Tuesday, February 28, 2006

In memory of Ilan Halimi

Go light a candle for the French-Moroccan Jew tortured and murdered by a group of young Muslims.

One of the best times of year...

Is it Christmas? Hannukah? Thanksgiving? Fourth of July? Superbowl? The Return of Kim Bauer day?

NO! It's Girl Scout Cookie season and they arrived today! Yes it's those oh so crunchy, delictibly creamy, citrus sweet Lemon Creams! The mouthwatering, crisp chocolate goodness of the Thin Mints! And my personal favorites, the thick, creamy chocolate and peanut buttery yumminess of the Peanut Butter Patties! It's the time of year to throw the diet and gym membership out the window and snuggle up on the couch with a fire, a quilt, a glass of milk, and a freshly bought box of the most scrumpcious cookies known to man.

So when you see those sweethearts in their cute little green uniforms marching up your walkway to your front door, open it, smile, and just hand over your wallet saying "Give me what you've got and then I'll order a dozen more." When you see their little card table in front of the grocery store and they ask "Would you like to buy some Girl Scout Cookies?" say "Absolutely! I don't need those fruits, veggies, and low-fat sources of protein! I need all the Shortbread boxes you have!"

Who cares that they're like 100 calories a cookie! Ignore the calories! You can't put a price on this much happiness.

24 confirms Kim Bauer will be back!

Blogs 4 Bauer had been promising her return for weeks, only to leave us utterly depressed when the episode finishes and she's still MIA. But next week, the commercials confirmed her actual presence at CTU! Thank God!

And this week, CTU saves president Weasel's pasty buns by Section 112-ing the fat, nasty hobbitsses and running with the attack intel that saves the day. For agent Pierce's heroics, he should be promoted to Jack's back up partner, should something happen to Cola. Then Jack and Pierce could be two shots of 152. But they're both reds, so perhaps a whiskey is in order. Maybe that new 184 proof whiskey that's in the works.

And the old robocop guy tries to kill Jack with a clipboard. Please. You can't kill Jack with a clipboard. He really ought to know better.

And now your moments of zen Jack:

Chuck Norris Jack Bauer has bed sheets that are made from 60 grade sandpaper.

Jimmy Hoffa is alive and well in Chuck Norris' Jack Bauer's large intestine but refuses to say "uncle".

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. In the end all that will be left is Chuck Norris Jack Bauer.
Now we wait for Kim....

UPDATE: Aaahh! I forgot the kill counter...

How many people died last episode? I picked 6 and I think I'm close...

And everyone make sure you check out The Carnival of Bauer at Blogs4Bauer for the latest round up 24 news and gossip from across the web!

Saddam should have stayed on hunger strike

... because court doesn't appear to be going well for him at the moment.

Documents introduced in court on Tuesday show that Saddam Hussein approved the killings of 148 Shia in 1982, prosecutors said.

See this is why my mom always told me never put it in writing... it will eventually link you to that genocide you committed back in the day.

[...] The memo bears the signature of Awad al-Bandar, the Revolutionary Court's head and one of Saddam's seven co-defendants.

Another document, dated two days later, was a presidential order approving all the death sentences. It was signed by Saddam, prosecutors said.

Not good Saddam... you should have listened to your mother... Or perhaps you just shouldn't have been a megalomaniac, psychopathic tyrant. One or the other.

WSJ is preaching to the choir here in California

I don't get why people here keep complaining about taxes and keep voting for Democrats for state legislature. Don't like taxes? Stop. Voting. Democrat.

It's really that simple.

The latest Census Bureau data indicate that, in 2005, 239,416 more native-born Americans left the state than moved in. California is also on pace to lose domestic population (not counting immigrants) this year. The outmigration is such that the cost to rent a U-Haul trailer to move from Los Angeles to Boise, Idaho, is $2,090--or some eight times more than the cost of moving in the opposite direction.

A mass exodus. Yeah it's that bad.

What's gone wrong? A big part of the story is a tax and regulatory culture that treats the most productive businesses and workers as if they were ATMs. The cost to businesses of complying with California's rules, regulations and paperwork is more than twice as high as in other Western states.

But the worst growth killer may well be California's tax system. The business tax rate of 8.8% is the highest in the West, and its steeply "progressive" personal income tax has an effective top marginal rate of 10.3%, or second highest in the nation. CalTax, the state's taxpayer advocacy group, reports that the richest 10% of earners pay almost 75% of the entire income-tax revenue in the state, and most of these are small0business owners, i.e., the people who create jobs.

That's why we kicked Davis out of office and put in Arnold. Sure he's not a conservative Republican, but half a sandwich is better then no sandwich when you're getting the crap taxed out of you. So keep that in mind California...

Keep California beautiful... vote Republican.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Those of you in the DC area might want to get your shotguns ready

The wackos are coming! The wackos are coming!

It looks like the pacifists are thinking of a (possibly violent) overthrow of the Bush administration on March 15th. Sure, it could be some lunatic who managed to break out of the asylum and figured out how to turn on his computer, but you never know.

Storm the White House

[...] Inviting everyone to the White House for a protest rally to show that we do not accept the criminal government, illegal wars and the permanent occupation planned for Iraq and Afghanistan. For Nat Turner, For Martin and Coretta, For all the Torture and Assassination in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and many others - We will not allow the Slave Holders that Still Prevail in this Country to Rule us any longer. Imprisonment and torture based on race, religion, resources or region is no different than the slavery we sought to abolish years ago. The Administration is Criminal and if they will not step down, we must storm in, show them how many of us do not accept a criminal government. How can we stand by and watch them kill our brothers, sisters, journalists and friends for their dollars

Needless to say these guys are a few tacos short of the #16 combo plate at Jose's Taco Shop. In fact I think they're missing the beans and rice to. And no ice in the soda...

Anywho, Captain Quarters lists their steering committee roster. The groups on this list are apparently endorsing the overthrow of our elected government and includes:

* The Communist Party (no surprise there!)
* National Hip Hop Political Caucus
* Iraq Veterans Against The War
* September 11th Families For Peaceful Tomorrows
* Teen Peace Project
* Not In Our Name
* Military Families Speak Out
* US Campaign To End The Israeli Occupation
* National Network On Cuba (again, no surprise)
* DC Anti-War Network
So I'm just saying be prepared. If a half dozen, stoned out of their minds, peace-loving hippies come down your street on March 15th have the shotgun ready. And maybe some Cheetos for the ones' with the munchies.

The Pro-Victory Party

Is a new political party on the rise? I think this could catch on... (via Army Lawyer)

Thus my new ideology is that of winning. I'm not conservative or liberal or liberatarian or Green or Republican or Democrat. I'm pro-victory. Once, my vote would have gone to a Republican 99.999% of the time. Today my votes will go to the candidates who prove themselves as committed to fighting this fight to the end, even if it takes years, decades, or centuries.

I hate cowardice more than I hate high taxes. I despise weakness more than I despise abortion. I'm more intolerant of lack of resolve than I am of campaign finance reform. And all I see out of this new anti-war movement is weakness, cowardice, and gutlessness.

Strength through superior firepower would be a great campaign platform.

Bureaucrats keep slapping Iran on the wrists

And so far it's really done nothing to deter their nuclear ambitions.

In a report, Mr ElBaradei said Iran was still not co-operating fully with his inquiries, and he could not tell if it had a nuclear weapons programme.

Mr ElBaradei's IAEA has voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council.

Uncooperative is the least of our problems here, but hopefully these guys will come to a consensus of action sometime this decade. Of course by then Iran will be ready to nuke the Security Council, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about that yet...

At a meeting on 4 February, the IAEA board demanded that Tehran stop hindering its inspectors' inquiries.

Otherwise, Western diplomats said, the Security Council could consider imposing sanctions against Iran.

Ah sanctions. Didn't do much good on Iraq, but who knows. Maybe Iran's psychopathic president is saner than Saddam.

Mr ElBaradei's report said: "It is regrettable and a matter of concern that the uncertainties related to the scope and nature of Iran's nuclear programme have not been clarified after three years of intensive agency verification."

They've hindered inspectors now for three years. So what timetable does that put sanctions at? 2010? Let's get a move on with this guys. We' like some sort of action before they've finished making their first nuclear weapon, mkay?

Reiner resigns amid scandal

In the story Hugh had been covering last week along with the Dubai ports deal, was the Reiner scandal for misusing tax-payer money (the link is to Bill Bradley's blog who has been covering Meathead's misuse of money masterfully). Hugh was saying Arnold should have long since asked for Reiner's resignation since the term for his position had expired. Well better late than never.

SACRAMENTO - Facing pressure from legislators and others, producer Rob Reiner said Friday he is taking a leave as chairman of a state commission that spent $23 million for ads touting the value of early education while he is promoting a statewide preschool initiative.

Reiner took the action in a letter addressed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The leave takes effect immediately and will last until June 7, the day after voters decide the fate of Proposition 82, a Reiner-backed initiative to raise taxes on wealthy Californians to pay for preschool for all 4-year-olds.

Reiner has said that he and the First 5 California Children and Families Commission he has chaired since its inception in 1999 have done nothing improper but that he will step aside for the good of the commission.

His disclosure, however, came on a day when state Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman of Irvine and Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D-Glendale), a candidate for state controller, urged Controller Steve Westly to audit the commission, citing concerns that the panel had used tax money to aid the preschool initiative. Tony Strickland, a Republican also running for controller, called for an audit earlier this week.

See ya Meathead!

Top Zarqawi aide reportedly captured

And it was carried out by Iraqi forces.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Interior Ministry forces captured a top aide to al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi during a raid in western Iraq, state television reported Monday.

Iraqiya TV identified the captive as Abu al-Farouq, a Syrian. It said he was captured with five other alleged al-Qaida operatives in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad. The raid was carried out by the ministry's counterinsurgency Wolf Brigade.

Good work Iraqis.

Arrivederci Winter Olympics!

I know a lot of people weren't too interested in the Olympics, but I've got to say I enjoyed them. The speed skating and the hissy fit that Shani Davis threw, our snowboard cross chick who yards away from winning gold, did a trick, wiped out and ended up with Silver, and Austrian olympians' dorms raided for doping. All sorts of drama going on.

The athlete of ours who I was most impressed by was Apollo Anton Ohno. Every time he was interviewed, whether he'd won gold or wiped out and not even finished, he was the most gracious winner or loser. He was well spoken and genuinely just happy to be there representing our country. A good guy you could really root for.

Congrats to Apollo and all of our Olympians.

Senators Clinton and Menedez to introduce anti-capitalist measure

Bloomberg had this tidbit buried at the end of their article on the DP World ports deal.

Clinton and Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, plan to introduce a measure that would bar companies owned or controlled by foreign governments from acquiring U.S. port operations.

In an ideal world, I would love to have American companies manage our ports, but in a global, capitalist economy, you can't legislate against this sort of thing. The British company had been managing our ports just fine. Heck a Chinese company manages some of our ports and people could care less. But UAE, an ally of ours as opposed to China, and people start protesting.

But I think the real reason behind Clinton's proposed legislation is... Halliburton!!

They've got Hillary in their pocket!! Where's the outrage?!

Friday, February 24, 2006

UAE and DP World agree to delay port take over

... as part of an effort to assuage the fears of US citizens and lawmakers.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A United Arab Emirates company has agreed to postpone its plans to take over management of six US ports after the proposed deal ignited harsh criticism from both Democrats and Republicans on national security grounds.

In a written statement released late Thursday, the state-owned Dubai Ports World said it will not assume control of the terminals until US lawmakers have time to study the deal.

"The reaction in the United States has occurred in no other country in the world," DP World chief operating officer Ted Bilkey said in the statement. "We need to understand the concerns of the people in the US who are worried about this transaction and make sure that they are address to the benefit of all parties. Security is everybody's business."

It's really a very generous offer on their part, showing a ton of goodwill and I think will end up being good for their business and for future relations between our countries. I hope the president takes some time to more fully explain his thought process behind this deal and that Congress takes the time to thoroughly dissect the deal and confirm the reasons the president is so confident in the security of the deal. Oh, and that they not use this time to pointlessly grandstand and posture themselves for future votes. I know that's a lot to ask Senators Clinton and Levin, but the president didn't break any laws here, so please shut up.

UPDATE: Robert Kaplan was on Hugh's show yesterday and, along with Mark Steyn and Austin Bay, made a huge dent in Hugh's reluctance over the DP World ports deal. Here's a Kaplan quote from the interview.

I mean, to the degree that the U.S. can still be in control of personnel working there, and security, I have no problem with Dubai's competence at running a port as well or better than we do. And it's part of the process of globalization, and at this point, if you tell them no, simply because they're Arabs, you're going to lose a lot more in the Arab world than you'd ever gain by a marginal improvement in security. And I think the security issue can probably be gotten around without tearing up the contract.


American Idol

I'd really like to exonerate myself here and blame my fascination with American Idol this season on the fetching Mrs. Wookie, or perhaps the other CoD, but I can't. Usually I just like watching the first few episodes to see the stupid and outrageous things people do when initially trying out. But this season, I actually started to like some of the people on the show. That was my downfall.

I think everyone liked the Wyoming cowboy from a city population 4, who'd never sung for people before, never been on a plane before, and never seen the ocean before. Unfortunately he got voted off a round or two ago.

But for those still on the show, my favs are Taylor Hicks and Chris Daughtry. Chris has a great rock voice and Taylor has a fabulously unique voice, a combo Ray Charles, Marc Cohn, and Joe Cocker. Crazy good stuff.

And the girls this year, most of them must have supermodel gigs for their day jobs. Especially Becky. Too bad her hotness didn't translate into making it to the next round. Of course, it came out the other day that she and her twin sister posed for Maxim a while back and even did an episode of Fear Factor. Still, she is superhot. Too bad she's gone. If they vote off Taylor, I will boycott the show. Keep that in mind America or feel the wrath of my puny little blog!

Huge terrorist attack thwarted in Saudi Arabia

Holy crap! You want to see high oil prices? Prices after Katrina would be nothing compared to what would have happened if the terrorists had succeeded in this attack.

Suicide bombers in explosives-laden cars attacked the world's largest oil processing facility Friday, but were prevented from breaking through the gates when guards opened fire on them, causing the vehicles to explode, officials said.

[...] It was the first attack on an oil facility in Saudi Arabia - and it targeted one of the kingdom's most important. The huge Abqaiq processing facility near the Gulf coast handles around two-thirds of the country's oil output, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Intelligence Agency.

Saudi Arabia has been waging a fierce three-year crackdown on al-Qaida militants, who launched a campaign in 2003 aimed at overthrowing the royal family with a string of attacks - mostly targeting foreigners. In May 2004, militants attacked oil company offices in two cities.

Saudi Arabia has been a very helpful ally in the GWOT (as I mentioned yesterday in my post on the UAE ports deal) but they've also got some activities that fuel the extremist mindset. Weren't something like 15 of the 9/11 terrorists of Saudi origin? Don't they fund extremist Wahabi schools that preach hatred against the West? Should we not do business with them? To what extent? Would they demand we close our military bases in the country? Are we a safer country for doing business with them based on the recipricol benefits we get in pursuing terrorists in the region? Now what about UAE?

UPDATE @ 4:30PM: Al Qaeda claims responsibility for the attack.

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group claimed responsibility for Friday's attack on a major Saudi oil facility at Abqaiq, the group said in an Internet statement.

The statement, posted by the al Qaeda Group in the Peninsula on a Web site often used by militant groups, said two of its members carried out the suicide operation but gave no details.

The authenticity of the statement could not be verified.

Deputy David March's killer arrested in Mexico

I'm not sure how much national play this has gotten, but it's been a big story here in SoCal. Local radio hosts John and Ken discuss the latest on the case regularly and the parents of Deputy March have become vocal advocates in the fight to control our borders, so hopefully we can get Mexico to extradite this thug quickly.

Mexican authorities arrested the suspect in the 2002 killing of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy David March on Thursday, the U.S. embassy in Mexico City reported.

Agents of the Mexican Federal Investigation Agency apprehended Armando “Chato” Garcia, aka Jorge Arroyo Garcia, in the city of Tonala in western Jalisco state, according to an embassy statement.

A spokeswoman for the Mexico Attorney General’s Office confirmed the arrest.

March, 33, of Saugus, was gunned down during what should have been a routine traffic stop in Irwindale on April 29, 2002. Garcia, a Mexican national, reportedly fled to his native Mexico within 24 hours after the slaying.

A host of government officials — from Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon to Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, Sheriff Lee Baca, District Attorney Steve Cooley and City Councilman Bob Kellar — pursued numerous avenues in the last four years to effect Garcia’s arrest and extradition.

This particular case became the symbol of our relationship with Mexico for border control advocates. Hopefully this signals the beginning of a more cooperative Mexican government, otherwise I think it time we start withholding aid to them, until they begin to help secure the border.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

More analysis on the US ports deal [updated]

More commentary is coming out from officials and experts trying to minimize the public disgust at the deal.

The focus on the DP World deal overshadows more urgent vulnerabilities at U.S. ports, according to security specialists such as Veronique de Rugy, a homeland security analyst at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute and Joseph King, who was chief of the terrorism unit for U.S. Customs.

The U.S. should put more inspectors at overseas ports to examine cargo, de Rugy said. In the U.S., King said, the government for years has relied on private security companies that hire poorly trained, low-wage workers to guard ports.

"The federal government ceded it years ago as a cost savings," he said.

As we discussed yesterday, the real challenge with securing our ports is inspecting what gets on the cargo ships. While inspecting more cargo containers once they arrive would be obviously beneficial, the potential plots for port attacks more often include ramming the vessel at full speed into the docks and detonating whatever device they have onboard. That to me seems far more likely than taking a chance on an inspection of a container with a bomb in it to be smuggled elsewhere.

De Rugy also said that terminal operators play a minor role in security. "They are middle managers who tell longshoremen where and when to unload cargo," she said.

Again stuff we covered yesterday. David Brooks in the NYTimes takes it a step further in his op-ed piece, Kicking Arabs in the Teeth (membership required), arguing that fledgling democracies in the area deserve the chance to trusted. He also points out the negative spin Muslim media this will give this thanks to Senators on CSPAN. They'll try to make it Mohammed cartoons II.

There are good arguments here on both sides, and the president should lay everything out on the table for why this decision will stand even if it means his veto. Congress and the public deserve to know. But I'm leaning towards allowing the sale to go through, unless something remarkable is revealed about DB World or improprieties in the sale itself (ie personal friends making money because of the sale). If everything is on the level, then I think the sale ought to go forward. (Damn, I can't believe I'm agreeing with Jimmy Carter)

UPDATE @ 10:06AM: Another article that draws similar conclusions to David Brooks is this one from the AP/Seattle Times.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – To many in this booming financial center, the American backlash over Dubai running U.S. ports boils down to something simple — and ugly: "This is Arab-phobia," says one Arab security analyst. "I can see no other reason behind it."

As the U.S. secretary of state heads here for talks, many Arabs go further, saying the very basis of American policy toward the Middle East may be at stake: If the United States can't work with a moderate, friendly and socially liberal Arab ally like Dubai, it may not be able to work with any Arabs at all.

I certainly don't think anti-Arab sentiment has anything to do with opposition to the sale, but that certainly won't stop the perception.

UPDATE 2 @10:56: BlackFive also comes out in favor of the deal.

The question before us is who exactly do we trust, obviously the Brits, as they had this gig, but who else? I can think of a few who immediately get crossed off, like Iran, Syria, North Korea, maybe Hugo Chavez' Venezuela. But where is the line, and what are the criteria?

Is it any country with more than 50% Muslims? What about the narco-states in South America? We don't have a coherent policy, but we have been making a whole lot of noise about not punishing the many for the actions of a few. We have said we believe most Muslims are decent folks and now we have a chance to prove it or not. If we have found no sufficient reason to intervene in this, then why does it matter that the country in question is Dubai? Do we now fear all Middle Eastern countries too much to do business with them?

And on a completely pragmatic tip, wouldn't it be nice to have a country there that owed us one for playing straight with them? We have already been told that Dubai has been very helpful in the financial dismantling of Al-Qaeda, and now we will repay them by saying "Yeah, but you're still Arabs and Muslims, thanks for your support." W has taken plenty of heat for diplomatic failings, slapping Dubai in the face for the crime of Operating While Arab would be a major mistake. We need Arab and Muslim partners who have a financial stake in ensuring the bad guys can't use our ports, and we can either gain some good will or help bin Laden's recruiters.

Operating While Arab. I like that. Hope you don't mind if I borrow that one once and a while Jimbo.

UPDATE 3 @11:45AM: Counterterrorism Blog has contributors on both sides of the issue. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is for the deal...

First of all, after this sale, DP World won't suddenly become our only recourse for port security. There is in fact a layered set of security checks that operates independent of DP World. These checks include the following:

A 24-hour Manifest Rule that requires sea carriers to provide U.S. Customs with detailed descriptions of the contents of containers bound for the U.S. a full 24 hours before the container is loaded onto a vessel. This allows U.S. Customs officers to assess risks and scan the containers in overseas ports before they enter the U.S.

The Coast Guard remains responsible for port security regardless of who manages the ports, while Customs and Border Protection maintains responsibility for container and cargo security.

As containers enter the U.S., officers on the ground screen the containers using imaging and radiation detection technology.

These security procedures will not change even if DP World takes over port operations. Whether or not one believes that these security procedures are sufficient, the fact remains that we won't be left any worse off.

Just as the security procedures and those who are charged with carrying them out will remain the same, we are unlikely to witness a change in the composition of the workforce at the six ports that DP World would run. Robert Palaima, the president of Delaware River Stevedores, pointed out that when the British company P&O Steamship Navigation Co. ran the ports, there wasn't a sudden infusion of British workers. He doesn't expect that this will change once the partner is based in Dubai rather than Britain. (My colleague Victor Comras noted DP World's rapid expansion; this makes it more likely that they will simply use American employees.)

A third reason that security concerns are overblown is that DP World isn't exactly a fly-by-night operation that came out of nowhere to buy up P&O. Rather, it is a multi-billion-dollar operation that bought up the British company for a whopping $6.8 billion. DP World operates ports around the globe. If a terrorist attack came through one of its ports, its entire business could be shattered. That is a high price to pay, and means that DP World has at least the same kind of incentive that any other company would -- indeed, perhaps more of an incentive -- to ensure strong port security.

And a final consideration is the manner in which the administration has attempted to "push the borders out" over the past few years to guarantee better port security. Security screening has shifted to the port of origin, with checkpoints along the way to ensure the cargo's continued safety. This means that a significant portion of our port security is already handled by ports outside the U.S. Thus, it's not clear why the present port acquisition has caused more of an uproar than the expansion of DP World's operations into Europe, Latin America, East Asia and Australia.

Douglas Farah against...

Viktor Bout, the world's largest illegal weapons dealer, made $50 million selling weapons to the Taliban, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. He continues to feed murder and mayhem across Africa by selling weapons to rogue regimes and nonstate actors. And he continues to maintain several dozen aircraft in UAE--one of only three countries in the world to recognize the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Bout and 30 of his companies are designated by the U.S. Treasury Department and the United Nations Sanctions, meaning every country is bound to freeze the assets of those companies and individuals. Yet the UAE has made no move to go after Bout's aircraft, even though one of his designated companies, IRBIS, continues to fly openly, and has not even bothered to change its name. His aircraft sit on the runways of Sharjah, and his pilots continue to fly daily from there, including recent flights for the U.S. military and its contractors.

The United States, for the past EIGHT YEARS has been asking the UAE to crack down on Bout's illicit activities there, with no results.

Both make good points, but I think Gartenstein-Ross more fully tackles UAE's rocky past, citing the positive things they've done for us like turning over the man who planned the USS Cole bombing and al Qaeda naval attack expert Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri. I'm still for the deal; we're taking the good with the bad on most relations with our Middle East allies: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, etc. UAE no worse, and perhaps better than those three. Plus strategic position a stone's throw from Iran and that they allow us to use naval and air bases there. It's tough to thumb our nose at that.

UPDATE 4 @ 3:07PM: Jason Coleman has the ultimate Dubai sales video. Check it out, it's nuts.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

WSJ on the US ports issue [updated]

[Scroll down for updates]

And, surprisingly, the WSJ comes out in favor of the deal that would allow a United Arab Emirates company control of six major US ports. In fact they hope the president stands firm on his vow to veto any legislation brought forth stopping the sale. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, the piece does make some valid points.

Yes, some of the 9/11 hijackers were UAE citizens. But then the London subway bombings last year were perpetrated by citizens of Britain, home to the company (P&O) that currently manages the ports that Dubai Ports World would take over. Which tells us three things: First, this work is already being outsourced to "a foreign-based company"; second, discriminating against a Mideast company offers no security guarantees because attacks are sometimes homegrown; and third, Mr. Graham likes to talk first and ask questions later.

Besides, the notion that the Bush Administration is farming out port "security" to hostile Arab nations is alarmist nonsense. Dubai Ports World would be managing the commercial activities of these U.S. ports, not securing them. There's a difference. Port security falls to Coast Guard and U.S. Customs officials. "Nothing changes with respect to security under the contract," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday. "The Coast Guard is in charge of security, not the corporation."

In a telephone interview yesterday, Kristie Clemens of U.S. Customs and Border Protection elaborated that "Customs and Border Protection has the sole responsibility for the cargo processing and cargo security, incoming and outgoing. The port authority sets the guidelines for the entire port, and port operators have to follow those guidelines." Again, nothing in the pending deal would affect that arrangement.

The piece also points out the bidding war for the British company began last autumn, the company accepted Dubai's offer last month (apparently the British company P&O, like Dick Cheney, doesn't have David Gregory's cell phone on speed dial either), and this only became a headline story when a Florida firm that is a partner with P&O in Miami, Continental Stevedoring and Terminals Inc. filed a suit to block the purpose which prompted the mayor of Miami to write a letter to the president. So it's not necessarily Bush who's acting on behalf of rich buddies helping them make another quick buck. Granted there's no reason an American company can't be put in charge of our own ports; Lord knows I'd much rather see that happen, but our people will still control security and our unions will still work the docks. The UAE has been something of an ally for us in the GWOT, so it's not like we just handed the ports to Iran. However Jimmy Carter is still in favor of the deal the last time we checked, so there's a big vote against the deal. But a broken clock is still right twice a day, even if it's wrong the other 99% of the time.

More food for thought. Hopefully similarly insightful pieces continue to come forward.

UPDATE @ 2:38PM: Found the WSJ article via Ace who makes some persuasive arguements contrary to the WSJ. He correctly points out that this could make it easier for an Arab with views sympathetic to al Qaeda to collect intel on the ports to find points of weakness for smuggling in who knows what. Sure they won't be security, but they'll have access to inner workings that a basic observer wouldn't.

UPDATE 2 @ 4:20PM: Hugh is interviewing Rear Admiral Craig Bone who is the director of port security who said he sees no change in security threat due to the change in management. He also makes the point just because they've got some access to the port, doesn't mean they've got unlimited access to everything. Security access is not granted to management firms. And while personnel screening for the Dubai company is done by the Dubai company alone, the process by which they do their security checks is submitted to port security agencies, so we'd supposedly know who's working for them and their background. The admiral goes on to say the global cooperation is what's really required solve the problem completely. We obviously can't control what's loaded onto a ship overseas. We also may not be able to control the crew of a ship in particular, so recon work at our ports is possible in a variety of ways, not just via the management company should it happen to be located in an area known for terrorist activity. I can see the point better safe than sorry. I still don't think there's a smoking gun for either side here yet.

UPDATE 3 @ 4:44PM: In From the Cold also appears to be cautiously opptomistic, if I may be so bold, as he reads through the NYSun.

But, on the other hand, it is reasonable to ask questions about the holding company, and what access--if any--it may have to sensitive shipping information, and potential ties may exist between the firm, its owners, and terrorist organizations.

As illustrated by the 9-11 Commission Report, some transactions within the UAE--particularly in the financial sector--tend to be a little murky. Before the Dubai holding company completes its takeover of P&O, Congress has a right to have its questions answered, by the administration and the UAE. If deal is above boards and security concerns are adequately addressed, then the deal should proceed.

I will agree with the Sun on one thing: some of the Congressmen opposing the port deal are certainly selective in their outrage with the UAE. As the paper notes, Senators Schumer, Clinton, Lautenberg, Dodd (and others) never uttered a peep when the Clinton Administration sold highly advanced F-16s to the UAE Air Force. But then again, consistency in national security matters has never been the Democrat's strong suit.

I think I've been on the same page since this story became the huge issue everyone's talking about. While it sounds bad that the ports would be managed by UAE, it isn't necessarily so. Let Congress have a look, and they'll presumably what the White House saw, nothing to keep the deal from moving forward. He's got two other posts on the ports here and here.

USS Ronald Reagan arrives in the Persian Gulf

And she brings some heavy-hitting firepower with her.

The Ronald Reagan Strike Group is comprised of Carrier Air Wing 14, Destroyer Squadron 7, the nuclear-powered carrier Reagan, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain, the guided-missile destroyers USS McCampbell and USS Decatur, the fast-combat support ship USS Rainer, and Explosives Ordnance Disposal Unit 11, Det. 15.

6,000 sailors in the strike group as well. Peace through strength indeed.

California postpones Morales execution and Jesse Jackson could care less

The oh-so-vocal Save Tookie crowd (Jesse Jackson, Jamie Fox, Snoop Dog, et al) has been strangely silent lately. First they didn't care about the execution of white boy Clarence Ray Allen last month, and they've been silent thus far over Michael Morales. Of course they wouldn't really have needed to do anything since the courts have gone apeshit on this one. Or maybe because these last two aren't black. Just throwin' that our there...

SAN QUENTIN, California (Reuters) - California officials postponed indefinitely the execution of convicted killer Michael Morales on Tuesday after notifying a federal court they could not comply with a court order that medical professionals assist in carrying out his death sentence.

San Quentin State Prison spokesman Lt. Vernell Crittendon said prison officials, who had delayed the execution earlier in the day, could not find a licensed medical professional willing to inject a lethal drug into Morales.

Apparently Dr. Kevorkian was unavailable, and no other doctors were willing to kill someone. Go figure. That's kinda why we had the mechanized, 3 drug cocktail to begin with... less personal guilt by whoever pushed the button. But apparently some think that's somehow cruel and unusual. First they wanted the anesthesiologists to monitor and actively participate in the execution if necessary which they refused, then they decided to go looking for someone to just get it over with and overdose him on sedatives. Are there any heroin junkies in the crowd tonight?

"The warden has chosen to stand down," Crittendon told reporters, adding that he expects a court hearing on May 2 or May 3 to review the mechanics of California's lethal injection method of execution.

And why would we want to do that?

Catterson said Lockyer's office informed the court it could not comply with a judge's order last week requiring the state to take new precautions to assure a lethal injection did not cause undue suffering to Morales.

Defense attorneys claimed last week that lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment, barred by the Constitution.

This prompted U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel to order prison officials to either alter the composition of the lethal chemicals used in the execution or make medical experts available to ensure unnecessary pain was not inflicted.

OK people, a little common sense here. 3 drugs are used. First a powerful sedative, second a paralytic, lastly one that induces a heart attack. So knock him out so he doesn't feel anything, paralyze him so he doesn't spasm and hurt himself, then basically stop his heart. One of their arguments is what if the first drugs doens't sedate him? Then give him another shot. Or what if the paralytic keeps him from signaling if he's in pain if sedative doesn't work? Then let's not give him the paralytic, so that maybe he twitches hard enough to fall right off the table. C'mon people use your heads. This isn't brain surgery. Tie him down and inject him otherwise let's just get back to hanging people and the electric chair.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Jack Bauer shoots down a helicopter with a handgun

What can more can you say about Jack? He decks his partner, Cola (as in Bicardi & Cola), goes after the lead against presidential orders and without backup, gets into a 8 on 2 shootout, and gets in a pissing contest with a hobbit/CTU director, turning all of CTU against Samwise Gamgee in the process. But Elisha Cuthbert has yet to make her appearance this season. The suspense for Kim's return is near unbearable, but I somehow manage to struggle through it.

... And the kill counter continues to climb...

And now our moment of Zen from the Chuck Norris Jack Bauer Random Fact Generator:

It is common knowledge that there are three sides to the force: The Light Side, The Dark Side, and Chuck Norris Jack Bauer.

Oxygen requires Chuck Norris Jack Bauer to live.

Before he visits anywhere, international law dictates that Chuck Norris Jack Bauer must inform the area's inhabitants at least seven days before his arrival. The necessary funeral arrangements can then be made.

Israeli Cabinet votes to halt funding to Palestinians

This seems like it would be a no brainer.

TEL AVIV -- The Israeli Cabinet voted yesterday to cut off all funding to the Palestinian Authority while acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the self-rule government -- now coming under Hamas control -- as a "terrorist authority."

[...] Israel's economic sanctions, which freeze monthly transfers of as much as $50 million in Palestinian customs revenue, will create a financial crisis in the West Bank and Gaza unless the authority can find alternate sources of funding.

Israel said it would urge other nations to halt aid as well. That apprently was good enough for the US as we demanded $50 million in aid returned. The Arab League met yesterday in Algiers and discussed how to help make up for the PA's lost revenue, but did not come up with many volunteers.

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) - Arab League foreign ministers have failed to agree on aid for the Palestinians as they come under rule of the militant Hamas, amid a dispute over commitments from each member state.

Only three members of the league have contributed aid for the Palestinians, Algerian officials said after a meeting in Algiers that ran into late Monday night.

The Arab League's Secretary General Amr Moussa and Algerian State Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem appealed at the meeting for all other member states to contribute funds.

Speaking at a news conference after the meeting, they did not indicate which countries had not paid or give details of the dispute.

That's very interesting. Are we putting on the exact amount of pressure necessary to keep Hamas from getting much of anything to replace the aid they'd lose if we and the EU cease aid? Seems that that would be a huge success for diplomacy.

3 in Ohio indicted for planning attacks on our troops in Iraq

Throw the book at 'em!

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A grand jury in Ohio indicted three men for conspiring to kill people and for planning attacks against U.S. forces overseas, court documents showed on Tuesday.

The indictment said the three men -- Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman el-Hindi and Wassim Mazloum -- were part of a conspiracy that began in November 2004 to kill people outside the United States, including U.S. troops in Iraq.

"It was part of the conspiracy that one or more conspirators would recruit others to train for violent jihad against the United States and its allies in Iraq, and elsewhere, and would propose potential training sites for use in providing ongoing firearms, hand-to-hand combat, explosives and other paramilitary training to prospective recruits," the indictment said.

Glad we caught them, but does anyone else think they're kinda dumb for trying to attack troops in Iraq 1000s of miles away? Not that I want to help them out, but why not go after domestic targets? Well that's probably why they got caught... they weren't the brightest bulbs on the tree.

Senator Frist says he'll delay the sale of US ports to Dubai

When I first heard this last week, my initial reaction was "that's dumb." But then I thought a little more about it, and since really neither security, nor any of our personnel on the docks would change I thought maybe it just sounds worse than it really is. Then Jimmy Carter came out and said it was a good idea. That sealed it for me; we should definitely take the business of running the ports elsewhere.

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said the Bush administration should delay the $6.8 billion sale of a company that operates six U.S. ports to a firm controlled by the United Arab Emirates.

Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said he would introduce legislation to block the sale if Bush officials can't delay it.

``The decision to finalize this deal should be put on hold until the administration conducts a more extensive review of this matter,'' he said in a statement. ``If the administration cannot delay the process, I plan on introducing legislation to ensure that the deal is placed on hold.''

Way to go Frist.

Dennis Prager was discussing this development with Michael Ledeen this morning and they seemed to agree that the Bush administration was going to rethink this and take the ports away from Dubai. They also made the comment about how unique it was that someone could be so wrong on just about every issue that faces our nation. So when Carter said it was a good idea, they knew that it had to be a horrible idea to be stopped immediately.

UPDATE: Man those guys at Cox & Forkum are good...

US economy still going strong

... as leading economic indicators continue to rise.

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- An index of leading U.S. indicators rose for a fourth straight month as the labor market improved and manufacturing strengthened, pointing to faster economic growth.

The Conference Board's index for January rose 1.1 percent, the biggest gain since June, after December's revised 0.3 percent increase. The last time the index rose for more than three months in a row was in 2004.

Also playing a role were unexpectedly high retail sales, which could in part be contributed ot an unseasonably mild January nationwide. So Mother Nature, after nearly crippling the economy with Katrine and the other hurricanes, decided to give us a break.

Or maybe it's just global warming again.

Danish publisher explains why he published the Mohammed cartoons

The WaPo published his editorial on Sunday, but I'm in "catch-up" mode after a relaxing weekend, so here it is...

I commissioned the cartoons in response to several incidents of self-censorship in Europe caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam.

[...] At the end of September, a Danish standup comedian said in an interview with Jyllands-Posten that he had no problem urinating on the Bible in front of a camera, but he dared not do the same thing with the Koran.

This was the culmination of a series of disturbing instances of self-censorship. Last September, a Danish children's writer had trouble finding an illustrator for a book about the life of Muhammad. Three people turned down the job for fear of consequences. The person who finally accepted insisted on anonymity, which in my book is a form of self-censorship. European translators of a critical book about Islam also did not want their names to appear on the book cover beside the name of the author, a Somalia-born Dutch politician who has herself been in hiding.

Around the same time, the Tate gallery in London withdrew an installation by the avant-garde artist John Latham depicting the Koran, Bible and Talmud torn to pieces. The museum explained that it did not want to stir things up after the London bombings. (A few months earlier, to avoid offending Muslims, a museum in Goteborg, Sweden, had removed a painting with a sexual motif and a quotation from the Koran.)

Finally, at the end of September, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with a group of imams, one of whom called on the prime minister to interfere with the press in order to get more positive coverage of Islam.

It seems to me that Europe has been strong-armed by extremist Muslims. That people in a free society fear Islamic reaction above all things does not bode well for the society or for an Islam where the moderate Muslims remain silent in condemning death threats against artists and writers who depict Islam in a light that the extremists don't approve of. They don't have to approve of what the artist created, or the writer wrote, or the cartoonist drew. They do need to come to terms with people having the freedom to express their ideas. There are many peaceful ways Muslims can voice their displeasure with an artist, a gallery, a newspaper, or a television station. Death threats and rioting certainly don't fall into that category.

Flemming Rose wrote a fabulous piece. Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Sorry. Forgot to put in my links.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Ledeen gives us a peek into the Iranian mullahs minds

... and it is NOT pretty. Setting the stage he discusses a meeting held by Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (not the wacko president Ahmadinejad) for his top advisers that reportedly took place back in December. In the meeting they discussed a deadline of April 8 because "it has been promised that by 8 April, we will be in a position to show the entire world that 'we are members of the club.'" We can all guess at the meaning of these words or rely on intelligence that insists they are several years away from having a nuclear weapon. We can also urge for the administration to push farther and faster when it comes to destablizing the Iranian regime. They've made a good start with $75 million dedicated to TV and radio to be broadcast into Iran, and the world has taken a much harder line with Iran's nuclear ambitions. Still urgency may be necessary based on some other remarks reportedly made at this meeting.

The weakness of the Bush administration is notable. Recent public opinion polls show the country seriously divided, and the top Iranian experts on North America have concluded that the president is paralyzed, unable to make any tough decision (and hence unable to order an attack against Iran);

2006 is an election year, and even some Republicans are distancing themselves from Bush, weakening the White House even further;

Israel is facing the darkest moment in its history (remember that this conversation took place before Sharon’s stroke). Likud is divided, Netanyahu is openly against Sharon, and the Labor party has lost its old guard. No strong government is possible (and hence Israel is similarly unable to order an attack against Iran). Therefore this is a moment for Iran to take maximum advantage;

Iranian power and prestige is at an all-time high among the Palestinian terrorist groups, from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah, to secular, even Communist groups. Terrorists who in the past had rejected Iranian approaches now travel to Tehran for support;

The Syrians have given Iran final say over the activities of Sunni terrorist groups in their country;

Iran now exercises effective control over groups ranging from Hezbollah, Ansar al-Islam, al Qaeda, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Jaish-e-Mahdi, and Jaish-e-Huti (Yemen) to the Joint Shi’ite Army of Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and part of Saudi Arabia, as well as Islamic movements in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia;

In the four and a half months since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has become president, he has brought the extremist group led by Mezbah Yazdi under control, and, notably, he has forced Syria to resist all pressure from the United States;

The Europeans are no longer necessary for the Iranian strategy, and can now be "thrown out of our game." They are in no position to do any damage because they are too busy fighting with one another;

Khamenei called for two urgent missions. The first was to do everything possible to drive up oil prices by an additional 30 percent by the first week in April. The second was to intensify the propaganda war against the West in the same period. He stressed that it was important to compel the United States to face at least three crises by the April 8.

Not a pretty picture. Ledeen expands on this information a bit.

In short, the Iranians at the highest levels of the regime believe they have good reason for behaving quite feisty, and if you look at the events that have taken place since then, you will see that the mullahs are acting consistently with the analysis presented to (and in part by) Khamenei. The propaganda war — lately and dramatically in the form of the cartoon crusades — has indeed been intensified. The Europeans have been systematically dissed, and more: their embassies in Tehran have been stoned, Iranian diplomats have insulted them with regularity, and the regime slapped a trade embargo on all goods coming from the infidel Europeans. When the French announced that the Iranian nuclear program was undoubtedly designed to produce weapons, Tehran demanded an apology. Above all, there is no longer any pretense of cooperation with the Big Three negotiators on the nuclear program.

This suggests that the mullahs do indeed believe they have acquired nuclear weapons, and there is no longer any need to play stalling games with the Germans, French, and Brits.

And in light of some more recent developments... like In From the Cold pointing out that Iran just inked a huge deal for a major oilfield with China, and China coincidentally was just linked to an illegal import of hi-tech US military items like cruise missiles, Blackhawk helicopter engines, and a F-16 engine. None of this is proof that China is pulling a "right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing" by actively aiding Iran's nuclear quest while publicly going along with IAEA recommending taking Iran to the UN, but it doens't paint a rosy picture of the future with Iran.

Iraq sets up inquiry to look into Shitte Death Squad


The decision [to form an inquiry] was prompted by revelations made by US Major General Joseph Peterson, who oversees the training of Iraqi police. Peterson said that US forces stopped 22 Iraqis in a northern district of the capital wearing highway patrol uniforms as they were leading away a Sunni man to be executed.

US military spokesman Major General Rick said the four ringleaders in the group, which posed as special police commandos, are now in US custody at Abu Ghraib prison. The 18 others, along with the Sunni man, who is accused of murder, are in an Iraqi jail.

And soon to be released by the inquiry are photos from abu Ghraib of the accused naked, holding hands, and being forced to try to catch pigs in a muddy pen while dodging rubber bullets.

On a more accurate note, it demonstrates that the new Iraqi government is willing to self-govern and self-police. There are many such groups like the one mentioned above in Iraq, and there's the chance that some may work in the Iraqi police or for the Interior Ministry. They're looking to root them out and shame them by piling them up naked and photographing them with squealing little pigs.

Whittington apologizes for the media's psychotic feeding frenzy

How sad. I'm surprised no one in the media tried to tackle him to get him to answer some questions.

Whittington, wearing a suit and tie, gave a brief statement and didn't take questions. His voice was a bit raspy, but strong, and he had what appeared to be a line of scarring on his upper right eyelid and scrapes on his neck.

"We all assume certain risks in what we do, in what activities we pursue," the 78-year-old Austin attorney said. "Accidents do and will happen."

[...] "My family and I are deeply sorry for everything Vice President Cheney and his family have had to deal with," he said.

He got shot, and he's apologizing for the out of control crazy behavior of the press. The press (and the far left) really have no shame.

Cheney shot him jokes though are still OK.

Patriot Act appears to be headed for renewal

Excellent news.

WASHINGTON Feb 16, 2006 (AP)— The USA Patriot Act is headed toward renewal with broad Senate support for a White House-brokered compromise that adds modest new civil liberties protections to the terror-fighting law.

"The outcome here is absolutely predetermined," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said late Wednesday. "It's going to pass with overwhelming support."

With even senior Democrats lining up behind the measure, its lone opponent, Sen. Russell Feingold, was preparing amendments he said would strengthen its curbs on government power.

Well since you and McCain screwed the pooch on finance reform, pardon me for not supporting a damn thing you want to change in the Patriot Act. That anything needed to be changed is bad enough. But it seems to be ready for renewal, now that all the Democrats have stopped grandstanding.

Marines get a new weapon to combat IEDs

Remote controlled bomb detonator. I wondered what sort of "bomb squad" stuff our troops had, and if anything new was in the pipeline.

Californian - Camp Pendleton Marines in Iraq are about to get a new remote-controlled vehicle built to detect and detonate roadside bombs that have been responsible for about half of all U.S. combat deaths and injuries since the March 2003 invasion.

Troops drive the vehicle from a safe distance to within range of a bomb and then discharge electrical signals to detonate what the military refers to as IEDs, or "improvised explosive devices."

The Pentagon has ordered at least a dozen of the vehicles, known as the Joint Improved Explosive Device Neutralizer. It is sending one prototype to Afghanistan this week and is working with the Marine Corps to get one or more of the units into Iraq within a matter of days, according to a Pentagon memo obtained by the North County Times this week.

They need to come up with a better name... something that lends to an easier acronym because JIEDN doesn't really roll off the tongue.

[...]In tests at the Yuma Proving Grounds last fall, a prototype of the neutralizer destroyed the majority of bombs it was intended to detect, according to published reports.

The vehicle, about the size of a jeep with long, needlelike extension to send out radio signals to trigger bomb detonators, is plated with protective armor and can withstand small-arms attacks. It is being developed by Ionatron Inc., a defense contractor from Tucson, Ariz.

[...] The task force is concentrating on a three-pronged approach to combating roadside bombs, the task force spokeswoman said. The first is defeating the bombs with equipment such as the neutralizer vehicle. The second entails identifying the bomb-makers and capturing them before they can build and place a bomb, while the third is to train U.S. and Iraqi forces in the latest in roadside bomb detection and prevention.

Sweet. Sounds like it ought to work out pretty well, and maybe it will end up saving hundreds of lives in the long run. Apparently there was some concern over the vehicle in the House Armed Services Committee because it wasn't 100% effective. I dunno... it's not like this is a new fighter jet or tank where there's concern about whether the jet will fly or the tank's guns work. It's armored and mayeb 75-80% effective. Sounds worth it to me...

Cox & Forkum sum up the media's hypocrisy with abu Ghraib pt 2 vs the Mohammed cartoons quite nicely

Exactly what I was thinking...

Thanks to RightWinged for the heads up.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Texas authorities close the case on the Cheney hunting accident

Thank God. I'm sure this will clear everything right up.

In Texas, the Kenedy County Sheriff's Department issued a report supporting Cheney's account of the accident that occurred on a sprawling private ranch. Deputies visited the scene, got written affidavits from at least four other members of the hunting party and interviewed Cheney and Whittington, the report said.

Whittington "explained foremost there was no alcohol during the hunt and everyone was wearing the proper hunting attire of blaze orange," reported Chief Deputy Gilberto San Miguel Jr.

Cheney spoke to a deputy Sunday morning at the ranch, and Whittington was questioned from his hospital bed Monday, the report said.

The sheriff's report said Whittington declined the deputies' request to record the interview because he said his voice was raspy. Before a nurse asked the officers to "hurry up so Mr. Whittington could rest," he repeatedly insisted the shooting "was just an accident" and expressed concern that all the media attention would give hunting in Texas a bad image, the report said.

This of course doesn't mean the "being shot by Dick Cheney" jokes will stop. Those will continue for years. It's become American lore. And that's fine, just as long as White House Press Corps are notified the instant the VP coughs, sneezes, or has to pee. Quick, make sure the secret service, as well as Lynn and Dick have David Gregory's cell phone on speed dial so that he doesn't miss a fascinating bodily function.

Still don't get the Cartoon Riots? Have a big, purple dragon explain it to you then

This is too damn funny... (via JawaReport)


UPDATE: Forgot to credit the geniuses at ZipperFish for the video.

France being blunt with Iran

Iran responds with chants, "We are da' bomb! We are da' bomb."

Wait a sec... That can't be right...

PARIS, Feb. 16 -- France accused Iran Thursday of developing a secret military nuclear program in one of the toughest public criticisms yet against Tehran by a European nation.

"No civilian nuclear program can explain the Iranian nuclear program," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in an interview with France 2 Television. "It is a clandestine military nuclear program."

So the French were being kind of spikey, and well just being French. I'd really like to take them seriously, but whenever they start talking tough, I think "surrendermonkey" and start to laugh.

But something is better than nothing even if it is from a cheese eating susrrendermonkey.

Housing starts up to highest level in 33 years

I guess the economy needs to thank global warming...

Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Builders in the U.S. took advantage of the warmest January on record to break ground on the most new houses in more than three decades.

Construction began on homes at an annual rate of 2.276 million, up 15 percent from December's revised 1.988 million and the most since March 1973, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The increase follows the best year ever for sales.

Economists argued over whether the housing market owes its resilience entirely to a warm winter or an economy that's rebounding from a fourth-quarter slowdown. The outcome may determine how much the Federal Reserve raises interest rates after 14 consecutive increases since June 2004.

[...] A separate report today showed manufacturing in the Philadelphia area accelerated this month, another sign the economy is gathering momentum. The Fed Bank of Philadelphia's general economic index rose to 15.4, the highest since August, from 3.3 in January.

As the article notes, don't bet the farm on this data alone. It's just an indicator of the healthiest horrible economy ever.

The Saddam tapes: "We did not reveal all that we have."

Well I was fairly sure neither the US nor the UN was given full access or accurate answers by Saddam's regime. At least we have that on tape now. The man quoted is Lieutenant General Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law, and he's speaking directly to Saddam with several other aides in the room

Not the type of the weapons, not the volume of the materials we imported, not the volume of the production we told them about, not the volume of use. None of this was correct. They don't know any of this. We did not say we used them on Iran. We did not reveal the volume of the chemical weapons that we had produced. We did not reveal the type of the chemical weapons. We did not reveal the truth about the volume of the imported materials.

[...] As for the nuclear, we say we have disclosed everything but no. We have undeclared problems in nuclear as well, and I believe that they know. There are teams working with no one knowing about some of them.

Sir, I regret that I am speaking so candidly but although everything has ended, if they find out. No, sir, they didn't know, frankly speaking not all the methods, not all the means, not all the scientists and not all the places. Yes, some of the activities have been uncovered but so that you know, sir, when they say biological is the issue, no sir, the biological is the least [important]; I am sorry to say it is the most futile of the problems. OK, the 17 tons is no problem but thousands of tons here and thousands of tons there. Where did they go? How were they manufactured? And how were they used? Sir, we really have to be frank, so that the resolution that comes is not restricted to the biological and the next day the missiles and then the nuclear the next day and then the next day and the next day.

I go back to the question of whether we should reveal everything or continue to be silent. Sir, since the meeting has taken this direction, I would say it is in our interest not to reveal. Not just out of fear of disclosing the technology we achieved, or to hide it for future work. No. The game has gone on for too long.

Well now we've just got to find where it all went and Syria just keeps looking better and better.

Here's a link to the original news story from Nightline, the above story was an exclusive bonus release, and this link is to another bonus release where Saddam laments that he didn't get to launch more missiles at Israel. What a pity.

UPDATE: The Weekly Standard more completely makes a point that I alluded to when I posted prior to seeing the Nightline special report: that Saddam at least thought he had tons of WMDs.

A hypothetical: If the tapes are in fact authentic, imagine that they include audio of Saddam Hussein talking about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Does this mean that Iraq actually had these weapons Saddam thought he had? Not necessarily. One of the leading theories about Iraqi WMD holds that Iraqi scientists misled Saddam about his WMD capability. These scientists, according to this theory, lied to their superiors for fear of reprisals if their lack of progress on WMD development was discovered. That Saddam believed he had these proscribed weapons is not proof that he did.

Totally possible. Hopefully we can get through the mountains of documents we've collected since we've been in Iraq to get a final definitive answer to the WMD question.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Jack's kill counter takes a big jump

Blogs 4 Bauer finally updates the counter.

The numbers are a bit sketchy at the moment because we don't know exactly how many have died in the mall, but still, it looks like my pre-episode guess of 10 might be a little low...

Newly released al Qaeda documents suggest GWOT is working

Andrew Cochran brings us some fascinating new info.

Harmony document AFGP-2002-600080 recounts al-Qa’ida’s “lessons learned” from the Syrian jihad. It articulates the organization’s failure to balance the need for operational security with financial efficiency and tactical control. The experiences of the Muslim Brotherhood and the al-Tali’a al-Muqatila (The Fighting Vanguard) in Syria from 1976-1982 provide a textbook case of an organization that initially possessed little awareness of the agency problem that in retrospect likely doomed the effort from the start...These documents do not provide compelling evidence that U.S. counterterrorism policies to date have been misguided or have overlooked any major developments. To the contrary, the documents reflect ongoing jihadi concerns about operational security and sustainability in the midst of America’s counterterrorism efforts. Encouragingly, some of the documents even reflect al-Qa’ida’s fear that U.S. intelligence collection efforts are in some cases exceeding al-Qa’ida’s ability to enact countermeasures.

Here's the link to the documents' summaries which has the links to the original documents as well. Lots of material, but interesting.

Nightline may air audio tapes of Saddam discussing using WMDs on Washington DC

Well slap my ass and call me Judy... Saddam at the very least thought he had WMDs or more likely moved them to Syria before the war. (via Ace)

(CNSNews.com) - Secret audiotapes of Saddam Hussein discussing ways to attack America with weapons of mass destruction will be the subject of an ABC "Nightline" program Wednesday night, a former federal prosecutor told Cybercast News Service.

The tapes are being called the "smoking gun" of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. The New York Sun reported that the tapes have been authenticated and currently are being reviewed by the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The panel's chairman, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), declined to give the Sun details of the content or context of the recordings, saying only that they were provided to his committee by former federal prosecutor John Loftus.

Loftus has been tight-lipped about the tapes, telling the Sun only that he received them from a "former American military intelligence analyst." However, on Wednesday he told Cybercast News Service, "Saddam's tapes confirm he had active CW [chemical weapons] and BW [biological weapons] programs that were hidden from the UN."

On Tuesday night, Loftus told Cybercast News Service that ABC's "Nightline" would air an "extensive report" on the tapes Wednesday night. Loftus also described an ABC News "teaser," which reportedly contains audio of Saddam Hussein discussing ways to attack America with WMD. "Nightline will have a lot more," said Loftus.

Better set up the TiVo. Don't want to miss this. Hopefully I'm mature enough to restrain myself from going "Naa naa nanaa naaaa" while sticking my thumbs in my ears with my fingers wiggling wildly over my head (and other such forms of gloating) at the moonbat loony leftists.