Saturday, December 31, 2005

Zarqawi-Kurd ally connection

From NPR's "All Things Considered " an interview with coauthor Daniel Benjamin of The Next Attack. Benjamin briefly discusses Zarqawi's association with a Kurdish extremist group in the area protected by the No-Fly Zone in Iraq and the administration's awareness of the existence of the camp. The group had been working to produce ricin, a poison everyone should be familiar with at this point. Al-Zarqawi was allowed to operate within an American ally's de facto national borders(Iraqi Kurdistan) prior to the invasion. According to Benjamin, the Ansar al-Islam camp's existence was known, but administration officials decided not to attack the camp after American forces had crossed the border into Iraq, despite the desire by American forces. I remember an Ansar al-Islam camp having been destroyed rather early in the invasion of Iraq by special forces. It must not have been Zarqawi's camp.

Benjamin posits the view that the War on Terror has been distracted by the Iraq War, not enhanced. There are a number of al-Qaeda wannabe groups inspired by the death and destruction wrought against Americans and Iraqis who would prefer not to be destroyed in the name of Allah. Seems to me it's a lot like the hate-group phenomenon in the U.S. where the old standard hate groups of American history have faded into oblivion with a more sinister motley collection of skin-head groups with no central communication, except the internet and are more difficult to monitor and discover their crimes. Al-Qaeda as a movement has morphed into a collection of isolated cells inspired to be creative in their murderous ends among groups of folks who have no idea who their compatriots are, but serving the same goal inspired daily by jihadist websites and their sympathizers (some might argue Al Jazeera is adding to a bandwagon effect throughout formerly peaceful communities in various Islamic countries where jihadism is rising in popularity).

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Party of Lincoln

From Raw Story, human trafficking still taking place in subcontractor companies doing business with U.S. military contractors despite a 2002 Presidential order to end such practices. Congress has passed bans recently, but the White House is slow to enforce the rule. The Party of Lincoln allowing human trafficking within companies they indirectly pay American dollars? What was this Iraq War all about again? Seems like this week, the PRIMARY reason for the war is to promote democracy and human rights. Yet another sterling example of American "democratic" and "human rights" concerns: Abu Ghraib, slave-trading pmc's. Who'd have thought the South would become majority Republican 100 years ago? Times, they are a-changin'.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Sen. Lott retiring?

Robert Novak writes that Trent Lott has pondered retirement from the Senate. I admit to agreeing with Novak's idea that Bush's refusal to support Lott in his remarks about former Dixiecrat candidate Strom Thurmond, a fixture in the GOP for 50 years before his death, undermined the Southern GOP faithful. The GOP Southern base is most assuredly set upon the backlash over the Democrats' civil rights legislation that LBJ thought would spell doom for the Dems for at least a generation. LBJ was half right. Let's hope the bedrock Dixiecrat tradition responsible for GOP dominance in the South, and in national elections, is eroding as Novak fears.

It's about time! Could the nation really stand a GOP-dominated Congress for 20 years? 40? If Bush is "mainstream", I can't imagine a strict adherent of far-right values in charge of our nation. Bush's spend-all-you-have-then-spend-all-that-you-don't-have conservatism has managed to alarm some of the most fervent fire-breathing GOP faithful. Is there a place in the Southern Dem party for fiscal conservatives who are troubled by GOP spiteful rhetoric? You bet there are. We'll see what the Third Way crowd, often maligned by center-left Dem faithful, emphasizes in its effort to take back the South and America from the demagogues of the GOP. Hillary's latest speeches are an indication, along with Jimmy Carter's latest printed adjuration, that the Dems are getting it right on the front lines of the battle for the soul of our democratic traditions. The futile"all-or-none" counterassaults(largely by center to left Dems from states outside the South) have ended and the Democratic Party seems to be focusing on legitimate cultural concerns that guide Americans at the polls, while continuing the fight for progressive traditions of the party. Then again, Southern Dems have largely remained in the traditionalist ideological camp anyway. Sen. Clinton wants to be a force in the South and her residence in Arkansas for 20 years can be a plus in the eyes of Southerners. Bill Clinton was no fire-breathing "liberal" straw man the GOP have crafted through the years since their humiliating defeats against FDR in response to the callous, today predictable, GOP response to human suffering within their own nation. The real BIG TENT is within the Democratic Party, not the anti-science, wedge-issue wielding, soft-imperialist GOP excuse for governance.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Only in the Bible Belt

Southern Baptists have continued the effort to purge non-dogma elements from their churches. The latest issue is the speaking-in-tongues debate, which to most folks is downright nutty, has caused some ill will within their International Mission Board. Trustees of the agency "voted 25-18(actually 50-15 according to folks who attended) to establish a new policy banning the appointment of missionaries who had practiced a 'private prayer language,'" according to Robert Marus reporting for the Associated Baptist Press in an article for the ADG (registration required). Some interested folks believe the new policy is an attempt to embarass board president Jerry Rankin who has publicly engaged in a private prayer language and "interpreted" another "message" in tongues for a congregation.

The first impression of most who might read this is "what are they talking about?!" In the south where the tongue-talkin' faiths usually had their churches built in a remote location in the middle of a cotton field or across the tracks or in the mountains where they might be tempted to play with snakes, the issue is prime. Southern Baptists have their dogma and "holy-rolling" ain't acceptable for missionaries serving overseas in the name of the Southern Baptist god, er in the name of God on behalf of the Southern Baptist doctrine. If there was ever an illustration of why church and state have been deliberately separated by our Founding Fathers, this issue is proof of their wisdom.

I have in-laws who grew up worshiping in a tongue-talkin' or self-described "Pentecostal" manner who believe that among the "gifts" of the Spirit of God is included the ability to pray in other languages and the further ability for another to interpret messages sent in other languages for the edification of the Church. Mr. Jerry Rankin, current president of the Mission Board since 1993, believes his faith must include a "private prayer language". Mr. Rankin, welcome to the multitude of "purged" Christians whom the SBC decided weren't doctrinally sound, thus, they must "get their mind right" or leave. Many former SBC congregants have left the convention the past 25 years because of "unsound" political views or Biblical beliefs which the SBC have decided to formally condemn. The tongue-talkin' controversy had a public show during the media evangelist scandals of the late 80s when Jerry Falwell, not a believer in "gifts of the Spirit", took over Jim Bakker's, a tongue-talkin' proponent like Baptist Pat Robertson, "Christian Disneyland"(to quote Jimmy Swaggart, fellow hypocrite). Falwell was forced to answer questions on the doctrinal taboo and his view of what these folks are really saying or what psychological reason there is for the existence of such a concept. Needless to say, those years were not shining moments for evangelical Christendom. I would argue they should be viewed as cautionary. The religious component of the nasty political environment can lead to some absurd reasons for nasty occurrences.

It is sad how nutty and imposing a so-called "Christian" believer can be when it comes to differing or "unsound" doctrine. What did this Rankin fellow do to deserve be singled out by a 50 of 65 Board trustees? The SBC inquisition has been taking place for nearly thirty years with past efforts to purge differing doctrines from being taught in SBC-affiliated colleges like Wake Forest or Baylor, jokingly referred to by SBC preachers and congregants alike as the "Sodom and Gomorrha of the Brazos" and other SBC schools of divinity were under attack until Wake Forest left the convention in 1986. I remember my SBC preacher crowing about their "ouster" for undoctrinal teachings and his support for the work of Adrian Rogers of Memphis. Adrian Rogers, in the news last when it was announced he had died, was the most influential SBC preacher in the Mid-South and he was one of those responsible for the the slowly developing SBC version of Inquisition, purging all "liberal" ideas about doctrine from being heard or discussed in any of their affiliated congregations. As far as SBC devotees are concerned, folks like Rankin can join the Cooperative Baptist "apostate", more commonly referred to as the "Jimmy Carter Baptists".

Mr. Rankin can deny his "gifts" or leave the SBC altogether. It sounds like a purge to me and among Board members, he's already out the door. Shameful! The battle for who really knows God's Will is heating up and the mud in the name of Christ will continue to be flung until folks come to their senses, stop fearing death, and start caring more about people and less about dogma. When people are afraid, they tend to go to extremes to prove to themselves and others they are capable of plunging irrationally into a dogma and the way to Christ gets real easy from there. Nice fantasy to maintain! If it was so easy, the rivers of blood shed over religious differences within the same Christian faith would never have been a fact in our history. Luckily for Protestants, at the time the Catholic defenders were prepared to slaughter the Lutherans, the Turks decided to go a-conquering in Europe again. Naturally the Islamic infidel must be stopped BEFORE "apostate Christians" could be dealt with. Sad. Party-line Christianity can never be a pretty sight.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Honest Iraq War reasoning

Nice commentary by William Rivers Pitt on the real reasons for the Iraq War on the site truthout:

"Here's the deal: we invaded Iraq to establish a permanent, muscular military presence in the Middle East; we invaded Iraq to take control of their petroleum reserves for the next hundred years, a pretty little piggy bank in a world where oil is becoming harder to find; we invaded Iraq so we could use our military presence there to attack and invade several other countries in the region; we invaded Iraq to establish strategic positioning for any economic and/or resource struggles with China and Russia; we invaded Iraq because administration officials who think they are members of the Likud Party believed this war would serve to protect and defend the state of Israel; we invaded Iraq so a bunch of military contractors with umbilical ties to the administration could get paid."

It's incredible to hear supporters of the decision to invade Iraq who don't want to hear about natural rsources as a prime reason for committing American troops to the region. Pro or con, natural resources is a very important component of any scheme to invade and occupy Iraq. The whole S. Asian region is embroiled in battles over natural resources with two of the largest consumers in the world right at the doorstep of the rich Caspian region and the Middle East: China and India. A former superpower with the bruised ego equivalent to that of the former French superpower stands on top of the world fighting to keep a piece of real estate worth a lot of Russian blood to maintain a grip on their former empire's oil capital Grozny. The Russian invasion of their own province is ALL about oil and the sole aircraft fuel refinery in Russia. Plans for a pipeline from the Caspian to the Black Sea shipping lanes has been publicized since early in the Clinton administration. Chechnya has been a sore spot for Russia since the very beginning of the collapse of the USSR. US negotiations with the Taliban to bypass the Russian trouble zone by building pipelines through Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan troubled the Kremlin and Putin always has in mind the potential for Russia to become marginalised in its former satellites in the Caspian region including Krgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan. Natural gas and oil of the Caspian region has certainly drawn the attention of China, which borders Afghanistan in the southeast and the former Soviet satellites, and India. Russia will continue to make nice with the giants, but will also keep a wary eye on them for good reason.

Another noteworthy point of Pitt is the positioning argument for the war. The US have troops and equipment along the eastern and western border of Iran along with American allies Pakistan and Turkey, another nation with a sore spot which a pipeline to the world's shipping lanes will cross in the Kurd areas. The Kurds and Turks have been enemies for the longest and an independent Kurdistan is troublesome for the Turks, who have traded heavy losses with Kurdish insurgents in the past. Iran is firmly in the sites of US military power and perhaps some of Ahmadinejad's lunacy has resulted from the uneasiness of the US's recent history with the Bush administration in the White House. The US is in a position to invade any number of smaller nations in the region from the Middle East to central Asia. The Russians and Chinese have been trying to push the US out of basis in the former Soviet Caspian republics and have succeeded in persuading dictator Karimov of Uzbekistan to oust American bases supporting the Afghan mission.

Having accepted the totality of an argument for American involvement, Melivn Laird, for example in Foreign Affairs magazine, argues "so what?" Is the nation's need for oil no longer a legitimate reason to unleash American military power? Laird has a point except the potential "blowback" as experienced on 9/11 and the hundreds of terrorist attacks across the globe committed by actual Afghan war veterans or those whom those veterans have recruited and trained. 9/11 was the quintessential "blowback" event and invading Iraq could lead to a replication of the effect. The selling of the Iraq War was heavily dependent on the 9/11 connection. The fear that Saddam was building WMD and was planning to use it is indubitably a 9/11 argument for Bush's preemeptive strike. A 9/11 argument for the Iraq War is missing the point entirely of potential results of the ill will which a military solution to a lingering concern might engender. Laird is honest and is certainly a perspective on this issue to hear. In his Foreign Affairs article he laments the Ford decision to nix funding of the S. Vietnamese war effort and fears such a development could arise in Iraq. Funding shouldn't be cut off from what emerges as the legitimate Iraqi government when or if our troops ever fully withdrawn from Iraq. My thinking is that Wes Clark's proposal to position American troops along the borders of Syria and Iran isn't a bad idea. Our troops must be working toward limiting exposure in Iraqi society and retreating to isolated bases within the nation as has been suggested by those in charge of this effort.

Another argument I've often heard among Arkansans is that "I'd rather fight 'em there, than here." That's a narrow argument at best. Another Foreign Affairs article which appeared recently posits that with such reasoning, one must be able to identify a finite number of terrorists to kill. The "blowback" effect includes the ability to recruit and train as many terrorists as a terror organization can muster. Iraq is today's training ground for terrorists and they all aren't going to be killed. Insurgencies of yesterday leave behind numbers of surviviors who had a change of heart about continuing a struggle, much like the inusrgency encountered by Americans in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. Killing all the "terrorists" is impossible! It's REALLY difficult to tell a terrorist from a legitimate "freedom" fighter in today's murky world of guerrilla warfare. For example: Are ALL the Chechens committed to irregular warfare merely terrorists? If one would look at the entire history of Chechen/Russian relations one would see a bitter picture of Russian atrocities committed against these people. The Beslan attack was horrible, but Chechen civilians have been tortured and murdered to get at the "ghosts" who appear and then disappear hounding Russian troops who operate in and around Chechnya. I would like to see some real talks about an autonomous Chechen republic within a Russian state. Has such a compromise become impossible at this point? As in the Balkans, an uneasy truce at best can be expected, but I prefer what I see in the Balkans now than through the Nineties. Age-old remembrance of atrocities past must be allowed to abate for there to ever be peace in the present.

Circumspection is not a trait of the Bush-in-the-chinashop crowd. Laird is right: Natural resources are a fair consideration in the wise use of American military power as was exhibited by the elder Bush in his Gulf War. Saddam's aggression against Kuwait was a development which could be challenged militarily and one of the world's oil-rich regions was spared from the disruption of lingering wars and threats when a legitimate Coalition was formed and the world sent actual combat troops to the field to do battle alongside American and British troops, unlike today's war. The US is practically alone with the best the UK can offer. Moderation is key in developing an effective global military and diplomatic strategy to protect our nation from future attacks like the World Trade Center and to protect the industrialized world's energy resources. Our strategy must include our dealings with China, India, and Russia and their energy needs. They are growing rivals who spend an awful lot of money on their militaries. In percentage of GNP, China and India spend 20% +. Some sources believe India and Pakistan each spend in the 30s and 40s percentage-wise, a steep figure for two relatively poor countries, ergo the Pakistani drive for nuclear weapons. Pakistan is vastly outnumbered by its elephantine neighbor to the east. Nukes are an equalizer for the Pakistanis and nuclear development offers more bang for the buck (so to speak).

A sane, fair argument could be waged about the future of our incursion in Iraq and other plans the PNAC crowd have in store for us. The lack of honesty over the real meaning of Iraq by the neo-cons has left many Americans wary of any maneuver undertaken by the Bush administration. If the Iraq War was sold as a protection of resources presently available to the US as well as fears about the spread of the Islamic fundamentalist jihad, I doubt the clamor would be as deafening. On the other hand, selling a war as part of a competition between nuclear rivals for natural resources would not be the most politic argument in the history of American diplomacy. But this Iraq War invasion mess doesn't appear to have been such a wise choice either. A moderation of the pros and cons of the Iraq War is necesary to provide a clear,determined direction for the American people as a whole. We need leadership which is capable of shaping this difficulty in Iraq to our advantage or unimaginable horrors will result from the short-sighted, bullying strategy. I suspect the PNAC crowd believe military solutions provide quick, easy results. Such thinking is faulty at best, at least to thousands of American casualties and their families. "Blowback" from this particular war could unleash a terrible future for the world's citizens and I fear Bush's decision to invade Iraq will likely be responsible for worse acts of human cruelty than we've yet experienced.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Texarkana car salesman update

The Texarkana car dealer who went missing since accompanying a test driver was found dead. A 17 year old boy, a 16 year old girl, and possibly a 12 year old boy were involved in the murder. Ables, 52, was a former quarterback at Texas High, and was a musician and vocalist for various local bands. He is survived by a daughter, brother, and ex-wife. He worked at the car dealership for four years and was considered "a very good friend" by coworkers.

Rogers police clerk admitted past theft, drug use on previous jobs

It seems that the least brilliant police force distinction in NW Arkansas for the largest cities must be assigned to the Rogers Police Department. A police clerk, Sheila Villalpando was arrested on suspicion of theft of $23,000 worth of cash and checks paid for fines. In two previous jobs, she admitted to the department prior to her hiring that she'd stolen approximately $1,000 and had used drugs at the work place at one of the jobs. They hired her despite her admissions. Brilliant!

It must have been really easy to catch her. It seems, though I couldn't find an archive article online, that the Rogers PD hired a man who failed a psychological screening from the Bentonville PD, then the guy was arrested for assault and battery of his significant other. If I'm wrong, if any news person reads this, please verify that for me. From racial profiling to hiring clerks to handle the money from fines with previous thefts and drug use on the job, to drawing a weapon on a working man in the early morning hours as he locks a gate to a business (me) as his company vehicle is parked and running with the lights on and the officer refused to identify himself and he didn't turn his blue lights on, they are the most self-righteous bunch of bunglers I've ever encountered. I was stopped by a Rogers officer on another early morning because I was parked outside a post office just after 9/11 to drop off some letters while in the same company vehicle. The officer thought I was a "potential terrorist"(his words); he was a complete moron who had NO BUSINESS wearing a uniform and definitely not qualified to carry a weapon. That incident can't be much worse than the Johnson PD road blocks set after the Oklahoma City bombing so they could heroically catch the bomber and propel Dean Melton, finally, to the Washington County Sheriff's office. By the way, the officer who seemed determined to use his gun on me in Rogers was the spitting image of Timothy McVeigh--- is there a connection? Rogers PD are a reckless bunch in the least.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Maria Taylor

Here's an artist from Nebraska(I assume, since her label is located in Omaha) who has a delicate sound. Maria Taylor, courtesy spinsouth blog. I've only heard two songs, but so far, I like what I hear. Has she ever been to Fayetteville to perform? Not that I'd make it. I see far too few live performances. I haven't regularly attended live performances since graduating from Little Rock's finest university. Maybe if I learned to curtail the number of pitchers I imbibe, I wouldn't avoid live music venues. It's easy to download two songs by Maria at the spinsouth site. I hate to compare her to other artists, so I won't. There have been a number of female artists the past few years worth a listen. Liz Phair, Sam Phillips, Victoria Williams, et al. Fine music these chicks produce(no offense). Take the time to listen.


From the "Forgotten War" in Afghanistan, American forces continue to battle insurgents including a familiar name in the painful history of Afghanistan Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Saudi Sunni choice in the Afghan power struggle prior to the takeover by Taliban forces. Kunar province sets along the border with Pakistan in NE Afghanistan. Hizb-i-Islami, al Qaeda, and the Taliban are cooperating to menace the nation-building effort. "Drugs, timber, gems," and death seem to be the chief export through Kunar province according to American military authorities.

It seems that after an American assault and taking of ground, the Americans leave and the enemy return. A threadbare military force can hardly cover all the terrain of mountainous Afghanistan. A special operations chopper was downed in the region killing a number of Americans who were responding to save the lives of some missing special forces personnel. The war drags on and Americans and NATO will be involved in the country for the foreseeable future. The U.S. helped create the mess and we're the only party capable of rebuilding the nation which has suffered war and mayhem since the late 70's in a bloody coup and subsequent attempt at secularization by the new leaders. The war actually began when a jihad was launched threatening the Soviet satellite government. The Soviets invaded the country to prevent another Iran situation along the southern border of the U.S.S.R. familiar to most Americans who were conscious in the late 70's.

A lot of work remains to be completed. What kind of military force will the Kabul government be able to build? Will it be capable of preventing a recurrence of the deadly cycle of violence so familiar to anyone who has survived the last 25+ years in Afghanistan?

Texarkana car dealer disappears

Here's an eerie story from the Texarkana Gazette. A car salesman, Tommy Ables, was last seen when he accompanied a customer on a test drive. The customer was test-driving a BMW. The suspect is in his 20's. It doesn't sound good.

Cold weather memories

The recent cold weather precipitation brings back the memories of growing up in Arkansas. I lived along the fringe of St. Francis National Forest, the smallest national forest in America. Yet, I can vouch for the fact that it's still a large forest nonetheless. When the leaves fell off the trees and most of the reptiles had found their nest, I spent every afternoon after school "hiking" the Forest. I knew nothing of the term "hiking" until I was older, but in hindsight, I was a hiker.

The Forest was a wonderful place to hike because of the hills of Crowley's Ridge which stretched from Piggott (famous as a short-term residence of Ernest Hemingway) south to Phillips County. St. Francis National Forest sets on the ridge at the confluence of the St. Francis River and the Mississippi. I have hunted frogs on the St. Francis during a terrible thunderstorm and we barely got the boat pulled from the river at the muddy launch and the truck labored to climb the hill rising from the river. As a kid, my neighbor's trusty dog and I would head to the woods and stay past dark most days. The weekends allowed me to stay in the Forest all day and cover some ground. The Forest hills seemed endless all the way to the Mississippi River from my house. Walk up the hill, walk down the hill. Usually I traveled along deer runs through thickets.

Years before my family occupied their property, an old wagon road still lingered and squatters were located throughout the Forest back when. Small burial plots can be found along with an old gun emplacement cleared by the Yankees to guard the old wagon road. Loggers had long since harvested practically every tree. I've never heard of virgin stands of trees in the Forest. Deeper into the Forest, remains of the old squatter's camps were never cleared away and old tins and bottles and other products from the Depression era and sooner rotted with the years. The headstones at one particular plot I remember were treasure. One stone read the name and the exact age to the day of the child who died of pneumonia. The headstone made quite an impression on me. I was probably one of few people who happened upon the plot over the past 50 years. Most of the stones that were upright were broken by tree debris falling on them. The best stones were the ones set parallel to the ground. Sad way to live and die. Too young, this child.

My trusty neighbor's dog was named Honky by his owners, but I never called the dog by that name. He was "Dog" to me when we were hiking. He was a tough dog; half Doberman, half Setter with a short red coat. No stray dog in the Forest lasted for very long when he had his defenses raised. Usually, if I encountered people, they wouldn't see me because "Dog" would properly greet them. I normally tried to avoid people, but wasn't always successful. The folks I encountered that seemed dubious never saw me. I tried to spend less time on main trails and vehicle paths(these weren't legitimate roads into the Forest). They could be very difficult in a 4 x 4 to negotiate during when wet. I loved the Forest and spent more time there than socializing with other kids. When I bought a real mountain bike,years later, I traveled along a logger's path all the way to the man-made lake just a few miles from my parents' house.

After snows melted, the Forest still had some rather slick hills to sled and some wonderful moments were spent trying to kill myself. I wore my old motorcycle helmet on the more hazardous hills. Trees were in abundance along the slopes and they could always cause great harm as I flew down the hills. Sledding caused me to bash my nose once and I bled like a stuck pig until I applied enough pressure to stop it. I played "hockey" with some kids in the Forest at a cattle pond and always enjoyed pushing opponents into the thorns that surrounded most of the pond.

The Forest was filled mostly with deciduous trees and a number of the glorious beeches could be found through the Forest and the carvings of folks who had happened past the tree as early as the 1920s on one tree. I love the beech trees. They grow so tall down in the ridge valleys of the Forest and always have evidence within the cavity at the base of the tree of creatures that hide out in the less-than-secure hiding place. Oaks are rife within the Forest. We cut a number of white and red oak trees on our property for firewood and those trees were plentiful. The latest logging in the Forest scarred the landscape with the evidence of clear-cutting. I haven't been back in some time to check progress of new trees along the barren ridges. The log road is overgrown by now and others have bought properties on the fringe of the Forest who might be troublesome.

I have my memories of the Forest and I will treasure the moments hiking for hours each day. Luckily, I never got shot by hunters. I usually avoided first days of seasons for safety sake. I trust legitimate hiking trails, but I did a lot more trailblazing than following paths and I feared some jackass in a tree stand overlooking valleys who might shoot at a sound. There has been one reported hunter killing by a jackass who fired at a sound so far this year. A hunter could find some amazing perches to cover a lot of ground in the Forest. There were many places where several ridges converged on one point and, at times, a 360 degree firing area could be found for the best view for prey.

Arkansas is blessed with a number of great forest and wilderness areas. I'm glad I've had a chance to enjoy forests of several parts of Arkansas. East Arkansas forests certainly are worth exploring. Unfortunately, a number of undesirable humans can be encountered in the East Arkansas forest, so be careful if you are ever priveleged with a visit. The waters of the Mississippi River valley are another draw of East Arkansas forests. Bogs, creeks,oxbow lakes, bayous, and a number of beautiful rivers are rife in the region. I hope you can enjoy the forests of Arkansas as I have in the past ; you'll be glad you took the time.

Huckabee has earned clout on highways, higher ed initiatives

I believe the highways in Arkansas have been dramatically improved since the first bond issue. The Federal government is in debt at incredible levels and they may be unable to provide the same dollars they provide today. It's unlikely to be the end of Federal highway money because of the politics of transportation and the perception by most motorists that good roads are essential to a good quality of life for Americans. However, the assumption that Federal dollars will always be available for providing for transportation needs can change instantly with the fallout of a 2006 election cycle leaving all fixed ideas of the future in doubt. Opponents of the highway initiative all seem to have hidden agendas at stake and their characterization of the result of a yes vote is ridiculous at best. Huckabee, with all the good which has been accomplished during his term, deserves to lead Arkansans to victory with a passage of the bond initiative. Concerning highways, Huckabee has proven himself as a trustworthy steward of public finance instruments and his advocacy should clinch approval by the voters of Arkansas.

Granted, I'm positing nothing more than a gut feeling as a rationale for passage of both initiatives. I'm no great fan of Huckabee. I voted for Mrs. Claus in the last election. I have to be fair in assessing his influence on state government and his legacy will have some dings, but overall, he served us well. We owe it to our outgoing governor for his faith in the people of Arkansas that ultimately the correct path can be agreed upon despite the occasional disagreement. Our higher education institutions need to maintain,upgrade, or build new facilities and the money cannot always be raised through the normal means at the disposal of universities. Two year institutions rarely have the capacity to raise money like UA, UCA, UALR, or ASU. Smaller universities have some of the same problems as two year colleges raising money. Upgrading higher ed and vocational ed will make it possible for corporations to feel confident about locating jobs that pay excellent wages in our beloved state.

I would like to eventually see universal access to an education at a two year college in Arkansas so our work force can be trained adequately as industry continues to relocate to the Sun Belt from the traditional heavily industrialized regions. If our people are qualified to work at the best jobs, our state will naturally benefit. High school cannot fully prepare all students for life in society, so legitimate career training can help elevate kids who otherwise would have seen the best years of their life end at high school graduation.

Vote "YES" to each initiative for the benefit of all Arkansans.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Check out this pic from a Russian news outlet, FARK.

Espionage Chinese Style

Interesting article at CS Monitor about the unique nature of China's spy network. They like to rely on amateurs. Usually Chinese nationals studying or working in the U.S. are employed as well as targeting Chinese-Americans. The decentralized spy method is more difficult than the models of other nations who spy on the U.S. to uncover, much like the sleeper-cell model employed by al-Qaeda and its confederates in their terrorist operations. Fayetteville has its share of Chinese nationals; should they all be suspected? Only if you work with industrial and military secrets, one must presume. Spying on the U.S. isn't the exclusive purview of China; American allies such as U.K., France, and Germany all spy on us as the U.S. spies on them. Industrial and military secrets can be very useful in the lucrative defense competition between allies and certainly industry secrets unrelated to the military are of value.

Belgian Suicide Bomber

A suicide bomber in Baghdad was from Belgium, BBC reports. The Muslim convert reportedly led a troubled life and decided to share the misery with others. Luckily, her husband was shot dead by American troops before he could set off his own bomb.