March 2007

With a special skewer for Alberto Gonzalez, check here.

Photograph: Ilene Perlman

From an African Geek we hear a very positive message from Ghana.

Accra and Tema have been covered in flags for a couple of weeks now.

There have been brisk sales of flags and Ghana themed memorabilia.

Just about every car, taxis included, is flying the flag. Literally the city has been awash with red, gold green and black. Even more so than when Ghana was starting to dominate teams who were expected to murder us in the World Cup.

On independence day people showed up at the square to get seats early in the morning. Reportedly by 4:30 A.M it was impossible to find a seat even if you’d paid for one.
That was remarkably inspiring to see. Honestly, sometimes I underrate my country. I forget that one of the reasons that Ghana has managed to remain as stable as it has been is that people do see themselves as part of the same country to a large degree. There is so much noise about our religious, ethnic, economic and political differences that its sometimes easy to miss the ways in which we pull together. This doesn’t mean that things are perfect by a long shot. There are lots of things that need fixing in this country, but I’m seeing our confidence in our own abilities and our awareness of our potential increase significantly. And that gives me a bit more hope for the future.

Associated Press

U.S. Attorney Carol Lam (right) talks about the guilty plea
of Randall “Duke” Cunningham
as FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel Dzwilewski looks on
during a news conference held at the Federal Building in San Diego

Eight US Attorneys were fired by the Justice Department. And the evidence is piling up that that were fired for doing their jobs, rather than for not doing them. Evidence is also piling up that Karl Rove is the man who caused these attorneys to be fired. The most notable of those fired is Carol Lam, pictured above, who successfully put together the case against Duke Cunningham, and was well into other cases that appeared to implicate top Republicans. She was fired before she could conclude her investigation.

But the big question is: what were the attorneys who were not fired doing to keep their jobs, and please Karl Rove and Attorney General Gonzalez.

Of the 375 investigations or indictments of candidates and elected officials by US Attorneys since Bush took office, 298 involved Democrats. Were many US Attorney’s following Republican political instructions? It sure looks that way.

The allegations of political corruption against Democratic Senator Bob Menendez just before the November election now seem to have been politically motivated. If Menendez had lost, the Republicans would still control the Senate.

In the last few days we’ve also learned that Republican members of Congress called prosecutors to pressure them on politically charged cases, even though doing so seems unethical and possibly illegal.

The bigger scandal, however, almost surely involves prosecutors still in office. The Gonzales Eight were fired because they wouldn’t go along with the Bush administration’s politicization of justice. But statistical evidence suggests that many other prosecutors decided to protect their jobs or further their careers by doing what the administration wanted them to do: harass Democrats while turning a blind eye to Republican malfeasance.

Donald Shields and John Cragan, two professors of communication, have compiled a database of investigations and/or indictments of candidates and elected officials by U.S. attorneys since the Bush administration came to power. Of the 375 cases they identified, 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans, and 298 involved Democrats. The main source of this partisan tilt was a huge disparity in investigations of local politicians, in which Democrats were seven times as likely as Republicans to face Justice Department scrutiny.

How can this have been happening without a national uproar? The authors explain: ”We believe that this tremendous disparity is politically motivated and it occurs because the local (non-statewide and non-Congressional) investigations occur under the radar of a diligent national press. Each instance is treated by a local beat reporter as an isolated case that is only of local interest.”

And let’s not forget that Karl Rove’s candidates have a history of benefiting from conveniently timed federal investigations. Last year Molly Ivins reminded her readers of a curious pattern during Mr. Rove’s time in Texas: ”In election years, there always seemed to be an F.B.I. investigation of some sitting Democrat either announced or leaked to the press. After the election was over, the allegations often vanished.”
(Department of Injustice; [Op-Ed] Paul Krugman. New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.: Mar 9, 2007. pg. A.23)

Ghana – the satellite view from Google maps

Ghana is luckier than many countries. The first installment of the Millennium Challenge Account has been paid. There has been some doubt about these funds ever reaching the intended countries. The US has deposited $50 million with the Millennium Development Authority. The money came through on Wednesday March 7th following the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

There was one promising statement according to the account in the Daily Graphic.

Mr John Danilovich, a member of the delegation which represented the US . . . made it clear that the USA had not asked Ghana or any other country in West Africa to build a military base.

I would not count on the truth of this, but it is certainly promising.

The money may bring more opportunities for exporting produce. Transporting and shipping produce requires refrigeration.

. . . part of the money will be used to construct a Pack House at the Kotoka International Airport to be equipped with refrigerators for the storage of fresh horticultural products.

The money is to be used to develop agriculture throughout Ghana.

The MCA intervention districts within the three zones include Savelugu Nanton, Tolon Kumbungu, Tamale, West Mamprusi and Karaga, for the Northern Agricultural Area.

Others are Ejura Sekyedumasi, Kwahu South, Fanteakwa, Afram Plains, Sekyere East and Sekyere West for the Afram Basin.

The rest are Gomoa East, Awutu-Efutu-Senya, Akuapim South, Manya Krobo, Dangme West, Yilo Krobo, North Dayi, Hohoe, Ketu, Keta, South Tongu and Akatsi, for the Southern Horticulture Area.
. . .
The fine details of the compact indicate that the sum of $547 million will be used to modernise agriculture, provide transportation and deliver rural development services and facilities.

It is expected that the various community services focused on education, water and sanitation will improve the quality of life of women, who make up 70 per cent of agricultural workers.

The youth, who make up the majority of the Ghanaian society, will also benefit from education and agribusiness development to improve job opportunities for them.

The MCA fund will also be channelled into 950 km of feeder roads and 240 km of trunk roads to link farms to markets and the improvement of the National Highway, the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange to Mallam Road, to link farms to the ports.

Two new ferries with safety facilities and education to improve transportation in the Afram Basin will also be provided, while infrastructure, such as pack houses, storage and cooling facilities to reduce post harvest losses and improve incomes, have been incorporated.

Right on target, see them here.

Chernobyl, site of the worlds worst nuclear accident.
20 years later the population still suffers terrible health problems.

Energy experts” are recommending nuclear energy for Ghana. There is renewed interest around the world in nuclear energy, which is perceived as the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to increase electrical supply in a country.

Nuclear power is a big mistake.

Until now, nobody, in any country, has figured out a safe way to dispose of the nuclear waste from nuclear plants.

This, along with the health hazards, are what stopped the construction of nuclear plants in the United States. Nuclear waste is accumulating in the existing plants and causing health problems in the surrounding neighborhoods. The Bush administration has tried to get nuclear construction started again, but there is still no solution to the waste. It was all supposed to be transported to Nevada and buried. But transporting it across country is terribly dangerous. And there is no way to guarantee that once buried, it will not get into the surrounding land and ground water. Citizens of Nevada and around the country are fighting this with the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force.

European countries are already using African countries, and the oceans off the coast of Africa as dumping grounds for nuclear waste.

. . . for the past 15 years or so, European companies and others have used Somalia as a dumping ground for a wide array of nuclear and hazardous wastes.

“There’s uranium radioactive waste, there’s leads, there’s heavy metals like cadmium and mercury, there’s industrial wastes, and there’s hospital wastes, chemical wastes, you name it,” he said. “It’s not rocket science to know why they’re doing it because of the instability there.”

. . .

The Asian tsunami dislodged and smashed open the drums, barrels, and other containers, spreading the contaminants as far away as 10 or more kilometers inland.

. . .

The results of the contamination on coastal populations, Mr. Nuttall says, have been disastrous.

“These problems range from acute respiratory infections to dry, heavy coughing, mouth bleedings, abdominal hemorrhages, what they described as unusual skin chemical reactions,” he noted. “So there’s a whole variety of ailments that people are reporting from these villages where we had a chance to look. We need to go much further and farther in finding out the real scale of this problem.”

And –

Poor countries are victims of that illegal trade, which constitutes a threat to their biodiversity and culture, and hurts their chances for development.

In addition, what guarantees do we have that the plants will be well managed and that inspectors can not be bribed? Accountability is a problem in the United States, which has fairly good inspection regulations and law enforcement. The people who operate the plants in the US are still not always as careful about safety as they should be. They most certainly cannot be trusted without reliable oversight.

Two thirds of the energy produced by nuclear power is waste in the form of heat. It creates thermal pollution in the water supply, such as the Hudson River in New York state. Do we want more water pollution in Ghana?

Ghana should turn thumbs down to nuclear power.

Ghana’s President Kufuor reminds me of the United State’s President Bush. Both preceded their presidencies with a series of unsuccessful businesses. Both appear comfortable with looting the treasury for themselves and their cronies at the expense of the people in their countries. Both countries will likely survive these presidencies. But both will be damaged, and will the voters in both countries have the wisdom and the will to choose better leadership?

In many areas where Ghana was a leader 50 years ago, she has fallen behind. The most critical of these areas are education and health care. A healthy and educated population is the foundation of successful business and development. The best thing Ghana could do to improve her position in the world is bring back free universal public education. As an article on GhanaWeb points out:

Socially, Ghana’s government says the country has made strides in both health and education.

KSP Jantuah, disagrees.

“A child from a poor family had a better chance of going to a good school then than now”, he told AFP.

“We made (primary) school free and compulsory.

After the coups people had to start paying again”, he said, insisting that the same applies to health care.

If Ghanaian businesses wish to grow and expand, the best thing they can do is work to restore and expand access to education and health care.

« Previous PageNext Page »