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Posts from — February 2006

The Port Problem Expands

The six ports in question turn out to be 21 ports. Kind of like the amount required for the Iraqi adventure, counting is not a major accomplishment.

You can see the ports at the Official P&O site, or at Uggabugga for graphic goodness by Quiddity.

February 25, 2006   Comments Off on The Port Problem Expands

America’s Most Dangerous Professor?

When Professor Bérubé starting blegging, I ignored him because it meant fouling my web browser with David Horowitz’s site.

Then Sadly, No joined in the bleg, although there is no mention of cat pictures.

Now Ms. World O’Crap and Julia are asking.

If you have the stomach for it, go vote.

For some reason, the list of academics is sorted by school, not by the name of the person, so you have to find Penn State University to vote for Michael.

Don’t hang around and read the page or really look at the results. They’re wingers, spelling is optional. Maybe “Berkelil” is a winger Berkeley joke. As for the switched column headings on the results page, proofreaders are expensive.

I do wonder why there’s no one from Harvard or Yale on the list.

February 25, 2006   Comments Off on America’s Most Dangerous Professor?

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today

That at the Twentieth Party Congress the General Secretary, Nikita Khrushchev [Никита Сергеевич Хрущёв], denounced Joseph Stalin [Иосиф Виссарионвич Джугашвили].

Having been idolized by the full weight of the Party apparatus, “Uncle Joe” had achieved the position of a god in a supposedly atheistic society, and that was the primary charge leveled at him: he had created a “cult of personality” [культ личности] in a classless society.

As an insider, Khrushchev knew where the bodies were buried and how many there were. Nikita blasted the “generalissimo” for preventing an effective response to the initial invasion of the Soviet Union by the Wehrmacht, refusing to believe that Hitler was actually casting aside their non-aggression pact.

The purges and starvation in the 1930s were laid bare in the common language that Khrushchev cultivated.

The speech was given in a closed meeting and the details were released in a slow and measured matter to avoid the disruption that would be caused by finding out that the savior of Mother Russia was a brutal thug only interested in himself.

It is of interest that young people in today’s Russia have a much better opinion of Stalin than their parents and grandparents. There would appear to be an effort to rehabilitate the image of the Georgian murderer. Now who would want to have people think kindly of a brutal, power-mad, autocrat?

February 25, 2006   Comments Off on It Was Fifty Years Ago Today

The Chinese have Framed Roger Rabbit

Without any explanation Chinese officials have banned films mixing live actors and cartoon characters.

Given that, other than children’s programs, there are very few films that actually fit in this category, you have to wonder what these officials are taking in their tea.

The Soviets use to do things like this. Some senior apparatchik would get it in his head that something was “evil”, and the state would ban it. Communist officials have a lot in common with Fred Phelps and the Religious Reich.

February 24, 2006   Comments Off on The Chinese have Framed Roger Rabbit

Dumber Than Rocks

A local television station, WEAR, sampled local reaction to the White House’s Katrina report.

Proving that he is as out of touch on this, as everything else – Jeff Miller [R FL-1]:

“The role that we think the Department of Defense can play is certainly in staging, distribution, and coordination. I do not think at all that the military needs to come in and take over the state’s function of the local government’s function.”

Miller says one problem in Louisiana after Katrina was the governor and mayor wanted to control the National Guard, but then didn’t know what to do with them.

No, actually, the problem was that 40% of the Louisiana Guard was in Iraq with 100% of the equipment that was needed to respond. As their communications gear, generators, water trucks, and the vehicles modified to operate in swamps were in an Iraqi desert, the Louisiana Guard wasn’t able to operate effectively.

February 24, 2006   Comments Off on Dumber Than Rocks

The Problem

So the White House issues its report on the failure that was the response to Katrina, but lays no blame.

They want to shift more responsibility to the Pentagon. They say there was a lack of coordination of the military effort. What they fail to mention is that the only thing that had to be done to release the military that was ready to go to work was for the Shrubbery to have picked up a telephone and given the word to the commander of the Northern Command who was sitting by the phone waiting.

The USS Bataan followed the storm to New Orleans. The Navy had forces staged at Pensacola. The Air Force had people and supplies staged at Hurlburt Field. The Army had people ready to rush in. They were all ready, and some “bent” the rules to help, but they needed a Presidential order to go to work.

The coordination problem for the military in the case of Katrina was that no one told the Shrubbery that he had to make a phone call while on vacation.

When they talked about the lack of coordination before 9/11 they skipped over the fact that coordination was the job of the President’s National Security Council. When Ms. Rice failed to do her job the system failed.

They keep creating new bureaucracies to do the jobs that the White House has always done in the past. There are more people doing less in this White House than ever before and the Federal bureaucracy keeps growing.

Adding another layer of management never has, and never will improve communications.

February 24, 2006   Comments Off on The Problem

Friday Cat Blogging

[Kevin Drum]

Lap Fungus

Friday Cat Blogging


[Editor: It’s a tough life putting up with Ringo, so Dot is taking a break.]

Friday Ark

February 24, 2006   Comments Off on Friday Cat Blogging

They’re Baaaack

American Robin

Once again we must endure the arrival of the Turdus migratorius [the accent is on the first syllable] or American robin as they descend in their horde to strip a local variety of tree of its purple berries which are rapidly processed and deposited on everything.

The noise and stains are reminders that only one more major cold spell lies between us and the true Spring.

Things are always brighter after their visit, because if you don’t scrub everything down almost immediately the stains from the partially digested berries are damn near impossible to get off.

February 23, 2006   Comments Off on They’re Baaaack

Culture Of Life

South Dakota has decided to be the first to see if five Catholics on the Supreme Court will let them ban abortion.

Since they are so committed to life, I’m sure that the laws banning capital punishment, in vitro fertilization, wars, peace officer guns, etc. will be passed in short order. Naturally they will be providing universal health care to all of their citizens to ensure that life is preserved.

I know this because these are honorable people who really believe in the culture of life and are not power hungry misogynists who feel that women are incapable of making decisions about their lives on their own. This must be true, because, otherwise they would not be inserting government into the very protected space of doctor-patient confidentially and trust. There is no other reason to suddenly decide that bureaucrats and lawyers know more about health care decisions than the patient and people who spent a decade learning their craft.

I expect all of this will this happen right after we read the South Dakota State University’s College of Engineering seminal report on the natural aeronautical capabilities of Duroc hogs¹.

1. No offense, Hogfather.

February 23, 2006   Comments Off on Culture Of Life

Fort Sumter Has Been Shelled

As the BBC reports today: Scores die amid Iraqi shrine fury.

President Jalal Talabani called an emergency summit of Iraq’s political leaders to discuss the violence.

Sunni Arab politicians boycotted the meeting and pulled out of coalition talks in protest at reprisal attacks.

“We are suspending our participation in negotiations on the government with the Shia Alliance,” said Tareq al-Hashimi, a top official from the Iraqi Accord Front, Iraq’s main Sunni Arab alliance.

Dozens of Sunni mosques have been targeted and several burnt to the ground since bombers blew up the golden dome of the revered al-Askari shrine in Samarra on Wednesday morning, reports say.

In a rare public rebuke, the main Sunni religious authority – the Association of Muslim Scholars – accused Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, of fomenting the violence.

Ayatollah Sistani has urged Shias not to attack Sunni mosques, but a spokesman for the cleric said anger might be hard to contain.

In his translations of Middle Eastern newspapers Professor Cole uses the term “excommunicators”, that is apparently the accepted translation of takfiri. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s group, Jama’at at-Tawhid wal-Jihad now known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, are considered “excommunicators”, takfiri, by most people.

They have found the pressure point. Takfiri hold that shrines and relics are the equivalent of idol worship, so it should be expected that other holy sites will be attacked should Shi’ia anger wane.

February 23, 2006   Comments Off on Fort Sumter Has Been Shelled

Civil War?

You can read CNN or the BBC about the bombing of the Al-Askariya “Golden Mosque” in Samarra, but Juan Cole recommends Attack deepens Iraq’s divide by Dan Murphy, staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor.

Of course, Professor Cole is the go-to commentator on these events, and Riverbend of Baghdad Burning provides the reaction of an average Iraqi.

When reading about these events it helps to understand that there isn’t a single Islamic religion anymore than there’s a single Christian religion. Wikipedia’s Divisions of Islam is as good as a starting point as anything.

Osama bin Laden is a Wahhabi Sunni and Yemeni Arab born in Saudi Arabia.
The Taliban are Deobandi Sunnis and generally Afghani Pashtuns.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a Salafi Sunni and Jordanian Arab.
The Syrian Baathist Party is primarily composed of Alawi Shi’ites.
In Lebanon, Reagan picked a fight with the Druze.

The differences are important. The Salafi don’t accept the Shi’ia as Muslims, and al-Zarqawi is probably behind the bombing.

So, it starts. Shi’ia are starting to expand the attacks on Sunnis that has already been occurring in and around Baghdad as payback for what happened under Saddam. The Kurds are pushing back in the North.

It is well past time for the US to leave, because these people are going to have to work this out for themselves. You can’t act as the peacekeeper in a war you started.

February 22, 2006   Comments Off on Civil War?

Port Whine

First and foremost: port facilities in the United States should be operated by American companies. The ports are points of entry into the country and they should be administered in the same manner as any point of entry.

Property stolen in the United States is exported and illegal substances of all kinds are imported through those ports. People have been, and probably continue to be shipped into the United States in containers.

As Michael says, this shouldn’t be about the fact that this a company owned by an Arab government, it should be about any foreign company operating American points of entry.

We have seen no increase in the security of chemical facilities, nuclear facilities, or ports since 9/11. It just hasn’t happened. There has been no real increase in the capabilities of first responders or border security despite massive funding increases.

The Coast Guard hasn’t been strengthened, Customs is no better, and we all know about the weaknesses in the Border Patrol. Appointing friends, Julie Myers, to important positions in the Department of Homeland Security, the head of Immigration Customs and Enforcement, does not show a serious attitude on the part of this administration.

Let’s ignore the ties to the UAE of Neil and Marvin Bush. Let’s ignore the money that the Secretary of the Treasury, John Snow, made when his old company, CSX, was bought by the UAE company. Let’s ignore the appointment by this administration of the head of the company’s European and Latin American operations, David Sanborn, to head the US Maritime Administration. Let’s ignore the hit on Osama bin Laden that was called off because it could have resulted in wounding or killing a significant number of the members of the ruling families of UAE.

Let’s just ignore all of those issues and focus on one thing: does this improve the security of American ports? I’m not interested in when whether ports are less secure or just as secure, I want them more secure. I can’t see how this can be viewed as an increase in port security.

I would note that many of the officials who were supposed to be on the panel that reviewed this, now claim to be unaware of the approval. Since the board and its meetings are secret, no one can tell us who approved it.

When I heard today that my Congresscritter, Jeff Miller [R-FL(1)], has been deluged by calls and e-mails opposing this action, including from the Kiwanas [what’s with that?], I knew that Bush has lost his base, because the first district of Florida is his rabid base.

February 22, 2006   Comments Off on Port Whine

The Cult Of Secrecy

Laura Rosen called it Erasing History, but by any name it is stupid.

Clinton worked to make government cheaper and more efficient. One of the things he did was order all classified document over 25 years old declassified unless there was a specific reason to keep it secret.

I worked with classified documents and every document has a paper trail. They are like library books, requiring you to check them out and check them back in. They have to be kept in safes inside secure rooms. The rooms are inside specially designed and protected buildings. I worked inside vaults and had to remember changing passwords. I had to challenge anyone I didn’t recognize in the secure area. There were guns and gas involved in the protection schemes. There were plans to destroy everything that involved Thermite grenades and a good chance of injury or death in the process. That is expensive.

So we started cleaning out the closets, and then the paranoids crawled out from under their rocks, and claimed that secrets had been exposed.

When Bush came in, the paranoids had their leader and they are trying to re-classify everything. It’s stupid. It’s expensive. It’s part of their cult.

February 21, 2006   Comments Off on The Cult Of Secrecy

Time Scale

One of the major problems with American foreign policy is that the United States uses a different time scale than much of the rest of the world. Americans want things done now, they live very much in the now, forgetting about the past and ignoring the future.

Americans can’t credit that Iran is building nuclear reactors and the United Arab Emirates are buying up businesses all over the world because they are planning for their grandchildren and the grandchildren of their grandchildren. They know that the oil won’t last forever and they are moving beyond it.

The Chinese don’t deal in time spans of less than five years to do anything, and treat five years like Americans treat days. The Chinese government is not the individual at the top, but the entire bureaucracy that existed before the Party and will continue after the Party disappears.

Americans can’t relate to people still angry about things that happened centuries ago, because we have lost the ancestor worship that is part of the lives of people in other countries. As a nation of immigrants, by coming to the “New World” we broke free of our roots and ancestors. History is not valued by Americans. Many Americans made a conscious decision to break their ties to the past when they came to this country.

Many American corporations think from quarter to quarter. Management doesn’t worry about the long term results of their actions, because they don’t expect to be with the company very long, so any consequences will be someone else’s problem. That’s why senior management always has their severance package nailed down before they accept a job with a new firm.

Think about it: we don’t want to do anything about global warming because we would have to make sacrifices to safeguard future generations.

February 21, 2006   Comments Off on Time Scale