Category Archives: History

When I have Fears that I may cease to be

by John Keats

    WHEN I have fears that I may cease to be
    Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
    Before high pil’d books, in charact’ry,
    Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
    When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
    Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
    And feel that I may never live to trace
    Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
    And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
    That I shall never look upon thee more,
    Never have relish in the faery power
    Of unreflecting love;—then on the shore
    Of the wide world I stand alone, and think,
    Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

Apparently Keats died from tuberculosis (TB) in 1821. London suffered immensely from this disease in the past (killing up to 20% of the population) and there were many serious efforts to eliminate it entirely, so I find it surprising to see on the UK Coalition site that TB is spreading rapidly:

Tuberculosis is making a dramatic comeback in parts of the UK where levels of the disease are now higher than those in China and parts of India and Africa. The Tuberculosis rate has risen by 80% in London over 10 years, to reach 40 cases per 100,000. In 2001 were 7,300 cases in the whole of the UK, of which more than 3,000 were in London. Around 60% of the UK’s TB cases are people who were born abroad, and were infected it before they arrived. A study in 1995 showed that, among the homeless, levels of TB were 200 times higher than in the general population.

Perhaps even more alarming is that the disease is not being identified properly, which was also one of the problems that Keats’ faced:

A paper presented to a meeting of the British Thoracic Society showed that more than half the 121 cases of TB that arrived at an accident and emergency department in Newham were not recognised as TB, in spite of symptoms such as coughing up blood.

Vote for your king?

I find it odd that Americans would think it normal to elect a king and queen by ballot. That’s just wrong. But if you play along with it, how can anyone then get upset when a woman is elected King?

Let’s face it, if you are going to have elections, then you are allowing people to vote for their preferred candidate. Them’s the rules of democracy.

Now, if monarchies are really preferred, let’s dispense with the whole “popularity” competition nonsense from the start. MSNBC reports:

Hood College is reviewing its homecoming rules after a lesbian was crowned king, a college official says. […] Donald Miller, Hood’s student activities director, said all homecoming events will be reviewed and possibly changed. “We will look at what students want Hood’s homecoming to be,” he said.

Well, they voted didn’t they? How will you find out what they, the student body, want homecoming to be now? Go to the campus supreme court and demand a recount? Ho ho ho.

The College should acknowledge a vote, recognize that they are holding an election for a costumed and fanciful position of flair, and announce that if people care enough about this they should vote next year. Then they should celebrate the absurdity of voting for kings and queens and get on with things, not deteriorate into introspection and unenlightened devisiveness.

Incidentally, the MSNBC poll at this time shows 58% of 23973 responses say “a woman is a woman…let her run for queen”. Only 17% voted for “who cares” and there was no button to vote for “no one should be allowed to vote for kings or queens, period”.


Rafi Ron, former Israeli airports security chief, has some interesting things to say in the latest CSO magazine about the failure of profiling in security. He refers to a better system as behavior pattern recognition (BPR):

My experience at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv has led me to the conclusion that racial profiling is not effective. The major attacks at Ben Gurion Airport were carried out by Japanese terrorists in 1972 and Germans in the 1980s. [They] did not belong to any expected ethnic group. Richard Reid [known as the shoe bomber] did not fit a racial profile. Professionally as well as legally, I oppose the idea of racial profiling. So we are left with behavior, because behavior is probably the Achilles’ heel of the terrorist.

Excellent insights from someone with extensive experience on the subject. It’s just too bad he didn’t use the term “behavior-ling”. :)

Will America harbor Carriles?

At least he’s not harbored in a harbor, if you know what I mean.

I was just reading about runaway inflation in Zimbabwe, where bread costs about 30% more than last week — $66,000 Zimbabwean per loaf (that’s 66 US cents, if you can believe it). I was trying to get a better sense of the situation when I happened to read an op-ed piece in The Herald:

The case of Luis Posada Carriles has become an international embarrassment for the Bush administration. Ever since Posada illegally entered the US using a false passport and showed up in Miami in March 2005 expecting to be granted political asylum for his early career as a CIA anti-Castro agent, his presence in the United States has created a major quandary for the White House.

I do not remember hearing much about the Carriles case, you? And yet the Herald makes it seem like Bush himself is worried.

Here’s a little more background from the Washington Post:

Trained by the CIA in the use of explosives as part of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, Posada has been linked through the years with the bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner that killed 73 people; bombings in Cuban tourist hotels that killed an Italian tourist and injured 11 other people; and a 2000 plot to assassinate Castro in Panama.

Does that make him a terrorist? To be frank, and according to the CIA definition, yes.

Just to confuse things a little there appears to be plenty of documentation linking Carriles to the CIA, so I would expect some might try and suggest he is a patriot for blowing up civilian aircraft…although President Bush himself declared “Any nation that harbors terrorists are as responsible as the terrorists themselves.”

José Pertierra, a lawyer representing the government of Venezuela in the extradition case of Carriles, had this perspective on the situation:

There are enough laws in the United States to keep this terrorist in jail. What is lacking is the political will to do so. From the beginning of this drama, George W. Bush has wanted to shelter, rather than prosecute, the terrorist. Somewhere in a drawer in the Department of State are the pleadings filed by Venezuela, asking for his preventive detention as well as his extradition. The Bush Administration thus far ignores them and instead mocks U.S. law, as well as three separate extradition treaties signed, ratified and conveniently used by the government of the United States in other cases in its war on terror.

Hmmm. It is not as though relations between Chavez and Bush are warm right now, and an ex-CIA operative must have some importance/relevance to Bush Senior (not to mention Cheney and Rumsfeld), but what is Bush Junior’s position on this guy? With articles like this one from the Foreign Policy in Focus, it will be interesting to see whether the mainstream press picks up on the debate:

Posada has confided to journalists and others that for four decades he had worked on and off with the CIA to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro. In 1976, Posada teamed up with Orlando Bosch, another obsessed Castro-hater, and hired two Venezuelan killers to detonate a bomb on board a commercial Cubana flight over Barbados. Seventy-three passengers and crew members died. This was a blatant terrorist act. The hired weasels ratted on Posada to the police, landing him in a Venezuelan prison.

After a decade of inconclusive judicial proceedings, Posada’s Miami buddies bribed the prison officials and Posada “escaped” to Central America, where he worked for Lt. Col. Oliver North in supplying the Contras in their CIA-backed attempt to overthrow the Nicaraguan government.

In 1990 in Guatemala, an unknown gunman shot Posada in the face. He recovered, but didn’t regain full use of his voice. Even that didn’t stop him. In 1997, he recruited a Salvadoran to bomb hotels in Cuba. One bomb killed an Italian tourist. Cuban cops grabbed the Salvadoran, who named Posada as his employer.

Posada even boasted about his violence against Cuban tourism to two New York Times reporters in July 1998. How did he feel about killing the innocent civilian, they asked? “I sleep like a baby,” he replied.

*Sigh* I think I was hoping to live life without ever hearing the name “Oliver North” again, especially in relation to a current US President’s foreign policy in Latin America. I see an historic theme emerging here, however, and a recent briefing by Wayne Smith, Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy indicates that the US not only allowed Carriles into the country, but enabled him to do so:

Posada Carriles is in the United States thanks to the intervention of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Congressmen Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, all of whom petitioned the then-president of Panama, Mireya Moscoso, to pardon him and three other Cuban exile terrorists—which she did, as one of her last acts before leaving office.

So the US government supposedly helped get Carriles out of jail in Panama, and then “discovered” him trying to enter the US, and now refuses to extradite him to Venezuela? January 24th, 2006 was the deadline for his release, but I do not see any news at all in February on the subject. I assume he is still in US custody, but who is reporting on this issue now and what is the Bush Administration position? Will Carriles be tried for his crimes, let alone extradited?