Monthly Archives: June 2008

Another Bush Diplomatic Goof?

The presidency of George Bush will undoubtedly go down in history as one in which repeated diplomatic errors were committed by a government that claimed to be led by an individual skilled in business efficiency. Perhaps, only President Bush could transform a simple relief expedition into one which arouses the anger of recipients because he found a way to violate the laws of their nation. Last week, the Philippines suffered a terrible disaster when a ferry over turned in a typhoon with the loss of over 800 people. The United States offered assistance in recovering bodies trapped inside the hull of the capsized vessel. But, of all the ships President Bush could think to send on this rescue mission, he dispatched the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. The Philippine constitution forbids the entry into any of its harbors of a ship possessing nuclear weapons and members of the nation’s legislature are infuriated over the diplomatic blunder.

Minority leader, Rodolfo Blazon, expressed the feeling of many colleagues by noting, “We do not know, however, whether or not the USS Ronald Reagan is carrying nuclear weapons because if that is the case, it is a clear violation of our Constitution.”s

The more interesting question is why an aircraft carrier was sent to help in rescue operations of a capsize ferry? One would assume there are other vessels better equipped to handle such an operation.

Can Peace Come To The Middle East?

The situation in Gaza highlights issues in attaining peace in the Middle East. The opposing forces are locked in a Catch-22 arrangement in which each side insists the other agree to its conditions before accepting anything on faith from the other. Israel and Hamas agreed on a cease fire with the assumption border crossings would be re-open and all rocket attacks cease on Israel. Several days after the cease fire was implemented, rockets were fired by the Islamist Jihad which, ostensibly broke the truce. Israel closed entry points in retaliation. Hamas announced, it “is not going to be a police securing the border of the occupation.” There is a madness in reading such statements. What do the words “cease fire” mean to Hamas? Of course, the Islamist Jihad and Hamas claim Israel broke the truce by killing militants in a different areas of Israel.

Saudi Arabian leaders once again indicated their nation was ready to negotiate a peace with Israel but there must be a halt to construction of housing on the West Bank and the entire issue of who owns the West Bank must be resolved. The West Bank originally was to be part of a state of Palestine but Israel insisted it needed housing to protect itself against an attack. Housing construction began as a defensive move but now the means have become the end.

How do the parties extricate themselves from their fixed positions in which everyone believes its security depends on maintaining an immovable commitment to what is rather than investigating the possibility of what might be? The ironic aspect of this conflict is combining the creative talents of Palestinians and Jews would create a vibrant economy that would make the area among the most prosperous in the world.

The only possible solution begins with the cliche of– trust. Each side has to be willing to afford the other trust and be willing to risk. So far, both prefer the mess they have rather than risk achieving success.

Kenya Teachers And Government Clash Over Standards

A showdown is looming between teachers in Kenya and the government over the issue of standards. Basic Education Minister Sam Ongeri argues teachers must sign performance standard agreements which spell out what they seek to accomplish and have those documents sent on a quarterly basis to designated agencies which would evaluate if teachers are accomplishing goals. He wants teachers held to the same standards as any other public servant. Teacher unions fear moving in this direction ends concepts such as tenure and leaves teachers at the mercy of public officials as to what they are doing in the classroom. Professor Ongeri insists “nobody will force u to set the standards. You will do it yourself, something that you are sure of achieving.”

At first glance, the Kenyan government desire to establish standards appears reasonable, but the history of standards invariably results in developing tests to measure performance and this results in transforming teaching into preparation for tests. There is always fear among teachers that public officials, rather than themselves, will eventually determine the standard.

Unlike selling automobiles, teaching is a long loop occupation and results may require months to achieve. The idea of quarterly reports is a hindrance to effective teaching.

Right Wing Thugs Threaten Czech Romas

The prejudice facing Romas in the Czech Republic was highlighted by recent events in the town of Karlov Vay where paramilitary members of the “National Guard” decided to station themselves outside of an elementary school in order to “protect” children from Romas who were living in a nearby dormitory. The children were promised escorts to and from school. Roma parents threatened to take their children out of school due to fear of their being hurt. A Roma student, Risa Stavansky, and his two friends were threatened by one of these “guards” who took out a switchblade. The police said they had personnel in the area and the mayor of the town said he would be “glad to hear their side” of the dispute, and by, “their,” he referred to the thugs.

No school anywhere in the world needs “guards” if the local police are doing their job. It is clear officials in this community are not doing their jobs as guardians of law and order. A mayor does not talk with thugs to “hear their side.” By the way, is he making any effort to hear the side of Roma parents?

Gates Blasts Pakistan Government

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was critical of the failure on the part of Pakistan officials to take a more aggressive stance against the Taliban on the border areas of their country. He claimed there had been a 40% rise in violence along the east Afghanistan border during the first five months of this year. Gates said “it is a matter of concern, of real concerns and I think that one of the reasons that we’ve seen the increase…is more people coming across the border from the frontier areas.” He blamed the ability of Taliban forces to readily cross over into Afghanistan on “not being under any pressure from the Pakistan side of the border.” Gates believed the situation began to change when Pakistan officials initiated talks with Taliban leaders for a peaceful resolution of the violence in the frontier areas.

Gates ignored that seven years have passed since the Taliban were over thrown in Afghanistan, seven years of inept military policies most probably hampered by diverting forces to Iraq instead of completing the job in Afghanistan. Pakistan for years has been cooperating with coalition forces but the Taliban continue to grow in power. Why hasn’t the Afghanistan government been more effective? Why have seven years gone by without the emergence of an Afghan army that can deal with its own security? It is not all the fault of Pakistan, it is time for the Bush administration to own up to its own failures.

Gays Of India To Openly March For Rights

Homosexuality is illegal in India which adheres to strict religious ideas regarding sexual relations. For the first time, gays and lesbians in India have decided to march openly in an effort to call attention to their need for rights. Hundreds of individuals in several cities will participate in global gay pride events. Lesley Esteves, a gay activist, notes “that the march is happening now and not before is an indication that people are finally feeling brave enough to come out for that kind of celebration. It is only now that we feel we have the numbers to do this.”

Although homosexuality is illegal, few are actually arrested because most gays and lesbians keep it quiet and avoid making public their sexual orientation. They are aware of the lack of legal protection against discrimination and must be guarded in the manner in which they deal with their values. Many gays believe the number of TV programs and movies depicting gays and lesbians has helped deal with public awareness of the issue.

Supreme Court Gun Decision-Vote For Obama Or Else!

The Supreme Court decided that individuals had the right to possess handguns in their home for self defense and over turned laws in Washington D.C. that attempted to control possession of weapons. Justice Scalia, speaking for the 5-4 majority said the Constitution did not allow “the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used in self defense in the home.” However, the majority did make clear “it is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The decision opened the door for legislation to prohibit carrying concealed weapons or forbidding criminals and the mentally ill from having them. It also indicated weapons could be forbidden in sensitive areas like in the vicinity of schools.

The 5-4 decision makes abundantly clear that Barack Obama must be elected to prevent the Supreme Court from swinging even further to the right. A McCain election will most probably result in over-turning the right to an abortion.

Tragedy Of Zimbabwe Over But Continues

The nations of Africa including many of its leaders such as Nelson Mandela have decried the tragic events in Zmbabwe in which Robert Mugabe has conducted one of the most vicious and cruel elections in the history of the continent. He has killed at least 80 members of the opposition, beaten and tortured hundreds and driven thousands from their homes. But, from the perspective of the megalomaniacal Robert Mugabe, he alone represents peace and justice. “We have some of our brothers in Africa,” he told a rally, “making that call(postpone the election) pushing to violate our own law and we have refused to do so, we are sticking to our law.” Opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been forced to seek refuge in the Dutch embassy to escape the thugs who roam the streets, gave Mugabe until Friday to postpone the election. “Negotiations will be over if Mr. Mugabe declares himself the winner and considers himself the president. How can we negotiate?”

If a few months ago, President Mbeki of South Africa had exerted his leverage and forced Mugabe to negotiate, the present farce of an election might have been avoided. Mugabe believes no African leader will do anything to him and thus he feels free to brutalize his own people. In a sense, he has the Hitlerian idea, “apres mois, le deluge.” His nation can literally go to hell, he intends to maintain power. It is too late to halt this crazed man.

Class Divisions Widen In Sweden

Economic class divisions are widening in Sweden at an ever increasing rate. The gap has grown wider than at any other time in the past twenty years. A study by Society, Opinion, Media(SOM) reveals working class Swedes are not benefiting in the sam manner as high wage earners. It is now clear of the existence of a class society which is not simply based on growing complaints that economic advancement is not progressing at a desirable rate, but at statistics which indicate a gap exists in economic growth. Soren Holmberg, who helped develop the study, notes “there are people in the periphery–the sick, women, the working class, people in the countryside(who are not benefiting adequately). Growth has primarily benefited well-educated people in large cities, white collar workers and small business owners.”

Perhaps, the post industrial world is experiencing a class division that originally stems from education levels and then translates into differing incomes. This phenomenon is already present in all post industrial societies.

Are We Over Concerned About Adults And Children?

Jennie Bristow and Frank Fucedi are authors who have examined what is happening in Great Britain’s efforts to supervise relations between adults and children. It increasingly is necessary in the United Kingdom for any adult having a relationship with a child to undergo investigation by the Criminal Records Bureau(CRB) to determine if they are fit for interaction with children. This means anyone like a coach, a bus driver, a charity or community worker, must undergo criminal investigation. A parent, who for one reason or another, never went through the process can not do simple tasks such as drive children or accompany a bus trip. One children’s coach emphatically stated, “I only allow CRB’d parents to drive team members to training.”

No one wants sexual predators molesting children, but have we crossed the line of common sense? Criminal record checks tell what has happened in the past and offer no information about the present. Paperwork and being forced to undergo investigations may well turn decent people into skeptics who prefer their privacy to undergoing a bureaucratic process. Are we losing valuable people who have something to offer children? It also raises another question– are we building a sense of mistrust on the part of children that anyone could be a potential molester?

As one who spent fifty years in the field of education, my impression is the overwhelming number of people in the occupation are not into molesting children. I have noticed increasingly that children have less and less contact with older adults which only serves to create barriers between the generations at a time when children need to connect to their past.