Saturday, November 22, 2008

Somalia Pirates; That Town in Florida (Again)

Saturday morning ... two stories on my mind. First the hijacking crisis off the coast of Somalia. Earlier this week, the world's largest shipping company, Denmark's Maersk, announced they could no longer guarantee the safety of their most vulnerable ships in the Gulf of Aden -- an area about ⅓ the size of the United States -- and will reroute those vessels with decks closest to the waterline (mostly tankers) away from the Persian Gulf and Suez Canal and instead send them around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope, adding thousands of kilometres to the voyage and through one of the world's most notorious shipping lanes weather wise.

That Somalia has been allowed to run without any government at all for nearly two decades is scandalous. No one should have been surprised when the "Black Hawk Down" incident happened in 1993 given such lawlessness. You would have thought the world would have put its foot down and pulled out all aid, even humanitarian aid, until the people of Somalia or at least their leaders got their act together.

Instead, banditry has been allowed to ensue and the blood is on our hands for not demanding our governments put a stop to it. And these are not the pirates of old so romanticized by literature and the silver screen. These are terrorists seeking to exploit an already sensitive world economy; knowing the West is heavily reliant on the Middle and Far East's raw materials and finished wares.

Whatever differences may exist between the democratic world and that which isn't government need to agree that enough is enough. The Law of the Sea must be ratified ASAP, and navies given the power to deal with such thugs in an appropriate manner, by force if absolutely necessary. If it means temporarily re-flagging ships and a military escort to ensure safe passage so be it. As well the world must insist that Somalia get its act together once and for all and have some kind of functioning government. A state cannot have no laws; or an enforcement mechanism to ensure the laws stay in place.

Obama has said he wants to pull troops out of Iraq and that's good. He may want to temporarily redeploy some of those forces to the Persian and Aden Gulfs for a few months until this situation is stabilized if not eliminated all together. This is one area where global leadership is lacking right now and all eyes are on him.


And now, for another visit to that friendly neighbourhood called Ave Maria Town, Florida. (HT: AveMaria Watch)

Yes, more signs that Tom Monaghan's Promised Land (read: monument to his own glory) is in major trouble. For whatever reason, the town was deliberately built some distance away from Naples (27 km or 17 miles east, one supposes to ensure the town would be "uncontaminated" from the Gulf Coast's alleged "sinfulness"); and it was reported yesterday that because of current economic troubles a southwest Florida bank has delayed indefinitely plans to open up a branch in the town -- a complete reversal from some reports last summer which suggested that the bank actually wanted to move its headquarters to the town. A building has been completed but remains unoccupied. Interestingly because of this, the town continues to not even have any one bank at all even though most towns its size would have at least a couple by now.

You would think that another bank eager for business would want to take advantage of the lease opportunity or to grab new potential customers. Nope. According to the town's developers, there are no plans to have any bank come to the town other than the one in question. Well, actually, last year those developers announced that an Ohio-based bank wold also becoming to town to ensure competition, but according to that Ohio bank they never had any such plans to begin with.

So, two questions: First, why would they have announced there was an agreement when there was none? Was it a ploy to pretend the instant city was a viable place to live and to get new home buyers to come to set up home? Second, now that the other bank -- the one in Florida -- is getting cold feet too, why on earth would there be hostility to having someone else take up business? Was there a side deal to ensure a monopoly situation? Does Mr. Monaghan have an interest in the bank even if it just a hundred paltry shares?

We don't know because as usual there is a continuing cone of silence. As always these are not accusations. These are questions that remain unanswered.

All this from a man who promised that by 2077 that the university around which the town is being built would have produced between 35,000 and 45,000 "strong" marriages (depending on which news source Monaghan was speaking to on the rare occasions he deigned to come down from his throne to mingle with the commoners), and between 2500 and 4000 priests.

Hard to see this happening when its current enrollment is about 600 (3/4 of them undergraduates) and like other faith groups the rate of divorce among Catholics holds steady at around 50%; not to mention that its accreditation remains constantly on the edge. Its goal of having a 5000 enrollment in twenty years may be doable (if one stretches the imagination), but he's going to need even more salesmanship than Oral Roberts did for his school in Tulsa to pull it off.

And lest we forget, that ginormous chapel (less than half the originally planned size but still too huge for the purpose) built to resemble an upright salmon and not in a style more appropriate to the environment (say, Spanish mission, like the cathedral up the highway in Venice). Not to mention it's right in the middle of the migratory path of the Florida panther.

As far as I know, the school still hasn't been designated an officially "Catholic" one by the Church; merely it is for now a school that operates on what it least claims are Catholic values. (There is a big difference in the two concepts.)

There are other, more reputable and well established private Catholic universities out there -- Gonzaga, Georgetown, Notre Dame; heck even here in Canada we have St. Paul's (connected to the U of Ottawa) and St. Jerome's (affiliated with Waterloo). I don't deny that Monaghan has done a lot of good charitable work, but wouldn't he have been better off using the balance of his fortune to help the needy both around the world and at home, rather than trying to build monuments?


It sort of reminds me of a joke that made the rounds a couple of years back. Around the time John Paul II died, so did a businessman. They showed up at the pearly gates. St. Peter dispatched one of his lieutenants to escort the deceased Pontiff was to his new quarters -- a fair sized condominium in a high rise tower, where all the other Popes resided in the afterlife. It was livable. A nice sized apartment but nothing more. About the only perk was each Pope had a dedicated T1 connection to the Internet.

Meanwhile, St. Peter personally took the businessman to his new home, a huge Southfork-style ranch manor with indoor pools, facilities connected to every bedroom (twenty of them), all the creature comforts in every single oversized den and to top it all off, the plates and cutlery were made of solid 24 karat gold. As for the internet connection -- it had bandwidth and speeds that would not be possible even on earth for another thousand years.

The businessman, who was somewhat philantrophic in his life but never thought he was a holy person, asked St. Peter what gave.

"Oh, we've had a lot of Popes in our time; but you're the first businessman to come here since the American Revolution!"

Kidding aside, I hope you get the point.

"Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven ... for where your treasure is your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:20, 21)

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