Saturday, June 30, 2007
In the confusing, uncertain, and downright scary days after Sept 11, 2001, we were all stunned, probably a bit numb, and many of us just wanted some way to help. In a move which is surprisingly not well remembered, all of the networks stopped down their nonstop news coverage and carried a telethon featuring musicians from around the world, performing to help raise money to help the victims and the families affected by that blackest of days. The telethon was called A Tribute to Heroes and just about everyone showed up to take part in it. I have no idea how much money they wound up raising, but I'm sure it was a ton. They got some from me, for sure.
At any rate, one of the performances was by U2, who did a mash-up of a "Peace On Earth", "Walk On", and the old church stand-by, "Hallelujah".
I'll tell you what. That performance, more than any other that night, hit me hard. I cried. A lot. All of the emotion, the sadness, the anger, the fear, the whole bit from the preceding days came out.
Here's the performance. It lacks the context of the performances around it, and we're a long way down the road from those awful days. But it still chokes me up.
Brit police are citing links between this attack and Friday's failed car bombs in the Square Mile. Brand new PM Gordie Brown has raised the overall threat level in the UK to Critical, meaning additional attacks are thought to be imminent.
The two boneheads in the Glasgow attack were (again, fortunately) too stupid to do more than set the rolling bomb they drove on fire, and failed to actually make the thing detonate in a big boom. In addition, at least one of them appears to have been wearing a suicide belt, which he also failed to set off. Instead, these two morons allowed themselves to be beaten senseless by the police and bystanders and arrested.
Late word out of the north is that police have pulled a car over on the M6 and have arrested two men and possibly a woman whom they believe have some level of involvement in the London and Scotland attacks.
While the Brit preparedness for attacks, which can be traced back to PIRA's bombing campaigns in the 70s and 80s, has clearly played a part in preventing catastrophe this weekend, you have to notice a serious lack of competence on the part of the attackers as well.
The good news is, at the moment, they seem to be idiots. But, we have to remember the first attempt on the World Trade Center in NYC back in 1993 was amateurish as well. There's no doubt AQ learns from its mistakes.
I STILL can't figure out why they are limiting themselves to the UK, esp when the Brits are a much harder target than the good ol' US and A...
Friday, June 29, 2007
As outrageous as Farfour is (was), "Tomorrow's Pioneers" took their already-over-the-line bit to a whole new level of despicability in the show's final episode.
Farfour was, on a kids TV program, beaten to death by an actor playing an Israeli official who wanted Farfour's land. As an epitaph, the teen-aged host of the show, a character named "Saraa", told the children of Palestine, "Farfour was martyred while defending his land." She went on to say the rodent was murdered by "the killers of children".
How is Israel supposed to reason with these people?
Luck and alert London EMTs averted what could have been a truly horrific car bomb attack in central London very early this morning. A Mercedes loaded with gasoline, propane tanks, and nails was blown in a controlled explosion by police bomb experts after an ambulance crew, summoned to care for a sick person inside a nearby nightclub, spotted smoke inside and outside the car. That "smoke" was probably fumes and vapor from the explosives.
The car was parked in the middle of an area thick with clubs and club-goers, so an explosion would have been catastrophic, with God knows how many people injured and killed.
A second vehicle was found illegally parked near Piccadilly and was actually towed before explosives (or a similar nature - gasoline, propane, and nails) were found in it as well.
Once again, good luck and the hard-won experience of the Brits in dealing with this sort of stuff prevents disaster.
The Brits in general, and London specifically, are difficult targets for terrorists. The English have had people trying to blow them up since the Provos made a habit of it in the 70s and 80s, and are, thus, a bit more vigilant than most Westerners. In addition, the City of London is the most heavily CCTV-saturated spot on the planet. Tracking this car back to it's point of origin (or entry into the City), and capturing a picture of the contemptible a-hole who drove it, ought to be a fairly straightforward exercise in police work (meaning some poor sods are going to spend their weekend poring over countless hours of video from all over London).
I expect arrests to start Monday, if not sooner.
Given all this, and making the no-evidence-at-hand leap to assume AQ or one of their franchisees are behind the attempt, why do international terrorists keep focusing on Fortress London? A stunt of this nature would be a near-slam-dunk in almost any American city, where the passers-by probably wouldn't recognize an IED from shinola.
It's a good thing a lot of these morons are, in fact, morons.
Have we nabbed all the smart ones? Seems hard to believe, but the evidence seems to show a lack of imagination and good target IDs. Thank God.
There are many positives to be found here: The device did not go off, no one was hurt, another cell of terrorists will be identified and arrested (probably), and, not least, I've always wanted to use the word "thwarted" in headline.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
In other words, HELL.
I've got several trips coming up in the next few months, and already hate air travel with a passion that will not die. I dread something like this happening to me, esp on that trip to BC when we take the kids.
In story number 1, Eric John, an American Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, met with the Burmese Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Culture, and Information in Beijing. While a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State isn't exactly a foreign policy big leaguer, he's at least triple A, and is the highest ranking US diplomat to meet face-to-face with any Burmese Minister of anything in forever. So, this is big news.
In story number 2, the International Committee of the Red Cross, which normally does not make any sort of public noise regarding governments' abuses of indigenous populations (the last time they did was during the Rwanda genocide, so they don't do it often at all) has released a public statement blasting the Burmese regime. The Red Cross accuses the Burmese of using forced labor as porters for the military and continued abuse of civilians living along the border with Thailand.
None of this is news, of course. It is remarkable, however, that the Red Cross is saying this publicly. The Red Cross is able to quietly go about its work in some of the worst political environments on the planet. This statement can be taken as an admission the Red Cross sees virtually no hope of the situation in Burma improving on its own.
The response from Pyinmana? The usual silence.
It's frustrating, to say the very least. But, the world has to keep the pressure, such as it is, on these animals.
I confess to being a bit enamored with the Brits, and I follow UK news fairly closely. A recent major story out of England has been that of young Madeleine, who went missing while on vacation with her parents and siblings in Portugal last month. She vanished from the family's hotel room while the parents were eating dinner across the courtyard from the room.
Stories like this pop up all the time in the US, and usually they end badly. It's (unfortunately) likely Madeleine's story will also end in tragedy, but maybe not. Regardless, I cannot imagine the hell her parents have endured for the past 50+ days. It's empathy for them, and the inevitable "what would I do in their place" questions which make this story resonate with me.
Other than making a donation, which I have, there isn't much else I can do for the McCanns, other than to put up the banner, and write this post.
Please follow the link to the left, read a bit, perhaps make a donation. At the very least, say a little prayer for Madeleine and her family.
A few VERY interesting points in a BBC article this morning:
1. Up to 19 gas stations were attacked and burned in protests over Iran's surprise gas-rationing announcement.
2. The Iranian govt has banned local media from covering the story. Great idea, Mahmoud. That always works.
3. In addition, the govt shut down mobile text messaging in the capital last night to prevent organization of further protests. Yep, that usually works out well, too.
4. From the I-Did-Not-Know-That Dept: Iran's govt carries a substantial budget deficit largely caused by fuel subsidies. Gasoline for private use is heavily subsidized and costs the average Iranian consumer around $0.11 per gallon. No wonder they're pissed.
This is worth keeping an eye on, boys and girls.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
The MUCH-anticipated Apple iPhone arrives this Friday, finally ending months and months of hype, conjecture, and breathless anticipation by geeks everywhere. And, according to initial reviews - the most thorough and complete is Steve Levy's in Newsweek - the bang-to-hype ratio is well above average.
Apple's track record of producing superior products (OK, let's get over the Newton, already - the concept was good, even if the execution wasn't) should only be enhanced by the apparently excellent convergence of phone, DAP (digital audio player, for those who are acronym-impaired), PIM (personal information manager; seriously, where have you been?), Web browser, and mobile email client. According to everything I've read, the interface is intuitive and easy to use, the applications work, the battery lasts for a while, and it's fun to use.
To be sure, there are some complaints - it runs on AT&Ts slower EDGE network, rather than the newer and faster 3G, the apps aren't quite as integrated as some might like, storage capacity isn't huge by iPod standards, and it's expensive - but you'd expect at least some of those issues to go away in fairly short order. Some issues. like price, are probably part of the equation for while. However, think back to the original hard-drive iPods, which held 4 or so gigabytes of music and cost a small fortune. Not so much anymore.
I have to say, I am intruiged. I would never buy rev1.0 of any device which costs over $50 (and the iPhone costs WELL over $50), but I'd sure tune in for rev1.5 or later. Except for one little thing.
I work for a Microsoft partner. I'm already somewhat ashamed (and mildly castigated) for having a gmail personal email address and a Blogger site. Showing up at a Microsoft meeting with an IPhone would be the professional kiss of death.
According to Round Mound of Rangers Beat Writer, the Rangers would send Texeira and either Gagne or Otsuka, and would receive, in return, 1B James Loney, RHP Chad Billingsley, and highly-touted prospect LHP Clayton Kershaw (a Highland Park Scot, no less).
So, let's see: For a top-notch starting position player with a year and a bit until free agency (and the Baseball Antichrist for an agent) and a top reliever, the Rangers would get a very young starting position player with a TON of upside, a very young starting (probably) pitcher with a TON of upside, and a stud LHP prospect who's a local.
Grant is pretty sure a deal along these lines is well along. I certainly hope he's right, and the Rangers are able to see it through.
Starting at midnight (local) on Wed - that's late Tues here in the good ol' US and A - Iran started rationing gasoline for private vehicles. The government announced the rationing about three hours before it went into effect.
My first reaction was "HUH?" After all, Iran is one of the largest producers of petroleum in the world. However, it turns out they have very little refining capacity, and are forced to import about 40% of its gasoline.
I had NO idea. What a lovely little bit of leverage this gives the world in the matter of Iran's rogue nuclear program.
Which is apparently what the Iranian govt is thinking, as well.
The move was greeted with some real resistance, with gas stations being burned, civilians and police mixing it up, and stone-throwing youths shouting catchy phrases like "Guns, fireworks, tanks, Ahmadinejad should be killed."
In spite of the obvious unpopularity of the move, the Iranians are trying to take the gasoline hammer out of the West's hands, so they can continue to thumb their noses at the UN, the US, and everyone else when it comes to their nuclear ambitions.
Olbermann has recently written an article for the online version of MSNBC which spells out his thoughts on how the Harry Potter series will end (the 7th and final book comes out in just about a month).
I won't go into the details of Keith's prediction, as it sure sounds plausible to me (even though I have read none of the books or seen any of the movies) and it just might turn out to be true. Instead, I'd like to quote Olbermann's closing paragraphs:
Of course, there is one other option for that big finish.
Harry, Ron and Hermione enter a diner. They order Butter Beer and onion
rings. Voldemort is sitting at the lunch counter, marking time. Outside, Ron’s
sister, Ginny, is having a hell of a time parallel parking, even though she’s
using her wand. And just then the door to the diner opens and Harry Potter looks
up and—the last 11 pages of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” are freaking
That, my friends, is genius!
Monday, June 25, 2007
Students of recent history will recall that Peru has only recently stamped out the remnants of Shining Path, a self-proclaimed Maoist rebel organization. The fighting with Shining Path was gruesome by any standard, and was responsible for the deaths of nearly 70,000 Peruvians in the 80s and 90s.
You know, I've NEVER understood the adoption of old Communist symbols as fashion. Whether its retro-Soviet track suits or Mao bags, I'm not sure what it is we're supposed to be recalling so fondly. The Cultural Revolution? Stalinist show-trials? The killing fields of Cambodia?
Someone PLEASE help me understand!
Who knows? Maybe the Russian versions of these weapons systems actually work, unlike the Soviet-constructed models of yore. While there's no arguing the effectiveness of Mikhail Timofeyevich's semi-automatic rifle, I think the boys and girls who fly F-15s and F-22As have a nice giggle regarding the Su-30. But that's neither here nor there.
Chavez says the arms are to deter US imperialism, as he's pretty sure the Americans are about to invade his country to seize it's oil.
Chavez has been poking his big Socialist nose into Bolivia's politics, raising the ire of many in that country. Is Chavez setting himself up to be the arbiter of right and wrong in South America? If so, would he be any worse at it than the US has?
I hope that last line doesn't come across as anti-American. I'm very much pro-American, and am thankful on a daily basis I live in this country and my kids were born here. There's nowhere on Earth I'd rather live my life than the good ol' US and A. However, I see the rest of the world's point pretty clearly: Why the hell do we think we know what's best for everyone?
I'm certainly not saying the US should pull back into Big Cal Coolidge-style isolationism. There are places in the world where we can make a positive difference: Israel, parts of Africa, spots in Asia and South America - we can (and should) take the lead in the fight against hunger, disease, corruption, subjugation of ethnic and religious minorities, women, etc. There's all kinds of good things we can do, and we should.
However, our immense appetite for stuff - oil, narcotics and other drugs, cheap labor, gems and minerals mined by hand, plastic trinkets of all descriptions, etc - effectively prohibits us from being as benign as we'd like to think we are.
All this is a long way of saying I don't seriously think Hugo Chavez is a better steward of South America than George Bush 0r his successor. I think Chavez is a dangerously paranoid, delusional nut ball who is potentially as cruel and despotic, and as addicted to power, as any of the big meanies in history. I think he's very, very fortunate to have HUGE oil reserves at his disposal, which make his crackpot policies and blind faith in utterly-discredited socialism possible in the first place. I think he's likely to make allies in the worst possible places - jihadists in South America? It's not only possible, it's happening today. - and, as soon as he runs out of money, he's out on his keister.
Wow, went off on a couple of tangents there, didn't I? The original point was, and remains, Hugo is buying lots of things that go boom, the Russians are willing to sell whatever they've got to anyone with the dough, and this can't be good news for anyone.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
The Late Late Show's Craig Ferguson - who is, by the way, an absolute riot - has been writing to state and local officials across the US, requesting citizenship on their state or town. His rationale: If he's granted citizenship in enough locales, he'll become an American citizen by default.
Trust me, it's funnier when he says it.
Anyway, Ferguson heard back from Texas gov Rick Perry (known in some places as Governor Good Hair), who responded with a pretty funny note. This is not exactly keeping in character with Perry's usual mildly bewildered, too-tight-for-his-collar, I-have-no-laugh-reflex demeanor.
There was a time when we granted the status of Texan to just about anyone, including criminals, drunks and Tennesseans. Today our standards are much higher.
"We need to know first of all if you have a gun rack on your car -- and we don't mind gun racks on girlie cars, which I suspect you drive.
"Secondly, we need to know if, upon approaching roadkill, you drive on by, or stop and throw it in the back so you can skin it and hang the pelt on your wall.
"Third, we need to make sure you have never, and never would, deface the Alamo (as some celebrity rock star with a bad British accent once did through the release of bodily fluids.) Editor's note: Legend has it that Ozzy Osbourne did the peeing.
"Lastly, we need to know if you are willing to stand guard on our border, and prevent the entry of illegals from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico.
"Your citizenship as a Texan depends on your answers to these questions, and whether you can dip tobacco and eat chili at the same time.
"Rick Perry, Governor."
Where the heck did that come from?
Friday, June 22, 2007
Tim goes on to provide an entirely appropriate clip from Dumb and Dumber to illustrate the point.
I have been remiss in posting about the Rangers' completely failed season. I'll work up some good bile on that and get back to you.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
The world community is noting her birthday to the extent that virtually everyone who has any interest in the subject is calling for her release. Of course, nothing of the sort will happen. Her sentence was extended another year back in May, and will no doubt be extended again next year.
Well, happy birthday, Daw Suu Kyi. I don't know how you do it, but I pray that you do continue to "Walk On".
Rushdie, you may remember, is on the Islamic fundamentalist sh** list for his 1989 book, The Satanic Verses. In it, he apparently (I've not read it, so I can't tell you for sure) portrayed Mohammed in a less-than-flattering light. As a result, kind, benevolent Ayatollah Khomenei (remember him?) issued a fatwa, a religous decree which was, in this case, essentially a Mafia-style contract, against Rushdie.
So, I'm reading the BBC article, and I'm trying to be open minded. How would I feel if the Brits knighted a Holocaust denier, or a Klansman, or some random Hamas spare who had vowed to erase Israel from existence?
For sure, I wouldn't be happy about it. And neither would the world Jewish community. There would no doubt be protests in the streets of NYC, Tel Aviv, and other cities of the world. There would pronouncements from the Knesset and prominent Jews world-wide. All of which parallel some of the reaction to the Rushdie news in the Islamic world.
So, that's not out-of-control. I certainly see their point.
However, in addition to some of the quiet, restrained, and appropriate protest being lodged, we have officials of Iran's govt who are suggesting suicide bombings against Brit targets are legit due to this act. They're stating that this decision is an "unwise one".
In Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (which is where Uncle Osama is probably hiding out, so this isn't exactly a hotbed of enlightened secular thought), the Assembly released a statement saying, in part, "(this is part of) a campaign waged in Europe and the West to hurt the feelings of Muslims".
Nearly spit my coffee across the desk when I read that one. Since when are fundamentalist Muslims so New-Agey?
OK, OK, this isn't all Muslims. It's not even many Muslims. But it is some Muslims, and they are elected officials of somewhat important countries.
If Muslims feel targeted, misunderstood, viewed with suspicion, etc; I'd submit it's chronic, consistent, violent, outrageous overreactions like this one which make it so.
Yes, there is a middle class in central Africa. I know, I was surprised too.
Stephanie McCrummen writes in today's WaPo about the growing middle class in Nairobi. Made up of small business owners, teachers, civil servants, farmers, recent college grads, and professionals, this group is fueling a bit of a construction boom in the burbs of the Kenyan capital and are buying consumer goods you don't normally associate with that part of the world.
THIS is where peace lies. When a substantial portion of a population starts to see an improvement in their lifestyle, when they start to HAVE SOMETHING TO LOSE, they start to think more rationally and to look for economic, political, religious, and social stability.
Of course, the key here is education. These folks are, for the most part, educated and employable. As in, they went to school and learned more than Koran verses by rote.
Not that I'm trying make any comparisons or anything...
Police in the Cleveland burbs are searching for 26-year old Jessie Davis, who has been missing since last Friday. Davis is 9 months pregnant. The only witness to whatever happened to her is her 2-year-old son, Blake. Blake is currently being cared for by his maternal grandma, and is wandering around the house saying really creepy things like "Mommy was crying," "Mommy broke the table," and "Mommy's in the rug."
The father of Blake and the unborn child (a girl) is one Bobby Cutts Jr., a local police officer. Cutts and his recently estranged wife are cooperating with the investigation.
You hate to jump to conclusions, but that entire last paragraph has "SUSPICIOUS" written all over it.
That poor little boy. God knows what he saw, and God knows how badly its damaged him.
As of just a couple of weeks ago, the rules have changed yet again. We don't have to have the actual passports, just proof that our applications have been submitted. Which is good news, because the State Dept, the agency which issues passports, is so far behind in processing new passport applications, they may never catch up.
Here's the latest on the passport processing fiasco: In addition to a signficant shortage of workers and slow hiring for no apparent reason, it turns out that initial data entry of applications, which is performed by a government contractor, is slow and riddled with errors. That contractor? My favorite former employer: Citigroup.
Based on my experience with Citigroup's ponderous bureaucracy, emphasis on avoiding blame and covering one's a**, complete lack of understanding of basic process design, dehumanizing work environment, lousy pay, and lousier benefits, I am shocked, SHOCKED, to hear Citigroup has made a mess of things.
Monday, June 18, 2007
BTW, this is apparently the airport in St Maartens in the Caribbean, and it is apparently the real deal, not a fake. I will never be landing at that airport.
While I doubt I'm ever going to write a post like this, I have had the procedure and have to agree it there's nothing to it. The "clean out" (yuck) is FAR worse than the event itself.
If you're that age, and you haven't had one of these, it really is no biggie. An it can easily save your life.
The format war seems to be sorting itself out, and, for a change, the superior technology appears to be winning. In spite of Sony's ham-fisted manner in dealing with content providers and the general public, it looks like Blu-Ray is going to be at critical mass before the technologically-inferior HD-DVD.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Tops of the trade-'em-now list is Mark Texeira, the power-hitting first baseman who will enter the final year of club control in 2008 and is a disciple of the Baseball Antichrist. There is essentially no way the Rangers will re-sign Texeira, so it's of paramount importance they get something for him now.
Also on the list of viable trade bait: Eric Gagne, who has shown he's got a little something left; Sammy Sosa, who also has shown he has a little something left; Aki Otsuka, who has been the most reliable pitcher in the organization for the past two years; and perhaps a few others. I'd trade Mike Young, the newly re-signed "face of the franchise" - I know, I know; he's a great guy, he's home-grown, he's part Mexican, and he can hit. But, if you can get some legit pitching prospects, welp, see ya, Mikey!
This season has been so bad, I don't think there's anyone on this team who's untouchable. Unfortunately, there are way too many players here that no one will take. But that's another story.
All this is a lead in to a column in the New York Post today which calls Jon Daniels "the most gunshy GM in baseball".
Well, if you had engineered some of the worst trades in Ranger history (hell, maybe in baseball history), like the Chris Young and Adrian Gonzales for Otsuka and the-long-gone-and-forgotten Adam Eaton trade, and the Alfonso Soriano for Brad Wilkerson trade, and the Kevin Mench and Coco Cordero for long-gone-and-forgotten Carlos Lee trade, and the John Danks for Brandon McCarthy trade, wouldn't you be a little gunshy too?
I sense very bad things for our little Rangers for some time to come.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Unfortunately, the bunker, which was supposed to have been able to stand up to a nuclear bomb blast, has been leaking water for a while, and the car's been sitting in said water.
They tried starting it yesterday, but, alas, the water did it's damage. It would have been a great story if they'd opened the container and found a bright, shiny classic car that fired up on the first try, but it's not to be.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
While Brother Number One Pol Pot went to face a higher form of justice almost ten years ago, big boys like Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary are still on this side of the daisies and are eligible for trial. One would think, since their sicko "social experiment" from 1975-1979 killed approx 2 million Cambodians, they might even be eligible for the Saddam Special.
This has been a political football of the highest order for the past twenty years or so, and delays of every description made trials before the defendants died of old age the longest of longshots. It remains to be seen who gets charged, with what crimes, and if the trials are going to be, you know, trials, but it's still a huge step.
And a reaffirming one at that. Hopefully, justice will finally prevail.
Fatah and Hamas, the two leading Palestinian political factions, have been killing each other for some time now, but things have really spun out of control in the past few days. Today's news includes RPG attacks on the Hamas Prime Minister's home, shootouts in hospitals, and kindergarten classes caught in crossfire.
Oh, these guys are ready for a state of their own. Aren't they? The Family of Nations would be enriched by the presence of the Palestinians.
Israelis are watching this Wide World of Death with mixed emotions, no doubt. As we've said before, every bullet, grenade, mortar shell, etc used on a fellow Palestinian is one less shot, thrown, launched, etc at an Israeli. On the other hand:
- What's left of the best and brightest of the Palestinian population is getting massacred. While the Palestinian birth-rate ensures there will always be a steady supply of cannon fodder, there's no question the gene pool is getting culled in a big way. Who survives this much violence? Only the most violent. All that's left is the thugs and the regular people. The gifted leaders (if there ever were any) who haven't been zapped by an IAF Hellfire missile are taking an AK-47 round in the melon from their next door neighbor.
- If this turns into the long-anticipated fight to the finish, whoever emerges as the winner will be far stronger and in a far more secure position than now. It's difficult to imagine the rest of the world standing around, permitting a "fight to the finish", especially if Fatah appears to be coming out on the short end, but I suspect the Israelis have already thought this through.
- More violence means more kids desensitized to violence, and another generation of martyrs is made.
- Chaos is unpredictable. If it gets really nasty, and (especially) if Fatah is getting creamed, does Egypt step in to enforce a truce? If Egypt sends troops, what does Iran do? If Iran does something, what do the Saudis do? And Gaza is how close to Tel Aviv? Oh, about 45 miles.
What's truly amazing to me is the full circle Fatah has travelled. Back in the day, Fatah was reviled as a vicious, uncrupulous, manipulative bunch of savages. Now, they're the voice of reason and probably the best hope for peace (or at least less violence). I guess in comparison to true evil (which is what I consider Hamas), even Yassir Arafat's cronies look OK.
I really want to blog about happy stuff. This crap is wearing me out.
At issue, among other things, are Chinese tariffs and other trade barriers, along with China's complete disregard for Western copyrights and patents. The Euros are in a snit because they fear loss of China's astoundingly huge and rapidly growing middle-income market due to the tough barriers the Chinese have put in place, while Chinese rip-off artists, free to charge whatever they want behind China's legal and tariff firewall, make a mint.
They've got a point. The Chinese are not playing fair at all with the West in trade, law, and many other areas. But, as Billy Joel's Dodger said, "Fairs are for tourists, kid." The Chinese, with their enormous economic clout, rather scary military (which has no major current commitments other than some minor freedom crushing in Tibet and pockets of Xinjiang, unlike a certain other country who's acronym-du-jour is TSBFPMEMBACEHE, and fundamentally different ideas about the concept of "private property", are under no serious pressure to play by anyone's rules except their own. Don't expect them to come down with a case of the moral heebie-jeebies anytime soon.
It's easy to over-estimate the other guys, especially in a case like this, when there are gaping cultural differences between the average Americano/Euro and the average Chinese. At the same time, it's important to remember the Chinese version of "long term" is a lot different than that of elected and term-limited leaders in the West. Subtlety and nuance are woven into Asia at the DNA level, while the Bush Administration's version of "subtlety" is a wooden baseball bat to the head, rather than an aluminum one.
Eventually, the Arabs are going to be irrelevant. As soon as we have alternatives to oil, which will happen later if not sooner, most of their power will evaporate and they'll be back to herding sheep and killing each other on horseback, just like they were 60 years ago. The Chinese, however, are in it for the long run. And the assets they've got - an enormous, growing-rapidly-in-size-and-wealth market; an industrious population which values education; and a basically stable government run by smart and experienced dudes – are not going away so easily.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
And then there's this. I don't want to sound racist, but, based on this video evidence, we need to watch out for the Chinese.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Thursday, June 07, 2007
TSBFPMEMBACEHE – The Single Biggest Foreign Policy Mistake Ever Made By Any Country Ever in the History of Ever. A new name for the bone-headed, wasteful-in-every-manner, option-killing, economy-crippling, moral-authority-destroying, foreign-policy-emasculating-for-the-next-20-years, ally-alienating, enemy-making, next-three-generations-of-Islamic-terrorists-training FIASCO which is the entire US campaign in Iraq.
For the record, I oppose a pull-out, as I believe it will just make all of the above worse. And I know its crying over spilled milk, but, GOD ALMIGHTY, we should never have invaded in the first place!
What he's talking about is exemplified by those Fatah al-Islam jackasses who are currently slugging it out with the Lebanese army in the Nahr al-Barid refugee camp in northern Lebanon. While not technically part of AQ, these morons are clearly "inspired" by Uncle Osama and Friends. Engel compares them to your local McDonalds franchise – locally owned and operated, locally staffed, but supported by marketing, brand recognition, and "secret ingredients" from the Home Office.
The really interesting part is Fatah al-Islam and their ilk, and there's a bunch of such bands of jerkoffs scattered around Lebanon in Palestinian refugee camps and all over the Middle East, are Sunnis, just like Uncle Osama. In Lebanon at least, the strongest non-government force (hell, maybe stronger than the government) is Iranian-backed, ultra-Shiite Hezbollah. Shockingly, the Lebanese government and Hezbollah now have a common enemy. However, Hezbollah honcho Hassan Nasrallah, who may be delusional, psychotic, immoral, and a liar, but is definitely not a dummy, is pulling the "Oh, we'll help, but it's gonna cost you" bit with the Siniora government.
I don't really know what to make of this, but it's interesting (and scary) to see AQ remake itself yet again. It's equally interesting (and scary) to see just how long the Sunni target list is. These clowns are already going head-to-head with the US in Iraq, are spoiling for a fight with Israel (of course), are after most of the fascist Arab governments, and are ready to throw down with Shiites wherever and whenever they can.
Perhaps that's the answer, or part of the answer. Can we successfully get the Sunnis and Shiites to concentrate on beating the crap out of each other? The answer is probably yes, but we'd need to get out of Iraq first, then have Israel lie as low as it can. Those to pre-requisites are unlikely – we're too stuck in Iraq and it's way too late to just admit it was sheer stupidity to get involved there in the first place, and the Israelis can't afford to roll over, no matter what's at stake in the larger picture.
Still, it sure seems like there's something to be leveraged there. The Sunni-Shiite antagonism seems to present opportunities. I've given up on the Bush administration ever having the intelligence to recognize such opportunities or the skill and subtlety required to act on them, but it's something to keep in mind for January 2009 (how effing depressing is that?).
The lesson from Fatah al-Islam and groups like it is probably something along the lines of the adaptability of the fundamentalist Islamic terrorist world. We will never beat these guys with force, and force applied in the wrong place for the wrong reasons only makes them stronger (yes, that is a not too subtle reference to the Iraq boondoggle, henceforth referred to here as "The Single Biggest Foreign Policy Mistake Ever Made By Any Country Ever in the History of Ever" or TSBFPMEMBACEHE). And, thanks in no small part to TSBFPMEMBACEHE, our options stink.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
The convicted man is Genarlow Wilson, which is sort of a tragic name on its own, but it's not the one referred to in the headline above. That honor is reserved for his defense attorney, one B.J. Bernstein.
Sometimes, I am ashamed of just how childish I am.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
As painful as $3+ gasoline is, here's a good example of why it's in our long term best interests to get reamed by Exxon right now. As gas prices climb, alternatives like the Volt, which, driven with some care regarding length of trip and speed, might never use a gallon of gas, start to look pretty darn attractive.
For me, if someone can build a reliable, 40 miles-to-the-charge, all-electric car and sell it for under $40k, I am totally in. It doesn't have to be a giant sedan or SUV. All I want is seats for four adults, a trunk big enough for a load of groceries, a four-speaker sound system, and decent enough craftsmanship and materials to last for five or six years. Producing a vehicle fitting this description for under $40k doesn't sound unreasonable to me.
If you can come up with that, GM (or anyone else), I'll take two tomorrow.
Why do baseball managers get to make such idiots of themselves? What would happen if you tried some of this nonsense at your job?
Monday, June 04, 2007
Good for him, I suppose. Assuming he actually did it on his own.
If you read a bit about the state of mountaineering, and especially mountaineering on Everest, you'll soon find out it's not all glory. Forget about the obvious danger to life and limb experienced by the professionals who are in top physical form, have tons of knowledge, years of experience, skills, talent, and drive. If it were just those folks climbing up to 29,000+ ft, there would still be outrageous danger and appalling accidents.
It's not just those folks scaling Everest each spring, however, as Herr Berger will attest. Werner himself might be strong as an ox, with all the skill and experience of an Ed Viesturs. But, then again, he might be your typical 69-year-old dude, who only made up the mountain thanks to bottled oxygen, Sherpas carrying everything from his tent to battery-powered jammies to jugs of Propel Fitness Water (whatever the hell that is) for him, and his guide literally carrying his old a** up the mountain strapped to his back. If so, he certainly would not be the first.
Don't get me wrong. Even if Werner got toted up the side of that hill like a sack of zucchini, it still wasn't a pleasant trip for him. However, there's a big difference between discomfort due to cold, wind, and a chafing tow-strap, and real suffering due to climbing nearly straight up into the stratosphere on your own hands and feet.
Today's make-me-gag headline on MSNBC: "Rolling sneakers blamed for rise in kid injuries".
It appears my daughter's Heelys are going to kill her. Or at least leave her maimed.
Someone needs to help me out here. What are kids supposed to do? They can't go outside alone, and if they can manage to get mom or dad to stand outside and watch them play, they can only ride their bikes when decked out in a full set of medieval plate armor. Same thing for skateboards or scooters, if the parent's are insane and/or unthinking enough to provide either of those death traps. They can't play army because they can't have guns, they can't go down to the creek because the water's polluted and the molesters apparently all live in caves along creek beds. They can't play unorganized sports because they don't have the proper safety gear and they might hurt someone's feelings by picking a kid last. And organized sports – too many practices can hurt you, and there are all those a-hole parents around too.
They can't play video games because they're all too violent. They can't go online because the sickos are going to prey on them. Barbie is too thin, GI Joe is too macho, and Tinkertoys have too many small parts. How about a book? Hell no, kid. You need more exercise.
Oh, and make sure you enjoy your childhood.
ENOUGH! The things I enjoyed as a kid – playing "Emergency" on my bicycle (no helmet, thank you), neighborhood baseball games, "French Resistance" (just a thought: is that an oxymoron?) until all hours of the night, exploring the creek at the end of the street, etc etc – all would be labeled "dangerous" now, and my parents would probably be in jail for letting me do any of them.
Listen, I'm all for a "No Heelys" rule in school, in the mall, and maybe a few other places. Basically, if you can't skateboard somewhere, you probably shouldn't be Heeling yourself all over the place either. But outside, when there isn't a crowd to weave through and knock over, why not? My kid has become pretty good on them and it looks like she's having a blast with them.
Kids are going to play, and probably fall down, and likely get scrapes, cuts, and maybe broken bones. Maybe worse. But real high-drama is unlikely. Fun is a near-certainty.
We had it right when we were kids: Parents ruin everything.
The gentleman, shocked by the sudden attack, said "You cannot do this, I'm a United States Congressman!"
The thief said, "In that case, give me my money!"
Friday, June 01, 2007
Several insurance industry modelers are predicting gas prices north of $6/gallon if the Gulf Coast gets clobbered by a true Cat 5 hurricane (which Katrina was NOT by the time it hit land) this summer. It's sorta shocking to read that the first time, but, when you stop and think for a minute, it's not that big a stretch.
Of course, the next question is: Would $6 gas be, in the long term, such a bad thing?
While I'm not a major space geek, I am a moderately-interested fan of the subject. I enjoyed Apollo 13 and From the Earth to the Moon immensely and will stop down for some interesting space news just about any time. Unfortunately, this means I hardly ever pay attention to NASA these days.
Is there anyone out there who understands why we still send space shuttles up? What can they possibly be accomplishing which could come close to justifying the expense of that program? Does anyone think a moon-base is going to result in some sort of scientific breakthrough? I thought the Apollo programs pretty much proved there's nothing of interest on the moon, which is sorta why we haven't been back in 30+ years.
Well, it turns out NASA's priorities are a bit more screwed up than I thought. Gregg Easterbrook (of Tuesday Morning QB fame) has a great article on Wired.com today which spells it out. He's right – the sooner the govt gets out of the space business and lets Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and the rest take over, the sooner we'll start learning again.
WOMAN: "Honey, it's me. Are you at the club?"
WOMAN: "I'm at the mall now and found this beautiful leather coat. It's only $1,000. Is it OK if I buy it?"
MAN: "Sure, go ahead if you like it that much."
WOMAN: "I also stopped by the Mercedes dealership and saw the new 2007 models. I saw one I really liked."
MAN: "How much?"
MAN: "OK, but for that price I want it with all the options."
WOMAN: "Great! Oh, and one more thing. The house we wanted last year is back on the market. They're asking $950,000."
MAN: "Well, then go ahead and give them an offer, but just offer $900,000."
WOMAN: "OK. I'll see you later! I love you!"
MAN: "Bye, I love you, too."
The man hangs up. The other men in the locker room are looking at him in astonishment.
Then he smiles and asks: "Anyone know whose phone this is?"