Le bon temps rouler encore!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006



You just can't hold a good town down.



There are brave men in Europe too...

Below is an except of an interview with Anders Fogh Rasmusen, the Danish Prime Minister. The complete interview is at the Agora. Not all of Europe is supine.

-------------------------------------------------------

Has the basic view been skewed in favor of the religious communities?

"I think that’s very clear. If it bleeds, it leads and flag burnings and the burning of effigies and arson and violent protests in general are easier to are depict than the insubstantial values of Freedom of Speech and Press. There is also a tendency, out of fear or weariness, to just feel ‘let’s move on already’ and that the response then is ‘okay, you win’ and to just give in. But that will do noone any good. Peaceful coexistence must be the goal and the means."

How is that attained?

"Well, that can only be attained by accepting that Freedom of Speech means that everything can be scrutinised and is up for debate. I will, to take an example, never accept that Sharia can’t be examined critically. It mustn’t be so that just because someone says it’s sacred, it’s not to be the object of discussion. There’s been a lot of talk about people being offended, but you’ve got to ask yourself what is most offending - a few cartoons or two boys that have been hung in Iran or women that are stoned to death or have their hands chopped off. It’s important to keep the right perspective."

What would you say?

"I know what my personal preference is. I get most offended by seeing two teenagers hanging from the gallows in Iran, and I want the freedom to say that," says the Prime Minister. "By any means available, we must ensure that no man is persecuted or discriminated against solely because of his religion. That means that we must reject anti-semitism, islamophobia, anti-christianity and ensure that all men have protection for their right to believe whatever they want. That is an essential part of the answer. And that, I think, can be done in good manners, to say that we must be allowed be allowed to question everything and be critical, while protecting all people of all faiths against discrimination and persecution. I would even say that if that was something that could be agreed on universally, it would be a beautiful thing. That would also mean that Christians were guaranteed equal opportunities in Moslem countries."

-------------------------------------------------------

Add this Al-Jazeera excepted interview with an Arab-American psychologist, Wafa Sultan, posted at Memri.


Wafa Sultan: The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings. What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete.


(HT Stephania at Free Thoughts)

Will France Even Make it to 2010?

I was stunned by Melanie Phillips’ piece entitled “A marriage made in hell.”

One might think that the hard French right-wing would be hostile towards the Islamic threat within their midst. What in heaven's name might white racists have in common with radical Islamists? Well, it appears that some of us have been quite naive. Phillips quotes Michael Gurfinkiel:

“The National Front is surprisingly popular among Muslim immigrants or second-generation Muslim citizens. For all its campaigning about immigration, Mr. Le Pen's party has always extended support to Arab and Islamic causes abroad, from Saddam's Iraq to Arafat's or Hamas Palestine, and from Al Qaeda to Iran. And it is as firmly anti-American and anti-Jewish as the Muslim community itself tends to be.”

“Neofascists think Jews and Americans are the chief enemy, rather than Arabs and Muslims. In a way, they even tend to celebrate Arabs and Muslims as fellow fascists. As for Christian right-wingers, they see Arabs and Muslims as the chief enemy. For years, Mr. Le Pen has been pretending he is a Christian right-winger rather than a neofascist and that resistance to Muslim immigration is his major concern. Now he has emerged on the side of the neofascist branch and is ready to drop the anti-Muslim issue.”

I cannot see how France can survive. Does this once great nation even have five years left? One can only hope that Michael Gurfinkiel is exaggerating. If not, the situation is worse than even I suspected. It turns out that I may have been too optimistic!

Not everybody hates us

An interesting look at people watching America .

via Dennis who also has more facts on interesting stuff like International Ship and Port Facility Security.

Whose ineptitude?

I have noticed that whenever certain folks began to realize that maybe they went off the deep end concerning some nefarious act on the part of George Bush, they always explain it away with some remark about Bush administration ineptitude. Bad PR.

There might be some truth to that from time to time, however, I think that often as not it is not Bush's ineptitude that is at the heart of the confusion.

It seems that now many pundits on the right have begun to rethink the Dubai deal and it has dawned on them that the whole knee jerk Facts, I don't need no Stinkin facts raving about the issue is beginning to seem a tad overdone. Who do they blame? Well Bush of course. He should have seen this coming and done a better job of preparing them. Maybe it was all the Thank You notes they were getting from Hillary Clinton that made them pause to wonder.

Well this Dubai deal was no big secret, the pertinent facts were there for anyone who cared to find them and yet it seems the media and the pundits on both the left and right must be lead and directed like small children toward the facts. Like the fact that the UAE are in fact allies and Dubai Ports is in fact a world class company with an excellent reputation and the initial reports of port takeovers and security threats were based mostly on knee jerk prejudice and just plain ignorance.

When Cheney had the shooting accident {doesn't that seem ages ago?}, the initial reaction was once again, unbridled hysteria and paranoia. And of course pundits and bloggers complaining that the Bushies should have anticipated the reaction.

When Katrina was bearing down on the Gulf Coast I do not remember any serious reporting on disaster preparedness in cities like New Orleans before landfall. No, they did not download the New Orleans evacuation plan and then go about [like real reporters] reporting whether or not the city officials were doing their job. Instead they treated the whole thing like a Hollywood disaster film complete with melodramatic performances in front of the camera. When it was over and it turned out maybe there had been some hysteria and down right pathetic coverage...the response was to criticize the Bush administration's poor PR skills, once again they should have known how people would react. I think the Bush administration should have invaded LA before Katrina made landfall, but then again imagine how folks would have reacted.

I have no idea if some terrorist is going to sneak wmd in through our ports or over the border, or if they are already here. The only thing I am sure of is that if something bad happens, or even something certain folks deem unexpected or suspicious occurs the reaction will be over the top.

And when the Bush administration fails to fully anticipate the event or hissy fit or pseudo scandal they will be accused of ineptitude. Because after all if Bush was on his toes he would just know how people were going to react and he would fix things.

After all people are not responsible for their actions or reactions, the Bushies are.

When Bush is back at his ranch who will get the blame?

McCain-Feingold revisited?

Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument in a Vermont case, Randall v. Sorrell, involving a challenge to that state’s highly restrictive campaign finance regulation. The Vermont law in controversy severely limits political campaign contributions and expenditures, and is viewed by some as an incumbency protection scheme. This statute was upheld on appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004 by a 2-1 majority. The two judges voting in the majority were appointed by President Clinton.

Modern campaign finance legislation began with the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which required disclosure of campaign contributions. In 1974, the Act was amended to set limits for both political contributions and expenditures in federal political campaigns and also established the Federal Election Commission.

Limitations on contributions and expenditures were considered by some to be infringements on free speech and the 1974 Act was challenged in court. In 1976, the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo upheld campaign contribution limits but ruled that limits on expenditures were an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.

Fast forward to 2002, where new campaign finance legislation in the form of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold) was passed by Congress and signed by the President. This Act limited the use of “soft money” (defined as funds used for non-campaign purposes but intended to influence elections) by political parties.

McCain-Feingold was challenged and in 2003 the Supreme Court in McConnell v. FEC upheld the Act by a 5-4 majority, with Justices Breyer, Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, and Ginsburg voting to uphold. O’Connor wrote the majority opinion.

In the 2004 presidential election, the weakness of McCain-Feingold was exposed. Massive amounts of money were diverted from political parties to new “527” committees. MoveOn.org, the Media Fund, America Coming Together, and other 527 committees, mostly from the political left and financed by wealthy individuals like George Soros, were unregulated by McCain-Feingold and spent millions of dollars in an effort to influence the presidential election.

Now comes this Vermont case, with two Clinton-appointed judges upholding new restrictions on campaign expenditures, while 527 committees remain unregulated.

But now throw into the mix the fact that Justice O’Connor has retired. Justice Alito now sits on the bench in her place.

Although the decision in Randall v. Sorrell won’t be published until May or June, perhaps this case will result in a new majority that supports free speech in campaigns and thereby lessens the role 527 committees in the federal election process.

I’m optimistic. Here's another account of the court proceedings today. And another.

The Grace Store

Rich Cohen writes a lovely microfiction.

What would be a fair price?

A Balrog in the Woodpile?

WSJ, today:
WASHINGTON – Behind the furor over the proposed takeover of five U.S. ports by a Dubai-owned company is a small stevedoring outfit caught up in a legal spat with its partner at the Port of Miami, Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co.

Through two lawsuits in London and Miami, and a flurry of lobbying in Washington since late January, Eller & Co., of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has become an obstacle for Dubai Ports World's $6.8 billion takeover bid of P&O of London.


That section is subscription required, but the WSJ Law Blog has more:
The Wall Street Journal’s Neil King and Greg Hitt report this morning that the hysteria surrounding the proposed takeover of five U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World has its origins in a lawsuit.

Eller & Co., a small stevedoring firm (the Law Blog enjoys that word so much we would like to write it again — stevedoring) based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is engaged in a legal dispute with its partner at the Port of Miami, Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation, the company that Dubai Ports World wants to acquire.

Prime numbers

I typed an 800 number into google to find out who it belonged to. No luck on that count, but I did find the number listed here.

Which really made my day.

A Flares Retrospective

The Academy Awards are coming up again this Sunday and in preparation Flares Into Darkness presents this pre-Awards review. From our special Los Angeles correspondent.

It has been my custom to assemble an ordered list of my favorite movies of the preceding year, sometime close to and prior to the Academy Awards ceremony honoring movies released the previous year, for every year since 1974. These lists are occasionally updated as I see more movies from past years. Before 1988 these movies were viewed primarily in repertory movie theaters; since then they have primarily been viewed while lying in bed or on a couch somewhere. I've never placed a newly discovered movie into an existing list in the first or second position.

A friend recently viewed for the first time the movie that is second on my 1993 list*, and that got me to thinking that it might be worthwhile to take a look back to say 10, 20, or 30 years ago to see what movies I'd placed second in those years, and to see if I still regard them less highly than the movies I placed first, and more highly than everything else that followed them.

In 1975, I was still in high school so I lived in Los Angeles. I didn't see as many movies as I would have liked, but I did see most of the high profile--and not a few cult--movies. I first saw the movie that would win the Best Picture Academy Award, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, at one of the old movie palaces on Hollywood Blvd. The occasion was an English class field trip. We'd read the book. We'd not read Barry Lyndon, but that is the adaptation I find I had put into the number two slot that year. It is there primarily because Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Dr. Strangelove) directed it and because it is brilliantly photographed. Its leads, Ryan O'Neal and Marisa Berenson, were actors for whom I had little regard and, yet, I wasn't put off by their presence. My favorite movie released in 1975 was (and is) Steven Spielberg's Jaws. I thought that movie an improvement on the book and, despite a few problems of believability once the shark surfaces, there are few moments in movie history more memorable than Roy Scheider's reaction shot when it does, and there is nothing that ever caused me to jump more in my seat than a certain surprise earlier on. Were I to reassemble this list now I'd probably not place Barry Lyndon second. I have Monty Python and the Holy Grail fifth, and while I know why (I was an avid reader of the Arthurian Legends; it peters out at the end; I didn't know then that they were going to move on to Christianity and then to the big question, etc.), I also know that today I'd rather watch it for the 100th time than Barry Lyndon, Nashville, and/or Dersu Uzala for the 5th (or is it the 10th?) time.

In 1985, I was living in San Francisco and working as a programmer at an insurance agency. I saw so many movies in theaters during the years in which VCRs first came into homes that I doubt I made any changes to this list once I'd assembled it. It includes three movies set in Japan: Paul Scrader's Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Akira Kurosawa's Ran, and Kon Ichikawa's The Makioka Sisters (released in 1983, but not shown where I was in a position to view it until 1985.) It includes three movies set in South America: John Boorman's The Emerald Forest, Hector Babenco's Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Luis Puenzo's The Official Story. It includes a movie set in India (Satyajit Ray's The Home and the World) and the Best Picture Academy Award winner, a movie about a woman who, following a preface, in voice-over, says "You see, I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills...". None of these movies are in the top two positions on my list. The movie at the top of my list is set in Philadelphia and then set approximately 80 miles west off the Lancaster Pike in a place that might be described as "going back in time" (without the aid of a DeLorean) and that brings me, at long last, to the second movie on my list. Back to the Future is one of those movies about which criticism is largely superfluous. It's fun and it never drags. Would I rate it higher than Witness now? No, I don't think I would and that may be because, at the end of the day, John Book (Harrison Ford) goes back to Philadelphia while Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) goes on to two far less entertaining sequels.

In 1995, I was living in Moss Beach, working at cable sales offices all over the Bay Area, and, one Saturday in August, for reasons I don't remember, I was in Berkeley with a bedeviling sinus headache and six or so hours to fill. I filled those hours in two separate theaters in the square mile in which I undoubtedly saw the majority of the movies I'd seen during the preceding 20 years. I began by seeing Clueless. It made my list. Then, The Usual Suspects. That movie tops the 1995 list and will always top the 1995 list. I still can't think about this movie and not love everyone responsible for its having come into existence. It is the only movie for which I have a bound copy of the screenplay. I've listened to the director (Bryan Singer)-writer (Christopher McQuarrie) DVD commentary multiple times. Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze. So, as I was saying, the other movie I saw that day was Clueless, and I did pick up on the fact that it's a free adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. Before 1995 ended there would be two straight adaptations of Jane Austen novels in theaters: Emma Thompson's adaptation of Sense and Sensibility (directed by Ang Lee) and the BBC television version of Persuasion, which got a theatrical release in the United States. It is the latter that occupies the second spot on my list. Why? Perhaps it's because it's a beautifully-told story of thwarted love in which the principals, about whom there is nothing extraordinary, unexpectedly meet again and this time finally, after much of the same societal pressures are applied, overcome. Regardless, after reviewing the list I'd leave it second. There is an insert at the end that is easily recognizable as being from The Bounty. That I'd take out. Mel Gibson's Braveheart won the Best Picture Academy Award for 1995 and made my list (10 movies before 1979 and 20 thereafter), but only because of its battle scenes. I thought Rob Roy, also released in 1995, a much better movie.

In less than a week the peers will assemble to hand out statues to people who helped make movies that were released in 2005. I'll be rooting, probably in vain, for Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale, to be presented with the Original Screenplay Academy Award. In 1975, I was rooting for many nominees, some of whom won. By 1985, I was rooting for the Witness film editor, Thom Noble. He won. In 1995, I was rooting for a Best Supporting Actor nominee named Kevin Spacey. He won. One of the most annoying nomination omissions in Academy Awards history was the omission of my second favorite 1993 movie* in the Original Screenplay category.

I guess I should go work on my 2005 list.


*Groundhog Day was my second favorite movie of 1993.

UK Hit Hard by Global Warming

News reports from the UK highlight unusual aspects of global warming's devastating impact. Women, children and small, cuddly animals were reported hardest hit.

Our man in Dubai

Monday, February 27, 2006
LT SMASH:
Am I concerned about Dubai Ports World taking over the franchise to operate certain ports in America? Not at all. And neither should you be. The same union employees will still be running the cranes and forklifts, and the same Coast Guard and Customs officials will still be running the port security.

I’ve been there eight times. The Dubai ports are clean, safe, and efficiently run. The U.S. Navy runs its own port security operation when our ships are in port, in cooperation with the UAE military. I’ve worked port security in high-threat environments, most notably for eight months in Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Port operations has very little to do with port security. They do talk to each other, but mostly about shipping schedules. Port operations are about operating cranes and forklifts. Port security is about patrolling the land and water, and inspecting cargo. The difference is not trivial.

I am concerned, however, by the knee-jerk, anti-Arab reaction of certain pundits and politicians on both the Right and the Left. You know who you are. I’m sure you’re not racists, but then again, I didn’t hear any of you complaining when the British were running those same ports.

Regardless of how you might feel about the ports deal, please don’t dump on Dubai. They are our friends – and when you treat our friends this way, you only end up helping our enemies. If Americans can’t learn the difference between Dubai and Damascus, we don’t stand a snowball’s chance in the desert of defeating Islamic terrorism.

Oh, thank God.

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!


You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!

AN ORGANIZED DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN ON THE PORT DEAL

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton:

“Senator Menendez and I don’t think any foreign government company should be running our ports, managing, leasing, owning, operating. It just raises too many red flags. That is the nub of our complaints,” said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., speaking via teleconference in response to Bush’s announcement.


As reported in USA Today, 80 percent of the terminals in the Port of Los Angeles are run by foreign firms. And the U.S. Department of Transportation says the United Kingdom, Denmark, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, China and Taiwan have interests in U.S. port terminals. The blogger Sweetness and Light observed that the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia, which is partially owned by the government of Saudi Arabia as well as Saudi individuals and establishments, operates berths in the ports of Baltimore, Newport News, Houston, New Orleans, Savannah, Wilmington, N.C., Port Newark, New Jersey, and Brooklyn, New York. (The link has an inadvertently haunting photo, BTW.)

The argument from Democrats now that “foreigners” shouldn’t be operating U.S. ports is either protectionism, xenophobia, or both. And it is at least a decade late.



(jim geraghty at TKS. Read it all.)

Turkmenbashi Heaven


I recently discovered an excellent blog, the Blogmenbashi, which is dedicated to my favorite lunatic dictator, the Turkmenbashi of Turkmanistan. The Blogmenbashi's latest post, which is from the year 2004 (hmmm... either the Turkmanistan secret police got him, or he is falling down on his blogging a wee bit), includes a link to a site that covers the most holy Ruhnama, a book written by the ever humble Turkmenbashi to replace the Bible, Koran, and all other holy works. Sadly for me, I doubt I'll be able to resist the urge to order the English translation of it. Plus there is a fine line of Rhunama merchandise to offer even more temptation.

Anyhoo... here is a quiz you can take to see how up to date on the wisdom pouring out of the most holy Ruhnama you are. Taking more or less wild guesses, I scored a mere 55% -- I am so ashamed of myself.

By the way, in honor of the Turkembashi's 66th birthday he released a set of gold and silver coins commemorating his poetry and the most holy Ruhnama. Be sure to get yours while they last.

Flare into Flares


Get the snapshot and t-shirt for your blog. (ht: Dag)

More Abramoff

Thanks to Jim Miller on Politics I was clued into what seems a very interesting blog called Brainster. In particular, have a look at this little debunking of the Dem/American Prospect/Krugman (aka the NYT) claims regarding the funneling of Indian Casino money to politicians: Taking another whack at Jack.

Refering to the American Prospect's alleged "independent investigation", The Brainster brings us:

At the same time, two of those four tribes -- Saginaw and Chitimacha -- saw their giving to Democrats drop or remain static.

But when you looked at the information on the Saginaw tribe, it said:

1) Tribe: Saginaw Chippewa (Michigan)
Pre-Abramoff contributions to Dems (1991 - 9/2000): $371,250
Post-Abramoff contributions to Dems (9/2000 - 2003): $191,960


Okay, so pre-Abramoff the Saginaw Chippewa gave $371,250 to the Democrats over about 9 years, that's a little over $41,000 per year, while post Abramoff, they gave the Democrats $191,960 over three years, that's $64,000 per year.

So to the American Prospect, going from $41,000 per year to $64,000 per year--a 50% increase in donations from that tribe per year to the Democrats--means that tribe "saw their giving to Democrats drop or remain static."

But it gets better.
Indeed, it does get better. Read the whole thing. Poke around in the blog. I think I like this Brainster character.

Columbia Journalism Review or CJRtoday

Apropos Mr. Lovelady, and not wanting to get his job title wrong, please note that the good Mr L has nothing to do with the CJR (I checked the masthead to confirm)--rather he edits for what appears to be a media blog associated with the CJR (cjrdaily.org)

What Is Fitzgerald Hiding, and Why Is He Hiding It?

National Review’s Byron York reports today on the court hearing held Friday in the Lewis “Scooter” Libby case. According to York, Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald told the court that it doesn’t matter whether or not Valerie Plame was a covert CIA agent when she was mentioned in the famous Robert Novak column.

The court hearing was concerning discovery, a legal term meaning the production of information so that the parties to a lawsuit will be fully informed before the trial begins. In any federal court proceeding, discovery generally tends to be expansive so that the parties are not unfairly surprised at the time of trial.

Libby’s defense attorney, Ted Wells, argued that Plame’s status and whether she was a covert agent mattered a great deal to the defense. Wells appeared to question the covertness of Plame, asking whether she was "classified based on a piece of paper."

Wells asked for a copy of the CIA’s referral to the Department of Justice, but Fitzgerald refused this request, saying that he would file a sealed document with the court. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton reserved decision on this request until he has a chance to review this sealed filing.

Why is Fitzgerald refusing to produce information concerning the status of Plame? Wasn’t this his original charge when he was appointed? The first thing Fitzgerald should have established in his investigation was whether Plame was covert or not. What is he hiding? And why is he hiding it?

Bad news and good news

In keeping with my tradition of putting economic time series together any old way and claiming a copyright on the result, I'm introducing a new chart which I'll call the Job Seekers' Success Index™ (JSSI). This is the ratio of the total (not net) number of new jobs created to the number of people unemployed in a given month, my proxy for the former being the net weekly change in employment for a given month plus the average weekly initial jobless claims reported in that month. Here's the JSSI since 1967.



The JSSI has a sawtooth pattern, but underneath that it seems to be in a long-term decline. That decline should be reflected in increasing spells of unemployment, and (though the spike around 1983 makes it somewhat difficult to detect), it appears that the prediction is borne out:




On the other hand, the JII™ may drop below 0.002 (fewer than one of five hundred employed people losing his job and filing for unemployment in any given week) this month for the first time since the beginning of economagic's initial jobless claims time series in 1967.

The upshot is that there appears to be a pair of long-term trends at work - jobs are getting more secure for those who are employed, but more difficult to find for those who are not.

The United Arab Emirates Leave Much to be Desired, But....

Jeff at Beautiful Atrocities legitimately points out that the United Arab Emirates do not represent the pinnacle of liberal democratic thinking and values. On the contrary, the majority of these people seem to be downright bigoted and reactionary. Jeff cites these embarrassing polling results:

Are George W. Bush & Tony Blair greater threats to the rest of the world than Al Qaeda? Yes 74% No 22% No Comments 2%

Is Sadr invention of Bush? Yes 77% No 18% No Comments 3%

Will Beslan carnage help Chechnya towards the road of independence? Yes 82% No 15% No Comments 2%

Do you feel there should be censor on freedom of speech? Yes 52% No 46%

Should the state enforce modesty in dress? Yes 50% No 42% No Comments 6%

Is corruption widespread in Dubai? Yes 72% No 24% No Comments 2%

Taliban should hand over bin Laden for trial? Yes 42% No 53% No Comments 3%

Would you support your beautiful daughter's decision to enter a beauty pageant? Yes 41% No 57% No Comments 1%

Al Gore better than George Bush for the Middle East? Yes 53% No 6% No Comments 39%

Like nationals, expats also can have tinted glasses? Yes 95% No 3%

Are you comfortable with AC on full blast in your office in winter? Yes 64% No 33% No Comments 1%

Film-based song & dance shows a waste of time? Yes 60% No 32% No Comments 7%

Are suicide bombings furthering the goal of a Palestinian state? Yes 42% No 51% No Comments 6%

Qatar open to serving as base for US attack. Do you think it as right decision? Yes 26% No 68% No Comments 4%

Should we keep our mouth shut to all the nonsense from our boss? Yes 27% No 66% No Comments 6%

There's no fun place other than Dubai in the Gulf? Yes 58% No 35% No Comments 5%

See also UAE's romance with Bin Laden”

Beautiful Atrocities

We should not lie to ourselves about the gross deficiencies of our Arab allies. There’s little doubt that most citizens of Dubai, for instance, are anti-Semitic. Things are admittedly a long way from being perfect. Dubai was even of the very few nations who diplomatically recognized the brutal Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Still, these people are moving in the right direction. They are increasingly embracing modernity and economic progress. Dubai’s leaders are firmly behind the United States in the war on terror. Alienating the people in this region would be a tragic mistake.

Civil War? I don't think so ...

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Gateway Pundit has this translation of an Arabic Iraqi newspaper:
Iraqis demonstrate calling for Shiite & Sunni unity

Many Iraqi cities witnessed large demonstrations after Friday prayers (yesterday). These demonstrations were calling for national unity, not being pulled into civil war after attacks on Sunni mosques as retaliation to the bombing of the samara Shiite shrine.

In Mousul 500 people demonstrated in Bartila (north west of the city). The demonstrations were lead by Sunni & Shiite leaders to condemn all bombings and call for a unified line and not be pulled into a sectarian war. Another demonstration started from the offices of the high council for Islamic revolution (Shiite). The demonstration was lead by Sunni and Shiite religious leaders. Banners condemned attacks on mosques, shrines and churches the banners also condemned terror also no to Saddam yes to Islam.

In Hillah over 3000 demonstrated after Friday’s united prayers (Shiite & Muslim together) at the Haytaween mosque. The united prayers were lead by Sheik Mohamed Alfateh (Sunni) and Sheik Jasim Alkalebi (Shiite). The two speakers called for Muslim unity and denounced all terror activity as unIslamic and asked for keeping unity.

In Al-Koot hundreds demonstrated after Friday prayers protesting the bombing of the samara shrine and the attacks on the Sunni mosques. Unified Friday prayers in Al-Koot were held at the large central mosque in the city. Speakers at the prayers call for rejecting sectarianism.

In Amarah over 15,000 demonstrated after Friday prayers condemning the samara bombing and attacks on Sunni mosques. Banners read, Sunnis & Shiites are like Hassan & Hussein (referring to two grand children of the profit Mohamed), banners also read that Muslim references (Shiite religious leaders) condemn terrorism in all its forms.

In Karbala Sheik Abdulmehdi Alkarblaa’i (representative of Sustain) in his Friday after prayers speech at the Hussein Shrine called for peaceful and brotherly coexistence, condemned violence and called for national unity. He added; "We know the nature of this crime and the ones before it, we also know these crimes are not of Sunni doings, but they are the deeds of the enemies of Sunnis & Shiites".

In Basra over 10,000 demonstrated with banners asking to form the new government as quickly as possible.

Free Speech

"Free speech doesn't have to be in the service of anything but its own point of view. If it did, it wouldn't be free speech." — Cathy Seipp

Quis Custodiet ...

From Wretchard:
However, the low cost of entry into Internet publishing makes it possible for authors to create specialty publications which can effectively reach their audiences. Whether that's good or bad is the subject of debate. David Ignatius, writing in the Washington Post argues that unfiltered content, no longer moderated by the Gatekeepers, may be a dangerous and loose cannon....


I agree: unmediated, open, unfiltered conent without Gatekeepers may be dangerous.

Particularly to the gatekeepers.

Please define...

Heinleinist.

HT: Rick Ballard, in the comments here.

Learn something new every day ....

Tibetan guerrillas were secretly trained at Camp Hale by the CIA. The site was chosen because of the similarities of the Rocky Mountains in the area with the Himalayan Plateau. This was a contemporary plan of the CIA to the one that trained dissident Cubans in what later became the Bay of Pigs incident. After that failed foray, the Tibetan plan in Colorado's mountains was abandoned, but the Tibetans, having no free homeland to return to, opted to stay in the friendly environment and homelike terrain. Consequently, Colorado has one of the highest concentrations of Tibetans in North America. ( Wikipedia:Camp Hale)

Why I'm not a Conservative

William F Buckley, famously, said the conservative movement was "Standing athwart history, yelling 'Stop!'".

Well, if that's being a conservative, I ain't one, and I don't want any. But see what Thom Barnett says today:

But I am being too harsh here: those industries are appearing across the dial in America. We just need to revamp a lifelong educational system to make American labor confident enough that we can collectively migrate our skills and labor to what comes next, instead of vainly trying to hold onto what came before.

Yes, yes, easier said than done. But what do these “far-sighted” protectionists offer us instead? Look closely, because upon further examination it comes off as a sort of economic back-to-the-future escapism that comes uncomfortably close to Osama’s arguments for civilizational apartheid: “Don’t deal with this challenging future; instead retreat into a more homogenous imaginary past.”

We need confidence now more than ever because we are closer—now more than ever--to the global future we’ve been crafting for decades and decades. I feel a huge debt to the Greatest Generation, one that requires I keep pushing the pile throughout my career. I have never felt more connected to both past and future as I do today, and it fills me with a sense of great optimism.

But optimism requires confidence. You have to see the world you’ve created. You need to feel a pride of ownership and a sense of parental satisfaction.

And at some time you have to let go of your fears. You have to accept countries for what they’re becoming, not what they’ve been. You need to seize the opportunities to turn enemies into partners and partners into close friends.

We are at that moment in history.

We need that confidence and that optimism that’s defined America’s past and will shape this world’s future even more.

We all live in a world of our making. Some deride that self-awareness as naïve or delusional.

I call it real power and tell all the fear-mongers to f--k off.


Thomas P.M. Barnett's Amazon blog.

Something different

I always like it when a new discovery comes along that makes the scientific community rethink some of its views. Here is one on prehistoric beavers

In the conventional view, the earliest mammals were small, primitive shrewlike creatures that did not begin to explore the world's varied environments until the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago.

But scientists are reporting today that they have uncovered fossils of a swimming, fish-eating mammal that lived in China fully 164 million years ago, well before it was thought that some mammals could have spent much of their lives in water.

The extinct species appears to have been an amalgam of animals. It had a broad, scaly tail, flat like a beaver's. Its sharp teeth seemed ideal for eating fish, like an otter's. Its likely lifestyle -- burrowing in tunnels on shore and dog-paddling in water -- reminds scientists of the modern platypus.

Its skeleton suggests that it was about 20 inches long.


Sounds like something out of a Crichton novel.

Some Poor Copy Editor is Having a Bad Day


Cruising around Google News I saw an item on the fossil of the recently discovered Jurassic beaver. Top on the links list was the SouthCoastToday.com's article about the find. Alas for them, they had a bit of an unfortunate mix-up in the presentation of their story. I did a screen grab grab so you can see the hilarity that ensued. I knew that Warren Buffett was old, I didn't know he was that old! Click here, or on the banner above to view the screen grab of the article.

Edit: see above post by terrye for a more serious take on the fossil.

More ports stuff.

Back in the saddle following a time when I had to travel and do some actual work, during which the whole Dubai thing came to a head. Since this is an area that I do know something about, and at Seneca’s request, here is a somewhat long-winded post. But it needs to be said, because it shows us what can and can’t be expected in a modern port so far as foreign ownership and control are concerned. OK, now we dive in to the deep end of the pool . . .

In the US - and to a degree in Canada - ports fall in two broad classes. There are "operating ports", in which a publicly-owned or very rarely a private entity owns both the land and the assets on the land including the terminals and their equipment. The port operates the terminal, schedules and works the ships, and hires the unionized labor force. To generalize, most small US and Canadian ports are operating ports. While most are public, there are a very few private operating ports; the Port of Benicia in San Francisco Bay is one.

The second category includes "landlord ports", in which a public entity like a city department or a state owns the land and provides some services (e.g., the fireboats) but leases the terminals to private operators. This is very much like an airport allocating gate space to the various airlines. The airport owns the gates, but American leases C2 through C46. Before about 1990, these marine terminals were leased by terminal management companies, which were often regional or family owned US companies, but since that time the operators have often been the steamship lines themselves.

The shipping lines have preferred to assume control for several reasons. The first is that as ships get bigger and as increasing numbers of containers are transferred among vessels, trucks and railcars, the lines find it more efficient to do everything themselves - in other words, a single work force does all the coordinated loading and unloading of vessels, trucks, and railcars. This coordination has become much more critical given the increasing sizes of ships and the demands of just-in-time shipping. So since the 1990's, large shipping lines have increasingly chosen to demand their own terminals. The cargo volumes are such that they can in effect demand of a port that a large facility be built exclusively for their use. The APM terminal on Pier 400 at the Port of Los Angeles is an example of this; when it was built in the 1990's by the Port of Los Angeles - on spec - there were perhaps only three shipping firms in the world that could use a terminal of that size. In such a terminal, the work force is unionized, but under the operational control of the shipping line.

Second, a large shipping company often takes smaller feeder lines under its wing. An example would be Terminal 5 in Seattle, where APL, a Singaporean company, hosts other smaller carriers. Again, there is an analogy to the airlines, where a major carrier may sublease gate space to the little puddle-jumpers of a small subsidiary or affiliate. Another reason for a shipping line to want to run its own show.

Container shipping is now an oligopoly, similar in many ways to oil or agribusiness industry. Within this oligopoly, container shipping companies form "alliances" as a way to reduce the chronic overcapacity inherent in ocean transport by pooling fleet capacity to offer more frequent service to their "just-in-time" customers. And it helps if all members of the alliance call at the same terminal in a given port. What the lines increasingly want is that the terminal serve the "alliance". Thus the growth of massive "terminal operating companies" like P&O or DPW. They allow alliances to manage their activities without these alliances having to create their own terminal management companies at every port. A firm like DPW can manage terminal activities for the alliances on both sides of the ocean, another attraction.

Returning to ports for a moment - an individual port is usually an amalgam of both the "operating port" and "landlord port" models. In other words, there may be one terminal - usually a small general cargo facility or the marina, or maybe a cruise ship terminal - that is owned and operated by the port. The remaining terminals, normally the large container facilities, are owned by the port, but leased to the shipping lines or terminal operating companies. This is one of the things that makes port “ownership” and operation so difficult for a layman or the media to comprehend.

What does the structure of the industry have to do with US security? Since the virtual disappearance of the US-flag deepwater fleet beginning in the 1970's, most of the innovation in marine transportation and terminal technology has come from Europe and increasingly from Asia. Just as there are no world-scale US shipping lines, and no prospect of any appearing in the foreseeable future, so there are no US world-scale terminal management companies. So the choices for Americans are outfits like DPW or PSA (a global company run by the highly innovative Port of Singapore) or the individual foreign-flag container shipping lines or nothing at all. While it is theoretically possible that some radical new way to move cargo across oceans could result in a revitalized US shipping industry that cracks the oligopoly, there is no such technology on the horizon. That means that for as far into the future as we can see, the major container port facilities of America will be run by non-US companies. We have to begin with that reality when considering our port security.

It ain't over yet

Dan Drezner has been on top of the Dubai Port deal and notes a change of heart in Glenn Reynolds:


When the story first appeared, bloggers were overwhelmingly negative. My own reaction, on Feb. 12, was "color me unimpressed." Other bloggers were more pungent, but the story got little attention in the national media, which were mostly preoccupied with the Cheney quail-hunting story. ... Some bloggers, meanwhile, were having second thoughts. One of them was me: Although my initial reaction was negative, I started getting emails from readers -- some of them longtime correspondents -- who had experience with the UAE. One had served alongside troops from the Emirates in Afghanistan; another had spent time in Dubai. Some had worked with UAE ports officials. All were positive. ... As I write this, it's not clear where the rest of the debate is headed, but there are already some useful lessons for the White House. First, blogs make an excellent early warning system. The White House, unaccountably, seems to have been blindsided by the furor over this deal, though most people's gut reaction was negative. As with the many bloggers like me who changed their minds, gut reactions can be overcome by evidence -- but the White House should have taken advantage of this early warning to have its arguments in order. It didn't. That's the second lesson: The White House should not only have read blogs, but responded to them with information and arguments, rather than waiting for blog readers to weigh in.When the story first appeared, bloggers were overwhelmingly negative.


Today Drezner discussed a story in the Washington Post:

The process began on Oct. 17, when representatives of the Dubai company informally approached the Treasury Department to disclose that they were planning to purchase the British firm, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., according to testimony by administration officials at a Senate hearing last week. Treasury officials directed them to consult with Homeland Security because of the port security question.

The executives of Dubai Ports World -- several of whom are American -- well understood that they might face extensive scrutiny.

"You don't have to do this, but I brought a small team here [from Dubai] to meet with the CFIUS agencies in early December," said Edward H. "Ted" Bilkey, the company's chief operating officer and former U.S. Navy officer. The idea was to give the panel plenty of time even before the company formally filed to start a standard 30-day review.


Homeland Security officials, especially in Customs and Border Protection, had high regard for the company, which is owned by the government of Dubai and operates terminals in 19 ports in Asia, Europe and South America. It was the first in the Middle East to participate in a post-Sept. 11 program in which Customs agents are posted overseas to screen containers before they are loaded onto U.S.-bound ships. U.S. intelligence agencies -- who were asked on Nov. 2 for any information they had on the company -- produced nothing "derogatory" about it, Baker said.

Even so, the department had enough qualms to insist on a number of legally binding conditions for approving the deal -- a frequent CFIUS practice. The company pledged to maintain its participation in the Customs program, "and they agreed to open their books, and give us access to records, without any formal legal process," Baker said.


The department also wanted to ensure that the personnel at the U.S. terminals to be taken over by the company would remain almost entirely American. So it extracted a pledge that the company intended to keep the current management of U.S. operations in place.

Given the concessions obtained through the CFIUS process -- DPW's participation in the Customs initiative, the transparency of DPW's books, the continuance of the current management team for the U.S. ports -- is there any rational reason to get exercised about this deal? Is Mickey's assertion that jihadists would have a better opportunity to infiltrate DPW's ports a valid one, given the layers of American management involved?

The Post story also aleviates the other small concern I had about this deal -- that the Bush administration bollixed up the process. The New York Times story I cited in my first post on this topic asserted:

The administration's review of the deal was conducted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a body that was created in 1975 to review foreign investments in the country that could affect national security. Under that review, officials from the Defense, State, Commerce and Transportation Departments, along with the National Security Council and other agencies, were charged with raising questions and passing judgment. They found no problems to warrant the next stage of review, a 45-day investigation with results reported to the president for a final decision.

However, a 1993 amendment to the law stipulates that such an investigation is mandatory when the acquiring company is controlled by or acting on behalf of a for
eign government. Administration officials said they conducted additional inquires because of the ties to the United Arab Emirates, but they could not say why a 45-day investigation did not occur.

VandeHei and Blustein have a different desription of the process in the Post story:

[O]nce Dubai Ports World had agreed to the conditions required by Homeland Security, none of the agencies on CFIUS objected to the transaction when the 30-day review was completed on Jan. 17. If even one agency had objected, the matter would have gone to a 45-day investigation -- which would have required a presidential decision at the end. Moreover, a single dissent would have meant bringing the matter before higher-ranking officials in each department.

But instead, the matter stayed with assistant secretary-level officials, who told the company the transaction could go forward.


Drezner also discusses the doubts of pundits such as Mickey Kaus and Charles Krauthammer who seem to think this situation creates an unnecessary risk.

Well my feelings are that they are not the people making the decision so as private citizens they have a right to their opinion, but killing a deal between two private companies because one of them has Arabic speakers is just not good enough. As far as getting secret details about our security, there is no reason to believe that will happen, nor is there any reason to believe that it is impossible for it to happen no matter who is running what company.

After all Tim McVeigh was not an Arabic speaker or a Muslim.

More News from the Front

From 24 Steps to Liberty, an Iraqi blog I'd never seen before. (I've lost the place I got the link from, sorry.)
I was amazed how only the provocative and civil-war-style quotes were published today in the newspapers. Almost no newspaper showed how great, it appeared to us, the solidarity among Iraqis was yesterday. It is true that Sunni mosques were attacked by unknown men yesterday, and some Sunnis were killed. But that wasn’t the only thing happened as a reaction. Newspapers should have been neutral, as we were taught, and show both sides. Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Sabians, Turkumans, and others publicly condemned the attack, but no one wanted to show the truth. I am not saying there will be no riots in Iraq to react to the shrine attack. I am not saying there weren't mosques that were attacked yesterday and burned down. I am not saying that Shiites and Sunnis kissed and hugged after the attack yesterday. All what I am saying is that the news made Iraqis look like if they were fighting each other widely in the streets, which is not true. ....

All expect civil war in Iraq, which might happen although I don’t believe it would. Therefore, they want to contribute to the civil war’s first step. Shame on you all! Shame on the “free and honest” press!


Read the whole thing, but look especially at the remarks from Sunni leaders.

Iraqis aren't fools: they know who their real enemies are.

Wafiq Samarraie, a Sunni politician from Samarra city and serves as Iraq’s president’s advisor for security issues. [from Arabiya satellite channel]
He said “Iamam Ali al-Hadi is not only for Shiites. The shrine is a symbol of all Iraqis and of Samara city in particular. I demand to dismiss the governor of the province and take all the legal procedures to prevent strife. There will be no strife in Iraq. Iraqis will not fight each other. Samarra city should be protected. The information is very clear. The government should have chased the terrorists in eastern Samarra and they are a few. The government and the governor should have done something this issue. I tell the tribes in Samarra, especially in eastern Samarra, that ‘ it is a shame to leave the strangers among you. You should inform the police force about them.’


Update: I meant to post this the other day. From Ali, a Free Iraqi:
Saddam's regime was not a sectarian one. It was a dictatorship that relied on family and tribal relations and on petty servants who sold their souls to him for money and some illusionary power from within each community. He oppressed Kurds because they were his slaves and on top of that he disliked them more because they were not Arabs. He oppressed She'at because they were his slaves and then he also disliked their sect. He oppressed Sunnis because they too were his slaves and other than that he didn't dislike them for any religious or ethnic reason, so how fortunate Sunnis were!

Nerd news: DigiComp re-released

DigiComp was a mechanical computer with an awe-inspiring 3 bits capacity.

I got one, after begging my father for what seems now to have been a year, then built it, got it to count from 0 to 7 in binary, and pretty much put it aside because I was able to start programming a real computer, with an absolutely astounding 8K bytes of memory. (IBM System/3 model 10, card compiler.)

Still, if it hadn't been for DigiComp, I might have had to find honest work all these years.

Sunday Science Quiz

(Florida Today) CAPE CANAVERAL - A spacewalking Russian cosmonaut plans to hit a golf shot outside the International Space Station this summer as part of a publicity campaign that already has raised safety concerns.

Clad in a cumbersome spacesuit and anchored to a specially designed tee box, Pavel Vinogradov will hit a six-iron drive along side the station's Russian segment, taking great care not to hook the ball into the outpost.


Quiz question: why is it unlikely the ball would hook into the station?

Further Regulation of Speech

Saturday, February 25, 2006
Law Professor Eugene Volokh has an interesting post about an attempt in Virginia to regulate an aspect of the Doctor-Patient relationship. The Virginia legislature is considering restricting doctors' speech with patients about guns. According to an article in the Virginia Pilot:
A pediatrician who asks a child's parent about firearms in their home could lose his or her license or be disciplined under legislation being considered by a Senate committee today.

The bill would prohibit health care professionals from asking a patient about gun possession, ownership or storage unless the patient is being treated for an injury related to guns or asks for safety counseling about them.


This legislation is supported by the NRA. Professor Volokh indicates that usually speech codes like this are unconstitutional, but are probably constitutional when imposed on professional-client speech. Many medical groups have gotten into the political fray about questions that are large policy questions, instead of direct health questions. Gun ownership is one of those issues as the American Academy of Pediatrics has an anti-gun policy. In many respects it is understandable that many citizens would be concerned about attempts by doctors to impose their values onto them. But I question whether regulating professional-client speech in this way is a sensible solution. It appears that when one has a problem with speech, then the solution is more speech, including voting with your feet by going someplace else.

According to my reading of the language of the law, I could imagine a mental health professional running afoul of the law in the following situation. A teenage patient is referred for evaluation for several beahvior problems in school and elsewhere. Included in the problems reported are various communications of the teenager suggestive of potential violence although the youngster has not been violent to date (e.g., draws a picture of self shooting a teacher among other things). As part of an evaluation, it seems reasonable for the mental health professional to ask about whether the family owns firearms and what safety precautions the family takes concerning their use or availability and whether the youngster has access to them and has communicated some interest in using them outside of parental or adult supervision, etc. In fact if a youngster were to commit a violent act with a firearm and had seen a therapist prior to the event, all kinds of people would wonder, did you even ask whether the kid had access to guns or whether the family had any?. It would be quite something if the professional has to say, "Well, it was illegal for me to do that so I sent him to the school nurse who could legally give him condoms instead. We were hoping he might express his shooting feelings in other ways."

It seems that one can be fully supportive of the 2nd Ammendment and also be supportive of limited government. Do we really want the Nanny State to regulate speech in this way? Will this grow to become McCain-Feingold part deux? If doctors were actually as influential as some people think they are, wouldn't we have lower rates of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc?

Talking Sense

I repeat again what I have said before: The only reason that this is an issue is that Democrats see it as a way of getting to the right of the Administration on the national security front, and Republicans don't want to let Democrats get to their right. So both are ending up denouncing the Administration for a perfectly sensible policy, and angering an ally in the process. And since it needs to be said, I will say it: I thought we were against this kind of gratuitous racial profiling. Pray tell, why are we engaging in it? — Pejman Yousefzadeh


But Pejman points to this story ...

Feb 24th, 2006: 19:28:21
The Port of Los Angeles has eight major container terminals and four dockside intermodal rail yards with direct access to the Alameda Corridor, a 20-mile express railway connecting the Port to the rail hubs in downtown Los Angeles. [These ports are controlled by Evergreen Marine.] — Nick Danger Third Eye


... which, when I looked at it, struck me odd. Wasn't sure why; something looked wrong. Then I realized it was written in traditional chinese, not modern — which is to say this is a company from the Republic of China, not the "People's" Republic of China.

However, other than the little detail of not having the right company, the right country, or the right ports, Nick's got a point.

Senator Clinton has her own position on this:
...Clinton has said she would introduce legislation that would block Dubai Ports World or any other company owned by a foreign government from operating U.S. ports.

"These choices reveal a disheartening pattern of ideology, influence and incompetence that we have seen, and they violate our values and our interests," Clinton said. "I don't claim that Democrats are always right, but we are far more likely to make choices that reflect the values and advance the well-being of the American people."


For an example of Nick's real point, the Long Beach Naval Shipyard is now operated as a container cargo port by Cosco, Inc. which is a company owned by the People's Republic of China.

You may recall some fuss about the leasing of the Long Beach NSY by China. After a few minutes, here's something from 28 FEB 1997:
The FBI is investigating whether representatives of the People's Republic of China attempted to buy influence among members of Congress through illegal campaign contributions and payments from Chinese-controlled businesses, government officials said this week.

A third former Clinton administration official refused Thursday to give Congress documents subpoenaed for investigations of Democratic fund-raising -- claiming a Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The refusal by former White House aide Mark Middleton to turn over documents came as the head of the Senate probe warned that a stalemate over his budget must be resolved quickly or there will be no money for the investigation. ....

Red Chinese Opening Giant Base In Former U.S. Naval Harbor

Many Californians have long been asking why the Clinton administration decided to close the bustling Long Beach Naval Station in 1994... The turning over of the naval station to the Red Chinese raises the question whether it was part of what appears to be on-going relations between the Clinton White House and the Red Chinese, which have been linked to campaign contributions given by those with Peking connections to the reelection campaign of President Clinton. - SPOTLIGHT


Emphasis, of course, mine.

Shifting Sands - To Hell With'em All

I'm staying home. There's not a single politician on offer that is worth my vote.

Could that be the storyline for the '06 election?

People talk about Bush's approval ratings being bad - but his numbers are 30% higher than Congress. The war has passed from the front pages, the economy is humming very well, unemployment is very low by historical standards - and 60% of those polled say that the "country is headed in the wrong direction".

Historically, mid term elections do not have very high turn out rates when compared to Presidential election years. It is not at all unusual to see turnout drop into the low 40's versus the mid to high 50's for a Presidential race. Mid terms also revolve around local issues with occasional state wide issues coming into play when there is a tight race for Governor or Senator. Otherwise, it's all incumbency and a close look at how the Congresscritter has done in earmarking the pork for the locals to divvy up. The last time there was intense national interest in a mid-term was when Newt came up with the Contract for America - and I believe that was successful only because of Miz Clinton's try for nationalization of health care the previous year.

Could either party generate a "Contract" attractive enough to generate substantial interest? Perhaps, although I simply do not see any specific issues that lend themselves to massive interest. Remember - Newt's contract played off the residual fear that Perot generated with his &$%^ straight line charts that showed us going to hell in absolutely nothing flat. Perot was successful in parlaying that fear into a defeat for GHWB because of the media's manipulation of economic results - the economic hiccup of 90-91 was well over prior to the election but you couldn't tell it from the reporting being done by the MSM.

By the same token, MSM economic reporting today masks the underlying strength of the current economy and may account for quite a bit of that "wrong direction" number. Is the medias focus on the negative going to push down turnout? If so, does either party stand to gain (or lose) because of that downturn? Keeping in mind that low turnout tends to favor incumbents just a tad, I would posit that it will have the effect of maintenance of the majority. Not exactly what the MSM has in mind but then, there is no evidence available that they have ever really known what they are doing at any rate.

Btw - I haven't missed voting in any election since '72 - and I won't miss voting in '06 either. Early and often is the Ballard motto and I intend to keep to it.

Through The Looking Glass

The already nonsensical story regarding the the sale of British company P&O to Dubai based DP World has just veered over into full scale madness. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the quasi-state body which actually operates the ports in the NY/NJ area, has now filed suit to block the sale.

Lets step through the sequence of events here. In 2000 P&O and the Port Authority signed a 30 year lease, under which P&O would take over certain aspects of running the PA's ports. More details here.

P&O have now agreed to be bought out by DP World, one of the largest port management companies in the world.

The Port Authority has decided that the proposed deal "deprived the port authority of the "right to conduct a thorough review of its purchase," thereby violating certain "safeguards for the protection of persons and property" surrounding the facility."


It's astonishing that it is only at this late date that the the states of New York and New Jersey are getting involved in the matter. After all, they are the ones who are most effected by the proposed sale, and they are also the ones who outsourced these operations in the first place. It is hard to believe that the deal has progressed this far without the Port Authority signing off on it. I suspect that, in the unlikely event that any serious reporting is done, we will find that the PA did in fact agree to this sale, or at least failed to raise any prior objections.

The proposed lawsuit here looks very much like an admission that the PA ought not to be outsourcing this work abroad in the first place.

One concept which has apparently gone over the heads of almost all the pundits who have covered this story is that the ports in the United States are not actually the property of the Federal government. They are owned and operated by the cities and states in which they are located. This being so, the sole responsibility for outsourcing port operations lies with the cities and states in question. It is a relief that some acknowledgment of that basic fact is beginning to dawn on people, although I expect that the MSM presentation of the subject will continue to reflect the "Bush administration sells nations ports to Arab terrorists" meme.

Increased Terrorist Risk in Manhattan? Are the Super-Rich Crazy?

The Arabs are not now just coming into the United States. They have been here for awhile! It is laughable to observe the hysteria surrounding the Dubai Ports International buyout of a handful of shipping terminals. Are the very wealthy among us fearful of a possible increased chance of terrorism? Well, that apparently is not the case. Few, if any, seem concerned that Dubai investors manage a number of luxury office spaces and hotels in Manhattan:

“Earlier this year Dubai Holding’s subsidiary luxury hospitality group Jumeirah International took over the management of the famous Essex House hotel in New York, rebranding it Jumeirah Essex House, following a $ 500 million buyout by Dubai Investment Group, also a subsidiary of Dubai Holding, from Strategic Hotel Capital in September last year.”

“Last year Istithmar acquired one of New York’s most famous landmark buildings — 230 Park Avenue in Manhattan, also known as the Helmsley Building, a 34-storey gold-domed office block which sits at the top of Park Avenue, in a $ 705 million deal.”

Link

Some fears are reasonable. Being overly concerned about Arab terrorists infiltrating companies owned by Dubai investors is not among them. Does anyone really believe that America’s super rich are suicidal? Are they not prudent when it comes to their own safety---and that of their loved ones?

Final Proof The World's Gone Mad


Oh good Lord, I didn't know what to make of this article when I ran across it in the Uk Edition of the Hindustan Times (don't even bother asking how I got there). It reports that the award-wining Indian director T Rajeevnath wants to cast Paris Hilton as Mother Teresa in an upcoming film he is making.

Paris Hilton as Mother Teresa?

No that can't be right. Surely the reason given in the article, that the director was impressed by her because she wouldn't pose nude for Playboy, was a dead give away that this was some sort of a satire piece and I was just missing the Indian humor of it.

Time to Google on "Mother Teresa" and "Paris Hilton" and restore my rapidly dwindling faith in the sanity of the human race. Oh, the horror of the results page of that query!

Just go read the comments

Friday, February 24, 2006
Just go.

Good news from Iraq

... both O'Reilly and Geraldo are panicking. Things must be looking up.

TGIF

BUSH INKS IRISH FIRM TO GUARD NATIONAL WHISKEY RESERVE

Washington DC - The Bush Administration today angrily defended its controversial approval of the Irish company Donnybrook Lads Ltd. to oversee security at the National Strategic Whiskey Reserve in Lynchburg, TN, vowing to veto a new House bill that would force the two-man firm to undergo federal breathalizer testing.

At Iowahawk.

Forbidden love, Star Wars: The Empire Brokeback

HT: LlamaButchers

You Bunch of Sissies

"Meantime, I see our friends from yardg -- RogerA, Neuro, Charles Martin -- have retreated to their clubhouse to lick their wounds. (Although the truculant but ever-game Richard Aubrey is doing his best to fill in.) I trust that they will be back. We need the creative tension. As Orson Welles says in The Third Man, "Look at Italy. It had wars, revolution, great art, the Renaissance. Whereas Switzerland lived with 2,000 years of peace and what did it do? It produced the cuckoo clock!"

Posted by Steve Lovelady

Notice that he lacks the intelligence either to create a link OR to spell the blogs name correctly. Or was that intentional Stevie?

Well? Are you guys mice or men? Get out there and do your duty. Or sit down and have a cold one. After all, he is just another lying crapweasel journo. Not like they're in short supply.

Strange Bedfellows

Or maybe I am just too unfamiliar with William J. Bennett and Alan Dershowitz and the bedfellows aren't as strange as it seems to me. In any case, they've teamed up to write A Failure of the Press for WaPo (ht: Jim Miller on Politics).

They have joined to give the Presse Ancienne a stern talking to about the Danish Cartoon fiasco but as we all know their is no end of "issues" about which the press has failed the public which gives them special status under our constitution.

This unlikely duo is rightly peeved with the press for hiding under their beds wrt to the Danish Cartoons fiasco but that is not the only symptom we see of their cowardice. As Bennett and Dershowitz tell us:

Stories and celebrations of intrepid and courageous reporters are many within the press corps.

Courageousness, even professionalism, are rapidly becoming self-delusional myths among the press corps. They attack only what it is safe to attack and do so regardless of consequences - regardless of need. Attack, attack, attack. Always attack. They see themselves as so many Pattons bestriding the battlefield but they never leave the safety of their little playground. They are children playing with sticks and rat-a-tat-tatting at long abandoned bunkers from long ended wars.

Great post by Ali


Here. In the immortal words of Walt Kelly, "We have met the enemy and he is us." I notice that Zayed is also talking that way. That way lies sanity and progress. That is progress.

Day Three

I thought giving up the evil tobacco weed was hard...but I am on day 3 without cable news, instapundit, powerline, or LGF or Malkin. Cold turkey. I actually watched Claudette Colbert in Cleopatra last night. Very daring for 1934. When I was a kid Colbert was the kind of woman I wanted to grow up to be. Oh well.

It seems to me that some of my favorite blogs have become what they say they despise. Big Media. And it seems that big media has become a joke.

So I said enough, is enough. I need some perspective. I am going to see how regular people who do not have an obsessive need to know what is going on everywhere... right now.... this minute...live. It is liberating.

I am beginning to see why US Senators tend to be so arrogant, self important and eogotistical...they start to believe their own spin.

Perspective is a good thing.

Reason from Reason

Reason has a good post on the Port controversy that is short and sweet and to the point.

What many bloggers have been equally careful to avoid is any factual discussion of the United Arab Emirates' role in the War on Terror. To do so would give their concerns a much less flattering color, closer in hue to simple racial and religious animus than impartial devotion to national security. To review the actions and policies of the Emirates since 9/11 is to see an Arab Muslim state quietly providing meaningful, material support in the War on Terror. In other words, a country doing exactly what we have stated we want it to do.

read it all.

UPDATE:


• The U.A.E. has allowed the deployment of military aircraft at Al Dhafra. From there the 763rd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron conducts in-flight refueling operations throughout Southwest Asia in support of Operation Southern Watch.
• The U.A.E. allows U-2 and Global Hawk operations from Al Dhafra.
• The U.A.E. allowed the 10th Tactical Fighter Squadron to operate from Al Dhafra during both Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
• The U.A.E. has cooperated in the development of the Fujairah to Jebel Ali land link. This land link would serve as the U.S. Navy’s primary logistics/supply route in the case of any closure of the Straights of Hormuz. In other words, this link would allow the Navy to remain in the Arabian Gulf whether the Straits of Hormuz were remined or otherwise closed.


via: DtP

More on the ports....

My point here being pretty simple. Chuck Schumer misrepresented the port deal in his big, dramatic weekend news conferences on the docks. A British holding company that owns the rights to conduct lading operations was bought out by another holding company owned by the UAE, and operated primarily by high successful and reputable U.S. and European businessmen. The leasing of a franchise to operate “ports” - really a number of slips within much larger ports in this case - is comparable to the deal that airport authorities make with foreign air carriers to rent “gates” - departure gates and ticket selling / baggage handling sites. Security is in no way farmed out to UAE citizens; that is still in the hands of the Coast Guard and Customs & Border Protection, and local authorities. Homeland security staffed the issue, looked at the acquisition with Commerce, Defense, State, Justice and others, and found that while it could potentially raise concerns, it did not do so in actuality. This group of federal departments also weighed the importance of UAE in the War on Terror, noted UAE’s permitting the U.S. to station troops and to use port facilities in Dubai, along with noting UAE cooperation in the really important point-of-lading security programs being implemented to obviate the need for massive inspection programs in the States. They then blessed the deal, providing the company offered assurances of continued compliance with U.S. security requirements.

Senator Schumer, probably prompted by the dockworkers union lawsuit against the original owner of the port franchise (P&O) and by the opportunity to get in front of the camera, started beating on the populist drum. Hey, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I know that I’m worried about Arab countries, and realize there is a security risk attendant to doing business with them. But it’s not the hysterical matter that Schumer and xenophobes like Lou Dobbs make it out to be. You have to keep an open mind, judge the situation on the merits, and reach an independent judgment. This outright hysteria is shameful; it’s us letting our baser instinct run away with our mouths.


Pretty calm talk from a blog named Cold Fury.

[Update: Sorry, should have noted the emphasis above was mine. My bad. — Seneca]

What is the Role of the Gambino Crime Family in the Dubai Ports Controversy?

I cannot link to John Fund’s short piece on The Wall Street Journal’s “Opinion Journal’s Political Diary.” This is a subscription based service. These two paragraphs will have to suffice:

It seems every party except one has undergone scrutiny in the firestorm over the Dubai ports deal. The Bush administration is answering reams of questions, and reporters are certainly giving the anti-terrorism record of the UAE government a once over. But where are the questions about the unions that are in the front row of the jeering section trying to scotch the deal?

The wonder is that the Dubai company was willing to take on the hassle of managing U.S. ports for thin profit margins," one maritime expert told me. He noted that Hutchison Whampoa, the Hong Kong-based leader in port operations, refuses to invest in the U.S. because it won't deal with the local unions. A former member of the Federal Maritime Commission told me it is an open secret that the U.S. longshoremen's union prefers U.S. operators "because they can get more patronage and exercise more leverage that way.


How many people know that “ILA (International Longshoremen's Association) President John Bowers was charged with racketeering and named as an associate of the Gambino organized crime family in a July 2005 civil complaint filed by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn?” Wow, does Senator Chuck Schumer know anything about these allegations?

More in Heaven than in Horatio's Philosophy



Ho hum, another day, another two moons confirmed around Pluto.

Hang on, we'll be getting much better pictures in 9 years.

Even More Variables to Consider

Thursday, February 23, 2006
Continuing with our look at Global Warming and predicting the future, let's consider the variables being used to assess the risks. Now we could talk temperature readings, boreholes, bristlecone pines, solar reflectivity, etc.

Just consider ice age patterns:


Or the changing patterns of the tilt of the earth:


But for the moment, let's forget about the physical science variables and think about the dismal science variables (i.e., economics). Recently two economists (David Henderson and Ian Castles) have criticized the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Let's let Henderson say it:
· For the base year of 1990 it compares output across countries on the basis of market exchange rates (MERs). These comparisons greatly overstate the differences in GDP per head between developing regions and OECD member countries.
· It builds in, for reasons that are open to question, rapid convergence in GDP per head between developing regions and OECD member countries. By thus assuming the substantial closure of a greatly overstated initial gap, it arrives at projections of output and GDP per head for developing regions which are higher than they would have been if the 1990 starting point had been correct, and high by comparison with other projections
Henderson

Not only are there significant questions about the enormous number of variables and measurements needed to ascertain global warming patterns, but even the economics are questionable. According to Henderson and Castle the numbers used suggest unprecedented economic development in some countries and economic development of such a degree that the IPCC would be essentially assuming that by the year 2100 North Korea will have a higher GDP than the US. As Wayne Campbell once said, "Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt." The IPCC has not accepted their recommendations.

Sadr and Zarqawi

Sometimes I wonder if these two murdering madmen are in collusion.

Reports of more than 100 dead in Iraq today in reprisal killings and the Sunnis have stalled on government talks demanding an apology for attacks on Sunni mosques.

Everytime they come close to finishing talks on the new government something happens to screw things up. Hopefully Allawi or someone like him can take control of the Interior Ministry and rein in the militias.

In some ways the militias remind me of the KKK. They rose up in a power vacuum and feed off the fear and prejudice around them. The last thing they want is a functioning government that will limit their power.

Iraq the Model has a report:
The Association of Muslim Scholars is accusing the Sadrists in particular, actually it's not only the Association that accuses the Sadrists, most people here in Baghdad point out the role of Mehdi army of Sadr in carrying out most of the attacks.
The Association is trying to remind Sadr of the their times of solidarity during the battles in Najaf and Fallujah yet they are condemning his message to his followers in which he called for keeping up and escalating the "protests".

Baghdad looks more alive today but in a very cautious way, traffic in the streets is heavier than it was yesterday but still way below normal.
There's some kind of shopping frenzy because people are trying to be prepared if the worst happens; people are stock-piling small reserves of food, cigarettes, bottled water…etc especially after they heard some of the roads to/from Baghdad are closed and vehicles were turned away.


read it all and if you happen to be a believer pray for Iraq.

Antonio Gramsci - The Undead

Jamie pointed me to this outstanding piece at Armed and Dangerous. While I have been aware of the individual elements identified, I have never seen a better job of assembling an entire mosaic from the available pieces.

I am aware that some contributors here do not believe that Gramsci's proposed methods were ever methodically implemented in the US, or that they continue to be propagated at almost twenty years from the fall of the regime responsible for their dissemination. I would not posit that every decision concerning advancement wihin the fields described is made by committee's whose sole determinant is "What would Antonio do?" but I do believe that affinity groups composed of his adherents (whether witting or unwitting) continue to conrol advancement within education and journalism or, wrt Hollywood, selection of "appropriate" product.

This is a truly top notch essay - and some of the comments (and commenters) which follow are very amusing - if you find blind adherence to a dead but pernicious philosophy a source of amusement.

Javert or Clouseau?

Or how about a mix of the worst traits of both so that an Inspector Clouvert is created. Someone who will dedicate themselves unstintingly to the creation of adjunct offenses in the course of investigating what was a non-crime from the beginning?

Clarice Feldman explores the legal intricacies involved in our current Inspector Clouvert masterpiece with special attention to a central thesis which Kafka himself would indeed have understood and appreciated.

Fitzgerald did an excellent job of convicting a mad Arab. A sheik who showed up in court wearing a turban, having hired the most flatulent excuse of an ACLU hack to ever stink up a courtroom as his defense attorney (the attorney now awaiting her sentence being upheld so that she may join her client).

Team Libby is of a different caliber, almost from a different universe, and Prosecutor Fitgerald is going to find out how very different in a very painful manner. He has purchased every bit of the pain that he will endure by failing to determine whether a statute had, in fact, been violated prior to tossing a reporter in jail and then charging Mr. Libby with lesser violations which will fail for lack of materiality. Presuming, of course, that Fitzgerald can provide believable evidence that even the lesser offenses have a provable basis.