest episode in a long-running war for control of the US church between liberals and conservatives. The Episcopal church has 2 million members but it is long-established.
Seven of the 35 archbishops and presiding bishops attending the meeting have refused to share communion with the US presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori during the gathering, although that number was half those who refused communion with her predecessor, Frank Griswold, at their meeting two years ago.
The conservative forces were in some consternation last week when a report, drawn up by a working party headed by Dr Williams, gave a much more favourable assessment of the Episcopal church's position than had been anticipated. That report suggested that the US church had largely fulfilled the demands of the rest of the communion.
Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori responded cautiously to the demands, saying there had been "a positive sense of collegiality" at the meeting.
Main players in the clerical controversy
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury since 2002 Former theology professor who has attempted to keep the communion from splitting over the gay issue
Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria The leader of probably the largest Anglican national church has made opposition to gays a crusade and led developing world primates on the issue.
Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church First woman ever to lead a major Christian denomination. A scientist, elected at last year's convention. Known to be in favour of blessing faithful same-sex unions
Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire The first openly gay bishop (there are plenty of privately gay ones), elected in 2003 despite living in a faithful, same-sex relationship.
In a move that appears to have a quid-pro-quo element to it given the timing and prestige it holds, Bishop Schori was elevated to represent the Americas on one of the Church's most influential executive bodies. Bishop Schori, 53, was elected to the Standing Committee of the Primates' Meeting, the executive body that guides the work of the primates.
Additional post meeting Episcopal reactions cited by The Los Angeles Times -
Episcopalians react to new directive
By Rebecca Trounson, and Louis Sahagun, Times Staff Writers (contribution - K. Connie Kang) - 7:39 PM PST, February 20, 2007
With pain, joy, anger and in some cases, relief, Episcopalians across the United States reacted Tuesday to a stern directive from Anglican leaders that the American wing of the church refrain from sanctioning blessings for same-sex unions and take other steps to heal tensions that may yet splinter the global Anglican Communion.
The three dozen Anglican leaders, or primates, also set up a special council and vicar to oversee, at least temporarily, conservative American dioceses that have rebelled against the Episcopal Church's relatively liberal views on homosexuality and Scriptural teachings.
Many conservatives said they were happy that the primates had given the divided U.S. branch of the church an ultimatum; many liberals expressed sadness. And others wondered if the demands made this week would push the historic Anglican Church, founded by King Henry VIII of England after he broke with Catholicism, toward a schism -- or help save it from such a fate.
"No one should underestimate the depth of the divisions," said John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in Washington D.C. "Looking at the subtext here, you can see the threat, if a resolution isn't found. But at the same time, there appears to be a real effort not to have that happen."
Conflict between liberal and orthodox church members in the United States and abroad reached crisis in 2003 when the Episcopal Church consecrated its first gay bishop. The tensions with conservatives grew last year when the American church elected a woman, Katharine Jefferts Schori, as presiding bishop.
In calm, measured language, Jefferts Schori noted that the Tanzania meeting's final communique had made requests not just of the U.S. church, but of conservative bishops outside the United States, who have taken dissenting Episcopal parishes and dioceses under their auspices. They were asked to refrain from that practice.
"Each party in this conflict is asked to consider the good faith of the other, to consider that the weakness or sensitivity of the other is of significant import, and therefore to fast ... for a season," Jefferts Schori wrote.
Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, center, arrives in a golf cart as he prepares to deliver a draft covenant to journalist at the Anglican conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Image Credit: AP
Not all seemed inclined to obey the request to pause. At Pasadena, Calif.'s All Saints Episcopal Church, an influential, liberal congregation, the Rev. Ed Bacon said that his church planned to continue its practice of blessing same-sex unions.
"We have many people very concerned about whether All Saints will be intimidated by this, but we will continue pour its ministry with pastoral care, compassion and justice," Bacon said.
On the other side, the Rev. Praveen Bunyan, whose St. James Church of Newport Beach, Calif., broke away from the U.S. church in 2004 to join an Anglican province in Uganda, said he was encouraged to see the primates "give the Episcopal Church one last chance to turn around."
"These are heavy, serious times, and we are not jumping up and down screaming, 'Hoorah for our side!' " said Bunyan, who was reached by telephone in Uganda. "The primates are consistent with the authority and clear teachings given to us in Scripture. If there is no consistency in Scripture, then there is no consistency with God."
"This isn't fundamentally about sexuality or the place of gays and lesbians in the church," said the Rev. Ian T. Douglas, a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. "It's more about questions of identity and authority in a church that has moved from a monocultural Anglo-American alliance of the North Atlantic to a radically multicultural family of churches," with the balance of the church's membership and power shifting to Africa, Asia and elsewhere.
The recent meeting, he said, laid bare the deep divisions in Anglicanism between those who place power and authority in the hands of its bishops and those who prefer a more democratic, consultative church.
Bill Countryman, a professor of the New Testament at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif., expressed concern about what he said was Williams' low-key response to more conservative primates, men Countryman described as "bullies."
"Rowan hasn't done much of anything, and no one can figure out why," said Countryman, who is openly gay.
The Rev. Van McCalister, a spokesman for the Fresno, Calif.-based conservative San Joaquin Diocese, which is trying to move away from the Episcopal Church, expressed similar concerns. "Both sides are asking, 'Where is Rowan Williams in all this?' " he said
Monday, February 19, 2007
H5N1 Caution, Not Fear, For Food Marketing Institute
An "ounce of caution is worth a pound of cure" was a famous phrase in decades past that may make its way back into favor if the Food Marketing Institute has its attitude adopted.
The distribution channel for supermarkets is run so effectively that people only carry enough fresh food for about three to four days. When and if the H5N1 avian flu pandemic hits the human population, people will be urged not to go out into public and eat in public places.
So what is a food distribution system to do to make sure people who are able to live through the pandemic do not die from starvation?
Excerpts from The Associated Press via Business Week -
Grocers prep for pandemic run on food
By TIMBERLY ROSS - The Associated Press February 18, 2007, 2:06PM EST
OMAHA, Neb. - Stocking up on food is as simple as a trip to the grocery store, a veritable land of plenty for Americans.
"It's so easy when you have three grocery stores in your vicinity," said Becky Jones of Omaha, who stocks up once a week for her family of three. "You think: how could you possibly not get what you needed?"
But will fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, bread, milk and other household staples still be available if the U.S. is hit with an anticipated bird flu pandemic? If state and federal officials urge people to stay away from public places, like restaurants and fast-food establishments, will they be able to get the groceries they need to prepare food in their homes?
Unlike other critical infrastructure sectors like water, energy and health care, the food industry isn't getting much help from state and federal governments when it comes to disaster planning. That puts the burden on individual supermarket chains and wholesalers to deal with a potentially large number of sick workers that could affect store operations and disrupt the food supply.
"The industry is actively thinking through contingency plans, so if it should happen, our members would be well prepared to deal with it," said Tim Hammonds, president of the Food Marketing Institute, an advocate for grocery wholesalers and retail supermarkets nationwide.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates a third of the population could fall ill if the H5N1 strain of the bird flu mutates into a form that spreads easily from person to person.
But if a pandemic emerges, the Department of Homeland Security projects worker absenteeism to reach 40 percent or more over a prolonged period. Hammonds said retail food stores would have to contend with worker shortages and disruptions in the supply chain.
The food and agriculture industry is listed among 13 critical-infrastructure sectors that the Department of Homeland Security says must remain functional during a pandemic.
"Having those critical facilities open -- like power, water, food -- becomes very important" during a national disaster such as a pandemic, said Keith Hanson, an outreach coordinator for Nebraska's Center for Biopreparedness Education.
Hanson said continued operations of power and water utilities are of the utmost importance, but grocery stores rank highly too. That's because people today keep less food on hand, opting instead to make weekly trips to the grocery store.
Americans are also dining out more than they have in the past. Money spent on food prepared outside the home rose from 34 percent of total food costs in 1974 to about 50 percent in 2004, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Food Marketing Institute's Hammonds said a widespread pandemic will likely cause food consumption to shift away from restaurants and fast-food establishments and toward in-home eating, causing a greater demand for groceries.
"That means stores would need to be prepared for an increase in volume," he said.
Hy-Vee, a West Des Moines, Iowa-based supermarket chain that operates more than 200 stores in the Midwest, does not have a disaster plan developed in the event of avian flu. But company spokeswoman Chris Friesleben said the company keeps abreast of the illness through the Food Marketing Institute.
"The food supply is essential to the well-being of the community," said Hammonds. "We've been through a lot about what we need to do as a supermarket."
That includes urging wholesalers and retailers to talk with their suppliers about alternative sources for their products and to anticipate what products will be in high demand in a pandemic situation, such as medicines and food staples.
Stephanie Childs, a spokeswoman for Omaha-based ConAgra Foods Inc., said a company task force was formed more than a year ago to develop an operating plan in the event of a national disaster. The plan specifically addresses bird flu, examines areas that could be affected and how the company could respond, she said.
The company employs about 27,000 people, but Homeland Security projections indicate that number could fall to 16,200 during a pandemic.
Childs said such worker shortages and difficulties with suppliers getting their products to ConAgra plants were among the potential problems the company identified. She did not disclose how the company would address those issues.
The federal government and public health agencies are urging people to stock up on nonperishable food, like canned goods and dried fruit, to ensure they have to food to eat during a pandemic.
Jones, the Omaha woman, said that's a proactive approach, but was worried that people with limited incomes may not be able to afford a large stockpile of food.
She stopped short of calling for the government to oversee the food industry's pandemic planning, but said, "If they see a crisis that is on the horizon, they do have to give us some type of warning."
Democrat Hypocrisy Laid Bare
A question posed by the opinion columnist, Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, yesterday is a great question indeed:
“WHAT DOES IT mean to support the troops but oppose the cause they fight for?”
Really … What Does It Mean?
At least the Senate got it almost right when they unanimously approved General Petraeus so that they were in support of the military commander for Iraq … then stopped the non-binding resolution from passing with a 60 vote majority.
But what does it mean, really?
Excerpts from The Boston Globe -
Irreconcilable positions: support troops, oppose war
By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist February 18, 2007
No loyal Colts fan rooted for Indianapolis to lose the Super Bowl. No investor buys 100 shares of Google in the hope that Google's stock will tank. No one who applauds firefighters for their courage and education wants a four-alarm blaze to burn out of control.
Yet there is no end of Americans who insist they "support" US troops in Iraq but want the war those troops are fighting to end in defeat. The two positions are irreconcilable. You cannot logically or honorably curse the war as an immoral neocon disaster or a Halliburton oil grab or "a fraud . . . cooked up in Texas," yet bless the troops who are waging it.
But logic and honor haven't stopped members of Congress from trying to square that circle. The nonbinding resolution they debated last week was a flagrant attempt to have it both ways. One of its two clauses professed to "support and protect" the forces serving "bravely and honorably" in Iraq. The other declared that Congress "disapproves" the surge in troops now underway -- a surge that General David Petraeus , the new military commander in Iraq, considers essential.
It was a disgraceful and dishonest resolution, and it must have done wonders for the insurgents' morale.
That is how those who oppose the war "support" the troops -- they "slow-bleed" them dry. Or they declare that the lives laid down by those troops were "wasted," as Senator Barack Obama did last Sunday.
And like most political gaffes, it exposed the speaker's true feelings.
And why wouldn't Obama feel that way? If an American serviceman dies in the course of a war that toppled a monstrous dictatorship, opened the door to decent Arab governance, and has become the central front in the struggle against radical Islam, his death is not in vain. It is the sacrifice of an American hero, the last full measure of devotion given in the cause of freedom. But if he dies in the course of a senseless and illegitimate invasion -- which appears to be Obama's view of Iraq -- then his life was wasted. If that's what you believe, Senator, why not say so?
Smart people who work hard become successful, John Kerry "joked" last fall, but uneducated sluggards "get stuck in Iraq." Osama bin Laden is beloved by Muslims for "building schools, building roads . . . building day-care facilities," Washington Senator Patty Murray explained in 2002, while Americans only show up to "bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan." Obama's Illinois colleague Dick Durbin took to the Senate floor to equate US military interrogators in Guantanamo Bay with "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags," and similar mass-murderers, such as "Pol Pot or others."
It goes without saying that many Democrats and liberals take a back seat to no one in their admiration and appreciation of the US military. But there is no denying that a notable current of antimilitary hostility runs through the left as well.
Examples are endless: ROTC is banned on elite college campuses. San Francisco bars a historic battleship from its port. Signs at antiwar protests urge troops to "shoot their officers." An Ivy League professor prays for "a million Mogadishus." Michael Moore compares Iraqi insurgents who kill Americans to the Minutemen of Revolutionary New England.
America is a free country, but it is not the Michael Moores or the ROTC-banners or the senatorial loudmouths who keep it free. They merely enjoy the freedom that others are prepared to defend with their lives.
It is the men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform to whom we owe our liberty. Surely they deserve better than pious claims of "support" from those who are working for their defeat.
Survivor Fiji (2) - The Real World Outwit, Outplay, Outlast
The neighbors of Fiji, in an attempt to inject some territorial and institutional sanity to the island region, previewed a report to be submitted to the Pacific Island Forum that examined Fiji’s coup of December of last year which came down hard in its recommendations as to the authenticity of the current situation.
In the report, that is expected to be at the center of regional discussions when the 16 nations member Pacific Island Forum next meets in March, the group labeled the coup “unconstitutional and unacceptable."
Meanwhile, the observance of human rights and free speech in Fiji, while the military is in charge of Fiji and its governmental activities, is not acceptable.
Details published by The Associated Press -
AP Exclusive: Pacific group says Fiji coup unacceptable, military leader should resign
The Associated Press - Published: February 19, 2007
SUVA, Fiji: An investigative team examining last year's coup in Fiji for South Pacific leaders says the country's military commander should resign immediately as prime minister, and calls for elections within two years to restore democracy.
A copy of the report, to be presented to the forum soon, was obtained Monday by The Associated Press.
The report said armed forces chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who appointed himself prime minister after seizing power, must "vacate the position" and allow a civilian to be take the post.
It said elections in Fiji should be held within "18 to 24 months if not sooner" — rejecting a timetable of up to five years given by some members of the military government as "excessive."
The group — Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister Sato Kilman, Samoan Environment Minister Faumuina Luiga, retired Papua New Guinea Chief Justice Arnold Amet and Australian armed forces chief Gen. Peter Cosgrove — spoke to dozens of officials on all sides of the Fiji dispute in their monthslong inquiry.
The group questioned the need for the state of emergency that was declared immediately after the bloodless takeover, and demanded Fiji's military forces "immediately cease human rights abuses."
The group said it heard of "numerous cases of citizens being denied their constitutional rights ... subjection to intimidation, harassment and physical abuse" by the military. It didn't provide details.
In the days after the coup, the military detained and questioned many senior bureaucrats and officials from the ousted government of elected Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase. Most were released unharmed.
Bainimarama says he seized power to clean up alleged corruption during Qarase's administration, and stop planned laws to pardon plotters in a 2000 coup and hand lucrative land rights to indigenous Fijians, not the large ethnic Indian minority.
Bainimarama has promised to call elections to restore democracy, but hasn't set a timetable.
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Monday she had been briefed on the report and that it "should be seen in Fiji as a way forward."
And this related dispatch about human rights in Fiji from Radio New Zealand –
Fiji laywer says intimidation has ended freedom of speech
Radio New Zealand - Wellington,New Zealand - Posted at 2:55pm on 19 Feb 2007
A senior Fiji lawyer says the military's intimidation of people has ended any freedom of speech in the country.
He made the comment in the wake of a damning report compiled by a group of senior lawyers that challenges the legality of December's military takeover.
The report described the assumption of executive power by Commodore Frank Bainimarama as riddled with legal inaccuracies, misapplications of the law and a selective reading of the case.
The group -who do not wish to be named for fear of retaliation - prepared the report in response to one released by the Fiji Human Right Commission which appeared to justify the coup.
A lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous, says the climate in Fiji is repressive and people are fearful for the security of their families and jobs.
He says there are a number of cases of people being taken to the army barracks, roughed up and coming back silent.
Media Statement by PM Bainimarama - Laying Solid Foundation for Fiji's Return to Democracy - 15/2/07
A Fiji democracy activist, Laisa Digitaki, has told the Fijilive news website that continuing human rights violations could very well become the main cause of the interim regime's downfall if they are not careful.
At MAXINE, it's "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast" until the next dispatch on the real world Survivor Fiji!
UPDATE - Someone "VOTES" himself off of the island! This from Fijilive -
Colonel resigns from Fiji army
Fijilive - Monday February 19, 2007
Fiji's first contingent commander to the UN mission in Iraq has officially resigned from the Fiji army.
Military spokesman Major Neumi Leweni confirms that former Fiji Land Force Commander Colonel Mel Saubulinayau has handed in his resignation, but did not specify the reason.
"I won't be able to comment on this," he said.
Col Saubulinayau was earlier sent on leave by the military after a failed attempt by the previous government to have him replace army commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama ahead of the December 5, 2006 military coup.
Major Leweni said that military investigations against Col Saubulinayau will continue despite his resignation.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Tick, Tick, Tick – Soviet Poultry Plants Under Siege
One might assume that if the ground is covered in snow and the temperatures are cold, viruses do not “take flight”.
In Russia, many forces may be at hand, including the hand of organized forces that would want to tip business their way … by eliminating the competition.
This virus outbreak cause may actually be in the form of an intentional HIT.
Excerpts from France 24 -
Russia moves to stop spread of deadly bird flu strain
by Victoria LOGUINOVA – France 24
Russian officials have announced measures to prevent the spread of bird flu, a day after the discovery of the deadly H5N1 strain at two farms near Moscow.
Confirmation of the strain, which is potentially fatal to humans who come into contact with infected birds, came on Saturday evening at Odintsovo and Domodedovo. Both are within a 50-kilometre (31-mile) radius of the capital.
"We are taking all necessary measures," said Nikolai Vlasov, director of veterinary inspection for agricultural agency Rosselkhoznadzor.
"The farms have been disinfected. The experts are treating vehicles that are leaving the areas where the virus was discovered," said Vlasov, adding that access in and around the region had been restricted.
Last month, the H5N1 virus was recorded in poultry plants in the Krasnodar region, 1,000 kilometres south of Moscow, but the current outbreak is the first near the capital, home to more than 10 million people.
The Russian find follows recent outbreaks in Britain and Turkey, while Hungary reported the first detected case of the strain in January, the first such outbreak in the European Union since mid-2006.
Russian authorities on Saturday said another farm at Podolsk, 40 kilometres south of the capital, was suspected of being contaminated after 44 dead birds were found, but tests had still to confirm this.
And on Sunday a fourth farm at Taldom, 110 kilometres north of Moscow, was under suspicion of housing a further outbreak, with authorities still conducting tests.
The birds belonging to the first three farms had been bought at Moscow's main poultry market on the southeast fringe of the city, which has since been closed.
A senior veterinary official in the region speculated that the birds may have been infected deliberately, a state news agency said Sunday.
"It is possible they had been contaminated at the market. We cannot rule out the possibility of bioterrorism," Ria Novosti cited Valeri Sitnikov as saying on an independent TV channel.
Vlasov, the director of veterinary inspection, dismissed the comments as paranoid, but an inquiry is underway at the poultry market and the relevant section of the market has been closed.
The H5N1 strain, which first emerged in Asia, has caused 270 reported human infections worldwide since 2003 and killed 164 as of last month.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
… And, They Call This “The Land Of Enchantment”
In a move that might have had political ramifications for the 2008 presidential campaign, the State of New Mexico has decided to use audio indoctrination to change the behavior of its citizens.
The original idea was to program the audio devices with the message “Vote, Gov. Bill Richardson, a candidate with real executive experience, for president - 2008”. But, that idea was flushed in favor of this:
Excerpts from the Associated Press via Yahoo! News -
N.M. orders 500 talking urinal cakes
Associated Press - Wed Feb 14, 9:48 PM ET
SANTA FE, N.M. - New Mexico is taking its fight against drunken driving to men's restrooms around the state. The state has ordered 500 talking urinal cakes that will deliver a recorded anti-DWI message to bar and restaurant patrons who make one last pit stop before getting behind the wheel.
"Hey there, big guy. Having a few drinks?" a female voice says a few seconds after an approaching male sets off a motion sensor in the device. "It's time to call a cab or ask a sober friend for a ride home."
A talking urinal cake is displayed in the men's room at Turtle Mountain Brewing Company in Rio Rancho, N.M., Monday, Feb. 12, 2007. New Mexico aims to keep bar-hopping drunks off the road by nagging them at a place they're likely to visit just before getting behind the wheel: the men's room urinal. The state Transportation Department recently bought about 500 talking urinal cakes to put in men's restrooms at various bars and restaurants. Image Credit: AP Photo/Jake Schoellkopf
Transportation Department spokesman S.U. Mahesh said the urinal cakes are a way to reach one group that's a target of state safety campaigns. Men commit about three times as many drunken-driving infractions as women.
"The idea is based on the concept that there is no more captive audience than a guy standing at a urinal," Deutsch said. "You can't look right and you can't look left; you've got to look at the ad."
In New Mexico, the device uses the state DWI slogan "You drink, you drive, you lose."
The state spent $21 for each talking urinal cake for the pilot program but will ask bars and restaurants to pay for future orders if the idea catch on, Mahesh said.
The cakes have enough battery power to last about three months.
Imagine being the person tapped to replace all of the batteries!
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
POV Point, Counterpoint – Global Warming Opinion Intentions
When we, at MAXINE, see, listen, or read anything from longtime flame-throwing MSM liberal hack (Boston Globe, The McLaughlin Group (NPR), and go to “talking head” for biting MSM POV commentary for any political talk enterprise) we are stunned at the echo chamber logic expressed given almost any topic she jumps off into.
Usually, it is easy to just discount the views as coming from a very liberal, journalistic, and socialist camp.
That is, until her latest attempt to place people who want to deny that the Holocaust (where people of the Jewish faith were rounded up, taken to prison camps, placed in gas chambers, and executed) actually happened during WWII are used as the measuring stick for people who wish to debate against the proposition that Human activity is the primary cause of Earth’s temperature changes (Global Warming).
Dennis Prager makes it very clear as to how WRONG, damaging, and piously-political her latest column is on the subject of Global Warming in the Boston Globe through his latest column featured in Townhall.
This from Dennis Prager, contributing writer for Townhall –
On Comparing Global Warming Denial to Holocaust Denial
By Dennis Prager - Tuesday, February 13, 2007
In her last column, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman wrote: "Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers . . . "
This is worthy of some analysis.
First, it reflects a major difference between the way in which the Left and Right tend to view each other. With a few exceptions, those on the Left tend to view their ideological adversaries as bad people, i.e., people with bad intentions, while those on the Right tend to view their adversaries as wrong, perhaps even dangerous, but not usually as bad.
Those who deny the Holocaust are among the evil of the world. Their concern is not history but hurting Jews, and their attempt to rob nearly six million people of their experience of unspeakable suffering gives new meaning to the word "cruel." To equate those who question or deny global warming with those who question or deny the Holocaust is to ascribe equally nefarious motives to them. It may be inconceivable to Al Gore, Ellen Goodman and their many millions of supporters that a person can disagree with them on global warming and not have evil motives: Such an individual must be paid by oil companies to lie, or lie -- as do Holocaust deniers -- for some other vile reason.
The belief that opponents of the Left are morally similar to Nazis was expressed recently by another prominent person of the Left, George Soros, the billionaire who bankrolls many leftist projects. At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Soros called on America to "de-Nazify" just as Germany did after the Holocaust and World War II. For Soros, America in Iraq is like the Nazis in Poland.
A second lesson to be drawn from the Goodman statement is that it helps us to understand better one of the defining mottos of contemporary liberalism: "Question authority." In reality, this admonition applies to questioning the moral authority of Judeo-Christian religions or of any secular conservative authority, but not of any other authority. UN and other experts tell us that there is global warming; such authority is not to be questioned.
Third, the equation of global warming denial to Holocaust denial trivializes Holocaust denial. If questioning global warming is on "a par" with questioning the Holocaust, how bad can questioning the Holocaust really be? The same holds true with regard to Nazism and the George Soros statement. Claiming that America in the Iraq War is morally equivalent to Nazi Germany in World War II trivializes the unparalleled evil of the Nazis.
Fourth, the lack of response (thus far) of any liberal or left individual or organization -- except to defend Ellen Goodman -- or from the Anti-Defamation League, the organization whose primary purpose has been to defend Jews, is telling. Just imagine if, for example, an equally prominent Christian figure had written that denying America is a Christian country is on a par with denying the Holocaust. It would have been front-page news in the mainstream media, the individual would have been excoriated by just about every major liberal individual and group, and the ADL would have cited this as an example of burgeoning Christian anti-Semitism and Holocaust trivialization. But not a word at the ADL on Soros's comments about de-Nazifying America or Goodman's Holocaust-denial comment.
Fifth, and finally, the Ellen Goodman quote is only the beginning of what is already becoming one of the largest campaigns of vilification of decent people in history -- the global condemnation of a) anyone who questions global warming; or b) anyone who agrees that there is global warming but who argues that human behavior is not its primary cause; or c) anyone who agrees that there is global warming, and even agrees that human behavior is its primary cause, but does not believe that the consequences will be nearly as catastrophic as Al Gore does.
If you don't believe all three propositions, you will be lumped with Holocaust deniers, and it would not be surprising that soon, in Europe, global warming deniers will be treated as Holocaust deniers and prosecuted.
That is far more likely than the oceans rising by 20 feet.
Or even 10.
Or even three.
Hey Ellen! ... Al! Surf's Up!
Good on ya', Dennis.