I just can't fathom this, and that's being kind.Vacationing in Hell
It would seem that nothing, not even a devastating earthquake that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, can deter the American vacationer's drive to unwind. To prove the point, one cruise ship from Florida-based Royal Caribbean International landed in Haiti on Friday, the Guardian reports, and three more are due in this week.
Royal Caribbean cruise passengers visit Labadee Beach, a walled resort only 60 miles from the epicenter of the quake. On its Web site, the company advertises "pristine beaches," "breathtaking scenery" and "native charm." Armed guards patrol the perimeter, even under normal conditions.
Caribbean vacations have always provided a stark contrast between decadent resorts and the impoverished countries that house them, but not even the magic of the cruise ship could hide the horror at this uncommon port of call.
Royal Caribbean is continuing to ferry passengers to its Haitian resort at Labadee despite the misery wrought by the earthquake in Port-au-Prince.
"I just can't see myself sunning on the beach, playing in the water, eating a barbecue and enjoying a cocktail while there are tens of thousands of dead people being piled up on the streets," one commenter wrote on an Internet forum about cruises.
While Royal Caribbean's decision to cruise on to the destroyed country might seem callous, the company defends its decision, saying its ships are transporting not just cruise passengers but also foodstuffs for Haitians. The company has promised to use 100 percent of the proceeds from its cruise visits to Labadee to benefit victims of the quake.
"In the end, Labadee is critical to Haiti's recovery; hundreds of people rely on Labadee for their livelihood," Vice President John Weis told The Guardian. "In our conversations with [Haiti's special envoy to the U.N.] Leslie Voltaire, he notes that Haiti will benefit from the revenues that are generated from each call."
Cruises and resorts suffer from the same moral difficulties as sweatshops. On one hand, the symbolism behind impoverished workers slaving to provide luxuries to Western consumers is repulsive, while on the other hand, those industries are vital to the economies of developing nations. Guardian columnist Gwyn Topham points out that Friday's visit was really just business as usual -- the only difference was scale.
"Tourism provides a microcosm of modern globalized inequality, with all the advantages or injustices it bestows on those on different sides of the divide," he wrote. "From the Caribbean to Southeast Asia, cheap labor and land allow holidaymakers to relax in style for less."
Some passengers are determined to make the best of their sunny day in hell. "I'll be there on Tuesday, and I plan on enjoying my zip line excursion as well as the time on the beach," one told The Guardian.
Royal Caribbean says it is providing "at least $1 million in humanitarian relief" to Haiti
Has a certain "Let them eat cake" ring to it, doesn't it?
Turning to Massachusetts...let's see how the Massachusetts GOP is exploiting Scott Brown's victory. I'm expecting a surge beginning with the election of Charlie Baker, followed by contested races for every seat in the State House next time around.Or not.
It seemed like a solid strategy for Bill Hudak, Republican candidate for the state’s Sixth Congressional seat and a political novice: latch on to the sudden popularity of Scott Brown.
A day after Brown’s improbable election to the US Senate, Hudak announced that the victorious Wrentham Republican had endorsed his candidacy. Hudak released a video featuring him and Brown campaigning together. In it, he mentions the name Scott Brown six times in just over a minute.
The strategy has backfired. Badly.
And the aftermath has inserted an unfortunate wrinkle into an otherwise glorious week for Brown, whose defeat of Democrat Martha Coakley brought him national fame as a candidate for the people and a barrier-breaker in a state that almost always votes Democrat. It also served as a harbinger of challenges Brown faces as politicians attempt to draw on his sudden status as the face of the Republican Party.
The brouhaha began Thursday, when Brown denied he had made an endorsement. That came as several political blogs cited news reports from the 2008 presidential campaign, when Hudak erected a poster on his lawn in Boxford that depicted Barack Obama as Osama Bin Laden.
According to the reports, Hudak voiced an argument popular among far-right Republicans at the time that Obama was not born in the United States and therefore could not serve as president.
Hudak initially brushed aside the reports and denied he was a birther, as supporters of the argument are called. He insisted that Brown had endorsed him, and accused the senator-elect’s advisers of backpedaling.
But Hudak issued an apology yesterday and retracted his statement about the endorsement, saying things were “misinterpreted.’’
There are some political ties between the two. Brown had used Hudak’s campaign office as a telephone center, and the two appeared at events together. But Hudak evidently hoped to parlay that into much more, particularly now that Brown’s star is soaring.
It is something Brown is going to have to get used to and deal with.
“There’s going to be a lot of people saying, ‘We helped you win, and we want you to help further our cause,’’ said Dan Mulcare, a political science professor at Salem State College who specializes in American government. “He has a lot of political capital, a lot of legitimacy, and he’s inspired a lot of people in Massachusetts.’’
Given the new campaign finance rules, I wonder if GE or Raytheon is going to buy Scott first?3 comments (Latest Comment: 01/24/2010 00:45:20 by trojanrabbit
Date: 01/22/2010 12:08:55
We are only 22 days into the new year, and already my neck is sore from all the excitement. One story after another has driven us to the edge of despair, only to be updated with new details, or new analysis that pushes our emotions to the opposite side. My vertebra can't take this much longer.
We had a prelude of this at the end of last year. Martha Coakley, the party-appointed heir-apparent to Ted Kennedy's senate seat held a comfortable double-digit lead heading into the holiday break. A week later, the polls showed the Republican challenger had pulled dead-even with her.*whhiiippp*
25 comments (Latest Comment: 01/23/2010 03:06:44 by TriSec
Date: 01/21/2010 13:08:29
Please excuse the lack of a real blog today. Personal events of the last couple days have taken their toll, and today's blogger is getting some much-needed rest. 40 comments (Latest Comment: 01/21/2010 22:03:59 by Raine
Truth be told, I had another blog ready to post this morning. It was in the can and ready to be released. However, as I watched, heard and read the news on the Massachusetts senate race, I felt more and more that I had to change course and address this.
So Scott Brown is now a US Senator (elect). To be honest, I have several emotions running through my mind right now. The first, naturally, is sadness. Seeing a seat that had been held for so long by Ted Kennedy go to someone who seems to stand against everything he stood for is, to be honest, more than a little disheartening.
36 comments (Latest Comment: 01/21/2010 03:46:31 by Mondobubba
Ask a Vet
Date: 01/19/2010 11:21:42
Today is our 2,504th day in Iraq and our 3,026th day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 4373
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4234
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3910
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3514
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 145
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 325
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 961
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 632
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,395
Journalists - Iraq: 335
Academics Killed - Iraq: 431
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 950, 847, 400, 000 .00
Ya know, Senate Candidate Scott Brown (R-MA) wants to oppose the President on everything, but I'll bet this is one thing he won't have a problem voting for.
The US president plans to ask congress for an extra $33bn to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq this year, defence officials say.
The money, mainly for the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and other war costs in the 2010 fiscal year, would come on top of Barack Obama's expected request to increase the Pentagon's overall budget in fiscal 2011 to a record $708bn, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
Fiscal 2010 defence department funding, including war costs in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as military construction, already comes to $660bn without the $33bn emergency funding request.
The budget for fiscal 2011, which begins on October 1, is expected to be released by the White House only next month, but military officials have suggested it would top $700bn for the first time.
Despite the proposed increase for next year, analysts say Pentagon procurement is likely to remain under pressure, and more weapons-buying programmes may be cut, because personnel and healthcare costs are taking up an increasing chunk of the overall Pentagon budget.
Vital national interest
Last week, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he expected Pentagon funding to begin to drop within a couple years because of the country's economic woes.
Despite that, Obama and his defence secretary, Robert Gates, face a major challenge trimming even a limited number of weapons programmes over the objections of legislators who see them as a source of skilled manufacturing jobs.
After more than two months consulting military leaders, ambassadors and national security advisers in a review of US strategy in Afghanistan, Obama announced last month that he would send an extra 30,000 troops to the war.
The deployment, he said, was in the "vital national interest" of the US, and would create a situation allowing the US to start withdrawing its troops in mid-2011.
He said the additional troops "are the resources that we need to seize the initiative" and bring the eight-year long war to a "successful conclusion".
The increased deployment will increase the US military presence in Afghanistan to around 100,000.
Remember folks, thats *another* $33 billion on top of the running total you see at the top of the page. And we can't afford healthcare reform?
It all depends on the national priority. Our priority now is war and killing. I wonder if you gave voters a starker choice, what would we choose? Would we cut defense spending in favor of healthcare? Would we cut back on education, arts, infrastructure?
It all comes down to who's going to pay for it. You and me, paying an unfair tax burden, or the elites that pay the lowest tax rate of any civilized nation?
But, I digress.
That 33 billion the President wants for more war likely isn't going to help the situation in Afghanistan any. Last year was the deadliest year for Afghan civilians
since the war began.
The number of civilians killed in war-related violence in Afghanistan touched 2,412 last year, the highest number since the 2001 US-led invasion, the UN has said.
A report by the UN mission for Afghanistan pointed to the "intensification and spread of the armed conflict" in what was also the deadliest year for foreign forces, with 520 troops killed.
It said 70 per cent of civilian deaths were caused by Taliban attacks, while 25 per cent were killed by pro-government and foreign forces - a 28 per cent reduction in deaths caused by Western forces since 2008.
The remaining 135 civilians were killed in violence not attributable to the conflicting parties, the UN said in its report.
'Excessive use of force'
The UN found most deaths attributed to pro-government forces were killed in air raids as well as search and seizure operations.
"These often involved excessive use of force, destruction to property and cultural insensitivity, particularly towards women," it said.
But it said that a change in Nato command structure had helped reduce the number of non-combatant deaths by coalition troops.
US General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the foreign forces in Afghanistan, has made minimising civilian deaths and injuries a central tenet of his counter-insurgency strategy, ordering reduced air attacks as one way of achieving this objective.
The UN report said the change in Nato forces' command structure, "specific steps to minimise civilian casualties" and "a new tactical directive" by the force contributed to the reduction in non-combatant deaths.
Civilian casualties are a source of tension between the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and the international forces fighting the insurgency.
Recent incidents, such as the deaths of 10 civilians including eight teenagers in eastern Kunar province in an authorised but non-military US operation, have seen Afghans take to the streets to protest against the presence of foreign troops.
So....whether it's 59 or 60 seats, it looks like things won't be changing on the war fronts anytime soon.41 comments (Latest Comment: 01/20/2010 02:56:23 by livingonli
The work continues.
Date: 01/18/2010 13:34:31
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent. The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.
This past year, these two statements have shown themselves to be self evident. The work of Martin Luther King Jr. and others is far from over. The uptick in overt racism around our nation is unsetting, from pictures of the President with a bone in his nose, to pools excluding children based solely on the color or their skin. It has been a rough year for equality in this country. Some people are fighting to keep the status quo but many others are trying to push for progress. The thing about change, is that it can be glacial, and it can wax and wane, but it will NOT happen if one gives up. It's not enough to recite "I have a Dream
", you have to help make it happen. I refuse to let the status quo continue in this nation. For every step back, there are stories of success in this nation. Many of them come in strange and amazing places, that you would never expect. (hold on, this blog is going to make a hard left turn)Continue reading...
41 comments (Latest Comment: 01/19/2010 02:43:27 by Raine
Author: velveeta jones
Date: 01/17/2010 14:53:53
A few thoughts on giving to help those in need. Recently a group of people set up a table outside my workplace to collect money for disaster relief in Haiti. I became suspicious when I saw that they were collecting cash. Lots of cash. People who went about their daily rush, and feeling guilty about the situation in Haiti, combined with the heartbreaking photos the group posted, were filling the large jars at rapid pace.
I was even more concerned when I overheard one of the volunteers tell a donor that this was their only location! (Hopefully he meant locally, as they claim to be an international agency). Also, I must admit i did find it amusing when they asked if they could bring their collection table inside because it started to drizzle rain outside. I mean, really! What kind of disaster relief people are that wimpy? Perhaps I'm just cynical because I had to stand for days on end on a hot airport tarmac in New Orleans in blazing heat/sun while attempting to help people affected by Hurricane Katrina.
7 comments (Latest Comment: 01/17/2010 23:01:12 by Mondobubba
Date: 01/16/2010 14:29:24
I don't like Martha Coakley.
There, I said it.
I don't know what it is. She really and truly rubs me the wrong way. I don't think she's been that great of an Attorney General, and I also don't believe she has the temperment, passion, or wherewithal to be an effective senator.
I also didn't like the fact that Senator Kennedy's body was barely cold when the democratic machine in this state started lining up behind her; we had many good and bold candidates, but because it was important that she be the first woman senator from this state, she became the chosen one
And her attitude all along has been all wrong...from the day she annouced, it felt like she expected to be called "Senator"....and this entire campaign and election was nothing more than a formality before she went to Washington.
But then along came Scott Brown.
5 comments (Latest Comment: 01/17/2010 14:23:36 by AuntAzalea
The Other News
Date: 01/15/2010 11:55:53
The news coverage of the unimaginable disaster and tragedy in Haiti has been pretty much non-stop, and rightly so. So as a service to our readers, here are some interesting stories that might have flown a bit under the radar....
30 comments (Latest Comment: 01/15/2010 23:41:21 by Scoopster
There are no words to describe what I have been seeing.
Today, I ask you to do something, anything to help alleviate the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Haiti. That said, be aware. The FBI
has -- sadly and somewhat expectedly -- issued a fraud alert. Do what you can, but heed these warnings.
Today is critical for hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti. They need water, they need shelter and they need to be rescued. You and I can only donate what little money we have, and even if it is one dollar, it will help. I fear that this is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to what we are seeing. My heart is heavy, and I wish I could do more. There are lists of ways to help all over the internet. Here is one to get you started
. Please add to the list as you find more.
While tempted, I'm not posting links to the stories of devastation, or to the stories of the evil hatred I am seeing out there -- not in today's blog. Now is time to focus on helping the victims of this disaster. Now is a time to not waste energy on those that desire to see more suffering. The news will unfold on it's own as the day progresses, and I will allow for them to do their jobs.
Right now is the time when collectively we can put our energy together for those that need us most. This is one planet and one home. We must do what we can for the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers that need help in the most desperate way.
Raine 19 comments (Latest Comment: 01/15/2010 05:57:59 by livingonli
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