News and Commentary on Gainesville and the World | Updated Daily

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Double Trouble

The Florida Politics blog has a great post on how the Florida Legislature is trying to create loopholes in the minimum wage law that will remove penalties for businesses that do not follow the law, thereby creating conditions for companies to – you guessed it – skirt the law.

I'll let you read the post and its links to get the whole story. Typical elite behavior.

Yeeeeee-ikes!

It was bad enough when John Negroponte was made ambassador to Iraq, but now Dubya has nominated this creep for "spy czar," overseeing our nation's intelligence agencies.

This is the same guy who, after having been the US ambassador to Honduras during some of its more violent and repressive years, told Congress that he did not think there were death squads operating in Honduras, despite the evidence that they were.

Worse, these gangs, which used murder, kidnapping and torture, were partially trained by the US and supported by the US-backed and financed Honduras government.

Don't take my word for it. You can Google "John Negroponte" to find dozens of articles about him. To save you some effort, here are two good articles about him, and each include links to other sources:

Who is John Negroponte, from Counterpunch. Here is a tidbit:

At the time Mr. Negroponte was in Honduras, Honduras was a military dictatorship. Kidnapping, rape, torture and executions of dissidents was rampant. The military top and middle ranks were U.S-trained at the School of the Americas (SOA), the Harvard version of the CIA, based in Fort Benning, Georgia.
The Full Negroponte, from The American Prospect. Here's a bit from that article:

The post of ambassador to Honduras, which Negroponte held from 1981 to 1985, is not normally a crucial one in the grand scheme of U.S. foreign policy. Negroponte's main task, however, was a rather vital one: implementing the Reagan administration's illegal efforts to arm and train Contra rebels, who would then across the border into neighboring Nicaragua to overthrow the Sandinista government there. As the CIA, which oversaw the Contra operation, eventually admitted, the rebel force "engaged in kidnapping, extortion, and robbery to fund its operations." Wishing to avoid combat with the Nicaraguan army, it became, in essence, a terrorist group, attacking civilian targets in an effort to disrupt Nicaragua's economy and society.
So, considering the Bush administration's love of all things banned by the Geneva conventions and international human rights law, Negroponte should fit right in the White House.

And of course the Democrats are promosing to fight this tooth and nail . . . psyche! No, instead, they are bending over forward to accommodate the nomination as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Won't You Nuke My Neighbor

CIA Director Porter Goss made a stunning admission yesterday: “Having watched the pride of some countries in acquiring the world-stage status of having nuclear weapons -- and what that has meant for nationalism and leadership ... it becomes almost a piece of the holy grail for a small country that otherwise might be victimized living in a dangerous neighborhood."

Goss was speaking to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (which incidentally should be called the “Selective” Intelligence Committee, but that’s another story). He said in stark, obvious terms – North Korea and other small nations pursue nukes to prevent other nations from attacking.

Normally, the line out of Washington these days is that “terrorists” and “extremists” are trying to “acquire weapons of mass destruction”, which is a bad thing that we will stop at all costs. The unchallenged implication is that the “bad guys” want nukes so they can terrorize the innocent, sweet-faced, freedom-loving United States.

Such jingoistic perversions are popular with the masses but rarely pass muster with experts and those who carefully pay attention to world affairs. North Korea and Iran have done little if anything to threaten their neighbors or any other country, especially in the last two decades, yet they have both been branded as targets by the world’s mightiest military – the US, which remember spends annually on its military almost as much as every other nation on the planet combined.

This is not to say that Goss was explicitly implying that North Korea was afraid of the US. A comment like that would send him to the George Tenet Memorial Soup Line in a heartbeat. No, Goss referred to an ambiguous “dangerous neighborhood”.

You need only listen to North Korean leaders, who, like the Iranian government, constantly complain about the US to know who they fear. And considering the present administration’s stated desire to use military might to attack any nation it deems a threat, it is easy to understand that fear.

Jeb's Class Size Gimmick Half-Baked

State Sen. Rod Smith had it right when he called Gov. Bush’s plan to pit teachers against students “gimmickry.” Bush wants voters to approve a plan to mandate a much higher minimum teacher salary – a good thing – at the expense of the voter mandated reduced class sizes – a bad thing.

Smith said in The Gainesville Sun: ''This is simply (Bush's effort) to divide the state over the issue of class size.''

The article made much of the idea that this strategy will hurt Democrats in the 2006 elections because they’ll have to fight better teacher pay to keep the class size amendment.

But I think they’re backward, for two reasons.

First, plenty of Republicans voted for the class size amendment. The 2002 ballot measure passed with 60 percent of the vote – more than what Bush got in his re-election campaign that same election.

Second, Democrat candidates can use this issue against the GOP by pointing out that the Democrats have been pushing for better teacher salaries for years, while the GOP has ignored the issue. Dems need to push for both the class size amendment and better teacher salaries, and point out that the GOP plan would help teachers at the expense of the students.

Personally, I see this issue blowing up in Bush’s face. It is obvious from the article in The Sun that this is a partisan gambit to hurt the Democrats as much as it is a way to get out from under the cost of the class size amendment. Voters tend not to appreciate such games.

I hope some wealthy group of Florida Dems can get a ballot initiative going to raise teacher salaries without cutting the class size amendment. That would receive wide support.

Pipe Bombs 101

I have to admit that upon reading about an Orlando teaching arrested for teaching his high school chemistry class how to make explosives, I was alarmed. It is because I have some personal experience with this.

When I was in 8th grade, my science class teacher invited some local firefighters to demonstrate the dangers of certain common household chemicals, and also some that were not so common, like liquid nitrogen.

The one that caught me eye, and those of my two buddies, was the volatile mixture of car brake fluid and pool cleaning chemicals. When combined in small amounts – maybe a cup full each at the most – they produced a five-foot high column of flame for a few seconds.

Of course, in Florida, both substances were pretty easy to find, and you can bet that my buddies and I went straight to one of their garages and scooped up some pool chlorine right away. Brake fluid, however, was nowhere to be found, so we tried substituting different car-related fluids, to no avail.

We did take a few precautions, such as turning on the garden hose and hiding around the corner of the house from where we had sat the old coffee can and mixture. But there was no column of flame, much to our disappointment.

And thank goodness. Looking back as an adult, and now having two young kids, I wonder – what the fuck were they thinking, teaching us that? Kids often see the lessons we teach as opportunities for fun, especially when those lesson involve pyrotechnics.

What gets me about the Orlando teacher was that he didn't seem bothered by the fact the one of the students had taken this knowledge, made a bomb and detonated it on a local golf course. He apparently had praised the child's smarts.

At least one of them had some.

Rice Makes Compelling Case for Iraq Withdrawl

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has a strong sense of irony. On Tuesday, when discussing the US government's tough stance against Syria after the recent bombing that killed Lebanon's former prime minister, she challenged Syria's contention that its troops are needed to provide security for the pro-Syrian Lebanese government.

"There is no doubt the conditions created by Syria's presence there have created a destabilized situation in Lebanon," she told CNN. "That is very clear to everyone."

I won't bother to challenge her assertion, because in this case I want to accept her justification to make a point. The US government wants Syria to remove its troops from Lebanon – troops that are there at the Lebanese government's request – because of one car bombing that has "destabilized" the region.

Using her logic, shouldn't the US be pulling out its troops from Iraq? There are multiple car bombings every day all over Iraq, the nation is as destabilized as it can get thanks to our invasion, and the vast majority of Iraqis blame the US for the situation.

CNN's reporter for this story apparently didn't see the irony and – big surprise – didn't ask that question.

What He Said

John Dear, a Jesuit priest, has a great essay on Christians who support war, violence and all things Jesus rebelled against. I could not agree more.

One of the best paragraphs:

I used to think these all-American Christians never read the Gospel, that they simply chose not to be authentic disciples of the nonviolent Jesus. Now, alas, I think they have indeed chosen discipleship, but not to the hero of the Gospels, Jesus. Instead, through their actions, they have become disciples of the devout, religious, all-powerful, murderous Pharisees who killed him.