Wednesday, February 28, 2007

TDIH: The Birth of the Republican Party

Feb. 28, 1854:

About 50 slavery opponents met in Ripon, Wis., to call for creation of a new political group, which became the Republican Party.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Jane's Back: The Effect of War Protests

In January 2007 there was a war protest and march in Washington DC. Speakers at the rally included the usual politicians and Hollywood luminaries. One name stuck out at me though: Jane Fonda, otherwise known as Hanoi Jane. Ms. Fonda is infamous for her Vietnam War era outspokenness, when she spoke at college campuses extolling the virtues of communism, called herself a socialist, and told students we should all "pray on your knees that we would someday become Communist." She also called returning POWs "hypocrites and liars" for saying they had been tortured despite Fonda's claims the previous year that US POWs were treated well. Perhaps most infamous is her trip to North Vietnam during the war. On this trip she made ten radio addresses propogandizing about the goodness of North Vietnam and how US soldiers were "war criminals". She was even photographed laughing with enemy soldiers while sitting in the very same anti-aircraft guns that were used to shoot down US planes and ended in the pilots' torture and death.

Many have accused Jane Fonda of treason. They say she aided the enemy during a time of war. This is what came to mind as I read that she had spoken at the anti-war rally- the first time she has publicly protested the Iraq War. It is interesting to note the juxtaposition of her actions 35 years ago with the current round of protests. It seems most have learned a few lessons from Vietnam, as no one calls soldiers baby killers, war criminals, or "hypocrites and liars" this time around. In fact, these protestors take great pains to pledge their support to the troops.

However, despite these self-imposed limitations on their rhetoric, are the protestors aiding the enemy? This is a charge vehemently denied and one that will earn the accusor swift condemnation. But I wonder if it is true?

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Bui Tin in 1995. He was the North Vietnamese officer that forced the South's surrender. He said that the anti-war movement in the US, including the protests and statements made by Jane Fonda and others, were "essential to our strategy" and that North Vietnamese leadership listened to the US news reports "to follow the growth of the American anti-war movement." He further stated that "through dissent and protest (the US) lost the ability to mobilize a will to win." The North Vietnamese strategy became one of holding on long enough for the protestors to win the war for them. Eventually the protests forced the US to withdraw from Vietnam, leading to the Communist takeover of the entire country. This communist government, the one that Jane Fonda told us to pray for, went on to kill an estimated 2 million people in the years immediately following the war.

How does this apply to Iraq? If anything, the battle for public opinion has become even more important since Vietnam. In February 2004 CNN reported on a letter written by al Zarqawi and intended for al-Queda leaders in Afghanistan. The letter details Zarqawi's concern over American resolve, and explains the next steps the terrorists would take. In order to make things worse in Iraq and test US resolve, Zarqawi pledged to incite sectarian violence by singling out Iraqi targets to bomb. Less than a year later the Samarra mosque was destroyed and sectarian violence became a daily occurence. Now, one year after that terrorist designed bombing, US public opinion has been swayed, Jane Fonda is again marching in protest, and our Congress is passing "non-binding" resolutions denouncing the war. Are we due for a repeat of history? What will be the death toll this time as we abandon another country to chaos? Will Iraqi terrorists consolidate their power to the tune of 2 million murders, just as Communist North Vietnam did? I hope we won't have to find out.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Our New Minimum Wage

As promised, during the House of Representatives' first 100 (working) hours the federal minimum wage was raised. Immediately after its passage questions were raised as to why American Samoa was exempted from the wage increase. Some representatives pointed to the fact that one of the largest employers in American Samoa, Del Monte, is headquartered in San Francisco, which just happens to be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's home district. These representatives waxed indignant at Speaker Pelosi's hypocrisy, especially considering her vocal proclamations of presiding over the most ethical Congress in history. Congressional leadership initially defended American Samoa's exemption, saying that the US territory had always been exempted from the federal wage standard. However, within days these leaders promised to change the bill to include American Samoa.

Despite the public brouhaha, I don't think anything unethical happened here, unless you count giving in to political pressure in order to save face as being unethical. For you "follow the money" folks, the Washington Times reported that Del Monte has not given a penny to any Democrat in the last five years. What I do think happened is that Speaker Pelosi and other House leaders listened to American Samoa's non-voting representative, Eni Faleomavaega, when he said that the minimum wage could "devastate the local economy". Or perhaps they read Del Monte VP Melissa Murphy Brown's warning that the wage hike would "severely cripple the local economy."

Interestingly, the sponsor of the bill, Representative George Miller, argued that American Samoa doesn't need to be covered by the minimum wage because a Labor Department committee reviews the island's minimum wage every two years. It would seem that this committee has historically agreed with Rep. Faleomavaega and VP Brown and allowed the current wages of $2.70 per hour to remain. It is instructional to note that listening to local elected officials, local business leaders, and providing some federal oversite and auditing functions has for the past 50 years settled on a local minimum wage far different than the one Congress has arbitrarily set. Unfortunately, because of its inevitable passage, the new federal minimum wage has put many American Samoans in danger of losing their job.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sulejman Talovic

The following was printed in the Times-News Sunday, February 18, 2007:

Sulejman Talovic was a Bosnian Muslim refugee. His formative years were spent in hiding, traveling from village to village to escape the genocide that killed 200,000 people, including his grandfather. At seven he lived near Srebrenica, where over 8,000 men and boys were killed. For a time they lived in a house with no water, no electricity, and a dirt floor. His father worked for a couple of dollars a day. They often went hungry.

In 1998 they made it to America. They lived in a poor, run-down part of Salt Lake City. Family members say that Sulejman's father "works all the time", and Sulejman himself dropped out of school at 16 to start working. He started a new job last December at an industrial laundry facility, and worked his regular 8-5 shift the day he caused so much pain.

Many point to Islam as the source of the problem, though the FBI immediately ruled out terrorist ties. I suppose it's possible that word will come out that he had some connection to extremist Muslim groups, but I think the problem is deeper than that.

I have worked side by side with some of Twin Falls' Bosnian refugees. One man told me he was a chef and had owned a restaurant back home. Then he showed me the bullet wound in his shoulder.

I am saddened by the loss suffered by everyone involved in the shootings. I praise and admire those refugees that survived the destruction of their way of life and work to begin anew. You are a benefit to the Magic Valley, and an example to the world.