Archive for October 2007

Illegal Immigrant Teens Die In Delaware Crash – Biden Silent On License Issue

Teenagers, alcohol and cars are a deadly mix, so when I first heard about this accident yesterday, I felt that little chill that goes up the spine of any caring parent who reads a story like this. Unfortunately in my little state of Delaware, I get that chill on average once a year. Everyday I drive by a spot where 2 local teens died nearly four years ago when the driver lost control while passing a stopped a car. The kid wasn’t drunk – just inexperienced – and the result is two concrete angel statues beneath pine trees next to the road.

Paramedics at the scene described the collision as “one of the worst crashes they’ve seen in a along time,” New Castle County paramedics spokeswoman Sgt. Kelli Starr-Leach said.

The three teens were in a BMW that is estimated to have been traveling at 80 MPH before it lost control, hit a median, flipped over, landed on top of a passing Honda Civic, before hitting a telephone pole and splitting in half.

It’s every parent’s nightmare. Unfortunately for the parents of the driver of the passing Civic, it’s their nightmare now too:

Matthew Wilson, 23, of Squirrel Hill Court in Mill Creek, succumbed to his injuries sometime Tuesday night, (Cpl. Jeff Whitmarsh, a spokesman for the Delaware State Police) said.

Wilson was the driver of a Honda Civic that was hit by a speeding BMW on Paper Mill Road.

Wilson was a security guard on his way to work the graveyard shift at a Bank Of America facility just 500 feet away.

Now it turns out that the speeding, drunk teens were in the country illegally.

A family spokesman, who is helping to translate for relatives coordinating the arrangements, said none of the four crash victims was in the country legally.

The family spokesman, who did not want to be identified, said all of the four friends worked two jobs, as construction laborers and fast food workers.


So how did an 18 year working here illegally afford a BMW? Illegal immigrant apologists like to emphasize the immigrants hard work and their sending money back home, as this article duly notes:

Merida, the driver, was living here with his 19-year-old brother and sending money to relatives in Mexico, the spokesman said. Ortiz was the cousin of Gran-Merida.

This isn’t the first time an illegal immigrant has managed to find cash that most legal immigrants and native born Americans would be hard to find. This past August Jose Carranza, aka Jose La Chira, gunned down three African-American college students in Newark New Jersey after posting $200,000 bond for aggravated assault and weapons charges plus 31 other counts including aggravated sexual assault of a child under 13 years old and endangering the welfare of a child he had a duty to supervise from two arrests in April and July.

According to the Wilmington News Journal the driver of the BMW at the time of the accident was an unlicensed driver Israel Palmero Merida, 17, of Bear. It doesn’t say whether the owner of the car, Gran-Merida, was licensed or not. The article does state that Gran-Merida was making payments on the car. One could assume that this would require a valid driver’s license to do, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this kid was able to make payments without one.

This being Sen. Joe Biden’s home state, and given the heat currently being generated by New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s unpopular move allowing illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses, it would be interesting to learn what affect this accident could have on Sen. Biden’s position on the issue. I’ve searched the web and been unable to learn whether Biden supports or opposes such legislation (probably both.) This includes Biden’s own website, which lists his positions on everything from the Iraq War to empowering women to “Ending 21st Century Discrimination” – whatever that is. There is absolutely no mention of illegal immigration, and especially none for granting drivers licenses to illegal immigrants – a move that has become a key issue for New York Republicans and one opposed by 72% of New Yorkers.

The local Delaware press treats “Delaware’s Favorite Son” the same way Pravda treated Joseph Stalin, so I am not expecting any information on this issue from it. I could place a call to one of Biden’s aides since I am a Delaware constituent, but I would feel sorry for the kid who took the call. Biden doesn’t have a position on illegal immigration, and especially on drunk Mexican teens getting behind the wheel of Beemer, then killing themselves and taking out a local man in the process.

This isn’t a tragedy. Tragedies are inescapable; they are demanded by Fate and there is nothing that mere mortals can do except suffer them. The cold hard truth is that these four kids should not have been here, should not have had a car, and should not have been drinking. There were numerous points where this outcome could have been stopped had our system – the system that Senator and Presidential Candidate Joe Biden has been a part of for 34 years. It’s a system that allowed these kids to hold jobs by Burger King and local construction firms even though they were here illegally. It allowed them to purchase and own a high-performance sports car that can outrun anything I’ve ever driven in my quarter century of driving. It allowed them access to alcohol.

I don’t fault the teenagers. As a parent I know that all teens are pretty much insane regardless of their nationality. They are incapable of the type of reasoning that most adults take for granted – the type that keeps most of us from drinking and getting behind the wheel.

Those three teens didn’t have to die on that road, nor did Matthew Wilson. Gran-Merida has suffered serious head trauma so it’s unknown whether he’s going to make it. It’s not a tragedy – it’s a travesty.

If I could have Senator Biden in my home right now, with my young son, and my wife, and my cats, dogs, gerbils, and tropical fish – my cozy little suburban home that is the anchor of my life in this world – I would ask him a question that no Leftist moderator will ask any Democratic presidential candidate:

Senator, after 35 years in public service, aren’t you partly responsible for this travesty of our American system that killed these kids and a young man on a road in your home state?

I wonder what he would say.

More on Malaria – And Good Karma For Bill Gates

Originally posted at Dean’s World here.

Last week scientists met to discuss the eradication of Malaria. This comes just after the appearance of two articles in popular science magazines New Scientist and Scientific American.

How the World Left Malaria Off the Hook, by Fred Pearce documents the failure of the world community to stop the malarial parasite during the 1950s and 1960s. He attributes the failure to a combination of aid cuts by the US congress, overconfidence over the control of the disease and its vectors, and the demonization of DDT by environmentalist groups. Pearce notes, "environmentalists were as determined to ban DDT as doctors had once been to banish malaria. In 2001, the pesticide appeared on a list of 12
toxic industrial chemicals that were to be banned worldwide under the
Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants." Fears that DDT would breed resistance were unfounded because DDT not only killed mosquitoes, it repelled them. "Roberts has also now shown that DDT is uniquely effective in banishing malaria not because it kills mosquitoes but because it repels them. He published these findings in August this year – but notes that the observations were first made in 1953 by the entomologist Robert Muirhead-Thomson. (link)"

Jeffrey Sachs takes a more political correct view of malaria, writing DDT’s "function as an insecticide in open fields (which is environmentally
unsafe and promotes resistance) also curtailed use of the chemical," while ignoring the fact that countries banned the pesticide and refused to fund its use at all in the developing world.

His solution? Free bed nets and cheap drugs. While both are part of the solution, cheap drugs such as chloroquine have been in use for decades. The result? Most malaria parasites have some degree of chloroquine resistance. While artemisinin therapy is relatively cheap, there is already concern about the development of resistance to the wormwood-based drug, so the WHO and CDC recommend its usage in combination with other anti-malarials in order to minimize resistance.

Treatment is $1/day – which doesn’t sound like much until you realize that in many regions that’s a day’s pay for a worker. However treatment consists of six doses – so that’s six days of wages for one person. If the average worker is supporting 4 people, chances are that one of them will be sick with malaria at any given time – so that theoretically leaves the worker broke after paying for malarial treatments. Jeffrey Sachs is an economist. He should have known better.

Here’s another problem. Have you ever slept under a bed net in the tropics? The holes are tiny but effective at keeping out any breeze, thereby making sleep under one uncomfortable. Since the mosquitoes that carry malaria are most active at night, insecticide-treated bed nets have been proven to significantly reduce morbidity in children. They are an important part of the fight against malaria, but they are only one weapon in an arsenal that we must deploy against a disease that kills 1,000,000 children a year and sickens as much as a tenth of the world’s population.

In Tanzania, people are extremely social and tend to meet and congregate outside at night. Burning mosquito coils and citronella candles as well as wearing repellents and protective clothing would go a long way to cutting down the incidence of malaria. Other weapons include environment management strategies that seek to change the conditions the mosquito needs in order to pass along the malaria parasite. These strategies involve the local people organizing to removing weeds from irrigation canals and clean up debris that could fill with water and provide mosquitoes places to breed: "In Kampala, brick pits, tire ruts and puddles were the predominant
sites favored by the major malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae s.l.." In Malawi, a Habitat for Humanity project where mud and thatched roof huts were replaced with houses made from brick and tile not only cut the incidence of malaria, but also respiratory illness and diarrhea in children. A study conducted jointly by Boston and Harvard Universities in conjunction with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Resources found that changes in the maize cultivation practices can control the mosquito population based on the discovery that mosquito larvae prosper on maize pollen.

All of these grassroots efforts involve the local people actively participating in their own protection instead of passively relying upon aid from the national government or international relief organizations. Because the locals are involved in their own security, they are much more likely to continue these practices after the aid money and has dried up and the attention of the international community has shifted elsewhere.

A vaccine is the Holy Grail for those fighting malaria. Currently the best candidate is RTS.S, a vaccine funded by GlaxoSmithKline and the Gates Foundation’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative. While this vaccine is only 50% effective for children under the age of 18 months, it is the first vaccine to show any significant promise at fighting the disease. As GSK CEO JP Garnier points out in an article in The Times of London, the task is complicated by the disease’s multi-stage life cycle as well as its endemicity in regions with few medical resources and riven with linguistic and religious divides.

There is a lot of finger pointing at the environmental movement and Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring that became its manifesto for succeeding in banning DDT, but Carson herself cannot be blamed for the DDT bans since she was not calling for a ban on its use in the fight against malaria, only on its use as a general pesticide for crops. While environmental groups have a responsibility to recognize their hand in the resurgence of malaria from the brink of eradication, and those who continue to call for the ban without scientific evidence to back up their claims should be held accountable for their positions, we must recognize that malaria is not really a single problem that will fall to a single solution. Instead, like cancer, it is a complex system that will only fall to a systematic and thorough approach involving all of the resources at our disposal.

Bed nets. DDT. Cheap Drugs. Grassroots efforts. A vaccine. All of these weapons and more must be brought to bear against a disease that kills a child every 30 seconds. To that end I am pleased to see Bill Gates take a personal interest in this fight. I’ll remember that the next time Windows blue-screens on me.

Thanks, Bill!

Karma Strikes Burmese General & His Brother

Prime Minister Gen. Soe Win, reviled for his role in a bloody attack on Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her followers in 2003, died Friday after a long illness, relatives and state media said. He was 59 and was said to have been suffering from leukemia… Soe Win’s twin brother died on Sept. 19.

A good Buddhist prays for them; but I am not a good Buddhist.

Anti-American Bigot vs Wife Abroad

Originally posted at Dean’s World here.

The Wife just called me before she went to bed in Tanzania. It seems she got into it with a 24 year old New Zealander who felt the need to tell the Wife “just how hated you Americans are in the world,” and how we “f*** things up everywhere you go.”

Such run-ins with loudmouths abroad aren’t as common as you think. While living abroad for five years back in the ‘90’s I probably ran into these bigots maybe half a dozen times. They invariably came from small countries most Americans probably couldn’t find on a map, and often work for – or have worked for – the United Nations (Kiwi-girl worked for the UN). You’re much more likely to face anti-American sentiment on your local college campus than you are to encounter it while traveling. If anything, the word “American” still causes faces to light up in most places of the world.

I mention this because I’ve known quite a few Kiwis and neighboring Aussies, and they are truly some of the best people to meet while traveling. If you are ever in a place that’s dangerous, nothing and I mean nothing beats having an Aussie at your back. And while New Zealanders are upstaged by their neighbors to the west in the same way Canadians are by their brothers to the South, they aren’t a shabby lot either. In fact visiting New Zealand is high up on my “Life’s To Do List.”

But there are bigots wherever you go, and this little New Zealand girl, a quarter of whose paycheck comes from hated America, felt it was her duty to use my wife as a punching bag for all her pent up hatred for the United States. “Iraq was better off under Saddam,” is a common meme we hear on the Left, and one that is not borne out by any evidence from the Iraqis – unless you consider only the opinions of Baathists. “Vietnam” The Magic Word that’s supposed to connote “failure & f*** up” – Yes, we’re so hated by this country that it is doing its best to improve relations and trade with us.

I reminded the Wife that the United States was the largest single aid donor to Tsunami relief in 2004. Kosovo is free because of US involvement. The EU blew an opportunity to solve the crisis in Bosnia, and it was only after the US became involved that the slaughter in that state stopped.

The Wife hasn’t heard about the recent turmoil in Burma (probably because she’s getting much of her news from – no joke – al Jazeera). I updated her on events there, and told her that demonstrators were begging “Where are the Americans?” Not “Where are the New Zealanders?” and definitely not “Where is the United Nations?”

She wished I was there to argue with the little trollop, but I reminded her that it was pointless. She was 24 and knew everything there was to know about Life, especially about America. Only age and experience could change it, and chances are she would live her entire life with a burning hatred of our nation.

But in the end, her opinion wouldn’t matter a jot. Bush will soon leave office, and a prettier face will take his place. Another disaster or war will erupt and Americans will be criticized for “not acting sooner” – as we did in Bosnia, “doing the wrong thing” in Iraq, and “not acting at all,” as we did in Rwanda and continue to do in Darfur and Burma. But someone somewhere will call out “Where are the Americans?” and we will come again.

But should we? I haven’t forgotten Nicolo Machiavelli’s adage: “Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil.”

Perhaps a little American Isolationism – our default state – is called for.

UPDATE: The more I think about this, the madder I get. I am currently exposed to people from all over the world at my job. I work with two people from Beijing China. Even though I am fuming about what’s happening in Burma and Darfur, and haven’t forgotten the fear that Chinese students at my university felt after the Tiananmen Square massacre, I don’t bring up these topics with them – nor do I mention the continuing oppression of Falun Gong. This is partly because of working together, but I also don’t hold them responsible for any particular action of their government.

When we travel we are ambassadors for our countries, but that works both ways: Kiwigirl is doing a poor job representing her nation. New Zealand might want to consider ‘recalling’ their ‘ambassador’ to Tanzania for not just being bigoted, but more importantly, for being plain rude.

And on second thought, after reading this I think I’ll skip New Zealand. I’ll go to Australia instead.

The Kiwi and the Eagle: Anti-Americanism in New Zealand

Originally posted at Dean’s World here.

I recently wrote about my Wife’s experience while serving at a hospital in Tanzania with a 24 year old New Zealander. The girl was well versed in anti-American propaganda and felt compelled to heap abuse on my Wife. The Wife is quite capable of defending herself, but she lacks my background knowledge of American foreign policy and world history. During our brief phone call, I provided her with some basic facts to combat the Kiwi’s propaganda regurgitations. Afterward I decided to dig deeper into the youngster’s bigotry and did some research into New Zealand’s attitudes towards Americans. What I found changed my mind about wanting to visit the place anytime soon.

Part of New Zealand’s anti-American bigotry is no doubt due to size. New Zealand has four million people – roughly the same number of Americans who eat in their sleep or believe they’ve been abducted by aliens. Living in a tiny nation may make one cheer any victory over comparative giant – even in such a yawner sport as yachting. However New Zealand shares similar history and culture to the United States. It is a former British colony with an established democracy and similar religious background, with more Protestants than Catholics, and more Buddhists than Jews and Muslims. New Zealand has spent most of its time since independence under European-style socialist governments. However over the past decade it has become a strong advocate for free trade, especially in closed agricultural markets.

Yet Only 29% of New Zealanders had a positive view of the United States in 2004. That puts it on par with Pakistan at 30% and below Russia (43%) and China (42%). So much for the idea that shared cultural ties can bind people together.

In 2005, an American working as a high school teacher in rural New Zealand filed a lawsuit in the country’s Human Rights Commission after being verbally abused by his students because of his nationality. Another American, Douglas Sparks, brought his family to the country to oversee the Anglican Church’s Wellington Cathedral. Two years later he left vowing never to return after being the target of anti-US graffiti and his children were taunted in school by classmates telling them they hoped American soldiers would be killed in Iraq.

That same year outgoing US ambassador Charles Swindells in his final speech slammed New Zealanders for indulging in “empty, inaccurate criticism of US ideals or actions that offers no constructive alternatives and gives no credit where credit is due.”

Many are quick to leap to conclusions that the anti-Americanism is a recent phenomenon due primarily to the Iraq War. However anti-Americanism in New Zealand predates the Iraq War by about 40 years, starting with the Vietnam War protests and more importantly for New Zealanders to the country’s refusal to allow port calls by the US Navy starting in 1986, which resulted in a US freeze on high-level political visits there. In 1998, the Clinton Administration tried to warm relations up in one way by approving a deal that gave New Zealand a squadron of F-16 for a pittance to upgrade its obsolete air force. However the following year New Zealand elected an anti-American Labor Prime Minister Helen Clark who refused the offer.

In 2002, New York Times senior staff writer and former Clinton speechwriter James Gibney visited New Zealand to give a speech and was stunned by the level of anti-Americanism he found.

There was a very black and white view of US actions towards Iraq, and what our motivations were in the world. There was a sense that the US was much more of a rogue state than many of the countries that it labelled rogue states and that was kind of surprising to me. The other thing that was surprising was that people talked of US opinion as being monolithic. It was like we were all one and there was no distinction made between Democrats and Republicans or people who might disagree with Bush administration policies. That was unfortunate, because there seemed to be an animus directed towards America as a whole rather than just the administration’s policies [emph add] . That took me aback.”

New Zealand Ambassador to Washington Denis McLean attributes anti-Americanism to the country’s “residual pro-Britishness.” “For a long time we were quite happy with the British and I think a lot of people in New Zealand would still rather prefer the British to be running the world. We do think like them.” McLean also notes New Zealand’s isolation as being partly to blame. It’s nearest neighbor, Australia, is a thousand miles away – greater than the distance between New York City and Bermuda. It’s nearest neighbor to the south is Antarctica at 3,000 miles and to the east is Peru, 6,500 miles away. ”

The World War 2 generation that waited for the arrival of US marines in New Zealand to save them from an expected Japanese invasion is slowly dying off, replaced by generations who have grown up without any direct threat. Like the kiwi which lost its ability to fly in the absence of predators, young New Zealanders have lost the important roles defense and patriotism play in their own nation’s health and security. Writer Joanne Black notes, “the flag-worship of Americans could not be further from the position of many New Zealand schoolchildren who would be unable to differentiate New Zealand’s ensign from Australia’s.” Australia, having been attacked by the Japanese during World War 2, tends to take defence issues more seriously than its isolated neighbor. Former Ambassador McLean states “They’re slightly closer to Asia, but the real bottom line is that they know they are vulnerable. We tend not to think in those terms…”

Word is getting around. Travel forums are filled with posts by Americans traveling there who are worried that they will be discriminated against for jobs and housing. Even Left-wing ideology doesn’t protect expatriates like University of Auckland senior lecturer in political studies Dr Paul Buchanan, who visits the US twice a year and is “struck when I get there by how it is Rome before the fall.” “I have in the past couple of years, particularly related to some
public commentary I’ve made, had some nasty emails saying, ‘bloody Yank, go back home’.”

For millions of years the kiwi thrived in its isolation. However today it is endangered by introduced predators including stoats, dogs, cats, weasels - and just about anything else that is fast enough to catch it. Only human intervention has saved the flightless bird from extinction. Likewise New Zealand has thrived under the global security umbrella provided by the United States and its neighbor Australia. While radical Islam hasn’t caught hold in the nation yet, the support of jihadis in Iraq by some in New Zealand along with the nation’s anti-American bigotry should give New Zealanders pause for one important reason:

The weasel is a greater threat to the kiwi than to the eagle.

Years ago a Japanese once told me, “Japan is a small nation, and we Japanese have small hearts. America is a big nation. You Americans have big hearts.”

I answered that it didn’t have to be that way, that Japan may be a small nation, but it played an increasingly large role in the world. It was only a matter of time before the Japanese found that they had “big hearts” too.

Since that time Japan has sent peacekeepers to Cambodia, Afghanistan and Iraq. It has provided crucial logistical support in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as well as for the Tsunami relief effort. It has also backed US policies vis-a-vis North Korea at critical times, thereby helping East Asia – and the world – become a safer place IF Kim Jong-il gives up his nukes (and doesn’t sell them on Ebay to Syria). Have the hearts of Japanese gotten bigger? I’d like to think so.

New Zealand, on the other hand, is a small nation, but its growing anti-Americanism only diminishes it further.

The Limits of Nonviolence in Burma

Via Andrew Sullivan

From a reader with first-hand experience in Burma:

If freedom is to be gained in the near-term, the Burmese junta need to be dealt a death blow that can only be administered through military defeat.

While I admire Aung San Suu Kyi, I’ve come to the conclusion that only guns can liberate her – and her nation – from captivity.
Aung San Suu Kyi - in happier times

Gratitude Part 2: 2 Years After Tsunami

Indonesians march to show their gratitude for American aid after the Tsunami disaster.

Indonesian Muslims march during an anti-Israel protest in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia.

I’m glad I didn’t donate
a dime to the relief effort.

UPDATE: Out of curiosity, I searched for the figures for how much aid we donated.
According to this article, total tsunami aid from the US government, corporations and individuals totaled $1.5 billion.